Mystic Dragon

Seven years have passed since Pomella AnDone became the unlikely apprentice to Mystic Grandmaster Faywong. Despite having attained significant accomplishments as a Mystic, Pomella feels incomplete. She laments that her Master isn’t teaching her quickly enough.

As a rare celestial event approaches, Pomella feels her lack of experience more than ever. The Mystical realm of Fayün is threatening to overtake the mortal world, and as the two worlds slowly blend together, Moth is thrown into chaos. People begin to vanish or are killed outright. Mystics from across the world gather to protect them, among them Shevia, a dark and brilliant prodigy whose mastery of the Myst rivals even that of the greatest High Mystics.

Shevia will challenge Pomella in every possible way in Mystic Dragon, book two in Jason Denzel’s epic fantasy trilogy. Available July 17th from Tor Books.

 

 

One
The Fortress of Sea and Sky

On the island of Moth, beneath a sweltering summer sun, Pomella AnDone lifted her hands above her head.

“I surrender,” she said.

The two bandits pointing crossbows at her looked at each other in confusion. Pomella silently thanked the Saints that they hadn’t loosed quarrels at her. She had intentionally made plenty of racket approaching them but still managed to surprise them. Not the best-trained bunch of bandits she’d run into, then. Not that the idea of handing herself over to these twerpers showcased her stunning intellect, either. Yet here she was.

As if to punctuate how blathering stupid this idea was, Pomella’s horse shook his head and stomped a hoof.

“Easy, Quercus,” Pomella soothed.

“Quiet!” one of the bandits yelled. He was dressed in a heavily padded cloth shirt. Greasy blond hair spilled out of his cap and plastered against the side of his head.

The other bandit, a man with an enormous gut and gray beard, shook his crossbow for emphasis. “Keep yer hands up!”

Pomella quirked an eyebrow at him. “They’re already up,” she said. By the Saints, with this heat they must be melting in all those layers. “Don’t you want to come seize my horse and tie my hands?”

The bandits looked at each other again, uncertain of how to handle a volunteer prisoner. They were saved from having to use their brains, however, when all the commotion drew their captain, a sharp-nosed woman resembling a vulture. Unlike her underlings, she wore well-stitched leather armor that fit her long figure. She looked even more miserable in the heat than the crossbowmen.

“Who’n the dyin’ hells are you?” Vulture-woman asked. Her accent was Rardarian, not Mothic.

Pomella kept her hands up but lowered her voice and eyes. “Forgive me, Mistress. I have no name.”

The bandit captain eyed Pomella’s ragged gray work dress and pulled-back hair. “You don’t look Unclaimed. Why isn’t your head shaved?”

“A thousand apologies, Mistress,” in her meekest voice. The dress she wore was an old dress she’d made years ago, shortly before she’d left Oakspring to accept the invitation to the apprentice Trials. It had fit nicely back then, if a little tight in places, but now it barely fit the curves of her older body. “The watcherman banished me yesterday. I—I just c-couldn’t do it.”

She scrunched her face up and hoped the performance would be convincing enough.

“You’re Unclaimed but have a horse?” the captain said.

“It’s my fathir’s,” Pomella said. “He said I should trade him for food.”

The captain looked at her skeptically and Pomella could see her thinking it through. “Tie her hands, Stavin. Get the horse, Kel.”

The greasy-haired bandit leaped to bind Pomella’s hands while the other, bearded one kept his crossbow trained on her heart. “You sure ’bout that, Jeca?” said the bearded one.

“I gave you a jagged order, Kel,” the captain said.

Kel reluctantly lowered his bow and spit into a nearby bush.

Pomella held her wrists out for Stavin, and waited as he struggled to tie them properly. Pomella bit her lip, forcing herself to not offer advice. Likely the bandit was trying not to touch her. She was Unclaimed, after all.

They led her east along a thin trail that hugged the southern edge of the Ironlow Mountains. With the sun blazing, Pomella wished for the shade of her traveling cloak. She considered asking for water but thought better of it.

After nearly an hour on the trail, the captain directed them north, in the opposite direction from the main road. She brought them to a camp surrounding a nearby spring. Pomella’s eyes widened. The camp was far larger than the rumors had said. At least twenty bandits milled around, grooming their horses, moving prisoners, or walking on patrols. Three large tents stood near the spring.

But what really surprised Pomella was the number of prisoners she saw. More than a hundred disheveled men and women milled around in large groups, letting themselves be herded like
cattle.

The Unclaimed.

The lowest of the low in every society, the men and women being held by these bandits—these slavers—had each received a punishment that ostracized them from society forever. By law and tradition, the Unclaimed could own nothing beyond what they could carry. Nobody could touch them, speak to them, or give them shelter. It was a disgusting part of their culture. Nobody was born to this lowest caste.

Rumors had reached Kelt Apar that there was a large enclave of Unclaimed in the area and that it had been raided recently by bandits. In theory, each Unclaimed person had committed a horrible deed to earn this irrevocable title. But the reality wasn’t that simple. The nobility generally bristled at the slightest perceived offense from those they saw as beneath them, and handed out horrible punishments for “crimes” as simple as leaving the barony, or owning a more beautiful horse than the baron, or having a more beautiful wife. The lives of the Unclaimed were bad enough, but in the past year somebody had begun rounding them up to sell as slaves to the Continent.

The captain led Pomella and the other bandit Stavin toward one of the tents. At the entrance, a short bald man wearing a leather vest over a loose shirt snapped directions to another bandit. “Brigid’s tits, man, I don’t care what kind of mudshite hovel you find them in, get those filthy culks cleaned! I won’t have them dyin’ on the ship ’cause they’re covered in their own shite! You don’t have to touch ’em, but get ’em to scrub themselves and each other.”

The man he’d been berating knuckled a pathetic salute and practically ran away. The bald man turned and saw Pomella and her captors. “Who ya got here, Jeca?”

“Fresh meat, Paks,” said the bandit captain, not bothering to dismount. “Turned herself in.”

Paks eyed Pomella. “Ain’t even shaved yet? Have ya touched her?”

The captain narrowed her eyes. “Course not. I ain’t no animal.”

“You don’t look like you’re from Moth,” Paks said to Pomella.

“Where I come from doesn’t matter,” Pomella said.

Pomella knew it was her dark skin that made him say that. Her parents were native to Moth, but her grandmhathir on her fathir’s side, whom she strongly resembled, had come from the distant nation of Keffra.

Paks sneered. “Haven’t learned how to speak to your betters yet, eh?” He nodded to Stavin. Pain exploded across Pomella’s jaw as the bandit slapped a pole across her cheek. Pomella stumbled but managed to stay on her feet. Blood dripped from her lip, but she quickly caught it with her bound hands. She’d hoped to avoid getting hurt like this, but sometimes you had to invest in a little pain. Pomella rose carefully to ensure none of her blood landed on the ground. She didn’t want to draw Oxillian’s attention.

“Careful,” Jeca said, still sitting atop her horse. “We’ll get less if her pretty little face is mangled. The Shadefox won’t be happy.”

“She’ll heal up on the voyage,” Paks said. “Besides, her hands still work. The Shadefox won’t have to know.”

“You won’t be giving me to the Shadefox,” Pomella said, dabbing her face again. “Nor will you be selling any of these other people.”

Paks stepped toward her. “I don’t think Stavin hit you hard enough,” he said. “Looks like you’re too much of a hetch to even be Unclaimed.”

Pomella narrowed her eyes. She hated that vulgar term for a filthy, lowborn woman.

“Get rid of her,” Paks said, and turned away.

Pomella closed her eyes and inhaled. All around her, the Myst, the invisible energy of the universe that lay everywhere, permeating everything, swirled like a cloud caught in a wind. According to her teacher, Grandmaster Lal Faywong, the Myst was the only thing that truly existed and it was alive and supremely aware. The whole island, its people, Pomella, these bandits, and all of their feelings and thoughts were simply limited expressions of the Myst.

That was the theory, at least. At the moment, what concerned Pomella was completing her task.

Silver streaks of light circled her like a Springrise ribbon. A tide of energy arose within her. She opened her eyes just as Stavin yanked on the rope binding her wrist. She yanked back at the same time, and used the Myst to hurl the bandit over her head and across the ground.

“Shite!” Paks screamed.

Pomella lifted her bound wrists above her head, then willed the Myst to wind itself around the rope. As the tiny threads of Myst settled into it, she ignited them with a mental command, and they vaporized into dust.

Time to bring in her helpers.

Pomella stilled her mind and silently summoned her hummingbirds, Hector and Ena. Quick as luck’ns they appeared, zooming through the air, trailing silvery smoke behind. They crossed above her head and dropped a polished oak staff into her hand. As her grip tightened around it, the Myst surrounding her focused and surged.

“She’s not Unclaimed, you culks!” Paks roared. “She’s a—”

Pomella silenced him with a sweep of her staff, wrapping him in a binding of Myst and stuffing his mouth to shut him up. She spun and threw a barrier up just as a crossbow bolt sounded behind her. It had come from Kel, the fat bandit who’d first found her. Pomella tied his feet together with the Myst and threw him sideways into Stavin.

She didn’t really consider herself a warrior, but after shutting down a double handful of slaver operations she’d picked up a trick or two.

A wave of panic rippled across the camp as bandits abandoned their posts and ran. One by one Pomella wrapped them up and dragged them together into a pile of grunting and struggling bodies.

“There now,” she said. “Let’s talk business. Who’s in charge? Is it you, Paks?”

Paks’ jaw worked in a vain attempt to curse past the silvery gag. Pomella twitched a finger and it dissolved, releasing his voice.

“When and where were you going to meet the Shadefox?” she demanded.

“Choke on gunkroot,” Paks said.

Pomella sighed. She hadn’t expected to get a lot of information from the bandits by asking nicely. Very likely they knew little about the Shadefox. Few people did. It seemed as though he operated within carefully contained cells and used proxy representatives in order to limit exposure.

All around the camp, handfuls of Unclaimed had gathered to watch. No matter how many times she saw them, her heart ached at seeing their filthy state. Most wore rags that barely passed as clothes while some were outright naked. None of those noticed or cared about their nakedness, though. When you were Unclaimed, even your bodies were worthless.

Pomella straightened her back. Hector alighted onto the top of her staff while Ena landed on her shoulder.

“All of you are free to go. These men and women won’t hurt you,” she promised. “My name is Pomella AnDone. I—”

“The Hummingbird!” an Unclaimed woman said. She was around Pomella’s age, in her early twenties. A mote of light sparked in her otherwise-dull eyes.

“That’s what they call me, I guess,” Pomella said. “I am going to Port Morrush tonight. There will be food for you there.”

Paks chuckled behind Pomella. “What’re ya gunna do, Hummingbird?” Pomella peered over her shoulder at the man. “Yah can’t feed ’em all. They’re Unclaimed. You’re as far above ’em as you can be. Their lot won’t change. Besides, look at ’em. They don’t wanna change! You can lord over them all you—”

Pomella made a cutting motion with her free hand, stuffing Paks’ mouth again with the Myst.

A thundering of hooves sounded on the far side of the camp. A full complement of the baron’s Shieldguard stormed toward them. The burning afternoon sun glinted off their plate armor and lance tips upon which the ManHinley banner flew. They didn’t bother to slow down for the Unclaimed, who had to scramble to make way.

The riders circled Pomella and the bandits and brought their horses to an easy rest. One of the soldiers, the captain according to his additional knotted shoulder rope, removed his helmet, revealing a dashing face with a square jaw and well-groomed red beard.

“I hadn’t expected to find one of your kind in charge here,” he said, inclining his head only the barest amount. He held a sword in his gauntleted hand.

“You arrived just in time, Captain,” Pomella said. “But you won’t need those weapons.”

The captain hesitated only a heartbeat after her command. “As you command, Mistress.” He sheathed his sword, but Pomella noted that none of his soldiers did. “My name is Captain Lucal Daycon. I’m sure you understand that I have orders to fulfill. I’ve been commanded to arrest every one of these people and submit them to the baron’s justice.”

“You may arrest the slavers,” Pomella said, “but the Unclaimed are free to go at my command.”

“The baron and baroness do not take kindly to Unclaimed loitering on their lands,” Lucal said.

“And if none of the barons welcome them, then where do they go? It’s a problem, isn’t it, Captain? But don’t worry. I’ll be speaking to the baron and baroness this evening anyway. You may proceed with taking these”—she gestured to the bandits behind her—“to Port Morrush. We’ll see what justice the baron and baroness have in mind.”

“As you say, Mistress,” Lucal said. Pomella knew he wouldn’t disobey a direct order from her. The deep, centuries-old rules of society forbade it. But once she was out of sight, she worried Lucal would take justice into his own hands.

“You will escort me and these criminals to the Fortress of Sea and Sky,” Pomella said. “Learn what you can from their leaders, but do not harm them or you will answer directly to me. I expect a report this evening. I’m especially interested in whatever you can learn about the man known as the Shadefox.”

“You are quite the vigilante, Mistress… ?”

“Pomella. My name is Pomella AnDone. And I am not a vigilante. I am a Mystic.”

* * *

Well past highsun, as the caravan of soldiers and arrested slavers approached the mighty Fortress of Sea and Sky, a familiar tingling sensation tickled Pomella’s senses. She peered into the startlingly blue sky and caught sight of a silver bird.

It was a fay eagle, soaring like a festival kite. Wispy trails of mist drifted off the bird’s wings, as if they painted clouds with their passage. It lingered for a full minute, drifting in the air, which struck Pomella as unusually long for a fay casually drifting into the human realm. Finally, like passing thoughts, it vanished, returning to the invisible world it had come from.

Pomella waited until the last of the eagle’s misty presence faded before turning to Lucal. “Did you see that eagle, Captain?”

From atop his brown gelding, the young soldier shaded his eyes and looked up. “No, Mistress. Most of them nest along the eastern edge of the Ironlows. Few come this far south.”

“Yah, I suppose so,” she muttered. Most people usually couldn’t see the fay, but there had been increasing rumors of occurrences in which they did. Anybody could be taught to attune themselves to the Myst, but generally only Mystics and rare individuals who had a natural affinity for the Myst were able to perceive the fay without training. She herself had been one of those individuals, before fate and chance had conspired to lead her to a life as a Mystic.

Putting thoughts of the eagle aside, Pomella turned her attention to the imposing stronghold looming in front of them. For nearly five hundred years, the Fortress of Sea and Sky had dominated the southern tip of the Mothic Mountains. During those centuries, it had welcomed countless wandering Mystics, and on rare occasions played host to the island’s High Mystic. But on this day, Lucal led his company and Pomella beneath the front gates and into the open courtyard beyond, the first time in the fortress’ storied history that it had welcomed a common-born Mystic.

Pomella kept her hood up despite the day’s heat. She found comfort in the hidden depths of the cloak, which she’d retrieved from her saddlebag along with a proper riding dress. The hood also ensured that everyone in the fortress wouldn’t see her drenched in sweat from the long ride. She resisted the urge to knuckle her back. Someday, she’d learn how to ride a horse properly. Maybe, anyway.

Lucal signaled his soldiers to break off and take the prisoners to wherever it was they were to be kept. He motioned for Pomella to follow.

A pair of mailed guards holding pikes stood on either side of the inner keep’s double doors. The guards turned in unison and pulled at the heavy iron rings bolted on as handles. The doors opened, yawning like the maw of a great beast opening into a gullet of shadows.

Lucal bowed in farewell and left Pomella to cross the keep’s threshold by herself. She dismissed her hummingbirds, who flew up and away into the higher portions of the keep. Pomella entered the fortress and sensed the Myst stir, an unseen rush of energy swirling in the entryway, dancing with delight by her presence.

The guards stood at attention, hands on their long weapons. Beyond them, the baroness and her husband waited inside the foyer. Pomella’s attention turned to Kelisia ManHinley, the ninth-generation ruler of the southern Mothic barony, wringing her hands nervously. The baroness bowed to her, followed by her husband, Pandric. Even after all these years, Pomella still felt a rush of anxiety when a noble bowed to her. She fought the urge to bow back, even lower.

“Welcome, Mistress Pomella,” Pandric said. “I understand you rescued some unfortunate victims from the cruelty of slavers. The baroness and I thank you for your efforts. The recent rise of slave trading in our barony is a thorn in our side.” He peered at his nervous wife. “Although I am sad to say that we have more personal matters to discuss.”

Normally, it would’ve been unusual for Pandric to greet her first, since the line of nobility ran through Kelisia, but a quick glance at the circles beneath the baroness’ puffy, bloodshot eyes was enough to tell Pomella that she was barely able to keep her emotions in check. The baroness had dark wavy hair that cascaded down her back all the way to her thighs. Pomella wondered if she’d ever had her hair cut in her life. She had remarkable cheekbones, and stunning brown eyes. But there was a hollowness to her eyes, and a gauntness to her features. Pomella had heard it had been a hard week for the baroness, and for the entire House. Almost certainly the baroness had asked her husband to lead the pleasantries.

Pomella observed the easy manner with which Pandric spoke, as well as his terribly handsome features. Although she’d never met the couple until now, Pomella had heard of their youth and renowned charm. Despite the baroness’ emotionally vulnerable state, the reports of her beauty not only were apparently true but also perhaps fell short. Time would tell, however, whether the noble couple would uphold the old ways of heavy discrimination against the lower castes, or embrace newer ideas.

Pomella slipped her hood back, revealing long dark hair that hung well past her shoulders. The baron and baroness had pale skin, common on Moth, several shades lighter than Pomella’s. “Thank you, Lord Baron. And greetings to you, Lady Baroness.” She inclined her head to each. “What a beautiful home you have here by the sea.”

“You’re too kind, Mistress,” Pandric said. He wore a dark-blue coat, representing the ocean that the fortress overlooked, along with gray trim for the clouds that on most other days cloaked it. Pomella guessed the baron was in his mid-thirties, a little more than a decade older than herself. His short, neatly trimmed hair and beard had a couple of gray hairs just beginning to show. “The landscape is beautiful,” he said, “but the fortress itself can be cold.”

The baroness stepped forward, her anxiety clearly taking precedent over protocol. She took one of Pomella’s hands into her own.

“Please, Mistress,” Kelisia said. “Our Norana. Can you help her?”

Pomella squeezed the baroness’ hand. “Call me Pomella,” she said. “I will do what I can. Tell me what you know.”

“She’s been asleep for five days,” Kelisia said. “Her nurse put her to bed, as usual, and she hasn’t woken since.”

Pandric slid an arm around his wife. “Norana’s very much alive. We can see her breathing, and often smiling or grimacing from her dreams. But no matter what we do, we cannot rouse her.”

The anguish on the baron’s and baroness’ faces broke Pomella’s heart. Unbidden, a memory floated to her of her young brother, Gabor, from when the Coughing Plague had swept through their home village of Oakspring. Not everyone caught the disease, and nobody understood why some folk were affected and others not. Gabor had begun coughing, right when the scare was worst, and Pomella remembered the terror that had gripped her grandmhathir at the thought that his symptoms would progress into the full horrid nightmare. Even their hardened fathir, who normally gave no quarter to his emotions, lingered his hand upon Gabor’s tousled hair a little more often than normal. It turned out that Gabor had just come down with the common chills, thank the Saints. But Pomella remembered the fear her family had shown, and she remembered her own.

“Take me to her,” Pomella said in her most reassuring voice.

Kelisia squeezed Pomella’s hand before practically running to the carpeted stairwell, which led to a landing that ascended to the upper rooms of the keep.

Pandric walked beside Pomella at a more normal pace. “My wife barely eats or sleeps,” he said as they passed a set of massive stained-glass windows overlooking the landing. The artwork depicted the iconic Saint Brigid shouting commands across a ship deck to sailors as they struggled against a storm. “I’m afraid I might lose them both.”

The stained-glass artwork caught Pomella’s attention because she’d never heard of Brigid sailing a ship before. The Saint and her years-long hunt for her son was the defining epic of Moth, and was frequently told on the Continent as well. Pomella knew the Toweren by heart, and often sang it when she visited commoner inns, a pastime she enjoyed but generally kept from Lal and Yarina.

Pomella pulled her attention from the glass artwork as she stepped onto the upper stairs. She focused her mind, easing it into that place where the Myst revealed itself more easily. As she climbed, she called to the Myst, pulling it from the building’s stones, the wooden guardrail on the stairs, the carpet, and even the clothes she wore. The Myst swirled in her vision, like smoke churned by a passing breeze. It whispered wordless secrets with a voice she heard in her heart rather than her ears or mind. Secrets that it had witnessed through the centuries, hinting at what may yet come to pass.

Vague shapes took form within the silvery haze, existing only for moments before disappearing like water vapor on a hot day. Pomella watched as the Myst shaped itself like a painting on the wall, but it vanished as she turned her head to examine its details. Tree branches and vines dipped from the ceiling, making it appear as though for a moment she were walking in a shimmering likeness of the Mystwood.

All of these visions were a reflection of Fayün, the land of the fay, the world that reflected their own, like the opposite side of a coin. They were glimpses of a different realm, one in which the Fortress of Sea and Sky did not exist or, if it did, it existed in a different, unfamiliar form.

Up ahead, Kelisia looked back over her shoulder to ensure Pomella and Pandric still followed. She led them down a hallway that overlooked the entry chamber they’d stood in earlier before cutting into an adjoining passage. Several doors stood along either wall, and it was one of these that the baroness headed for.

Pomella knew which room the child was in before Kelisia approached it. She tightened her grip on her staff. Silver light, blazing bright, seeped from beneath the nearest doorway. Vines and ivy crawled across the door, invisible to everyone except Pomella with her Mystic eyes.

The baroness led them into the room. To Kelisia and her husband, the room likely appeared to be a normal nursery, albeit a wealthy one worthy of the eldest daughter to the nobles living in the Fortress of Sea and Sky. A crib stood against the far wall, which had been painted with a mural depicting the Myst-wood, with the green conical tip of Kelt Apar’s central tower rising above the tree line. Soft candles lit the room, while thin drapes rippled from a breath of sea breeze blowing in from a southern-facing window. An elderly nurse rocked in a chair beside the crib, knitting.

But that was not the entirety of the room Pomella beheld.

Instead, she saw the world of Fayün bleeding across into the human world. Usually it was just a single creature or plant that crossed over the veil into their world, and then only briefly. But rising before Pomella was an entire jungle of trees and vines and creatures, running and scattering as she and the nobles walked into the room. Silvery moss-covered boulders that rested beside Norana’s crib. It was as if the stone had been carved to fit the baby’s crib.

There could only be one reason to explain the unusual lingering glimpse of Fayün. In recent months Mistress Yarina, the High Mystic of Moth, had been preparing her apprentice, Vivianna, and Pomella for the coming of Crow Tallin, a rare celestial event in which the fay would linger longer than usual in the human world. Pomella only understood a little about it but could think of no other reason for such a phenomenon.

Pomella crossed the room and peered into the crib. Little Norana, not even a year old, lay on her back beneath a thin blanket with her fists balled up beside her cheeks. Her chest rose and fell with slow puffs. She looked like any other sleeping tyke except for four ragged scratches running down her face, across her eye, from her forehead to her neck. The scratch marks weren’t normal. They shimmered with silver light, and lay etched into her skin.

Pomella bit her lip. Norana’s parents wouldn’t be able to see the scratches. Something from Fayün had caused them. Just as Mystics could Unveil the Myst and Fayün to manipulate it, so could the denizens and environment of the fay realm sometimes affect the human world. It was extremely rare, happening only a few times on Moth every year, which was high compared to other nations because, of all places in the world, the island was said to be where Fayün overlapped the most with the humans’ own world.

The old nurse stood and silently bowed her way out of the room. She closed the door as she left. Leaning her staff against the wall, Pomella placed her hand over Norana’s head. The little girl had no fever, but Pomella found herself remarking at how soft the child’s hair and skin were.

She glanced around the crib, looking for signs of the fay creature that might have caused the scratches. Silver walnut shells, leaves, and broken twigs lay scattered around the baby. Turning her gaze upward, Pomella glimpsed a pair of silver eyes lurking in the branches of a large tree. The eyes blinked once, then faded into the tree.

Kelisia approached Pomella. “Do you know what ails her?”

“She’s been injured by a fay creature,” Pomella said. “The veil between the fortress and Fayün is thin here. In the fay realm, this very spot isn’t a child’s nursery, but a den to some sort of wild animal.”

Kelisia’s eyes narrowed in fierce determination. Pomella admired how, upon learning this information, the baroness didn’t wail or despair.

“Then how do we purge this infestation?”

Pomella shook her head. “That isn’t an option. There are ways to strengthen the veil to prevent this from happening, but for the moment, it would be best to move the nursery elsewhere and lock this room off from the rest of the fortress.”

Kelisia’s eyes burned. Before she could speak, though, Pandric placed a calming hand onto his wife’s shoulder. “Please, Pomella. We will do anything to help her.”

Pomella gestured to the tyke. “May I?”

“Of course.”

After easing her hands beneath the child’s neck and lower back, Pomella lifted Norana into her arms. She remarked at how wee the child was, so thin and frail. She cradled the tyke in her arms and bounced her lightly. “I’ll need a handful of moments alone with her, please. She is safe.”

Kelisia seemed as though she was about to protest, but Pandric patted her arm and pulled her toward the hallway outside.

“Oh, and Baron?” Pomella said in a quiet voice. He paused at the doorway. “There is a large enclave of Unclaimed outside your city who need food. What I do here is given freely, but I hope you will consider acting generously on their behalf as well.” She gave them both a reassuring smile.

Pandric nodded in understanding, then closed the door.

“Oh, you sweet warrum,” Pomella said to Norana, using the old term her grandmhathir used for small children. “What scratched you?”

Pomella closed her eyes and reached out with the Myst. She sought the child’s emotions, and perhaps, if she was lucky, a glimpse of her memory of what had happened. Like most of her skills, reaching into memories was one talent she’d somehow taught herself over the years. She’d never done it with a child, however.

Pomella began to hum a gentle lullaby. Singing had always been at the heart of her relationship to the Myst. In her years as a Mystic apprentice, it helped her Unveil the Myst and grow. And today, seven years later as a full Mystic, she was still empowered by singing.

Her footsteps sank into the soft rug that filled most of the room. Pomella walked around it, gliding around the whole room with Norana in her arms. She sang an old lullaby she remembered from her grandmhathir. It was a song she’d never forget because it had been sung to her throughout her early life, and that of her brother. Supposedly, the song was another one associated with the Brigid legend, a lullaby the Saint supposedly sang to her infant son. Pomella wondered if that was true, or whether it had been adopted and assimilated by the people of Moth who would never get enough of their beloved Saint. Whatever its origin, Pomella measured her footsteps to the slow rhythm of the song.

“Bab-bie wonder
Bab-bie light
How’d you fall into my sight?”

As she walked and sang, Pomella willed the Myst to accompany her with a gentle tune. It was something she’d taught herself to do during her apprentice years. She found that she could make the Myst play music only she could hear and, because it came from her, it was always in perfect harmony with what she sang.

“Bab-bie star
Bab-bie night
Let me hold you under moonlight.
With eyes so gentle
Soft and down
Take me with you into town.
Bab-bie wonder
Bab-bie light.”

Before Pomella could begin the next stanza, Norana twitched in her arms. The child remained asleep, but her face scrunched up as if to cry. Pomella let her Myst music continue, but she shifted from singing to humming in order to concentrate on what was happening.

Silvery light rolled off Norana now. The scratches on her face pulsed angrily. Pomella pinched her fingers just above the child’s face and pulled, as if she were tugging an invisible string. As she did so, she willed the Myst to bring forth the child’s recent memory.

A tendril of light rose from the center of Norana’s forehead, twisting around Pomella’s fingers. Rising with it came blurry memories. In that moment, Pomella was able to recall, as if it were her own memory, a time when she—as Norana—lay in her crib, sucking on her fist. A cat, striped with different shades of silver, slinked across the crib. It hissed at her, and Norana cried. The cat came closer, and Norana flailed, smacking it with a tiny fist. The creature dodged and hissed and fled, but not before taking a hard swipe at the child.

Pomella steadied herself with a deep breath. Even if Norana could somehow see fay creatures at this early age, it was unlikely she could affect or hurt them.

Or so Pomella had believed.

She looked upward into the silver tree growing above the crib, searching for the pair of eyes she’d seen earlier. Sure enough, as she peered into the branches they appeared. Pomella reached out with the Myst, and pulled the creature forward. It was the same cat from Norana’s memory, twice as large as the child herself.

The cat hissed and spit, but Pomella pinned it down with the Myst. “You will leave this child alone,” she said to the cat. “I will have her relocated to a new room, but this is the human realm. Remain in yours. Go.”

She released the fay creature, and it fled into the branches before misting away.

“There. It shouldn’t hurt you again,” Pomella said to Norana. “And I will keep this memory so it no longer haunts you. Now, let’s do something about those scratches and wake you up.”

She hummed again as she summoned the Myst. She touched Norana’s face, gently rubbing the wounds. Slowly they faded, soothed away by her touch. It wasn’t that the baby had received a physical wound, or that Pomella had been able to heal her directly, but rather she was able to erase the connection that bound the child to the wound that linked her to Fayün.

Sometimes it all made Pomella’s head hurt. Being a Mystic wasn’t easy.

When the scars vanished, Norana opened her eyes. Deep brown pools stared up at her.

Pomella smiled. “Hello.” Norana’s chin quivered and then she began to wail.

Pomella figured this was a good time to hand her back to her parents.

Excerpted from Mystic Dragon, copyright © Jason Denzel, 2018.

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