This spiral home totaled five stories, ascending in a half-circle on the other side of a cylindrical tower hung with blossom-fronds. A lattice roof worked with multicolor vines shaded dining tables atop the platform; chimneys to either side vented the kitchens, set within the white stone of the tower’s second level and reached by a stairwell that exited onto the dining platform. Its base of alternating blue and green stones would hold the pantries and wine-cellar, accessed only through the kitchen. Visitors would enter the home on the right, which started with just the first story.
As the circle went on, more stories rose up beneath a curving, slanted red-slate roof. A single walkway for each story connected them to the dining platform, starting with the second. Each walkway curved up and around, melding into a single broad span where they connected to the platform. Two gracefully tapering support columns set with stained-glass shards propped each walkway. The first two floors would comprise the home’s main living areas, with servant’s quarters in the leftmost sections of the latter; the third, fourth and fifth floors were suites for family and high-ranking servants.
If this was some lord’s home, he’d be on the fifth floor. Tervud considered knocking for entry at the front door. I am an Adherent now, and I do not care if this is no longer my home. I will have entrance, at least for a few minutes. With little effort, he leaped high into the air and arced high above the dining platform. He saw an insect-size figure reading in a shaft of sunlight. The boy in him longed to block the ray. The man knew such jokes lost their luster when he was the one making them. The rush of wind against his brow was pleasant; there was so little call to use height like this in battle.
He plummeted down, legs bent beneath him. A nudge with the new part of his mind slowed him down. Assertive entrances were one thing, but cracking the walkways? That would be rude. He thudded down and heard a squeak from behind him. He turned to face the reader, and froze for the second time that day. Malija had barely aged. The same graceful arching nose, the same gentle expression and smooth skin, the same dark eyes, like jet gleaming from a deep pool. There were hints of fat cloaking her jaw, a grey hair here and there, but otherwise…
She wore the green robes and black-white shears of the Disciples of Hosri.
“Tervud,” she said, pursing her lips around his name.
“Malija,” he bowed. “You look we-” The new part of his mind brushed something. A hollowness, a bent essence, a… thing for which human words availed nothing. He looked into her eyes, and saw their gleam was gone. “What was done to you?” he demanded. “And–the-the–the robes, Malija! You were going to the College in Keshad, you said! You were going to study magic!”
“I was,” she acknowledged. Her gentleness was all wrong. There was no sunlight to it. This felt like the blunt side of a knife stroking his cheek, insisting it was a bolt of silk. “Hosri, in her nurturing, showed me my hubris, and sheared it from me.”
“Hosri didn’t want you to be a mage?” Tervud asked softly. He knew Malija’s answer was nonsense. A mage could heal, could help water crops despite poor rain, could calm and track herds. And most of all, a mage could protect her flocks.
“I am peacestock,” Malija said. “This has been… demonstrated to me.”
“That…” Tervud began. What could he say? What words would mend what had been broken in Malija? “What was done to you?” he asked again, softly.
“It was nothing, Tervud. You will not fix it with your powers… Sword-Adherent.” Malija shuddered slightly at the words.
“It was not nothing,” he said, but did not press. He recognized her look now: he’d seen it before, in the dark days. He’d never caused it, but he had not stopped it. He knew the emptiness of a woman remembering her rape.
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