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My Son

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In the cave, the first thing Alastair did was to look for his wife and son.

Sarah was dead, slouched against the wall with her knife.

The second thing he did was find his son under the arm of his dead uncle.

Callum was crippled, his leg a distortion of what it used to be.

The third thing he did was read the warning his wife carved with her dying breath.

He erased it, and walked away.

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They stood in front of two gravestones. Alastair and Call came every year. They always leave the prettiest flowers.

Grave visits were always sad. Call got more agitated than usual.

The drive back was somber.

When they arrived home, Alastair stopped Call. Call glared at him.

“Wait here. I will be right back.” Alastair said as he left to the garage. If he was honest with himself, he should’ve done this a long time ago.

He pulled a scrapbook out from under a old cardboard box in the attic and sat with Call on the couch, “This was how your mom looked like back then,” he said while pointing to a yellowed photo of Sarah and Alastair on their wedding day. Sarah was dressed in the most beautiful white dress.

Both of them were smiling, the best days of their lives.

He missed those days.

“Whoa…” Call said, his mood shifting. “She’s super pretty.”

“I know. That’s one of the reasons I married her. And this is your uncle,” he recounted while pointing to a photo of Declan.

They looked at a few more photos, both of them smiling as Alastair recalled the memories behind each one, Call listening with bright eyes.

“And this one was after your uncle and I pranked your mother.” Alastair said as he laughed. Sarah was covered in green slime in that photo.

Call studied it, “She looks super mad.” He turned his head to him, “Did you get caught?” he asked with excitement.

“Yes, but it was worth it. But your mom can be scary when she wanted to be.”

“Who are they?” Call asked as he pointed to a photo of two people next to Sarah, Declan and him.

Fuck.

“They were old friends of ours back when we were teenagers,” he said quickly, “they are also dead.”

“Oh.” Call said.

“Call,” Alastair said reassuringly as he closed the book, “Your mom wouldn’t want you to always mope about her not being here. She would want you to live life happy, ok? Do you pinkie promise me?” He held out his pinkie.

“Pinkie promise!” Call said, pinkie wrapped around Alastair’s.

Call was 6.

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When Call was 8, Alastair was called to the school office. Apparently, Call got himself in a fight with several boys during recess.

When he arrived, Call was covered in bruises and gained a black eye. The nurse looked like she had a headache.

He glared at the principal, “What happened?” he said sharply.

The principal seemed to shrink a little under his gaze, “Several boys beat your son up during recess. They are being dealt with at the moment.”

Alastair sighed.

He took Call home for the day. As he helped put ice on the bruises, he asked, “Was it because of your leg?”

Call nodded. “I wish I didn’t have this stupid leg. I can’t play sports, I have a limp, and people won’t stop looking at me.” he said bitterly.

“Hey, hey, look at me,” Alastair said reassuringly, “When people see your leg, they see a weakness, but I see strength.”

Call looked at him with confusion.

Alastair put his hands on Call’s shoulders, “You learned how to live with this. They don’t. You know how it feels when your leg acts up. They don’t. You are strong, and nobody can take that strength away, you understand?”

He stood up to get more ice.

“Your mother would be proud of you.”

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When Call was 10, Alastair came home to Call telling him that he created a fissure in the playground.

Call thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Alastair, not so much.

“Magic runs in families,” he explained, “not everyone will have it but it seems like you do. You have to learn control above all else, because it was mages who didn’t have control that killed your mother.”

Call’s face turned to sadness.

“Young mages like yourself can’t control their magic when it manifests. It is through study that a mage gets balance.”

He sighs, “You can choose to walk the path your mother and I walked and learn magic, or you can live an ordinary life. I will leave it up to you.”

Call lifted his head up, “But I thought you hated magic.” he blurted out.

“You are your own person Call. You have a right to decide where you want to go in life. I stopped using magic because it was what killed your mother. You are not me, so I won’t stop you. However, I will warn you, it’s isn’t going to be like the movies, where everything is going to be alright in the end. That’s not how reality is. War is still ongoing, and people are going to die, people you might be close to, because that’s how war is. Do you understand?” Alastair asked.

Call gulped and nodded his head.

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When Call turned 12, a letter from the Magisterium came. As Alastair is a mage, they didn’t lie about being a military school like they did with Sarah and Declan.

He made Call pack the day before they left for the Iron Trial.

“What’s the point if I’m going to fail? Wouldn’t it be for nothing?” Call asked, folding t-shirts and placing them in a luggage bag.

“You are going to pass, don’t worry.” Alastair said. “If anything, you would be in the top 10. I saw the report cards and I’m impressed.”

“Only because you always nag to me about them.” Call said tiredly, though a little smile was threatening to break open.

The next morning, they got in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and drove to the address the letter said would be the testing site.

It conveniently left out the part where the last few hundred yards was dirt road. There goes his Saturday.

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Call had a really decent score, not too high to be considered a prodigy, but nowhere near the rejection zone.

As kids flooded out from the doors and back to their parents, Alastair spotted Call heading towards him. His mood immediately turned sour.

Call’s hands were covered in blood. Alastair sprinted off the bleachers and shoved a few people out of his way. He put his hands on Call’s shoulders.

“What happened?” he asked worriedly. Call just shook his head, eyes watery.

“H-He mentioned Mom,” He croaked out. “A-And I don’t know what happened, but the b-bowl just exploded and there was f-fire everywhere, and…” He trailed off.

Those motherfuckers.

When Rufus decided to show his fucking face, he had the audacity to choose Call as his third apprentice.

Call’s face turned into terror as he turned to Alastair, silently pleading with his eyes.

“Go,” Alastair said, “You can do this.”

Call stood a fair distance away from Rufus.

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The ceremony finally finished and everyone left for the parking lot. Alastair retrieved Call’s luggage and met him in front of the bus. He looked a little shaky.

“Hey,” Alastair started, “you are strong. If anyone can do this, it’s you.”

“But what if I lose control? I messed up in that last test because he mentioned Mom.” Call said, discouraged.

Alastair stood still for a moment, then said, “I actually wanted to give something to you before you left.” He pulled Semiramis out and handed it to Call. “Your mother would’ve wanted you to have it.”

Call didn’t move out of shock. But then he hugged him and sniffled, ”Thanks, Dad.”

Alastair watched and waved as the bus left the lot.