Fire in the Mist

Fire in the Mist by Holly Lisle Read Free Book Online

Book: Fire in the Mist by Holly Lisle Read Free Book Online
Authors: Holly Lisle
Tags: Science-Fiction
will have family when you get there?" Faia thought about that wistfully. Her whole family had lived in Bright. She had no one left.
    "Yes. My aunt Sarral. Mama did not think much of her—her going off to Willowlake and becoming all fancy... but I like her. I suppose Sarral will take me in." His eyes darkened with concern. "There will not be anyone there for you, will there?"
    Faia shook her head.
    Aldar bit his lip. "I am sorry, Faia. But Sarral is really nice. She will let you stay with her; I know she will."
    And what place will I have in a big city like Willowlake? Will I be able to find work tending someone else's flocks? Will they be able to use a half-trained healer? Or will I just be in the way? Aldar will manage—he already knows the people who buy and sell, and they know him.
    But there was no sense feeling sorry for herself. She would manage. Somehow—she wasn't sure how—but somehow she would find a place for herself in Willowlake.
    In the tenuous morning mist of Ariss, under a dull, gray, rain-laden sky, soft light reflected off a secluded bay of the lake next to the campus of Daane University. A transparent, one-sided bubble—a gate of rainbow-washed light that opened into nothingness—grew larger and brighter. Its light flickered off the surface of the water, and drew the attention of a lean tan-and-brown cat who had been hunting along the shoreline. The cat crouched beneath a sweet-smelling dzada bush and waited.
    Magic had been returning slowly to Ariss—slowly, but steadily. The bubble grew with the magic it drew through the ley-line streams that coursed overhead and through the earth, and reflected exactly the amount and quality of the power available there. The growth of the bubble, too, was steady and slow.
    The cat who watched did not wait for an event, as a human observer surely would have. It did not look for explanations. It was satisfied simply to observe the patterns of light the bubble put forth, and later, the wispy shadows that began to take shape behind the transparent wall. The cat was not hungry, or perhaps it would have looked for dinner instead lolling under the shrub entertaining its curiosity. Perhaps not. The bubble was outside of its experience, and its experience was broad—for a cat. Its curiosity regarding magic in any form was acute.
    For a very long time, nothing happened except that the bubble grew larger, and brighter. This was sufficient for the cat. It rolled a leaf back and forth between stubby fingers, and waited.
    The shapes inside of the bubble became more defined and more pronounced. One of the dark shapes began to deform the surface of the bubble, as though pressing against it. The stretching became more and more pronounced, until there was a sudden "pop," and a dark, furred form splashed into the water.
    The cat watched this remarkable occurrence without apparent surprise. He had, after all, seen many startling things—had even participated in some of them. He stretched out one lean foreleg and admired the sharp claws and neat, mobile fingers of what had once been a paw, but was now unmistakably a hand.
    He waited further, and was rewarded with one repetition, and then another, of the bizarre event. When the bubble had popped seven times, it grew abruptly and painfully bright, and with incredible speed tightened and shrank until without warning it vanished.
    Seven large, furred shapes swam along the shoreline. The cat watched them until they disappeared around a bend in the little bay. He waited still longer—hoping, perhaps, for yet another miracle. When finally he yawned and stretched and turned to stalk home, midday bells were ringing in the city, rain lashed the surface of the lake, and the fog was long gone.
    Aldar had judged their distances about right. Even in the pouring rain, they still managed to come within sight of Willowlake just after sunup three days later.
    The town covered the entire far side of the valley from one bend in the river to the next.

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