I chose the image of the stone bridge in the UK for my twenty-minute sprint this week. And then I was having so much fun that I kept writing, so this is longer than usual and definitely wasn’t written in only twenty minutes. I still did the usual quick copy-edit before posting, so please excuse any errors I missed.
Aaron held Jason’s hand as they walked down the road from the little village where they were staying. There was a lovely little stone bridge Aaron wanted to look at. Jason found them interesting because of the engineering principals involved and how old they were. Aaron thought they were lovely and had found that any kind of water crossing had potential to be a place where mages placed protections. In a country as old as Britain, he thought there was a chance there would be traces of some kind of spell he could study.
“We’ve walked back to every old bridge we’ve crossed on this trip,” Jason said as they arrived. “Is there something about them besides the look that you find so interesting?”
Aaron smiled. Jason knew him too well. “They’re a common place to find the remains of spells,” Aaron confessed. “If a village had a mage, they would put protection spells on bridges and fords and crossroads to guide those who intended harm away from their home.”
“Find any so far?” Jason asked, squeezing Aaron’s hand.
“There were faint traces on a few, but nothing strong enough for me to learn anything from.”
“So it’s a research thing?” Jason asked.
“Sort of,” Aaron said as they stopped before crossing onto the bridge. “It’s intellectual curiosity,” Aaron said, studying the bridge with his eyes first. “But it’s also about finding ways to weave magic that have been forgotten. I spent a whole summer traveling to any sites where Native Americans lived that are still in existence. They had a different way of weaving magic once, and a lot of it was lost when so many of them died out. Settlers would find their mages and make sure they were educated by European mages rather than their own. It was shameful, to lose so much.”
“That sounds awful,” Jason said.
“Yeah, history has a lot of examples of mages being worse than the average human when it comes to that kind of thing. Some still are. There are weird pockets of insular people who don’t want to change with the world.”
“I’m glad you’re not like that,” Jason said.
“You’d never have stayed with me if I were,” Aaron replied. He was pretty sure Jason never would have agreed to a first date, let alone a second if Aaron had the superiority complex he’d seen in so many other mages over the years.
“Go explore,” Jason said, squeezing Aaron’s hand before letting go. “I’ll take some pictures and look up architectural facts.”
Aaron laughed. He loved that Jason was willing to indulge him. He’d been so patient even before asking why Aaron was so fascinated by the old bridges. The stone ones were the best. Wooden ones wouldn’t hold the magic as long. But a stone bridge could hold magic for centuries. Especially if the mage had been around to weave the magic while it was being built.
Aaron stepped onto the bridge, letting his magic flow out through his feet to examine the stonework.
There was definitely magic in the bridge, but it was strong. Too strong to be a remnant.
Aaron stepped back off the bridge. He looked closer at the end, searching for a mark. Most mages these days left one, but it was usually subtle, something that could be missed or ignored if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
It took him a good five minutes to spot it. It was on the first stone at the very center of the bridge. Aaron moved to it, crouching down so he could examine it closely. He knew Jason would be paying attention and let him know if a car was coming.
The mark had been placed there recently. Maybe even in the last few years. Since they were visiting another country, it wasn’t something Aaron was familiar with. He kept up with the Mage’s Society back home, but Britain had their own, and didn’t make their resources public to other societies.
Aaron reached down, touching the mark with one finger. The mage had been young when they placed the mark, perhaps early twenties. She’d placed the spell on the bridge first, then the marks. Now that he was touching this one, Aaron could sense the other four. One at the other end of the bride and two in the middle on either side. They weren’t part of the weaving of the spell. They were something else.
“Aaron, there’s a car coming,” Jason said.
Aaron opened his eyes, got to his feet and hurried to the side of the road with Jason.
A little sedan pulled up but didn’t drive onto the bridge. There was a woman behind the wheel. She looked to be in her late twenties, and as soon as she turned and looked at them, Aaron knew she was the mage who put the spell on the bridge.
Aaron held her eyes as he bowed to her.
Her mouth popped open in surprise. ~
Aaron smiled as he straightened. She hadn’t expected him to acknowledge her. Interesting. He realized now why there were four marks. It was a common way to weave a very subtle spell that most mages wouldn’t notice that would alert her to the presence of another mage.
She clamped her mouth shut and narrowed her eyes at him. Aaron held his hands at waist level, a little away from his hips, and very slowly and deliberately turned them palm toward her and spread his fingers wide. It was a sign most Mage Societies recognized as signaling peaceful intentions.
She nodded to him, then put her car in reverse and pulled off the road. She got out and slowly walked toward them.
“Well met,” Aaron said, nodding to her again, his hands never moving.
“I hope so,” she replied, her accent sounding very much like the ones he’d been hearing in the village.
“My name is Aaron,” he said as she crossed the road to them. “I’m on vacation.”
Her lips twitched at that, like she wanted to smile but didn’t want him to know she was amused.
“I live here,” she replied.
“I know,” he said. “You do good work,” he added, nodding toward the bridge.
Her eyes narrowed again, and she stopped at the side of the road a little away from them. It put Jason closer to her than Aaron, which got Aaron’s protective instincts into high gear, but he kept them in check. Jason was being amazing so far, not saying anything and not making any sudden movements. Aaron could feel that he was slightly worried.
“I really am just here on vacation,” Aaron said. “I like to stop at old bridges and take a look at them. Sometimes there are traces of something old that I can learn from. That’s all I was doing.”
“And him?” she asked.
“Can’t you tell?” Aaron replied. He and Jason were bound. Any mage that encountered them should be able to tell as much.
She frowned, and looked at Jason.
Aaron could see it in her face when she recognized the signs of their bond. Her eyes were wide and they quickly moved back to Aaron. She actually took a step back.
“I believe in being civilized,” Aaron said. “We’re all fine because no one is being threatening. We’re just talking.”
“We don’t get many visitors here,” she said, her own hands down at her sides now, palms out and fingers spread. Aaron understood her caution. Most mages were a little unreasonable about protecting their bound mate. Aaron thought it was old fashioned and knew Jason wouldn’t appreciate it if he was overbearing and overprotective.
“Most of those I know are uncomfortable traveling,” Aaron replied. “They all find me quite odd.”
She actually smiled at that one.
“We’re staying in the village,” Aaron said, motioning with his head toward the direction she’d driven in from. “Perhaps we could go have tea and chat?”
“You are quite odd,” She said, smiling as she approached them. She stepped onto the road so that she was facing Aaron. “I’m Emily.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Aaron said as they shook hands. She had her magic pulled in tight, just like he did. “And this is Jason.”
“Nice to meet you,” Jason said, offering her his hand.
“Likewise,” EMily said, her eyes wide again as she shook hands with Jason.
Aaron smiled. She was kind of adorable as she tried to figure out how to interact with them. He wondered if this was the first time she’d ever had a foreign mage in her village, or even the first time she’d met a mage she didn’t know through someone.
“You can ride with me if you want,” she offered.
“Fine by me,” Jason said, looking at Aaron.
“Thank you,” Aaron said as they followed her to her car. He was looking forward to the chance to talk with someone from another Mages’ Society.