Editorial note: in the process of editing the first portion of the series, I ended up changing the race that Hugh is a part of from the demidrake to the demihabil. Other than that slight change, I hope you continue to enjoy the series!
Everyone loved coffee and tea, drinking one or both was a national pastime, as was the eternal debate between which was better. Consensus, it turned out, was coffee in morning and after dinner, tea whenever they felt like it.
Coffee shops in tourist attractions were open all day, and the best of them was Eight O'Clock Somewhere because that was the time most people ate dinner or breakfast depending on the time of day.
The shop, like most of the places in the city, was busy.
"Maybe we should come back later?" Luna suggested, looking at the line as it snaked out of the front doors and down along the boardwalk. "We still have to make it to the Wido Mage Guild, to introduce ourselves."
"Good idea," Mederei agreed, turning to go towards the Wido Mage Guild which sat at the edge of the city proper. Unlike Fire Shadow, which was a relatively large guild, Wido was smaller, with only around seventy members. There simply wasn't a lot of dangerous magic use in the region partly because of the two wizard schools in Rukisismos.
Besides, Wido was known less for its adventure and more for its studies. Their building was another old manor house, converted into a two story library, research area, and housing. They also had a farm.
"Greetings, and well-met," a man greeted them. "I am Gotama, the guild master."
"Mederei," she introduced, pointing to herself, "Luna and Caradoc. Luna and I are members of the Fire Shadow mage Guild."
"Ah, I have heard of your guild. What brings you here?"
"The Board-Council requested our services to recover the magic of the ancient tapestries."
"The Five Tapestries?" Gotama inquired. "They're the stuff of legend, and if they do remain, have been utterly lost from history. Why do they believe they need repairing?"
"That, we have no answer," Mederei answered, "but we were requested to investigate them. Do you have any information concerning them?"
Gotama scratched his ears which stuck out on either side of his head. He had a gentle face, with soft brown eyes. He was black-skinned like those from the capital region, but like the people here, he wore sturdy linen trousers and a sweater.
If he came from the capital region, he probably also knew about ...
"The Gwion are the ones who created them, according to legend, and it will take a Gwion to repair anything."
Caradoc raised his hand. "That's why I'm here."
"You need a daughter to repair storyteller magic, because these were most likely woven with that sort of magic imbued in them." Gotama shifted his gaze to Mederei because obviously dark and olive-complexioned Luna couldn't possibly be a Gwion. "Not even the Heritage Gwion daughters among the demihabil have the required abilities."
With a shrug of his shoulders, Caradoc brushed off the problem. "My mother's a Gwion, I've inherited some of her magic, and my cousin here has inherited enough. She just can't weave."
"I had heard Linhurik had a grandson in the guild, but I hadn't heard of a granddaughter. Are you related to him?"
"I am," Mederei confirmed.
Gotama shrugged. "I can't give you any more information than that, but you are welcomed to come and do what research you wish. We are currently out at the moment, though. I was going to town for some supplies."
"Sorry to bother you."
"Nonetheless, young mages, and Gwion. We must help whenever we can."
They bowed to each other, and departed their own ways.
"I have a question, and this is going to be rather strange, but why do people assume you're a demihabil, when you're obviously not?"
"They see me as a demihabil," Mederei answered. Our grandmother is half demihabil, so some of us have the more reptilian eyes, but it's the gossamer wings that finish it off. They protect the Gwion by making us appear as we ought to be."
"Since when did you put on your wings?"
"I haven't taken them off since I left my apartment last night," Mederei answered. "It isn't safe, and I forget I'm wearing them."
"I want wings," Luna muttered.
"Get in line after Hugh."
Back at the coffee shop, Luna went to grab a table on the beach while Caradoc and Mederei waited in line to order. "Does she seem abnormally annoyed?" Caradoc asked. He turned to watch Luna's retreating form. "She left here rather quickly when you offered to go find the seats."
"I think she's just overwhelmed with all the people," Mederei couched. "Luna gets that way. I always wondered what her life as a child must have been like before coming north. I think her hometown must have been a large town or something."
"Where was it?"
Mederei shrugged. "She doesn't talk about it much. I get the impression that after her parents died, Luna just shut down." Peering over the person ahead of her's head, Mederei looked at the list of drinks. "Ha, it looks like your tea is sold out. That's what you get for having the exact same tastes as everyone else. See? Mine's plenty fine."
Caradoc moaned. "It's not even ten in the morning, how can it be sold out already? Stupid tourists."
"Aren't we tourists?"
"We're not tourists. We're here for a job. Tourists aren't working, they're just here making a nuisance of themselves." Caradoc crossed his arms and continued to grouse. "Ah, all right. I'm going for my black coffee because that's the way to do it."
Ignoring her cousin's mood, Mederei reached for her buzzing glass. "Hey ho, Hugh oh!"
"Hi. Where are you?"
"At the Been Somewhere down the street from the Inn. Luna's outside on the beach. Shouldn't be able to miss her."
"We were walking the opposite way. Figures you would find the Been Somewhere in this town."
"Caradoc had someone put a homing spell on him to know where the nearest place is."
"Did not," Caradoc muttered. "It's called instinct."
"I still think it's a farce, no one can have that good of instincts without magic," Mederei argued.
"Just because you don't have such instincts ..."
"Whoever said I didn't?"
Over the glass, Hugh blew out his breath. "How long have you two been squabbling. No wonder Luna fled."
"We're not squabbling," the Gwion retorted.
"This is why I hate taking them places," Hugh explained to Ramses who had appeared in the screen along with Hugh. "You haven't really had a chance to experience it because Caradoc visits us, but take them out into the public away from their homes, and this is what happens. Every single time. I think it might be a Gwion thing, but these two are the worst. Even their families agree with me."
"He makes us sound like a couple of uncouth children," Mederei pointed out. "Why is it whenever you're around, I get in trouble?"
"You got into plenty of trouble before me, Miss I Throw Mashed Potatoes at my Brothers."
"They deserved it."
"And which time was it that they deserved it the most?"
"All of them."
"Wow, Mama, look at the pretty people!" A girl whispered to her mother. "They're like those pictures in that book you have with the half-dressed people."
"Yes, honey, now be quiet."
"But, Mama, do you think they'd hug each other like that?"
"No," the Gwion said in unison to the girl. "We're cousins."
The girl eyed them. "In the book, they were cousins too. They said it happened all the time with the Gwion."
Over the glass, Hugh and Ramses roared with laughter. Mederei ended their call and stuffed her glass into her bag.
"Just how much of that book did you read?" the mother ordered.
"Not a lot," the girl answered. "I can't read the big words yet." She looked back at the Gwion. "Are you two Gwion?"
"Why do you ask?" Mederei inquired.
"Because you look beautiful like the Gwion," she answered. "I want to be a Gwion."
"They aren't Gwion," her mother said. "The Gwion don't allow their daughters to leave their homes."
"It's dangerous for them."
The girl's eyes widened. "You mean, what the book said was true? That people want to kill them for their eyes?"
"Ah, just that book, but many people are scared of the daughters and want to harm them because of their magic."
"I don't have any magic, so they couldn't harm me."
"You're not a Gwion either."
"Well, if they aren't Gwion, what are they?"
The question threw the mother for a moment. Caradoc raised his hand. "I'm a Gwion, but my aunt married a demihabil."
"Can you change into a dragon?" The little girl demanded of Mederei. "Like a real dragon, dragon with wings and fire and all?"
"I can, but I haven't quite mastered the fire part yet; I'm still young."
"Can I see it?"
"Honey!" The mother gasped. "The coffee shop is much too small for a dragon. You'll have to wait up until midnight, the first night of the full moon to see her transform."
"Oh. When is it?"
"In two weeks."
"Okay. I'll wait. Bye, dragon lady."
Mederei waved good-bye and stepped forward to place her order. When they collected their drinks, they went outside to where the other three waited, laughing over something. All three were relaxed around each other having been friends since they were in their early teens. It always stabbed her heart, watching them. The only place she had ever felt completely relaxed was among her people. They knew what her powers were, and accepted her, but most people, even those who respected the Gwion, were scared, deep down, of the daughters.
Except for those three. Nothing terrified them, even the uncontrollable power that resided within Mederei's heart. Maybe it wasn't just the Gwion who accepted her.
"Everything squared away?" Ramses asked pulling out the chair between him and Hugh for Mederei. "How did you manage to escape?"
"She thinks Medi's a demihabil," Caradoc explained, taking the seat beside Luna. "It's getting harder though the wings keep protecting her."
"Eventually, I'll just have to own up to the facts," Mederei muttered into her coffee. "So, what have you all learned?"
Between them, Hugh and Ramses filled the other two on the situation with the Board and Council. After they finished, Ramses tapped Mederei's shoulder. "What about you? Luna said to wait for you two to return."
"Well, we went to see the Wido Guild, and can use their library as need. Oh," Mederei patted Ramses' and Hugh's arms, "and there's a storm on the horizon that doesn't leave. Can you smell anything, Hugh?"
Hugh glanced around at the area, and extended his snout to take several deep breaths before turning back into his human face. "Nope. I hear something, though."
"Like what?" Caradoc inquired. "Luna could hear something, but Medi and I could barely hear anything. Ramses?"
"Full human here, I can't tell you anything other than there are clouds on the horizon."
"You think it's connected to our project?" Mederei asked, resting her head on a hand.
Hugh shrugged. "We still have a lot to do, and we haven't even found the tapestries yet."
"I might have a line on that," Luna said, lifting a hand. "While you were sleeping on the train, I was doing some research. There might be a couple locations where the tapestries are." She set her glass on the table to show the map hovering above it. "See?"
"Those are scattered, aren't they?" Hugh said, leaning forward. "Ah, that must be the grove, there." He pointed to a clump of green.
"And here's the ocean," Mederei said. "Earth, Water ... Maybe air?"
"Air, there's Hugh and Ramses mentioned the spring in the middle of town with something there, I'll bet," Caradoc said. "That would be the water."
Mederei counted the elements off on her fingers. "Earth, air, water, still need fire and metal."
"What about wood?" Luna inquired. "The five elements are earth, water, wood, fire and metal."
Ramses nodded his head as he leaned forward to get out of the sunlight. "I agree with Luna on this, unless there's something different for you all."
"Air's always been our fifth element," Mederei began as she adjusted the umbrella above them with a flick of her hand, "but that's because of ... Things."
"Things," Mederei couched, shrinking down in her chair. She crossed her arms over her breasts. "Things are important, and air is a thing."
Hugh laughed. "If you say so, Medi."
"Do you know what she's talking about, Caradoc?" Luna inquired. She used that voice that all older sisters used when a younger sibling was in trouble. It didn't work on Gwenllian, but Ceinwen could use it.
"Things," Caradoc answered with a shrug. "Important things, but things."
Luna blew out her breath. "Things, huh? What sort of things could ... Don't answer, I don't think I want to know. Probably for my own safety."
Mederei nodded her head solemnly. She raised her hand. "I want a beach job."
"Suppose you could go pick up seashells," Ramses suggested.
Mederei backhanded him in the chest.
"I'll take Medi and go check out the walls," Ramses offered.
"Don't know, she might throw you off a cliff," Hugh observed, deadpan. He blocked Mederei's other hand. "Really?" He lifted a hand for one of the waiters. "Another coffee, double shot over here. My friend isn't awake yet."
"You'll have to go with her," Caradoc suggested as he scooted his chair back slightly to miss her foot. "Otherwise she will throw him off the cliff." He grinned at her. "Can't hit me can you?!"
Luna backhanded Caradoc. "Best friend super strength."
"Where's Ceinwen when we need her?"
Mederei smiled and leaned forward. "She's stronger than I am, you realize."
"She wouldn't hit me," Caradoc countered, mirroring his cousin. "She'd tell you to behave." He pulled out his glass. "Shall we call her?"
"By the gods, no," Hugh exclaimed. "She can send things from distances, I think."
"No she can't," Luna assured him.
Caradoc and Mederei glanced in opposite directions then slowly retreated. "Maybe we should just let it pass?" Mederei suggested first.
"I would concur with that," Caradoc answered. "Luna and I will go check out the places to the north, you three walk along the beach to the south, and let us know what you find."
"Why is he giving the orders?" Mederei asked Hugh.
"Because we all agree with him?" Hugh pushed away. "I'll go make your coffee to go."
"Nevermind, I'll drink it," Caradoc said.
Ramses and Mederei popped up and left with Hugh for the path leading up to the top of the cliff. At the top, Mederei pointed to the storm clouds. "So that just stays out there," she said, standing at the edge of the cliff. She shaded her eyes.
Behind her, Hugh and Ramses waited for her to fall.
Mederei lowered her hand. "I wonder how far out there it is."
Ramses looked at her. "You can't seriously be thinking ..." He stopped. "Nope; you are."
"How else are we supposed to discover anything?" Mederei argued. She pointed towards the clouds. "We fly out there, take a look-see, and return. If after, oh, a half hour we aren't any nearer we'll return."
"I like how glib you are since I'll be doing the flying," Hugh grumbled behind them.
Mederei turned, her smile brilliant. "I could go out, but then that would require me using my magic."
"Yeah, not happening." He thumbed over his shoulder.
Mederei stepped back and elbowed Hugh's side. "Shall we depart?"
"I'll take Ramses out with me," Hugh compromised. "You can go look for tapestries."
Mederei narrowed her gaze. "And why am I the one who gets stuck back here? I don't want to be with those two in case they do realize that they actually like one another."
"Because I'm not going to take ..." Hugh rolled his eyes. "Fine. It isn't as though I can't support you both." He stretched his arms over his head as he walked to the edge of the cliff, and fell off, a moment later rising as a russet dragon. While still considered small, he would continue to grow over his five hundred years, and upon reaching his second century, be nearly twice the length he currently was.
He dropped down beside them, and held one of his paws out to lift Ramses and Mederei onto his neck.
Mederei sat behind Ramses, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Ready, Hugh."
Hugh turned to look at them. No funny business on my neck.
"Smart mouth," Mederei said, punching his neck.
Hugh snorted, smoke spewing from his nostrils. Didn't hurt.
"And that was with most of my energy," Mederei said to Ramses.
"You need to work on your punches. I'll teach you when we return."