Legends

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Authors: Deborah Smith
horrible magic trick, flames sprouted there. She stabbed her hand into her skirt and suffocated the flames in its plaid folds. A wave of pain radiated up her arm. Her stomach twisted sickly, and her legs almost collapsed.
    She smothered the stove fire with the skillet and cut the burner off. Staggering, she went to the sink and ran water over her fingers. Their ends were an ugly red, and the tips of the nails looked as if they’d melted. Elgiva nearly gagged on the pungent odor.
    The pain made her shiver and chew her lip, but after a few minutes the icy water revived her. Breathing heavily, she wrapped her hand in a towel and returned to the main room, where she kept a medicine chest under her bed.
    Douglas Kincaid stepped out of his washroom, dressed in the thick blue robe she’d provided. He had just taken a shower, and was toweling his wet hair vigorously. When he saw her heading for the bed he grunted. “Need a nap? You must be worn out from carrying that self-righteous attitude around.”
    Elgiva ignored him and sank to her knees. With her good hand she dragged a heavy wooden chest from beneath the bed and flipped the lid open. Asshe fished through tubes and bottles and medical implements, she heard Kincaid moving to the front of his cell. “Is that your witch’s kit?” he taunted. “Gonna mix a little ‘eye of MacNewt’ into the pudding? Or maybe some hemlock?”
    Nausea assailed her again. She leaned against the bedstead and shut her eyes, waiting for it to pass. Across the room Kincaid grew very still; either that or she couldn’t hear his movements above the buzzing in her ears. Finally the buzzing faded. Elgiva realized that Kincaid was speaking to her.
    “Just bring the chest and come here,” he repeated. “Let me help, if I can.” Amazingly, he sounded serious and reassuring, almost gentle.
    Elgiva wiped cold perspiration from her forehead and looked at him, her head still resting on the side of the mattress. “Why?”
    One corner of his mouth quirked up in a grim smile. “Because I’ll starve if you faint.”
    “Don’t worry, Douglas. I’ll have a go at cooking as soon as I get myself fixed up.”
    “What happened to you?”
    She lifted her wrapped hand, trying not to wince, then let it rest in her lap again. “I burned my fingers in some grease. That’s what I get for letting a Kincaid make me mad and reckless.”
    “Come here. Just come here and sit at the table. Let me see what I can do for your toasted claws.”
    Her head muddled by the pain, she ignored the warning that said Douglas Kincaid was probably going to do something awful to her. Elgiva got up, wavered a moment, then took a deep breath and clasped the chest’s handle. She pulled the awkward box across the room to the serving table and hoisted it to the top. Then she slumped into a chair and put her head down weakly. She eased her burned hand toward the opening in the cell bars.
    Kincaid tucked his robe a little tighter around himself and put a chair close to his side of the bars.He sat down and reached through with both hands, his gaze locked on her. “I’ve seen mimes who weren’t as white-faced as you are right now.”
    “The burns aren’t so bad,” she told him, panting lightly. Elgiva raised her head and looked at him stoically. “It’s just the idea of them. Of being burned in a fire. My parents died that way.”
    He took her hand between his, and she waited fearfully to see how her trust would be rewarded. But he was very careful not to hurt her as he unwrapped the towel, and when her hand lay bare in his he held it with supreme gentleness. Confused, she warned him softly, “I can’t turn you loose, no matter how much you surprise me.”
    He opened the medicine chest and studied the contents as if he hadn’t heard her. “My sister was burned badly once. When she was six or seven. We had a crummy apartment that was impossible to keep heated in the winter—it had old steam radiators. One developed a crack.

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