Something ringed in his dreams, and he opened his eyes.
A strip of moonlight shone across his bed, as bright as the snow outside. Lysand sat up, a twinge in his lower back slowing his movements. Where was he? This wasn’t his home.
No. It was. His home, with his mother sleeping in the next room. His old toolkit still lay on his desk, covered in dust.
He put his hand to his side, where the pain had been. No wound. Had it been a dream?
Something ringed in the corner, a familiar chime, similar to the sound that had woken him. The bed creaked as he got up, the covers falling off of him in a rustle. Snow lay quiet outside out the window, the moon low in the sky. It would be dawn soon.
The quiet chime came again, the floorboards groaning as he searched for the source of the noise.
He knelt down when it chimed louder, and was greeted with the sight of an old clock, chiming the hour as it sat on the bottom shelf. He had built it himself, years ago, when he still had dreams of being an inventor.
Lysand picked it up, feeling rather childish as he glanced at it, at the warped wood and the uneven pendulum. He had been proud of it when he built it. His father had too.
“Lysand?” His door opened with a creak, and he stood up quickly.
“Henry.” Henry hurried over to him, placing his arms on Lysand’s shoulders. He froze, suddenly awkward.
“Are you alright?” He took a step back, peering at him in the dark, and then magelight illuminated the room. “The healing was a close call.”
Henry sat down on his bed, his long dark hair falling over his face. “The…doctor, here, stabilized you while I went back to fetch a healer. You’ve been resting for a few days.”
Lysand felt his face drain of color. “Days?”
“Don’t worry-Tremith knows. The governor, too.” Lysand sat down on the bed next to Henry, too in shock to speak. The quiet chime of the clock was the only sound for a while.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone you were a talentless?” Henry asked finally. “Or…born to talentless.”
Lysand rested his head in his hands. “Why do you think?”
Henry flinched, and Lysand wished he had chosen his words more carefully. “No one minds. Tremith thinks it’s interesting,” Henry finally said.
“And when the war starts again in a year? In two years? Will he think it’s interesting then?” Lysand asked bitterly.
“If it’s so difficult for you, why did you do it?”
“Because I had no life here,” Lysand replied with a sigh. The magelight hurt his eyes, and he stared at the dark shelves of his old room, where his clock still chimed. It was probably broken. “I tried to be an engineer. But…everything I tried failed. My father…he died in the war, probably thinking I was a failure.” Lysand shook his head. “But I did have a talent for magic. I didn’t want to waste it, to remain a disappointment. That’s when I decided to try to learn magic. I…I didn’t want to be a disappointment to him. I thought maybe I could make a difference after the war.”
The clock chimed again, a soothing sound.
“You’ve done very well,” Henry said finally. “Especially for someone who didn’t grow up with it. You’re not a disappointment.” He leaned his weight against Lysand. “And because of you, our cities have opened up communications again. Mostly about you,” humor entered his voice, “but it’s something. War will be more difficult. The governor here may respect talentless more.”
“I hope so.” Henry’s hand found his, and squeezed.
Maybe this hadn’t been a mistake.
The final evening of his time at home was bright and clear, the sun casting golden rays across the snow. Lysand and Henry waved to his mother, Henry wearing a scarf Lysand’s mother had knitted for him.
“Why did I have to rest for nearly a week again?” Lysand asked as they walked to the town square.
“Because healing magic exhausts the body,” Henry spoke as if quoting from a book. “We learned that in preschool.”
“I’d have been better off with the doctor,” Lysand remarked. Henry laughed.
“Lysand!” Liro jogged up to them both, his dog running playfully at his heels. “And Henry.” He tipped his hat. “I see you’re out and about again? No more nights spent playing poker at Lysand’s bedside while he passes out and loses all his money to me?” Liro had come over every night, apologizing in his own way for what happened. Even his dog had spent hours whining and licking at Lysand’s hands in a canine apology.
“Unfortunately for you.” Henry stuck out his tongue.
“So, last day—then you’re gone, huh?” Liro said quietly as they approached the crowd that gathered in the town square.
“I’ll visit again,” Lysand said firmly. “Sooner than next year, this time.”
“I hope so,” Liro said, clapping him on the back. “Our city’s very own mage—and his boyfriend?” He raised an eyebrow, Lysand reddening and Henry laughing.
As the evening darkened, they watched rockets spiral into the sky, painting the night with bright colors and illuminating the enormous tree that stood in the town square. It was the last night of the celebration of the founding.
I wish to use my skills to help both cities. The resolution spun from the green bough.