Chapter Eighteen

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          The nomads danced and spun around the fire, laughing and singing. A collection gathered to the right, the sound of their instruments climbed into the rising night. Each of them smiled wide, some singing in tune to the joyous sound in a language Siobhan didn't understand. Each night was like that at a nomad camp. They sang to give thanks to their scores for the day, thanks to the life given by the Goddess herself. But mostly they sang as an excuse to get blackout drunk. There were times when Siobhan found their joyousness annoying, nobody could be that thankful for surviving each day, but that night it was a distraction. A welcome one at that. The waiting was starting to grate even on her nerves. She didn't know what they would find in the spires, but with the sun fully set she was ready to get it over with.

Siobhan sipped on her ale, smiling at the man sitting on the other side of the fire. He had a ruggedness to him Siobhan admired, even if he wore clothes that were so full of holes they could barely still be called clothes. The scruff of his beard, the dark green of his eyes, and judging by the fact he hadn't taken his eyes off her since she sat at the fire he could easily become hers with the single flick of her finger. It was a tempting offer to fall to the prey of the seduction in his eyes. She took another sip and intentionally allowed ale to drip to her chest. The man rubbed his hands together as she wiped the alcohol off her cleavage and licked her fingers.

"I swear to the Goddess, if you make me wait so you can have a romp in the woods with a nomad," Wren said, sitting beside her, "I will never forgive you."

"Relax. If that was my intention, I'd already be rolling around with him and exerting some energy." She tore her eyes from her desire and looked to Wren. "Doesn't mean I can't tease a little. Some men make it so easy. Some women too for that matter. It's like sex drips off some people and they'll clog up if they don't do it nightly."

He leaned forward, staring at the fire. Wind did little to move the tangled strands of hair hanging in his face. The heavy cloak Elias traded for him hung tight around his shoulders, the cloth mask lay loose against his chest. She touched a hand to the mask. It wasn't thick by any stretch, but would aid him in keeping his face warm in addition to hiding most of it from nosey eyes unless asked to remove it. She thought that was a wise choice by Elias. Her fingers twisted in the fabric before letting it drop.

"Should I be wearing the mask?" he asked.

"Nay. Nomads don't put much value in coins. They'd have no need to turn you in for a reward. Coins to them are a means to trade and that's it. If there's any place in Wyvernton your safe, it's here. Though keep it on you at all times to be safe."

"That's what Elias said. Same with the Changeling potion." Wren tapped his side. "I have that in my pocket."

"Where is our Aquantian friend?"

"He's unhooking the horses in case we need to ditch the wagon for a fast get away."

"As soon as he gets here, we'll go to the lake and see what the status is at the spires."

Wren didn't respond. He stared into the flames, his eyes were frozen as the fire danced in the night. His breathing slowed, tongue dragged against his lips, both hands flinched against his knees. She recognized the magic hunger. It was a pull stronger than any gust of wind, a desire greater than lust. Siobhan lost track at how many snowstorms left her far too excited for any normal person.

"Make the flames move," she whispered.

"Huh?" Wren didn't take his eyes off the fire.

"Use your power to make the flames dance, shift, something. Give yourself a release and the pull will lessen. Though do keep it small. While the nomads are drunk and distracted, they're not so distracted they won't notice if the flame gets bigger or act in an abnormal fashion."

"This is ridiculous." He tucked his hands under his armpits, turning away from the flames. She giggled and waited.

When first learning to control their powers, there was no amount of willpower that could keep the user from unleashing that magic if there was something calling to it. Wren could try, but he would fail. He closed his eyes, grunting. Veins bulged in both temples as his face reddened. Siobhan leaned forward, resting an elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand. She continued to watch him as his legs bounced in place.

"One," she said, tapping her fingers against her cheek.

Wren rocked back and forth, releasing his hands and pressing them flat against the log.

"Two." Siobhan studied the fingernails of her free hand, grimacing at the dirt trapped underneath. Gone were the signs of the rose bath at Rosie's. Now she was as filthy as any nomad. She didn't need to look at Wren again. His rapid grunts told the story. "Three."

"I hate you," he snapped.

Siobhan turned her attention to the fire, smiling as the flames twisted into each other. Their movement was natural, like the wind had simply grabbed the fire and coiled it together. They crackled and snapped, braiding into each other and releasing. She glanced to Wren. His face had softened, one hand pointed toward the fire, low to his side so nobody else would notice unless they were studying him far too closely.

"Feel better?"

He nodded.

"Then you shouldn't hate me. You're going to feel that pull any time we're near a fire, possibly other times as well. If you try to resist it, it may very well explode on you. Find a way to give it a subtle release until the High Mages can train you."

"Why would they train me if I'm not a mage?"

"The High Mages aid any in the lowlands with magic. Raiven is a safe haven for us all. When humans would gladly poison us with Crystillium and feed us to the Vanguard generals, those in Raiven understand we're not evil simply because we can cast. It's a city founded by magic and protected by magic. The High Mages have gone to great care to create a haven for others here in the lowlands. Many human sympathizers live there as well."

Wren nodded and sighed. "Have you ever been in the spires?"

"Once. When I was an apprentice with Master we came to Wyvernton. It was my first, though I've only been here three times counting now, and he decided what better way to test my skills as a thief then to break into what's considered one of the most impenetrable structures in all the lowlands. Sadly, he didn't realize that would be a mistake."

"Why?"

"Because magic doesn't work in the spires, not unless you're a Vanguard mage with the bracelet. Not that my magic is what made me a decent thief in my time, it wasn't, but in a pinch it helped immensely. Whenever we found a lock that was impossible to pick, I simply had to freeze it and that was that. In the spires, we found many doors we couldn't unlock and came away with nothing for our troubles. Master had to keep a heavy supply of Changeling potion on hand, but my magic was still a great aid. He was the only human I have ever let see the real me."

"And what does that mean?"

Siobhan chuckled. "You'll see."

"

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