Chapter the Tenth
I’ll just get the car, Priscilla. . .” Shan was out of the room before she could offer to go with him. Val Con, sorting the gaming pieces over near the fireplace shook his head.
“It’s been a harried day,” she told him, and herself.
She drifted over to the table, began to gather the red counters and rattle them into the appropriate bag.
“I wanted to thank you,” she said softly. “It was kind to order gingerbread for dessert. It’s Gordy’s favorite.”
A startled flash of green eyes, followed by a slight smile. “Bravery must be rewarded, after all. And he was quite courageous this evening.”
“A kindness followed by a kindness,” Priscilla pursued. “You don’t have to teach him to swim.”
“No, of course I must. He is of Korval, through fostering and through blood. How could I withhold a skill that may save his life?”
She blinked down at him. “That’s right. I’d forgotten. You’re the Korval, arent’ you?”
“Ah, no, not yet. Nova is Korval-in-Trust and wears the Ring.” He swayed close, smiling up into ebon eyes.
Flash of intense desire; flare of outrage — she threw up a barrier before either won free and drew back, face rigid.
The lithe body swayed away; green eyes still intent on hers.
“What is Shan thinking of?” His voice was nearly a whisper. “Why?”
“Why?” She picked up a spell-beat; hurled the words at him like stones. “You ask why? Because of melant’i. Because the ship must be safe. Becasue the people must have justice. Because hte Captain is ultimate and the First Mate, too. Because there must never be confusion, or doubt. Because –“
“Stop it.” Sharp and quiet, slicing across the savage rhythm of the spell. “You will not weave that net for me, Priscilla.”
“And you will not take unjust advantage; shame me. . .”
“Ah.” He touched her sleeve lightly. “I intended neither of those. Forgive me, friend. I required information.”
“You could have asked!” she snapped.
“Which I did. And learned what was learned. That I discomforted you grieves me more than you will believe. How shall I bring us into Balance?”
She stared at him a long time, searching every nuance of face and posture, too shaken yet to attempt a scan.
“Take care of Gordy,” she said finally.
“I will do that in any case,” he chided. “This lies between you and I, Priscilla. I value your friendship and would not lose it. What must I do in payment?”
Another pause, not as lengthy as the first.
“Don’t do it again.”
“Ask for a kiss?”
“Yes.” She spoke around an inner trembling that was partly anger, yet made up of several components. “Don’t ask me for a kiss again.”
Val Con bowed. “My word on it.”
She gave an abrupt nod. “Thank you. Good night.” Turning, she stalked toward the door.
“Rest you well, Priscilla,” he called after her, voice lilting in the Low Tongue, in the mode between friends.
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Shan beckoned and she went to him with joy, open to his inner beauty, fingers questing toward the beloved, familiar face — which faded, shifted, became golden and beautiful, and the body, still lithe, but whip-thin, flicker-quick — Val Con, she realized, heart pounding, and he was gone at the instant of recognition and it was soft Rusty Morgenstern, mustache scratching her cheek, arms tight around her, body pressing close — and shrinking, to become Lina, raising her mouth to be kissed, honey eyes glowing, darkening, slanting, hair going from brown to lightless black, face masculine and Liaden-smooth, calloused pilot’s fingers lifting with a thrill of daring to the line of her jaw —
The dream shattered and she was sitting upright in bed, cushions in disarray, heart thumping, while the echo of her voice rolled away from the walls of the sleeping room, ensuring wakefulness.
She slammed out of bed, lights coming up as she whirled with angry dancer’s grace to the mirror.
“You! Shan and Val Con and Rusty and Lina and Mich — Why not Gordy? Why not Ken Rik? Or Anthora? You name yourself Soulweaver? You dare lay your hands on the magic? Control? A novice has more! A child not yet in Circle has more!” She leaned against the wall, suddenly done with anger.
Vivid, she recalled the snarl of Shan’s jealousy. Recalled that he had shut himself away from her, that she not hear his pain over Fin Ton.
Mother, this will make us mad.
Better to go to him now, offer and receive every pleasure.
. . .and lock herself away from him forever, dashing the dream of years-long partnership. . .Her heart clutched in terror.
“Goddess, help me.”
No answer. Of course, no answer. Ridiculous to think the Goddess might take a hand in this comedy between a wayward daughter and a man who did not Know Her. Priscilla pushed away from the wall, groping toward the cleanbot and her clothes.
Before the inner eye there turned — a device.
Priscilla brought it closer, expanded her attention, called other senses, nearly forgotten, into the scanning.
Energy must go somewhere. Energy may be channeled. The bst use of energy is learning. The Witches of Sintia had devised many ways of teaching, that Initiates might learn and consume energy usefully.
The most successful hung before — within — her now. A Tutor, implaned at some time by a Wife or Witch, dormant until called into use.
“Thank you, Mother.”
Carefully, working with half-faded memories, Priscilla began to activate salvation.
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Want to know the backstory? Read the Introduction
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