tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Tangled Webs of Love Ch. 02

The Tangled Webs of Love Ch. 02

byjaxxom87©

Author's Note:

Thanks to everyone who voted on the first chapter of this story. Once again, this story has no actual sex. Next chapter, I promise. The first chapter was something of a teaser, a look at the future these two characters have and now I'm stepping back to write how they got that way. This story will bounce somewhat between their two perspectives and lives as they ebb and flow with eachother.

Thank you again for putting up with the slower chapters that will be used for building the characters and I'll be sure to pepper in enough romance to at least keep it interesting.


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It's mid-June and the sun is blindingly hot in the sky as Sharyn nears the outskirts of New Orleans. She's been on the road for months and it shows in the weight of the worn backpack on her shoulders, the holes in her jeans, and the wear on the end of the staff she's used to walk when she could no longer run. Despite the humidity of the southern swamps, it has been a fine day and she has not been on the road so long that her journey begins to wear. She set out from Ohio in the early chill of fall when her home was no longer afforded her. Even now, as she runs along the roadside, she knows not where her feet are taking her, only that she still has a ways to go. Certainly, she knows not what will develop not quite two years from now.

For now, she is young, just turned eighteen. Scrawny from a lack of proper food, but there's a sparkle in her eye as her feet tread surely against the pavement. A sparkle that turns to a startled yell when she treads wrong, her foot catching the edge of a cracked bit of pavement and upsetting her mid-stride and sending her toppling to the pavement. It takes a few moments to regain her breath and once she does all there is at first is a soft, "Ow."

The aches of scraped palms and arm are barely registering beyond the painful firing of her synapses, panickedly reporting the state of the ankle. She rolls carefully onto the less injured side, tears springing to her eyes as she tries to rotate that ankle. It isn't broken, but moving it even a little is painful. Her fingers claw against the pavement, reaching for her staff fallen just out of reach. One doesn't walk this far, though, to be stopped by a turned ankle, and she closes her eyes, gritting her teeth as she drags already screaming flesh against the rough pavement until she rolls face first into the grass beside the highway and lays there for a long moment, again having to catch her breath before she can continue.

Finally, her fingers wrap around the smooth oak brand, well worn from use and her own attentions and she pulls herself to her feet, leaning heavily on the stout wood to avoid putting weight on the injured ankle. Having grown up on a farm, it's hardly her first sprain, but now the dark outlines of New Orleans' skylines shimmering in the heat seem impossibly far and she's coated in a thin sheen of sweat by the time she moves from the outskirts into the tighter streets of the older inner city.

She is, at least, blessed that the streets are not full, it being just past the average lunch hour and far enough after Mardi Gras to be lacking in tourists. It doesn't make the stilting path any easier along old, worn and cracked sidewalks. One busker is, at least, nice enough to point her in the direction of the nearest clinic that accepts walk ins for a reasonable price and she repays him with a few bills from her pocket before limping along her way.

Caillis Clinic looks a decidedly odd place, nestled in as it is along Decatur Street between a small curio shop on one side and a two-story apartment on the other. Little does she know as she reaches to open the plain glass door into the small clinic, just how profound an effect it will have on her life.

Stepping into the clinic is almost like stepping back in time. Despite the modern storefront with Dr. Sean MacHough and the hours marked out in clear white letters on the glass door, the interior is without electrical devices or, really, any modern contrivance of medicine. Gas flames flicker along the walls of the softly pointed lobby with it's comfortable chairs and a plain wooden desk stained a deep oak protecting the files of patient records against the far wall. Only one hallway stretches back into the clinic, two exam rooms and a storage space.

Sharyn is lucky in that the clinic is not busy and Dr. MacHough is seated at the desk, mid-sip of tea and dressed formally, though his white coat hangs on a peg. He is a thin, lanky man with short sandy hair and intelligent brown eyes. Not that it takes much training to see what ails the young lady as she leans heavily on her staff, her green eyes paled with pain now as she murmurs, "I'm sorry, sir. Is the doctor in?"

Sean nods, an easy smile on his lips as he stands, reaching for the white coat, "Aye, that would be me." His voice comes out with a melodic Scottish lilt as he nods towards her leg, "Sprain, then? Come on back, I'm Dr. MacHough."

He offers her a hand, but she doesn't take it, offering only her name, and, after an awkward pause, he turns to show her back into the exam room, it again conspicuous by its lack of electronics or eve light bulbs. He motions her up onto the exam table, "Well, let's take a look at it, then."

It does take an effort for Sharyn to slide up onto the tall exam table and the stout staff bows under her slight weight a moment before she manages to settle safely atop the perch. It takes her but a moment to set the staff aside, removing shoe and sock take longer, heavy boot and worn white sock fall to the floor, revealing ugly bruising already purpling and blooming to the surface of the offending ankle.

Despite herself, she winces when he touches her ankle, both from the pain that lances through her when he touches the tender flesh and muscle and from the unexpected zing of static electricity that passes between them. While Sharyn marks this as little more than proof that he shouldn't have carpeting in his hallways, Dr. MacHough examines her face a moment before beginning to wrap and treat the ankle, "Well, there's not much more to be done for this but to wrap it and keep off it for a few weeks while the tissues heal."

One of Sharyn's brows arches up, "I was just passing through. I generally keep on the move."

"By foot?" MacHough's voice is part incredulity, part surprise, "Well, you'll need to stay off this for at least two weeks. I can prescribe some pain medication but the rest is all time to heal. Are you on some sort of walk-about as part of finishing your apprenticeship?"

Even as he asks that, he shifts to stand, moving to a cabinet and rustling around with its contents, which at least gives Sharyn the opportunity to look perplexed without having him see it before she asks, "Apprenticeship?"

There's a moment's awkward pause as MacHough turns from the cabinet with a blue air cast cradled in his hands, "Do you know how to use one of these? And, yes, you're clearly a wizard. Surely you've had some training?"

"I'm a what?" Clearly, MacHough's words are as meaningless to her as they would be to any of the uninitiated. When her eyes flick to the cast, though, she manages a nod, "Yes, we had similar things for the horses. Thank you. I don't have much money left."

The money question seems to flit through MacHough's mind like a blink, already forgotten as he examines the young wizard with no knowledge of who she truly is, "A wizard. You can do-" He pauses, trying a less 'I'm a nutball' line of explanation, "Can you do things like this?"

He holds out one hand, gentle cradled palm up and murmurs a soft word, causing water to bubble up there until it slowly overflows, first dripping, then streaming down to the floor before he murmurs another word to cease the fountain, leaving Sharyn for a moment speechless before she nods slightly, "I fill my canteen that way..."

MacHough gives an almost imperceptible glance towards the door, then reaches to swing it shut, "You have no formal training?"

"Well... I..." Sharyn shrugs, slumping a bit and resting her elbows on her knees, "I mean, I met a few people who could do little tricks and learned from them? It never really seemed like a big deal." And through it all she can't help wondering why she feels she should be embarrassed of this and why this stranger's opinion seems to matter to her.

Thankfully, all he does is nod again, "Hedges, then? Well, you need proper training."

"Why?"

The ever-present question hangs in the air between them, the elephant in the room. Why? Just as the pause begins to become unbearable, MacHugh clears his throat, "Because with training you could do so much more and without it you could hurt or kill someone."

That gets her attention and green eyes blink a couple of times, "I would never..."

MacHough gives a stark shake of his head, "Not on purpose, but magic is driven by our emotions. I'm sure you've noticed you get more power when you're upset or angry or happy, right?" He accepts her nod as silent agreement, "Well, imagine that you're angry at someone, you might use it against them, right?" Another silent nod is all he gets in response, "Then you might kill them, and that would be bad. Training will help you learn to control your magic and your emotions."

Sharyn nods again, but her eyes narrow, examining him more skeptically, "Is that an offer or a suggestion while kicking me out the door?"

MacHough sighs, taking in the jaded look and know her expectation is clearly to be sent on her way, just like every other person who's taught her a trick or two has, then settles into his chair a bit deeper, "Well, I haven't had an apprentice before, but I can't very well send you on your way untrained. I know a place you can stay while you heal," he nods indicatively towards her ankle, "And we can see if this thing might work out. If not, I can see if anyone else might be up for the challenge."

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Thanks for Reading, the next chapter is coming soon and will be from Merrin's perspective/life instead of Sharyn's.

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