Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(5)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(5)
Jeff Wheeler

“That was thoughtful of you,” Annon replied. “How is your ax, Master Woodcutter? Worn it to a nub yet?”

“Well used, but sharp as the whetstone gets it.” He reached out and shook Annon’s hand with a grip as sturdy as his tool. “I have some more cutting to do, but don’t forget the tunes you promised us, Reeder!”

“Yes, you said you would sing for your meal,” Dame Nestra insisted, a pleasant look on her face.

Both she and her husband were much older than Annon, but they had been unable to have children and doted upon him as if he somehow made up for that fact.

“Songs you will have, after I’ve talked with my good friend. I was his mentor, you know, though he has proven my equal already.”

Annon smiled and felt embarrassed. “What brings you westbound, Reeder?”

“Some mischief afoot in Silvandom. I learned of it while in Kenatos. I’ll go and see if my old bones may do any good in the conflict. Likely not, but it is a pleasant country to visit besides.”

Nestra returned with another bowl full of broth and vegetables and brought it carefully to Annon, bowing as she handed it to him. He smiled his thanks and inhaled the aroma.

“You eat another bowl if you are hungry,” she admonished him.

“The young are always hungry,” Reeder said, motioning for Annon to eat. “I’d like to finish mine as well. It’s nearly as tasty as the bread. The couple says you wander here often. I’m not surprised,” he added with a wolfish smile.

They supped together, finishing the stew and two generous helpings of Nestra’s bread, sweetened to perfection. Reeder had a healthy appetite and did not refuse a third slice. His face glowed with warmth and humor. “You have a good reputation in these woods, Annon,” he said after finishing the bread and brushing the crumbs from his lap. “Among the spirits. It was not difficult finding you. Do you think you will choose to dwell here longer? Or are you ready to move to another land?”

Annon shrugged, staring at his empty bowl. “I had not given it much thought. There is much still to learn here.”

“I am much older than you,” Reeder said, “and still that is true. Yet the woods of Silvandom have different breeds of spirits. And so do the mountains of Alkire. Each land has its own troubles.” He stared into the darkening wood, his face turning serious, the smile fading. “And then there are lairs where even the Druidecht fear to tread.” He looked down at his hands and then at Annon. “North, for example.”

“Kenatos?” Annon asked wryly.

Reeder pursed his lips. “You know what I mean, Annon. I mean beyond Kenatos, beyond the mountains. The Scourgelands are safe for none of the races.”

Annon smirked and stretched, loosening his weary limbs. “So you have told me, and so I believe you, old friend. What reason could I possibly have to wander in that forsaken place?”

But Reeder was serious. “A warning twice given is a warning still. It does no harm to repeat it. I was bid to come south and find you quickly.”

Annon’s stomach lurched and his mouth went dry. He was quiet, so quiet he could hear the fire snapping inside the hovel and the occasional clang of pots and dishes. “Who bid you, Reeder?”

“I said I was recently in Kenatos. That should be your clue.”

Annon was stunned. For a moment, his ears started ringing and anger and hurt surged in his heart. Black, seething anger. The kind that made his jaw clench and his eyes squint. It was difficult to squelch it. But beneath that anger was pain. The pain of being abandoned. The pain of never measuring up. “My uncle?” he asked through a swallow.

Reeder nodded. “He is a powerful man in that powerful city. He is known by one and all. Tyrus of Kenatos. Tyrus Paracelsus. They say his power rivals the Arch-Rike’s. When he learned I was there, he sent word for me. I left his study not two days ago. We had tea together actually.”

Annon could feel the bitter feelings swirling inside him like black waters. His uncle. Tyrus. The blackness brought a feeling of loathing and defiance. It was a sore wound still, a wound that had never healed. He tried to speak but found himself hoarse. He coughed against his fist, trying to tame the wild surging in his heart. “And what did my uncle bid you tell me?”

Reeder was wise, and he looked at Annon with compassion. He knew of Annon’s festering feelings. His disappointment. He knew that Annon had waited years for an invitation to join his uncle at Kenatos and that it had never come.

“He wishes to see you,” Reeder said softly.

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