Fleeing straight into the dark shadows of the Golduin Forest proved to be a bad move almost as soon as Garon had stepped foot into the woods. He had wasted no time in packing anything, not even a knife or a cloak, and the sun was quickly failing. He barely remembered his last taste of food from the day before; he felt weak and close to collapse. The forest was parched and brittle, without a stream to be seen, and his mouth had long since gone dry. His sudden freedom tasted far more bitter than he ever imagined.
Not even a week had passed since his last attempt at escape from Makwyr's house. Garon still had the bruises from the beating that ensued, and they along with the rest of his body ached from his harried flight. Or at least he felt harried. Makwyr's body lay cold in his bed, just as Garon had found him. The adept's abode, being so far removed from the walls of Westron town, would not be investigated anytime soon. Makwyr was reclusive and maintained few if any connections with anyone outside his house. And now he was dead.
Garon had spent most of the afternoon thinking of what he would say to prove his innocence. He hadn't murdered Makwyr, and he knew that, but to anyone who asked, Garon was the only possible killer. Garon hated Makwyr and had been trying to escape him from the first day he was taken to the man's hermitage. No one other than Garon had ever entered the house. It was as heavily fortified as a treasury, to keep Garon within the walls. But now he was out.
The light was much darker now, and Garon stumbled through the woods with his arms outstretched to catch at trees. After a day's directionless march through the forest, Garon began to hear noises all around him. It was as if the forest were coming alive now that the light of the sun had finally gone away. Golduin was a much older forest than the smaller one to the north of Westron, the Meruale Woods. Garon had gone there many times in his attempted escapes. The trees there were young, blushing with flowers in the spring time and thick with leaves in the summer. He knew better than to try to run away in the fall and winter, when heavy storms were likely to rip through the healthy canopy of leaves and devastate the trees. The Golduin may have once been a thriving, beautiful forest like the Meruale, but it was long past its prime.
A large root protruded up through the ground in front of Garon and he went down hard. In the dark, he threw out his arms to catch himself and earned a deep gash in his forearm. A fallen branch, shattered as though from a bolt of lightning, left its stinging splinters in his skin. The left sleeve of his white tunic quickly reddened as he lay mastering the pain. Any cry of agony or despair, both of which he felt acutely, would only attract the sort of predatory audience Garon least wanted near him.
When he could finally bring himself to stand, he stood still for long minutes clutching at his slowly bleeding arm. The blood was hot and warmed the fingers of his right hand; a morbid comfort. The fall had left him disoriented; he was sure he'd done a twist or two on the ground as the pain coursed. Any way was good as long as it didn't lead back to Westron.
Birdsor bats; he couldn't tell in the darknessfluttered down from high-hanging branches and whipped past him, sending his hair flying in the brief but strong winds their unseen wings generated. After the flurry had passed, Garon picked up the sound of dead leaves and twigs snapping underfoot. His heart sped up painfully but he held still, afraid to make a noise with his movement and draw the source of the noise closer. He felt close to tears, so anxious and terrified that he would rather be back at Makwyr's house with the adept alive and pummeling him than alone and defenseless in Golduin's shadows.
But he wasn't entirely defenseless. All those times he'd run away from Makwyr, he'd been training. Without a teacher to learn from, his training in destruction had been slow and more than slightly painful, but pain was nothing new to him. At the farm in Windmarch, he'd been beaten for many small offenses since he was old enough to walk. The singes and jolts, from fire and lightning elements, were a new kind of pain, but a welcome one. The mere fact that Garon could will these elements into being around him meant that he could do something no one believed was possible: he could learn magic from two separate schools.
Makwyr, being an illusion mage, had done everything in his power to train Garon in the art of the shadow magic. Garon hated it, just like he hated everything else he had been given in life: his half-crazed mother and drunken father; his lucky sisters who were married off the farm; his lord who owned him body and soul; and the sickness that instead of killing him as it should have, instead bestowed on him the enviable gift of magic. Only, it hadn't given him the magic he wanted most.
Destruction magic had awed him from his first sight of it as a boy. His nearly fatal fever resulted in the manifestation of magic and he was taken to the military outpost at Westron, where a mage captain had tested him and found him wanting. But the mage soldiers under his command drilled and play-fought with their elemental magics, turning destruction into a display of power that Garon thirsted for, ached for with every fiber of his body.
He hadn't cared so much to be utterly alone with Makwyr. The one thing he couldn't stand was being told he could never wield destruction. He had proven over and over that yes, he could do it, but anytime he tried to convince his master he was beaten until he apologized. Always an insincere apology, but it had proven enough for Makwyr.
A small, terrifying voice in Garon's mind wondered if he had in fact killed his master. Was it possible, to kill a man while sleeping, without knowing about it? Or had Garon done it and made himself forget somehow? Manipulation of the mind was a skill Makwyr had honed in his apprentice; had Garon let his anger overcome him and then, at the end of it all, made himself simply forget ever committing the crime? Although he vehemently told himself that was impossible and absurd, he couldn't shake the terrible idea.
If anyone asked, however, Garon would never admit to anything. Garon was just Garon now, not the Garonwy of home and not the boy of his apprenticeship. No one had to know that he was an illusion mage. And if that heavy-footed creature showed itself, he would give it a face full of a searing fire to contend with.