The chill of early morning was a welcome blessing against the smothering heat of the house. Her master was cold, always cold, and was never comfortable unless the house was stifling hot. The fire at the hearth was never allowed to go out, not even in the height of summer, though it was allowed to burn lower. When she was younger, she had awoken several times in the night to stir the coals and toss on fresh wood. Now all she had to do was set the logs on the fire and set a small resistance spell on them so that the flames would not feed until later in the night. She had set those spells for the past eight years, last night was the first that she no longer had to.
No one knew how old he was, Master Alberich claimed he was not sure himself. He seemed older than the hills themselves when she was presented to him to become an apprentice. His gnarled hands had cupped her face gently as he looked into her young eyes. The wrinkles on his face deepened into mountains and deep valleys as he sought something within her. Eventually he had nodded at her parents. The next day she began her travels to this small house nestled in the feet of the mountains.
He had apprentices before her, he had spoke of them many times, but none ever came to his door. He was a harsh teacher, at times unkind, but she learned that since this strange power that had awakened within her nothing would be kind ever again. He taught her to read, to figure, to speak in tongues that were not heard in this part of the world. Plants and animals, the positions of the stars and the moon, and how to read portents in the way the wind blew were just some of the things that he instructed her in. Through out all of the years the fire in the hearth burned brightly. She had wondered on the importance of the flames, why they were so important. Now she knew.
His last whispered words had sent a chill up her spine. He had been older than the hills, older than anyone imagined. This past week he had told her the truth; how in one magician’s life time they waited for the one to pass all of their knowledge and power to; how disappointed he had been in those who had come before her; how surprised he was to find such power in such a young girl; and how he stole her energies until she was capable to control them. She was ready he had told her. He had smiled at her even though his body was wracked with pain, a pain he could no longer ignore.
It was already cooler in the house. With the fire nearly dead, the cool morning had seeped into the walls like a thief into a fortress. Her tears felt hot against her cheeks as she glanced at the empty bed. With his last breath Alberich had simply disappeared, faded into nothingness. Even the faint scent of him was gone. She stepped to the hearth and knelt watching the last of the coals flicker.