The Sparrow and the Magician

 

sparrow

This is part 2 of an article on hypersigils, here. This story is meant to be a working example of a hypersigil.

She ran down the dirt path with joy in her heart and fear in her step. Sparrow knew he would be coming for her; he always did. The wind streamed past her face, whipping her dull blue hair straight out from her head as she panted heavily. The ground smelled fresh and firm beneath her feet; the rain had begun to dry but it was still muddy and she relished the sensation of it coating her toes. All too soon she heard the oh-so-familiar sounds of the thick boots crunching the mud into dust behind her, and tears began to fall down her face as she knew she was going to lose this battle once more. No matter how she evaded him, he always caught her. Even if she went to the ends of the earth he would be there, like the ring around her finger that bound her to him. She was his property and he was her cruel and ruthless master.

She stopped short as he appeared before her on the path. “Where do you think you’re going, Sparrow?” he asked her as he grabbed her wrist. She defiantly stared back into his eyes, refusing to answer. Her silence always angered him; her soul being the only thing he couldn’t break. He shook his head sadly and began to pull her along. “This is why I can’t let you out of your cage. I’m gone for an hour and look at you. You have mud on your feet and your dress is torn. You know what this means.” She stared back behind them, longing for the seclusion of the now empty path. The trees shivered in the wind, a premonition of the evening before her.

They returned to the traveling wagon and he shoved her inside, snapping his fingers and catching her in his hands as she changed into a small blue sparrow. “There, there now.” he soothingly said as he opened the door of a small wire cage that was placed beside a window. She struggled in his grasp to no avail. He pushed her in unceremoniously and she huddled on the floor of the cage, looking out the window longingly already. “You could be out there- if you’d quit running away,” he told her before shutting the heavy wooden door and beginning the journey.

In five years she had never once been able to hide from him. She had been told not to fall in love with magicians; they were the worst kind of people in Oshara, but she had anyway. He had charmed her with his tricks and his knowledge. He offered her the world- adventure, travel, companionship- but it had all been a lie. It had been a trap, and she had walked right into it. She had been just another girl looking for more than the life of a small town storyteller. She wanted to live stories and create her own tales of wonder and amazement for the next generation. Even now she could still remember how it was before- the promises, the places he would take her, the beautiful things he would bring her from his travels. But all of that went away once they had eloped. He took what he had wanted from her and then he had gotten bored. But for some reason he kept her around. She wasn’t dense enough to not realize that she must not have been his first woman, maybe not even his first wife. And she certainly hadn’t been the last- a sharp pain in her breast that reminded her at least daily of his infidelity. That was when the world had been pulled out from under her feet and the blinders had been torn off her eyes. As she stood there, looking down at them sleeping together, she had realized in that instant that everything had been an elaborate fabrication to bind her to him like a medal slung around his neck. And that was when she had begun to run.

She shifted on the cold brass floor and mulled over the state of affairs her life had become. This small cage was the extent of her reach on a regular basis; he had told her that for her protection he needed to cage her. “The world is too harsh for you, my love.” he had told her the first time she had run away while cupping her chin in his hand. He pulled slightly on it to make her look into his eyes as he added “I am doing this for your own good.” From behind the wagon he had pulled out the brass cage that they had picked out a few weeks before. She had asked him for a small bird from the open air market that day, pointing out that the companionship would soothe her loneliness on the days when he had to be out performing magical acts for those far away. He had bought it with a twinkle in his eye and kiss on his lips for her cheek. She looked up at him now with a quizzical look in her eye and was confused when he set it beside her and began to bind her arms with rope. As she struggled he backhanded her roughly, a grim expression on his face. Her heart had shattered even further as she laid in the circle he created, her physical form passing in and out of consciousness while he intoned in his magical language over her. He paused momentarily while she was conscious, placing a single sparrow’s feather on her breast gently, almost lovingly, and brushed the hair back from her face. He kissed her forehead and stood, continuing his spell and anchoring it. As he stood there, tall, grim, and menacing, she saw a look of reluctance pass through his eyes before he snapped his fingers. Suddenly the world around her became much larger; the ropes binding her lay around her as she tried to reach out but found she couldn’t. He had quickly captured her and placed her gingerly into the cage, holding it near his face. “I’m sorry.”

On that day her feathers had been bright blue like the sky, and her song had eventually chirruped from her throat despite her sadness. But over time he had killed even the song of her soul; his grasp had tightened like the icy cold death of winter. And eventually she had begun to feel nothing. He would change her back to her human self and she would sit beside him on the bench of the wagon and watch the world pass by, silent. It wasn’t that she couldn’t talk; it was that she didn’t want to. All of the hurt welled within her, caging her soul in a way that he had never intended. He tried desperately to fix her; even going so far as to buy her things once more and to show her beautiful things again. But no matter what he did it made no difference. All of the good in life had been taken away and all that was left was a black and white copy of a vibrant and beautiful woman. Her skin paled to a sickly shade of white and her locks of bright blue dulled. After a while it had visibly begun to hurt him to see her that way, and that was when he began to keep her in her sparrow form more than her original form once more. She was easier to ignore in her silent smaller shape, and she was thankful for the distance between them.

Pressing closer to the wall of her cage she sadly chirped as a tear fell. She still loved him. Despite everything, she loved him. The days where he caught her after she ran were always the loneliest. He would capture her again and then he would be silent and withdrawn at the time where she was most vulnerable to him. If only he would reach out to her… The world was so big and frightening. She had always wanted to see it with him, safe within the confines of his strong arms. The journey was only special if she had someone to share it with; it wasn’t an adventure alone.

The door slid open, drawing her attention. He stepped in, cautiously. Pausing, he hesitantly opened the cage door and held out a hand. She stepped forward, equally cautious and on the defense, unsure of what he was going to do next. He turned and slowly walked out of the traveling wagon, placing her on the grassy slope beside it. He softly snapped his fingers, watching her transform into the pale shadow of herself that currently inhabited her slender frame. She looked at him from under her long unkempt tresses with empty pain in her eyes. “You’re free.” he simply said, turning and sitting on the stoop of the wagon. He watched her, expecting her to take off running like she had every other time he had left her unattended for more than a few moments. She merely stood there, looking at him, unsure. He stood, steeling himself. “I said, you’re free. I can’t take how you look at me anymore! You’re miserable. And it makes me miserable.” He strode across the short space between them and roughly grabbed her hand, beginning to slide the ring from her delicate finger. She pulled her hand back, and looked up into his face, anguish in her eyes as tears poured down her cheeks.

In a rusty, unused voice she softly whispered “Why? Why can’t you love me? All I wanted… was to be your world.” He laughed for a moment and then slid his rough, work-stained hand along the curve of her smooth neck. “You are my world. When you’re silent, it’s like the moon is hiding and I am left floundering in the dark, hopelessly trying to find my way back to you.” She smiled slightly and he gently kissed the pale soft lips he had missed so much. She gasped at the passion and pressed closer as a new adventure presented itself.


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