This opening came from a prompt to write a “sword & sorcery” story. After much thought, I decided to revisit a character I created several years ago…
Kaitlyn felt him die. Felt his spirit depart this world, though it had been years since she’d seen his beloved face.
She stumbled, though the path through the white-barked aspen trees was well known to her and the morning clear and bright.
Fear and grief assaulted her mind.
She felt his power return to the reservoir of ambient magic. Felt a cresting wave of urgent desire break against her will as the magic in the very air around her ebbed and flowed, seeking a new balance.
The Firestone awoke, scrabbling for energy as it tried to claim more magic, claim more of her life.
She collapsed to the bare ground, bracing herself against the rough trunk of an aspen. Dropping her gathering basket, she hugged her knees beneath scrunched and disheveled skirts and petticoats.
“No,” she whispered through gritted teeth, sweat beading her forehead. “No. You will not advance. I refuse to allow it.”
Closing her eyes, her brow furrowed in concentration, she weathered the magical spike, struggled against the fingerless golden glove that covered her right hand and forearm, against the slender tendrils that sought to extend toward her elbow. With gritted teeth and clenched fists she fought for control…and won.
The fine tendrils retreated, the golden glove quieted. The magical storm calmed.
Tears slid down her heated cheeks. Partly in relief that she’d once again mastered the Firestone, but mostly in mourning for her dead friend. Aelfric, the master sorcerer to whom she had once been a contrary and headstrong apprentice.
She rested her head on her knees and reflected for a moment on her loss while her pulse slowed and her breathing quieted, becoming even again. Aelfric was gone, the master who had guided her through the turbulent adjustment after she’d so rashly used the Firestone to defeat the evil wizard, Darius. She’d won a war and saved her brother, but at a terrible personal cost.
King Lorien had hailed her a hero, but the common folk had the right of it—they named her the Solitary Sorceress.
For that was the price the Firestone had demanded of Kaitlyn, that headstrong fourteen-year-old apprentice. She had dared to summon the powerful talisman from its resting place and it had come to her in its quiescent state, a simple gold ring. But when she had claimed its power to defeat Darius, when she had placed the ring on her finger, it had bonded with her flesh, sending tendrils into her very bones, wrapping her hand and wrist in a golden sheath that had extended to her forearm before the battle ended.
The Firestone made her invincible.
It also made her untouchable.