Chapter three

"But why do you have to go?" Amelia's voice was inches away from becoming a whine.

Ivy smiled. She'd already explained the situation three times. "It's mage business."

Amelia put her hands on her hips and pouted, "Just because I can't do magic like you doesn't mean I won't understand."

Ivy halted her packing and went to kneel before Amelia. She took the girl's hands and looked her straight in the eyes, refusing to let the child turn away. There were small tears forming in Amelia's eyes, and Ivy could feel her own eyes begin to grow wet.

"I can't stay here," she said, "because a man has come to take me to the capital, where I might be able to find my family. I can't say no to my family, Amelia. Would you?"

"If it meant leaving you behind I might," the girl sniffed.

With a chuckle, Ivy ruffled the girl's hair. "No you wouldn't. I'll write to you, and eventually, when I'm settled, maybe I'll send for you." She smiled. "I'll expect it to take a little time, though. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a year before I see you -"

Amelia threw herself into Ivy's arms and began sobbing on the older girl's shoulder. "I don't want you to go!" she wailed.

The girl cried for a few moments while Ivy gingerly patted her back, wondering what she'd say next. Luckily, she didn't have to say anything. At that moment, Priestess Sinclair entered the little room and ushered Amelia out, telling the girl that Ivy had much more packing to do, yet, though it was evident that Ivy was nearly done.

Once Amelia was gone and the priestess had gently closed the door behind her, Sinclair came to sit rigidly on Amelia's bed, her sharp figures unreadable.

"The High Mage says you're to meet him in the library when you're through packing."

Ivy nodded and continued to silently stow her meagre possessions in the small bag the orphanage had provided her with.

"From here you're to travel straight to the capital. It's only about a day's ride, or so."

Again, Ivy nodded. The priestess was telling her things that she'd already been told at least a hundred times over!

Sinclair cleared her throat and for a moment she looked older than she'd ever allowed herself to appear to be. She seemed tired, to Ivy's mind, and about ready to give up.

"Priestess, is something wrong?" Ivy asked.

Sinclair snapped back to attention. "No. Nothing at all. It will just be different, now that our star magical pupil will be gone."

"How did the High Mage learn that I was here?"

"I told him."


"I've had my suspicions about you since you arrived here," Sinclair admitted. "It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when you managed to set fire to the tree in the courtyard without the branches actually burning that I realized."

Ivy shook her head. "But that's a simple spell."

"Yes, it is, but it takes even the most skilled of mages a great deal of concentration to perform even the most simple of tasks. It all seemed to come so easily to you … perhaps too easily. And when I heard that they were searching for the princess, I put your skill, and your name, and the mysteriousness of your arrival here together, and from there all I could see was the princess that you must be, that I know you are."

She smiled weakly at Ivy, who couldn't help but to smile back. "I never thought you liked me," Ivy said quietly.

Priestess Sinclair shook her head. "I never have. You're too perfect and powerful for my likings. Now hurry up, you can't keep the High Mage waiting, it isn't proper." With that she stood and move briskly out of the room, struggling to keep her features stone-like for all that she wanted nothing more at that moment than to break into a wild grin. Ivy shook her head as the woman left and finished off the last of her packing.

Ivy headed for the library, as she'd been told, and ignored the curious glances a few of the other orphans were giving her. How much did they know? News of the High Mage's visit to the orphanage was well-known, but Ivy had been under the impression that her involvement in that visit was kept secret. The fact that she now carried all of her worldly belongings in a small duffle bag slung over her shoulder did not really make her as inconspicuous as she would have liked, and she could almost hear the wild stories being told about her behind her back. She shrugged it off, however, because these were children, and they had a right to their imaginations. Let them think what they wanted, nothing they imagined could ever be as glorious or great an adventure as the one she would soon embark upon.

High Mage Arrow stood waiting for her at the entrance to the library, casually leaning against the wall as he flipped lazily through an old, dog-eared book. He looked up at the sound of her footsteps and smiled.

"You're ready, then?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.

He closed his book and handed it to her. "Priestess Sinclair said I was to give you this."

Ivy opened it and began flipping through the pages. They were stained with tears and food and wine, ripped and torn and tarnished, and barely legible. She looked at the cover only to find the title A Brief History of Magical Society, by Amadeus Masters. She glanced curiously up at the man, who shrugged.

"It seems interesting enough, though I only managed a few lines. The priestess said you might be interested to know about your family's history in more depth, and suggested you take a look through this. It's the story of your ancestors, apparently, and your more recent family is only vaguely mentioned at the very end. This book is quite old, I should think."

"They might not be my family," she murmured.

"The priestess seems to think they are. Are you ready? Of course you are. Come on, then, I've got a carriage waiting outside."

It was a beautiful carriage, for all that it was rather plain. Made of solid wood and painted a deep black, its curtained windows allowed a significant amount of light inside, and Ivy ran her hands over the beautifully upholstered seats. The High Mage chuckled as he climbed in to sit across from her.

"I'm not used to such fineries," she explained, blushing.

He shook his head. "This isn't nearly as fine as what awaits you in the capital. You'd better get used to it, you'll be living the life of a rich woman for the rest of your days, I'm sure."

Ivy nodded and watched out the window as the carriage swayed forwards, bouncing ever so slightly over the ruts in the road as a few of the orphans ran behind it, crying her name and waving and laughing as they did, stopping at the edge of the institution's grounds to watch them roll down the road.

When she tore her gaze away from the orphans, it was to meet Arrow's intense sapphire stare. She could feel the warmth flooding her cheeks, but couldn't bring herself to look away. She couldn't feel him testing her magic, so she wondered what it was that he was trying to figure out about her. His gaze was kind and thoughtful, and after a moment he said, "Against the opinions of scholars, mine is worth nothing, but I must say that you look remarkably like the princess. I haven't a doubt in my mind that you're her."

"Your Majesty -"

"Should I not be addressing you by that title? Please, just Arrow."

"And just Ivy," she said.

He dug in his pocket for something, and removed a slightly crumpled piece of paper. On it was a rough sketch of a little girl, smiling as she was held in an unfamiliar man's arms.

"Your father," he said. "And this little girl -"

"She's … me," Ivy whispered. "I mean, I think that's me…"

"It is." His tone was firm and his mind made up. "You were always his favourite. It made your brothers jealous, for they thought that they, being boys, were of more importance than you. Your father reprimanded them for such thoughts and impressed upon them the importance of equality. But they were young, and thought of nothing but themselves. They did love you dearly, though, whatever you may have thought."

Ivy shook her head. "I don't remember them, if ever I knew them at all."

"That's a question I've been meaning to ask: Why can't you remember anything about your past?"

Ivy shrugged. "I always just thought I'd been knocked on the head, but the healers say there's nothing wrong with my brain. They think it might be magic, but if it is, I can't feel it."

Foreign magic in a mage's body was a powerful feeling indeed, and could hardly go unnoticed. It was like a gentle tapping in the mind, the longer it lasted the harder the taps, until eventually the final tap was like a blow from a club to the back of the head, and all went black. Many mages found they could carry the magic of others for years before they died, though no true cure for it had been found. Worry darted momentarily across Arrow's serene and thoughtful face as he contemplated this.

"You're sure you can't feel anything?" he asked.

Ivy shook her head.

"Good. Then maybe you were hit on the head. Healers are oftentimes wrong."

They halted a few hours into their trip in a small town of no real consequence in order to eat some hot food and stretch their legs. No one paid them any attention, for no one knew who they were. Only mages would recognize Arrow; the magical community was virtually ignored by the rest of the world, and mages liked it that way. Prejudice and discrimination were in this way not a large issue. Little was known about magic, but it was not feared. It was simply disregarded, and science had taken its place in the hearts of men. Shaman's potions were scorned by unbelievers as they turned to more practical means of healing their sick. Buildings were fabricated in a matter of months rather than days because of the non-magical machinery used to construct them. Wars were fought over decades because power was difficult to retain. All of this was barbaric to the minds of mages, but life to those who possessed no magical qualities.

They hardly stayed an hour in that town before setting off again. Clouds had since gathered in the sky and a warm but powerful wind was blowing. It died slightly after a while, just before the raindrops started to pour. Ivy took no notice of them, however, as she'd fallen asleep a few hours back, her head bobbing on her chest. Arrow, with a slight shake of his head, had delicately laid her out on the seat, supporting her head with his cloak. It was in this position that ivy awoke.

"Look," Arrow was saying, pointing out the window at the building ahead. "We're here."

It was a gigantic stone building, crafted and sculpted with expert hands, the white stone walls glistening as lightning flashed against the darkened sky. Carvings, statues of men and beasts, adorned not only the walls but the courtyards that they passed, standing immobile, watching them as they passed. The rain fell in sheets and the wind howled piercingly, blowing their hair and billowing their cloaks. The carriage rolled away from the tall black iron gates as Arrow led her forward.

They moved through an enormous pair of heavy oak doors and into a large hall, its marble floors glistening in the light of a large crystal candelabra hung from the ceiling. More statues stood around the walls, stone eyes blank but watchful, while portraits of stern or contemplative-looking men and woman decked the walls, eyes travelling across the room as they watched the pair move past. Ivy shuddered; she could almost hear the voices of those portraits whispering to one another.

"No one knows you're here but me and a few of my most trusted servants and advisors," Arrow said, "and many of them think that you are merely a very talented student come to visit the university. I don't wish to tell them anything about you in case I might be wrong, which, as I've said before, I highly doubt."

Ivy merely nodded.

"Do you recognize any of this?" he continued.

This time she shook her head.

Arrow sighed. "Perhaps with time, then. Come, it's late. Let me show you to your rooms."

The rooms were beautiful beyond comparison, a genuine work of art in their own right. Ivy moved through them slowly, as if floating in a dream, her hands running over the smooth, varnished wood of tall dressers and bookshelves, along thin and fluttering curtains, soft furniture and beautiful porcelain decorations, many of them fashioned into small dolls with innocent, childlike faces, their eyes gazing blankly out at her as she passed. Portraits of unfamiliar people adorned the walls, watching her with tender indifference.

Somehow, Ivy was disappointed by what she saw. She'd been hoping it would be something more, something to spark her memory. But all she saw was a grand room fit for a grand person. She felt terribly unworthy of such splendour. Perhaps, then, she truly was unworthy?

Arrow watched the sadness in her expression and her step as she toured through the rooms. Indeed she thought them marvellous, extravagant and beautiful - but something about them to her was simply not enough. He did not need to ask the question; he knew she still remembered nothing.

"It is late," he said quietly. "I'll have some servants bring you something to eat, and I'll leave you to your rest."

"And tomorrow?"

He shrugged. "Tomorrow is not of today's concern. Right now you're too tired to deal with anything other than today, I think. Don't you agree?"

"Right now I'm too tired to even deal with today," she replied.

He smiled at this. "Get some rest. We'll look into bringing some of the university's mages here tomorrow, and if we can't do that you'll have to go to them. They're temperamental men with no real like for the crown, though they are loyal enough. They simply believe that scholars should be above all laws, and therefore above all commands."

"Couldn't they be jailed for that?"

Arrow smiled. "I suppose so, yes, but I wage no war with men who have done me no harm. As long as they don't cause too much trouble, I'm perfectly capable of dealing with them. Look at me!" he cried. "Talking on as though I had all night."

"I don't mind," Ivy assured him.

"I do, we both need some rest. Goodnight, Ivy."

"Goodnight - Arrow."

He turned on his heel and left, leaving Ivy to contemplate her next act. She went into the dressing room and found the drawers stuffed with garments, and pulled out and donned a long white nightgown. Wrapping a robe around herself, she walked back into the parlour to find a tray of steaming hot food laid out for her on a silver platter.

"I'll be spoiled rotten with such fineries," she told herself, but dug in just the same. When she could eat no more, she retired to the large, soft bed awaiting her in the next room and fell into a grateful sleep.