It was raining again, just like it had been the night we got into this whole mess.
Okay. In all fairness, that's more than a bit of a stretch. If I wanted to go so far back in time as to blame our misadventure rescue Miss Ceciel, I might as well go back far enough to blame the woman's parents for giving birth to her. But I didn't quite feel like being fair right then. And off all the events that had sequentially led to our setting up camp in the mud, the fiasco involving our release and not-quite-recapture of her was the easiest to blame, given the outcome of it.
"There was no reason for you to show them your tattoos."
"The sheriff asked whether or not I had them," Michael said, which was a fair enough point, even if I still didn't feel like being fair. "'Twould have gone far worse if I had refused. How was I to know he would have us barred from the town?"
Perhaps because it was such a common reaction to people learning that he was marked unredeemed. The marks stigma Michael had taken on almost two years ago in favor of turning a woman over to the law after she used him for experiments that would not have been legal had he possessed any legal rights at the time… which he had permanently forfeited when he was tattooed. At least he had gotten better about hiding the marks in the past few years, but all the same…
"In that case, you shouldn't have gotten involved in that fight."
Michael gave me an apologetic smile before not apologizing at all. "'Twas an unfair match. Master Benison was much smaller and stood no chance, even though he was in the right. And you know he was. Just because…"
I tuned Michael out then. He was either explaining why it was the noble and proper thing to do, or explaining how he knew that deep down I knew that it was the noble and proper thing to do. Either way, I was more concerned with finding somewhere dry to sleep. Or at least not so wet and muddy that my boots sunk into the ground when I stepped there. We were near mining territory, so when we learned we would be without an inn for the night I had hoped we might come across a cave, but when I thought about it now I realized that had been wishful thinking. I gave up on looking for something less muddy and turned my attention back to Michael
"…I don't see how a person could ever stand by and let that happen. And that young woman had looked so grateful—"
"That's nice. I don't suppose you and your sense of fair play can find us somewhere dry to sleep?"
Michael paused, taken aback by the realization that he didn't have my full attention, but he recovered quickly and shook his head. "There's another town nearby. If we were to hurry, mayhap we could reach it by sunrise."
Given his tone I took the suggestion to be an attempt at apologizing for getting us kicked out of Cranbor, but as far as apologies went, it was a lousy one. There was no way either of us would ride all through the night, and given the hesitant glance he cast Chant's way, it was clear he wasn't eager to risk overtaxing his horse.
I resigned myself to a night of misery and helped Michael secure the horses before setting packs somewhere that was, if not dry, then at least elevated. Our bedrolls would have to be set in the mud, but there was no reason to get everything else filthy. I decided that Michael could be the one to clean them in the morning. Since it was his fault we were sleeping in the mud, it was only fair.
And maybe I was being a little unfair when I tossed Michael his bedroll and said "I don't suppose you remember our discussion from before? After you were tossed off that cliff."
"'Twas a success," was his automatic reply.
Not by a longshot, but we had argued enough already about how close you had to come to dying before a plan was no longer a success, and in the end it wasn't a subject worth trying to out-stubborn Michael on. "Not that. The part where you didn't die when you were tossed over the cliff."
Michael paused in the middle of untying the strap that held his bedroll secure, and when he finally spoke his voice came out clipped. "Yes?"
The look of discomfort on his face, visible enough even as the raincloud obscured sunlight faded, was almost enough to make me drop the subject. Almost. It was impossible not to know that the subject of his magic made Michael uncomfortable, given how long it had taken for him to admit to it at all. But whether he liked to think about it or not, it was a topic worth trying to out-stubborn him on.
"I told you that you should try and train your magic. You can make water wetter. I don't suppose you could make it less wet too? Or maybe convince the ground to be drier."
"The mud shall be nice and soft, Fisk," he told me.
"We'll sink into it. Tomorrow someone will find us half buried, suffocated in the night when the mud pulled us too far under to breath."
Michael laughed at that and pressed his boot into the mud, lifting it up after to show how far in he could make himself sink. "'Tis hardly deep enough. Your hair won't get more than a little dirty."
Lying in mud overnight? I doubted that. But Michael had already accepted our sleeping conditions and if I was going to get him to use magic, then tonight was not the night. "Alright. But we're still going to talk about this. And you're washing our gear tomorrow. That mud is deeper than our bedrolls are thick."
He nodded, relief over having gotten out of the unpleasant conversation plain as day on his face. I could hardly get him to discuss his power when it flared up, much less when there are no urgent matters involving it. But that only made it worth trying to keep pressing him. And if it made him uncomfortable tonight than served him right. I wouldn't exactly be comfortable in these sleeping conditions either.
After a few more minutes search I found the shallowest path of mud I was going to and laid out my bedroll. It made a sick, squishing noise as I crawled into it, and I tried to ignore the feeling of mud creeping up around the fabric. Glancing back at Michael, he seemed to have located a similar spot and already put himself to bed.
"I'm still not happy about this," I let him know. "Tomorrow, if we see trouble, I'm tying you to Chant before you can get us involved."
"Good night, Fisk."
STA: Good news for everyone who left a review previously in response to one of my old author's notes: I've started rewriting this. The comments you were responding to no longer exist.
The story's getting a smaller scale treatment than the other one I've rewritten did. Count Back From Ten didn't have a plan when I started it (and was, in fact, the story that made me add some restrictions to how planned out and how into a fic I had to be before I posted it). That story was completely rewritten. New plot. Pacing got revised. I even shifted it from first to third person perspective. Because I actually don't like working in first person that much. Basically, there were enough major changes that it got a total overhaul. I rewrote it from scratch. Didn't even look back over my older version before starting fresh.
My issue with Quiet Magic was more stylistic. I didn't mind the plot and even liked a lot of the narration and banter enough that I would hate to lose it, but there were enough details that I didn't like… well, I started this in 2011. And last updated it in 2013. (I think I added two chapters that year?) My writing isn't the stuff of legend, but it had improved enough since beginning this that it felt like it would be too awkward to finish it without giving the older chapters a facelift. I printed 'em off and retyped the whole thing.
If I just edited the old documents, I'd correct punctuation that I knew better for and maybe switch out words here or there, but while the edits I wanted to make weren't total overhaul stuff, but they were big enough that I didn't want to battle the temptation to just copy and paste. I had the old chapters in front of me for reference and the new version has most of the same content, but I've added some things here and there. Cleaned up dialogue. Fixed up parts where the characters jump to conclusions and don't explain why. Paid enough attention to the setting to actually describe it. Things like that. Same story, but hopefully a smoother read.
(That being said, I'm only up to chapter 5 of the rewrite so far. If my effort dies out before I'm done... Iunno. Guess I'll repost the original versions of those later chapters.)