Michael walked quickly down the cobblestone path. He didn’t stop to look at the stone buildings that had been there for hundreds of years. He didn’t look at the fountain with undines dancing and swooping in the tinkling water.
He didn’t notice the sylphs as they tangled and slid up and down the oaks planted near the pathway. As a student he had not been able to see the elementals at play except when they manifested in the classroom.
He didn’t stop and stare because he was focused on finding his mentor. There had to be some way to stop the inevitable. Since the mage wars, unlicensed mages were chained, stripped of their powers, and sometimes killed in very public ways. The only reason Morcant would try to strip Hilda’s powers was because she had been of service and couldn’t be killed publicly without a lot of repercussions from the Mercenary Guild.
No one wanted the guild mad at them. The members trained for years and also went to war against each other. They knew tactics and weapons. They had planned for every disaster including if they were attacked by their host country. They were hard men and women who would do anything for their own. Hell, even the retired mercenaries were dangerous. He thought fondly of Grandpa Stevens. That man could kill with a look. He didn’t even have to use his hands.
When Michael found his mentor, he was in a better mood after the long walk and his thoughts of Grandpa Stevens inevitably lead to thoughts of Josephine. He missed her. He really missed her. He would give up all of his ambitions of fame and fortune to be her at the inn.
Michael’s mentor was on his knees in a garden. His earth elemental, a gnome, was watching him plant bulbs along the walkway.
“Isn’t this a little early?” Michael asked him. The sun’s weak rays didn’t warm him. The cold went clear to his bones.
“Yes,” his mentor said simply. “But my friend here will watch them and make sure they don’t freeze. They’ll be ready to bloom in spring.” He got up off of his knees and brushed off the dirt that had accumulated on his pants and robes.
The mentor straightened and then looked into Michael’s eyes. “I hear you brought us some trouble.” His words came out slow and thoughtful. One of the reasons the mentor received so many students was because he didn’t rush to judgment. A lot had to do with his affinity to earth. He knew it took time for students to reach their full potential.
Then he smiled and switched the subject, “Congratulations. I see you have an undine.”
Michael smiled back, “Yes.”
The mentor’s eyes unfocused. He murmured. “Your fire ability has been badly burned. You’ll have to tell me what happened. How interesting.”
He reached out and touched Michael’s hand. He continued, “You grew another one. How did you?—” He opened his eyes. “Once again, you’ll have to tell me later. Come with me. We need to talk in private.”
They didn’t walk much farther until they reached a door in the wall. His mentor made some hand motions and the door opened by magic. “It’s keyed to my magic, I’m afraid,” the mentor’s eyes crinkled in amusement as Michael watched him intently. “No one can get in here, but me.”
“So have you terminated many students here?” Michael joked. When the silence grew, Michael started to feel uncomfortable. There was a reason why normals thought mages were insane.
“You have nothing to fear,” said his mentor. “We are just going to talk.”
His mentor motioned to an over-stuffed chair that had brown and yellow stains on it. Michael didn’t look closer. He didn’t want to know what the stains were although by the smell, some student had probably peed from fear. It was a stringent sour odor. Michael ignored it and breathed through his mouth.
“So,” the word drawled out of the mentor’s mouth. “Are you here about your magic or about your sister’s?”
Michael was not ready for the question. He flinched. He tried to say something smart, but all that came out was, “uh, uh, uh.”
“Your sister then,” said the mentor. The mentor quit looming over Michael and sat down on a stuffed couch facing him. While Michael wasn’t looking, a tea tray appeared on a small tray beside his mentor.
“Since I am not your mentor anymore,” the mentor said, “You may call me Mage Godfroy.” He poured two cups of tea and floated one of the tea cups to Michael.
Michael plucked the tea cup out of the air and took a sip of the tea. “Thank you,” he murmured. The tea tasted excellent. He didn’t test for poison. Doing that in his old mentor’s office would have been an insult.
“So about your sister,” the mage said. He sipped his tea and then put it down. “She has magical talent, yes?”
Michael nodded his head. All of a sudden the tea tasted sour in his mouth. “She had a meeting with Mage Morcant today.”
Mage Godfroy grimaced. “He tried to strip her of her power, yes?”
Michael nodded his head. “He wasn’t successful, and he will try again.”
“You have a problem,” said Mage Godfroy. “You should have reported her magical talent as soon as you knew. She should have reported it when the fire element came to her.” He took another sip of his tea. Michael relaxed slightly. The mage could give a tongue-lashing like no other. He was not expecting this calm.
“Mage Morcant,” Mage Godfroy continued. “Had every right to strip her powers—except he shouldn’t have done it without the consent of the Mage Council. You do know that it would be easy for Morcant to get permission now that they know she is able to stop an attack.”
“I would think that they would find her useful.” Michael felt the blood rush to his head. “She has been trained in war.” He could feel the his face warm and burn. He felt his undine caress the back of his neck until he cooled down. His temper went cold and blue sparks shown in his eyes.
Mage Godfroy didn’t smile, although there was a twinkle in the back of his eyes.
“Good,” he said abruptly. “You’ll need that when you go to war for your sister. It may only be paper and diplomacy, but if you cannot get them on your side, then your sister will be as good as dead.”
Under the cold anger, Micheal felt his stomach sink.
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In the kingdom of Corsindor, the prince is lost, the king is dead, and the queen is holding the reins of government against disloyal nobles. They want a puppet to consolidate their power over the land. The queen has only one ally, who is not human.
There are rumors that the borders have been closed. Plus the long-lost prince, who knows nothing of ruling, is returning. Corsindor is being attacked from within and without by nightstalkers.
Shira, a foundling, trained by the Ahrah, Corsindor’s neighbors, is sent find out the conditions in Corsindor. Warrior and child of another world – her job is to confront the demons and reduce the chaos in the world. Will she survive?
Will she be tempted to take it all?