It was a crisp, moonless night when Tris was woken up by her breezes flowing through her open window. She was contemplating whether or not to get up to do the morning cleaning, set the tea to boil, and make sure everything was in order before Briar and Daja got up, when she heard crying coming from right outside the gate.
"Hello," She cried leaning out her window. The visitor didn't acknowledge her, and she couldn't see him with her physical eyes. Removing her glasses, she concentrated on the breezes flowing from that direction and recognized the visitor at once. Throwing on a light dress, she ran down the stairs and out the door.
[I]"Get up now. We have company,"[/I] She called out to her sleeping brother and sister.
[I]"Coppercurls, go back to sleep. It's way to early,"[/I] Briar chided even the voice in his mind was groggy. Tris wondered who the lucky girl had been this time.
[I]"It wouldn't be [b]too[/b] early if you weren't up to all hours entertaining this women and that. This is an emergency. Look [/b]"[/I].
The image she showed him was one of a crumpled scarecrow crying against the gate. He was thin, too thin, much thinner than he had been the last time any on them had seen him and his once short hair had grown long into a matted mess of black strands. It was obvious that time had not been kind to him.
"Zhegorz, is that you?" Yet again, he didn't answer her.
"I'm sorry. I had nowhere to go. The great lady wants to kill me. I don't know what to do. My family left me. I wait by the gate, but they are gone. I know not what I've done. I'm sorry. I try to be good mage, but the great lady won't let me. All I see are voices and hear images. No one can stand me. You leave me here like my family. I'm sorry. I try to be good. I do I try. It's just the secrets. I know the secrets. They are locked away in my mind. The great lady knows killing me will release them."
"It's okay. You can stay here. No one will send you away, and we won't let anyone kill you."
"Really? I don't believe you. You want my secrets too. This is a trap."
At some point Briar and Daja had arrived, and Daja added, "You are our mage student. All of us have taught you, and you could never do anything for us to turn against you. You can stay as long as you like. You will be safe."
[I]"Do you think we need a healer? A potion, some medicine, might calm him down,"[/I] Daja inquired.
[I]"NO!"[/I] Both Briar and Tris replied simultaneously. Tris continued, [I]"He's had too many. He may have even had something since we saw him last. I think if we get him calming, sleepy tea that he will be better. Briar what do you think?"[/I]
[I]"Tris is right. I'll get the tea. One of you will need to watch him. He can't stay in my room though, at least not till later. If we can get him a soul healer, it might help too. A good one, though."[/I]
Tris continued by saying, "You can stay in my room since I believe Briar has company. It isn't much, but it should do. We can sort out what you see and hear. Where are you earbuds and spectacles?"
"I'm sorry. The men in black came and attacked me stealing them. The great lady thought they were the key to opening the lock."
"That's okay because you can't trust anyone who answers to 'Imperial Majesty'," Briar added and the four slowly went into the house where there weren't so many breezes.
Watching Tris whisper to their scarecrow as they walked into the house, Briar commented, [I]"Isn't it remarkable how kind she is with him?"[/I].
Meanwhile Tris told Zhegorz, "It will be okay. Everything's going to be okay."
She said it so quietly that no one could really hear her.
"What do you see?"
"Nothing. I see nothing."
"Very good. How does that feel?"
"Weird. Good. Kind of empty."
"That's okay. You aren't used to it yet."
"What do you hear?"
"I hear Briar out in the garden talking to his plants as if they were the girl he brought home last night."
"Plants for tea or for medicines."
"Plants for teas, for medicines, and for other things. You needn't worry yourself with the plants. Your control is improving. That's the important thing."
This had become a favorite game since Zhegorz had arrived appearing outside the gate overnight as it allowed the two to fine tune their unique skills. They took turns trying to control and block out what they saw or heard. Her images coming on the wind; his from seemingly everywhere. In the six months, the two had played this game, both mages had become more precise as they learned to follow more specific moments of time for longer periods of time.
"I believe that will be enough for today. "
"Okay. Doing mage work can be tiring."
"The more you work the less tiring this sort of exercise will be. Did I never tell you that before?"
"I can't remember."
"It doesn't matter. You'll learn. The more you work the more work you can do before you get too tired."
Tris sat for a moment focusing on the man in front of her. He hardly looked like the man who had been crying at the gates. He was still skinny, but thanks to months of regular meals he looked human. Plus, with his still long hair combed and tied back, he nearly looked dignified. The only part of him that still looked off were his eyes. When most people saw him look at them with his intensely dark eye, they thought he was unnatural looking away quickly as to not be cursed. Tris who had been cursed by a great mage gave this no heed. They were just his eyes, and there was nothing wrong with that.
He didn't just seem physically better either. The soul healers were doing him good; some days he almost passed for normal. Those days were worth the fortune Briar, Daja, and Sandry were paying for someone to take away the madness bit by bit. The soul healer had said Zhegorz would probably never truly be normal, but then again what kind of woman toyed with lightening and wind welcoming them as friends. Was it that much odder for a man who had scryed voices and images for decades without knowing it to sometimes perceive something that wasn't there? At least without the medicines that had reworked his mind, his good days were coming more and more often.
Tris walked into her room where Zhegorz could have been sleeping, but instead he was tossing and turning violently on the pallet that had been set up on the floor. She walked over and gently wrapped her hands around him. He violently threw her off, and Tris crashed into a bookshelf on the opposite fall landing in a heap with her books rolling as best she could to lessen injuries.
[I]"Are you okay? Does he need to sleep down here for the night?"[/I] Briar called up after hearing the crash.
[I]"I'm okay. I can fall you know."[/I]
[I]"Yeah unless you've been cursed."[/I]
[I]"Well, [b]he[/b] can't curse me, so we should be okay. You got any advice for me?"[/I]
[I]"What just cause some crazy emperor went and made me half mad? If you get him to meditate, that should help. Oh, and don't touch him okay?"[/I]
[I]"Too late for that,"[/I] Tris finished as she got up and slowly and returned to the edge of the pallet. "Zhegorz, can you hear me. It's Tris. Everything is okay. You're in my room. It's just you and me. There isn't anyone else here. We're safe. Do you understand?"
"The Great Lady has me. She knows I'm here. She's coming to get me. She's coming to kill me. I have to hide. No one is safe while I'm here," Zhegorz replied as he tossed and turned as if trying to dig down into his pallet.
"It's okay. Daja has the place spelled, so she can't find you in the house. Can you sit up? I promise it will be okay."
He didn't answer, but he did sit up.. Tris carefully began to lead him in the careful breathing of meditation. He never seemed able to properly clear his mind, but he did seem to calm down until once again his thoughts were mainly of the real world. Tris wondered just how much all those years of medication had truly affected the way his mind worked.
Zhegorz seemed to be thinking along similar lines, "You don't think I'm mad?"
"You aren't any madder than the rest of us." she replied walking to her bed.
"Well, you might be a little madder, but that's okay. Most people think I'm mad enough because of what I can do. Niko once told me the voices of madness are more interesting than the voices of the real world, the ones we hear and see on the wind."
"I don't think so."
"He also warned me against learning to scry the wind, because apparently most people go crazy trying."
"I don't know."
"Madness isn't interesting. It's anger and sorrow and happiness and nothing at all. That's all. I'm sorry. Everything's fuzzy and blurry and whatnot."
"It's okay. Maybe someday you will be able to describe things better. Maybe not. It doesn't matter either way."
Not knowing what to say, he got up from his place on the floor and came over to sit by her on the bed. Tentatively, he wrapped around her in an awkward hug. She relaxed into him, and he started to cry. She began to just say, "It's okay. It's okay. . ." repeating it until he fell asleep and then adjusting their position so they were lying side by side on her bed.