by Svein Kåre Gunnarson
dedicated to Sozin
Zaxia sat in the window-sill, looking out on the road. The gentle breeze rumpled her long blonde hair playfully. She sighed heavily. These precious moments in the mornings, before the sun had reached completely over the mountains were the calmest. But it would not last. For weeks now large hordes had tried to break down her door to get to her. Fortunately it was a thick and solid one, in addition to the spells she had placed on it.
In the beginning it had been easy. A few men had entered her building, but everyone wanted to be the one talking, and so they started to fight. It had been an amusing moment, and it had been easy to get them back out the door. But it soon got worse, with a larger crowd each day and wilder fights. When they started grabbing for her and pull her away, she had had enough. With a powerful spell in their midst, she transported them all out just as ruthless as they behaved themselves, leaving many of them with great damages. She had hoped this would stop this madness, to no avail. Stunning them, hurting them, turning them into animals - nothing had helped. This was all draining her, and she didn't know how much longer she could stand it, she was too exhausted. If she only had known what caused all this.
She started. Something was moving on the road - had they started coming this early? Sure enough, a man was walking fast toward her. Zaxia felt the rage build up in her, shouldn't she have these early moments in the morning in peace any more? Looking out again, she made sure the man was alone - she had time to prepare this time. Quickly she ran to the entry door and unlocked it. She could handle him alone, sending a well prepared spell at him when he rushed in. A spell that would send the rest of the villagers the message she would be left alone, or they would take the consequences.
Spending the moments in silence to build up the spell, in a safe distance from the door, she waited with the eyes focused on the door, only one thought in mind. When the door opened, she would send the spell straight into the poor soul. When the door opened...
The door didn't open. Instead some load knocks were heard, breaking her concentration. Some new knocks, and it shattered completely, revealing her weaker than she though possible. Resigned, she went the distance towards the door and opened it.
"Excuse me," the young man looked briefly back over his shoulder, a bit anxious it seemed. "I know you've had your problems with the villagers for a long time now, and... I believe I can help you." He looked over his shoulder again. Wetting his lips, he added: "Uhm, can we talk inside?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Zaxia let him inside before she closed and locked the door. Leading him up the stairs to her study, she asked him: "Now, what can you tell me about all this? I haven't seen anything like it. No matter what spells I used, those who remained unaffected just seemed more eager to carry out whatever they came for. Again and again."
"Oh, the spells wouldn't work against what you're up to. You may be a strong enchantress, but even the most powerful wizard couldn't do more than stagger it for a short while. The only way spells would work, was if you turned them against yourself, destroying or killing you."
Zaxia stopped shocked and turned quickly around. "What? What the heck am I up to? If it's like that I'm bound to loose this fight..."
Gently, the young man turned her around, making her continue up and into her study.
"So no one have been able to tell you why they came?" he said, taking a seat in one of the chairs, while Zaxia found her place in the window-sill again. "Doesn't surprise me, the effect is often like that, and when several get struck at once..." He let the words hang in the air.
"It's not a fight you will win," he continued. "It's impossible to win. You can loose the fight if you try to hard, but not win."
"But..." Zaxia looked utterly confused at him, lost for words.
"What you can do, however, is to play along and control this... 'magic'. Or at least the effects - in itself it is too unpredictable." The young man paused. "You can't do it alone, though, and this is where I want to be the one to help."
Zaxia just looked quizzically at him.
"I need you to trust me though, and do as I say. Will you do that?"
Zaxia bit her lip. She wanted to trust him, but could she? What if this was just a trap? Staring thoughtfully out the window, she noticed them.
"Oh no!" she screamed. "They're coming. Oh, I must..."
The young man had quickly got up from the chair at her scream, and stopped her. "Will you trust me?"
"But I must..."
"Will you trust me?" he said again, more intense.
Zaxia sank limply down in a chair. She was too exhausted to resist much anyway. "Yes, I will trust you."
The young man smiled and brought forward a small box from his pockets. "Good. I had to make these in secrecy, so that no other would find out and destroy everything." Opening the box revealed two rings. "They are of pure gold, and I hope the inscriptions will capture the magic moment." Gently, he put one on Zaxia's hand and one on his own. "Now don't remove it. I will go out and stop them, while you wait inside. When I call you, then you can come out and stand beside me, not before. OK?"
Zaxia just nodded. It all seemed safe enough, and if she sensed a trap, she could remove the ring after all, to be free of it's influence. They hurried downstairs, and she let the young man out the door, locking it behind him.
Minutes had passed. Five, ten, fifteen. Half an hour. Whatever happened on the other side of that door? There had been no attempts on knocking it in, just some load voices now and then, that were silenced quickly. Zaxia so much wanted to go out and see for herself what was happening, but she had given her promise, and didn't sense any trap. Far from it, as she rested she felt she gained some of her strength back instead. What was it with these rings? Was it the reason?
She studied the ring as good as she could, not daring to take it off. It looked quite plain, so the inscription had to be on the inside. She couldn't feel any magic either, at least not any magic she had encountered before.
"Zaxia." She started.
"Zaxia, will you come out for a moment?" It was the voice of the young man. She went to the door, unlocked and opened it. Standing in the door opening in the sunlight, she looked like a goddess. The young man smiled and reached a hand towards her, and she went towards him and took it. He had done all this for her, and she had not even asked his name. Impulsively she hugged him, grateful for him stopping the men.
The effect of this simple action surprised her; The men in front of them seemed to collapse, before they slowly turned around and shuffled back to the village. Zaxia watched amazed as they departed, still holding her arm around the man next to her.
"What did you say? What was it all about?" she said when they were alone.
"Look at the inscription in the ring."
Zaxia looked straight in his eyes, before she removed the ring and read the inscription: "Yours forever, Roche"
"It's called love," he said. "The strongest magic in the world. Nothing is stronger."
Roche was staring at his shoe tips, swallowing. "What will you do now?" His voice sounded insecure for the first time.
Zaxia waited, not saying anything, until Roche lifted his gaze and looked at her. Lifting her hands in front if her, so that they were clearly visible. She replaced the ring on her finger, extended her arms around his neck, and kissed him.