I didn’t wait for Nolan. I led Faith into a quiet, secluded place in the forest and made a fire. As I crouched next to it, I fed kindling into the infant flame and warmed my fingers. Ordinarily, the news that my problem was mental would be good news–that meant it could be cured. But things weren’t ordinary anymore. If things were ordinary, I wouldn’t have lost my hearing and sight in the first place.
What upset me most, about finding out that my problem was psychological, was that it meant I should be able to get over it, just by changing the way I thought. Mind over matter. But I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. If it was my fault I had this problem in the first place, then how was I supposed to fix it?
I snapped a stick in half and threw it in the fire, watching as it rapidly blackened. I hated this. I hated that my problem was self-inflicted. I hated that I’d let myself get this way. I hated that I’d taken away the one thing in my life that meant most to me.
I couldn’t have hated myself more, for what I’d done.
I wanted to cry angry tears, to let their molten tracks burn the remnants of what I’d done. I wanted to scream and tear the memory of my misery to pieces. I wanted to let everything I’d done burn and crumble, turning to white ash and blowing away on the breeze. I wanted a way to destroy every mistake I’d ever made.
I was letting my anger get the best of me.
It thrummed in my chest, swelling as I fed it more and more. It made me feel nauseous, sick to my stomach, but I wanted nothing more than to be angry. To punish myself with my own sickening anger, as if that would make things better.
But I wanted so desperately not to be angry. To be happy, so I could fix my mental problem and get my hearing and sight back.
I wanted things to be the way they once were.
Somehow, Nolan found me. He came to me as soon as he was done speaking with the chieftain and his daughter.
“I asked them if they knew what the bearskins wanted,” he said, sitting next to my little fire. “They didn’t know. He said maybe it was something the lily-slips had. But he didn’t know.” He sat silently for a moment, then exhaled and asked, “Did you see the seeress?”
I didn’t look at him. “It’s psychological.”
“Oh.” He sounded surprised. “What does that mean?” he asked.
I shook my head, staring at the ground. “It means I can’t be fixed. I did it to myself and that’s that.” The angry tears were crowding my eyes, begging to be set free. I held them back.
Nolan was momentarily speechless. Twice, he inhaled as if to say something, but it only ended up a wordless whimper. When he finally thought of something to say, he spoke it with a tiny voice. “Why?”
I rounded on him, about to snap that if I knew why, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, but I cut short when I realized he was crying. “Why would you say you can’t be fixed?” he moaned, distraught. “Why would you give up on yourself like that?” He staggered to his feet, and I stood as well.
“I know what bearskins are, you know,” he said unhappily, the tears pouring off his chin in a steady stream. His hands made cutting gestures through the air between us. “I know what they do to people. They’ll know you’re hopeless. They’ll use it.” His words were now nothing more than a choked whisper. “They’ll kill you because of it.”
He was scared. Scared for me.
And he was right. If I fought the bearskins, feeling like this… they would use it against me and they would probably kill me. The thought was sobering, but it didn’t scare me. It just meant I’d have to be careful. What did scare me was Nolan’s reaction. He was getting worked up about something he couldn’t change, and that would make him a hundred times more vulnerable than he already was. If he didn’t cut it out, he was going to be the one who got killed.
“They’re not going to kill me,” I said sternly, “because I’m not hopeless. It is what it is, and I accept that. So what if I don’t get my magic back? I’ll live.” I couldn’t erase the bitterness in my voice, or that underlying anger just bursting to be free. But Nolan needed to stop.
He stared at me for several long seconds, tears still chasing each other down his face and a very hurt look in his eyes. “I don’t believe you,” he said. “You’re going to get your magic back. You have to.”
“I don’t have to,” I said, “I just have to get over it. Move on. Find something else. But it’s done.”
“It isn’t done,” he muttered, turning away from me and wiping his cheeks. He looked like he wanted to leave, wanted to stop listening to my resigned words, but he was afraid of being alone. So he stayed, but he wouldn’t look at me anymore or acknowledge my presence. It was just as well. I didn’t want to talk to him, if he was just going to get so upset.
I let my tiny fire go out and pulled my blanket from my saddlebags to go to sleep. It took me a long time to finally settle my mind enough, as I kept worrying about confronting the bearskins. I couldn’t let the gypsy tribe fight them alone, but I was worried that Nolan wouldn’t be strong enough. And if I couldn’t even see the bearskins, then what use was I?
My last thought before sleep was of my lost magic. It was so easy to believe that it was gone forever, but what if it wasn’t? Was there a chance I could get it back? I had no idea.
How’s everyone doing?
Life is good for me right now. Exams are over, I’ve had lots of time to write and game, and I’ve got a very warm cat on my lap. Life is good.
How’s it going in your corner of the world?
May your life be good and your worries few.