GENRE: YA Fantasy
Ashlynn has accepted a bounty to kill a monster. When the other mercenaries turn on her, Van, a stranger, steps in to fight at her side. Together they don’t just dispatch their attackers, but the monster as well.
Later, Ashlynn’s tutor, a talented mage shows up. Van conveniently disappears. When he reappears he questions Ashlynn about her magic and her tutor.
“The Thorn,” Ashlynn clarifies. “He’s a tutor. Nothing more.”
Van’s expression is too cheerful—disbelieving.
Ashlynn stretches her stiff arms. “The magic you saw were merely tricks. My real talent is with a blade.”
“In this particular instance, you’re being a tad modest. Those were not mere tricks.”
She smirks. “Is that a compliment?”
Van taps her steel arm. “And this?”
“Strong motivation to master those tricks.”
“A wizard did that to you.” Van crouches low to pull at something in the grass.
Ashlynn is grateful to be rid of his searching eyes. She swallows her dread. “…And a wizard prevented it from taking my life.”
When Van stands, there’s a pink flower between his fingertips. “This wizard who cursed your arm, was he by chance…known as the Alchemist? A mage obsessed with metals?”
Ashlynn’s world begins to tilt. “H-how did you guess?” How does he know a thing about mages? She wonders.
Van extends the flower. When Ashlynn reaches for it, he steps playfully backward, his smile as delicate as the breeze across Ashlynn’s skin.
She darts after it like a provoked child, but he has fooled her. It takes him just a half a step forward for them to converge like lovers joining a dance.
Ashlynn breathes in his honey-cypress scent as he tucks the flower behind her ear.
“I hate to tell you these things,” Van whispers.
Ashlynn can see nothing but rain-colored eyes and lashes made of gold.
“But the Alchemist and the Thorn were friends.”