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Off to a good start! Beat the wordcount goal. Considering that I've never actually started on time, let alone ahead, I think I'm doing well! Of course, I'm seriously considering abandoning this "idea" in favor of rewriting Adventures.

So far I've learned that the fairy's name is Natalie, the main character is a thirty-five year old boy, his mother is 150 and his father is in his fifties or sixties--the math is in there somewhere. Dad does the cooking, while Mom teaches him how to use weapons behind Dad's back. Dad and the main character both have had their names mentioned, but since I basically strung together nonsense letters I don't remember them. Mother has a brother who is an adventurer named Uncle Arthur, and magic is done when elves and fairies work together. There was a war between humans and elves sometime before the main character was born but after his father was born. The main character's dearest ambition is currently to be a badass adventurer like Uncle Arthur, but mostly he does a lot of studying. Also helping out with whatever Dad does for a living, which is pretty menial. Mom is an enigma so far. I'm seeing some foreshadowing involving Uncle Arthur, but I can't decide what it's pointing towards. Five points for anyone who can point out an instance of deliberate wordcount padding! (The whole thing is wordcount padding, but still, there is some other padding going on too.)

But here's what I've got for today (2389 words):

"Hello!" said the fairy cheerfully, hovering slightly above the level of my shoulder.

"Ah... Hello," I answered a little nervously. "I, uh, don't know who you are. You're a... fairy?"

"Yep!" she said brightly, beaming at me. "My name is Natalie. I'm going to be your companion from now on! We're going to be the best of friends!"

"But..." I said helplessly. "But I don't understand. What is a fairy for? How come I've never seen anyone else with a fairy? Why did you pick me? What do you mean, you'll be my companion? Where do fairies come from, and--"

She cut me off, laughing. Her laugh sounded like thousands of tiny bells, all ringing at a different pitch. "One question at a time! Fairies are there to be guides, friends, and guardians to young elves, for as long as they need us. You've never seen any other fairies because you live in an almost entirely elf-free settlement. You were chosen because enough of the elven magic rests in you for you to require one. And I'll be here to help you learn how to use it, how to protect yourself with it! Don't you want to be an adventurer?"

I gasped, my eyes widening. "How--How did you know that? I've never told anyone that!"

To be an adventurer was my greatest dream! My uncle Arthur was an adventurer, and he had often, on visits to my father his brother, brought me souvenirs from his adventures. Some of them, Father confiscated, saying they were too gruesome for a child to own. The dagge Uncle Arthur had taken off the body of an orc was one such item. But Uncle Arthur had also brought me stones from ancient temples with strange runes carved into them, things like that. My favorite thing, and the only weapon I had been allowed to keep, was a sleek willow bow and ten arrows. Mother is an elf, and she insisted that I be taught how to use a bow. When we have time, she also teaches me to use a sword, but Father is so adamantly against violence that we rarely do.

Mother is young still, only a hundred and fifty. She married Father when they were young; he was eighteen and she was one hundred and eleven. They had me when they were twenty-two and one hundred and fifteen, respectively. I'm thirty-five now, and Father, who is growing old, often speaks to Mother about my slow development. I am still mostly a child. Mother sighs and says it seems like only yesterday I was an infant, grasping her thumb with my tiny hands. They both worry about me, growing up much more slowly than the humans that surround us, and much more quickly than the elves who populate the forest around our small town. I have seen generations of students go by in my school, and I'm still studying there, yet Mother says that she studied until she was ninety years old--and she would have gone on studying if the war hadn't broken out.

I don't know much about the war. Mother and Father don't talk about it much. I mean, of course I've learned about it in histories: how humans were expanding their territories, building settlements deeper and deeper in the woods, and the elves, who had always been peaceful before, attacked for no reason. How the fighting went on for twenty years, and how many people lost their lives. I know there must be more to the story, because why would a peaceable society suddenly attack like that? But Father won't answer any of my questions, and he becomes so angry when I ask that I fear how Mother would react if I asked her.

"I'm your fairy," Natalie answered patiently, breaking my from my reverie. "There's a connection here that lets me feel some of what you feel."

I scowled, taking a deliberate step away from her. "I appreciate the thought, but I don't need anyone to be prying into my thoughts. I don't want a fairy."

She fluttered closer, reaching an arm out toward me. "Wait! Don't go! Please. I'm sorry." She hesitated, and when it seemed obvious that I wasn't about to bolt, she went on. "It's only a small link. It will grow with trust and time, and--and of course it could be severed," she added, seeing the look on my face. "But I can't see anything that you don't want me to see. As you get to know me, I'll become... almost a piece of your soul. And, Kaerlen, you won't be able to do any magic without me."

I raised my eyebrows. "Magic? You mentioned that before. What is it?"

Her eyes widened. "Haven't you--You really haven't been taught anything about magic? Your mother...?"

I shook my head. "Mother's never mentioned anything about magic to me. Why...? What is it? What should she have told me?"

The faery crossed her legs, seeming to settle in for something. "Have you learned much about physics yet?" she asked. "The way things in the world behave, and why?"

"Of course," I answered. "Force, energy, mass. I know about physics."

"Physics is a useful tool for understanding what things can do without magical help," the faery went on. "For example, according to the rules of physics, if you picked up that stone at your feet and then let go of it, it would fall to the ground, right?"

"Yes," I answered slowly. It was such an obvious question that I couldn't understand what point she was trying to make by asking it.

"Well," she said, "try it, then."

I hesitated, then shrugged and knelt to lift the stone. It was a pebble really, worn smooth by time except for where one end had broken off. It almost seemed like it was shaped like a finger. I held it out towards the fairy, palm up with the stone resting in my hand. Slowly, my eyes on the faery, I tilted my hand until my palm faced downwards.

The stone did not fall to the ground.

I gaped at it, stunned. "How--that's not possible! How is it doing that?"

"Magic," answered the fairy. "It's something like what physics calls a 'force' or an 'energy.' Like energy, there is only a certain amount of it in the world, and like energy, that amount is great enough that we can use it without fear of running out. Like energy, it cycles through many different forms. Have you heard of entropy?" she asked suddenly, almost interrupting herself.

"Entropy is the process by which the universe becomes less organized," I said. "Most materials want to be in a less entropic state. That's why water melts."

"But you can freeze it again, if you apply the right kind of energy," Natalie agreed, nodding. "Magic works the opposite way. Magic likes things to be orderly. A burst of magic exerted uncontrolled in a random part of the world is likely to result in blocks of pure materials, each item that used to be in that area sorted at the particulate level into its most basic component parts."

"I think I understand," I said slowly. "Magic makes things happen that shouldn't be possible, because it runs in the opposite direction of energy."

Natalie looked at me with a different expression on her face. "That's a very interesting way to put it," she said. "I've never met anyone who's made quite that same connection before."

"It only makes sense," I said. "Magic, then. I want to know more about it. I can do magic? Why can some people do magic and others can't?"

"It requires a partnership of fairy and elf," she said. "Just as matter must be arranged in certain shapes in order to allow energy to affect it, so must matter be arranged to conduct magic to create a change in the world. Elves are long-lived because magic acts on their very cells, working against entropy to allow their body to remain ageless for years."

When I arrived home that evening, after having spoken at length with Natalie about magic and physics and the nature of the universe, I felt like I had learned more in those few hours in the woods than I had in all the years of study I had done. I was excited, bouncing on my toes all the way home. I wanted to show Mother, to ask her if she had ever had a fairy of her own. I wanted to tell Father how much easier his work could be if he would let me help now. I opened the door and burst inside to find Father laying dinner on the table.

"You're late," he grunted, with a faint scowl. Mother, already seated, smiled at me; Father had always been much stricter on me than Mother.

Her smile didn't last long. I had stepped aside, saying, "Mother, Father, this is--"

I never got to finish my sentence. Natalie had been squarely behind me, tucked almost between my shoulder blades. As I stepped aside, first Father and then Mother saw her, and their reactions were not at all what I had been expecting.

I had expected Mother to be proud that I had learned something of the elven traditions on my own. I had thought she would be happy that I was actually interested in it now. I had expected Father to be practical, pleased at the idea of making work go by more efficiently. I couldn't understand why they were both staring at me with identical expressions of shock on their faces.

Shock and... hate. I stepped in front of Natalie again, defensive without knowing why. "What's the matter?" I demanded. "Why are you looking at her like that? Mother?"

Mother didn't answer, and she didn't stop glaring at Natalie through my chest. Finally, it was Father who spoke.

"It won't stay in our house," he said gruffly.

"Why?" I demanded. "Natalie's brilliant! She's told me all about magic, and we've even practiced some already. I made a stone float! I made it hover in midair! This could make our life so much better! Why do you want to throw her out like this?"

Mother seemed to shake herself slightly, then put her head down on the table. "We had hoped," she said softly, her voice further muffled by her arms, "that you would be overlooked by the faeries, given the distance to any elven settlements."

"But why--"

"Estien, we can't stop it," she murmured, turning her head slightly towards Father. "If they are joined, there is no way to separate them."

Estien grunted and stood, taking food from the pantry--not the table, where it sat steaming and smelling delicious--and stuffing it into a large backpack: bread, cheese, potatoes, dried meat, fresh vegetables, and a single tiny, precious glass jar of preserved fruits. "We won't be able to go with you," he told me stiffly. "If we all disappear, they'll suspect. Your mother and I have to stay here so we can tell people you've just gone adventuring with your uncle or something."

"You're... sending me away?" I said, stunned. "What have I done wrong? Why do you hate magic so much?"

"Magic is," my mother began, and found herself unable to finish her sentence.

"No good ever comes of it," my father supplied. "You and that--creature can't stay here. The townspeople will tear you apart. Lynch you." The pack he was filling had many loops and straps and pockets: it was old but never used, a gift from my uncle that I simply didn't need. Now, as I watched my father fill it, I understood its use: it was an adventuring pack. Father tucked a flint and steel into one pocket, secured a long coil of rope to its side. A strangely-shaped pocket with a hole in the bottom turned out to be meant to hold a hatchet. Father gave me his thickest, toughest gardening gloves, his sturdiest boots. He brought my bow and my quiver with its ten arrows, and--I was startled to see--the dagger Uncle Arthur had given to me years ago. And the sword Mother and I had practiced with! He laid these on the table and disappeared back into the closet inside which my small stash of gifts from Uncle Arthur had rested undisturbed for years. Torches, a pillow and blanket, candles, a bottle of ink and a pen, a book, a waterskin, fishhooks and line, a whetstone, a heavy coat, several thick pairs of socks, a woolen hat, a heavy cloak--impossibly, these all found their way into the pack Father was packing. The weapons lay on the table, glinting.

"This is the best we can do for you," Father told me, holding the pack out to me. I slipped it onto my back, shocked at how heavy it wasn't. Oh, it was heavy! It was at least as heavy as the pack I carried my schoolbooks in. But it should have been at least five times as heavy.

"What is this?" I asked, as Father buckled the sword to my belt.

He answered while strapping the dagger in its small sheath to my calf. "That's something your uncle left you," he said. "You'll probably want to find him before you try anything else; we can't have you here any longer, but we still want you safe." Unexpectedly, he pulled me into a tight hug. "Be careful out there," he warned me.

"He should eat first," Mother said softly. "No reason to send him away hungry. No one knows yet."

Father nodded, and I slid the pack off my back and onto the floor. "I still don't understand," I said, picking up my fork.

"You will," Mother said, not touching her own food. "Arthur will help you. Your... It will help you. I wish you hadn't come," she said to Natalie, who had been silent since we'd set foot on our property.

"He will be great," Natalie said, a little haughtily. "You were going to keep him down, ignorant, his entire life. He would have amounted to nothing with you--"

"He would have been safe!" my mother roared, standing suddenly, her eyes blazing.

"Natalie," I murmured, "please. This isn't easy for me."
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The Lap Otter

November 2013

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