Emery tugged Miles along behind him as they headed down the street. Somehow they’d managed to lose their father in the bustle of market day. “It’ll be alright, Mi,” he said encouragingly. The younger boy was crying quietly and only sniffled in response.

He saw the strangers before Miles did. He tugged the younger boy into an alleyway and watched them silently for a time.

One stranger shook his head and said, “You sure they’re around here? Emery and Miles Ballard?”

“They’re around. They might hold the truth behind off-magic – what it really is and how to awaken it in other mages,” another stranger replied. He looked around and added, “I’ll search this way; you look that way.”

He turned and walked away but the other stranger stood for a moment before turning toward the very alley they’d hidden in. “Hello!” he said, a startled tone entering his voice. “Are you Emery and Miles Ballard?”

Emery nodded and Miles whimpered.

The stranger shook his head. He muttered, “Don’t tell me that they’re just kids. I don’t need to know that.” Then in a firmer voice, he added, “You’d better run before we catch you.”

Emery’s eyes widened and he sprinted back down the alley, dragging Miles behind him. There was no way that they should have been able to outrun an adult, but somehow they managed to. They didn’t stop running until they’d found their father, waiting on the road that led toward home.

“Where were you boys?” Dad called. “I searched all over, but after a while I figured it might be best to just stop and wait somewhere. Whatever’s wrong?” He picked Miles up and held him close.

“There were strangers in town looking for us,” Emery said, finally losing control of his emotions. It was alright now. They were with their father. Soon, they were headed home. That was the last time their father ever took them into town on market day.

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