“In order to work my magic, the item must be high quality.”

“I would think that would mean it would be quite easy if you visited a King or Queen,” Gemma said, dropping another bundle of fibers by the spinning wheel.

“No, I don’t mean expensive. The high quality has nothing to do with the base materials,” the mage said as he added fibers to the distaff when the spinning wheel starting whirling on its own as his magic activated. “The item needs to be well made by a true craftsmen. These days, people are more concerned with getting the newest styles as quickly as possible—which means the items appear to be beautiful but often the crafters have taken shortcuts to churn them out,” the mage said.

“So you can only make something magic if it’s well made?”

“No, I can still enchant cheap knock-offs,” the mage admitted. “But they don’t hold on to the spells very long, and they won’t stand up for repeated use—the spells can only be used once.”

Gemma lingered at the table to eat a pickled fish. “I find it surprising that all goods are growing less…perfect. Some countries are known for their craft exports.”

“I suppose you are right,” the mage said. “It’s still reasonably easy to find high quality furniture and food items. Jewelry can be iffy; it depends on the jeweler who made it. The same goes for weapons. The true problem is clothing. Clothing—anything made of cloth really—is terrible. Even robes made for a king will rarely hold more than two or three spells or charms. Unfortunately, cloth is usually what most people want enchanted,” the mage said. In spite of his glorious voice, he sounded like a teacher scolding a miscreant pupil.

“Why?” Gemma asked.

“It’s easier to carry around than furniture; it can hold a larger variety of spells than weapons; it will take stronger spells than the ones that can be spelled on food, and it is less expensive than jewelry,” the mage said. His face was pointed in the direction of the spinning wheel. After watching it spin out gold thread for a few moments, he nodded.

“But enough of my tribulations,” the mage said, his lips forming a handsome smile. “I want to hear about you.”

Gemma picked up the last flax fibers and dumped them by the spinning wheel. “Why?” she said with a complete lack of enthusiasm.

“Because you interest me,” the mage said, sitting down by the table of food. “So, from whom did you inherit your nobility? Certainly not your father.”

“You’ve met him then?” Gemma asked. She hesitated and stood in front of the table, wondering if it would be terribly disrespectful if she sat and ate with the mage. Probably.

“One could say that,” the mage, said, pointing to the cushion next to him.

“Ah, my sympathies,” Gemma said, ignoring the gesture and folding her legs to sit across from him.

“Your mother, then?” the mage asked, mashing a potato with the only knife that came with the food.

“Nope,” Gemma said. She reached under her dress and slid her pilfered dinner knife out—the mage choked on his potato at this particular reveal—and used it to butter another piece of bread. “Do you want some bread?” Gemma asked when the mage finished coughing.

“Where were you storing that?” the mage asked. He tilted his chin up and leaned forward, as if he were peering over the table at Gemma’s skirt.

“Not telling. This nobility you keep harping about is probably something I learned from Grandmother Guri.”

“Paternal or maternal grandmother?”

“Neither. I’m not related to her.”

“I see.”

“I spent a lot of time with her when I was a child. She taught me how to sew, which is how I became a seamstress,” Gemma said.

“You think she might have passed her character on to you?” the mage asked with a teasing smile.

Gemma shrugged. “People say we say similar things.”

“What do you mean?”

“We are borderline offensive.”

The mage turned to hide his struggle to keep from laughing.

“I’m trying to be truthful, Sir Mage,” Gemma said.

“I can tell,” the mage said. “Perhaps it is something nobody can take credit for, and it is something that uniquely belongs to you.”


“You still don’t understand what I mean, do you?”

“Not at all,” Gemma said, finishing her bread. She dusted off her hands and picked up her blanket rope, fidgeting her way back into it.

“I supposed if you reveled in your superiority, that would cancel the nobility of your character,” the mage said. “What are you doing?”

“Making a rope.”


“The future. You never know when you will need rope,” Gemma said.

“I can make you rope if you want some that badly, you know.”

“After what you just explained about cheap fabrics? I’ll pass.”

“I didn’t mean I make things with shotty craftsmanship; I meant the general population. I’m sure you don’t either, of course,” the mage was swift to add.