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My Mother is a Sorceress
My mother is a sorceress. The best sorceress on Ninsee. Everyone knows the name of the sorceress Talia. My dad’s no slouch in the magic department, but it’s my mother who’s famous.
So everyone expected me to be a sorceress, too. “Carry on the family name,” they told me.
But I didn’t like magic. Why cast a spell when you could bash someone in the face? If a boy did that, everyone is okay with it. But if you’re a girl like me, it’s a crime.
Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have tracked dragon blood in on Mom’s elven-woven blue silk rug after a tournament, but I was excited! And her gal pal Zia got almost all the blood out with a spell. And I won first place!
Yeah, I had to disguise myself as a guy. That’s when I cut my hair. You should’ve seen the look on the Masters’ faces when they found out I was a girl!
As for my mom – well, she was so busy yelling at me she never got around to doing a spell to get my hair back the way it was. I was fine with that.
And I totally didn’t get into the gowns and jewelry my mom and her sorceress friends all wear. I mean, yeah, you could probably swing a sword while a skirt swirls around your ankles, but pants make it much easier to move around. And Mom gave up trying to make me wear earrings after one of her jade danglers went flying when I had to beat up a troll.
My dad stayed out of it. He was a sorcerer – one of the masters at the Mage Tower School of Magic. When Mom and I got into it he just rolled his eyes and went to his office in the Tower.
I really hated that boys can do magic and not be treated like a goblin or a fairy that’s the size of a human. Unlike the way they treated me.
“Dayna, we need to talk,” my mother said one day after summoning me to her oak paneled study. Her stone desk was covered in scrolls she was scribing. She waved a pale hand that glittered with rings towards one of her pink wingback chairs. “Please, have a seat.”
I grimaced. “Sure you want me to do that? I might get dirt on your brocade cloth.”
I had been summoned from hunting with my friend Jared, who doesn’t mind the fact I’m a girl. I felt bad about leaving – we were tracking some highwaymen that were roaming the woods near the King’s Highway – but ignoring a summons from my mom was riskier than taking on highwaymen.
But the upshot was I came into my mom’s study with leaves caught in my short dark hair, muddy boots, and a green shirt with a couple of tears in one of the sleeves. Yeah, I might’ve taken a few minutes to clean up. But she’s the one who wanted me to hurry.
My mom frowned. A gesture and a couple of words and a white cloth was draped over the chair. “Now sit. Before I make you.”
I rolled my eyes and dropped into the chair hard enough to make the legs creak, which deepened my mom’s frown. “Okay. I’m sitting. What’s up?”
With a sigh, my mom rubbed her temple. “Dayna, you’ve got to abandon this foolish notion of yours. You’re my daughter – you need to start taking up your role as a sorceress.”
“Mom, we’ve been through this,” I moaned. “I do not want to be a sorceress!”
“This is not a question of what you want!” my mother said, slapping a hand on the arm of her chair. “This is a question of what is right!”
“Why can’t I be a warrior?” I asked. “Boys can do magic – why can’t I use a sword?”
“It’s not right!”
“I’m good at it!” I said, trying to at least appear reasonable. “Jared says I’m better than some of the guys!”
My mother’s eyes narrowed. “’Jared?’”
Oops. My big mouth went and did it again. I sighed. “He’s a friend of mine, Mom. He’s a warrior and his dad is a master at the
.” School of Fighting
My mom shook her head and rubbed her face. I could tell a headache was forming – it often did when she and I had talks like this. “Dayna, women cannot be warriors. Even the masters agree with that – I doubt even Jared’s father would agree to train you, friendship notwithstanding.”
“He might if –“ I broke my sentence off. Yikes. This was not the way I’d planned to approach this.
“If?” my mother asked.
I sighed. I’d baited the enemy, might as well take my shot. “If you and Dad asked them to.”
My mother huffed. “You don’t seriously expect that to happen!”
“Mom, please!” I begged, leaning forward. A couple of brown leaves drifted from my hair to the white carpet at my feet, but I tried to ignore them. “I know what you want from me, but I can’t be that person! This is what I really, really, want to do! Please!”
My mother sat back and studied me, a thoughtful look on her face. I tried not to squirm while she sat there all quiet. Really, facing a troll or a highwayman? Much easier than talking with my mom.
“I think, Dayna,” she finally said, “that perhaps we should make this a test.”
I was instantly wary. “A test?”
“Yes,” she said. She paused a moment, then waved her hand and muttered a spell. Her blue porcelain tea set appeared on the small round table beside her, with two cups and a plate full of sugar cookies. “Have some tea and cookies, dear.”
I cocked an eyebrow. I would’ve said no but I was hungry. And Mom made awesome sugar cookies.
After I’d scarfed down two cookies and drank half my tea, my mom spoke again. “What if I spoke to the warrior masters and asked them to let you train? Would you be willing to do something for me in return?”
It couldn’t be this easy. “What – what do you want me to do?”
She smiled over her cup. “You would also train at the
. In this way you would be able to compare the
paths you have available to you.” Mage Tower
I toyed with my tea cup, chewing my lip. “How long?”
My mother looked thoughtful. “Let’s say…two months. That should be long enough, shouldn’t it? At the end of two months we could discuss your options.”
I thought about it. Two months…could I put up with learning sorcery for two months? If it meant that I could train with the warrior masters?
Something felt wrong about this. My mom was being way too accommodating. “What’s the catch?”
My mother looked hurt. “Dayna! I am a woman of my word. I promise if you agree to my terms we will revisit the question of your future at the end of two months. Do we have an agreement?”
I was still suspicious. But I couldn’t resist the thought of training – actually training – as a warrior. Whatever else she was planning, I could handle it – as long as I got my dream.
“I agree,” I said, holding out my hand with a smile. “Thanks, Mom.”
She barely touched my dirty fingers. “Now, go and clean up please, while I begin making the necessary arrangements.”
I nodded and bounced out of her study. This was going to be great!
This was a nightmare.
Okay, first off? The sorcery training? Who do these magic users think they are? My classmates kept giving me this cold look down their noses. Some of them sniffed at me, like I smelled bad.
I understand about the one day I dashed in late because I had killed a wolf that was after our neighbor’s sheep and didn’t have time to clean up so I came in covered in sweat, wolf blood, and just a little bit of sheep dung.
But it was one time! And even then, there’s enough incense burning in that stupid tower to cover up any smells. I mean, yeah, Mom and Dad burn the stuff at home, but I’m surprised there isn’t a constant fog in the
from the stuff. Mage
And the magic masters were always after me to make sure my hands were clean. When I asked if the dirt kept the magic away they looked at me like I was an idiot. What did it matter how I looked? I wore a stupid robe for classes, like a good little girl. Wasn’t that enough?
Then there was the warrior training. The reason I agreed to compromise on my principles and put up with learning how to pronounce strange words and wiggle my fingers in silly ways. That should’ve made it all worthwhile.
Except that most of the masters kept talking down to me. They acted like I was this delicate flower just playing around. They made it clear whenever could they were sure I couldn’t cut it.
And the other warrior students? Some of these guys were worse than trolls. One, a beefy blond named Sean grabbed me from behind the first day I showed up, asking if I wanted to “reward” him for being so tough.
Jared and I spent that session running laps around the training field. Me for breaking Sean’s jaw; Jared for laughing about it.
Throw in the fact that carrying studies in both areas meant I had almost no free time and sleep fast became a luxury and by the end of the first month I was ready to give up.
Jared caught me dozing in a meadow about halfway between the
and the warrior
training field. I’d come there because
the large pond and yellow daffodils soothed me.
I’d propped myself against a warm stone, my booted feet crossed in front
of me, a scroll I was trying to memorize in my lap. Mage
I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep until Jared jabbed me in the shoulder. “Hey, Dayna – snap out of it! What if I was a troll?”
I glared at him as he grinned at me, his red curls falling into his blue eyes. “You’re as ugly as one.”
He laughed and dropped down to sit beside me. He pulled a yellow apple out of the small bag he carried and cut a slice out of it, offering it to me. “So, whatcha doing?”
I took the fruit and popped it into my mouth. “I’m supposed to be memorizing this scroll,” I mumbled, indicating the offending paper on my lap. “It’s a spell to create a ball of light.”
Jared frowned as he crunched two slices. “That might be useful. Like if you’re having to check out a dark cave.”
I rolled my eyes. “That’s what a lantern is for.” I picked up the scroll, glaring at the words that didn’t want to stick in my brain.
He shrugged. “You okay, Dayna? You’re crankier than usual – and that’s saying something.”
I growled and smacked him in the arm. “You try going to magic classes and warrior classes and running around helping your best friend track highwaymen and see if you’re not cranky!”
Jared rubbed his arm, still grinning. “I couldn’t do it, Dayna. You’re just awesome.”
I blushed. Jared really was a good friend. “Thanks, but I’m not sure I’m doing it.”
“What do you mean?” Jared asked.
I waved my hand at the scroll on my lap. “I’m doing terrible on the magic stuff. And putting time in it is wearing me out, so I can’t do my best on the warrior front.”
“Hey, you’re not doing bad on the warrior training,” Jared objected.
I tilted my head and glared at him. “Oh? The target practice?”
Jared shrugged, grinning. “I thought you hit Sean in the butt on purpose.”
I couldn’t help laughing. “No, but I can’t say I was sorry about it.”
“No reason to be – Sean makes a troll look good.” Jared cut another slice of apple and handed it over to me. “Look, what can I do to help?”
“You don’t have to help – “ I started.
“Hey, what are friends for?” he shrugged.
I toyed with the scroll in my lap. “I don’t know if I can do another month of this,” I admitted in a low voice. “It’s almost as if my mother’s trying to break me down – make me quit before the agreed upon time.”
“You think she’d do that?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But I thought the whole deal was weird from the beginning. I took it anyway, just for the chance to really train.”
Jared shook his head, then wiped his hands on his pants. “Look, the point of this is to get you trained as a warrior, right? So we do that and worry about the end of the month when it’s the end of the month, right?”
I had to grin at him. “Right.”
“Okay,” Jared said. “Now, can I help with this scroll thing? Or you want to spar?”
I gave the scroll one more look and handed it over to Jared. “See if I have this memorized.”
Jared nodded. “You gonna cast it?”
I shook my head. “I’m just going to recite it this time.” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Slowly I uttered the words I hoped I’d just read on the scroll.
“That’s right!” Jared said. My eyes flew open – I saw he was holding the scroll an inch from his nose. “At least, I think that’s right.”
I grabbed the scroll from him and skimmed the spell. “I did it! I did it!”
“Cool!” Jared grinned. “Can you cast it for real? I wanna see it.”
I nodded, a little giddy. I said the words again, waving my hands in what I thought were the appropriate motions.
A tree on the edge of the meadow burst into flame.
Jared’s jaw dropped as the fire eagerly fed on the bright green leaves and sparks landed on other trees nearby. “Um, Dayna? You don’t know a water spell, do you?”
I sagged back against the stone, wishing I knew a spell that would get the earth to swallow me up. “Oops.”
It took both my folks and one of my magic masters to stop the fire before it completely decimated the forest. Fortunately, nobody got hurt.
The way my mother yelled at me that night though, you’d think I’d fried the entire town.
“A light spell! You couldn’t cast a simple light spell?”
I was standing in the middle of her study, my eyes glued to my boots. She paced in front of me, her soot-covered robes swishing around her legs. My father, true to form, had decided to go to the
for a while. Lucky him. Mage Tower
My mom was not giving me a chance to respond. “Do you have any idea how much damage you could have done? If that boy hadn’t gotten us the whole forest might have been destroyed!”
“I know,” I muttered at my boots.
“Don’t you dare take that tone with me!” my mother snapped. “It’s perfectly clear to me why you failed today. Do you know the reason?”
“Because I’m just no good at magic?” I asked my boots.
With an impatient huff, my mother stuck her bejeweled fingers under my chin and jerked my head up. “Because your mind is set on violence! This obsession with swordplay is affecting your magic! If you’d just give it up –“
Alarm shot through me. “I have another month!”
My mother’s eyes narrowed. “I am reconsidering our bargain.”
“That’s not fair!” I protested. “We had a deal!”
“I’m not convinced you’re holding up your end of it,” my mother answered. “If you can’t master a simple light spell…why, when I was your age I could fly!”
I groaned. “Mom, you can’t go back on our deal. That’s not fair!”
She frowned at me. “That’s quite enough, Dayna. I will not have you speak with such disrespect to me. Go to your room.”
“But –“ I said.
She waved her hand at me and muttered a few words. All at once invisible hands dragged me out of the study. I struggled, but nothing I did could stop me from getting hauled up the stairs and into my room. The door shut with a bang. A click told me it was locked.
I stood up, trembling. There was a pretty glass ball on my dresser – something my mom gave me when I started the magic training. It was covered in blue swirls and supposedly created by wood elves.
The smashing sound it made when I flung it at my locked door was very satisfying.
I was still locked in my room five hours later. By then I was bored to tears.
I’d tried practicing some sword moves but my room wasn’t the best place for something like that. When my mother saw the gouge in my
maplewood dresser I was
sure she was going to turn me into a frog.
In desperation I even tried to go over some magic scrolls. But it just made me mad. I gave up pretty quickly and shoved them all under my bed so I didn’t have to look at them.
I plopped down on my bed, growling. Mom never intended this to be a fair test. She was just waiting for an excuse to force me to study magic once and for all. It wasn’t right.
Maybe I should run away. Sometimes guys who went through warrior training went mercenary, hiring themselves out to guard caravans and travelers. Maybe I could do something like that. I ran my hands through my short hair. It had fooled people once: maybe it would again. Of course, I’d have to be sure to wear really baggy clothes…
Something was scratching on my window.
I sat up, the wood slats under my mattress creaking in protest. A small golden ball of light danced outside my window – a fairy. He or she came up to the window and the scratching began again.
I sighed. I’d checked the window already – it was magically locked, of course.
The fairy glared up at me, her tiny blue eyes throwing sparks. Her blond hair glittered, and the blue gown she wore was covered in sparkles. She pantomimed opening the window at me.
I made a big show of yanking at it and then shrugged my shoulders. What’d she want me to do, break it?
The fairy rolled her eyes and pointed a glowing finger at the window. I saw her mouthing words.
The windows flew open. The one on the left slapped the wall hard enough I was surprised the glass didn’t crack. The one on the right hit me in the face, and I staggered back a couple of steps, a hand on my throbbing nose.
The fairy flew up close, shaking her head. “Why didn’t you open the window? We don’t have time for this!”
“How about because my mother magically locked it?” I snapped, trying not to imagine grabbing the little imp in my fist and squeezing.
The fiend shrugged her shoulders, sending sparkles raining down on the floor. “Well, never mind all that. You need to come with me.”
“Why should I come with you?” I demanded. “I don’t even know you!”
“My name is
Regina,” she said, her little pointed nose sticking
up in the air. “And a master of the
Fighting School asked me to come bring you to some meeting he’s having with
your parents, though why he thinks he can send me on pitiful errands like this
“Okay, okay, I get it!” I yelled. I strapped my sword to my waist, glad I stayed dressed in my pants and shirt.
Regina drifted outside my
window and I sat on the sill, facing outside.
I turned so I could grab the windowsill and hang down facing the cool
“What in the name of the Fairy King are you doing?”
buzzed in my ear. “Just float down.”
“Can’t,” I said, and let go of the sill, kicking away from the wall.
I kept my knees bent when I hit the ground but still wound up landing on my rear end.
fluttered down to me, laughing so hard I felt as if I was in a sparkle storm.
I stood, brushed myself off, then grabbed the blond fairy in my fist. “Let’s just get to where we need to go without your lack of manners, okay?”
“My manners are perfect!” she squeaked. “I can’t help it if you’re weird!”
I let go of her, disgusted. “Fine, lead the way, whatever.”
She gave a little shake and smoothed out her gown, then floated out in front of me. She didn’t waste time, and I was soon running to keep her in sight.
As I ran, I thought about what she’d called me.
Was I really? Was my desire to fight with a sword instead of magic that strange, that…different?
Was I chasing an impossible dream?
I finally saw that we were heading for the
. Lots of torches were up, their blue flames
illuminating the area. There were a lot
of bundles on the training grounds. School of
As I got closer, I saw what the bundles were. My feet jerked to a stop, and I forgot about my parents,
and the whole mess that was my life at the moment.
I saw bodies. A lot of bodies.
Figures moved among them, bending down, touching a face here, a torso there. They were mages who specialized in healing spells, I realized. Not all the people laying out here were dead.
But why were they here instead of the Healing House? And why so many? It looked like nearly every fighting master was here, along with most of the guys I’d been training with.
I swatted at her, sending her spiraling off to the side. I didn’t care. I began to run among the wounded, looking at faces, hoping I wouldn’t see a head of red hair and blue eyes staring at the stars above without seeing them…
I almost ran past him. His hair was matted with blood. He was too pale, arms wrapped protectively around his chest, his right leg at an odd angle. I dropped to my knees, touched his face. “Jared?”
His eyes fluttered open. “Dayna?” he coughed, and his face twisted in pain. “You’re okay, right?”
“Better than you,” I gulped. “What happened?”
“Ogres…” he closed his eyes again. I looked frantically around for a healer, spotted
zipping toward me, glowing with rage.
“Look, you, I’ve had enough of your barbaric disrespectful treatment!” she emphasized the point by sending a jolt of electricity into my hand. I barely felt it.
“Go get a healing mage over here! Now!” I snapped.
“I am a fairy, not an errand runner!” she shouted. “Especially not for a stupid human like you!”
I tried to grab at her but she floated out of my reach. Before I could pull my sword out and chop the little monster to bits, a healing mage named Cara came up to us. I recognized her from the
She looked exhausted, and a bloody rag was wrapped around her left
bicep. Mage Tower
“Dayna, what are you doing here?” she asked as she knelt down by Jared. “Let me see the damage, young man, I can’t heal what I don’t know…”
I grabbed Jared’s hand as he went a shade paler while Cara checked him over. “Hang in there, Jared, who’ll hunt trolls with me if you can’t?” I babbled.
“My dad?” Jared gasped. “He’s okay?”
“He was fine when I saw him last,” Cara assured him. “Now relax so I can cast some spells. Dayna, go with the fairy – they must have a reason for you to see them.”
I felt dismissed and angry. Jared squeezed my hand weakly. “Go see my dad. Tell him I’m okay.”
I looked at Cara’s face. She gave me a small smile and a nod. It was easier to breathe all of a sudden. I looked down at Jared. “You’d better get better quick!” I told him.
He smiled at me and closed his eyes. I got to my feet and followed the irritating fairy into the
It was crazy. Men and women, fighters and mages, were running in different directions in the large entrance room, many of them sporting wounds.
Regina floated above them, while I had to
resort to pushing my way past people who were in my way. I tried to ignore the dirty looks some people
gave me, trying to keep the fairy in sight.
We turned down a stone hallway, where there were less people. Wooden doors on both sides led to different rooms used for training and meetings.
flew to the third door on the right, where I heard raised voices.
“You cannot be seriously considering giving in to this monster – “
“Madame, I have a plan, if you will allow me to explain – “
“My wife is correct. Your fighters need to buy us time while we learn to counteract the leaders’ talisman – “
I opened the door and found myself in a small room with a bearskin rug covering most of the stone floor. Light came from a fire burning in the huge hearth across from the door, the heat reaching me across the room.
Master Ganto, a huge man with arms as big around as my waist, perched on a huge redwood desk. My parents stood in front of him. I noticed there was a scrape on my dad’s temple and my mom’s embroidered blue robe was torn.
My parents turned with identical expressions of surprise. “Dayna? What are you doing here? You were locked in your room…”
“I released her, Madame,”
Regina said, sounding
respectful for the first time since I met her.
“The master here insisted her presence was vital to the crisis.”
“Crisis?” I looked at everyone in the room. “What happened? All those fighters hurt –“ I gulped, thinking of Jared’s bloody face.
My mother sighed and came to me, her hands cupping my face. “I got word of the problem soon after I sent you to your room. There was no time to alert you, and to be honest, I didn’t want you in danger.”
Clearly my mom wasn’t going to be any great source of information. I looked over at Jared’s dad. “Master Ganto, I saw Jared. He’s going to be okay, but…what happened?”
I saw the man close his eyes and take a deep breath. When he looked at me again, he seemed slightly less tense.
“Scouts reported ten ogres heading towards our town. We geared for battle, and called on the mages –“ he bowed his head to my parents, “- to assist us.”
I blinked. Ten ogres? That certainly wasn’t a good thing. Ogres were bigger than trolls and twenty times meaner. Ten of them would mean a pretty nasty fight.
But it certainly didn’t account for the carnage I’d seen. A few people hurt, sure. Maybe even a death or two. But so many… “So what happened? We should have been able to take them.”
“The lead ogre, Broon, has a rare talisman,” my father said. His arms were folded and he appeared to be fascinated with the furry rug under his boots.
“What does it do?” I asked. The tension of the room frightened me. My folks were the top magic users on our world. Master Ganto was the best fighter I knew. And they were all scared.
After a few seconds of silence, my father spoke up, his black eyes still on the rug. “It protects him from magic, and permits him to cast spells.”
“What?” I must have heard wrong. “Ogres can’t do magic!”
“This one can,” Master Ganto said, wincing as he readjusted his position. I noticed he was keeping his weight off his left leg. “We killed the others, but this Broon, he decimated our warriors, and the magic users could not stop him. Now he threatens to rampage through the town unless we give him a virgin.”
She’d settled on the stone mantelpiece, swinging her legs back and
forth. “You’re going to give him this
worthless girl for tribute. Good
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t have heard right, could I?
My father’s head shot up. He spoke a few words and pointed a slender finger at the fairy.
Regina barely got off the mantelpiece before
a bolt of flame cracked the stone she’d been sitting on. The silly imp flew out of the room screaming,
smoke from her dress trailing after her.
My mother turned to Master Ganto, her eyes blazing almost as hot as the bolt my dad had produced. “No. Absolutely not! I will not permit it!”
I was still processing the whole thing. “He wants a virgin?” I repeated, wondering why I wasn’t freaking out. “Is this ogre retarded? No one asks for virgins anymore!”
It went out of style about 50 years ago, when the last ogre who got a virgin got one who had the Red Itch. It turned out that the condition, while simply an annoying skin disease for humans, was fatal to ogres. They quit asking for them after the plague, usually demanding cows instead.
“Talia, take Dayna home,” my father said, pinning Jared’s dad with an angry glare. The look on my dad’s face shocked me. My dad never glared.
“Would you rather I sacrifice another man’s daughter, Anton?” Master Ganto asked. “One who, unlike Dayna, has no chance of killing this beast?”
By this time Mom was trying to haul me out the door – we were too close to the men to do a teleport spell. But at the fighting master’s words I pulled my arm away, suddenly interested. “You think I could?”
My father’s eyes widened in shock. “Ganto, are you serious? She’s a woman!”
“Yes, she is,” Master Ganto said. “The only woman here trained to wield a sword.”.
“You want her to – to attack him? With a weapon?” my mom shrieked.
“It’s probably why he’s requesting a virgin,” Jared’s dad argued. “He knows magic can’t hurt him. Our warriors were not able to get anywhere near him. But Dayna could.”
My hand toyed with the hilt of my sword, thinking. I knew it wouldn’t be easy; ogres had tough skin and I’d have to really put some power behind any sword thrust. Never mind the fact he could break all my bones with one good swat.
But I thought I could do it. If I had my sword…I frowned. That could be a problem.
“If he sees my sword, he won’t let me near him,” I said.
My mother spun me around to face her. “You are not doing this! I forbid it!”
“Talia…” my father put a hand on her arm. “Think a moment.”
She turned to my dad, her brown eyes wide. “Anton, are you insane?”
He shook his head, the light from the fireplace bringing out the red highlights to his dark hair. “Talia, we have tried to make Dayna who we wish her to be. Perhaps now we need her to be who she is.”
My mom struggled to speak, tears slipping down her face. I was shocked again. My mom? Crying? “You want to risk her life?”
“If she were a sorceress and needed to stop a danger we would allow her to risk it then,” my father said, gently brushing a tear off my mom’s face. “Talia, I too thought Dayna should do as our people demand. But there is a greater need here.”
My mother stared at my dad for a long moment. Then she took a deep breath. “Then let’s see to it she has the greatest chance of success.”
Master Ganto accompanied me to the edge of town as dawn was breaking. He carried no weapon. He paused, grimacing in pain from his injured leg.
I was dressed in a midnight blue robe similar to my mom’s with a golden overcoat. My short hair was fluffed up to look a little more feminine than I usually managed. Soft silver slippers covered my feet.
I felt stupid. And scared. And the setup had me walking funny.
Master Ganto put a hand on my shoulder. “You can do this, Dayna,” he murmured. “I have every confidence in you.”
I nodded, swallowing hard. “Go see Jared, okay? But don’t tell him about this. He’ll go crazy.”
“I’ll go see him,” he promised. His eyes narrowed. “Here comes Broon.”
The ogre in question came out of the forest and stomped toward us. His skin was the sickly yellow green color most of his kind wore. He was well muscled, something impossible to miss since he was only wearing a leather loincloth. A purple stone bounced on his chest – the talisman.
The wind changed and I got a whiff of him. I tried not to gag. I was pretty sure it wasn’t ladylike to throw up all over yourself, and we needed to convince Broon I was simply a quivering, helpless maiden.
Well, at least I was managing the quivering part without any trouble.
Broon stopped a few feet away from us. He looked me over, a smile exposing his rotting teeth. “So, this is your tribute, human?”
“It is,” Master Ganto said. “Take her and leave us in peace, as we agreed.”
Broon laughed. “Come to me, little one. Let me examine you.”
I tried not to tense. This was the most dangerous part of the plan. If he searched me, we were sunk. But if I didn’t comply, he might get suspicious.
I took small steps to him, letting some of my nervousness spill into my voice. “Please, sir, don’t hurt me. I’m just a harmless sorceress.”
He laughed and grabbed my chin to pull my face up to his. Since he was a good two and a half feet taller than me, my neck started complaining.
I kept my arms rigid at my sides. You’re paralyzed with fear, I told myself over and over again. It was easy to act that way – it wasn’t totally inaccurate.
He brought his face right down to me. I could see saliva glistening on the tusks that grew from the corners of his mouth. I squeaked in alarm. If he tried to kiss me – ugh, just the thought of that sent my stomach churning.
He ran his fingers through my hair. “Short hair, not very pretty,” he muttered. He grabbed a handful and yanked, and my scream of pain was totally real.
I glanced back at Master Ganto. He was glaring at Broon, his fists clenched at his sides, but he made no move to attack him. I tried to send a message with my eyes that he should under no circumstances try to defend me – if he got killed because of me how could I ever look Jared in the eye?
Broon looked over at the warrior master, a gleam in his small dark eyes. “Go. I take this one. If she isn’t good enough I be back for another!”
Ganto’s lips tightened. He glanced over at me. I tried to convey it was all going to be fine, he should just go. With a nod, he turned and limped back towards the guard shed.
Broon pushed me. “Ha-ha, little virgin, you and me, some fun!” he chuckled.
The push sent me tumbling. I rolled as best as I could with a stiff leg. Master Ganto was out of sight. It was time.
I reached under the golden overcoat to wrap my hand around my sword hilt. Hoping I remembered what my mom told me, I spoke three magical words and pulled at my sword as I waved my left hand.
The overcoat disintegrated into gold dust. That part worked, no problem. But my sword only passed a third of the way through my blue robe before it stuck.
After Dad cast a spell of protection on my right leg, Master Ganto had fastened the sword to it, which of course affected my walking. Mom assured me that if I did the spell right, the sword would pass through my robe and the bindings like they were air. But we didn’t take my lack of skill into account.
I hated skirts! This was a perfect example of why they’re useless to a warrior!
Broon stared at me, looking stunned. I grunted and pulled at my sword. There was a ripping sound as the robe tore, exposing a lot of bare leg. A stinging sensation in my leg warned me the protection spell might not be totally doing its job.
Scrambling to my feet, I held my weapon up. “You stink,” I told him, grinning.
Broon growled. “You, little girl, think you can fight me? An ogre? I eat you while you still screaming!”
He started to cast a magic spell. I was close – if I didn’t do something quick, I was going to be toast. So I threw myself at his feet.
Ugh. I thought his breath smelled bad.
The spell intended to fry me to a crisp hit a tree 10 feet away and split it in half. Snarling, Broon lifted a foot to stomp me with.
No one else had gotten this close and I figured they could be thankful – the view down here was not pretty.
I rolled again, the foot coming down on a trailing piece of my robe. I got to my feet, hearing the cloth tear. I had one shot at this. I couldn’t miss. And I had to get this spell right.
I muttered a couple of words. Broon laughed. “Little play-warrior, you can’t cast a spell on me! I protected!”
Yeah, I know, idiot. That’s why I was casting the spell on me.
I felt my feet leave the ground as I floated up one inch, two inches, half a foot. The ogre frowned at me. I felt my control slipping. Now or never.
I swung my sword. Broon threw his hands up to protect his face. I quickly cut down, using the fact I was suddenly falling to add power to the blow.
The blade snapped the gold chain around my enemy’s neck. The purple talisman went tumbling.
I landed badly and wound up on my back with a throbbing ankle. I managed not to drop my sword, though how I was going to fight with it while lying on my back was something my warrior masters hadn’t quite covered in training.
I saw the purple stone had bounced just in front of Broon’s right foot. A quick glance at his face told me he saw it too.
He bent down, hand reaching for it.
I rolled over on my stomach and chopped my sword down on it.
All the stories I’d read about warriors and magic items claimed a good whack from a sword would shatter a magical talisman like it was a bird’s egg. Simple. No problem.
In my case my sword barely nicked the thing, sending it rolling in the grass a few feet. But it was still whole, and still powerful.
Stupid stories. I rolled onto my back and tried to figure out my next brilliant move.
Broon looked from me to the talisman. It looked like he was trying to decide what to do first; stomp me out of existence or get his jewelry back. Fortunately thinking didn’t seem to be one of his strong suits.
I dropped my sword. Narrowing my eyes I tried to remember what I’d done and said earlier when I set the forest on fire. It got the ogre’s attention – he immediately decided stomping me was the first order of business.
I finished the spell and pointed a finger at him as he took a step towards me. I wondered what cooked ogre would smell like.
I didn’t find out. A perfectly round, glowing ball of light appeared right in his face. He froze, staring.
Me? I groaned. Of all the times to get a spell right…
Then I heard an awful sound, like someone was scraping a sharp stone over glass. Looking up, I saw it was coming from Broon. The big idiot was pointing at the ball of light and chuckling like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. “Ha-ha! Little silly sorceress. Ha-ha!”
That did it. I’d been yelled at by my mom, insulted by a fairy, my best friend had been injured by this – this ogre, and my ankle hurt.
I grabbed my sword and pulled myself up to my feet. Broon didn’t look down at me until I was really moving. Holding my sword over my head with both hands, I threw my entire weight into a thrust that pierced his belly.
By the way, I mentioned how bad ogre breath and feet smell? Their blood isn’t much better. And I got covered in it.
Broon screeched – it sounded a lot like his laugh, but I liked the screech better – and stumbled back a step or two. My sword got yanked out of my hands, and I fell down on my rear again when my ankle reminded me it was hurt.
There was a crunching sound. A bright flash of purple light flared up around my enemy’s right foot, and he yelped in pain. My eyes widened when I saw the horrible burn mark that covered the skin there.
Oh. The stories didn’t mention that, either.
Broon hopped on one foot, howling so loudly my ears hurt. I got to my feet, wishing I had brought a spare knife since my sword was caught in his gut. As I slowly got to my feet Broon tried to take a step towards me but he stumbled when he tried to put weight on his burned foot. He went down on one knee, then landed face first, driving my sword deeper into his body.
He screeched in pain. I tried to keep most of my weight off my bad ankle while I looked for a stone or something to bash his head in, then suddenly Master Ganto was at my side, handing me his sword. “It should be you,” he said.
I nodded. Waving aside his offer of support, I limped over to where Broon was trying to get up. He was on his hands and knees knees and lifted his face up just as I raised the warrior master’s sword.
“This is for Jared,” I hissed as I drove the sword into his left eye.
I didn’t see my parents until after I got a chance to clean the ogre blood off me. Cara was casting a spell to mend my ankle when my mom and dad appeared, supporting a pale but grinning Jared between them.
My face lit up, the stinging and itching from the healing spell forgotten. “Jared!” I offered him a mock frown as my dad eased him down on the bench next to me. “You mean they could heal you and you’re still ugly?”
Jared smiled. His leg was bound – even though the healers had mended the break, it still had to be supported for a bit until the body caught up with the idea. He took in my damp and torn dress. “Yeah, and I see once again they couldn’t make you a lady.”
I chuckled. The good mood died when I caught my mom’s expression. She was studying me, her eyes lingering on the blue dress she’d given me. Master Ganto embraced Jared, his eyes bright, then started talking to my dad.
“Mom?” I said, my voice soft. “Are you all right? Are you mad at me?”
She said nothing for a moment, then surprised me by hugging me tightly. “I was so worried! But if you hadn’t been a warrior…if I’d prevailed in my wishes…”
“Mom, I’m okay. Really? I’m okay.” I managed to pull away from her and let her get a good look at me. “I’m sorry about the dress though…”
“Oh, don’t worry, we can get you a new dress,” my mother sniffled. “But, maybe you don’t want one…I suppose a skirt isn’t very practical for a warrior.”
My jaw dropped. “Mom…what are you saying…?”
My father and Master Ganto joined us. “She did well,” the warrior master said. “With a bit more training, she could be an exceptional warrior – one of the best our world has seen.”
I looked from my parents to Jared’s dad. Was it possible? Were they really considering?
“I can…I can be a warrior?” I looked from one to the other. “It’s okay?”
My mother smiled. “Well, perhaps a little magic wouldn’t hurt – it did help, didn’t it?”
“Well…sort of,” I admitted.
Jared laughed and put an arm around my shoulder. “Way to go, Dayna! But you know, you do look really great in a dress, so maybe sometimes…?”
I looked at my best friend and my heart did a funny flip-flop. “Well, maybe…sometimes…”
So, while my mother was the most famous sorceress in Nismee, I am fast on my way to becoming the most famous female warrior. And not the only one – two other girls from my town have been accepted to the
. School of Fighting
And the masters are looking into making a new school – for a new type of fighter, a warrior mage. One who combines the strength of a sword arm with the power of magic. Since I’m the first one to even try it, we’re still working out the kinks. I can now do a light spell without risking an inferno, and I can float out my window instead of jumping.
Mom has gotten totally into the whole idea of the whole warrior mage idea. Not that we still don’t bicker now and then. Like yesterday, when I came dashing in all proud that I finally used a ball of fire on a pack of wolves raiding the outlying farms, she got all upset about me tracking in wolf guts onto her new fairy-woven rug. And then spent an hour making me clean it.
Some days an ogre is a lot easier to deal with than a parent.
My Mother is a Sorceress. Copyright © 2011 by Laura Ware
Published by JJ Press
Cover design by JJ Press
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.