The answer, it turned out, was not much. They talked to Shaiera, her brothers, and both her parents. None of them could give any clue as to how the girl had gotten sick. She and the boys had been playing, and Shaiera had been out of their sight briefly during that time, but she hadn’t gone anyplace strange or disappeared for any unusual length of time. And the boys had no trace of the blight on them.

Like Dustin, Shaiera had no clear memories of the last couple days and had no information to offer.

“I’m glad we were able to help the girl,” Ádan said as he and Korin head back into the city, “But I don’t feel like we know any more now than we did before.”

“We don’t.” Korin flexed and rolled his fingers, working out the stiffness the magic had brought. The movement drew Ádan's gaze, and Ádan's eyes on Korin’s hands brought back the sharp memory of Ádan's fingers on Korin’s bare palm. He felt again the ghost touch of Ádan's fingers on his face.

Korin had spent so much of his life hiding. There was no denying Ádan was reaching out, but a part of Korin still couldn’t trust enough to reach back.

Korin curled his fingers in again and tried not to think about it. To be safe, he changed the subject. “I’m starving. We pretty much skipped breakfast.”

“You’ve definitely earned some lunch. I know a place that does great fish, down by the seaport. We’ll eat and we can figure out our next step.”

Figure out their next step. Like Ádan's help was a foregone conclusion. Belatedly, it registered what Shaiera’s mother had said about Ádan spreading the word, looking for sick people. “Why are you doing this?” Korin asked. “You’re going through a lot of trouble to help me. Not that I’m complaining,” Korin added quickly.

Ádan waved off the question. “Why not? You’re putting more work than I am into helping these people.”

“Yes, but this is what I’m trained to do. This is my job.”

Ádan flashed him another of those contemplative looks. “According to who? You’re a wizard. No one forces you to go out of your way looking for people to heal. Certainly not to do it with asking for anything back. So why would you?”

“Because those people are suffering and I can make it stop. It would be criminal to just ignore them, or turn them away because they have no money.”

“Well there you are. If you can help for no reason, then so can I.”

Korin was pretty sure Ádan was being purposely evasive. “So you’re telling me it’s a hobby of yours to pick up random wizards off the street and just throw yourself in with their crusades?”

“You’re my first,” Ádan admitted. “But it’s going well, I think.” He winked. “I might just have to make this a new hobby.”

It was a joke, and Korin knew it, and still he felt an irrational stab of jealousy at the thought of Ádan running around with other wizards. “Be serious.”

“About what?” Ádan laughed. “What is it you’re trying to ask me?”

Why do you like me? Why are you with me? When will you leave? But Korin couldn’t ask any of those things. “Don’t you have more important things to be doing?”

“Not at the moment,” Ádan said with finality. “I’m at your beck and call.”

It seemed the best answer Korin was going to get. “All right. Then I call on you to feed me.”

Ádan gave a graceful bow without breaking stride. “Your wish is my command.”

If only that were true. Because Korin had plenty of wishes.


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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