Lola put Codex down on her desk happily. She knew he was a very smart book! How else could he have figured out how to do the spell backward so fast? Once he got better at writing, they could hold entire conversations with each other!
Right now, though, he needed help improving his mana pool. Lola's own pool had improved quite a bit with Father teaching her, and she could do some magic, though she didn't actually know how to cast any specific spells. That was why she had been so excited to find Codex! She could be the Magelord if Codex got a whole lot of really good spells!
Aside from that, she really wanted someone who would talk with her, not just for her.
She threw herself on her bed and sighed. Lola was well aware that she had an immense amount of stamina and energy when it came to doing anything and everything, but most people treated her as if that was a bad thing, as though she could change that about herself.
A memory came hard and fast, and without any warning. Lola tried to shove it down, but it refused...
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lola climbed up the tree, excited to make it to the bird's nest at the very top. There would be baby birds in it! Maybe she could keep one, and it would be her familiar, and they would go on all sorts of adventu-
She put her foot on a branch and it snapped beneath her. Her smile stayed on her face for a moment, as she couldn't quite understand that she was falling for a moment, and then she slowed.
A cushion of teal mana caught her and brought her slowly to the ground. Her mother rushed over to her, tucking her fancy sky-blue grimoire back into her vest. "Lola! You can't scare me like that, you could have been hurt!" She checked Lola's face, seizing her cheeks in her warm gloved hands, her concerned ice-blue eyes looking her over. "If you want to climb a tree, at least let me levitate you up!"
Lola stared at the ground, still a little stunned that the branch had snapped. "Mother, why did the branch break?"
Colette Bourgeious sighed, leaning back in relief. "The branch broke because it was too small, not because you're not a good climber." She looked around at their spacious garden with its many trees, recalling how many of them Lola had already reached the top of. "Dear, it wasn't your fault. The tree just hasn't grown enough yet."
Lola brightened somewhat, a slight smile filling her cherubic eight-year-old face. "Like me?"
Her mother laughed. "Just like you, darling. And until it's older, you can't climb it, all right? It's not ready."
Lola nodded happily. "And when it does, I can climb it all the way to the top!"
Her mother laughed and pulled her closer, holding her tightly in her safe and secure arms...
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lola was curled up in her bed, crying. She couldn't remember the last time she'd thought of Mother, and it hurt as badly as it did the day they received the news. She just - she had to keep moving, to keep thinking of anything except the person she'd loved more than anyone else.
A faint glow reached her in her ball of tears, and she looked over. Codex was drawing lines in the air as fast as he could, though they were fading rapidly. Rubbing her eyes, she reached over and picked him up, brushing through the lines. His eye was full of concern, and staring her in the face. She wiped her nose, asking, "What is it?" His eye went nuts, looking all over the place as a sudden spike of white mana rose from him.
She backed away, a little worried about what was happening. The lines continued appearing at an increased speed, slowly coming together until they formed a short, simple, sentence.
"Are you all right?"
Lola sniffed quietly, reaching out to pick up Codex. "Yes, I'm fine. I just need to do something. What do you want to do?" Unfortunately, creating the sentence seemed to have used whatever power the book had left, and his eye glazed slightly as the mana overuse hit him. She knew how that felt - for a long while after it happened, both Isaac and Lola had practiced until they hit overuse every day for - was it weeks or months? The maids hadn't really talked to her much at the time, and the cooks gave her their very best meals without any comment. They'd been incredibly kind to her during that time, and she'd been trying to make it up to them for the past year or so.
The young girl stood up, taking Codex over to the small mirror. She pulled open a drawer and began applying a few choice cosmetics. No one wanted to see a girl who had been crying, after all. Conversationally, she told Codex, "I have to look my very best for everyone because it makes them happy to see me happy! I can't let them be unhappy, can I?" She couldn't read book expressions very well, but she thought that he looked upset for some reason. She picked him up again, smiling into his eye. "I know you can't talk very well, but I can wait for you to practice! I can teach you how to make your pool bigger!" The eye blinked somewhat wearily, and Lola reconsidered. "Then again, you should probably rest first. Overuse can hurt you if you don't rest and eat regularly!" Checking him over for a mouth, she corrected herself. "I suppose you don't need to rest or eat, so..."
She thought for a moment, wondering what books did in their spare time. Probably a lot of deep thinking, since they were books. "Do you want to read something? Is that something you like doing?" Codex blinked again, this time with a little more excitement, and she squealed happily, the memory of a few minutes ago fading quickly. It didn't even hurt as much as it used to.
Brushing the wrinkles out of her dress, she picked him up and stood. "Let's go to the library and find something for you to read. After that, we can go say hello to Uncle Francis! I'm sure he'll be excited to know you can talk!" Looking back down at him, she was startled to his eye sink back into its socket, as if he was trying to shrink away. She chuckled, gloriously misunderstanding him. "It's okay, you don't have to try to talk again so soon. I'll tell him for you!"
She skipped down the stairs, excited to see what kind of books he wanted to read.
The librarian looked up as she came in, her smile going stale as she saw Codex. "What can I help you with, miss Lola?"
Putting Codex to the side, Lola said happily, "We want to read something!"
Her smile became genuine immediately. "What do you have in mind today?"
Without any hesitation, Lola asked, "Can we have the Magelord's diary?" The librarian turned, which meant that her quick eye-roll went missed entirely. She couldn't even count how many times the impressionable young girl had asked for a copy of the diary, and they'd even had to replace it some time ago. Regardless, the enjoyment that Lola got out of it never seemed to diminish, so why should it be Beatrice's choice to take that away from her?
Summoning the book, she pulled it out of the air and handed it to Lola. "Here you go, miss. Enjoy!" She nodded happily and left, the librarian smiling after her. In the back of her mind, Beatrice wondered how Lola could stay so positive after what happened to her mother.
Placing the book on one of the many reading tables scattered throughout the library, Lola hefted Codex and aimed his eye at the cover, which depicted a wooden staff with a gem at the tip. "This is the first Magelord's diary! He was the most powerful wizard ever!" She set Codex down and flipped the first page open, narrating as she did.
"I cannot easily imagine a Xanem where war does not exist, any more than a pirate without Barabar, or a dragon without its hoard. Battle is the lifeblood of this world, whether it is honorable or dishonorable. It is for these battles, for these unending wars, that I step forward. For what else can one do in this time of turmoil, than to step forward? To go back is nothing less than suicide, to move to the side is impossible, but forward? One can only improve if he chooses to go ahead."
She flipped the page, turning to the next one.
"I have discovered a book that might help me with my quest, a Living Book named Libra. I would not be surprised if she was the only one of her kind, so unique and difficult to find was she. Her cover is set with two eyes, and I would not be unduly amazed if she learned to walk on her own someday. As it is, I can only carry her around, though she is willing to improve on both her own magic and on mine. Thaddeus believes it is possible to create a Living Book similar to her, though I found it unlikely. He disagreed and left on bad terms. I do hope nothing too horrible happens to him on his journey of discovery."
"Today, Libra and I went to Barabar to acquire missions, for no pursuit was ever slowed by an excess of gold. We accepted a hunt from the Woodsman to hunt down a fire-breathing dragon, a hideous and ancient creature named Kerem. Thus far, the hunt seems promising, and we have tracked it to its lair beset in the side of a cave."
"The encounter went unexpectedly. Instead of battling us as I expected, nay, knew it would, it chose instead to insult us into the ground. Quite literally, in fact - its words were loaded with enormous power the likes of which I had never seen before, and its fiery insults drove us away. Libra and I were severely injured from its tongue, and we have no desire to go back to it. I pray the Woodsman forgives us for failing to finish the mission we so confidently accepted."
Lola turned to Codex and said excitedly, "This is one of my favorite parts!"
"To my shock, I learned of the return of a great evil known only as Noah and gathered the greatest warriors in all the land to assist in my defeat of him. The Beastlord of the Lymphadran plains, the Hivemind of Kral, a dwarf named Quell, and the Woodsman himself. After a long and grievous fight, we somehow won, and the being retreated. My only terror is that he seemed uninjured, and left in high spirits, as though he had merely enjoyed the concept of a fight. Certainly, I had the sensation of battling a fearsome opponent, and I am sure he held back against us, for none of us have died in the process.
"Regardless, the surrounding countries were grateful to us and unanimously agreed to have us rule. I initially turned down the offer, but Libra convinced me to take it on. My compatriots disbanded on good terms, and we were left to our own devices. Should Noah ever return, I pray a greater party than ours will defeat him."
Lola closed the book, despite the fact there was more, turning to Codex in excitement. "See? I want to be the Magelord so that I can beat Noah when he comes back! Then I'll be the best and bravest person ever!" Beatrice glared at her as she raised her voice, then realized it was pointless and went back to her own book.
Codex's eye narrowed thoughtfully. She could imagine it so clearly, as she'd done so many times before, but this time it was different! Lola and Codex, older and confident, brimming with power as they fought the evil Noah in a huge battle and won! And then everyone would be okay if she cried every now and then, because who would tell the Magelord who to be?