Emil washed quickly and changed into a long, thick nightshirt and climbed into bed.  As he had on the road, Lukas sat beside him, ruffling his hair and singing softly to him until he slept.

He woke slowly very early the next morning.  Both of his brothers were still sleeping and he slipped out of the bed, torn between curiosity and anxiety.  He wanted to explore the inn, as he could not have done the previous night due to his exhaustion, but he wanted to stay close to his brothers.

In the end curiosity won out and he crept down to the common room in his nightshirt and stockings.  The front door was already open and the innkeeper stood talking to a man who had long blond hair and green eyes that seemed to roam around the empty room on their own.  All of these detail Emil was able to take in as he stood on the bottom step not more than a foot away from the pair.

Then the stranger seemed to noticed Emil standing there.  “But who’s this?” he said.  He stepped closer and met Emil’s eyes.  “Are you the young potential that I’ve heard so very much about, then?” he asked.

“You’ve heard about me?” Emil asked, suddenly nervous.  “From who?”

“Whom,” the stranger corrected automatically.  “I’ve heard about you from the innkeeper.  Apparently, you and your brothers caused a bit of excitement last night.  I’ve heard about your ilk from those in the capital.  They are very keen to gather young potentials such as yourself there and put them through an education program.”

“Brother says I need to learn control,” Emil murmured.  “I don’t think I want to go to the capital though.”

“You are correct in your thinking, my boy,” the man said.  “The school they have is less for education and more for indoctrination.  Do you know what that means?”

Emil shook his head.  He looked up as his brother answered the question from further up the stairs.  “It means that they teach you to think the way they want.  They won’t just teach you to control your magic.  They’ll put you under their control as well.”

“That’s scary,” Emil said.

“It is,” Lukas agreed.  “Hello, Kurland,” he greeted the stranger.  “So news from the capital is pretty bad.”

“It is… as bad as I’d feared and worse.  Magic-users cannot be in this land without being on the government coin and it won’t be long before even that won’t save them.  Anyone with any sense is leaving.”

“Where will we go?” Emil asked.

“The lands t the east… the south… the east, all are suitable for most.  For people with your particular affliction, Lukas, I’d suggest either the east or west.  The southern lands are too sunny for people so sensitive to the light.”

“We’re closer to the western border,” Lukas said.  “Can you help us, Kurland?  We don’t know anyone beyond this village.  This is as far as even Daniel has traveled.”

“I can’t go with you but I can give you a letter of introduction and a map that marks safe houses for those of our kind, Lukas,” Kurland said.  “If the red-coats should get a hold of that sort of map though… the whole network would be compromised and everything we’ve worked for would be lost.”

“Don’t give us the whole map and don’t mark it obviously.  Just… point the places out to us so we know where to go,” Lukas said.  He grinned and shook his head.  “Rather point them out to Daniel since I can’t read maps.  The print is always too small for my eyes.”

“If you’re a magic-user won’t you be in danger?” Emil asked.  “An what about me learning control?”

“That will have to wait until you’re someplace safer, but I can give you a damper that will keep your magic from loosing on its own,” Kurland said.  “As for me… no one knows that I have magic.  I’ve never used it where anyone could trace it to me.  Don’t worry, I’ll be careful and get out of this place before it gets too hot.  Meantime, I have to help others, like I’m helping you.”

“Thank you,” Emil said.  He sighed and looked back at his brother.  He was relieved that his magic wouldn’t loose itself but he wished that he knew better how to control his powers as his brother seemed to.

“Hold your arm out,” Kurland instructed.  He slipped a silver bracelet over Emil’s outstretched arm and then stepped back with a satisfied nod.  “That should do it. You’ll still be able to call up your magic if you’re in danger and need it but it won’t loose unless you release it.”

Emil nodded and scowled down at the silver band around his wrst.  It was plain and unadorned but if he squinted, he could almost see words inscribed on the surface.  The words seemed to move and shift making them impossible to read, though they were most assuredly there.

“The words are the dampening spell set into it,” Lukas explained.  “If it was complete… closed, then your magic would be locked within.  With this little break in it, you can still work magic, but only if you want to.  Do you feel a bit better?”

Emil nodded and hugged his brother.  “So… what happened yesterday won’t happen again?”

“No,” Lukas said firmly.  “And remember Emil, that was the magic, acting on its own, not you.  You are a good boy, Emil.  You would not willingly harm anyone, having magic now doesn’t change who you are.  Now go get dressed and wake Daniel so we can prepare to go.  We have a long way to travel to the border and a long time until we’re free.”

Emil murmured agreement and bounded up the steps.  He couldn’t help but wonder what awaited them on the other side of the western border and what it would be like to be free?  How would things change in another land?  What would learning control be like?

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