Mystery Man

"Ninety eight, ninety nine, one hundred," the blond child counted as she lay her head on her arms, which were leaning against a large tree, "Ready or not, here I come."

With that, ten-year old Eleni Dunbar went in search of her friends, nine-year-old Amon Miguel and eight-year-old Sara Larna. They had known each other for six years now, ever since Eleni had come to live with General Magnus Dunbar at the tender age of four. The three of them were the best of friends, and did everything together.

Today, they were playing hide-and-seek in the woods behind Magnus's house. The general had originally opted for country living for the peace and quiet. Now he found that the area was a good place for the three children to play.

Eleni looked around the woods. She suddenly heard a childish laugh coming from a nearby bush. It had to be Sara, she was often bubbly, and couldn't keep quiet for a long period of time. "Got'cha Sara! You're it! Now help me find Amon!" Eleni exclaimed.

They found him in a short span of time. He had climbed a tree, and was hiding in the branches. But he didn't have a very good balance, so he nearly fell out. Both girls helped him down.

Sara suggested, "We need to have a rule against hiding in trees. Amon, you always fall out of them. Once I'm a trained healer, I can fix you up, but not now."

Amon shrugged. "Whatever Sara. I'll be able to climb trees one of these days." The boy was built like a string bean, but often acted like he was big and strong like "Uncle Magnus".

Sara began to count on a tree as the others hid. Eleni found a nice spot in the center of a thick cluster of trees. It was her favorite spot, although she'd never hidden here before. There, in its center, was a clearing where she could stretch out comfortably while she waited to be found by her friends. "Well, well, well," a voice said, "What's a child such as yourself doing here?"

Eleni looked up to see a man dressed like a sorcerer. He had long brown hair and odd red eyes. Just his voice was enough to send shivers down the child's spine.

"Playing hide-and-seek, so please be quiet or I'll get found out," she whispered.

The man told her, "You're an interesting child. I feel a strong force within you. You are training to become a sorceress, are you not little one?"

Eleni nodded. "I want to help out in the army when I grow up. To keep this land at peace." She dared not tell him anything more, like how her parents had died in the revolution and that she wanted to keep others from feeling her sorrow. Or that she was Magnus Dunbar's ward.

"Well, I'll be going now," the man stated, "I'll be seeing you around, Miss Eleni Dunbar."

Eleni wanted to ask him how he knew her name when she hadn't even told him. But he was already walking away into the woods. The child began to wonder who exactly he was.

"Found you at last. You sure had a good spot. Amon's it now, let's play some more," Sara called out to her friend. The orange haired girl ran up to Eleni.

Eleni took one last look at the direction the man had come from. She figured that she wouldn't ever see him again, so there was no use in worrying. But there was something about him that didn't seem quite right to the young mage, some kind of coldness in those eyes of his.

* * *

She shared her experience in the clearing with both of her friends. Neither of them could offer any answers as to whom the man might be. In the end, they decided he was a traveling magic teacher searching for promising students, and maybe he had the ability to read a person's mind.

But when they arrived back home, they heard Magnus shouting at someone. Eleni had never heard such a tone in his voice and it frightened her. He had never even yelled like that when Amon got into trouble for one of his numerous pranks. The person must really have done something wrong to warrant Magnus sounding like that.

As they got closer, they heard him say, "I will not give you the child for you to use in whatever scheme you have planned. Eleni is not your little plaything."

The voice that responded sounded cold and emotionless. "But I feel a great strength within her. She has powers that no child her age could ever hope to attain. They're even greater than what many adult sorcerers have. How about if I buy her from you, how much do you want."

"I'm not selling my daughter as if she was a sack of grain," Magnus yelled, "Why don't you just give it up and go find some other person to bother about your dreams. There's plenty of adult sorcerers out there who can work with you on whatever you have planning."

"But they wouldn't be able to ever hope to equal Eleni's strength," the voice replied.

Eleni had enough of listening to the argument in progress. She ran inside to her father before he lost his temper and hurt himself or someone else. The child took a look at whom he was arguing with, and found it to be none other than the man that she had met in the forest earlier.

He said, "We meet again Miss Dunbar. How about you come with me on my journey." Eleni held closer to Magnus. "How do you know my name? Why are you after me?"

"My name is Amion, a sorcerer," he stated, "I've been watching you for a long time now. You are the one that I have been searching for. I need your powers to aid me on my travels."

"No thank you, I'm happy here," she told him.

Magnus said, "I want you to leave right now and let my daughter be."

Amion turned to leave. "I'll leave here general, but by my word I'll be back to get the child." He then left the house, slamming the door behind him.

- - - -

Don't pay any attention to the name. I just threw letters together. . .again. It's the easiest way to work.