Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(6)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(6)
Jeff Wheeler

“Why?” Annon demanded, too hotly. Then he felt ashamed of himself. He stared down at the ground, resisting the impulse to pace and rant. Control—he needed to learn to control his resentment.

“He would not say. You know him better than that. He guards his thoughts like a Preachán guards his coins. He broods and plots and asks for no one’s counsel, and he accepts none but his own.” He reached out and rested his hand on Annon’s shoulder. “I know you once wished he would send for you, but I do not think he bids you to join him and learn his ways. I cannot even guess why he asked to see you. But I knew that you would want to know he called for you, so I did not delay. It is your choice, Annon. I am bound for Silvandom. You can go with me there if you choose. Or you can see your uncle first and make your decision later. A Druidecht builds his reputation by traveling far and wide. You are known in Wayland already. It may be time to move on.”

Reeder dropped his hand and stared at his empty bowl. He sighed heavily. The look he gave Annon next was piercing. “But if he bids you go north, tell him no.”

Annon stared, confused. “Why would he do that?”

“I am old enough to remember. I outlived the last Plague. You know that. There were whispers back then. Word that your uncle led men into the Scourgelands to their deaths. Only he survived. They say it started the Plague anew. Now I do not know what to believe, Annon. Men are false by nature. I have had experience with many who wished to deceive, but not one who wished to be deceived. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. They are jealous and petty and suspicious, save for the Vaettir, who distrust no one and serve all. And so they are robbed and cheated and wronged and consider themselves blessed in the bargain.”

Reeder grinned and chuckled lightly. “But I have looked your uncle in the eye. I have seen the scars on his face and his hands. They have mostly healed and are tiny to the eye. But he has the look about him—of one who is well acquainted with death and all of its faces. He has no compassion for anyone. Even his own kin.”

Annon grunted. “I know.”

Reeder slapped his knees. “I have done my part. I have given you the message. Since I told these wonderful people that I can sing in three languages, they begged me to share a song from each of the kingdoms. You know I love to sing.” He stared up at the sky and yawned. “I’m getting old and perhaps had too much bread. I’ll depart in the morning for Silvandom. You decide what you will do, Annon.”

The young Druidecht nodded, staring off into the distance. It surprised him how much of the hurt was still in his heart. He thought he had buried it long ago. Yet the pain of the memory suddenly was fresh, and tears pricked his eyes. He refused to give in to them, though. Memories could torment like poison.

His uncle had finally appeared. It was ten years before, when he was not yet a boy of eight. How young he had been. How softhearted. Uncle Tyrus loomed over him, an obelisk of iron will, his amber beard grizzled with gray. He looked uncomfortable being with Annon, as if the boy’s presence caused him pain that he was determined to endure. It was so long ago, but he could never forget that moment of hope. His uncle had come for him at last. Tyrus had taught him about his anger. He had warned Annon what it could do. He had even shown him, and Annon remembered with guilty pleasure the look of his hands as the flames leapt from his fingertips. Most importantly, he had revealed the Vaettir words that could tame fire. Pyricanthas. Sericanthas. Thas.

Annon stared at his hands, struggling to subdue the disappointment of lost hope.

As a young boy, he craved to learn the lore of the Paracelsus. He wanted to learn it desperately, to prove to his uncle he was smart and determined. He assumed his uncle wanted to teach him the ways, to bring him as a student to Kenatos, and open the library corridors stuffed with all the recorded knowledge from all of the races. Annon practiced over and over, learning to control the flames, to control his anger. The invitation never came. A year went by. And another. And yet another. Disappointment turned to shame. Why had his uncle not thought him worthy to learn? Shame turned to guilt. He had done something wrong in his uncle’s eyes. He had failed to act in some way to earn his uncle’s trust. Guilt turned to resentment.

When Annon was twelve, he gave up hope of ever being invited to Kenatos. Four years was long enough to waste on an empty dream. So Annon had redoubled his commitment to learning the Druidecht ways, to immerse himself in the lore. He rose quickly, earning the right to wear a talisman at age sixteen. It was rare for one so young to be so recognized by the inhabitants of Mirrowen. Reeder had not worn his until he was twenty.

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