“So he’s gone then?”
“He left this morning. That’s when he turned his keys in at least.”
Will shook his head and sighed. His breath was visible in the cold chamber. “Is he going to come back?”
The Court sat on the floor in the center of the room. He wore a long brown cloak over a green tunic. The hood which normally cast his face in impenetrable shadow was pulled back to reveal his long brown hair.
His eyes were closed and his mouth never moved, but his voice echoed off the stone walls all the same. “His fate is uncertain. His mind has been shielded from me. I cannot predict what the outcome will be.”
Will scratched the back of his head. “Well, it was worth a shot. I guess we’ll just have to track him down ourselves then.”
“Is that wise? He has left on his own. You should respect his decision.”
“He’s not making a decision. He’s running. I don’t what he’s running to, or what he’s running from, but until I do, we can’t help him.”
The chamber began to warm and The Court’s eyes opened. “If that is your decision.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Your aura has been growing clearer. I thought you wished to keep yourself separate from these children.”
Will glared at the mage. “I am keeping separate from them.”
“Really?” The Court stood and took a moment to stretch his legs. “How many times have you used your power in these few weeks? In public.”
Will shrugged. “Actively? Once or twice. I can’t exactly turn it off.”
“True. But in these last few years, I have not known you to use your power where you could be seen more than twice. You were drunk both times.”
The Court stood to his full height, seemingly filling up the room. His voice grew deeper and his eyes glowed with an ethereal light. “You should not be acting so lightly. Your power is not a mortal gift, and you chose to reject its purpose years ago. Using it frivolously will cause disaster.”
Will shook his head, chuckling softly. “You can stop posturing. My power isn’t weak-I know that better than anyone-but it’s not some sort of divine gift. It’s in my blood, on both sides, remember?”
“How you obtained your power does not change what it is. These children are not your protégés; you are supposed to guide them to a decision, no more no less. Can you honestly say you would have gone after this child if he had been in a different group?”
“I know my job,” Will snapped. “But they’re still my responsibility, and I’m not letting one of these kids run away from his problems. No good comes from that.”
The two locked eyes and The Court’s presence in the room faded back to normal. After a moment, The Court nodded. “How do you intend to find him?”
“I’ll think of something. It’s a shame you couldn’t get a better idea of where he’s going.”
“If I had not met him, then I would not have been able to tell you as much as I did. Are you sure you cannot tell me more about him?”
Will raised an eyebrow.
The Court walked over to Will.
Will had to stop himself from stepping back. He knew the mage wasn’t a threat, but there weren’t many people who stood half a foot taller than him.
Will reached out his hand and The Court grasped it firmly.
Will took a deep breath of the suddenly freezing air. When he spoke, his voice echoed deeply throughout the room. “The boon is fulfilled. The debt is erased.”
“The price is paid. The two are equal.”
Warmth rushed back into Will’s lungs and he stepped back. He grasped his chest and breathed deeply. “Do…we really…have to do that…every time?”
The Court nodded. “Debts are serious business among practitioners. You did me a favor, and I had to repay it equally. To do otherwise would cause me great pain, and likely you as well. I have explained this to you on more than one occasion.”
“That doesn’t mean I have to like it. I prefer my noisemaker thawed.”
The Court smirked. “I doubt that would be enough to keep you quiet. Now, if you would, I have other business to attend to.”
“Right.” Will turned to walk out the door. “Have fun fighting the forces of darkness. And you can tell your spirit thingies that they should talk for themselves next time.”
The Court stayed behind shaking his head softly at the retreating man.
Will watched the bear disappear into its cave at the back of the habitat. He could still see the bandage on its side from when Tigroar had had to convince it to return to its cage.
As it vanished into the darkness, he heard the group approaching him from behind.
“Glad to see you got my message.”
He turned to face them. They were all in costume, like normal, but Allspades’ seemed much more wrinkled than normal.
“You ruined a perfectly good nap. I hope you have a good reason for this.”
Mach glance around the group. “Will Burnout be attending?”
Will shook his head “He’s the reason we’re meeting today. For one reason or another, he left town. As far as I can tell, he didn’t tell anyone he was leaving.”
“Is something wrong?” Hawthrone asked.
“I don’t think so. But this isn’t the type of thing I can keep from you. And you all need to decide what you’re going to do about it.”
“Why would we do anything?” Allspades asked. “He left on his own, and if he wants to come back, he’ll come back on his own. We shouldn’t have anything to do with that.”
“I disagree,” Mach said. “You saw what happened in the warehouse. If he is fleeing because he is afraid, then such events will likely grow worse.”
“But if we try to force him, it could set him off,” Hawthorne said. “And you saw what happened in the cave, he was lucky no one died.”
“That’s not fair-air! You’re the one who made him go in the cave-ave,” Red Racer said.
“What?” Eveyone looked at Red.
“He started shaking as soon as you mentioned the cave-ave. I thought he was gonna be sick-ick.”
“How did you have time to notice that?” Allspades asked.
“You guys are slow-ow.”
“Thank you, Red,” Mach said.She turned to Will. “If he was experiencing such an emotion while trying to manipulate his powers then his control would have decreased significantly. We need to tell him that we understand it was not his fault.”
“No, we need to give him his space,” Hawthorne said. “Most people don’t like it when you hound them, even if you’re saying you’re sorry. Confronting him would make it worse.”
Will cleared his throat. “Unimportant? It sounds like you’re out tie-breaker.”
Unimportant stayed silent for another moment.
“Compromise…we wait for a couple of days…then we go after him…If he has not returned by then…then we should ensure he is not fleeing for the wrong reasons.”
“Can everyone agree with this plan?” Will asked.
Mach and Hawthorne nodded immediately. After a moment, Red Racer followed suit. Allspades eventually did the same.
“Good. We wouldn’t have been able to leave right away anyway.”
“Why not-ot?” Red Racer asked.
“Because we have to figure out where he’s going,” Will said with a smile.