Eight others huddled around the blazing fire pit.
The stars were beginning to rise as the sun sunk into the depths of the ocean. One thing was similar about all the people gathered tonight. They all had Staffs, everyone except Picu and me. Even Karl the dog had a stick! Here I am, jealous of a dog.
My stomach growled as wafting aromas of cooking meat flooded over me. Arson turned the fish, and as usual, they were done to perfection.
I crouched on a stump of a tree, the burning fire stinging my dark emerald eyes. A young man stood on my right awkwardly, glancing from one face to another. He looked a year or two apart from me, younger or older, I didn’t know. Our horses stood close together trying to keep warm. The empty supplies carriage was abandoned to the side of the camp.
A skinny cat curled up beside my tall boots, camouflaging into the night. The dog, Karl, sat as close to the fire as he could, chewing on his old stick. He barked once and woke up the cat, who hissed in return, causing him to whimper. Satisfied, the cat went back to sleep.
No one dared to speak. The last time they were all in the same place was almost eleven months ago. And that gathering didn’t go so well.
“Um. . . excuse me?” The young man beside me began. “I’m Tulnn.” I didn’t reply and kept my eyes on the flickering flames.
“Hello? Can you hear me?” I pretended he was invisible. “Hello?” He snapped his fingers near my ear. I blinked once, slowly, and tilted my head to glare at him.
Shocked, he stumbled over his words. “Oh, hi, hello, I-I’m Tulnn.”
I turned my eyes back to the fire.
The silence ended as soon as it began.
“This is so awkward.” he whispered. “ It’s my first time here.”
“I don’t know anyone.”
If that was his way of asking what my name was, he would be disappointed. There’s no way I’m going to admit anything.
“Who are you?”
I better talk soon or he’ll think I’m just as mad as the others. “I go by many names,” I replied simply.
“Go ahead, I don’t care, choose any one you want. I have only ever had one name. It’s Tulnn, by the way. Just thought I would mention it one more time in case you weren’t paying attention. Oh sorry am I interrupting your thoughts? Should I stop talking?”
“If you wish to see tomorrow.”
“Wow that was truly creepy!”
I said nothing.
He nudged me. Bad move.
“You going to tell me what’s going on?”Tulnn asked me.
“Your voice is really annoying.”
“Should I talk with an accent?” he asked in some country voice.
A pause. “What’s your name?”
I blinked twice, the fire starting to make my eyes burn. Soon I’d have to look away.
“I feel so awkward not knowing anyone.”
“Why do you whisper?”
“Because if I yell it would be even more awkward.”
The heat of the fire was overbearing. I shifted my eyes to glance at Tulnn. He was watching me. Like he had been waiting for me to look in his direction since the moment he started to speak.
“So,” he began, satisfied I was no longer ignoring him. “What’s your name? Or should I just call you No Name, or Nameless, or Ms. Mystery, or the Secretitive One, or The Shadow, or—”
“Can you introduce me to the others?” Tulnn asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Sure.” I paused. “Arson is the Third Magician, the unofficial leader. He’s the man tending to the meat.”
“Anyone want some of my cocker rooster?” Arson asked politely. “It’s nearly ready.”
Nerso, a black haired Pasian man with a scar over one eye jumped up as if electrified. “YOUR cocker rooster? YOUR COCKER ROOSTER?!?! IT’S! ALL! MINE!”
“Really?” Arson countered, tossing his red and black streaked locks. “I caught it, prepared it, and set it over the fire myself. What did you do to help, you lazy—”
“I watched it cook! I have been waiting HOURS! IT’S MINE!”
Making no reaction to the sudden growing argument, I continued. “That glittering mess sitting on the log is Salina. She’s the Fourth Magician.”
Salina was quietly singing to the cat as she cradled it. “Sleep little Ralph, it’ll be alright, Sleep little Ralph, sleep tonight. Sleep little Ralph, do not flee, sleep little Ralph and ignore THESE CRAZY PEOPLE WHO ARE SLOWLY LOSING THEIR MINDS . . . unlike me.” Her multiple armbands jangled together as she stroked the cat’s sleek fur.
Nerso’s belly jiggled from overwhelming laughter. “You— you’re—” he spluttered. “YOU’RE SINGING TO A CAT!”
“His name is Ralph!” she snapped at him.
“YOU’RE STILL SINGING TO A CAT!”
“The skinny tall old guy with the long white beard is Zelt. As the Second Magician, he hid his Staff to avoid using it and devoted his life to train other Magicians.” Zelt sat by the fire, staring into it wide eyed, like if he blinked the world would end.
Tulnn nodded, taking notes in his head.
“Dus is the Sixth Magician. He just became a Magician recently, so I don’t know that much about him.” Dus shifted out of the way as the bellowing Magicians thundered past him. “That man fighting Arson over the cocker rooster is Nerso. He’s the Fifth Magician.”
“YAAAAARRRRRGGGGGG!!!” Nerso belted out his battle cry before signalling to a hooded boy.
“That little Pasian boy is Picu, Nerso’s nephew.”
Picu rolled up his sleeves and launched at Arson, wrestling in place of his uncle.
“Where are my jewels?” Salina demanded, dropping the cat. Ralph landed on the back of the black dog who was still chewing his stick. Ralph hissed and jumped out of reach of the dog. “You little sneak!” Salina roughly plucked Picu away from Arson. “I’LL END YOU!”
“If you kill me you’ll never know where your precious jewels are.”
Salina snarled, but before she could do anything, Nerso snatched the stick from the dog’s mouth and lazily thumped Salina over the head with it.
“HOW DARE YOU-YOU-YOU RAAAHHARAAG!!!!” Screaming, Salina lunged at a yawning Nerso and thus the battle commenced.
Picu resumed his fight with Arson, and he convinced Dus to join, in exchange for half of Salina’s jewels. “The Seventh Magician is over there.” I nodded to a man with frizzy white hair and beard. He was muttering to himself and scraping something in the dirt with his staff. When he saw the fight he started laughing diabolically like a hyena. “No one remembers his name, and we’re all too afraid to ask. He probably doesn’t remember it anyway.”
Though insults and fights grew around us, Zelt sat calmly in the middle of the chaos quietly tending to the fire.
I’m sure Tulnn now understood why we only met once a year.
“What about the First Magician?” he asked.
I smiled slightly. Even though I didn’t introduce them in order he still new which one was missing. He may be smarter than he seems. I’ll have to watch out for that.
I hesitated. “Like the others, he searched for the Wish Granter so he could become a Magician. But he used too much magic, he cast too many spells. People say he lost his mind, went insane, and turned into a monster.”
“Do you think that?”
I shook my head so slightly Tulnn may not have noticed. “He was a good man, before the wish.”
“Did you know him?”
I turned my head away from him to look at the ground. “No. No, I didn’t.”
I wish I had though, I thought. I wish I had.