“Are you sure about this, Claire? I don’t want to keep you from living a normal life.” Jim asked. They were five days from Arcadia, and Jim must have asked her a variation of this question a thousand times.
“Jim, you aren’t keeping me from a normal life.”
He scoffed. “I’m only half human now, so the only full human beside you in this caravan is Merlin. That’s not a normal life; your family is back in Arcadia.”
They were safe from her.
“I chose this for myself, Jim.” Even if she hadn’t known all the consequences, she had made her choice.
“I know, but it’s not too late to change your mind and go home. I mean, it’s not like I don’t want to be with you, but don’t feel like we’d be disappointed in you if you wanted to go back to Arcadia.”
“I got Merlin to give me a magic lesson,” Claire said. Jim huffed; he thought she was changing the subject. And it would be so easy to change the subject, to not talk about what was going on with her. But she was tired of Jim’s second-guessing.
She reached out her hand, palm up and cupped. She raised her hand up slowly, before quickly jerking it downwards. A small ball of purple flame appeared in it, and Claire quickly retracted her hand to let the flame float in the air.
In the corner of her eye, she saw Jim’s jaw drop a little as he saw the small black cracks splinter across her fingers. Claire waved her hand, dissipating the fireball, and the cracks slowed their conquest. Give it several minutes, and her hand would return to normal.
“Merlin called me, well, it sounded like the word ‘corrupt’ but not exactly, it might’ve been in Latin?” Jim growled. “Oh, don’t be like that. For once, he’s not just being an insufferable douchebag. We both know it’s true; we both heard Blinky warn me about the Shadow Staff. He told me it was made of dark magic, and that overuse would kill me or corrupt my soul. And, well, I’m still alive.”
“I thought corruption would just be limited to your possession.”
“If that were true, don’t you think Blinky would have said so?”
“If you don’t do magic, though, you’ll be okay, right?”
“I don’t think it’s that simple, Jim. Not when, well, I got startled in a public bathroom and broke a mirror two feet away by flexing my fingers. My hand cracked then, too.”
“Wait, are you okay? Did anyone...”
“I blamed it on an earthquake and got out of there quick. But no, two women entered and I got startled. No one tried to hurt me.” One of them chuckled as she told a story about her child, though. The other had green eyes and wore a shiny gold shirt.
“Is there... is there a way to get you uncorrupted?”
It would be cruel to ask him if there was a way to make him fully human again, but the answer would probably be the same.
“I doubt it,” Claire said instead. “I tried to ask Merlin, and I’m not sure if he truly didn’t know or if his silence was him being an insufferable douchebag.”
“Does anyone else know?”
“Unless Merlin told anyone, no.” Or if any of the trolls suspected something about her based on the giant portal and how many cracks she had then.
She laughed, low and mirthless. “No, Jim, it’s too late for me to live a normal life. And it’s not your fault at all. I did this to myself.”