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Korin woke up in his bed at Marta’s. He was wearing different clothes than he had been. The sun was shining in through the window. He was thirsty, hungry, and he hurt all over.

And the door was opening. That was what had woken him up, the scrape of the lock turning.

“Oh!” Lily was in the doorway, a tray in her hand. “You’re awake!”

Korin tried to sit up, but a wave of dizziness and nausea hit him. “Oh no, let me help.” Lily rushed over to the bed, setting the tray down on the dresser. Korin could see a bowl and a washcloth.

With Lily’s help, Korin managed his way upright and leaning against the wall. “What happened? How did I get here? What day is it?”

Lily pulled the chair over and sat down next to Korin’s bed. “Lord Ádan brought you in two nights ago. He got you all cleaned up and put to bed. He and Marta had a talk. You haven’t been awake, but Marta’s had us give you broth, as we could.”

The concern in her voice was clear. “Lord Ádan, he said you’d be better. But me an Verania and Holli, we were real worried. It’s good to see you with your eyes open.”

Korin smiled at her. “It’s good to see you, too. Thank you for looking after me.”

“Marta, she’s been upset. And Lord Ádan keeps coming around to see if you’ve woke up yet.” A smile grew on her lips. “He’s handsome. And nice. I like him.”

Korin chose not to comment on that. “Is that more soup you brought me?”

“Yeah. Though if you want, I can bring you anything. And Marta’ll want to see you. If you’re up to it.”

Korin closed his eyes and reached for his magic. Exhausted and dizzy, the power was slippery. Potentially dangerous. He wouldn’t dare try to use it on anyone else, but this was his own body. He didn’t so much have to focus and control as just relax and let the power flow into its well-worn pattern.

Magic filled him, warm and soft and familiar. The aches faded to a dull throb. The dizziness went away. He was still tired, and more than a little sore. To fix those things would require real concentration that he didn’t have right now. But he felt ready to face the world again. “I’d love some rice and whatever meat you’ve got cooking. And some juice to drink. And if Marta needs to talk to me, I’m here.”

Lily nodded and stood. After a moment’s dithering, she leaned over and pressed a quick kiss to Korin’s forehead.

She left the bowl of broth, which Korin gratefully sipped from his seat in bed. He stared at the blank wall across from him, letting his mind float in an almost meditative state. He wasn’t ready to think about anything, to ask the questions he was going to have to ask. He was grateful for the chance to sit here in his quiet room where it was warm and safe and nothing was more complicated than he wanted it to be.

Marta opened the door without knocking. She stood in the doorway, arms cross, looking him up and down. “You’re better.”

“I’m getting there.” Korin set his bowl down on the nightstand. “I’m sorry to be so much inconvenience.”

“You looked something like death when that noble boy brought you in. What trouble did he drag you into?”

A sharp, harsh laugh forced its way out before Korin could stop it. He covered his mouth. Trouble. Where even to begin? “It isn’t like you think. There was a disease. I was healing people. Some others took exception.”

Marta’s eyes narrowed. She knew she wasn’t getting the whole story. But Korin didn’t elaborate.

“I’m sorry if I’ve been in the way,” Korin said. “I’ll be up and around soon. I don’t need the girls—“

“Shush.” Marta pointed a scolding finger at him. “None of that. We look after our own in this house.”

Korin didn’t know what to say to that. “I don’t want to take advantage.”

Marta rolled her eyes. “Boy, you don’t have it in you to take advantage. So stop talking nonsense. I told you, you’ve got a home here as long as you want it. So lie down, get some sleep, and get better.”

Pulling the door shut behind her with some force, Marta left Korin there. He heard her stomp down the stairs and yell for Verania. It was a pleasant, familiar sound.

It had been so long. School had always felt temporary. Teriad had never stayed long in one place. The idea that he could stay here, be welcome here, among friends who worried about him and would miss him if he were gone—it was almost too much.

But when Lily came back up the stairs with a delicious lunch, and stayed and talked to him while he ate. When Verania popped her head in just to check up on him as she was working. When Holli brought him a sweet almond roll and said Marta had sent her out for it, Korin smiled and thanked them. Like friends. Like family.

Like home.

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Barbara J Webb

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