The next morning, Ádan was gone. The girls in the kitchen teased Korin for the smile he wore when he came down for a bowl of sweet rice porridge. They asked if he’d been dreaming of someone, giggled when he blushed. Korin took it all with good humor.

Korin brought a glass of pineapple juice in with him to the bar, where he received the people who came to him for help. He settled in, still thinking about Ádan as he waited for the day’s first petitioner to show up. He didn’t have to wait long.

Korin recognized the man as soon as he limped into Marta’s guesthouse, supported on one side by the teenaged niece who had hugged Korin the last time he’d fixed her uncle. The man had had a broken leg—an old injury that had healed on its own, but so badly set so it had twisted his leg to near uselessness. Korin had fixed that. Which was why it made no sense the man was limping again.

Another broken leg would have been unusual, but not impossible. As the girl eased the man into a chair, it looked like his leg had been broken again, set wrong again, then healed back into the exact same twist. Which wasn’t possible.

On top of that, both man and niece were avoiding Korin’s eyes, leaning away, their every body language expressing fear and discomfort. As though Korin had never helped them before.

“Jere, right?” Korin asked, addressing the man.

The man nodded without meeting Korin’s eyes. The niece, whose name Korin couldn’t remember, said, “You need to fix him for real this time.” Fear didn’t keep the anger out of her voice.

“I don’t understand,” Korin admitted.

“It wore off!” Now she looked at Korin, challenging. “What you did stopped working!”

Which left Korin even more confused. “Magic doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t wear off. Once I fix something, it’s just fixed. It can’t—“

It couldn’t do exactly what Korin saw in front of him. “I’m sorry.” Korin took a breath, lowered his voice back to a soothing tone. “Obviously it has. If you’ll let me, I can fix it.”

Jere and his niece sat quietly as Korin pulled off his gloves and rolled up Jere’s loose trousers to expose the leg. It looked exactly the same as it had before. When Korin reached in with magic, it felt exactly the same as it had before. Korin could find no trace of evidence that he had ever healed it.

So he healed it again. And if Jere was less profligate in his thanks than before, Korin could hardly blame him.

After they left, Korin ducked back into the kitchen. “I need to go out,” he said to Verania. “Apologize to anyone who comes looking for me. If it’s someone in urgent need, find out their address and I’ll go to them.”

Korin had someone he needed to talk to.


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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