Lysand stabled his horse before they headed into town, paying the stablemaster handsomely for the privilege. He would have paid more had his mother not reminded the man who he was.
As he walked through town, his mother in step with him, he smiled at he streamers flowing from the windows, and the confetti that rained down on their heads as they passed by. An enormous tree took up the skyline, papers spinning on it with written notes from all the citizens. Each one held a person’s resolution to make the city a better place for another year.
“Fifty years since the founding,” Lysand remarked. “It feels like there’s a lot more to remember these days. And I don’t remember it the celebrations being so…loud.” A noise machine clattered, sending chiming bells echoing across the city.
“People want to celebrate something,” his mother said. “Especially since the war.” Lysand nodded. “The celebrations can go on for a week nowadays.”
The day at home passed peacefully, Lysand and his mother getting silly fortunes read and helping hang streamers in the town square. They watched the annual games, cheering for the children of the city as they raced and leapt through obstacles, and laughing at the engineering competition when someone’s attempt at a flying machine crashed spectacularly. Lysand had dreamed of building one, but with the magic in his blood, it was not to be. He could see the aether that wound around the city, waiting for magic to act on it. He always could.
Lysand tried not to notice the stares of the people who had known him, and tried not to be bothered that no one approached. After the crowd began to break up, the night sky going toward evening, they headed back in companionable silence.
“Will you stay for the-” his mother began.
“Hold there!” A deep, familiar voice interrupted her and made him whirl. “Ware the mage!”
People turned with him, a few darting out of the way as men clad in the brown leathers of the city guard began to run toward him. Lysand’s heart jumped, and he put up his hands. “No, I’m just—“
Then they ran past him, toward a lone figure.
Lysand froze, watching as Liro joined the swarming guard, pointing as his snarling dog raced ahead of him toward a man in robes standing alone, a tornado of snow forming around him.
Lysand’s heart stopped. Henry.
Henry backed up, his eyes wide at the sight of the men rushing toward him. He raised an arm, and the snow moved faster, pulled from the air and ground. Liro’s dog reached him first, barking with snaps of his teeth at the mage.
“Lysand!” Ignoring his mother’s cry, Lysand ran from his place among the crowd. What was Henry doing here? Henry raised his hand higher, the snow around him swirling faster, and the dog yelped.
“Henry!” Lysand shouted. Henry’s hand lowered, his eyes widening, at the same moment a pistol cracked. The bullet sprayed snow, and he gasped, taking a step back and dropping his hand.
“No magic here, mage!” Liro shouted. Behind him someone yelled “Watch the wards, you idiot!”
“Henry!” Lysand made it to Henry’s side, Liro’s dog now snarling at them both. “What are you-”
Another loud crack, and pain exploded in his side. He staggered, Henry supporting him as he fell to his knees. His mother screamed.
“Hold your fire!” Liro shouted. Someone screamed behind him, the aether flaring in his vision as the wards activated, pinning whoever had shot him to the ground.
Lysand coughed, pain and cold filling him with fear. Someone had shot him. Someone from his old town had shot him, a mage, and now they were hurt too.
The snow picked up, blinding him, the wind whipping his cloak. “I’m getting you out of here,” Henry growled. “I followed you, and I don’t know if you were spying or what, but now you need a healer.”
“No!” Lysand sent magic into the earth, fighting to stay away, willing the wards to calm down and let the other man go. He tried to stand and swayed with pain and dizziness. Blood dripped onto the snow. “I…I promised my mother I would visit.”
Another pair of arms grabbed him, pain blooming as he was laid down. “Lysand, Lysand, can you hear me?” His mother grabbed his face, peering down at him, patting him frantically. “He’s been shot, he’s been shot, you idiots!” Her voice rose to a screech.
“Get the doctor!” Liro shouted. Lysand blinked, a slow blink that lasted ages. “Can you heal him?” Liro asked someone. Had the doctor come already? “Can you heal them both?”
“I’m…I’m not a healer. I use weather magics. I…I could try, but…”
“Do something, he’s bleeding!” his mother shouted.
Lysand blinked again, and this time it lasted a while.