As was his morning custom, Rand T'Ash set down his half-finished first cup of caff and drew a black suede pouch from the cubbyhole of his desk. He spread the drawstrings, and upended the bag. Instead of the ususal four divination dice, six spilled into his hand. A tingle of premonition shivered up his spine.
He curved his fingers over the six-sided pieces of bloodstone and put away the pouch. He drank some of his hot caff to let his emotions flow through and from him and to focus his will and intuition, his mage power.
Uncurling his hands, he stared at the bloodstone dice. He'd created them himself a few years back, an interesting task for a man who used his talents with metals and gems.
Six. Four were sufficient for a daily divination, six were used for major holidays, like the solstices and equinoxes, and all eight to forecast lifetime prophecies.
He took one more swallow of caff and deliberately set the mug down. With a flick of his wrist, he threw the dice. They rolled, spun, landed on one of their six-sides.
He glanced at them. The polished blue-green stones gleamed in the light, the glyphs incised on them taking advantage of the deep red veins, looking nearly like blood. The thrumming of blood pulsed in his temple. He'd never seen this particular configuration before, but he didn't have to consult a text. The dice showed symbols of one of the primary divinations everyone knew. Today you will meet your heart-mate.
He sat down and cradled his caff mug in both hands, then closed his eyes. His heart rate had increased, a shimmering tension had taken hold of his nerves. The ebb and flow of his preternatural talent had changed. Over the last few days, he now realized. The daily divinations had lately intimated something unusual, something he had still missed. Twosday -- Enjoy the moment, for it will pass, Midweek -- Prepare yourself, Three-Moonsday, yesterday, Restructuring is necessary.
Opening his eyes, he stared at the dice once more. Today you will meet your heart mate.
A sigh escaped him, carrying a low moan with it. He was thirty-seven. The sole member of the once great family, a First Family, the Ash. He'd had to fight to survive. It was only in the last few years, when his talents had been recognized and his reputation burgeoned, that he had been able to relax and live life with some ease. Tomorrow he would no longer be alone. An exciting, but frightening thought.
His caff was cold, he no longer inhaled the pungent scent with his deep breaths. He looked around. His workroom, the large desk of gleaming reddwood in sharp contract to the scarred workbenches. On the far wall, behind the protection spell, was his selection of gems and precious metals. And in the corner -- he stiffened. In the corner, hidden by deep shadows, was his walk-in vault. And in the vault was the smaller safe containing his most precious possessions. The necklace.
Stiffly he rose and walked to the vault. After a moment of disarming the spell, he swung open the large door.
The necklace. An item created in three days after his last major Passage. In the delerium of that Passage he'd had visions of his heart-mate. His talent had spiralled out to connect with her in a bond, though he had never felt the link since.
He squatted and placed a palm on the safe, with long-unused words he cast the spell to open it. He reached back until he felt a large velvet case. And the moment he touched it, urgency swept through him. He slammed the safe shut, strode from and armed the vault in mere seconds, and placed the round-cornered box in the middle of his largest worktable, positioned in the sunlight.
Rand watched with disbelief as his hands trembled when he opened the box.
Energy, power, magic spilled from the necklace, driving him back. He raised his hand and felt continuing pulses from the piece. The sexual potency of a virile twenty-year old man imbued the necklace, a man who had spent three days in a sexual delerium of a Passage that finally freed his talent. Rand had focused all of the creative, sexual energy on fashioning the necklace. Seventeen years past, and it still radiated. The erotic tension washed through him and lodged, tingling his nerves, warming his muscles, pooling in his groin. And he knew beyond all doubt, that he would feel the pressure until he took his mate. The tautness was disconcerting, pleasure bordering on pain. Anticipation.
He sucked in his breath. Then looked at the necklace again. Now he only saw how it was fashioned. He frowned. The strands of silver, gold, red-gold wire were not of a uniform thinness, showing nodules in places. The caging and the mounting of the gems was clumsy now and again. That sapphire there -- he shook his head.
The side of his mouth quirked. When his hands hadn't trembled from sexual energy, they'd shaken from exhaustion. He didn't remember eating or sleeping at all during the days he created the necklace. The final gem was a large roseamber he'd spent hours shaping. With the energy pouring through him, he wouldn't have been surprised if it had turned out to be in the shape of a phallus.
He'd made a heart.
His eyes focused and he saw the necklace, beyond its inherent power, and the skill that fashioned it. He saw the style and the color of the gems. And in that moment he knew who the woman was. His mate.
He had never seen her, but he knew of her. Today you will meet your heart-mate. Not today, but tonight. For the first time in several years he had to man his exclusive shop. And now he knew that the customer he'd been teasing with his creations the last few months would come in.
He glanced at the necklace one more time and left it displayed on his workbench. He needed more caff. He could feel power swirling around him, being caught by his inner anticipation, rising.
With one sweep of his hand, he gathered the dice on his desk. Two bounced and fell to the floor. He bent and his hand stilled. Swords surround a vulnerable woman. He picked the glyph of the woman up and the die cracked into pieces in his hand. A woman in danger.