King of Sword and Sky

Page 3


"Oh, Papa," Ellysetta breathed.
" 'Tis the most beautiful sight I've ever seen," Sol Baristani agreed in a whisper as he sat beside his daughter on the wagon seat, a lit match held, forgotten, over the tobacco-filled bowl of his favorite pipe.
Together, father and daughter stared in awestruck wonder at the majestic peaks filling the horizon.
At first glance, the mountains almost appeared to be a single range, but Ellysetta knew from the countless histories she'd read that they were actually two separate mountain ranges. The fierce Rhakis arrowed down from the north, nearly colliding with the stately swells of the Silvermist range. Only a scant mile separated the two, an infamous pass known as the Garreval, gateway to the Fading Lands.
Misty clouds swirled across forested cliffs and steep highland pastures of the Silvermist mountains. The clouds hovering over the Rhakis were less gentle, dark with rain and boiling into lightning-shot thunderheads as the sharp peaks continued northward towards Eld. Those soft clouds and fierce storms merged into a dense, shimmering fog that filled the pass between the two ranges, and Ellysetta gave a small shiver at the sight.
The Faering Mists. The magical barrier that surrounded the Fading Lands, impenetrable to all but the Fey.
The match Sol held over the tobacco-filled bowl of his pipe burned down unnoticed until the heat burned his fingers. "Sweet brightness!" he yelped. Hissing, he shook the match out, tossed the blackened remains over the edge of the wagon, and blew on his stinging fingers.
Ellie turned, trying to stifle her laughter as she reached for his hand. This wasn't the first time her father had seared his hands on a matchstick. It wouldn't be the last. His attention was too easily caught by some real or imagined beauty—often while he held a lit match in his hand, thanks to his fondness for his pipe.
"I'm all right, Ellie-girl," Sol protested when she took his hand.
"I know, Papa, but Marissya says I should practice whenever I get the opportunity." She held her father's hand in hers and focused on the reddened flesh, trying to block out the flood of thoughts and emotions that poured into her mind when she touched his skin.
Love. Worry. Instinctive fear, tinged with guilt. He still wasn't comfortable with the shining brightness and palpable magic of the beautiful stranger sitting beside him.
Ellie forced back the stab of pain his fear caused and tried to focus her thoughts the way Marissya v'En Solande, the Fey's most powerful healer, had shown her. Throughout the weeklong westward journey across Celieria, Marissya had spent several bells each day with Ellysetta, teaching her how to wield her own powerful healing magic.
Though Ellysetta still had much to learn, she now understood on a conscious level the basic patterns of the healing weaves she'd been unconsciously spinning all her life. Marissya assured her she'd soon be able to summon and spin those weaves on demand, using only the amount of power needed to weave them, but restraint was something Ellie still had difficulty mastering. The powerful, hidden barriers that had kept her magic bottled up were gone now, and the weaves she'd once spun with such subtlety now surged forth at her call like a river gushing through a shattered dam.
Remembering Marissya's admonitions, Ellysetta reached down into the well of energy at her center, carefully calling forth the glowing threads of power she would need. Red Fire to draw the heat from the wound. Green Earth to heal the damaged flesh. Lavender Spirit to steal away the pain. And something else Ellysetta had discovered while observing Marissya during their lessons. A special, golden something that Marissya called a shei'dalin's love, the mysterious force that was unique to Fey women. It made all the threads of the shei'dalin's weave shimmer with a warm, golden cast. No Fey warrior could spin his magic the same way.
"It springs from the compassion and empathy of a Fey woman's heart," Marissya had told her. "It isn't a seventh branch of magic. We cannot separate it out and weave the shei'dalin's love by itself. It's just the natural way Fey women weave magic."
"And do I weave shei'dalin's love the same way?"
At that, Marissya had laughed. "Feyreisa, you do nothing the same as other Fey." Then, still smiling, she'd added, "I'm sure you must, Ellysetta, but when you weave, your magic is so bright, its power blinds me."
Now, holding Papa's hand in hers, she attempted to summon her magic and wield it with control and restraint, as Marissya had been trying to teach her.
She found the threads, wove them in a loose healing pattern, and with a gentle "push" of power, sent the weave into her father's hand. The push slammed out of her with the force of a hammer strike, her weave flaring with blinding brightness.
The startled jerk of Papa's body and sudden widening of his eyes made her grimace in dismay.
"Light save me," she muttered under her breath. Then, in a louder voice, she said, "Are you all right, Papa?"
Sol blinked several times and took cautious inventory of himself. When he didn't find any missing—or extra— appendages, he gave a smile. "Well-done, Ellie-girl. The finger's good as new." He held up his hand to show her.
Sure enough, the angry red burn on the tip of his finger was gone. But that wasn't the problem. She watched her father run his newly healed hand through his hair. His hand stopped in midmotion.
"Oh," he said. Sol Baristani was of the age when many mortal men began "thinning the forest," as Papa put it. Or, rather, he had been. Keeping his gaze fixed on her face, he patted the newly thickened growth of hair crowning his scalp. "Well … er … that's not so bad. Provided it's not some frightful shade of green." His brows drew together in mock concern, and he added in a hesitant, rather fearful tone, "Er…it's not green, is it, Ellie?"