The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Title: Spellthief Stolen — Song & Sight

(mc / fd / mf / ff)

Description: All Melody has to do is take a week off. Leave the tower, find a thief, and break some spells. Just a relaxing sabbatical. Nothing simpler.

This is a work of fantasy, which involves magic, mind control, and sexual situations. If there’s any legality preventing you from viewing pornography, or you think you would find such a story offensive or inappropriate, please don’t read it.

This story runs concurrently with Day 4 of Spellthief Stolen, so if you haven’t gotten that far in it and don’t want any potential spoiling, please go catch up first! If you have read Day 4, you might ask something like, “Hey, what even happened that night to make the arcanist leave his tower?” Well, fair reader, have I got a story for you...

* * *

Melody bolted upright. Before she could even assess herself or her surroundings, one thought screamed above the rest.

The girl.

The girl is gone.


How had she lost her? She had set the whole garden against her, its flowers and vines, its pollen and spores; she had drawn the girl in so deep to her domain, to the point of forgetting her objective, forgetting her place, forgetting her self as she stepped into the grove.

She had sung. Oh, how she had sung. Her fingers still ached from the magic poured into her melodies, sent spinning through her lyre, weaving through the air, ensnaring between the girl’s ears. And she had been rapt, and she had sat, and listened, and imbibed the waters of sleep, and, she had slept! How had she awoken? What had she done wrong? How had she failed to keep the girl close through the night, close and ready for...

... ready for her Master.

Her Master would not be pleased, He would be so upset, and He...

... hang on.

She knew the face of her Master. Knew of His body, knew of His powerful, golden stare, His captivating, irresistible magic...

... but something was wrong with those images.

She tried to think. When had she first come into her Master’s care? She had always been within His power, of course, she had never known another life...

... then why did she remember His lectures on sorcerous climatology at the Great University?

This was growing stranger. Her Master would never have need to lecture before students. He and His magic were all-powerful, were they not? Of course they were. And it was thus that she had been bequeathed a fragment of His power, to protect and guide His garden, to ensnare His unwanted visitors, to prevent them from reaching...

... His tower.

Melody blinked. She was in His tower, not His garden. More accurately, she knew, she was in the laboratory. She knew this because of the hard, wooden examination table that she was sitting on, and how it chafed against her ass. She knew because of the shelves mounted to the stone walls, the workbenches, the scrolls and books and parchment strewn all over, the diagrams and markings and...

... wait, her ass?

Was she naked?


Her Master’s voice made her forget about everything. There He was in the doorway, in His resplendent, majestic robes, with His wondrous face and eyes and hair and...

... He looked bedraggled. His hair was out of place. His robes had been hastily donned. His eyes, and His face, were confused, very confused.

“Melody?” He repeated again.


He swallowed, took a step in, and softly shut the laboratory’s door behind him. “Do you... know who I am?”

Of course she did.

... right?

He was her Master, all-powerful and all-knowing, all-seeing...

... but then again, why should He look so confused? Why should He look so disheveled? Why should He lecture students? Why should He have a laboratory, for experiments that He should already know the outcomes of in full?

Melody blinked. Her brow furrowed. She was inside the laboratory. The place for experiments. And she didn’t exactly feel within her right mind, and so...

“... this is an experiment,” she heard herself murmur.

“Yes,” He nodded from across the space. “Do you know who I am?” He asked again.

“Yes,” she said.

“Can you tell me who I am?”

Melody squinted. “... maybe?”

He chuckled deeply, and she could sense the tension concealed behind it. Not very fitting for the almighty. “Can you tell me who you are?”

“I’m Melody,” she said automatically.

“And who is Melody?”

“Melody is the guardian of her Master’s garden, she is His instrument of song and spellcraft, she is...” He was shaking his head. “... that’s wrong, isn’t it.”

“Partly,” He smiled, and walked up to her side. He seemed taller than she remembered. “May I?” He asked, a hand outstretched.

She could feel the sorcery radiating from His fingers, the spell contained behind His eyes. “What is it?”

“A measure of clarity, I hope.”

She nodded. His fingers pressed to her temples—

Melody gasped for air, her eyes and mouth open wide, her body and mind inflamed with a rush of power, all over and everywhere, the mist in her head having cleared as soon as his hand withdrew. She met his eyes, and she knew them.

“Vey,” she started, “what is going on?

The arcanist smiled above her. “There’s the apprentice I know. You’re still feeling certain effects of the treatment, Melody.”

She shook herself loose, massaging her dully aching forehead with four fingers. “What treatment? I can’t remember a thing...”

“Let us start from the beginning, then.” Vey sat in a chair by her side. “Who am I?”

How was that even a question? “You’re Vey,” she said, “you’re the royal arcanist of this duchy, and you’re the overseer and teacher for my apprenticeship.”

“Good,” he nodded, “and you are?”

“Melody. I’m your student and your apprentice,” she giggled, “and I’m the one who keeps you from blowing yourself up in here every day.”

The arcanist smiled, but again, she saw that strange strain behind his expression. “You do, Melody, that’s right. Though not for this past week.” Her brow furrowed. “You don’t remember it,” he observed.

“I don’t. Well, I do. Some.”

Vey heaved a sigh. “I had expected some of this. You did as well, mind.”


“Of course.” He smiled at her, “You were the one to first posit the mental dangers of the Rootbinding spell.”

Melody’s eyes widened. “The Rootbinding? You made it work?”

“I made it work weeks ago,” he said with some pride, “but you have been its first user. You volunteered, of course.”

She couldn’t see why she wouldn’t have signed up for it. The Rootbinding was one of his stranger, more experimental projects. A way to connect, physically, the life and mind of a human to the life, energy, and being contained within a root system, and the plants it supported. It’d seemed like a pipe dream for the entirety of her apprenticeship thus far. Like a fifth limb, Vey had always waxed...

Really, it was like a third. The legs, like the spell’s name implied, were bound to the roots. And if she’d been the subject of the enchantment...

Melody looked down. She had her legs, yes, that was good. Looked a bit pale, but that was to be expected, if they’d been underground. “How long was I in it?” she asked idly, wiggling her toes back and forth, being somewhat surprised by their dancing in response.

“A week.” That note of strain again.

The crease in her brow grew deeper. Her legs looked a bit smaller, had they somehow shriveled up? And her arms, she saw, on either side of her vision, well they were pale too. She was still wearing her focus, the bracelet of silver and pearls that marked her as an arcanist’s apprentice. But her skin was pallid, even near onto sickly. She’d lost the thickness in her upper arms, and in her thighs, too.

Something’s wrong, here. She could feel it, but she couldn’t sense what. Her eyes traveled further, to her hands—they were scarred, all over the palms with what looked like burns. What had she been doing? And they were still too small, too delicate, and more calloused than they should have been. Her stomach was flat; she’d never had a flat stomach, and below... why had that short crop of hair gone a light blond? Her own hair was dark and thick and—

She squeezed at the back of her head, and felt barely a tuft. It was all so short. Her scalp tingled, as her hand moved aimlessly, while a chill thrust through her spine. Her breasts, too. They were so small. And even more embarrassing, her nipples were stiffening, and right in front of Vey, too.

“Vey,” she whispered, still gawking at herself, “why am I naked?”

She heard him swallow before replying. “Your flesh needed to be exposed to the sunlight and nutrients, for such a long time in the ground, and... well it was part of your persona, Melody. The guardian of my garden. The nymph of myth who could enchant, enfeeble, and ensnare any who passed by.”


“I explained it to you before,” hurried but calm in his words while she pondered her nails, “the Rootbinding is powerful, yes, but our minds are not equipped, as they are, to think in terms of growing flowers and twisting vines and shifting leaves. We think on it, yes, and we can imagine it, but to control it as ourselves, well, it requires modifications, as such. We decided that the most effective personage you might take was—”

“No.” Melody bit her lip, and slowly looked up to the arcanist’s face. “I meant, why is my body this way?”

Vey stared, and sucked in a breath. “That is a more complicated story.”

“This isn’t my body.”

He shook his head. “It is not. I could show you better, if you really...”

“Yes,” she nodded. “I need to see it.”

Vey cleared his throat. He stood and stepped aside, and as he pressed his hand to her shoulder, she felt the thrumming of his power, of the tower, his magical focus, echoing through her being, and he whispered a spell that she knew, so quiet she could scarcely hear, and then the room was bathed with a bright, ghostly blue light.

The girl. The girl was standing before Melody. Short, wiry, entirely naked and entirely translucent, an illusion summoned up by the arcanist. The apprentice stood up, ignoring the complaint in Vey’s breath, and she moved closer. The girl looked intent and focused, but simultaneously at ease. She was staring down at something, with her hand bent forward to rest on whatever it was, and her eyes scanning back and forth across its surface. Melody felt the rage and need stirring up inside her, just from seeing the woman. How could she have escaped? How could she have eluded her?

“Melody,” Vey murmured behind her.

“Why are you showing me this?”

“Look at her arms.” She did. “Look at her hair.” She did. “Look at her legs.” She did that, too.

“Now look at yourself.”

He handed her a mirror. She took it, and brought it up. Her eyes weren’t blue. Her nose was too small. Her ears were pointed. She looked like a Keld.

Something moved in her stomach. Her hairs stood on end. She swallowed dryness, she felt suddenly cold.

“This isn’t my face.”

Vey cleared his throat.

She glanced aside, to the projection. To the girl.

“It’s hers,” she realized.


She very nearly dropped the mirror, very nearly toppled to the floor, but Vey grabbed her, held her, kept her from tumbling as her body shook with a labored, anxious breath. It didn’t make sense. She wasn’t in her body. She was in hers. “Why?”

The arcanist laid her down, gently, back on the wooden table. “Part of your new identity was to beguile the garden’s visitors, yes?”

Melody nodded, finding a rhythm in her breath and clinging to it for dear life.

“Do you remember when Garrett came down? Don’t worry, he was only a volunteer, there were a few.”

“Yes.” She nodded. “I do.”

“Do you remember what you did?”

“I played him a song. I sung to him with the wind and the trees.”

“And when he entered your little grove?”

“I... made him see a fantasy.” Vey looked on, expectant. “I showed him a vision, to bring him in closer. I think it was part of how you enchanted me. To make me... alluring.”

Garrett was young, younger than most of the guards. Older than she, but still. Young. A bit handsome. And in her memory, she could remember seeing him, as if from afar, while he wandered into the maze’s entrance. He’d traded armor for a simple shirt and trousers, but he still wore a blade.

“I led him... w-well, I let him inside...”

She could have turned him out, of course, there were a multitude of plants by the gate for just that. But she wanted him to come in. She didn’t want to scare him.

“... I showed him the pretty flowers...”

He’d stopped to admire them, their rainbow of colors. She’d made them dance before his eyes, slowly shaking out their pollen, feeling as it worked its way through his nose and mouth, seeing the smile on his lips.

“... and he wanted more, so...”

She showed him more. Leading him through the maze with his slow, sure steps. A trail of pretty flowers, ones she made bloom just for him to follow, corner after corner, each one spurting a burst of pollen, happily inhaled as he went to the next.

“... and then he found the grove...”

Oh, had he. She had seen him then. Heavy-lidded, pacing ’round the corner like a somnambulant.

“... and I played for him, sang to him...”

The music had worked the spell in his mind. He hadn’t seen the hedges anymore, and neither had she. She had imagined it, sung of it, and sent it straight to his sight.

“... a desert, and an oasis, and a maze of tents...”

Like some drawing out of a book, a sketch of an exotic Sel’het colony. Fine fabrics adorning each wall, tapestries and curtains, lines of beads and threads as he wandered between, and through, and closer and closer.

“... and that was what he wanted, you see, because...”

Because Garrett had had a fantasy. He had heard tales of the Sel’het. Of their dwellings. Of their women. And he heard, and saw those fantasies while he walked, while he stepped into the grove.

“... he heard the women, he saw the women...”

A dozen of them, each in different colors of exotic desert garments, silks and scarves, sashes and things she had no names for. Each with different, uniquely gorgeous bodies.

“... and they danced and spun to my song...”

For Melody was in the middle of them, seated on a great round bed, wearing, to Garrett’s eyes, nothing but lingerie, dappled with golden, gleaming scales. He saw her there like some goddess, perfect in the imaginings of his mind. He was drawn to her. Inexorably, as he stepped slowly past spinning dancers, roaming hands, fleeting touches.

“... and he was dizzy, and he fell at my side and I saw...”

His stiffness, so obvious, so brought on by the vision straight from his deepest dreams. A woman in red led his hands lower, while a woman in blue massaged his scalp, while one in green stroked the muscles of his shoulders, while the one in orange danced right before his eyes.

“... and the one in purple handed him the cup...”

The waters of sleep, from the fountain beside her, tasting and smelling to him like wine. He drank, and drank, and collapsed into his bed while she played, and played, and played...

“I found him that night,” Vey said, and she was jarred back to the moment, back to the now. “Sprawled out next to you, wearing less than he had entered the garden with. Looking quite blissful, really.” She was glad that she wasn’t the only one wearing a heavy blush.

Just a memory. And just someone else’s. Still, it took her time to readjust to the present, while her eyes strayed once more to the ghostly image, still stood in the center of the room. The girl, near motionless, breathing blue light. “What does that have to do with her?”

The arcanist shook his head. “Little. But that is what you did, this past week. A few guards and servants volunteered, they would enter the garden with an aim to come inside...”

“... I thought they were intruders, and I’d trap them. Using their thoughts, using illusions.”

He nodded. “Peering into their minds and altering them, just a touch, after the magic you wrought in the garden had softened them. I’ve told you of your skill in mind magic, Melody, but you nearly demolished the whole gamut of challenge. You should be proud of your performance.”

“I remember,” she started to nod, “it was a way to practice my skill on some besides you, a week to get better with the lyre, a week to just sit and relax...”

“And a week of extra pay, for your help in the experiment.”

Her lips grinned. But. “... nearly?”

Vey cleared his throat once again. “Nearly. That is where she comes in.”

The pieces fell into place, one by one. Garrett and the others were volunteers, even if she thought them interlopers. She set the garden against anyone that came inside. A girl stood in the middle of the laboratory, and Melody wore her skin.

She swore. “She wasn’t a test. She was a real live thief.”

“Spellthief, actually,” Vey muttered.

“And I failed.” Melody’s heart sank. “I gave her pollen, I gave her vines, I played a song and I showed her something so strange she just had to come closer.” Melody’s hand settled below her neck, below her neck. “I thought it would work. A-and I failed.”

“She’s skilled, Melody, and you weren’t expecting any real intruders...”

“But I thought that the others were real. Garrett, I saw him in my mind as an adventurer, looking to pick a fight. I saw Mira from the kitchens a-as a seductress.”

“Well that sounds like a sight.”

“It’s not the point,” she moaned, “I could take all of them, but I couldn’t take her. It’s my fault she got in, Master, I let her through, and I...”

“Melody, Melody, shh,” He put a hand in her hair, she felt its unsettling shortness, “these are after-effects, you’re still wearing the illusions you put on your body, the enchantments I put on your mind, and...”

She swallowed, turning her eyes up to Him. “A-and?”

Her Master’s face was reddening. “Melody, you just...”

“What is it, Master?”

He swallowed. “Repeat what you just said.”

“... what is it, Master?”

Both stared. “You don’t...?”

She looked at Him curiously. “Is something wrong?”

“Who am I, Melody?” He murmured.

How was that even a question? “You’re my Master,” she said, “you are all-powerful and all-knowing, you have made of me your servant to protect your oh gods it’s happening again isn’t it.”

He looked away. “Yes. Yes it is. It... it appears that these enchantments are running quite deep.” His hand reached for her temples, and she could feel the spell of clarity charged within once more... but He faltered, and paused. “Perhaps it would be better to simply unravel it all now,” He said. “Remove the remainder of my enchantments. Banish your own, so that you can exist within your own body once more.”

It made sense to her. She wanted her skin back, her arms and legs and her face. She wanted her peace of mind back, untroubled by the impulses of speech she couldn’t shake... but her eyes drifted back to the illusion, to the thief. Something kept twitching, in the back of her awareness, and she tried hard to place it. It bothered her. She didn’t just want that gone.

“No,” she shook her head, “that’s not necessary.”

Her Master turned, wearing a wan smile. “Is that Melody speaking, or my guardian?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does, Melody,” He sighed. “You are still feeling your delusion. I cannot let it persist in good conscience, when it was my doing to begin with. Your week is up. It’s time you were my apprentice again.”

She knew this. She agreed with this. But still it troubled her; and it wasn’t merely the troubling coming from that part of her mind, the guardian’s part of her mind. It didn’t want to go away, of course, but she was feeling more than just that instinct of self-preservation. She felt conflicted. Uneased. Like there was something she was missing. Like there was a puzzle to be solved. And how could she just throw away a new challenge to surmount?

“Melody?” His hand was drifting closer.

Something stirred in her mind, an old lesson, in the library. A piece of the puzzle. She didn’t know where it came from, but it pushed itself out of her lips. “H-four, C-twenty.”

Her Master blinked. “H-four C-twenty, that’s... Urtan’s Modern Mental Maladies, first edition, Damean translation.” He squinted at her. “Why do you bring it up?”

Her mouth was working as fast as her thoughts, “Two months ago, in the library, you gave me a lesson from that book. Page seventy-five, Urtan speaks of a classification for illness, the psychosomatic.”

“The mind ailing the body, a sickness being all in one’s head and imagination. Yes, I’m familiar, and your memory is as sharp as ever, but I fail to see how...”

“I get it now, Master,” she said quickly, “that’s what’s going on, that’s why it all feels so strange. You said it was my spell keeping up the illusion, yes?”

“Go on...”

“I’m the one that placed the enchantments on myself, to make my body this way. Shouldn’t I be able to just snap them?”

“In theory, yes.” He blinked. “Why haven’t you?”

“That’s the thing—I can’t. I can’t even feel that a spell is there, much less that I’m the one channeling it.” She raised her wrist and flapped it around, making her magical bracelet swing back and forth worthlessly. “It’s in my head, Master, and doesn’t that bear further exploration?”

“While I admire your curiosity and your skills of deduction, Melody, I hardly think you’re—”

“Of my right mind? Hardly not,” she chuckled, “but isn’t this what an arcanist does? Find a mystery, study a mystery, work at it and explore it until it can be solved and explained?”

His arms crossed over His front. “You’re playing to my sensibilities.”

“Of course I am. But that doesn’t matter, does it?”

“It matters if your well-being comes into danger. I have a responsibility to care for the health, mental and physical, of my apprentice.”

Her hand twisted in mid-air, her silver bangle spinning with it. Both their gazes flew to it, and Melody saw the pearls glow softly. A spell, that she’d cast without even thinking. He saw it, too, she could see it in His eyes, but she spoke first, and fast. “But that doesn’t matter, does it?”

She watched Him blink. She saw the confusion scrawled over his face as his memory turned back, his previous response rewritten. “It... may not,” He murmured.

She swallowed. She had cast spells on Him before, including this one, but this time felt different. “You know that I want to solve my mystery?”

“I do,” He said quietly.

“And you want to let me?”


A twist. A blink. A shiver through both of them. “And you want to let me?”

“I do.” He smiled. “You do not need magic for that, Melody... though now, I wonder if I would have wanted it before.”

Melody smirked. “But that doesn’t matter, does it.”

Her Master chuckled. “It does not. I suppose I must allow you to pursue this psychosomatic puzzle, but.” He put a finger toward her, wagging it gently. “You must be careful. You must keep notes. You must keep me apprised of your findings. And I will give you one week only, no more.”

“One week will be plenty, Master,” she assured Him.

“And another.” He swallowed. “I’ll need you to stop calling me Master.”

She giggled into his blush. “Anything you say, Master.”


“Yes, Master?”

“You just said it again. And again.”

Her brow furrowed. “Did I?”

He put a hand to his head, sighing through a deep shudder. “This is a terrible idea.”

* * *

Vey had at least softened when she assented to the spell of lucidity again. Stronger this time, enough to keep her words from slipping, though she’d still had a temptation to tease him with it. She had long surmised where his passions lay, and while she was certainly not interested in using those passions herself (and neither was he), she did still toy with the idea.

Perhaps that was the guardian, as well. As soon as she returned to her room, she’d found her journal and quill, and had begun a list of the thoughts and ideas that could have possibly come from outside her own mind.

She’d given up on it quickly. Even something as simple as wondering what dinner could be was, quite possibly, tainted. Was the guardian secretly hoping for Garrett to deliver her meal, so that he could be enchanted yet again? Some part of her did seem to enjoy the idea.

But that wasn’t her. It was the guardian. It was only logical for a being of sensuality and sexuality to be enamored with encouraging it in others, no matter the method. She’d worried when she’d called Mira to her room, but thankfully, the woman had stayed on the other side of the door, handing off clothes without seeing Melody’s nakedness.

Because she was still naked. And with this smaller body, none of her clothes could rightly fit, without being too short, or too wide, or making her look too out of place. Vey was going to take her into town that night, share a meal with her at the inn and procure her room for a week of sabbatical study. It would be an opportunity to relax. To come down from her involvement in a solid seven days of magic, seven days of blurred memories.

She started tracking those, as well, when they came. Garrett’s entry. Mira’s, and the absurdity of the corset that Melody had imagined her in. She wasn’t bosomy at all, but the thing she imagined must have been magic enough to make her look so. Had Mira imagined it, as well? She would have to ask, when her mind was in order.

Less interesting memories came, too. Simply sitting as the wind blew, tuning and playing her lyre on the bench. She couldn’t have stood, for her legs were rooted in the earth, but she could make the branches of the trees bend and stretch for her. She could make the blades of grass whisper with her strings. For all it had wrought, the Rootbinding was a beautiful experience. She even started to set some of her thoughts to song; a whole week of playing had left her fingers itching to keep practicing at each moment.

And so she was, riding in Vey’s carriage that night as they sped out of the garden maze, onto the road surrounded by swamp, until they finally hit a more civilized stretch. Her friends at the academy had blanched, when she told them which arcanist’s tutelage she would be entering. ‘The swamp sorcerer,’ they’d giggled, ‘the lord of leaves,’ ‘the kendarine king,’ and less charitably, ‘tree-fucker.’

The rumors of his sexuality had been greatly exaggerated. It was true that he’d spent time in Elurye, many of Vey’s rambling tangents ended or passed through there, and it was true that he kept a substantial amount of kendarine, and it was true that he liked plants and lived in a swamp. But he had made fertile, beautiful ground from the fetid pits, he had nurtured the land, made it grow, and he sought to do the same everywhere.

She smiled. He saw, sitting across from her in their bumpy chariot, and smiled as well. The sky outside was dark, cloudy overhead. It was likely to rain. They’d been sharing the ride in near-silence, save for her random snatches of harmony, before Vey gave a yawn. His eyes were closed, and Melody plucked a string loud enough to make them snap up. “You’re tired,” she said.

The arcanist waved her off. “I’m fine, Melody.”

He always did this. The apprentice sighed. “When was the last time you slept?”

“Does it matter?” he said wearily. She gave him a look, and played a low note. Vey rolled his eyes, and propped his head up with a fist. “Haven’t slept since she arrived.”

Melody’s eyebrow rose. “The thief? You’re still that shaken up?”

He chuckled deeply. “Some, but that is not why.”

“She broke in days, ago, though, how could you still be...” She saw the glint in his eye, felt her stomach give a twist. “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what, lit—” He cleared his throat, “Melody. Didn’t what?”

“Didn’t catch her, and worse, didn’t keep her.” He stayed silent. “What, you just throw her in the guest room?”

The guest room was, of course, where hostages, political prisoners, and other guests were kept. But never thieves. There’d never been a thief inside, in the guest room or in the tower itself. Again, she cursed herself.

The arcanist sighed. “She’s not just a thief, Melody. She’s a revolutionary.”

“Then turn her over to the authorities!”

“You know they’d likely kill her, or worse.”

“Then why not turn her out? Blank her memory, keep her from coming back?”

Vey sighed again. “And leave her to keep stealing my colleagues’ projects? I’ve thought this through, it’s just a few more days, so really it’s... what?”

Melody was squinting at him. “You’re attached, aren’t you.”

“That’s preposterous, of course not. Stop grinning like that, littl—Melody, I am not attached.”

“It’d explain why you’ve been stuttering around me since I woke up,” she grinned. “And that blush on your cheek. And that reluctance of yours to put your foot down like normal.”

“The state of your appearance has nothing to do with my state.” He shifted, as if uncomfortable, and looked out the window as well. “I’m merely tired.”

“You need sleep, Vey.” It was true. She’d seen him nodding off at least three times on the ride so far. “You can get away burning the candle at both ends while you’re in the tower, but out here, that staff isn’t enough magic to keep you alert.”

“Please, Melody, really,” he chuckled, “I can take care of myself.”

She shrugged and played a few chords. “Suit yourself.”

Falceather drifted out of the mist in short order. The small village was the closest one to the tower, and the most convenient by carriage as well. Officially labeled on maps as Falcon’s Feather (for it was said that the founders liked the bird, and spun many myths to justify the name), Falceather had become the local name through years of repetition, until few could be bothered to pronounce anything but the most essential syllables. The Talon Bar, though, still bore its title proudly, and the carriage came to a halt just outside.

Vey disembarked first, and gingerly helped Melody down from inside (careful, she noticed, not to let his hands leave her sides or his eyes leave her face). She tucked her lyre into the leather satchel at her hip, its strap slung over her left shoulder, and smoothed out the plain, peacock blue surcoat that she had borrowed from Mira.

Melody looked up. The arcanist was staring off into the distance, towards, she was sure, his tower. He always knew exactly where it was, for the power inside it was like a massive beacon, ever at the edge of his awareness even when they traveled far away. Having spent so much time inside it, she could feel it, as well, though surely not as strongly as he. She put a hand on his elbow. “Vey?”

“... something you need, little thief?” he murmured, squinting his eyes above her.


“Hm?” He looked down. “Oh! Melody. Yes.” His hand scratched the back of his head. “Terribly sorry about that, but...”

“Something wrong?”

He sighed. “So it would seem. The alarm has been triggered.”

Melody had set it off once on her own, by complete accident, and it had drove all the tower’s occupants to madness for the few minutes that it was buzzing and blazing with light. There was just one likely reason it would be going now, though. “You think it’s her?”

“I think it is possible,” the arcanist nodded. “I... hate to leave you alone here, though...”

“Vey, relax.” She squeezed his arm, watched him momentarily shiver with the touch that wasn’t really her own. “I can take care of myself,” she winked.

“Very well,” he relented with a grin. “But I will reimburse your stay, and come for you when the week has ended. Send a message if you need anything. I mean it, anything.”

“I get it, I get it!” She laughed, and gave him a shove back toward the carriage. “Go take care of things.”

He climbed the steps and looked back to her from the space inside, holding the door’s handle with one clenched fist. She saw something like longing, behind his stare.

“Vey. You’re attached,” she giggled.

“Simply looking after... looking after your safety.” He composed himself, nodded, and shut the door. “See you in a week’s time.”

Both of them waved through the window, and soon the chariot was speeding off with its horses, and she was left before the tavern, still waving as the dark carriage fled into the night. She took a deep breath. The town was quiet, but there was talking and music inside the bar, and lights in its windows. Maybe she’d partake; the Talon always had fine flagons, and she could certainly...

Something tickled at the back of her neck. Melody whipped around, but there was nothing there, except for the small slivers of moonlight peeking through thick clouds, casting silver onto the earth. She saw a glint of it to her left, turned her eyes...

... fair hair, short, glistening like silver in the lunar light. Like the thief’s. Like her own. She squinted at the shape, far down the street, a woman walking hurriedly past a squat building, and then around its corner. Melody started walking after her. She didn’t know why—but it was becoming clear. The guardian had put the impulse in her legs, and Melody was just following it. A good mystery had to be followed, and now there was a woman looking just like herself? Had the thief broken out, and come here so quickly? She’d have to be caught, she’d have to be enraptured for Vey so that he could...

... wait. Melody shook her head, standing in the road, halfway down and placing hands on her hips. This was the guardian’s thinking, not her own. She couldn’t just let these enchantments run rampant over her actions, she had to control them, stifle them. See, suppress, and study. It couldn’t be the thief, anyway, there’s no way she could’ve gotten to Falceather so fast. And so with a sigh, and notes to take arranging themselves in her head, she stared back towards the Talon to get that room and get that drink, then—

“Silk!” someone shouted. She kept going, heard someone else from the same direction, and then again, “Silk!”

What kind of merchant sold wares this late? What kind of noisy idiots were they? She ignored the man’s voice, but then there was a woman’s, shriller, “Silk!”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the two walking up to her from across the way. Oh, no. Melody didn’t want to haggle. She was horrible at haggling, especially with hawking merchants and especially when those merchants just kept getting closer. She was about to tell them to back off—

Arms seized hers. Hands squeezed over her mouth. Her shouts came out muffled, as she kicked and struggled and tried to get free, shaking her whole body at once and trying to topple the man over while he dragged her, but he was stronger, and the woman had her hands tight, and she couldn’t bite and couldn’t scream, and they pulled her into the alley, and the woman was right before her eyes, “Silk!” she hissed again, “silk, it’s us, stop fucking struggling, would you?”

“Come on, silk,” the man behind her complained as she shoved him hard to the wall, but he kept her arms held.

Melody’s eyes flicked around madly, but there was no help, nowhere to settle on but the sharp gaze in front of her, the woman speaking pleadingly, “Would you calm down, please? I’ll take my hands away if you say you won’t scream.”

Melody nodded haltingly. The fingers over her lips unlaced, and she drew in a breath to bellow out into a shout, but she was muffled again. The woman groaned. “Silk what the fuck!

She and the guardian in her head both panicked. Her hands tried to twist out a spell, but they could scarcely move, nor could she find any calm to focus on. She’d never been mugged before, or kidnapped, or killed in a gutter. She didn’t want to be. She didn’t want to be, but her strength was fading, and she knew it was pointless unless she could get her hands free. Which they weren’t. So she let herself slow, and let the woman take her hands away, without moving in response. “That’s better, right?”

Melody nodded. The man behind her sighed, and his grip loosened just slightly—

She spoke a word, arched all ten fingers, and magic pulsed in her veins before blasting out from her in a circle, shoving the man and woman into either side of the alley with twin thuds. She ran. She ran, but the dark lane was a dead end, and by the time she whipped around, both of them were bearing down again. The woman had gleaming bangles, and the man, though she couldn’t see, had a focus of his own, strong, charging with something. Melody positioned her hands and threw up a shield of warping light, but against two sorcerers who wanted her dead, she knew it was feeble. She had to try getting out some other way. “Wh-what do you want with me?”

The woman scowled and stood firm, but the man stepped forward, his arms spread in what could’ve been either a gesture of peace, or a spell being prepared. “Silk, don’t you recognize us? It’s me, Drex, silk.”

“I-I don’t have any fabrics for you, a-and none Sohn Murian either, so I think you have me confused for someone else.” She repositioned her feet, and kept her hands splayed to brace the warding wall between them.

“Fabric? What are you...” the man started.

But the woman walked up, and pounded a fist against her shield, making it bend, making her flinch. “We don’t have time for your undercover, incognito, whatever you wanna call it bullshit. We have to go, before somebody fucking sees us.”

“I’m not going anywhere, with either of you.” Melody sucked in a breath and forced herself to stop trembling. “I don’t know who you think I am, but if you have any sense as sorcerers, you know the apprentice’s mark.” She saw both pairs of their eyes dart to her wrist, where her silver band was shining bright, though flickering from the strain of the spell. “I am under the tutelage and protection of the arcanist of this duchy, and if you persist, I will have no choice but to bring up the hells of the Damean academy and the royal crown itself to claim you, s-so you had best reconsider this paltry ambush.”

“Holy shit,” the man mouthed.

“Fuck,” the woman agreed.

She went on, feeling some pride and power in her speech, “I-I’m telling you, no one has to get hurt, so just...” but they were already talking over her.

The man. “He’s gotten to her. That’s why she’s so late.”

The woman. “Fucking mind mage?”

The man. “Fucking what else could it be?”

Melody. “Hello?!”

“Shut up, silk,” both of them said, then turned to each other.

“This is bad,” she said.

“Agreed. Would you do the honors?”

“Take her to the room?”

“You’re not taking me anywhere.” She clenched her fists, a shout, she forced the magic outward to shove both back, then took off in a sprint between them. She heard a sigh from the man, and her arm was caught, but she wrenched free—

Her whole body went numb at once. She didn’t even register the woman’s hand on her arm, as all her muscles seized and sputtering noises forced their way out of her lips, and she fell, the woman following her, keeping her hand and the vibrating electric force constant, and she couldn’t scream, as her other finger floated right above Melody’s eyes, came closer, and closer, and

It touched her forehead.

Thought dissolved.

* * *

“... not a focalist, but it’s the real thing, so we can’t...”

Melody was waking. In a bed. Not her own. Probably in the Talon.

“... don’t want that fucker storming after us and...”

She’d been kidnapped. She hadn’t ever been kidnapped before.

“... the hells are we gonna do, Karsa?”

And she had kidnappers. Noisy ones. She lay as still as possible, which was easy, considering every muscle in her body still felt numbed. She knew what electromancy felt like now, it was just hard to think about what’s making the impulses inside your brain all stop at once while, well, while the impulses in your brain are all being stopped at once.

“How the fuck should I know?” The woman, the offending electromancer, was clearly exasperated.

“We didn’t come down here to kidnap anybody.” The man sounded more reasonable to Melody, but he was still a kidnapper, so not by much.

“And we haven’t. We rescued silk.”

Silk. Silk. Not the fabric, a name, Melody realized. But why had they mistaken her for this Silk?

Have we?”

“The fuck’s that supposed to mean, Drex?”

“She sure didn’t sound like Silk. Wearing more clothes, too—you ever seen Silk in a surcoat?”

The woman named Karsa, as Melody inferred, snorted. “Never. And she didn’t even recognize us.”

“That’s what I’m saying; I’m saying we have no idea what else he might’ve done to her. I mean, can you read this mess?”

Read? Melody chanced opening her eyes, and found that they could move. Bleary as her vision was, her two assailants stood with their backs to her, silhouetted by an unmistakable glow of an illusion, sprawling across the far wall and mixing with the room’s soft candlelight. Shapes danced, flickered, twisted and appeared in fragments everywhere, some large, some small, but all of them familiar.

Runes, she realized. They’re reading my enchantments.

“You know I fucking can’t.” In truth, Melody supposed, they were just looking at her enchantments.

“You have got to learn to at least read runes, Karsa,” Drex was sighing, “being an illiterate spellthief is like—”

Karsa spat on the ground. “Letters, runes, language, it’s all fuckin’ oppression, Drex, the arcanists and the nobles just use it to put down anybody without coin.”

“Yeah, you might be right, but we have coin, so you can...”

“I’m not gonna buy into their bullshit game! That’s the point of what we’re doing!

And the bickering continued. Melody gleaned that this was a familiar topic, and a familiar pair from the animation in their speech, so she did her best to tune out the bizarre rhetoric, and managed to make her pupils focus on the glowing wall. Unlike her kidnappers, she did know language, and many runes. The angular sigil for ‘mind’ was most noticeable, bouncing around erratically. It made sense, she had to admit, given the mixed-up state of her consciousness.

Clumped together beneath were several others, in the rounder script which highlighted their use as illusions. ‘Mimic,’ ‘body,’ ‘flesh,’ ‘color,’ each of these stayed close together. Those would be her own spells; the ones she had employed to mirror the garden’s intruder. A few more stood out clearly, ‘trap,’ ‘assess,’ ‘exploit,’ ‘beguile,’ these would be Vey’s, the ones forming the guardian’s personality, which Melody imagined couldn’t be too happy being the one caught.

She felt nothing from it, though. No desire to play strings, or sing a song, or face towards the sunlight (as she had found herself doing at least five times from her bedroom window). Perhaps it knew better than to rear its head while Melody’s life was at stake. And she saw, from the look of the many layered runes describing it, that the guardian wasn’t in such great shape. Several of the symbols seemed outright wrong, twisted in strange ways, missing marks and dots and proper points.

The enchantments were dying a messy death, as they often did. But the persona of it was still there, the personality those spells had made manifest. Taking refuge in her mind, clinging to it like a steady rock in a raging current. She was glad, now, that she hadn’t let Vey just cut it off; she could sever it cleanly, and peacefully, with no chance of damage to herself, she just needed to—

Drex was turning. She shut her eyes tight, too tight, she realized, as both fell silent, and footsteps slowly approached. “Hey there, Silk,” he murmured at a soft, kind tone, “you waking up?”

Melody was no spy or student of espionage, but she had acted on the stage when she was young. She figured she might be able to play the part of this Silk, whoever she was, and so she let her body curl under the thin sheet, shaking her head feebly.

“It’s okay, Silk,” Drex soothed, and she felt his hand resting on her arm. She resisted her own impulse to grab it and break every bone inside, not that she knew how to do such a thing. “You’re with friends, and you’re safe. I’m here, Karsa’s here, he can’t get you anymore, okay?”

Melody made herself swallow, and made the voice that came from her lips sound confused, scared, and very shy. Which was easy, considering how she felt. “... who can’t get me...?”

A pause. “The man that did this to you... do you remember where you were these last few days?” She shook her head. “It’s okay, it’s okay, take as much time as you need... what’s the last thing you can remember?”

“I-I remember...” Melody’s eyes fluttered open, into the waiting, horribly friendly look of her captor. “I remember you... Drex,” she whispered.

He smiled broadly. She thanked the gods that he was eating out of her hand. “That’s right, Silk, we were right here in Falceather, all three of us, and do you remember what happened to you?”

She nodded timidly. “S-someone came and took me.”

The man nodded patiently. “Took you where, Silk?”

“I don’t...”

“It’s okay.”

She chewed on her lip, for effect. “T-took me to a dungeon,” she murmured, “a dark one, and they tied me up, h-he did things to me and I escaped, and now... you saved me,” she smiled.

Drex kept smiling back. “You’re lying,” he said, in that same, now menacingly calm tone.

Her face blanched, but she managed to maintain the smile. “I-I don’t remember anything else, I promise you, Drex, please he... he did something to me, and I...”

“Oh cut the bullshit, princess.” Karsa’s voice drew Melody’s eyes to the foot of the bed, where the woman had both hands on the footboard, leaning over her menacingly. Below the cut-off sleeve of her dark leather coat, four, no, five metal rings tangled about her wrist. “Drop the act.”

“Wh-what act do you mean?”

“The act where you pretend to know us,” Drex said, standing over her, “when it’s abundantly clear that you don’t.”

“But you’re my friends...” Melody started.

“We are,” Karsa hissed, “but that fucker did something to you and made you forget all that.”

The apprentice said nothing. So it would have to be this way. She sat up, and pushed herself back to the wall, bringing her knees close as her left hand found the magical focus still wrapped below her right.

“Don’t think about casting anything,” Drex cautioned. “We can put you down again if we have to.”

Melody hesitated, but then she nodded. She wasn’t trained in combat, and aside from a few classes and sanctioned duels at the academy, she’d never fought another mage. “I’m not who you think I am,” she said.

Karsa scoffed. “You mean you’re not who you think you are. Who do you think you are, by the way?”

“I told you before, I am the appointed apprentice of this duchy’s arcanist, who will surely—”

“You got a fucking name?

She swallowed. “Melody Auhlerivar.”

“Auhlerivar sounds like made-up bullshit to me.”

“It is my family name!” she said indignantly. “My father is Malcolm, and my mother is Linfahl, and her mother was—”

“Enough,” Drex groaned. “Please, we could go at this all day, you two. Silk, could you—”

“That is not my name, and I have never known anyone to go by the name of a fabric, so would you please tell me what is going on here?”

The two looked between each other. Of similar build, Damean tone, and of similar height once Karsa stood tall. But where Drex had curls of gold, the woman’s hair was a strange sight; cut so short that her scalp could be seen on its left side, while the right grew out long, and had been colored an unnatural teal through some magic or some dye. She turned her eyes on Melody. “We’re looking for our friend. Her name is Silk. She’s been missing for days. And most importantly right here, you’re her. Look at yourself. Your face? Silk’s. Your hair? Silk’s. Fuck, you’ve even got Silk’s tits, so unless you’ve got some explanation to cover all of that... you’re Silk, Silk.”

Melody blinked. Then she started to laugh, drawing confused looks from both her kidnappers. How had she not noticed it before? Probably because she wasn’t used to wearing someone else’s skin. “This is all a misunderstanding!” she said, “I understand now, you’re looking for the thief!”

“We... are?” Drex muttered.

“You are, yes, but I’m not her!” She looked between them. They were unconvinced. “N-no, really, there was an experiment, you see, those runes,” she pointed to the wall, “they’ll tell you.”

Drex’s eyes narrowed. “What sort of experiment?”

Melody’s lips pursed. “Well that... that would be private information, you would need to see the arcanist to...” Kidnapped, she reminded herself, not the time for official policy on magical inquiries. “A-anyway, it involved a great many illusions, and as you can see, your friend, this Silk, she was a victim.”

“A victim?!” Karsa growled. Her bangles gleamed, and Melody could feel static caressing the hairs on her skin, and for a brief moment she thought a lightning bolt might strike her dead, but Drex put a hand up, and the feeling subsided.

“... I only mean,” Melody began again, “that, yes, she made her entry into the tower, but I was...” Planted in the ground, controlling a massive garden, seducing any entrants with magic of the mind? “... I was on watch, and wh-what you see now is merely a mimicry I fashioned of her appearance. It’s all there,” she gestured again to the wall, though neither turned to assess it. “Y-you don’t believe me?”

“No,” the woman seethed, but Drex put his hand up again, even firmer than before.

“We don’t,” he said, “because there’s one big flaw here.” That soft smile returned to his face, though she knew it was meant for someone other than her. “If you’re so enchanted, Miss Auhlerivar, why haven’t you dispelled these illusions you go on about?”

Melody felt a shudder. A sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. “W-well it’s there,” she pointed to the wall, “I can read it for you, it’s all there...”

“And we’re supposed to trust that?” Karsa laughed harshly.

“Why would I lie?! I have no reason to!” Melody pleaded.

“Because he got your ass, Silk.” The electromancer sat on the bed, near Melody’s feet, and she recoiled even farther away, to the tune of chuckling from both. “Look at you. Skittish. Trembling where you sit. Wearing a fucking apprentice’s charm around your wrist.”

“He got you,” Drex sighed.

“He got you so bad, you don’t even know you’re gotten.” Karsa’s sigh was of the same tone. “All that about an experiment, a spell on you, this person you think you are?” A hand, tingling, landed on the apprentice’s ankle, making her quake. “It’s all that stuff on the wall. It’s all that stuff in your head, Silk, and you need to fight it.”

“N-no... that’s not true,” Melody started.

“It’s the only thing that can be true,” Karsa insisted. “You’re smart enough to figure it out. What’s more likely, some crazed experiment gone wrong, or you getting caught, you getting your head fucked up to Tanfar and back, and you getting dumped in the dust with a new name and who knows what the fuck else between your ears?”

She swallowed. That did sound roughly like a standard procedure that Vey might’ve taken, with a thief intruding so high into the tower, but... no, it couldn’t be true. That thing in her head, the guardian, it was still there. She could feel it, and she knew the only way it could’ve come into her mind was with the experiment, and the illusions that made her look like this thief.

But they wouldn’t believe her. Neither of them seemed literate enough, in spellcraft or sigils, to read the spells over her body that’d been smattered against the wall. Even if they were, they were so convinced, they’d just explain it away. What could she do? What would they do with her? They were both staring expectantly, and Melody still felt the electric grip buzzing at her bare calf, what could she say to them?

And then she felt a different kind of tingling. Not of her body. But of the mind.

An impulse, a desire. Not of her own.

She hazarded a glance to the other side of the room. Her runes, illustrating the spells and state of her consciousness, were shivering, flickering more erratically. The guardian had something to say.

She wanted to stop it. She wanted to prevent it from surpassing her control, from driving her actions, from even just asserting itself. The more credence she lent it, the more brazen it could grow, the more it could sprawl in her psyche and bend her behaviors, even her thoughts... but still she felt a need to let it act. And she knew that, perhaps, she should have fought it off, and taken her chances with her disbelieving captors.

But Melody was desperate. She was scared. And the guardian was not.

“Where is my lyre?” It took her a few moments to recognize that her own lips had made those sounds. Or more truthfully, the lips of Silk. The kidnappers seemed just as bewildered—it was certainly silky, though the woman they knew had apparently never spoken in such a voice.

“Er.” Drex chewed the inside of his cheek. “Karsa, where did you put her lyre...?”

“The fuck’s a lyre?”

He turned. “Really? The thing with the strings, the gold, the instrument?

Karsa crossed her arms, freeing Melody’s leg from her magical hold. “That’s a harp.

“Oh my gods we are not doing this right now. Where is it?”

“It’s in the bag, idiot.”

Drex walked over and procured the leather satchel. “Thank you, halfwit.”

“You’re welcome, dullard.”

The man turned his weary eyes to Melody, as he rummaged within her bag, past her (or in this case Mira’s) clothes and undergarments, before finding and yanking out her instrument. “This?” he asked, and the apprentice nodded, reaching to take it... But Drex eyed it suspiciously. “Why do you want it?”

Why did she? The guardian was the one who wanted it, and now it was utterly silent. Had it simply just wanted an object of comfort, the thing that’d occupied its fingers for a whole week?

Melody wasn’t sure. She just didn’t want to look like a fool, now that it was out. “C-can this woman, Silk, can she play?”

Karsa snorted. “Of course not. Silk’d sooner bash someone over the head with a harp than try to play music on it.”

Drex cleared his throat. “Lyre.”

“Fuck you.” She stuck her tongue out at him, then turned to Melody, wearing the same look of disdain. “No, she can’t. You’re about to tell us that you can, as if that’d prove your made-up story true?”

The apprentice drew in a breath as her spirits simultaneously fell, but she saw that Drex was looking on thoughtfully. He made a noise, “Hm.”

The electromancer groaned. “You’re making that face, Drex.”

“What face?” he asked earnestly, and his brow curved down as if hurt.

“That face you make when you’re about to say something stupid.”

He grinned. “Shouldn’t I be making that face all the time, then?”

“Get to the point.”

He did, looking to Melody from above, and offering up the lyre. “I’d like to at least hear. I’ve never heard of any magic making one a master or mistress of an instrument, just with magic alone. Certainly, a spell could help in the training of any skills, but...” he shrugged, “who’s to say?”

“An arcanist,” Karsa said, and both of them made an ugly face.

Melody, feeling disoriented once more, carefully took her instrument out of Drex’s hands. She sat herself up, brought the golden lyre to her lap, cleared her throat, and...

The string was out of key. She bit her lip, adjusting the pegs and plucking a few more times while she tried to ignore Karsa’s barely-stifled giggling. Her face felt red, redder than normal. Even though she’d had a whole week to perform for many guests, without any fear, the experiment had done little to ease her stagefright. Especially now that she’d been kidnapped.

She cleared her throat again, hit the string. It sung, nice and low. She played a roll, gliding her fingers across each note, and they all sounded proper. That, at least, was something.

“Wow,” the woman said sarcastically, rolling her eyes, “you sure can play, Silk. When am I gonna see you headlining at the Gryphon’s Iris?”

“Hush, Karsa,” Drex murmured, and he pulled up a chair to watch from. “Melody,” he began.

“Don’t call her that,” she cut him off severely. “That’s Silk in there you’re talking to.”

He paused before replying. “It probably is, you’re right.” Drex looked to Melody, who felt her hands shaking. “But she’s very scared,” he said slowly, patiently, “and she’s right to be, with what she’s been through. So I think we can at least do her the favor of using the name that she thinks is her own, can’t we?”

Karsa grumbled, but said nothing more. Drex smiled, and started again. “Is there something you’d like to play for us, Melody?”

“The Ballad of Banahkal,” she responded without hesitation. Which was strange. It was a song she knew, of course, but... the guardian. Of course. She swallowed hard, for she hadn’t even felt its impulse that time. Would have to be more careful.

“I’m not familiar,” Drex said.

“Sounds Keld,” Karsa grunted.

“It is Keld,” Melody nodded, and her fingers began to play. Not that she felt in control of them. The guardian had asked for the instrument, and it now had its turn to wield it. For this, Melody was actually thankful; she only had to talk to her kidnappers, she didn’t have to worry about playing for them as well. “It’s an old, old story. One of the Milleniad.”

The woman chuckled. “How’d they ever fit a thousand stories into one book?”

“Let alone a thousand gods,” Drex mused.

“I-it’s not really a thousand, you know.” Both of them stared, and she felt awkward for her correction. Not that it stopped her from going on, “You see, a thousand is ten of ten tens. It’s a large number, a clean number that translates well to our tongue. But ten isn’t an important number for the Keld.”

“What happens if you add one to nine up there, then?”

“Quiet, Karsa.”

Melody took another breath. Her fingers, or the guardian’s, whichever; they were finding a pattern to fall into, a shape for the chords to fill. “The only point is that while a thousand is a significant thing to us, the Keld have another number for the Milleniad. Not ten of ten tens, but thirteen threes of thirteen threes. And yes, that’s more than one thousand, and yes, it’s more than you can find in a book. The Keld tell tales from the Milleniad with bards, with speech, not with lists and writing and pages.”

“But how do they keep straight so many stories?”

“Drex. Hush.”

The apprentice managed to smile. The lyre was singing like a tide, rising and falling, aligning with a rhythm of breathing that she could set herself focusing on. “They don’t, really. The Keld pantheon is vast, too vast for most to count. Every star in the heavens bears two names, one of a god, and one of their most favored, born of man.”

“Must be good astronomers,” Karsa murmured.

“That’s another question,” Melody said shrugged. “Few of them seem to care. Astronomers of our own have charted the skies for centuries, and there are many more than even two thousand stars up above. And yet...”

“... they keep believing that there’s thirteen... thirteen, however many,” Drex said.

“Exactly.” Melody’s smile grew wider.

Karsa though, where she had been engaged, seemed to grow more suspicious. “Silk’s never talked this much about her home.”

Even as the apprentice balked, the guardian’s gentle strumming never wavered. “I can only say that I have learned this much from my teacher.”

“Sure.” The woman with the blue hair looked away.

At least Drex still looked attentive. “So this song is from the Milleniad?”

“Yes, and no.” She could begin, now. A breath came into her lungs, long and deep. She felt the shape of her throat contort, felt her lips moving precisely, heard them pronouncing the words that she herself meant to say, but in that same strange smoothness of the guardian’s tone. “The story of beauteous Banahkal and cunning Kirrus can be traced back a long, long way. This rendition of the star-tale comes from a Damean instrumentalist, who composed it from the writing of an academy scholar, who so noted the performance of and translated the word of a Keld bard, who...” They were staring at her again. She swallowed. “... at any rate, yes. It is from the Milleniad.”

“Aren’t ballads meant to be... sung?” the man questioned.

“Never heard Silk sing,” the woman flashed a grin.

“I-it would take too long,” Melody stammered. She felt too much of an urgency and too much pressure to sing. Nevermind how supremely embarrassing it would be to detail her stagefright to these two. “Th-there are sections to the song, and sections to the story, and I can speak them as I play, if that’s alright...?” They nodded.

She took a steadying breath, and the words just... came, like the music from her fingers. The ballad began low and slow, with a constant din that belied the mystery that the bard would elucidate. The darkness of the sky. “It was the time before Keldia and before the stars,” she began. “The gods and men lived together on the earth, as one people. There were many gods, and many more humans, but this is a tale of the goddess Banahkal.”

Karsa’s gaze came into view. “Like a banahkia plant?” she asked.

Her fingers stretched. The notes for Banahkal drifted into the air, three of them, higher than that starless, humming sea of sound. “Flowers of lust, whose aromas provoke desire beyond any other.” Melody nodded. “Yes. Banahkal was the most beautiful of any gods. They say her gaze was clear as the rivers, her legs were strong as the oaks, and her breast was broad as the fields.” Karsa snickered, but Melody just felt herself smile in turn. “She was a sight to behold, it’s true. Men and gods alike lusted over her endlessly. Men would follow her on the road just to see the movements of her body, just for a fleeting glimpse of her beauty.”

Three more notes. Lower than the goddess’, closer to the ground but working in a faster, shifting rhythm. “Kirrus was one of these men. He was skilled with the axe, but he himself was no great beauty. He possessed no special charms or talents, save for his steadfastness and his cunning. He saw Banahkal on the road many, many times, but she never looked at him.” Banahkal’s notes floated back in, aloof above the toils of Kirrus. “The goddess never looked on any man, and very few gods. Her beauty could not be matched.”

“But Kirrus wanted her anyway,” Drex murmured. His voice was lower, and his eyes didn’t seem to know whether to watch the lyre’s strings, or to meet Melody’s unwavering gaze.

“Yes,” the apprentice nodded. The middle notes returned, though they wove with three, new and stranger tones. “He lusted, and he strove, and he dedicated himself to courting Banahkal’s affections.”


Melody smiled. “I will tell you. Though Kirrus was only an axeman, he was still in three of the gods’ favor. A god of blood. A god of flesh. A goddess of fire. He came to each of these, he begged them for their aid. The blood god,” a deep note with the heavenly rhythm, “gave Kirrus his gift. The flesh god,” a heavy note, just aside of Kirrus’ lowest, “gave Kirrus their gift. The fire goddess,” lofty and wonderful, though not near the beauty of Banahkal, “gave Kirrus her gift. And more.”

“More?” Karsa whispered, this time.

Melody had never had an audience so rapt. She was glad that the speaking came as naturally as the playing. “Yes, Karsa, more. The goddess of fire told Kirrus to set a home, to set a hearth.” Her hands hummed, as new notes joined the working of Kirrus. “He would have to fell many trees. He would have to work day and night. He came to an open place, near the road, where the trees were many and the wilderness was yet dangerous.”

Dark tones, for a dark forest. Three notes for the axeman, sturdy and strong.

“... thirteen and thirty trees he saw, and as many he would have to fell...”

An endless rhythm of trunks, straining to reach the notes of heaven. Three notes for his axe, sharp and singing.

“... only three swings, and the whole forest was razed...”

Daylight could ring through. Three notes for the axeman, three of his weary sighs.

“... three days to work, three days he toiled...”

The walls of a home rose around the axeman’s song. Three notes for the chill he fought against, the wind, the snow, the earth.

“... and the fourth day came, and Banahkal was on the road...”

Strings from above. Strings for the axeman and his home of timber.

“... and he set the hearth to flame, to beckon her to the fire...”

Strings for warmth. Strings for smoke.

“... and he placed the blood god’s gift in the flames, for there was magic within...”

The blood god’s note. Weaving a sweet ache through the blood.

“... and the smoke rose, and Banahkal breathed deep of it...”

High notes sinking lower. Two sets of lungs, rising and slowly falling.

“... and he placed the flesh god’s gift in the flames, for there was magic within...”

The flesh god’s note. Weaving a warm ache through the flesh.

“... and the heat grew, and Banahkal drank deep of it...”

High notes sinking lower. Two sets of lids, drooping and slowly leadening.

“... and he placed the fire goddess’ gift in the flames, for there was magic within...”

The fire goddess’ note. Weaving a bright ache through the heart.

“... and the flames grew, and Banahkal stared deep to them...”

High notes sinking lower. Two sets of eyes, staring and slowly shutting.

“... and Banahkal rested there, and she...”

... she...

... she what?

She listened. Kirrus’ notes of three and Banahkal’s notes of three were so close to intertwined, so close to completion. Her fingers were playing them, with the blood, with the flesh, with the heart. It was beautiful. She could have listened to it forever.

... but she had to open her eyes.

Melody did. Karsa’s head had lolled to her chest. Drex had slumped in his seat. Their eyes were shut.

A warm, powerful shiver went through the apprentice’s body. She didn’t dare interrupt the motion of her hands, but she looked to them: her focus, her bangle, was glowing brilliantly white. A sight and a spell, woven through the song, through their senses and into their minds.

The guardian had acted on its own, she realized. She looked to the wall of runes—pulsing, steadily shimmering in a rhythm of threes. It was beautiful. And so was the song. An endless hymn. A winding, circling thing, always coming to its beginning and end and back again. But never completing. It was unfinished. If only her hand would move one string, just one little string to the right, it would sound so perfect, but it remained enigmatic, and she couldn’t stop wondering when it would...

... when it would enrapture her. Again. Melody bit her own tongue to draw her focus back. This was getting out of hand. She’d given the guardian an inch, and now it was taking a mile, and trying to pull her along for the journey as well.

This can’t continue, she knew. But if she stopped... her eyes came to the two bodies at her sides. Slouching. Sleeping? She wasn’t sure. The spell was obvious now, but its shape still beguiled her, and Melody knew if she listened too hard to the song, she’d be wrapped up within its sound again. Her captors were out. She had to go, too.

Hesitantly, thinking as little about her working hands or open ears as possible, she stood. The floor creaked... but no one moved. She breathed a sigh, and with it, a spell’s whisper: another current of magic flared, and her bag floated up to sling itself across her shoulder. She took a step, and another, walking slowly past Karsa’s stretched out legs. It only took her a few moments to reach the door, but it felt like an eternity.

Melody looked back at the scene. She was free, yes, but it was... Unfinished. Like the song in her hands, the sight was just wrong. And she could tell that it wasn’t only the guardian’s instinct there. When she stepped out, and the music stopped, she could see the two bolting awake, dashing out, grabbing her and throwing her right back on the bed. This time, without her focus. Even if they managed to sleep longer than that, the runes would still be painted on the wall. The memories would still be painted in their heads.

She gulped. Vey had told her to be careful with mind magic. It was finicky, fickle, and dangerous, but worse, it was abhorred in Damea. The laws against it were as arcane as they were numerous. Enchanters often sold warding talismans just to sniff out mind mages.

Vey had also told her to take risks. Vey would also probably tell her to resolve a kidnapping situation so that she would not get kidnapped again. Which meant using mind magic. Not like he wouldn’t do the same, she grinned.

She needed a distraction to get away. And she needed to shuffle some memories, as well. No reason one couldn’t serve the other, and her fingers were dying to finish the ballad. She swallowed dryness, she let her wall against the guardian down just a little, and she spoke, “Banahkal rested there, and she was filled with lust.

Melody’s eyes widened. She had meant to say sleep, hadn’t she?

But it did make sense this way. Two young criminals, close enough to be lovers.

But that wasn’t right. She wasn’t going to force two people to... to...

To fuck? Of course she wouldn’t force them.

“Karsa,” a voice pushed past her lips, “do you feel lust for Drex?”

Melody stared. The teal-haired girl’s neck shifted in the smallest approximation of a nod.

“And Drex,” the voice purred again, “do you feel lust for Karsa?”

A sigh left his lips. “Uh huh...”

That settled it then. Didn’t it?

Did it? She wasn’t sure.

It would give a distraction. It would give an anchor.

New memories needed an anchor to tether them. But sex would be...


No. No. No, that was the guardian in her head. Melody would take no satisfaction from this but that of her safety. “Like Banahkal,” the apprentice said, once more in control and trembling with each word, “you feel warmth, heat, and lust in your blood, flesh, and heart.”

Their bodies were shifting. She could see Drex stiffening between his legs.

“Like Banahkal,” she went on, “you will forget the hour, you will forget your surroundings, you will forget all but... all but the need, deep inside of you, and the need of the one at your side.” She gulped. “The need to touch. The need to love. The need to fuck.”

Her fingers were creeping across. The scene was changing. Banahkal was stirring, Karsa was panting, Kirrus was staring, Drex was drooling. The strings were close, so close, a note away from melding together.

“Y-you’ll forget the flames. You’ll forget the songs. You’ll forget how you’ve come to this place and why. But you’ll remember the heat, the feeling, the need. You’ll forget the thief you saw tonight. You’ll remember each other.”

Melody pressed her back to the door. The chords connected. The heavens met the earth in a shower of bliss. Two sets of lungs breathed deep, two sets of lids drifted open. Two sets of eyes found each other.

Karsa spread her legs. Drex stood. “Are you...?” he began.

“So fucking wet,” she finished.

He was on his knees in an instant, tugging her leggings to her feet while she writhed free of her coat. His lips kissed up, up her bared leg, leaning to lick between her thighs, drawing a moan, but only one. He shed his shirt, while she did the same. Both grinning like beasts. Drex stood, hands at the buckle of his belt. “Remember that time after the Mirvis job...”

“The job where you nearly got yourself killed?” Karsa smirked, as her long fingers drew circles around each of her tender breasts.

Drex answered with a chuckle. “Isn’t that most of them?” He yanked off the belt, dropped it to the floor. “I meant the job where we fucked hard after, Karsa.”

“Isn’t that most of them?”

“Gods, I adore you.” He dropped his pants, his cock standing out hard.

“I know.” She smiled sweetly. “Now get down on your knees and show me you remember how to lick a cunt.”

“Been a while,” he said, inching forward teasingly.

“Maybe for you...”

“You’re always luckier with the ladies,” he sighed dramatically.

“Doesn’t mean I wanna sleep with ’em.” Karsa shrugged. “Seduction’s just an honest job.”

“And yet you still come to me, with all that work?”

“Work’s fun. Doesn’t pay. Too much licking, not enough licked.”

“Fair.” Drex smiled.

“You’ve always got better luck with men.”

“What can I say? Natural charms, Karsa.”

“Fuck you, Drex.”

“Gladly. But you first.”

Melody blinked, and his head was between Karsa’s legs. Both of them moaning. Both quivering, sweating, gasping and panting... her fingers were still playing. And she could feel them aching for something else. But that’s the guardian. Not me.

Over their cries, she uttered another spell. The lights on the wall faded to nothing, their illusion banished. She spoke a word of oblivion, ensuring the fogginess of this night in their minds would be replaced with hours of lovemaking. She stared, for one more moment, as Karsa’s back arched, as Drex’s eyes craned to soak in the pleasure written on her face, as their bodies entwined tighter, and as she forced the door shut behind her.

* * *

She’d had to walk down a whole flight of steps to drown out the moans of her kidnappers, trading them for the sounds of the Talon Bar below. She’d stood there, put away her lyre, cried for a few moments, then caught her emotions. It was over. She was free. She could worry later.

Something more insistent was on her mind. The guardian, inside the back of her head. Its hunger for control, its hunger for lust. Melody’s confidence at fighting it off had fallen even farther. But she knew, or she hoped she knew, one way to slake its thirst. Give it what it wants.

The apprentice marched down the stairs, past tables of drinks and drinkers and drunks, and pounded her fist on the counter of the bar. The barman turned. “I need a blonde,” Melody said. His eyes widened, one of his hands moving to brush through his own short yellow locks. “Nuh uh. Not you.”

The barman squinted. “Well, I ain’t judgin’ on matters of preference nor of company, but this ain’t rightly the place for such demands. Bathhouse is just down the way, maybe you ’kin—”

She stopped him short with a shake of the head. “No. A specific blonde.” The woman came to her mind in an image, to her fingers in the spell she softly tapped out on the counter, but she didn’t stop either from coming. She needed him to see. “Fair hair and skin, small, slight of build, shifty-looking, I only caught a glimpse, but I...”

He nodded immediately, cloudy as his gaze looked from the soft glow of her bracelet’s magic. “I know the one.”

He had told her where she lived. He hadn’t said how long the walk would be. Out of town, up the road, off another road, between trees and brush and everything she could possibly trip over in the moon’s scant light. It had rained, but mercifully, it was over by the time her trek began.

Melody was glad to be out from the town, at least. Half the faces she passed seemed suspicious; the guardian wanted her to sing to them. The other half seemed clueless, completely so, and the guardian would’ve relished in these victims, as well. She managed to fight it off. Its drives were strong—nearly as strong as her own. But it had stopped sneaking up on her. She was able to place the feeling as its thoughts crept over her own, the way it squirmed in her stomach, tingled in her spine, and gathered between her legs.

Why had Vey made something so horny? He couldn’t have done it on purpose, could he?

No, she assured herself as she loped over a branch, it’s psychosomatic. The thing had grown in her mind, attaching itself to her roots, just as her legs had been attached to the garden’s. It had sprawled, reaching out for whatever grips it could make, and one of those had been, apparently, her libido. Maybe it was because she’d been part-plant for a week, and all plants did was grow and pollinate and, in plant-terms, fuck.

She didn’t know why, anyway. She just wanted it to end.

And that was where she was going, and why. To the manor on the edge of Falceather where the only noble family in the village made its home. The Cirsteins were rich; they had fingers in the pockets of almost every dealing in town, legal and otherwise. The barman had told her as much: the girl’s name was Annette. Only daughter. Rebellious, often snuck into the Talon for a drink. Often alone, what with the comings and goings of nobles.

And that, Melody supposed, was why a silhouette paced back and forth in a candlelit third-story window. The heiress was alone, as alone as one could be in a three-story house full of servants and staff. But no guards. No mage, either, as their front gate was hopelessly lacking of wards. A simple twist of forcemagic pushed the lock open, and a summoned breeze blew it shut behind her.

The manor was imposing, but she didn’t need to enter. Ironically, she had all she needed outside: a garden for the guardian, a bench for her body, a window for her serenade, and a thief to enthrall. Close enough to a thief, anyway. The guardian hardly seemed picky, now that they were so close. Her feet moved fast, quiet as a shadow between the unimpressive hedges, trees and statues, until she found her marble bench, her perfect view of the open window above, and she saw the shape of the body inside it.

Just a glimpse. A gown that fit tightly. Short, cared-for wisps of blond hair. A defiant look on her face, perhaps one of longing. Did this girl yearn for some unrequited love, back in Falceather? Did she ache for some adventure, some life beyond nobility? Did she dream of some woman or man coming to take her away?

Melody let magic open her senses. She listened to the room, high above, to the near-indistinct murmurs made loud by her spell. “... can’t tell me what to do... woman grown... go where I please...”

Well, she was right about the attitude. The apprentice settled the lyre in her lap, fingering across its beveled golden edges, before she plucked it experimentally, and sent a hint of magic singing through the window. “Love who you please?” she murmured into the waiting mind of Annette Cirstein.

“Love who I... love who I please, yes,” she heard muttered as reply, “they don’t want me loving anyone, but I...”

A deeper note, quiet, simply mixed into the noises of night. “You love someone?” her magic inquired.

“I love... n-not yet, there’s not someone, it’s, merely the principle of the thing, they don’t want me loving, they just...”

“They want you marrying?”

“They want me marrying,” Annette sighed.

“Marrying a man,” her spell went on.

“Always, always a man. So many suitors.”

“So many men, but you...?”

Annette’s silhouette stopped moving. “... but I... I-I don’t want that.”

Only probing, Melody reminded herself, and cautioned the guardian within, not shifting.

The magic sang, “You don’t want a man?”

She saw the figure shake its head. “I don’t want a man.”

“You want a woman?” the spell pursued.

“I want a woman,” the heiress whispered.

“You want a woman,” her music repeated.

“I want a woman,” Annette nodded along.

A high note, high enough to be heard. “You want an adventure?” it asked.

“I do.”

“You want an adventure,” the same note asserted.

“I want an adventure,” Annette nodded along.

Melody felt the guardian’s shiver. She played a few strings, picked up a song—didn’t know where it came from, didn’t matter. Both bodies had needs, she realized, and the song would answer them. Her magic made it louder, sweeter to the ear, until Annette’s shadow turned to face the curtained window.

“You hear the song?” her music asked the heiress.

“... I do.”

“How beautiful is the song?” the strings asked to her senses.

“So beautiful...”

“Have you heard such beauty while awake?” a chord asked her memory.


“Then you must be dreaming,” the spell simply suggested.

“... I must be dreaming,” Annette nodded along.

“And if you are dreaming...” a space left in the notes.

“... I am asleep...”

“And if you are sleeping...” a question left waiting.

“... I am sleepwalking.”

“You are sleepwalking,” the low notes repeated.

“I am sleepwalking,” Annette nodded along.

“You are sleepwalking,” the low notes repeated.

“I am sleepwalking,” Annette nodded along.

The low notes went on, Annette’s whispers joined them. On, on and on, the pair of them flowed. Out of her room, carried by music. Down the grand hall, led by her dreaming. Descending the stairs, sinking in her sleep. Past the great doors, dreaming so deep.

Annette was before her. Melody stared with awe. Her fingers, her low notes propelled the woman forward. With slow, mechanical steps, and a constant stream of whispers, she traipsed through the garden. Her eyes would see nothing, nothing but dreams. Dreams, and Melody. Their eyes met.

“You are asleep,” Melody sung.

“I am asleep,” the heiress whispered.

“The night is so warm,” Melody sung.

“The night is so warm,” Annette nodded along.

“Your body is warm,” her high notes insisted.

“My body is warm,” her hands both confirmed.

“Your gown is so tight,” the low notes contended.

“My gown is so tight,” her bare flesh affirmed.

“You want to be free,” the night air verbalized.

“I want to be free,” her body agreed.

“Look at me,” Melody spoke sharply.

Annette did.

The apprentice’s hands were off the harp. It floated in the air, above their heads, her magic still humming through its still-plucking strings.

Melody was undressing. The heiress was watching.

The guardian was there, urging her on. But now, she felt, she didn’t need the encouragement. She could tell the impulses of her mind apart. And these shivers, these tingles, this flush on her cheeks and neck, all of it was her own. Perhaps it had been all along. Perhaps it had not. But now both had a thirst, and the noble as well.

Melody was naked. So was Annette.

A low note compelled, and both girls stepped closer.

A high note coerced, the distance so short.

The low note did urge, and body felt body.

The high note did join, and both mouths were met.

Tongues danced beneath the lyre, spinning overhead with the sound of its spell. Both bodies ached with need, with lust, with mysteries begging answers. The two women kissed, and kissed again, and shared their lips to one another. Tongues tested, teeth tried, sighs and cries rang free.

Her bracelet twisted, the music came faster.

Annette moved her legs, sat down on her throne.

Melody knelt. Hands slid up thighs, hands roamed over her hair, her neck, her ears that weren’t her own. But they felt like her own. Just as real as the skin, soft, smacking beneath her lips, kiss after gentle kiss ’til she met Annette’s center.

She kissed. She moaned.

She licked. She gasped.

Her tongue pressed deeper, guided by the pleasure.

Her soft kisses probed, ’til she found her mark.

Annette moaned above. Kissing became sucking. Licking became a constant, swirling rhythm. Drawn ’round by the music, following the heiress’ cries. Quicker they came, quicker did she. Slower, and slower. Until those sighs began to resolve to words, yesses, pleases, so closes, while she kept her rhythm, she kept her magic, she kept her song playing in the woman’s mind until it all overflowed, and the first notes of orgasm were felt. She continued, through the shock, to another, and still one more until her subject was spent.

Collapsed on the bench, Melody rejoined her.

The song in her ears, the heiress still slept.

And the dream continued. The fantasy went on. Tongues touched again, fingers slid to breasts, Melody had pounced, but was pounced on, and her back was to the flat marble. Hands kneaded, teased her sensitive flesh. Lips moved all over. She wanted to be providing the pleasure, more than she was receiving it herself. But Annette was insatiable.

She sank to her thighs, and Melody quivered.

Her lips did she tease, her body did sing.

The heiress was pulled inward, deeper by the notes. Her dream was divined by the music. Melody shaped it, twisted it, molded it for the most perfection, the most bliss in both of their bodies. She was already so close. The woman’s tongue, now an instrument of her own, moved just the right way. Back and forth, over and over, the rhythm of pleasure thrumming endlessly through her being, louder than the low strings plucking, compelling the motion, controlling the pace.

Faster and faster, the high notes still climbing.

Her senses alight, her body did sing.

Drawn deep in the song, her pleasure made music.

The world came alive, and everything sang.

Their bodies entwined, so warm and so complete.

Their moans turned to sighs, to deep breaths of sleep.

The lyre came to rest, its plucking did slow then.

The song in their minds, was that of a dream.

* * *

Birds sang. The light of dawn shone a red glow through her lidded eyes. Melody shifted, and felt a warm, soft body atop her, and a hard, cool bench below.

She shivered. Not the guardian, but herself. In fact, she couldn’t feel the guardian at all.

Her eyes fluttered open. Blond hair before her, short strands of Annette’s. And with it... dark, thick curls. Her own. She reached a hand behind the heiress’ sleeping body, up to the pink-colored sky. Darker skin, her own skin.

She sighed with contentment. The spells were broken. Her body was her own, her mind was her own. Though... she was aware of something new.

A deep, deep appreciation for the lyre below her, for the spells already running through her head, for the beauty that had been bared in Annette’s dreaming thoughts. In Karsa’s mind, and Drex’s, too, kidnapping seditionaries though they were. She felt some guilt, of course, for resorting to mind magic... but she had been careful. She had been safe. She had made her spells comfortable, wonderful, and made her subjects blissful. And Melody was blissful, too.

Perhaps it had always been there. Perhaps the illness she’d sought to cure simply brought it to light.

She couldn’t care. She just smiled, and drew a spell in the air with the bracelet around her arm, and whispered deep, deep into the heiress’ sleeping mind.

* * *

It had certainly been a week. Vey’s patience was wearing thin. The Talon had had no record of Melody’s stay. He’d cursed himself, for it’d had to be the night that he’d been forced to spend hours on hours mending the broken body of a beaten thief.

It was worth it, of course, so very worth it, but now Silk was gone, and another woman needed tending to. Inquiries, both overt and subtle, had to be made, but had finally yielded their fruit. And after tromping through roots and brambles over a dilapidated road, forcing his way through gates and locked doors, deluding the minds of servants and maids and workers and anyone else who dared question his purposeful mission, he sent force through his wooden staff, blasting through the third-story door without breaking a sweat.

He swept inside. His eyes took in a woman’s bedroom, that of the Cirstein girl, he was sure. Rose-colored walls, decorated furniture, and across the floor, clothes, littered about in a trail, leading his gaze to a huge four-posted bed, draped with curtains and canopy, and through the silken screens two shadows softly snored.

Gently, he tiptoed over undergarments, and peeled back an inch of veil to peek within.

One body, fair of skin, covered in blankets, with a blissful, peaceful smile. And next to her...

“Melody,” he sighed, smiled before he opened his eyes again. She was in her own familiar form, in a slip far too small for her size, but the important parts were covered. Her eyes were open and smiling.

“Master,” she said, with her lips in a grin.

“You had better be joking.”

She laughed. “I am.”

The arcanist hesitated. “Do I want to know?” he asked cautiously.

One of her hands moved, and waved in the air a small, leather-bound journal. “You asked me to keep notes.”

He swallowed, letting his eyes stray to the noble heiress, who didn’t look to be wearing a slip at all, judging by the bareness of her shoulders. “And are they... detailed, your observations?”

Melody snickered. “Very.”

Perhaps it had not been such a terrible idea, after all.

* * *

Author’s note: Thank you so much for reading this little bonus! With that, the Spellthief Stolen story is officially concluded. I’d like to thank my good friend Scalar () for all his help and encouragement along the way, and any of you who’ve enjoyed reading this or the larger tale preceding it! As always, please drop me a message at , or tell your friends about the story, or do both—and I hope you’ll be joining me as I continue sharing my stories of Ephaos, Damea, Keldia, and even the arcanist and the spellthief, very soon.