Lord Mechnes set his hard gaze upon Adiana. “And who are you?”
“My name is Adiana.”
“You are Maga Eolyn’s scullery maid?”
She swallowed, bit her lip. Adiana had learned how to lie during her youth in Selkynsen, after her parents were killed and she fled to the piers. Lies must be presented on a bed of truth, or they lose their seductive power. “No, I am not a servant. I am a musician from Selkynsen. Maga Eolyn brought me to Moehn to teach music to her students.”
“Music?” A smirk broke upon the commander’s face. He seemed genuinely surprised. “What interest do magas have in music?”
She searched for her breath. “Music is also magic, according to the traditions of Moisehén. It’s a form of Primitive Magic, the oldest and most sacred of all. Magas and mages use music in their ceremonies, their spells, sometimes even in their healing.”
“So you are a maga?”
“No, I’m not a maga.” The thought came, terrible and unbidden, that now she would never be. “I simply play music.”
“Then she was trying to protect you by saying you were a scullery maid? How curious.” He draped one end of the bloodied cloth over the woman’s disfigured face. “I can assure you a musician will find a much better place among the Syrnte than a scullery maid.”
“I don’t intend to find a place among the Syrnte.” Her breath stalled under the look he gave her, a strange mixture of amusement and menace. “What I mean is, my home is here, in Moisehén, not with the Syrnte.”
“It’s all one kingdom now. Or perhaps better stated, will be soon.” He nodded to the guards. “Unbind this woman.”
In an instant, the cords that secured her wrists were removed. Adiana cradled her hands against her breast, rubbing the places where the leather straps had left her skin raw.
Mechnes closed the distance between them in two strides.
“You will have to find a place among us, Adiana, or you will perish. That is the way of conquest.” He took her hands in his and studied them carefully, strong fingers tracing the fine delicate length of her own. “What do you play?”
Adiana’s skin crawled at the intimacy of his touch. His aroma was sharp, like coals on the hearth, and laced with the smell of blood. She wanted desperately to look elsewhere, but could not. Mechnes’s massive frame filled her vision; his presence, at once sinister and magnetic, demanded all her attention.
“The cornamuse.” Her voice had dropped to a nervous whisper. “The dulcimer, and the lute, the short wood, as well. Among others.”
He pressed her hands between his. Adiana was visited by the sudden image of him snapping her fingers one by one, as if they were nothing more than dry twigs.
“I see you are telling the truth, in this much at least,” he said. “You have beautiful hands, Adiana. We must be grateful they were not damaged during the attack on Maga Eolyn’s Aekelahr. And we must also hope they will come to no harm here, under my care.”
A heavy silence followed. Adiana understood the unspoken threat that hovered between them. Who else would he ask? The children, the survivors of the siege, the members of Lord Felton’s household, if any of them still lived. What would Adiana’s deception gain for Eolyn in the end—fifteen minutes? Half an hour? It did not matter. Every additional moment could mean the difference between Eolyn’s escape and her death. Adiana had already lost one friend tonight. She would not betray the other.
She lowered her eyes and held her tongue.
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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