Gaven pulled her knotted hair over her shoulder, and pushed further into the marsh than she had ventured before. Deep pools of water hindered her way, but she skirted their edges and pressed on. Following Azool’s light, Gaven found the fairy sitting on a lily pad like some hideous flower with a radiant smile full of straight, white teeth, jagged and bright. The dark pond was still, casting Azool’s ugly reflection perfectly. “I’m here.”
Azool flapped her wings, and lifted a few hand spans off the surface. “I’m pleased, Gaven. Although I admit, I was certain you would attempt to wiggle away from our bargain.”
Gaven shook her head; she had made her decision. She would learn what she needed from this fairy, and when she had what she wanted, she would refuse to return. “I’m ready.”
“Magic is a jealous mistress. If you abuse her, she will gnaw away at your soul until you return, begging forgiveness. You’re making a life-long choice this night so be certain, trollkin.”
Gaven absorbed the warning. This was her chance at a better life. The villagers had rejected her, Lalman tolerated but feared her, and she was too inexperienced to survive on her own.
Azool lowered her chin and tipped her head to the side. “Gaven, do you accept me as your Master?”
Shaking, but undeterred, Gaven threw her shoulders back, and raised her chin. “Yes, I give myself as your apprentice.”
“Good, Gaven. We can begin after you accept the unbreakable rules of magic.” Azool’s raven hair streamed over her shoulders in long silky waves. “One, your magic can never be used against me. As your Master, I will know all your spells. There is little sense in trying to better me. Two, as a troll, your power will be inferior to all fairies. To be clear, any attempt to use your magic against me will result in instant death, yours.”
“I understand.” Gaven would never dream of taking on a fairy.
Azool smiled cruelly. “Three, your lessons will not be free.”
She was crushed. “But I don’t have anything.”
“Not now, but I have a feeling you will someday. For now, you must agree a price will be set in the future.”
Gaven had nothing to lose, nothing to give, and once away from Torv, her possessions would be meager. Survival was her only goal. “Whatever you say, Master.”
“What? Speak up. You’re standing at the doorway of a world you can’t possibly imagine. As my apprentice, you’ll be the most powerful troll, ever.”
Gaven felt the nails of the phantom hands prick her spine. “Yes, Master. I submit to your terms.” Her heart thundered in her ears.
“Excellent. We can begin.”
As Azool raced through the lesson, she glowed brighter and brighter until Gaven was forced to shield her eyes, but she would never have dared to stop the blue fairy. It was unimaginable—this world of magic. One of Gaven’s favorite hiding spots was at the home of Torv’s magician, but he was crass and weak in comparison. Her head spun when Azool demonstrated her command over water.
Azool’s face stilled as she focused on the pond. Bubbles began to float to the surface as if a fire burned below, and they quickly increased in both density and size. Boiling furiously, the water began to rotate faster and faster until a small patch of pond inverted into a twirling cup that grew taller and taller as the water spun faster.
Without turning away from her creation, Azool spoke. “Now, let’s see what you’ve learned. Make the waterspout dance.”
Gaven’s jaw hung loose, and her brain refused to engage.
“Trollkin, don’t waste my time. I have taught you how to control this element. Now, show me you aren’t a stupid bag of warts. Make that water dance,” she howled.