The Impossible Children

Departure from the Tower

Author’s Note: Never throw away old writing. Every once in a while, you’ll be digging through something you wrote years and years ago, and it will spark something in the here and now that you didn’t see then.

While it was only a line in a far too old outline, when I read it, I had to write this piece.

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Amelia swept in and landed softly next to the largest platter of roast bulbs, the aroma enticing and tangy. “Do you know if the Wizard will be at dinner?”

Jenny sighed. “You always ask that, Amelia, and the answer is the same. The Wizard has many duties and cannot always be at the Tower—”

“Yes, but the Wizard’s never here, so why does it matter if you say it or not?”

The room was silent, everyone turned to see who had spoken. Annabelle was herself surprised to discover that she had said those awful words.

But she did not take them back. She felt a hot pressure within her chest, and she said, “I mean, isn’t it strange? We’re supposed to be learning the Mysteries, and yet we have no teacher except for other children!”

Jenny did not say anything, only looked at Annabelle with an inscrutable expression, which only spurred Annabelle even more.

“You say the Wizard is busy or the Wizard has other important things to do, but the truth is that you don’t really know, do you? You have no idea where the Wizard is, or what the Wizard is doing. You can only guess, and you hope you don’t have to face the uncomfortable truth that maybe the Wizard doesn’t care about us.”

Amelia gasped at that. Charlie looked at her, her mouth slightly open. Percy was all smiles, while Seppo only looked down at his food. Cid rose to his feet, his balance still weak and unsteady, and he put a hand on her shoulder.

“You are angry, we can all see, but you don’t know the Wizard like you do,” he said.

Annabelle shrank away from his touch. She would not be shushed or silenced. “Or maybe I can see more clearly what you cannot. You all act as if the Wizard is this infallible being, but they make mistakes too, don’t they?”

“I am only saying it may be better to discuss this when we are not shouting,” said Cid.

And Annabelle realized that he was right, that she shouting at the top of her lungs and hadn’t noticed, slowly increasing her volume and tempo until she’d stunned everyone with her outburst.

She had always been quiet, and they had never seen this side of her.

“I need to clear my head,” she said, and she left the dining hall. No one stopped her.

She almost went up to her room, but the thought of storming off into her room like she was being punished didn’t sit well with her. So she went down the stairs, two at a time, and shoved the door open and went outside to get some fresh air.

She saw the sheds and chicken pens off in the distance, but went a different route. She’d never been one for walking, and the Long Journey had left her with an even greater distaste for the outdoors. But at least it had also left her with a healthier constitution than when she’d started. She walked briskly down winding paths, following the line of the mountains’ shade, feeling the grass trace her legs.

Finally, she stopped and took a deep breath of the cool evening air. She had walked a fair distance, not quite sure of her destination. She didn’t have one, but that was alright, too. She looked back at the Tower, to see if anyone had followed her, or if Amelia had ascended to search for her.

No one had.

It was better that way, Annabelle thought as she turned away. She had said truly hurtful things, thoughtless things, even if they were true. And while she didn’t like the way she’d said them, she knew they had to be said.

As she faced the forest, Annabelle thought she saw a glimmering of light. She hadn’t stepped foot there ever since the Long Journey to the Tower. She had always meant to, of course, but something always got in the way. But now her curiosity got the better of her. She turned and made her way to the light within the forest.