Hazel and Holly — Aired Affections
Previous: Wyr Weariness
Hazel trailed after Hemlock as they climbed up the steep edge of a rocky cliff. The stones were damp and coated with moss. Hazel grabbed onto a clump of the growth to pull herself up, but it tore free and she had to grab onto a tree root to keep her balance.
Hemlock glanced down at her. “Are you all right?”
She scowled up at him. “I’m fine. Let’s just keep moving before I fall and break my neck.”
Somehow, they managed to reach the top, and Hazel hoisted herself over the edge with about as much grace as a slug in the sink. She looked down at her dress–all coated in mud and torn in a sleeve where she snagged it on a branch. She peered at Hemlock. “Tell me again why we’re here?”
He smiled and spread out his arms. “What better place to practice Wyr magic than atop a hill, where we can see the sky and feel the wind.”
Hazel turned and looked over the vista. The Grove sprawled out before her, the tree tops like a vast green blanket. “It’s beautiful,” she said.
Hemlock rubbed his hands together. “I thought to start we’d talk about illusions.”
Hazel took a breath and turned to face him. “All right.”
“Now, how much do you know?”
She shrugged. “They’re illusions. They make something appear different than what it is.”
“That is one way to put it, yes, but there is more to illusionism than that.”
Hemlock put out a hand and spoke a series of words, and a luminescent baby dragon materialized in his palm. It scampered up his arm and to his shoulder, then took flight where it disappeared among the clouds. He smiled. “Illusions can bring into being visions of what could be, but still isn’t. It is a sensory magic–it can elicit sensations of touch and scent, sight and sound, where there were before none of these things.”
Hazel nodded, feeling silly for not realizing all this sooner. She had been a Weaving witch for her entire adolescent and then adult life, and Weaving magic focused on altering objects that already existed in the world, not bringing about new objects or altering the perceptions of others. She felt ignorant and at a disadvantage, and Hazel wasn’t used to that.
“It’s very similar to conjuring,” Hemlock said. “Yet conjuring doesn’t require an observer to take effect, whereas illusionry does. You could conjure the image of a cat that would exist in the world–even if there was no one there to observe it–for as long as the spell lasted. That dragon I created, however, only existed because you were here to see it, and it stopped existing as soon as it faded from view.”
“What about you, though?” Hazel asked. “You were here to observe the dragon. Isn’t that enough?”
Hemlock shook his head. “Illusionry magic is about altering the perceptions of others. As I am the one creating the spell, it is not possible to alter my perception because I am already aware of every facet of the item I am creating. I am dictating how others will perceive it. It is, essentially, manifesting my will in a perceptible form, but others must be there to perceive it, or it will fail. Otherwise it is a conjuration, and not an illusion, and conjuring is slightly different in terms of spellcraft and enunciation.”
Hazel nodded. “I understand.” Well, that wasn’t entirely true, but she was sure she would once she had a moment to let all the information settle.
Hemlock watched her a moment. “Why don’t you give it a try?” He told her how to craft a spell and pronounce the words, and then he stood there, smiling and nodding and exuding an enthusiasm that Hazel didn’t share.
“I wouldn’t know what to create,” she said.
“It could be anything. A scent, a sensation on the skin. It’s best to start simple at first–like single sensations–and then work your way up to multi-sensory objects.”
Hazel blinked and then nodded again. She shouldn’t hesitate. She needed to learn this, and so there really was nothing for it than to give it a go. She rubbed her hands on her skirt, then spoke the words as she imagined the soft sensation of a warm, gentle breeze brushing against their skin.
But nothing happened.
She rubbed her forehead. “I’m terrible at this.”
“Everyone is terrible when starting out. You need to work your way up.”
“Except I’m not anywhere. How can I work my way up from nowhere?”
He smiled. “It’s hard, but it’s possible.”
She tried to feel encouraged, but it eluded her. She stared out over the trees. “Have I made a mistake?”
“Your pronunciation wasn’t exact. It needs to be exact for the desired effect to take hold.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Hemlock was quiet a moment. “No, you haven’t.”
She looked at him. “This should be simple. Trying to stop my necromancer father? That will be difficult. If I’m having trouble with this, then what hope do I have of stopping him?”
“This was never going to be simple, Hazel. Which is all the more reason why you need to do it. You get through this, and getting through to your father will be the simpler for it.”
She tapped her fingers against her leg. She hoped he was right. She wanted to believe he was. He seemed to believe in her; she wanted to believe in him. “So, the pronunciation needs to be exact?”
“Not even a little deviation?”
“That’s the opposite of exact.”
She took a deep breath. “All right, let’s try it again.”
Hazel returned home late that night, her dress even more muddied and with a fresh tear at the hem from a clumsy attempt at trying to navigate back down the cliff in the dark. She smiled. She couldn’t help it. She was filthy and her attempt at Wyr magic had been underwhelming. She should be angry, but somehow the anger never came.
She stepped inside the house and Holly wandered out of her room as she rubbed her eyes. She was dressed for bed in her long white nightgown, her golden hair braided into pigtails. She squinted at Hazel as she clutched Robert — her well-worn teddy bear–close to her chest.
“You’re late,” she said.
“I was practicing.”
Holly frowned. “You could’ve practiced here.”
“I was with Hemlock. We were practicing on a cliff where the air is clearer.”
Holly stared at her a moment and then she grinned. “Oh, I see.”
Now it was Hazel’s turn to frown. “See what? And why are you grinning like that?”
“You like him.”
“Don’t be absurd.”
“You do. Look at you. Your dress is ruined, you look terrible, and yet somehow you’re not yelling at me.”
Hazel folded her arms. “We can change that, you know.”
Holly giggled. She grabbed hold of the skirt of her nightgown and swung it as she danced around Hazel.
“Stop that,” Hazel said.
“You like him. You like him,” Holly chanted.
“Go to bed.”
“Are you going to get married?”
“You’ve lost your mind. Of course not.”
“So you’ve talked about it?”
“So you’ve thought about it?”
Hazel closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Leave it to Holly to ruin a perfectly fine evening. “I’m going to bed.”
Holly trailed after her as she headed up the stairs. “You have thought about it!”
“I’ve done no such thing!”
“Do you think you’ll move in with him? Not all warlocks and witches live separately, you know.”
Hazel stopped and looked at her. “What? Like who?”
“Larch and Lily.”
Hazel raised her eyebrows “Really? I had no idea.” She screwed up her face. “Though, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Ridiculous name pairing, those two.”
Holly grinned and clasped her hands together and leaned against Hazel. “Not like Hazel and Hemlock.”
Hazel rolled her eyes. “Nope, that’s pretty ridiculous as well, so it won’t be happening.” She walked towards her room.
Holly remained at the top of the stairs. “If you move in with him, can I come with you?” she called as Hazel walked into her room.
Hazel made a disgusted sound. “No!” she yelled and then slammed the door behind her.
Holly’s giggling faded as she made her way back downstairs.
Hazel leaned against the door as she let her annoyance fade. Then she smiled. Somehow, she still wasn’t angry, and the best part of all would be getting even with Holly.
Next: Teatime Tribulation