Immortality: A blessing or a curse?
(This book features the secondary character, Orrick, my sorcerer from my Legacy of the Blade Series)
Excerpt from Keeper of the Flame:
“Who are you?” Orrick asked the woman curiously, his interest piqued. Normally, he didn’t react like this to strange women, but she intrigued him. Somehow, a part of him wanted to believe this was Petronilla come back to life. He found himself wishing that by looking into his past he’d made that happen. However, he knew it was impossible and naught but wishful thinking. Aye, something about this woman held his interest and he needed to know more about her since she could not possibly be his lost love.
Curiosity ate away at him, just like it always did to the boy. Orrick found himself having to know why she’d be bold enough to show up at his doorstep unescorted. “Why do you want to see me?”
“I am Lady Hope Threston and I’m in need of someone to conjure up a spell,” she told him. “I heard you are a sorcerer, so I figured you could do it.”
“Hope,” he repeated her name, muttering to himself. This only made him think about how he’d given up hope of ever falling in love again. “Why do you need a spell?”
“I’m searching for something and I think you might be able to help me. I’m willing to pay whatever you ask, of course. My father is Earl Hubert Threston III of Woodcreek Castle in Norfolk. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He has a lot of money.” She strolled into the room without being invited in, drinking in her surroundings with wide, curious eyes, not unlike the mischievous boy.
“I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I’m not in the habit of hunting down missing people,” he told her, feeling uneasy that she’d entered his private place as if she’d been invited in. Her presence there unsettled him greatly. “Perhaps a mercenary would serve you better.” Orrick tried to gently dismiss her in a kind nature without being too rude. Even if the woman didn’t care how rude she was being by walking around the room, he didn’t make it a habit to be disrespectful to women. She continued her perusal of her surroundings by looking at his books, trinkets, gemstones, and anything she could lay her hands on. He ran over and snatched a leather-bound book of spells from her clutch, not wanting her to look inside it and start spouting off the words within. Not that it would matter since she was only mortal, but it was none of her business and he wasn’t eager to share.
“Thank you, Orrick,” said Harold from the door. “I told her you wouldn’t be able to help her, but she wanted to hear it straight from you. Sorry to have bothered you. Come, Lady Hope. I’ll escort you back to the great hall.” The steward held out his arm without entering the room, but the girl did nothing to venture toward him.
“Aye, do stay for a bite to eat before you travel back to Norfolk. Our cook is very talented,” said Orrick, hoping she would get the hint to go.
“I’m not leaving,” she protested, shaking her head.
“I’m sorry, but as I said, I cannot help you.” Orrick tired of her stubbornness but not of her beauty. “You’ll have to go.”
“I see,” said the girl, wetting her lips with her tongue, obviously not believing him at all that he couldn’t help her on her mission. “You don’t want to help me,” she stated. “Why couldn’t you just say that, instead of lying to me?”
Her long blond braid hung over one shoulder. Her gown was purple and made of the softest velvet. The tippets of the sleeves looked to be constructed from fine silk and lace. As her brown eyes scrutinized him, it made Orrick feel as if she were looking right through him. She held her chin high and proud as if she could conquer the world if she so chose. She was certainly doing her best to conquer him and she’d almost made a hole in his resolve. He didn’t like anyone staring at him, because he felt ugly in his shapeshifting form of an old man. How he longed for a girl to gaze at him in that manner but when he was in his young and handsome form instead.
“So sorry to have bothered you,” she said flippantly, turning sharply on her heel.
As soon as she moved away from him, Orrick suddenly felt as if he didn’t want her to go. Intrigue filled him, bringing him back to life. He had to know more before she walked out of his life forever.
“Who is this person you seek?” he blurted out before she made it to the door.
She stopped and turned slowly, a half-smirk on her face as she met his gaze once again. It was almost as if she’d purposely been throwing out a lure and he unknowingly took the bait. The wench was bold enough to look him in the eyes without dropping her gaze.
“I never said it was a person I sought,” she told him, fully turning around. “As a matter of fact, it isn’t a person at all. What I am searching for is an object. I’ve heard wondrous, mystical stories of it and also the legends that surround it. I want it and will not stop looking until I find it, no matter what it takes.”
“Find what?” asked Noah, running over and standing at Orrick’s side.
The girl’s eyes darted down to the boy. “Who are you?” she asked with a half-smile.
“I’m Noah, ward of the lord of the castle, Lord Corbett Blake.”
“Really,” she said, and Orrick could just see her devising a plan in her head to use the boy to get what she wanted. “It seems we have more in common than I thought.”
“I’m Orrick’s apprentice,” said Noah proudly. Even if it wasn’t true, the boy believed it and it made him feel special.
“You’re the sorcerer’s apprentice,” she repeated and raised a brow and giggled. The sound of her laugh was like the chirping of a small bird. Orrick liked it. It reminded him of a time when he could make Petronilla smile and laugh. His heart ached to think of it, but now he only wanted to hear her laugh more. He found himself attracted to this mysterious woman for some reason, and he didn’t want her to leave just yet. “Well, Noah, if Orrick isn’t willing to help me, then mayhap you can.”
Orrick cringed inwardly. Sure enough, the brash wench was going to use an innocent child to do her bidding. He didn’t approve of that in the least.
“Sure I can help you,” said Noah excitedly, jumping up and down. “Tell me what to do.”
“Noah,” Orrick said in a low voice, shooting the boy a glance that warned him to behave. “Lady Hope, I’m intrigued,” he said to get the girl’s attention away from the young boy. “What is this legendary item you search for? Perhaps I have heard of it in my travels after all.”
She took a step closer to him, causing the steward to shift nervously from foot to foot in the doorway. The man did not want to enter the chamber and neither did he want the woman getting so close to Orrick.
“It’s said there is a candle or torch of some sort that is magical and even guarded for fear the flame will extinguish,” she told him.
Orrick’s body stiffened. He knew exactly what she was talking about and he didn’t like it in the least. “Really. Tell me more.” He found it interesting that anyone but him would know about this.
“It’s called an . . . infernal flame,” she blurted out, making Orrick cringe.
“Eternal,” he corrected her, too softly for her to hear it.
The woman kept talking. “I’ve heard that this flame can make one live forever. Supposedly the holder of the fire is also invincible and the flame cannot be extinguished, no matter how hard one tries.”
“Are you looking to live forever for some reason?” he asked cautiously, needing to know more of what she knew. She’d gotten part of the story straight, but he was sure she didn’t know all that was involved.
“Nay. Not really. Although the thought is enticing.”
“You do not know what you’re doing,” he said in a low voice. “It’s not for you, so leave it be.”
She blinked twice, smiled, and stood up straighter. Suddenly, the seriousness of their conversation faded away. “I’m just intrigued, that’s all. I’ve been hearing stories about this ever since I was a child and I would love to see it.”
“From whom did you hear these stories if I may ask, my lady?”
Orrick had never told anyone about the Eternal Flame. No mortal had ever seen it, and he planned on keeping it that way. Not even his good friend, Lord Corbett Blake, knew the powers that surrounded this magical icon. The only one he’d confided in about it was someone he trusted with his whole heart, and it had been many, many years ago. Petronilla knew about the flame, but she promised to take the secret to her grave rather than to tell a soul. Had she gone back on her promise?
“The stories came through my family. I had an ancestor who said he heard the legend from a dying woman,” she explained.
“He did?” Orrick asked, feeling confused how this could be so.
“Aye. He was an archbishop, and heard confessions of dying people all the time,” explained the girl. “He heard about the flame from one of my family’s enemies about a hundred years ago. Or at least, that is what I’ve been told.”
“That long ago?” asked Orrick, thinking about the day Petronilla died in his arms from old age. It was a century ago, but it had to be only a coincidence and have naught to do with this girl’s story. Petronilla never would have betrayed him.
“So tell me, Sorcerer. If one owns this Infernal Flame, can they snuff out the lives of their enemies with ease?” It angered Orrick to hear she wanted the flame for an evil purpose.
“Nay, I am sorry, but I don’t know where to find it.” Orrick turned around and crossed his arms over his chest. He wouldn’t help a woman who wanted to use such an honored and revered piece for a dark purpose.
“All right, then, I guess I’ll leave,” she answered from behind him. “Steward, there is one person who might know where it is, and perhaps he can find it for me.”
“And who would that be?” scoffed Orrick, thinking she was lying just to get him to help her.
“The person I speak of is the Guardian of the Flame,” she told him. “I am going to find him and won’t stop until I do.” She turned on her heel once more and headed out of the room with the steward following right behind her.
“Keeper of the Flame,” said Orrick softly, watching her go. He knew exactly whom this woman searched for, and also where to find him. If only she had known she was closer than she thought. Orrick was the person she sought, because he was the Keeper of the Eternal Flame.