“Drop it,” Favion said as he struggled with the stubborn iron bar. It just wouldn’t fit in the brackets in front of the door anymore.
“I just hate to see you wasting your potential,” Tabor insisted. “In the army you’ll be another nameless pawn, but if you join the Wizard’s Guild, you’ll learn valuable skills.”
Favion pushed hard against the door, but couldn’t get the bar in place.
“You mean like giving vague answers to everything and being annoyingly secretive?”
“The secrets we keep are dangerous,” Tabor said. He always said that.
“Where is Dad buried?” Favion asked.
Tabor rolled his eyes. “I can’t tell you that.”
“That’s why I can’t join the wizards. How is Dad’s burial place a dangerous secret? I can’t even be sure he is dead. No one ever told us how or where he died. I have never understood how you could join them after going through that.”
“Ok, never mind,” Tabor conceded. “Are all the doors and windows locked? I think there are a dozen pincerlings out there.”
“Yeah. Except for this one. Can you use some kind of spell on it?”
“That would be wasteful,” Tabor said. “Here, I’ll push against the door while you force the bar down.”
Even with Tabor’s help, it took several minutes to get the bar into place. Favion finally asked the question that had been bothering him for weeks.
“I’ve never actually seen you use magic. Why not? You could have torched the pincerlings instead of running into the house.
“Magic shouldn’t be used when there’s a non-magical solution. We’re safe in here.”
“Sure, we’re safe, but those things will probably eat the horses or wander into town and kill someone. What does it hurt you to just kill them now?”
“The cost of magic is too high, and I can’t afford to use much more. The battle at Day’s River got out of hand and I used too much. I won’t use any more unless there’s no other way.”
“I should have known when you went off to become a wizard, you’d come home saying the same things Dad used to. He would always talk about the cost, but I never saw anything that looked like a cost. I always figured it made him tired and that’s why he took so many naps. I won’t mind if you take one, if it means you’ll use your magic.”
“You don’t understand, and you aren’t meant to,” Tabor said.
“See! That is exactly what… what was that noise?”
Tabor’s eyes went wide.
“Did you double check the latch in Mara’s room? It’s been coming loose.”
“No,” Favion said, drawing his sword, “because you didn’t tell me that.”
Truthfully, Favion had left the room as quickly as he could once the window was closed. He didn’t like going into her room anymore. Damn pincerlings. He ran quietly down the hall to Mara’s door and peeked in. There were a few pincerlings inside – the bright yellow kind. Favion had always hated how human-like they were. The only indicators of their monstrous nature were the large pincers for hands, vertical mouths with rows of inward facing teeth, and a multitude of eyes in a band around their heads. Some of them even wore clothing or jewelry, though Favion could not fathom how they were able to dress with those pincers.
Tabor pushed Favion out of the way and slammed the door shut.
“Quit dawdling and help me hold this door.”
Favion wanted to hit his brother, but he put his shoulder against the door and pushed.
“What’s your plan?” Favion asked
“I’m going to have to use magic,” Tabor groaned, “but I want to get as many as possible. Let’s hold the door while a few more gather, then I’ll put them down.”
The two braced for a few minutes, though the pincerlings on the other side didn’t make much effort to open it. They always seemed so confused when they weren’t raging. Finally, Tabor backed away from the door and waved Favion out of the way. He stretched his hands forward and pointed at the pincerling stumbling through the door. Lighting shot from his fingertips to the creature in front of him. The lightning bounced quickly from one pincerling to the next until – a few seconds later – they were all lying on the floor. As that was happening, Favion felt his hair rise and almost expected the sudden flash of heat to burn it away. With spots filling his eyes, he looked for Tabor. For a moment, he thought his brother had left, but he found him on the floor, clutching an arm which he had wrapped in his shirt.
“I have two favors to ask you,” Tabor said softly. “No, make that three.”
“Depends what they are?”
“First, lock that window.”
Favion did so quickly. He double checked it, then triple checked for good measure.
“I need to tell you a wizard secret,” Tabor said solemnly. “Swear to me that you won’t tell anyone.”
“You expect me to keep a wizard secret? You know I hate secrets.”
“You have to swear,” Tabor insisted, “Or I’m going to walk out that door and you’ll never see me again. It’ll be just like Dad. You won’t know if I’m alive or dead.”
“Are you serious?” Favion snapped. “You’re really going to disappear if I won’t keep your secret?”
“I’m completely serious. There is a good reason, but I can’t tell you unless you swear.”
Favion was tempted to let his brother walk out that door. Wizards and their secrets! They were intolerable. Still…
“Fine. I swear not to tell your stupid secret.”
Tabor unwrapped his arm, revealing a large pincer where his hand should have been.
Favion knelt next to his brother and grabbed the pincer. He tried to pull it off. Tabor had fooled him once with a fake pincer when they were small. Dad was so mad he…
“Dad,” Favion whispered. “Did I…”
Favion wept. He finally knew, and he could finally mourn.
“This is the secret, Favion,” Tabor said. “The magic changes us every time we use it, until finally the wizard transforms and loses his mind. When that happens, another wizard puts him down. These secrets are important. This is why there are more pincerlings than there used to be. Someone has been sharing the secrets with those who aren’t ready.”
Favion didn’t need to hear more. He didn’t care. Being a wizard was worse than he thought. It turned you into a monster. How could Dad have lived in the same house as his family, knowing what might have happened? How could Tabor do this knowing what did happen?
“One more thing,” Tabor said
“No,” Favion said. “I can’t do or learn anything else today. I’m done.”
“I’m serious,” Tabor said.
“So am I.”
“Please, Favion,” Tabor pleaded. “I’m changing and there’s nothing that can stop it. I’m going outside to wipe out the rest of the pincerlings. By the time I finish that, I’ll need to be put down. Will you do it, Favion?”
“Of course not! I’m not going to kill you.”
“You killed Dad.”
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!” Favion protested.
“No, it isn’t,” Tabor agreed, “but you’ll do it anyway. I know you. You never leave a pincerling alive if you can help it.”