Author's note: I really enjoy writing about other worlds and other places. The idea for this world has evolved a... Show full author's note »
The BoxNeither spoke as they stared at the thing that sat between them. It was unassuming – a small pine box, barely three inches across, with a blue wax seal stamped into the lid – but they barely dared look at it.
"We should open it," the stockier girl said at last, raking a hand through her mannishly short hair. "We can't return it to the post office, for certain. They'd ask questions, and we can't afford questions."
The other girl, two years older yet slimmer than her companion, fiddled with the hem of her apron. It was hard to tell the original color, stained as it was with flour, grease and every foodstuff imaginable. "But if we open it they'll find out. And what if it's something important?" She shook her head, careful not to loosen the pins that held her dark brown hair. "We should just leave it on the steps of the post office, or better yet, just make it disappear." Her grey eyes met her sister's. "You could make it go away."
The redhead sighed and sat down. "I don't have enough control yet, Isa."
Isalia's lip jutted out in a pout. "You're just afraid of getting caught. You never want to do anything with your magic. Jordy, we have to do something!"
"Of course I'm afraid!" She put her face in her hands. "They all think I'm a man, Isa. What will they do if they find I lied to them all? And on top of that, I did it to learn magic! I'll be hanged! And it's not even like we're learning anything useful yet." Jordiana picked up the pitcher of water from the other end of the table and poured herself a glass. "Right now it's all theory. I think the teachers are a little afraid of what we can do, so they're taking it very slow." Her eyes went dark with memory. "They're right to be afraid."
Isa put a hand on her sister's shoulder. "It's okay, Jordy. They'll never take you away again."
Hands shaking slightly, the redhead took another sip of water. "I'll die before I let them take me away."
"Don't say that!" Isa hugged her younger sister tightly. "We'll leave Stonewall if it comes to that."
Jordy shuddered and stayed silent for a moment. Then she turned her attention back to the box. "Well in any case," she said in a more normal tone of voice, "we can't keep it here. You know that some of the crown mages put magical marks on their work? And I'm sure that some kind of magical trap is in the box." She scrutinized the plain wood, focusing her magical sight to no avail. Carefully she lifted it and turned it over. "I don't see any runes, but maybe-" She ran a finger over the seal and gasped as it fell off.
She turned to her sister, her expression one of horror. "I didn't even do anything! I just touched it!"
Isa gave her a smug look. "Well now you have to destroy it. Can I watch?"
Her mouth set in a hard line, Jordy shook her head, picked up the box, and tucked it under her coat. "Go back downstairs to the bakery. I'll be back by dawn." She pulled her oiled hood up and stepped out into the light drizzle that pervaded the streets of Stonewall.
Isalia watched her trudge down the cobblestone street, dodging puddles, from the doorway. She liked to see her sister perform magic, forbidden though it was, and was sorry to miss this. But she still worried. Jordy was still her little sister, mature though she may be, and she felt bad about making her do this.
At last she turned away from the darkened street and shut the door firmly.