Once upon a time our own Master Magician stood by the river Dolor, hanging his head,hiding himself under a dark, heavy cloak. It was a dark time indeed, yet the sun itself seemed to defy even this fact, making promises that our future Master Magician either couldn’t or wouldn’t see. Five vessels rested at his feet, three of them empty and kicked over in front of him, two of them still standing behind him, unnoticed, brimming with the clear, potent liquid that would change everything.
His chest churned with regret, anger, confusion. He'd drank of their bitter poison too often lately. Lifting his face to the clear blue sky, he wondered why he'd never seen the truth before this day.
"Wescott?" He didn't turn at the clear, sweet sound of Tatianna's voice. "Wescott?" She repeated, softer, more unsure. “Please.”
"Go back to your sisters, Tati. Go home. There's nothing left to talk about."
Defying his order, she moved closer; he could tell not because he was looking at her, but because the fresh, intoxicating perfume that was just her enveloped him. He closed his eyes, wrapping the wool cloak tighter around him.
"I can't stand to see you like this. I never meant--"
He threw up a hand, practically snarling. "Stop! No more of your excuses. I know what you did, I know what you said, I know what you are."
But even as he stalked away from her, his heart argued with his head.
She's in a precarious situation, my good man.
So all’s fair in love and war, is that it?
It’s not that cut and dry, and you know it.
“But it cuts to the quick, just the same,” he whispered to the rushing river.
The lightest of touches landed on his shoulder, and he spun around, scowling. Tatianna gazed up at him with bright, pleading blue eyes, her long, pale hair fluttering in the cool breeze.
“Patrice has her reasons. I cannot honestly say I understand, but I have to take her side, don’t you see?” Her chin quivered, but she fisted her hands by her side, jutting her chin as she made herself look him in the eye. “And you can do no less for your brother.”
Wescott shook his head, releasing a despondent breath. “Tatianna, I…” but what could he say? He was torn in so many directions, he wasn’t sure what was up and what was down, anymore. What was right? What was wrong? What wrongs had he committed, for he was absolutely positive some fault lay with him…and with his brother…and Patrice….hell, all of them. What he did know for sure is that things were changing for the kingdom, for his family, for Tati’s, and he wasn’t sure if they’d survive the cataclysm Kelan had unleashed.
“Why can’t it by like when we were young and carefree? Remember, Tati?” His voice was barely above a whisper. “Remember?” He grabbed her wrists desperately.
Tati’s blue eyes shimmered, but she didn’t let herself cry. “Yes,” she whispered back, curling her fingers around his wide hands. “Remember my 16th birthday?” She laughed nervously, a blush creeping up her delicate throat to her soft cheeks.
Wescott chuckled, tentatively brushing his knuckles over the beautiful color blooming there. “Yes.” He held his breath as she smiled sadly at him. Maybe it had been his own fault, hesitating when he should have grabbed the golden promise…of a life with her. But there’d been reasons, damn it. He’d had his reasons to wait, and hadn't he been proven right? What kind of marriage would they have had under these new, strange circumstances?
“I’m not so young anymore, so I cannot lie to you…or myself. Things will never be that simple….” She swallowed, licking her pink lips. “…or that innocent again.”
He dropped his hand, the dark shadows returning to his brown eyes. “No. Never.”
He turned away, headed back to the vessels he’d left on the riverbank, his apprentice's cloak billowing around him. Kneeling down by the empty ones, he reached out, then jerked his hand back under his cloak.
“No luck?” Tatianna asked, her hands clasped in front of her blue, velvet dress. Wescott glared up at her.
“No.” He felt no compulsion to explain himself.
“What about these?” She pointed behind him.
“What are you talking about?” He craned his neck to look over his shoulder.
“These.” She stooped, then rose with the two full vessels in her petite hands.
Wescott’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Give them to me,” he groused.
Tati held them out, her brow crinkled up. “Are these new formulas? Why…” she glanced at the fallen vessels. “Did you dump those?”
“Because they didn’t work, Tati,” he shouted as he leapt to his feet.
Tati stumbled back as he grabbed the two goblets in her hands, cool, clear liquid sloshing over both their hands. Tati gasped, staring at her hands, then hurriedly wiped them off on her dress. “So cold! But…” She stepped closer, peering into the cups.
He jerked them away, splashing the potions all over. “Get back and make sure you wash your hands and that dress when you get home. I wouldn’t want any of you to…” He shook his head. “Never mind. It’s fine.”
He turned away from the river, leaving the empty three where they lay.
“Wes, I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” The heartbreak in her words set something trembling in his chest. “Please come home.” Tati gestured toward the bridge. “Please.”
He kept walking in the opposite direction not because he was angry anymore, but because he was afraid. He’d learned many things during his apprenticeship with the Master, but apparently not enough. He had so much more to learn. He’d failed his brother; he’d failed the kingdom; he’d failed himself by trusting the wrong people, but why did one of the wrong people have be his Tatianna? His heart clenched so hard in his chest, he couldn't breathe.
“Tell Patrice that Kelan will most likely not keep his word," he muttered as he strode away.
He hurried his pace toward his workshop. He had promises to keep…he’d had enough of the broken kind.