Hilda woke up with a jerk. She was lying on a soft couch in a parlor. It took her a minute to realize she was in the house. Michael was sitting next to her, watching her breath. He was drinking a cup of peppermint tea and the smell relaxed her.
Her last memory had been when Morcant probed her mind. The buildup of energy had warned her that he was going to do much more than probe her memories. It was a bolt of energy that would have seared her mind and turned her into an idiot. How many other new mages had been stripped of their mental powers by the senior mage.
Her blood boiled. She wanted to blast and kill something—anything. She sat up abruptly and stared into the dancing flames in the fireplace. Sassy jumped out of the flames and into her arms.
“Hilda, Hilda” she hissed. Sassy had grown twice her size. Hilda cuddled the fire element in her arms and felt her anger diminish. The fire element fed on her emotions. She felt her anger slowly cool as Sassy fed from them. If Sassy wasn’t here helping her get her anger under control, she could have flamed this house and half of the university.
When she finally stopped seeing red and her emotions were enough that she could control them, Sassy shrank to a small size. She purred and cuddled until Hilda could see this couch, this room, and Michael.
Michael watched her warily. His undine, a water element, was wrapped around his neck in a defensive movement.
“I’m not going to kill you.” Hilda could smell a faint smell of ash in the air. The undine tucked her head in Michael’s neck and stayed there. Hilda felt embarrassed at her lack of control.
“How are you feeling?” Michael paced in front of the small fireplace. Then without listening to her answer, he said, “Rooso is here.”
He was trying not to rub his arm. He used to do that when he was upset. “He brought you here.” His voice rose a little, “and they added more guards to this house. What did you do?”
“They know what I am,” she said. “I wasn’t more than a couple minutes in senior mage’s presence when he tried to burn my mind out.”
“Not good, sis,” he said. “They have more resources than we do. Plus we are in the middle of their stronghold.”
“I’m well aware—” Hilda wanted to shout at him. Instead she lowered her tone so that the guards couldn’t hear her.
Michael interrupted her. “I don’t think you are. This house—” he hissed. Then he waved his arms at the walls and ceiling, “was built to hold wizards. You strike at anything in here and it will rebound on you.”
Hilda gave him a look. She should have known this was a trap. It was built to hold rogue mages. She wanted to curse. She slumped on the couch with Sassy cuddled against her chest. She should have known. It was what she would have done if a stranger had come into her territory. She had gotten soft. There was a reason she had turned away from war and toward civilian life. For a moment she longed for the nice quiet days of ale deliveries and bouncing drunks out of the inn.
“I can’t talk here,” Michael continued, “But I still have friends at the university. You stay here and don’t get into trouble.” There was a quiet menace in his voice.
She admired the glare coming from him. His little nervous habit had disappeared as he took charge of the situation. She smiled. “Okay, we’ll do it your way.”
He looked at her suspiciously. As an older sister, she wasn’t used to giving in to him. Still he took it at face value and left her there with Sassy.
So what was her next move? She needed to find Rooso. It was strange that he was here and without her sister, Mistress Mary Rose. The last time she saw the two of them together, they had been all over each other. Now she couldn’t get that image out of her mind.
Of course she could contact her sister. However, it would take two weeks to get a letter to Mistress Mary, then another two weeks to get a letter back. Then Michael would have to read the letter to her. It would be easier to beat a confession out of Rooso instead.
Before she realized she had made a decision, she was in her room, pulling off her dress, and climbing into her leathers. She added a few knives around her body. Then she climbed out the window and skulked until she was sure she had lost her guards.
It wasn’t hard to find Rooso. Hilda found him in a small student pub outside the university gates. His red hair flamed like a becon as she went straight to his table and sat down. He smelled like he had down enough ale to kill a dragon.
Out the door she could see two guards that had been guarding the gardens. She gave them a respectful nod of the head. Once again they had been on step ahead of her. They must have some sort of magical tracking device on her.
She wanted to slap Rooso when she realized he was flirting with the serving wench. He was her sister’s and not this floozy. Oh yea, no doubt, his flaming red hair, his sky blue eyes, and his grin attracted the fairer sex like bees too honey. They must also be responding to his assurance that he could handle any violence that came his way.
When he moved, it hit something visceral in the female breast. Hilda had worked with a lot of men like him.
Hilda pounded her hand on the table. The serving wench glared. She still left Hilda with Rooso to get her a mug of ale. When she looked at Rooso, he flinched. Then his normal smooth facial expression slid into place. She leaned into him close enough to see the red bristles on his face.
“I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said.
Rooso turned into a teenage boy for a moment. He mumbled, and then sucked down his ale. He slid from the table. She caught him by his arm.
“You aren’t going just yet,” she said with a smile. She put a little of Sassy’s strength into her arm. Since he couldn’t pull away from her, he stepped into her space.
“Feeling a little lonely?” he asked. There was a murmur in his voice that made the female in Hilda think of rooms and beds with satin sheets. It slid over her skin.
“Rooso,” her voice chided him. “Why are you here?”
“It’s a long story,” he said in his normal voice. She had caught him and he knew it. “I can’t tell you here.” He looked around the bar. It was filling up with university students and guards. “You also brought your own guards and spies.”
Hilda grinned. It was a smile with all teeth and no humor. “Want to have some fun?”
Rooso closed his eyes, and then sighed. She knew immediately that Rooso had gotten her meaning. She wanted a fight and it could be with him or it could be with the rest of the bar. She saw the slight tick under his eye when he made his decision.
He turned around and hit one of the guards who had been following her, right in the mouth. “What are you doing with my woman?” He yelled at the top of his lungs.
It was enough of a spark to start bedlam. Tables and chairs were upended. Hilda got a few punches in and her blood screamed for more. After a few minutes, Rooso grabbed her arm and pulled her through the kitchen and out the back door. She could hear the curses, screams and crashes in the alley.
She hadn’t had this much fun in years. In the alley, she leaned the wall. A stitch in her side left her breathless. To her surprise she was laughing. Damn. She hadn’t had this much fun in years.
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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?