I’m worried about the gaps in my education. What if they get me killed?
Astoreth wrinkled her nose as she held up the half-finished garment to examine her work. “Gaps,” Astoreth grumbled to no one in particular. “Of course there are gaps. For one thing, adepts in my day made their own damned robes.”
There was a reason for it. Not only did it teach practical application of theory, but it instilled discipline – dedication. She still remembered late nights spent up by candlelight, concentrating on her sister’s soft breathing and her own tiny, neat stitches to block out her mother’s shuddering moans and the nigh-relentless gnawing at her gut. Every hour on the hour Astoreth would allow herself a brief pause to stretch and refill her wine glass and have a smoke – unless Orlaith had found Astoreth’s latest hiding place, which happened frustratingly often. Most days the woman couldn’t find her arse with both hands, but she could smell bloodthistle and felweed a mile away, and often Astoreth didn’t know her stash had been raided until she went to partake herself and found the proverbial cupboard bare. And on those nights there was no choice but for Astoreth to grit her teeth and focus harder on her craft; there was no sleep on those nights, and by dawn her white hands and wrists were red and angry where she had stabbed them with her needles to counteract the deeper pain. But she made excellent progress.
The robes Astoreth stitched this evening were smaller than those, for a form even more slender than hers had been on those long ago nights. They were made of finer materials: quality silks and mageweave purchased at market, rather than scraps she had salvaged and bleached and dyed on her own. Her skill had increased also; what had taken her weeks a decade ago took her but a few hours now. And though the hunger would always be with her, she had not been truly hungry in a very long time. She had learned that much. She had survived.
What if they get me killed?
Astoreth had never had any intention of letting the girl make her own robes – primarily because she’d never had any intention of allowing her to wear them. Astoreth had once railed at the child for suggesting that Laurelia might follow in her mother’s footsteps… and again when she suggested that she herself could follow, that Astoreth’s study of the fel might be something they could share. The girl didn’t understand, and like every child since the first came screaming into the world the girl refused to listen. Now she was in over her head… and now, even if Astoreth tried to enforce the old traditions, make the girl do her own work… it was too late. She needed them now. She needed them yesterday, before the power came pulsing out of her hands practically unbidden, boiling and corrupting the leather she wore like the flesh of any foe and melting the dead animal’s skin to the live child’s skin it was supposed to protect.
How terrified she must have been at the damage she’d done to herself. How frightened she still was, even hours later, relating the tale to Astoreth, and recounting how the Light her ally brought to heal her burned. For the first time then Astoreth saw a hint that perhaps she understood how deep over her head she had gotten herself.
But was it enough?
Astoreth frowned, setting her work down in her lap momentarily as her brow furrowed. “Gods, Kuvasei,” she said to the empty room. “I don’t know what the hell to do with you.”