Oma Weir is a hermit by her own making. After her husband died, she was determined to need no one and nothing. However, fate has set a different path for the woman, and when Cayden Quirie shows up at her door, she knows the path she has dreamt is before her. Unfortunately, that path will lead to death and destruction, something every magic wielder tries to avoid.
“You should let him in. See what he has to say. What is the harm?” whispered Galeru in her ear.
She gave the fiery a withering look. “You know the harm,” she hissed.
“Not all who love you will die,” the fiery stated in a soft voice.
Maybe he was right—maybe this was what her real problem was with her life. She would eventually have to let someone in, as her knowledge needed to be passed to another. She would need an apprentice. Throwing open the door, she stood, took in the sight of him and realized he was not much to look at all. Not that he was ugly, but where Balin had been blonde with blue eyes, he was dark in both hair and eye. His clothes were tattered and she saw many mends in them. His hair, though pulled back, had an unkempt appearance about it. His body was on the scrawny side. If he had not had proper nutrition and exercise, it would explain his lack of muscle. Next to him was a large stack of goods.
“There seems to be more than I ordered.” She stood with hands on hips. “You might as well bring them in. You can help me put them away. Only then will I talk to you about my dead husband.”
“Yes, Mistress Weir.” His strength must be weakening as she could see what little muscle he had bulging under his thin shirt.
“Why is there so much?”
He looked up surprised. “You have not heard about the war in Nixauta?”
“The king there decided the people were not paying him his due, so civil war broke out. Master Jerund wanted to make sure you had enough for the season should he be taxed to provide for an army.”
She nodded. “Ah. I see. People are always going to war over one thing or another. What is your name, boy?”
He drew himself up. “I am no boy. I am a man full grown. My name is Cayden Quirie.”
“Well, Cayden Quirie, put your back into it. The night will be cold and there is much to do.” She turned away from him then twisted slightly to the side. “My name is Oma.” She continued on her way to the storage pantry with nary a backward glance. She could hear him struggle with the pack, knowing deep within her she should help him but could not. The situation would need some sorting if the young man were to remain. “You say there is a war going on in Nixauta?”
“Yes, Mistress. Master Jerund thought someone from there might have come to ask for your assistance.”
She cocked her head and laugh. “Now that certainly would be an interesting proposition.”
Finally, he stood next to her, breathing hard. “How so?”
She stared at him for a long moment. “You truly do not know what happened to my husband now, do you?”
“Madam, it has taken me everything to keep myself alive on this quest, let alone figure out how one single sorcerer died.”
She let out a long sigh. The boy did not know. “Nixauta is where Balin died doing the king’s bidding. Why would I want to chance the same thing?”
“I am sorry, Mistress, I did not know Master Balin’s fate. I just know when he was a very young man he visited my parents in Mordacka. He then told me I would end up here, studying under you after he had gone.”
“Did he not give you any instructions?” Confusion spread across her face.
Cayden shook his head. “No, Mistress. He just said I would know when to leave my home.”
“Do you have no family? No one who cares?” Her brows dipped together over the bridge of her nose.
He slowly shook his head. “That same king who sent Balin to his death killed most of my family when taking their land. The kin I do have cannot afford me to trouble them, which is why I came here..”
“Hmm. You know the journey is long, hard. You are past the time most apprentices come.” This would be his tell, she thought to herself sarcastically, as many of the younger generation did not want to take the time required to learn.
He moved his head from side to side. “He said you would say I was too old. He said you would have doubts.”
Oma put her hands on her hips. “And just what did he say to convince me this is the right course?”
“Two things, Mistress. One was to tell you the truth. I want to be a sorcerer. I do not want revenge for my family as there is no point. I want to learn.”
She blinked at him. Balin always did know her sensitive spots. “And the other.”
“This, Mistress.” The young man stepped closer to her. She raised her gaze, noticing his eyes held sparkles from the midnight sky. He smelled all male, sweat and heat, wrapped into one. His hands went around her head, thumbs lifting her chin even more. Her breath caught. This was the way Balin had won her heart. Leaning in, his lips took hers, gently sucking the bottom one before fully sweeping in and taking possession.
Her heart blossomed with equal amounts of joy and sorrow. It had begun.