Monday, September 3, 2007

Magic in Aquila - Prologue

Tiernan didn't have a mother.

He didn't have a father, either, but everybody knew that. But Rowana believed that he stayed at home all day, watering the vegetables or dusting the rooms, because his mother asked him to.

Of course, Tiernan dusted, as best as he could, which meant that he never quite reached the top shelf of the bookcase. He did the laundry when he needed to and he cooked, occasionally, but only so that the fowl no longer oozed red. Mostly, when he stayed home, he practiced his Talent.

It was a weary lifestyle, even Tiernan admitted, but he had to learn to control his Talent by himself. No Talent ever passed through the dusty village of Sarsen, much less to stay and teach, and Tiernan refused to leave Sarsen. Besides, he liked Rowana's company.

Rowana was a Sarsen girl, with hair the color of Sarsen dust and eyes like the clear Sarsen sky. She and her mother lived next to Tiernan, in a cottage as small as his.

Rowana stayed home a lot in the winters, and sometimes Tiernan wished she would stay outside and bear the cold with him instead of warming her hands in front of the fireplace with her mother. Sometimes, though, Rowana's mother would invite him to dinner and he could pretend, for a while, that she was his mother and he was eating a family dinner. More often than not, though, he had to decline and pretend that his mother wanted him with her.

But in summer, the days were long. When the air was too hot and the wind too lazy, Rowana's mother didn't really care anymore what Rowana did with herself, and Tiernan played with Rowana every night in the summers. Tiernan would think, This is what it would have been like if my parents had wanted me; I would've had a little sister like Ro.

One night nearing the end of summer, when the full moon hid behind the blackened clouds, a terrible anxiety took hold of Tiernan. He asked Rowana, "Promise you'll always come over and play?"

Rowana had looked at him strangely and made a hole in the dirt with her finger. "Of course. Why not?"

Tiernan looked at her and then away just as quickly. "Promise me you'll stay."

Rowana grinned, showing a gap where she had lost her last baby tooth. "Of course I will."

Tiernan had thought that Rowana was in earnest, then. She must have been. She was eight and too young for artifice like that. But whether Rowana meant her promise or not, that was the last time she came over and played with him.