Trapped by the rogue mage, Bashim, Ellspeth is forced to rely on the powers of an untrained mage for survival. The only problem is—her sole hope for escape is Bashim’s apprentice. As archmage, Dal might be able to survive killing the future of magic, but as a man could he live with the knowledge he caused the death of a loved one.
Ellspeth watched her lover prepare for battle. His neck reddened when he lightly kissed the promise token she had given him at their handfasting and adjusted it to hang beneath his armor. The wink he tossed to her accompanied the smile he flashed in her direction. For just a moment, she relived another time when he prepared to leave for what might be the last time.
“No,” Ellspeth moaned. She wanted to yell, “Don’t go. Don’t leave me.” Yet she left the cry unvoiced. Neither she nor her child would be safe while Bashim lived. Even Barris, though only an apprentice, and not fully come into his powers, could fall to the rogue mage. After all, while he controlled the followers of the Oracle of Givneh, Bashim had mounted a campaign to eliminate all magic except his from the world. Nothing stood in his way; he even used the violent deaths of young women to achieve his goal.
Memory of all the innocents Bashim had murdered on the Isle of Mages forced Ellspeth to face what needed to be done. “Dal,” she called softly.
He turned toward to her. She saw hope spring into his eyes.
“I will do as you wish, on one condition. You return to me!” Then, with a wry smile she added, “After all, I’m the only one who can poultice your back.”
His laugh as he wrapped her in a tight embrace repaid Ellspeth for the imagined slight. She tugged his head down. In an attempt to keep a part of him with her, she pressed her lips on his. Her arms tightened until the muscles creaked. Still she held him. With a final effort, she pulled back. “I love you,” she whispered in his ear. “And I will wait. Just you…return to me.”
Dal dropped his arms and once again stepped away. She felt an impersonal cold emanate from him, a demeanor that increased with each weapon he removed from his pack and strapped to its place. By the time he draped the carry strap of his great sword’s scabbard over his shoulder, no remnant remained of the lover—only the soldier-mercenary.
Ellspeth knew to voice her heart’s desire would undermine the state of mind Dal needed to hold. Yet she could not stop the thought from rising and freezing her soul. Dal, come back to me. I can’t live without you.
About the Author – Helen Henderson: A former feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of romantic fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster novels. Find her on online at: author website / Twitter / Goodreads. Excerpts of her work, writing tips, and information on new releases can be found at http://helenhenderson-author.blogspot.com.