???: O _ _ P _ _ _ W _ _ _ _ _
It never felt right to me, using the magic I bled for in a destructive way. That is what every other spellmaster chose. A game of one-upmanship. Who can climb higher in a ruler’s court by committing the same violence as everyone else, albeit in a magical way, is a schoolyard bully’s prerogative. Not the prerogative of an orchard witch.
I’ve yet to accept this choice of mine as the same reason why I remain unwed. Men do not fear witches. They fear what our spellmastery could inflict upon them, were we so inclined. A generous, productive witch is as good a lover as a spiteful, backstabbed witch is at revenge.
“Liria,” says the fresh-faced soldier across from me at The Muddy Root tavern. “It’s all about assurance. Men want to stand for something and fight and put their all in. It’s in their return home where they seek the assurance that for all their effort, their reward awaits there.”
“And that is all I desire,” I reply, spinning a finger through my sun-lightened hair. “Not from you, Restin, but a spouse. I want to plant fruit trees that will give back year after year. Once I give them my all, don’t I deserve a good loyal man to bed and care for in whichever order I choose?”
“Ah, you’ve hit it on the—erm, you’ve identified it,” he stammers. “Choice and need. To ignore those in one you fancy is to repel them and any future fancies.”
I swig ale from the tankard, honey and hops bubbling on my tongue. “Ignoring? I wouldn’t expect a lover of mine to be capable of sharing an orchard witch’s duties. He wouldn’t expect me to wield a sword. It is good reciprocation to make up for this by caring and pleasing each other once duty is done. No, don’t explain. You’ll embarrass yourself and prove me right.”
Restin scowls into his wineglass. “It’s not reciprocation to only do what you want, regardless of order or intent. Choice and need are things witches aren’t empathetic toward.”
I slug the honey ale and point the empty thing at the tavern sign swaying in a breeze behind us. “Did you need to name it The Muddy Root, or did you choose it out of an instinct for tasteless innuendo? Or maybe you aim to attract the very incapable miscreants you claim not to be, only so you might come off as intelligent by comparison?”
Restin’s eyebrow twists up and he flushes a little. “You keep coming back, Liria. It must be because you seek a person capable of caring and er, taking you.”
I beam at him and spread my arms. “Exposed. You throw the riff-raff out, I take the decent men to my cabin.”