“That was time magic,” I said breathlessly. “Time literally froze. It stopped. How did that happen? I’m shadow and you’re wind.”
Bassi and I stood half a mile back from where the fight had happened, staring at each other with obvious confusion.
“I am not sure,” she said, her usual confidence gone. “It was when we turned back to back. It was… it was us, though. We did that. I felt the magic leave me to create the spell. You too, yours was mixed in as well.”
“What were you thinking at the time?” I asked, taking her hand in mine. Protective Mist was surfacing, seeing her lover looking so lost.
“I wasn’t really thinking,” she murmured, staring down at our joined hands. “It was more… I needed a moment to grasp the situation, to figure out a plan of attack.”
“Me too,” I smiled. Her yellow-gold eyes were so pretty, they were sparkling in the light of the rising moon, little flakes of green in their depths like glitter. Had those little sparkles always been there?
Dropping my hand, she stepped back and ran her fingers through her hair. “So, what… our combined will turned our mixed magics into time, somehow?”
I shrugged. She seemed to be pretty shaken up by this, and it had me watching her with concern now. “I have no idea. I’m new around here, remember?”
“Yes, I’m aware,” she snapped, voice tight with a growing undertone of stress. Her eyes, so beautiful to me just moments ago, were dark with feral anger now. An anger that fell on me.
I flinched, confused and hurt, shying away from the look she was giving me, the surrounding landscape, and the battlefield behind us. What was up with her? Why was she mad at me?
Swallowing back the ache in my heart, I asked in a small, worried voice, “Bassi?”
She twitched and glanced back, meeting my eyes. I watched as she seemed to realise what she’d said, and how upset she was. A gust of dry wind picked up the dust around us, sweeping it into the air for a moment before allowing it to fall back to the earth.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, flexing her fingers absently. “Time manipulation isn’t a fae magic, Mist. There are no clans who can wield it. In fact, I’ve never heard of any magic that can do it. It’s always been assumed that only the gods can abuse time like that.”
“I mean, I was made by a god,” I replied. Why was she upset, instead of happy? We had easily destroyed the worm things from before, so it should be something to celebrate, right?
“That you were,” she said slowly, her hand going up to her hair again.
She messed around with it for long moments, then suddenly, she went still as a stone. Her hand was resting near her ear, and it shook like a leaf as it carefully pushed her hair away from it.
I gasped, understanding at once what she’d just felt with her hand. I couldn’t help myself, I stepped forward and reached out to her. She didn’t stop me, just watching as my fingers traced softly, tenderly along ears that had grown an inch since just two hours ago. Their points were no longer slight, but rather somewhere closer to what I had.
“How?” I asked, our faces close, both of them wearing expressions of surprise.
“I-I don’t know,” she whispered in reply, so quietly that I swear it had been more of a suggestion of speech rather than the real thing.
Any hurt I’d been holding onto from her outburst was promptly thrown out the window as I folded her into my arms. She relaxed into the hug like a drowning sailor clings to a lifesaver. My poor girl was coming apart at the seams.
“I love you,” I told her, stroking my fingers through her hair. “Let’s find somewhere safe and hidden so we can talk properly, okay?”
Receiving a silent nod in return, I stepped back from her and said, “Give me one moment.”
I dropped into my crazy realm of shadows and looked around, trying to use the strange landscape of the place to see if there was a hole or cave nearby. A collection of shadows down and to the east showed what looked like a cellar, so I rematerialised and grabbed Bassi’s hand.
“I think I see a cellar over this way,” I explained when she threw me a questioning look.
She made a small sound of understanding, but didn’t speak. It looked like she wasn’t really interested in speaking at all, which was okay. She was the strong one sometimes, and I was the strong one all the other times.
I led her off the road and into a field that was somehow overgrown and dead at the same time. As we walked, I could begin to pick out what was once a thriving farmstead. The foundations were on a gentle rise, and suggested that there had been one large building, along with a barn and a storehouse of some kind. Of course, it was all just lichen-covered stone and dead weeds.
It was the storehouse that hid the cellar, which we found once Bassi had used her wind to scour the ground. The hatch was a rusting iron thing that refused to budge by any normal means, until I growled and kicked it inward.
The interior was dark, but like the rest of the wastes, not particularly damp, so we sat ourselves down against one wall. Taking her hand in mine, I turned to look at her in what little of the evening light filtered down here.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked softly, running a thumb over her knuckles.
“Short ears are the hallmark of a halfling,” she replied, a deep ache in her voice. “It was what set me apart from my kin. It was the beacon that pointed to my mother’s transgression against our culture.”
Snaking an arm around her waist, I shifted so I could look into her golden eyes. “You… want your short ears back, then?”
She shook her head. “No, it’s not that. I don’t really know how to… how to put my emotions and thoughts into words. This is unprecedented. There has never been a halfling like me who suddenly had their ears grow.”
I made a considering little noise and watched her face while my thoughts swirled. This was a fantastical, mystical world. That meant that the normal, “wow that’s weird, there must be a normal explanation for this,” thing didn’t apply. Science wasn’t going to tell me that this was all a big coincidence. That left just my gut feeling, which had no basis in reality and had everything to do with how this would play out in a fairy tale or something.
“Well, it happened when our magic joined up to make time stop,” I said, leaning forward to kiss her nose. “Which is pretty romantic.”
“What, so my ears just magically grew out because of love?” she scoffed, shaking her head. “No, that’s ridiculous. I’d have heard of other halflings having that happen if it were the cause. The time magic is worrying, but it’s also useful.”
“True,” I said, trying not to be hurt by her dismissal of my idea. I guess I just really liked the notion that our love was changing her.
She gave a weary sigh. “There’s no use speculating about my ears. Instead, we should very carefully begin to explore this bond of magic that appears to lay between us. Somehow… we can slow time. That will be an incredible boon to our chances of survival on this trip if we can control it safely.”
Bassi was going to ignore the rocky emotional subject and focus on the thing that would give her more power. I stifled a weary sigh of my own as I mentally let go of it for now. I’d help her deal with it when she was ready, I guess.
“Okay, how do we start?” I asked, smiling at her with as much affection as I could muster.
“I have no idea,” she muttered, running a hand through my hair affectionately. “Look at me?”
I did so, meeting her eyes, marveling at the way the green flecks of colour in her eyes shone with a dim light. She twisted in our embrace, facing me and leaning closer. “Mist… thank you. Thank you for being so good to me. You’ve filled a hole in my life that I didn’t even know was there until you’d fit yourself snug within it. I’m sorry for snapping at you today.”
I swallowed and fought a blush. “That’s okay. You were scared and emotional. We all do dumb shit when we’re like that.”
“What did I do to deserve you?” she sighed, her gorgeous lips pulled into a goofy, happy grin. It was an expression I almost never saw from her and it lit my heart ablaze.
“You’re…” my train of thought slammed sideways, taking an entirely different and altogether more wild route through the tracks of my mind. “Wait, what if… what if it was both of us having a synced thought, right as we pulled on our magic? Fae magic, the type that isn’t cast, it’s based on instinct and need, right? We trust each other so much, we’re lovers, all that stuff. What if all of that was somehow enough to let our magic join into that spell?”
“You would have made a good scholar,” she laughed, nuzzling my nose with hers.
“Wow, that’s just a really fancy way of calling me a nerd,” I grumbled, a pout disintegrating into a grin even as it formed.
An eyebrow inched up her forehead and she dipped her head to press a kiss to my lips. “I have no idea what that is.”
“I’ll explain it to you sometime,” I whispered, leaning in against her. “Also, can we put the practice on hold? I’d like to make out for a bit, if that’s okay.”
“It’s always okay.”