WIND swept down from the mountainsides in gentle gusts as Tyg led Ora through Tirnan’s streets. The Magus said nothing of her conversation with Callum, and Ora began to worry they were heading toward the lodge. It was not until she saw a familiar blue door that she realized they had been making their way to Elder Kavyn’s shop.
Just as they reached the front step, a fae woman caught sight of Tyg and drifted across the street with a thin smile. She was snow white in complexion, and an aura of magic charged the air around her. “Magus Marigen,” she said in greeting, then looked down at Ora. “I’ve been hoping to meet this human girl of yours.”
“I would think you have more important matters to occupy your time, Aygriel,” said Tyg. Her hand curled over the girl’s shoulder and pushed her toward the door. “Wait inside.”
More than happy to get away from Tyg, Ora stepped into the dim and dusty shop alone. Elder Kavyn chuckled as she shut the door. He sat at his desk, tinkering with some delicate, copper instrument. “Ah, Magus Marigen isn’t very fond of the high priestess,” he said and pushed his glasses up his nose. “But what does it matter if you hear their conversation?”
“How should I know? I’ve never met her,” Ora said, voice flat.
“Well, since we have some time to ourselves, tell me what happened, Ora.” He eyed her hand, which she quickly hid. When she did not answer, he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I rather suspected your name wasn’t properly bound.”
Elder Kavyn’s words gave her a fright, and she tensed. “You did?” she asked, stunned that he noticed at all. No other fae seemed the least bit suspicious.
“Relax, child. I won’t be telling anyone. It hardly matters to me. You may want to be more careful, though. You gave yourself away when you didn’t answer.”
Ora let her hand fall back to her side, but she still did not know if she could trust the Elder. Hoping to shift his attention away from her severed pinky, she nodded at the instrument that sat before him. “What is that?”
He grinned and pushed it toward her. It had a number of flat, pentagonal faces with glass oculi in their centers. “Go on. Pick it up.”
She did so with her good hand, cradling it as if it would break merely from her touch. Like the books, it emitted warmth and energy that crawled up her arms. She began to clumsily turn it over. There were notches and markings carved into the copper that meant nothing to her, even with the help of the amulet. “What is it?” she asked.
“A speculademain by the looks of it,” he said. “I think.”
“Does it do anything?”
“I’m sure it does a wonderous something, but I’m still figuring that bit out. It’s a sylvn tool of—”
“Sylvn?” she said, thinking of the copper orb that had sprouted legs.
“Yes. The sylv are akin to dren, but there aren’t many left. They were talented alchemists of a sort. Most of that knowledge has been lost, though.” He tapped his desk thoughtfully. “That device is quite valuable these days.”
Before Ora could ask any more questions, the door opened. She gave a start and dropped the copper instrument. It thudded against the floor, and Elder Kavyn winced.
“You idiot girl,” snapped Tyg as Ora scrambled to pick it up.
With a gentle smile, Elder Kavyn took the device and studied each side for damage. “It’s quite alright. I asked her to fetch it for me from the shelf.” He set it back down on the desk. “No harm done.”
“How fortunate,” she said, glaring down at the girl.
He removed his glasses and stood from his desk. “And how is the high priestess this fine morning?” he asked as he stepped toward the backroom.
“Vainglorious, as usual. Queen Innes has seen it fit to honor her with a private villa near the temple.” Tyg picked up the sylvn artifact from the desk and began to study it herself.
“Hardly pious!” Elder Kavyn called from the backroom.
She set the device back on the desk and turned toward the shelves of books and enchanted objects. Ora stepped out of the way and lingered near the desk instead.
“Here you are.” The elf smiled as he reemerged with a neatly folded elk cloak. “This reminds me, a son of an old friend was looking to join the Yewolyns. His name is Berengar. I admit, I had hoped he would pursue another path. Young as he is, he’s a talented mage.”
The mention of Berengar made Ora perk up. She shot the Elder an inquisitive look, but he did not seem to notice.
“Yes, I spoke to him yesterday. I’m sure we’ll find him useful,” said Tyg, still examining the odds and ends on the shelves. The Magus picked up a polished, indigo-colored crystal and rubbed her thumb along its smooth surface. “What were you working on before I arrived?”
Ora watched as Elder Kavyn’s smile faded, and he seemed to become paler than usual. His eyes lingered on the sylvn device. “Why do you ask?”
“Simply making conversation,” she said.
“Ah, well, I was only tinkering.”
“With a sylvn artifact?” she asked, whirling back around to meet his stunned gaze. “It has sylvn writing on it. I’m sure you noticed, Elder. You’re well studied.”
He cleared his throat and squared his shoulders, trying to appear taller. “It is nothing more than a dusty curiosity. There is no crime in having it.”
She raised a brow. “Perhaps not. But where did you get it?”
“Not from a sylv if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t do business with their sort.”
Tyg forced a smile. “Of course. I apologize for my assumptions. You have served Mysanhal well all these centuries.”
“Good day, Magus Marigen,” he said tersely and handed her the cloak before sitting behind his desk. He pulled open a drawer and began to rummage through it.
“Good day,” Tyg answered.
As soon as they stepped into the street, she drew Ora aside and bent down to be at eye level with her. Expecting the worst, Ora shuddered, but the dren only asked, “Did Elder Kavyn say anything about the device on his desk?”
She shook her head, eyes wide.
“Are you certain?”
Remembering his lie, she said, “He only told me to bring it to him. I was just doing as told.”
“Of course. Why would he tell you anything?” She let out a frustrated sigh. “Come, then.”
To Ora’s dismay, the Magus took her to the lodge next and marched her up the stone steps. She began to ponder how she could reach the crossing behind the living quarters. Renna would be easy enough to slip away from a second time.
But it was not Renna who stood in the kitchen.
“Berengar,” said Tyg as they came to the doorway. “This is Ora. Do not let her out of your sight.”
“Yes, Magus Marigen.” Berengar wore a clever smile, and Ora could not help but wonder if he had taken the kitchen master’s position on purpose.
Heart pounding in her chest, she glanced up at the Magus. “Where is Renna? Did you hurt him?”
“No, your dear little Renna is a coward, and rather than suffer the consequences of his actions, he simply did not show up. This is our new kitchen master.” Tyg shoved her inside the kitchen, and as Ora stumbled across the stone floor, Berengar’s hand shot out to steady her. The Magus turned to leave but then paused. “I understand that you are a talented mage, Berengar.”
“That is too generous, but yes, I have studied under several Elders.” As he spoke, Ora pulled her arm away from his grip, and he eyed her hand. It was nothing more than a flicker, but she saw the disgust in his eyes.
“I imagine you did not come here to be a kitchen master, then.”
Voice steady, he said, “No, but I did not want to argue with the Magus on my first day.”
“Elder Kavyn spoke for you. Consider your position as kitchen master temporary.”
Before he could thank her, Tyg left. In a few swift steps, she vanished from the courtyard, the elk cloak trailing behind her.
Once they were alone, Berengar turned to Ora and said, “Let me see your hand. I can’t regrow a finger, but I can heal what’s left.”
Ora said nothing. She was afraid she would melt into tears if she did. Instead, she let Berengar take her hand into his own. He chanted the healing spell with a low, gentle voice. At first, she felt only an intense warmth, but then, the pain dissolved. The swelling went down. The skin scarred over.
It took less time to heal than the gashes along Cyn’s back. When he finished, he cleaned away the leftover grime with a damp cloth and clicked his tongue. “This was beginning to fester,” he said. “What happened?”
Ora held her hand against her chest, relieved to be free of the pain that had kept her awake through most of the night. “I ran into Tyg before I could reach the crossing.”
“And she saw it fit to take a finger. I shouldn’t be surprised. Tyg Marigen is known for her ruthlessness.” He leaned against the worktable, produced his pipe, and then lit the bowl with an effortless spell. Smoke curled from his lips as he spoke. “Do not lose heart, little twig. There is a saying where I come from. Nosos kiv moria kiv erasi. Nothing about fate is certain.”
The unfamiliar language he spoke sparked the beginning of a realization. She studied him, piecing together fragments of memories and conversations. “Where do you come from, Berengar?” she asked.
“Tell me, Ora, do you find it easy to speak of home?”
She answered with a meaningful silence.
“Then you understand.” He pointed to the boiling pot with the stem of his pipe. “Give that a stir, please.”
She took up the big wooden spoon and swirled it through the thick stew. “You’re a sylv, aren’t you?” she asked and glanced at him to gauge his reaction.
He blew out a cloud of smoke and then drew close enough to whisper into her ear. “I am more than that. I am the Magus’s greatest fear.”
The idea that Tyg could fear anything summoned a small, wicked smile. “And what would that be?”
Berengar met Ora’s gaze with a dark, prideful stare and said, “An alchemist.”
“An alchemist? So, you alter metals?” Her smile faltered, and she blinked. “Why would Tyg be afraid of that?”
“No. Alchemy is more than that. It’s complex magic.” He paused to puff at his pipe, then asked, “What do you know of Tyg Marigen’s past?”
The question was unexpected. She shrugged, feigning indifference, though he had sparked her curiosity. “I know she’s the Magus, and most everyone I’ve met is wary around her.”
“Yes, she does have a reputation, but that’s not what I meant.” He kept his voice low and his gaze fixed on the courtyard in case anyone passed through. “The Magus’s father was once the Valor as well as the previous king’s most trusted advisor. He was behind much of the animosity toward the sylv, and when they captured him in battle, they sent Tirnan a message.”
“What kind of message?” she pressed.
“His reanimated corpse,” he said, voice hard and cold. “I have heard it said that little Tyg could not stop screaming when she saw him.”
She shivered and inched away from Berengar. “That’s terrible.”
“War is terrible,” he said. “The fae of Mysanhal committed many atrocities as well, but they refuse to see their own cruelty. They burned our libraries and universities to the ground. They tortured and killed our masters. They even destroyed our god.”
Ora’s eyes widened, and she could not stop herself from interrupting. “Is that possible? Destroying a god?”
“Oh yes,” he mused, a new plume of smoke unfurling from his lips. “You must know what it’s like to have everything taken from you.”
Though she sensed there was more to the story, his words tugged at her heart. She gently touched his arm, and he gazed down at her with a mild look of surprise. “Not in the same way. But I know I would do anything for my home and family.”
He smiled sadly. “As would I,” he said, closing his hand over hers. “Now, we should not speak of this anymore. We’ll find ourselves in trouble.”
She winced. “Yes, I have a talent for that.”