Lucinda let her gaze settle on that item, and squared her jaw. “You fool girl,” she spat. “Haven’t you listened to anything I’ve said? It would be the most delicious pie you ever ate. It would also be your last. The rock is still a rock, and it would revert back to its proper form in your stomach. Do you want to die like that you stupid girl?”
With her mouth agape, Adelia just stared at her teacher, unprepared for that treatment. Her face went flush, and as much as she wanted to look away, she couldn’t.
The sorceress stared, and saw that pained expression, and her features softened. She looked past the girl, her eyes unfocused. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. “These are my… You didn’t know any better, and it was wrong of me to expect so much of you. Can you ever forgive me?”
Adelia clamped her lips together and swallowed her embarrassment. She offered up a meager nod before averting her gaze as well.
“We should head back to the keep,” Lucinda suggested. “I’m sure Gaston has cleared up my other mistake. I’ll let him know you understood the lesson very well.” She didn’t wait for Adelia to agree with that idea, instead turning and heading for the gate.
She waited just a little while when Lucinda began away, and when she was alone, Adelia tossed the rock to the ground. With that lesson ended as awkwardly as she could imagine, she followed her strange teacher, making sure to leave ample room between her.
* * * * *
A book sat beside her on the cushioned seat, but Adelia seemed more concerned with scratching the whiskers beneath Merlin’s chin. When Gaston approached, he wasn’t regarded at first, and he had to clear his throat to make sure he had been seen. The girl offered him a quiet smile, but returned her attention to the cat.
“She told me what happened,” the sage said. “She’s certainly an odd one, that Lucinda. All that power at her fingertips, and she’s never really been satisfied. She uses her talents for parlor tricks when she could rule a small country. There’s no excuse for what she’s done, but I hope you can forgive her. She’s—”
“It’s all forgotten, Gaston,” Adelia said. “It was surprising, yes. But it was far better than I had been treated in Viscosa. As I’m learning, all wizards are a little strange.”
The sage passed her a sidelong glance and a smirk. “So you’re not hiding out here instead of my study because you’re uncomfortable?”
She shook her head. “I used to spend my days outdoors. But since my parents… It’s nice to have the walls of the keep protecting us. I can still see the clouds and the birds, but I don’t have to worry about being too far from where I feel most safe.”
“I swear to you, Miss Kreegan, you’ll always be safe here.” He gave a little bow, and proceeded around that corridor on the second floor of the keep until he reached his study—and the plump sorceress just outside. “You two have an awful lot in common,” he said. “You both lost your homes.”
“That’s not exactly a vast list of things to compare between us, Gaston,” she replied. Lucinda spun about then, leaning on the banister to see the young lady. “And besides, she’s found a home to replace the old one.”
“It doesn’t make up for what she’s lost, but it’s all I could offer.”
“No, you’ve done well, Mister Camlann. Very well indeed.” She stood there, watching in silence as the girl played with the cat. Adelia bore a wide grin, and snuggled Merlin close to her. “She’s taken quite a shine to your newest familiar.”
“Oh, Merlin is no familiar. He’s just a ragged stray that wandered in here when he was a kitten, and just didn’t have the sense to leave in the last two years. But he’s just as smitten with her. He used to be out all hours of the night, and he’d wake me up from a dead sleep to scratch at my door when he wanted to come back in. With her though, it’s different. He spends the whole night curled up in bed with her, ready to start the day when Miss Kreegan is.”
Lucinda kept her focus on the unsuspecting girl, watching as she scratched the feline’s belly. Adelia laughed when Merlin wrapped his arms around her hand and playfully bit her fingers.
“Lucinda?” Gaston said.
“She let’s that ball of fluff sleep with her?” the sorceress asked.
“Every night,” the wizard replied.
A mischievous grin crept to the woman’s face then. “You don’t say.”