“I speak in earnest, Renate.” Adiana’s words were slurred by drink. “Borten would be an excellent suitor for Eolyn. He’s good man, a considerate lover—”
Wine escaped Renate’s lips in a sputtering laugh. “How would you know Borten’s a considerate lover?”
Adiana shrugged. “I can see it in his face.”
Renate let go a high pitched cackle and shook her head. “See it in his face? I’ll wager you’ve seen more than his face. You’ve been restless as a lynx in heat since Eostar.”
Adiana gave a mock cry of protest and struck Renate playfully on the shoulder. “How dare you! One does not have to be a maga to see into the hearts of men. I learned a few things working the taverns in Selkynsen, you know. I can read a man as surely as Eolyn reads her books.”
“As surely as Eolyn reads her books in bed,” Renate replied in crisp tones.
Adiana flopped back on the blanket with an indignant harrumph. They had settled in the courtyard for an evening of wine and companionship, after having tucked the girls into bed. Days had passed since Eolyn departed for the South Woods, and the week would likely see its end before she returned.
“And you accuse me of inventing stories and gossip!” Adiana complained. “Even if I had ‘read Borten in bed’, what would it matter? The magas always had untamed teachings with respect to that sort of thing. Isn’t aen-lasati the source of a woman’s greatest magic? I swear to the Gods, Renate, sometimes you seem too much of a prude to be a maga.”
A prude. Renate rolled the word over her tongue as she swirled the wine in her cup. Yes, that’s what she was. Tight inside, dry as autumn leaves underfoot. Forever bound by the failures and disillusions of her past. “The Magas of the Old Orders were disciplined women, not harlots at a summer festival. To lay claim to their understanding ofaen-lasati while ignoring all their other teachings does their memory a disservice. It’s precisely that sort of myth that led us to the pyres in the first place.”
“Oh, Renate.” Adiana groaned, sat up, and reached for the wine skin. “Why must you take everything so seriously? It’s finished, remember? The war, the purges, the rebellion, the prohibition. We’re free now. The magas have been restored to their rightful place in Moisehén. We’ve got a proper Aekelahr, aspiring young magas, the protection of the Mage King, and a nice little regiment of handsome guards. Even you could have some fun, you know.”
The thought of her tired old body wrapped around one of the King’s men made Renate giggle until the giddiness shook her ribs and broke upon her lips.
“That’s the spirit!” said Adiana. “Here, have some more wine. And tell me, which one of the guards do you like the most?”
“Oh, for the love of the Gods, Adiana!” Renate was laughing uncontrollably now, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I am an old woman.”
“Age is meaningless for a true maga. That’s what Eolyn says.” Adiana rested her head on Renate’s shoulder.
The older woman returned her warm embrace, inhaling the sweet smells of night mingled with Adiana’s vibrant aroma, of primrose and summer winds, of the riverside city that had once been her home. She envied her friend in that moment, not so much for her youth and beauty, but for her continued faith in the possibility that anything could be finished. Someday time and experience would break that faith. Desire and loss, terror and death, treachery and abandonment, all of it stayed with a person until the end of her days, animating the shadows at night, invading dreams, stealing away tranquility in the lonely hours before dawn.
“I love this moment.” Adiana sighed and lifted her cup to the sky. “When the wine makes the stars shine brighter than ever. Gods bless the vineyards of Selkynsen!”
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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