Chapter Fourteen

“You may call me Esmeralda. I am the shaman of the tribe and have been so for more years than I care to remember.”

We sat under a towering baobab tree, atop two small stools carved from tree trunks. In front of us, a small table made of dark wood polished to a high sheen held two cups filled with juice. I don’t usually like drinking blood unless it’s been chilled first, but I wasn’t complaining now. I downed it quickly, feeling the life force energy hit me a few moments later.

Esmeralda watched me closely through hooded eyes bordered by crow’s feet and wrinkles that looked more like deep valleys on her pockmarked face. “You haven’t fed in a while.”

She wasn’t asking a question, so I merely shrugged. “Work gets in the way of things sometimes.”

“You should take care not to let that happen too often. You need your sustenance, after all. A failure to give yourself energy might come back and be the death of you some day.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

She hummed to herself and then drank from her cup. “You are young. Almost as rash as Ibano. But I see great things ahead for you. Provided you get over your naïveté.”


She smiled and I saw the aged teeth in her mouth; I restrained myself from wincing at the sight of them. “I’m perhaps too honest for you, Lawson?”

“I appreciate honesty,” I said. “But I don’t happen to think I’m naive.”

“Most never do.” She put the cup back down and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. “But we have other things to discuss.”



“You can help him?”

Esmeralda sighed. “I am not sure I can. The magic holding sway over him is far more potent than any I have encountered yet in my life.”

Judging from how old she looked, that wasn’t good news.

© 2010 by Jon F. Merz All rights re­served

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