The world and all it promised sank away the moment she saw him.
He looked well. Good living had rounded out his stomach, and added weight to an already imposing figure. It went well with the gold hoops that glimmered at his ears, and the colored tattoos decorating the right half of his face. Good living, good eating, everything that she could not and would never have thanks to him.
“Invoker,” she whispered. The word made her tongue hurt, as if the sour taste of defeat was still there. It was said Invokers couldn’t choose who had magic. It was said either you had magic, or you didn’t, but Amy knew otherwise. She knew with all her heart that if Bernard had looked hard enough, magic would have been there. It was in her dreams. It had to be real.
“My good friend,” he replied.
He wanted something, and the fact that he would probably get it just made her feel worse. She glanced around the inn looking at the curious faces surrounding her. Many, many people who would be asking her later just how close she was to the second greatest man in Kaluna. Even if he left now his presence had damaged her, but didn’t it always?
Bernard seemed to take her silence as an invitation to pour out his woes. “Amy, I need to speak with you privately. Would you mind stepping into my room for a moment?”
Of course she did. Stepping into his room meant stepping back into his life. But if she didn’t go willingly she’d be dragged in kicking and screaming. There was no sense, however, in letting him have his way without a price.
“Of course,” she stepped forward, and then turned back as if on a second thought. “Molly? I believe the Invoker would like to pay for a round of—“ Don’t say ale, she demanded of herself. What was the most expensive thing Molly had? “—Gray Demons. Its only fair to celebrate old friends isn’t it?
Bernard’s color was a satisfying match to the drinks, and so was Molly’s. She eyed the Invoker, and then Amy too. “Last time a brew of Grey Demon was successfully imported into Eberhard the Tree-Eaters still owned the unicorn forest. You’re asking him to pay for an entire bottle.”
Not really, she thought to herself. She was asking him to pay for every second of life she had to spend on the outskirts of life. Every moment serving someone who was made better by the touch of an Invoker’s hand. Every moment in hell brought to her by Bernard himself.
She leaned back against the counter and watched as Bernard drew his heavy purse and counted out coins.
“I’m worth it.”
No one would ever tell her different.