A Mage Born Ch. 03 - Epilogue
Hanah and Dina stayed on their horses as they were asked to do, but looked at each other quizzically as the one named Bryana silently dismounted her own and walked forward into the distance. The horses were often skittish with this part of things. The animal sense dealt better with mage fire and other tangibles than the bending of reality, which didn't mean they liked any of it, it was simply a matter of degrees.
They decided together that, yes, they needed new appearances. Ultimately, they didn't know how Etan would react, and if he chose a path of rampage and revenge, none of his many eyes and ears would find them. They also decided together that, as a gift to one another and a celebration of their new lives together they each would allow the other to dictate their new appearance. Dina looked upon Hanah with equal parts love and desire, as she now strongly resembled a young woman considered by all to have been the most beautiful girl in her school too many moons ago. The world stopped for many when she walked by then and now Dina could look upon that beauty whenever she chose.
Dina loved that when Hanah blushed now, it was so red against the fair skin that she could see it from a mile away. Like now.
Dina flushed, knowing she'd been caught more than once letting her eyes wander. "Come on, Neela," proud of herself for the fact that Hanah's new name was starting to stick in her mind , "you've always had breasts."
"Oh, they aren't that big."
"You won't," Vale assured Neela from her left. "Rest assured that the guild knows its work. Having to learn to balance again was your most painful experience." They did indeed know their work. The women would be vanished and if Stranix were as intelligent as she believed Dex would be message enough for him to leave well enough alone. If it weren't, well, he wasn't the only one with eyes everywhere.
"You're not the only one adjusting," Bekka chided with equal mirth and outstretched arms. "The dress covers what you did to me, but muscles upon muscles. Fortunately, I can say I'm from a blacksmith family, but, Goddess. I look at myself naked and I see muscles I didn't know existed. And all because how you imagined some heroine in a novel was the first thought that made you wet for a woman."
"I feel like I could lift a horse."
Bekka reveled in the feeling these moments gave her. So much of their lives together up to this point had been tiptoes, whispers, fear, and the expression of dreams that she feared would never come true.
Vale looked upon them with satisfaction, not wanting to disrupt their moments together, but there were still small matters to attend to. "The stipend is arranged. Pay the merchant in Arran and your family will receive it. If you have any other issues that only a guild can see to, that same merchant can put you in touch."
Vale didn't need any of that. "You met the terms of the agreement, that's all that was required."
Vale looked at it. It really was a lovely thing, but she honestly felt it unnecessary, "I couldn't just let you die."
"Thank you. Or, you're welcome. Or both." she said shyly as she looked at it. "It will make a lovely talisman."
Vale misunderstood her tone, "I'm sorry, If you would object to it being put to such use..."
Vale hugged back, perhaps a bit more tightly than she'd intended because there was scarcely an hour that went by of late where she didn't think of what she'd done. "Enjoy your lives, Neela. Enjoy them together."
Vale gestured toward it, "Time for you to go. The spell is not a simple one, and Mistress would be displeased if we turned this into an endurance test for her."
"Thank your mistress as well," Bekka added.
Neela's eyes met her love's and in them she saw her own anticipation and excitement at tomorrow mirrored in them. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
"Hey!" Neela exclaimed, Vale forgotten as she rushed to catch up. Vale simply watched as they crossed the threshold of the magic and continued on. The rippling borders of the magic shrank and closed in upon itself until the last flutter faded and all that lay before her was the road as it should be.
Wordlessly for a time they headed back to town. The silence had become not unusual over the past several days and, while Bryana had kept an eye on her from a distance, she had stayed away and allowed Vale to process the last days on her own. But the time had come to pierce that silence. "I would like for your marking ceremony to take place at the end of the week, unless you object."
"Tell me why, Denna."
"Well, I disagree. I know that the events of recent days has weighed upon you, but as I see it, you proved your worth that night. Had you simply focused your power and destroyed him, you would still be worthy, but you used your magic with skill. You left your enemy broken with your skill, and yet you were merciful enough to allow him an escape. I'm not certain I would have."
"I don't...I don't think I did the spell correctly, Mistress." She hated to say that to anyone, much less her guild mistress, but she had to understand. "As I heard him, I heard myself in him. The thoughts blurred. I heard how weak I was. I heard how unworthy I was."
"You got out of your own way. I'm proud of you for being able to do what I hoped and expected. For that, I would be proud to mark you as a mage in our guild and have you take your rightful place within it."
Bryana had a good idea what was truly troubling her, but attempted to sound casual, so that perhaps Vale would coax it out of herself. She challenged the younger woman, "Why would I be? Sex is one of the best ways to distract those with a stronger will, you know that. We pretend at evolution. We speak to one another of grand theories of civilization. We create poetry, music, and art. But make the blood rush to harden a cock or make a pussy drool wantonly long enough and with enough intensity, and all the nobility of a mind goes out the window in a mad rush to fuck until all there is strength left to do after is sleep. Once that moment hits, minds are ripe for the taking."
Dina looked at the new Hanah and how her auburn hair cascaded down her shoulders and contrasted against her pale, freckled skin. She was beautiful before and still was. Dina remembered how tentatively she'd first touched the new face given to her love by magic. She didn't know what she expected to happen...perhaps the new face would shatter, or maybe Dina's hand would pass through it as though it was but a mask. But it was neither, it was just a new version of Hanah, just as Dina was a new version of herself.
There were still small reminders of the Hanah that once was, in the delicate slope of her nose or the rounding of her chin. What truly mattered though was that Hanah's new face looked upon Dina with the same love as the old. There was no anger or blame for what happened, there was only an eagerness to move on.
Hanah stared ahead, but she knew her love's eyes were upon her. She smiled a tight smile, trying not to laugh, "Are you looking at me, or them?"
Neela shook her head and the smile broadened despite herself. "Yes, Bekka, I've always had breasts...until recently. These are tits. I could save a village from famine with these tits."
"Maybe not when you've always had them to begin with, but I'm afraid that I'll break my back at any moment."
"As though I have finished doing that," she said, giggling openly now, remembering those moments where she felt like she was about to topple over, though she was certain that if she fell forward she would bounce back onto her feet.
"You are still feminine," Neela countered. "You are simply...more fit."
"Lift me later." She cleared her throat. "You need the muscle I gave you to lift me with these tits anyway."
But now they were free. They were free and steps away from a new life.
Bekka could have wept Indeed, she had when she realized the mages could do all they promised to do and it wasn't all some elaborate confidence scheme. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Oh, Goddess, I almost forgot." Vale's words prodded her to reach into a deep pocket to pull free a silver chain from which a pendant dangled. It was a six-pointed starburst with the southernmost point being a long, narrow, amber jewel. "This is for you. Call it thanks for saving my life. Call it what payment I can manage for doing it if you want, You didn't have to."
"Thank you it is then." She let it dangle from her hand for a moment, letting it sparkle in the light. "I think it will look beautiful on you."
Neela didn't hide her surprise and a hint of awe, "No, no, no. I'd love knowing that something I made was magic now." She reached out, took Vale's hand, coiled the necklace in her palm and closed Vale's hand around it. Feeling impetuous with knowing she would probably never get the chance again, she reached and pulled Vale into a hug. "Thank you for all you and your kind have done for me and mine."
Bekka gasped in surprise and Neela broke the embrace to see the reason for the exclamation. That sense of awe overtook her again as, before them, within a rippling border of reality, the road gave way to a different road. The path was wider, the grass thicker, and with Scaleback trees on either side. Bryana stood on the side of the road, talismans moving with the breeze from both outstretched hands, eyes closed in deep concentration.
"Thank you again," Neela said.
"I will." She became playfully stern. "Off with you."
She saw Bekka's smile turn a bit wicked.'Well, she said not to make her mistress wait." Bekka urged her horse forward with a squeeze and an exclamation and in a moment both were bolting down the path.
Vale watched Bryana moved with regal smoothness back to her own horse and mounted in one smooth motion. She looked to Vale, "Shall we go?"
Vale didn't believe she had heard correctly. Indeed, she was certain she hadn't. The marking ceremony was the moment a mage became worthy of the name. They stood encircled by their guildmates as their bodies were marked by their sect's Master or Mistress with symbols of their particular guild sect and symbology that would help them draw power and focus their magic. It was a time of great celebration. It was a time that Vale had definite opinions on. "That...would be a mistake, Mistress."
The shame dripped from her voice, "Must you make me say to you that I'm not worthy, Mistress?"
Vale didn't expect Dex to accept his cruelty to others and take responsibility for his actions, which would allow him a path back to life. She expected a man like that to implode within himself and spend his existence trying to hide from the horrors he had perpetrated even as he was forced to live it through his victim's eyes. They had dressed him and sent him out into the night to be eventually found wandering empty-eyed and aimlessly by concerned citizens. After healers found themselves unable to aid him, Dex found himself in a small room on the third story of an asylum, staring out the only window.
Bryana pushed. "And how did you respond to your fears? You didn't surrender to them, you defied them because what you believed was the right thing mattered more. You had the skill to make him yours and the will to reach that goal in spite of the fact that you heard your own doubts and fears in his voice."
Vale gripped the reins more tightly, her thumbs rubbing the leather, afraid to broach what had weighed most heavily upon her in the days since. "Are you not disappointed that I used sex?"