Eolyn paced the room, fingering the jewel around her neck, a finely woven net of silver encrusted with crystal and hung on a long chain, a gift given her long ago by the King. She stopped and looked at her friend, dark eyes haunted with regret. “What have I done, Adiana? I turned away the man I love, and for what? I keep telling myself there were so many reasons, and they all seemed so important at the time, but now I can’t recall any of them. Not a one.”
“You refused him because you are one of the few women in the kingdom with the wisdom and courage to say ‘no’ to a king,” Adiana replied. “You’re a maga, Eolyn. You’re not meant to walk in the shadow of any man. Did you not see the Queen when they arrived in Moehn? She’s pretty enough, but drawn tight around the edges, with those stiff shoulders and that peaked face and tense eyes. Not even twenty, and already she’s growing old. Is that the life you wanted for yourself? To follow him like a well-dressed mouse, your worth measured by the sons you bear?”
“Akmael would have never—”
“It doesn’t matter what he would have done. It’s the nature of nobility. Even he can’t change that.” Adiana nodded at the tea. “You’d better drink that before it gets cold. I don’t want to spend what’s left of my morning mixing potions.”
Eolyn stared at the cup and shook her head.
Foreboding crept into Adiana’s heart. “Oh, no. Don’t you dare even consider it.”
“I can’t drink this. The thought of rejecting his seed is repulsive to me.”
“Why?” Adiana threw up her hands, perplexed. “You’ve used this potion a hundred times, when you were with the King after your brother’s defeat, and prior to that, with your lover Tahmir—”
“It doesn’t matter. It was right then. It feels wrong now.” Eolyn rested one hand protectively over her abdomen, as if a child of the Mage King had already taken root there.
With an audible groan, Adiana pulled her friend to a stool and sat her down. She took a place in front of the maga and looked hard into her eyes.
“Eolyn, let me tell you something about nobility, speaking as a dear friend who has watched those vipers from the time she was very young. They are just like merchants, only more ruthless and arrogant, convinced the Gods have given them license to do whatever they please. If a child of the King should grow in your womb, all the nobles of the realm will set their eyes on Moehn, to see what meat they can take from this situation, what marrow they can suck from its bones.”
“No one need know who the father is.”
“How will they not know? The King himself will claim this child. It’s not as if you’re some village wench in whom he has taken a passing fancy. You are a High Maga, the only one left in the kingdom. You are also his first love, and everyone knows it, though no one speaks of it.”
Eolyn bit her lip and glanced away, fingers clutched tight around the silver pendant. “I must have some part of him, Adiana, something that can stay with me, someone I can love and protect. I would not ask for anything from the King. Nothing. You know that.”
Adiana extricated Eolyn’s fingers from the jewel and held the maga’s hands in hers, tone gentle yet resolute. “But the King would ask much of you.”
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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