“The Queen is with child.” Renate stepped forward, her sharp tone a fine match for that hawkish face. “She is about two months along, my Lord King. This is the primary reason for her indisposition.”
Felton clapped his hands in joy. “Praise the Gods!”
Akmael watched Eolyn. She did not return his gaze but instead studied her hands, working restlessly against each other. The memory of their recent nights stirred inside him, like wind through the high branches of an ancient fir, beautiful and poignant. Ephemeral in time, enduring in the imagination.
“We would recommend the Queen return to the King’s City as soon as possible,” continued Renate, shoulders stiff and back as straight as an arrow. “Preferably by litter. She should not mount a horse again, not until the baby comes to term. Do you not agree, Maga Eolyn?”
Eolyn blinked at the sound of her name and nodded. “Yes, of course. She requires a warmer climate and the comfort of her home, if the baby is to come to term successfully.”
Akmael turned to Felton. “Have a litter readied by morning, and send a messenger at once to the City to advise High Mage Rezlyn. He is to meet us in Rhiemsaven. We will send her by royal barge from there to Moisehén.”
“As you wish, my Lord King.” Felton bowed and started down the hall, muttering his list of tasks and marking them on chubby fingers.
Akmael turned his attention back to Eolyn and Renate. The High Maga had retreated to her own thoughts, while the older woman watched him with arched brows and an unabashed stare.
“It would seem the Queen disposed of the herbs we sent the other day,” Renate said, “an unfortunate decision as they would have been of great help to her now.”
“We will gather additional medicines this afternoon and have a fresh bundle sent by evening.” Eolyn spoke as if measuring her words to soften Renate’s accusatory tone. “The Queen must make use of them, otherwise it will be a hard journey from here to Rhiemsaven.”
“I will see it done,” Akmael replied.
Eolyn nodded. Her hand drifted to her throat and found the silver web at its base, a jewel of magic that he had given to her long ago. “I suppose we are finished here, then. If it pleases you, my Lord King, Renate and I will take our leave.”
“Maga Renate is dismissed. I would have a word with you alone, Maga Eolyn, before you depart.”
Renate set her lips in a firm line, and directed a questioning gaze at her companion.
Eolyn’s shoulders deflated, but she laid a hand on the old maga’s arm and said, “Find Sir Borten and have him prepare the horses, would you, Renate? You can wait for me in the courtyard. I won’t be a moment.”
Renate gave a stiff bow and departed.
Akmael drew close to Eolyn and invoked a sound ward about them. She did not retreat, nor did she move to touch him. In her fingers she cradled the jewel woven by his mother, the silver web that had brought them together as children in the South Woods. It seemed a lifetime ago, a world forever lost.
A quiet sob broke on her lips. “I have been such a fool.”
“I was the one who overstepped my bounds. Forgive me, Eolyn. It was not my intention—”
“I am not speaking of these nights, recently passed.” Her hand found his, their fingers intertwined. “I walked away from you, my love. I turned my back on this gift the Gods had given us, because I was frightened—so very terrified—and of what? Of you? All you ever did was love me. ”
“I was not so perfect in my affection.”
“You were my only Caradoc. I see that now, and it is too late.”
Her words felt small inside the growing void of his soul, though they would have filled him with pleasure just a few years before. He touched her cheek and then drew her into his embrace, inhaling the honey-and-wood scent of her hair. A verse came to mind from his childhood days, a song his mother had sung, and he recited it now as he held Eolyn close. “Caradoc waited for his one true love, withstanding the tides of tempest and sun. Caradoc defied the cruel threats of time, and received his Aithne when her journey was done.”
Eolyn laughed into his chest, a bright sound that invoked images of the sun-flecked woods. She withdrew and looked at him, a mischievous glint in her brown eyes. “That mage had no crown upon his fair head. A King needs an heir before he is dead.”
The improvised verse amused him, but even as he allowed himself a smile the merriment drained from her features.
Her eyes drifted toward Taesara’s room, and she murmured, “I would have born your children with love. Just as she will do, I could have done—that, and so much more.”
Akmael felt something rupture inside, an old wound he now knew would never heal.
“I should leave,” she said, but her lips met his instead.
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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