Her breath came heavier in her chest. It wasn’t much beyond a half mile in before they had to slow down. Kevin was concerned, she felt it in the air. It whispered across her skin alongside the thousand of other pieces of information that picked out what the forest looked like. Leaves over there. Vines over here. Tree branch beneath her. The whispering sound of something moving. The sound of a something crying in the distance. A soft, startled grunt, and the scrabbling sound of feet scrambling for purchase.
Almost without thinking she was heading in Kevin’s direction. She dropped to a lower branch, unerringly landing right in the center, and stretching out her hand. His weight landed on it like a blow, and she dug her feet in, nearly dragged over the side with him. But once she had him steady and her position was secure, she gave a mighty tug and easily lifted him up by her side.
“What happened?” she whispered.
“I don’t know, I just slipped,” Kevin said, and she felt his confusion like a moth beating its wings on the edge of her mind.
“Hold on a moment,” Haley said, and left into the side room. She returned a few seconds later with a large tome, larger than most of Dana’s high school textbooks, under her arm. She handed it to Dana. It was as heavy as it had looked, Dana thought as she settled it on her lap. “So, now you’re one of us, but constructing your Familiar is only the first step. Now, as you said, is when the fun starts. Dave is advanced enough that he should be able to answer most of your immediate questions as you work your way through the book…”
“All of it?!” Dana squawked.
“Of course,” Haley said, with a frown. “You didn’t think magic was going to be easy, did you? Anyways, if there’s any questions Dave can’t answer, we meet every week on Friday nights, from eight o’clock to midnight. Anyone will be willing to answer your questions. We’re all friendly here.”
Dana’s dreams of the last two weeks of her summer break being filled with cheer and joy seemed to be fading into the distance. It was magic, sure. Magic was cool. But ten pound books were most certainly not cool. Suddenly, it looked disappointingly like work.
“Okay?” Haley asked.
“Uh, sure,” Dana said, though she wasn’t sure it was okay at all.
“Good,” Haley said, flashing another smile. “Well, I’d guide you through the first lesson tonight, but since it’s already so late, it’ll have to wait for another time. We’re really glad to have you.”