Home > Magic Study (Study #2)(4)

Magic Study (Study #2)(4)
Author: Maria V. Snyder

Great. My luck was holding steady. I had thought my troubles were over when I had left the Territory of Ixia. Why should any of this surprise me? While all the other Sitians lived in villages on the ground, my family resided in the trees. I studied Leif, searching for a resemblance. His stocky muscular build and square face stood out compared to the rest of the lithe clan. Only his black hair and green eyes matched my own features.

During the awkward moments that followed, I wished for an invisibility spell, and reminded myself to ask Irys if there were such a spell.

An older woman about my height approached us. As she neared she shot Leif a powerful glance, and he hung his head. Without warning, she embraced me. I flinched for a heartbeat, uncertain. Her hair smelled like lilacs.

“I’ve wanted to do this for fourteen years,” she said, hugging me tighter. “How my arms have ached for my little girl.”

Those words transported me back in time, shrunk me down into a six-year-old child. Wrapping my arms around this woman, I bawled. Fourteen years without a mother had made me believe I could be stoic when I finally met her. During the journey south, I had imagined I would be curious and unemotional. Nice to make your acquaintance, but we really need to get to the Citadel. But I was woefully unprepared for the torrent of emotions that racked my body. I clung to her as if she alone kept me from drowning.

From a distance, I heard Bavol Cacao. “Everyone get back to work. The Fourth Magician is our guest. We need a proper feast for tonight. Petal, make up the guest rooms. We’ll need five beds.”

The buzz of voices filling the common area disbursed. The room was almost empty when the woman—my mother—released me from her arms. It was still difficult to match her oval face to the title of “Mother.” After all, she might not be my real mother. And if she were, did I have the right to call her by that name after so many years away?

“Your father will be so pleased,” she said. She pulled a strand of black hair from her face. Streaks of gray painted her long braids, and her pale green eyes shone with unshed tears.

“How do you know?” I asked. “I may not be your—”

“Your soul fits the void in my soul perfectly. I’ve no doubt you’re mine. I hope you’ll call me Mother, but if you can’t you can call me Perl.”

I wiped at my face with the handkerchief Irys handed me. Glancing around, I looked for my father. Father. Another word that threatened to ruin what little dignity I had remaining.

“Your father’s out collecting samples,” Perl said, seeming to read my mind. “He’ll be back as soon as word reaches him.” Perl turned her head. I followed her gaze and saw Leif standing near us; his arms crossed over his chest and his hands bunched into fists. “You’ve met your brother. Don’t just stand there, Leif. Come give your sister a proper greeting.”

“I can’t stand the smell,” he said. He turned his back on us and stalked away.

“Don’t mind him,” my mother said. “He’s overly sensitive. He had trouble dealing with your disappearance. He was blessed with strong magic, but his magic is…” She paused. “Unique. He can sense where and what a person has been doing. Not specifics, but general feelings. The Council calls on him to help solve crimes and disputes, and to determine if a person is guilty or not.” She shook her head. “Those Zaltanas with magical powers have unusual abilities. What about you, Yelena? I feel the magic coursing through you.” A brief smile touched her lips. “My own limited ability. What is your talent?”

I glanced at Irys for help.

“Her magic was forced from her and was uncontrolled until recently. We have yet to determine her specialty.”

Color drained from my mother’s face. “Forced?”

I touched her sleeve. “It’s all right.”

Perl bit her lip. “Could she flame out?” she asked Irys.

“No. I have taken her under my wing. She has gained some measure of control. Although, she must come to the Magician’s Keep so I can teach her more about her magic.”

My mother grabbed my arms hard. “You must tell me everything that has happened to you since you were taken from us.”

“I…” A trapped feeling seized my throat.

Bavol Cacao stepped to my rescue. “The Zaltanas are honored that you have chosen one of ours as your student, Fourth Magician. Please let me escort your party to your rooms so you may freshen up and rest before the feast.”

Relief coursed through me, although the determined set to my mother’s jaw warned that she was not yet finished with me. Her grip tightened when Irys and the three girls moved to follow Bavol Cacao to our rooms.

“Perl, you’ll have plenty of time to spend with your daughter,” he said. “She’s home now.”

She released me, stepping back. “I’ll see you tonight. I’ll ask your cousin, Nutty, to lend you some decent clothes for the feast.”

I grinned as we worked our way to the guest rooms. With all that had happened today, my mother had still managed to notice the clothes I wore.

The feast that night began as a sedate dinner, but then transformed into a party despite the fact that I might have offended my hosts by first tasting the many fruit dishes and seasoned cold meats for poisons before I ate. Old habits die hard.

The night air filled with the scent of burning citronella mixed with a damp earthy smell. After the meal, various Zaltanas pulled out musical instruments made of bamboo and twine, some jumped up to dance and others sang with the music. All the while, petite furry valmurs swung from the ceiling rafters and hopped from table to table. Some of my cousins had made pets of them. Splashes of black and white and orange and brown sat on their shoulders and heads. Other valmurs tumbled in the corners or stole food from the tables. May and the twins were delighted with the animals’ long-tailed antics. Gracena tried to tempt a little tan-and-gold valmur to eat from her hand.

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