Excerpt: The Light Who Binds
July 7, 2022, Red Ages
Lightning streaks across the twilight sky casting a brilliant glow on the building before me. Stone gargoyles loom above me, their eyes seeming to gleam and blink, their great amphibious wings, arched for flight. A slow roll of thunder fills the air as though the bowels of the earth are opening.
I behold the formidable oak doors of the Dragomir Magical Artifact Shop, wondering what mysteries lie inside. Oh, I know many spells, charms, and magic secrets reside within the artifacts, but those aren’t the unknowns I seek tonight. Tonight, I anticipate learning secrets about myself.
From behind me, the warmth of Jack’s chest radiates into my back, and Varg leans into my thigh. A measure of calm returns to me. Whatever news awaits me, at least I have friends at my side. I straighten my spine, lift my chin, and remove the remaining space between me and my future, pushing the heavy oak doors open to boldly stride in.
As I enter the shop, eddies of dust coalesce from the swish of the doors into a whirlwind at my feet. I’m instantly comforted by the familiar shelves of aged magical texts stacked on bookshelves and delighted by the glass-doored cabinet stocked with magical artifacts. I was last here just a few months ago, but I feel like an entirely different woman now.
Dragomira stands behind the counter and lifts her head with a weary expression, but a fierce glint fills her warm, brown eyes. She is not Dragomira right now. No, she is the Dragomir. Her movements, as fluid as rippling water, trace a path across the room as she quietly deadbolts the door behind us.
With a wave of her hand, she beckons us into her back room. A small fire flickers in the fireplace, casting dancing shadows across the walls. Jack and I take a seat in wing-backed chairs next to the hearth, while Dragomira, still curiously silent, pours three drinks from a beautiful decanter sitting on an ornate wooden table amidst the chairs. She places one in my hand in silent command, watching as I taste it. The shock of whiskey burns my throat and slides warmly to my belly. She sets a glass in front of Jack and keeps the last for herself.
As Dragomira takes her place, I notice again how strikingly beautiful she is. Her hair cascades in long, tumultuous brown waves against her olive skin, and her deep-set eyes gleam with life. Sitting back in her chair, she directs her scrutiny toward me. “Welcome, Illustrissima,” she begins. “I’m sure you have many questions.”
Her harmonious voice rolls through me in a soothing wave. I forget myself for a moment and tilt my ear to enjoy its song. Then I gather myself and say, “I do. Let’s start with the name Illustrissima. Why did you give this name to me?”
Dragomira blinks. Then she regards me steadily and answers, “I no more gave you the name Illustrissima than I gave you your blue eyes. It is a Latin word that has many meanings: the Shining One, the Bright One, the Lustrous One, the Famous One, the Distinguished One.” She waves her hand as though all of that is inconsequential. “You are all of these things. You simply are the Illustrissima.”
I take a slow sip of whiskey. “You can see my light.”
The Dragomir’s eyes flare with a glint of yellow in acknowledgement.
She contemplates the fire for a moment before responding. “I am also many things. I have magic . . . gifts, you might call them, which allow me to see things that would normally pass unnoticed. However, what I have been most as of late is a scholar.” She looks at me intently again. “Tonight, your time would be better spent allowing me to share what I’ve learned about you.”
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