Those of you who have read the first novel will recognize some of the characters from this scene that takes place around the hearth of the Aekelahr. Renate, a maga of the Old Orders, and Adiana, a musician from Selkynsen, have joined Eolyn in this humble but happy enterprise. Together, these women provide a new home for five young girls gifted in the ways of magic, from oldest to youngest: Sirena, Mariel, Catarina, Tasha, and Ghemena.
This scene happens early in the book, shortly before the Syrnte invasion will bring chaos into their lives.
If you'd like to know more about this companion novel to Eolyn, you can also visit the page for High Maga on this blog.
Chapter 10 (excerpt)
Adiana hovered over the breakfast table, refreshing supplies of bread, fruit, and Berenben cheese. She glanced up as Eolyn set down her satchel, winked and said, “Well, don’t you look like the maga warrior this morning, with a sword on your hip and a staff in your hand!”
There were gasps of delight and giggles from the girls, but Ghemena’s disappointed moan rose over it all. “You’re taking Kel’Baru?”
“Of course she is, child,” replied Renate. “It’s her weapon, isn’t it? She can take it wherever she pleases.”
Ghemena pushed out her lower lip in a frown.
“You should get yourself some chain mail, too,” said Adiana, “and a nice shiny helmet. And a pair of a fancy gauntlets like the ones Sir Borten had delivered from Moisehén.”
“I’d lose myself under so much metal.” Eolyn took a place at the table. and accepted the tea Renate poured for her. “I wouldn’t be able to hear anything, not the trees or the animals. Not the plants whispering on the wind, or the earth pulsing beneath them.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Adiana helped herself to a generous portion of Berenben cheese, and served Eolyn as well. “You don’t need to hear anything if you’ve got a plate of metal over your chest and a sword in your hand. That’s why men don’t bother listening. Once they’re armed, all they really need to settle an argument is a few good blows.”
“Adiana.” Eolyn’s reproach was quiet, held in the tone of her voice. She had come to accept her friend’s cynicism regarding men, and to understand its origins, but she worried the girls might pick up the musician’s constant disparaging banter.
“If you’re taking Kel’Baru, you should take all of us!” Ghemena blurted. “Catarina and Tasha want to go, too.”
At once the three youngest sprang upon Eolyn with wide suffering eyes.
“She’s right, Maga Eolyn. Please take us along!”
“There’ll be nothing to do here when you’re gone.”
“What do you mean there’ll be nothing to do?” Eolyn threw up her hands in mock irritation. “All of you have spells I expect you to master before we return. Maga Renate and Mistress Adiana will have plenty of lessons and chores for you. Your days will be very full. Even if they weren't, a maga is never bored, because her joy--”
“--comes from the endless renewal of the earth itself,” they recited in unison, before breaking into exaggerated groans and sighs.
“We’re going to make pies, breads, and jellies.” Adiana draped her arms around the young girls’ shoulders and spoke into their ears with a mischievous grin. “We’ll eat all the sweets we want while Maga Eolyn’s away.”
“That’s not true.” Ghemena shrugged her off, indignant. “You said that the last time she left, and it wasn’t true then, either.”
“Well you caught me in the act, didn’t you? Clever girl!” Adiana seized Ghemena and tickled her without mercy. “Now you know not to listen to my promises. And it’s a good lesson that one, never believe a promise.”
Squealing, the girl wriggled out of Adiana’s grasp and darted around the table, taking shelter beside Eolyn. Her small body heaved with breathless laughter as the maga pulled her close. The girl wrapped her arms around Eolyn’s waist.
“I want to go with you to the South Woods,” she said.
Eolyn’s heart wavered, overtaken by a sudden nostalgia, the intense joy of companionship intermingled with the haunting sense that everything she most loved in life was constantly slipping away.
“You will.” She looked at all of them as she spoke. “When Melanie, Sirena, and I return, we will organize another trip for everyone. We will journey to the South Woods together, and we will dance with the trees under the light of the next full moon.”
They cheered and clapped and set to work clearing the table.