Disclaimer: I do not own BMT world – it belongs to Trudi Canavan

The Beginning

Akkarin had been both profoundly shocked and somewhat amused at the same time. To find, from reading the surface thoughts of Lorlen, that his oldest friend harboured disturbing thoughts about his High Lord, was a great surprise. At first he hadn't quite believed it, but the subsequent forced mind-read confirmed his suspicions. Lorlen knew about the black magic and had known for some time.

Akkarin hadn't liked using magic to immobilise his friend while he used his skills as a black magician to read an unwilling mind, but he had no alternative. The secret he had guarded so well for so many years was no longer secret. He had to find out how Lorlen had discovered it and who else knew.

And that is where the bitter amusement came in, he thought. To think my greatest secret, carefully hidden for all these years, was discovered by a dwell who had been sneaking around the university for fun! The greatest magical minds in Kyralia hadn't found out, but a slum child had.

That slum child was now a novice in the Guild. The risk of discovery was therefore very great. Lorlen had discovered the secret and so would the next magician who read her mind. I must take steps to neutralise her, he had thought. And the two other magicians who knew, Lorlen and Rothen.

His plan was simple; make the girl his Novice, using her as a hostage to guarantee the silence of the other two. It was lucky she was fond of Rothen, so she would do nothing to jeopardise him. A blood ring for Lorlen to monitor his words and actions completed the restrictions. None of them could now reveal the secret without the risk of harming another.

All that remained was to move the girl into his Residence, where she would be under his control. He sighed. I have long relished my solitary state in the Residence, he thought. Takan is a silent presence who knows how to disappear when he's not needed. Now I have to share it with a child and an unwilling one at that.

He had given orders for the girl to move in immediately. Her possessions had already been packed up and delivered to her new room. She was waiting downstairs in the guest room, but he decided to let her wait for a while longer. The sooner she learned obedience, the better.

It was over half an hour later that he silently opened the door to the guest room and walked in quietly. Sonea was standing by a large picture and seemed to be examining it closely. As she heard him, she gave a start, then turned and bowed.

"Good afternoon, Sonea," he said, his voice cool and dispassionate.

"Good afternoon, High Lord" she replied in a low voice. Her eyes had flicked up at his for a few seconds, then she looked away. She looked stiff and uncertain as the silence continued.

Taking pity on her, Akkarin said, "Sit down, Sonea. There are one or two things I need to say and you will be more comfortable in that chair over there."

She sat down primly, her hands loosely clasped in her lap. She glanced at him quickly, then looked down at her hands. When he said nothing, she looked up at him again and this time didn't look away. A faint colour appeared in her cheeks and he could see she swallowed nervously.

"It has been some time since there has been a High Lord's Novice living in the Residence, but you will find your accommodation is larger and more comfortable than that in the Novices' Quarters," he began. "There is plenty of room for your books and other study materials and of course, you have money to buy copies of any books you need. You will have your own servant. I have chosen one for you, her name is Viola and you will meet her shortly. She is an older servant with many years experience, so she will be able to answer any questions you might have." He paused, but she said nothing simply keeping her eyes on his face.

"You will find new sets of novice's robes in your room, and you must wear those in place of your current robes. You will also need some other clothes. I sometimes entertain visitors to the Guild and you will be required to attend some of the dinners, for example."

Sonea moved a little in her chair, but she made no attempt to speak. Her face, which he found quite expressive, was set in sullen lines which reminded him strongly of his younger sister when she had been refused an extra dessert.

"I shall take a close interest in your studies, Sonea. As my Novice, you will be expected to do well in all your subjects. If I find in gaps in your skills, I shall take immediate steps to remedy them. I shall expect you to dine formally with me at least once a week and I shall require a short daily meeting to discuss your studies. Apart from that, you will find that I won't interfere in your social life or take up too much of your time."

He looked at her closely for a moment. "Do you have any questions?"

"No, High Lord. Thank you," she said.

"There is one other thing," he said quickly. "You will not have any contact with Rothen apart from the casual and unavoidable meetings arising from your studies."

"No, that's not fair!" she cried. "We have both promised to say nothing. I have done what you wanted and moved in here with you. Rothen is my only friend in the Guild! Why do you have to be so cruel?"

He looked at her in surprise. Her whole demeanour had changed, there was colour in her cheeks and her eyes glittered perhaps with unshed tears. She looks quite different when she's not sulking, he thought in amusement, A different girl entirely, lively and passionate.

Careful not to let his amusement show, Akkarin remained cool, "You will do what I tell you, Sonea, without question. A Novice's first task is to learn obedience to her Guardian. I expected you to have learned that in your first weeks in the Guild. Rothen may have been an easy Guardian, but you will find I am not the same. I have rules and standards and I expect them to be followed and obeyed without question. Do I make myself clear?"

Sonea glared for a moment, then dropped her eyes, "Yes, High Lord," she said in a low voice, "I understand."

"Good," Akkarin rose and rang a small bell which was sitting on the side. Almost at once the door opened and Takan came in the room. "Ask Viola to come here," the High Lord said.

A few minutes later there was a tap at the door and a small woman, with salt and pepper hair and a business-like expression on her face, came into the room.

"Ah, Viola, this is Lady Sonea. Will you take her to her room and answer any questions she might have."

As the door closed behind them, Akkarin reached for a bottle of his favourite Anuran Dark wine and poured himself a drink. He sat down in his chair, and twirled the glass in his long, pale fingers. It wasn't going to be easy, living under the same roof with a resentful Novice as well as carrying on with the endless task of tracking down and eliminating the Ichani slaves sent to test the Guild's defences.

If only it had been a boy who had discovered my secret, he thought. I could have managed a male Novice better than a female one. What do I have in common with a girl and a girl from the slums at that?

He sipped his drink. It was no good wishing for something which hadn't happened. It was a girl who had discovered him and a girl who was now living under his roof. I hope we don't get any rumours starting about us like there were with Rothen when she lived in his rooms, he thought. I shall have to be vigilant. She dislikes me, so she won't be following me around making sheep's eyes at me like the girls from the Houses who fancy being the High Lord's wife!

He laughed bitterly. What a state to be in, to be thankful a young girl dislikes me, he thought.

He finished the wine and poured another. It would be several years before his Novice completed her studies and for all that time she would be living in the Residence. Perhaps in time, they would reach a better understanding and then, sharing his home would not be such a burden.

He had meant what he'd said. He didn't intend to interfere unnecessarily in her life. As long as she kept his secret and ensured that Lorlen and Rothen also kept silent, that was all he asked of her. He could make her life in the Guild easier, simply by being her Guardian. We could all benefit from the situation, he told himself. Perhaps it's not so bad after all.