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asolitarycandle t1_j72ocrs wrote

From the little that I remember of my parents, I know they loved me. It was just that they had their priorities. You know, mages. Their magic was their life. The fact that I was also a part of their life seemed to be of little importance in any day to day function. I tried. I actually tried very hard to become part of their world if only to just spend a little more time with them.

For years I studied like they did, getting help from their assistants and their apprentices all the while trying to reach for their attention. I was good. At least, I think I was good. Being as young as I was and pushing passed men and women in their mid-twenties with magic that was meant for a master mage hopefully meant something. They went to my demonstrations and for a while, I seemed to meet their expectations.

The work that I did seemed to give me nothing but respect in return. As a kid, I just wanted to be loved. Being told, good job or well done like I was their charge was as hollow as the birthday cards they got the secretaries to write. Even when they talked to me, it didn’t sound like they were even the ones to sign off on the emotion they used.

It got worse when he arrived.

I didn’t know where Path came from back then nor did I care. Everything that I had been striving for, even desperately reaching out to, seemed to collapse the week that old man arrived. My parents, their attention, just seemed to disappear. Why? Research needed to be done. It was simple. I should have understood but I didn’t. How could I? I was twelve.

Weeks turned to months. Path, my parents, several of the grand master mages, and what was bitterly called the inner circle were all locked away in the college's basement. Sub-basement. Whatever, it was deep. Deeper than I ever had been. They said it was for safety reasons and the shockwaves that would shake the college made sure no one thought twice.

I kept up my studies but it felt like the drive was gone. Bending fire, compressing it into an arc and expanding it back out into a trap was really the only way that I could focus my anger. Or was it my loneliness? It didn’t really matter when I was able to focus.

Something happened, though, that I wasn’t expecting. The months that slowly ticked by turned to disappointment. I could feel it. Somewhere in the college, it was starting to slowly seep into everything that we did. The rumblings from the basement started to get more frequent but when people talked about them, it wasn’t in awe anymore. They were just another nuisance. Not that it mattered to me.

Another rumble, another day alone, another candle lit, another bowl filled, another stage set, and another drill ready. Pulling the flame toward me, I dragged it over the small bowl of oil and in my wrath, compressed the light until it twinkled like a star in front of me. White light enveloped the room as I tilted the energy away from heat and pushed it out into the room.

Now in darkness, I felt at peace. The quiet of my mind was a facade but the control was what kept me together. I could have stayed like this forever. Somewhere just beyond though I felt something different. A presence. It wasn’t intrusive. It was like a new painting had been hung on the wall but all the dust in the room had already accepted it. If not for this state, would I have noticed? Letting my mind focus, I let my hidden arc hit the target and blow a small hole in the panel in front of me.

“I felt that.”

It was Path, the old man my parents had abandoned me for. Why was he here? In a castle full of empty promises and false hope, why would he disturb the one place where I could feel numb? I let out a sigh longer than I was meaning to before turning and bowing to him.

“My apologies,” I spoke as neutrally as I could, “I did not know I had an audience.”

“But you did,” the Path mused, cutting off anything else I had to say as he walked toward me, “I felt your mind see me and see past me. How did you learn to do that?”

“I didn’t,” I muttered, shaking my head.

“Talent enhanced by training,” Path stated, I think more to himself than to me, “Your parents must be very proud of your progress. Who are they?”

“You’d know better than me,” I shouldn’t have said it but it came out like a flame. Biting my tongue quickly and looking away I took a breath and focused. This was an honoured guest. I quietly apologized and muttered, “Sorry, umm, they are Masters Byron and Aria-Lynn.”

“That’s a shame,” Path nodded as looked me over.

He didn’t say anything else that day and left after a couple of long minutes of awkward contemplation. Nothing was said about it at dinner that night. My parents were locked up in their studies as always and their assistants were just as absent. Had Path said anything? Nothing seemed amiss but shouldn’t there have been something?

I started noticing him more and more outside of the grand hall and the guest areas. Sometimes he was in full garb and gown but other times he was dressed like a worker. Sometimes he was actually working, sweeping the halls or mopping an entrance. I tried to help. He would simply straighten up and leave when I got too close. That was until one day he just handed me a mop.

“Can you clean without being disturbed?”

“Is this a test?” I asked back, now very confused.

“If you want it to be,” Path explained, “Or if it would help to think of it as one.”

“Umm,” I muttered, taking the mop and rolling up my sleeves, “Okay.”

And then we mopped.

We mopped the entire entranceway to the south hall. Him in a servant's tunic and me in my robes. Why? Multiple times, I started a thought about what we were doing but Path broke in before I spoke and told me to stay on task.

When we finished and Path had set his mop down he took a look around at the crowded entrance as people, many of them mages, floated by us. It was easy to be ignored by them as I had made my life about only being noticed when I wanted to. Path on the other had seemed pleased by it.

“Can you be seen without being heard?” Path asked curiously.

It took barely a moment to look someone in the eye and for them to chuckle at me.

“Did you get yourself grounded, Oliver?” one of dad’s apprentices scoffed at me. His name was Barry? I couldn’t remember. Dad only muttered the names of those he liked or those that disappointed him. Barry was just boring.

“Finally, someone of promise,” Path beamed.

It wasn’t overnight but the college felt a little brighter after that day. Path watched me practice after he had finished whatever he was doing with my parents. I may have resented him but the man was persistent and knew so much that it overrode whatever I was feeling before. He made me feel seen. If that makes any sense. It felt like the journey I was on suddenly had a purpose.

I didn’t know that purpose nor Path’s true form until some years later and by that time it didn’t really shock me. My parents, in all their ambition, managed to annihilate themselves trying to achieve a fraction of the power that Path had contained within himself. That was a hard day but as shocking as it was that it happened I wasn’t surprised by it. I wrote and read the eulogy and was told how strong I was to do it.

Path was with me throughout it though. He had become the parent that I never really expected but always sort of hoped for. Not the, I want to be your best friend, type of parent mind you but the type of parent that it mattered to me when he said he was proud. I cried the first time I realized he meant it when he said he loved me.

I was twenty-five when he transferred his power to me and it took a couple of months after that for me to actually start living again without him. The only thing I attended in that time was his funeral. I could remember how cold the world was before I had met him but it seemed sharper now that I had known him. Dragons had this power of presence that seeped into anyone around them and for a while, everyone and everything felt the sting of losing him.

He had become my father.

I had become his son.

As he was a dragon of old, I was sure he would live long after I had passed into the abyss and my name was forgotten to time. Fate, the gods, or maybe it was just time itself seemed to deem that unwise. Where he had come from or why he had chosen to make our little college his last refuge, I don’t know. I will be forever grateful for the time he chose to spend with me.

I closed my journal as I finished writing out one of his more unusual stories as I sat in the office that I grew up in. Path, as he had put it, had only finished his first life. His second, the stories that he had created and shared were still going strong and I would be damned if I didn’t strive to make sure his second life stayed vibrant and healthy. My books, my training, and my leadership would push Path’s struggles into the light.

“Sir,” a squire, not as young as I was at the beginning but still greasy, yelled as he entered my office, “Sir, there are hunters at the west entrance.”

“Mage hunters don’t concern us,” I scoffed, waving him away.

“They aren’t mage hunters, sir,” the boy explained, “They say they are dragon hunters.”

“Well, then tell them they are about six months too late,” I chuckled, Path would have found this hilarious. He had warned me that these idiots, with their crossbows and swords, may come looking but the old man had always kept his presence hidden.

“Sir, umm, Jai sort of did but they said they are here for the dragon in the spire,” the squire tried his best to explain, “Do they mean you, sir? You aren’t. Right? I mean I know. I tried to tell them but they kept pointing up here.”

“Well,” I said with a frown, “If they are threatening the college, it doesn’t matter who they are hunting. We are all mages and we treat mage hunters all the same.”

“Yes,” the squire said with a quick and firm nod, “Understood sir.”

After the young man closed my door, I muttered as I got up from my table, “What did you do to me Path?”