I was running as fast as I could, clutching a gash on my left side. The angry mob was getting closer, and I had no more safe houses, favors to call in, or tricks up my sleeve. The only place I knew of that they wouldn't go was a quarter mile away, but I was faltering and wasn't seeing straight. Once the mob saw where I was going, they stopped and watched me. I knew if I stopped they would come forward and finish me off, so I kept going. I entered the forest where they wouldn't go and went in a short way. I sat down under a tree, my back to the mob, and assessed my injuries.

A gash on my left side, a swollen right ankle, black eye, and cuts, scrapes, and bruises everywhere. I pulled my cloak around me and tried to sleep. It was a cold night, but I didn't dare risk going out of the forest where I knew I would die.

I was a con artist, stealing money, doing fake magic, and other things a fake mind reader might do. I was a good pickpocket, picking locks, and could work wonders with smoke and mirrors. Only thing was, the glue dried out on one of my tricks two days ago and the mirror fell out. The crowd got angry that they had been duped and formed a mob. I couldn't blame them really, they'd paid a good bit of money to get in and really thought it was magic. I got away relatively easily at first, but they tracked me down to my three hideouts, my house, two empty barns, and then chased me out here. I had almost nothing, just my clothes, a lock pick, and a titanium throwing knife. My money had been taken when they caught me the first time, as well as my emergency food.

I woke up in the morning feeling very sore. I rinsed myself off in a stream to get the blood off, and then took a look at my side. It wasn't very deep or wide, but bled and hurt a lot. I drank some water, then went looking for food. I knew I would have to go back to get my side healed, but I wanted to wait a few days for the people to settle down some. My main worry was infection. Out here, it was a big problem. In fact, if it weren't for the gash in my side, I'd probably be fine in a day or two, but now I needed at least a week to heal.

I found a blackberry bush and ate some, then used some branches from a willow tree to keep a piece of fabric on the gash to protect it from infection. I was surprised I hadn't seen anything besides the plants, as I had heard the Moors was filled with stuff like fairies and fey. I didn't really want to run into here, what with the stories of them not being all that friendly and whatnot. I was looking forward to seeing real magic, and had thought about learning it but doubted I could. I spent most of the day exploring, looking for a place to spend the night, preferably off the ground and with a roof. There was a cave about a mile away that I found, and decided it was as good as any. I had just entered the cave when I heard something land lightly behind me, something that wasn't just a wild animal.

I was facing the wrong way, but I could tell by the shadow it was humanoid. I took my knife out of its sheath, held it out to the side, and dropped it on the ground, the metal clanging on the stone floor. "I'm not here to hurt anyone or take anything, " I said. No response. I turned around slowly and saw a human woman, except that it had wings and horns. It was a fey. I had heard about them, and the tales I'd heard always seemed to say they were sorcerers and bad guys.

"Then why are you here?" she asked.

"I just need time to heal. " I pulled my cloak to the side and showed the bloodied wad of fabric I had over the wound. "Once I'm all better, I'll do whatever you need me to. I can leave, or stay here and help around. Whatever you want. "

She paused for a few moments. "I sense a faint aura of magic about you. It's probably why you're still alive. "

"Magic is the reason I almost died. Well, not your magic, but I do fake magic. When one of my tricks went wrong, the crowd chased me here. "

"Blinking, yes?"


"Your magic seems to be mainly for blinking. "

"What's that mean?"

"You can blink in and out of existence. I'm guessing you can move up to three feet and stay gone for, say, half a second. "

Suddenly stuff made sense now. A few times I must've used it without knowing. Once I was hiding in an alley when a cat jumped down and frightened me, and I was suddenly on the other side of a fence. And when the angry mob caught me the first time, I must've blinked out of the ropes they tied me up with. "Why do I have magic? I'm not the best person to give powers to. I steal stuff and lie to people for a living. I was almost killed for fake magic, real magic will probably cause even more problems for me. "

"Magic moves in strange ways. What is your name?"

"Tom. "

"And your last name?"

"I don't have one. I was an orphan left in a box. The only word they could make out on the soggy piece of paper left in the box with me was my name. " I shook my head. Can't dwell on the past, I told myself. "What's your name?"

"Maleficent. "

I nodded. An awkward silence followed for a few seconds. "So, uh, can I stay here while I heal?" I asked.

"Yes. If you wish to stay longer, I can teach you how to harness your magic and use it in more ways than just blinking. "

"I think I'd like that. "

"Hand me your knife. "

That seemed like an odd request. I picked it up and held it out flat on the palm of my hand. "It's a titanium blade and crossbar, leather grips, and the blade is laced with a heavy sedative and slight anesthetic. If I cut someone with it, they fall asleep in a few seconds and don't remember the last five minutes. I don't like killing people. " She grabbed the blade warrily, like it might hurt her. "The sedative only works when it breaks the skin. "

"No, I wasn't worried about the sedative, most blades are iron, which burns us. Where did you get this blade?"

"I stole it from a man a few years ago. Can't remember his name. "

She handed it back. "Get some rest. Once you're healed I can start to teach you how to use your magic. "

I put it back in the sheath and nodded. "Is there anything I should know? I've heard that some of the plants are creatures, and I'd like to avoid killing anyone. "

"No, they all left the area as you traveled in. Don't go more than a quarter mile in any direction though, some of them can be violent if provoked. "

"Thank you, Maleficent. " she flew up and out of view. I thought over what she had said, wondering if I was dreaming. I decided I wasn't, convinced that the wound in my side was real. I grabbed some pine branches to make a bed, then settled in for a while. I foraged for some food later in the day, and spent most of my time thinking through my life, finding times where I might've blinked.

At the end of the week, most of my wounds were healed, but the gash in my side was slow going, and I was definitely going to have a scar. Maleficent came by the next day to make sure I was still alive, then left. After two weeks, the only thing left was the gash, which had mostly healed. It hurt if I moved the wrong way, but I could move around easily. A few days later, I started learning magic.

"Every person who has magic harnesses it in their own unique way," she said. We were in a boulder field covered in soft moss. " For you, with little magic, I think you would need to concentrate to bring it to the surface and use it, but you might also need a little encouragement to get started. "

I concentrated, trying to find the magic inside me. When I found it, I pushed it to the surface, trying to blink. Suddenly I was aware of a rock flying towards my head. I panicked, and blinked. I didn't move, but had disappeared while the rock passed through where I had been and crashed behind me. I turned to Maleficent. "Was that you?"

"Yes. "

"Please don't do that, I'd like to live. "

"I could've stopped it if you didn't blink. "

She was right, I needed to believe I was in danger to get started, like all the other times I had blinked. It got easier as I tried it more. Soon I began to move location as I blinked, and even how I was standing. After a bit, she stopped throwing rocks and levitated the rock I was standing on. I balanced on it, moving with the rock to stay on top. She would rotate it, sometimes slowly, sometimes jerkily. I would blink to be on top when I needed, or wherever was the most stable.

"You're doing well. I'm surprised you can harness the magic. Most humans who do have it never realize what they have, or choose to ignore it. "

"Maleficent, there's one thing I've been wondering. "

"What would that be?"

"Why me? Why let me stay? Why teach me magic? Why not just send me back to the mob? Why not just kill me while I was in the cave? I've always heard that the Moors people would rather kill you than listen to your excuses for being there. " The rock I was on fell back to its crater, and I barely blinked to a stable boulder in time.

"You have been betrayed by the humans, which makes you less likely to turn on us in the Moors. I also do not believe you are human, which would explain your ease at manipulating your magic and your subconscious aversion to iron. "

She was right about the iron, althoughI never really thought about it before, but I never stole iron or used it. "If I'm not human, then what am I?"

"Half human, most likely. What the other half is, I have no idea. "

Her tone made it clear she had no more information, and I was content with the answers I had for now. It was getting darker, almost dusk.

"Go get some rest. Tomorrow we'll see if you can channel the magic to do other tasks. "

I walked back to the cave, thinking over the day. I was a lot better at blinking than I thought I would have been, moving up to thirty feet and staying gone for five seconds. I ate some berries as I settled down and slept for the night.

The next day, Maleficent tried teaching me different magic. Some were simple tricks, like making a small flame in the palm of my hand, a small branch grow leaves, or simply just giving the magic a visual form. The last one was rather difficult for me, but looked amazing. When I finally managed it, my hands would leave blue trails behind which faded after a few seconds. After some more practice, I could move it around seperate from my hand. Maleficent said it would help when using magic on other objects by increasing my concentration. She also used it for most of her magic, only hers was green, more powerful than mine, and had a lot more.

Once I learned the visualising trick, it was a lot easier to do magic at a distance. She taught me a simple ranged spell that shot a burst of my magical blue light. The range was short, but I didn't mind. In the afternoon, she taught me some healing spells, which were useful on the gash in my side, as it had become slightly infected. Once I was done, only a scar remained.

It was nice to get away from the rush of the human world and live in nature. I wasn't sure what I would do once I had learned magic, whether I would return to society or stay in the Moors. I knew I wouldn't be able to use my abilities around humans, or risk being thrown in a dungeon forever. I had been thinking about what happens next for a few days, still undecided. For the next few weeks, I learned magic and was given access to the rest of the Moors. It was a beautiful place, filled with magical creatures, majestic scenery, and full of nature.

As soon as I saw the rest of the Moors, I knew I wanted to stay here, but didn't know if Maleficent would let me. When I sensed I was close to the end of my lessons, I brought up the subject.

"Maleficent, I've been thinking about what happens after I learn magic. I would love to stay here in the Moors, but I wanted to know what you thought. "

"I think the creatures of the Moors would welcome you. You've already learned more magic than some of the more magically inclined creatures, but the Moors has its enemies, just as you did with humans. Wherever you choose to live, the risk is there. "

I thought for a moment. "What do you want me to do? You saved my life once already, and taught me what will definitely save me more in the future. I feel I owe you something at least. "

"I want you to stay, of course. We could always use another helping hand around here. "

I nodded. "Then I'll stay and help. Whatever you need me to do, I'll do my best."