Gareth just stared at Marianna for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“I created this storm,” she laughed. “I led you and Jasmine here to my cottage. I have some important information to tell you. Good thing Jasmine is passed out on the couch, because this is only for you to know.” She stood. “Would you like something to eat? You must be famished, running through the rain then carrying your charge.”
“How did you know we ran? And how did you create this storm? Your magic is unlike anything I’ve ever known.” Gareth was confused, and he had so many questions. He didn’t like not knowing things; information was his forte, his niche.
He followed her with his eyes as she moved about the kitchen, grabbing various jars. Nothing was labeled and so much of it looked the same. How did she know what anything was? She grabbed a plate and placed various things from the jars on it and put it in front of him. He saw some dried meat seasoned with various herbs, lettuce, carrots, and radishes.
“Rabbit,” Marianna said, sitting down opposite him again. He nodded and bit into the meat, flavors he’d never experienced before exploding on his tongue. It was sweet with hints of spicy, and the meat was soft, not tough. He nodded his approval and kept eating, his questions forgotten for the moment.
“I have a lot to tell you, Gareth,” Marianna began. “You’re never seen magic like mine, have you?”
He shook his head no, wondering how she knew his name. It was so strange how she knew so much. He thought she might be a witch, judging from the herbs and the caldron. He had thought, though, that witches were a myth.
“I am half human, half fae,” she smiled, and tilted her head to the side again, gauging his reaction.
He stopped chewing and stared. He nearly dropped his jaw and stared open-mouthed at her, but he had chewed rabbit meat in his mouth. How was that even possible? He had never heard of the fae mating with humans.
“Yes, it’s very rare. A natural mating of humans and fae has a very different result than that of a genetically created mix. A person with a mixed race such as me has wild and unpredictable magic, but we can learn how to control it over time. I am nearly 400 years old and I’m just starting to age,” Marianna said, once again clasping her hands together.
Gareth swallowed his food. “Why isn’t your race known?”
“We’ve had to stay secret because our magic is so wild it could be considered dangerous. We keep ourselves hidden from the world, making ourselves nearly invisible. As far as my own power, I can manipulate certain weather patterns, I have a way of reading thoughts, I can make myself go invisible, and various other things. One power I have is to lead people to their destiny. I can see the future; I know what’s going to happen.” Marianna paused, letting the information sink in.
“What do you mean? We choose our own path,” Gareth said, snapping a carrot in his teeth.
“Do we? I have never been wrong, and you would do well to listen,” she said firmly, raising an eyebrow. “Everything I have seen, has come to pass. Jasmine has a very important role to play, and you must protect her.”
“What role is that?” Gareth was suspicious. How would she know of his plans to get Jasmine to the Resistance and use her against the queen?
“I can’t tell you exactly what will happen, but she must come into her full power, and soon. The window is closing. You have to help her, train her to control it, to help her realize her full potential. She will come to do great things, but the process has to be started.”
“I can’t help her yet, I need the queen to think she’s not that powerful.”
Marianna shook her head. “No, it needs to happen sooner than that. You don’t have much time left.”
“What do you mean, why not?” Gareth asked, licking his fingers, his stomach full. He was still unsure. Telling Jasmine how to gather energy from the universe would ruin his plans. He didn’t think it was a good idea.
“She can do more than you think she can. She can do more than anyone could ever imagine,” Marianna whispered. “But, none of that will come to pass if you don’t help her soon. Her powers will shrivel and die. You must release it back to her, she needs to have her own magic dancing inside of her. She needs to feel it.”
Gareth sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. “I can’t do that. I don’t know if I can trust her yet. Besides, I have to bring her to the queen first. That would ruin my plans.” But, hearing that Jasmine’s powers would shrivel and die, he was second guessing the plans he had worked so hard to put in place. Could that really happen to her?
“Your plans, are they set in stone? Are you so ready to throw everything away? Everything you’ve been working for? Because you won’t be able to use her at all if you don’t give her powers back to her,” Marianna stated, staring hard at him.
Gareth said nothing for a while, thinking about what she was saying. She seemed so certain. He didn’t know if he could trust her, they had just met. He barely knew anything about the woman sitting across from him. She was convincing, he could give her that. He rubbed his hands over his face and sighed.
“I thought you said you push people into their destinies, that you can see the future,” he said. “How is it that you’re now telling me I need to make a choice? I have a choice, and if I make the wrong one, you’re saying that what you’ve seen will not come to pass. Doesn’t that mean that we do choose our own path?”
“Ah,” Marianna smiled. “Yes, there are choices that need to be made. I am pushing you to your destiny, right now, trying to convince you to make the correct choice. The future is fluid,” she delicately shrugged her shoulders, holding her hands in the air. “My visions change as decisions change. For the good of the world, you need to do as I say, and give Jasmine her powers back before you had planned.”
Gareth sat in silence, contemplating this. This was all on him and the decision he made. He wasn’t sure if he could trust Jasmine to have her powers to herself. What if she turned on him and attacked him? He was, after all, supposed to bring her to the queen. She had only agreed to go with him because she had been powerless. If she had her magic, she might use it against him then run. What was the risk involved? What was the benefit?
He knew from experience that the fae went mad when their magic was kept from them. They needed to feel the connection to the earth to feel whole. Without it, their conscious minds disintegrated. He wondered how long it would take Jasmine to go insane from that missing piece, if she was already feeling it. He could tell that she was having difficulty, but he didn’t know how much it was affecting her.
Gareth sighed, looking up from studying the grains in the table. Marianna was intensely watching him, her eyes glowing. He knew she was waiting for him to make a decision. He wasn’t going to make one at the moment. He was going to watch Jasmine and see how she was doing before making any decisions. He was going to ask her how she feels without her magic. He hadn’t noticed any hints of madness in her, but sometimes it started out subtly. He was going to pay more attention.
Marianna sighed. “Is that what you’re going to do?” She shook her head. She unclasped her hands and made a gesture to the window. He felt the shield drop. There was constant thunder now, booming directly over their heads. He saw multiple flashes of lightning right outside and frowned. The rain pelted the window, sharp cracks sounding as hail pounded the stone house. The wind howled, angry at being roused.
Gareth opened his mouth to speak, but when he turned to face her, she was gone. He was starting to get angry with her disappearing tricks. “Marianna!” He shouted, trying to be heard over the awful racket that was now invading the house. It was a wonder Jasmine hadn’t awoken over the terrible noise. He slammed his fist down on the table, knocking over the vase with the roses. He scowled and picked it up, seeing a crack. Sighing, he replaced the roses, not bothering to refill the water. Where had that witchy woman gone?
Marianna watched the scene from the second floor of her cottage. She frowned, tilting her head and clasping her hands. It was a wonder they were still as soft and delicate as they were. She had to keep them together most of the time or she could inadvertently rearrange energy in a manner she did not intend. She could feel the magic she was pulling for the storm within her, channeling the energy from so many sources a full-blooded fae would be overwhelmed from it.
She hoped it wouldn’t be long before Gareth made a decision about giving Jasmine her magic back. She quaked with fear. No, he had to make the right choice. She only hoped her storm was enough. It was right powerful and wild magic, but she still wasn’t certain. If Jasmine didn’t pull energy from the universe soon, it would be too late, and the world would be doomed, for Marianna had seen both endings. So, she sat. And she waited, watching, invisible to the world, as always.