During her sixth year, Rishona took to appearing in the east atrium where the men gathered to practice weaponry. She watched them without pause, her hair falling in ebony ringlets against her rounded cheeks, lower lip protruding in a frown of concentration. After they finished, she would followed Mechnes toward the baths, running to keep up with his stride as she tugged on his cloak and begged to learn how to use the sword. Every morning he laughed and sent her away. This game continued for about a month, her pleading and him refusing, until one day his amusement provoked her tears, and without warning she sank against the pale stone wall, weeping as if the world were about to come to an end.
Moved by his niece’s distress, Mechnes knelt beside to her and explained in very clear terms why she had no need for weaponry. She was a girl after all, and a princess besides, and therefore destined to have many armed men at her disposal—not the least of whom would be her husband – who could fight and die for her.
Rishona’s sobs only intensified.
“But you must teach me!” she insisted. “The Ones Who Speak told me so! It must be you, or I will never—”
She stopped wide-eyed and clapped her hands over her mouth. An unfamiliar chill settled in Mechnes’s heart. It was heresy, the worst possible crime, for a child to claim she could hear the Ones Who Speak. The Syrnte were not granted the gift of visions until the age of thirteen, when those chosen by the Gods were cleansed of all shadows by the hot breath of Saefira. Children who insisted on lying about such things were removed from this life, sacrificed to the hungry goddess Mikata, that she might teach them obedience in the world beyond. Rishona knew this, and she watched him now in terror.
“That’s not what I meant,” she whispered. “It wasn’t them at all.”
Mechnes took her small hands in his, noting they were icy cold. “Tell me what they said, Rishona. I promise I will not reveal your secret to anyone.”
She swallowed hard, eyes wary yet expressing a need for his complicity and protection. It was the first time, he remembered now, that the sweet curve of her face had touched his heart. “They said I am going to avenge my mother and my father, and that I will be queen of two kingdoms. But none of it will come to pass if you do not teach me.”
Rishona was an undisciplined child, but she was not prone to lying. Mechnes heard the conviction in her voice, and understood she spoke the truth. That same day he took her back to the atrium and put a wooden sword in her hand.
Lands Ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons set loose upon the earth.
War strikes at the heart of women’s magic in Moisehén. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.
Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.
What can stop this tide of terror and vengeance? The answer lies in Eolyn’s forgotten love, and in its power to engender seeds of renewed hope.
HIGH MAGA is the companion novel to EOLYN, also available from Hadley Rille Books.
Genre – Epic Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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