Chapter 20

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Chapter Twenty

Kaine checked the wards around his cave for the third time in as many hours. The bands of magic were stretched thin from deflecting seeker spells, letting him know that the Master Mages were still searching for him. He wondered if they would ever give up.

He glanced at the girl sleeping in the corner and rolled his eyes. Bringing her here was a mistake. She had been ridiculously easy to control at first. A simple drudge from the kitchens, she was flattered that someone as important as him had taken the time to speak to her.

"You remind me of my sister," Kaine had said.

The girl blushed and curtsied.

"Thank you, m'lord."

Kaine smiled. The girl did not realize it, but she had just been insulted. His sister was a stupid cow.

"What is your name?" asked Kaine.

"Hazel," the girl said, blushing again.

"Let's go for a walk, Hazel. I want to show you something."

"Walk where, and show me what?"

"It's a surprise, out in the forest."

Hazel studied his face for a moment then shook her head, her face falling. "I'm not that kind of girl."

Kaine's eyebrows creased together, not understanding what she meant at first. Not what kind of girl? Then he realized she thought he was trying to make a move on her. Yuk.

"Not like that," Kaine said, barely able to hide his distaste. He forced his expression into what he thought looked like a sad, puppy-dog face and blinked his eyes. "I only wanted to show you my secret hiding place. I thought we were friends. I was even going to tell the housekeeper at the Academy of Magic about you. She's looking for new housemaids. But I guess we're not friends after all."

Hazel straightened up, looking interested.

Kaine chuckled to himself at how easy she was to manipulate. A recommendation from a mage would help her advance from working in the kitchen to becoming a housemaid. He knew the girl would not be able to resist the temptation.

"Noooo, we're friends," Hazel said, giving him a bright smile. "I'd love to see your hiding place."

Kaine plastered a fake smile on his face, all the while wondering how she could believe someone like him could be interested in friendship with someone like her.

Hazel looked nervous, but she did not say anything else as she followed Kaine to the cave where he had been living for the past month. It was not much to look at. His only furnishings were a sleeping pallet with a rough, woolen blanket for warmth, and a crude table that held a cup, plate, bowl, and candle. A few jars of elixirs and other ingredients were stacked in the recesses in the wall and his cloak, hat, and robe were tossed on the floor underneath. The Grimiore was wrapped carefully in water-resistant leather and placed on a ledge.

Kaine stopped outside of the entrance and looked at the girl. "Remember, this is a secret," he said, "You can't ever tell anyone this is here."

Hazel's voice quavered. "No m'lord, I won't tell anyone."

She took a step forward, but Kaine stopped her by grabbing her shoulder.

"I need to make sure," Kaine said.

"M'lord?"

"I need to do a quick spell to ensure your silence."
Hazel looked at him dubiously, her expression telling him that she was trying to decide whether or not to run.

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