Seven years of silent treatment brings the young woman to the edge of despair. Her father, the illustrious Patron, has refused to speak to her since she was thirteen, and everyone in the village follows his rule. One day, the girl realizes her twentieth birthday has passed, and she is now the age when she would enter society as a Woman – if only she wasn't an outcast. Knowing her life will never get better, the girl decides to end the aching silence within her in the depths of a violent river. Just before plunging into the icy water, a voice behind her utters, “There is a better way.” The Sorcerer of the Caverns stands at the bank, holding a promise. He has the power to end her ostracism, but as the girl knows, a change of destiny this drastic must claim a fair price.
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The Patron found her past the wide bend in the river in the same spot where she and the Trainer used to fish. Crouched on her haunches, she wore crude trousers tied at her waist, the fine stitches of her blouse grimy, her hair in a long braid to her waist, strands tousled around her face. Although she’d grown taller and now had the curves of womanhood, she looked just as she had that season seven years ago. Scanning the trees, he almost expected to find the Trainer, but his daughter was alone.
One thing had changed. She’d never worn a holster back then, but now had one belted below her waist. He raised his brows when he saw one of his pistols at her hip. He hadn’t heard the shot when she caught the squirrel, but she was skinning the carcass with one of his daggers. So intent was she on her task she didn’t hear him approach. Her eyes grew wide when she looked up and her hand slipped, the blade slicing into her wrist.
The Patron leaped off his horse and reached her in two strides. Gripping her arm, he sunk her hand in the water. The girl resisted, but he held on tight and squeezed her wound to stop the blood flowing into the river. He brought her hand out of the icy water and pressed his scarf against the side of her wrist, pulling a handkerchief from his breast pocket. He heard her labored breathing and felt the taut muscles of her arm while tying the bandage around her wrist. The Patron glanced over, ashamed when he saw the girl pulling as far from him as possible, her eyes narrowed to slits. It had been years since he last touched her.
Montgomery Mahaffey is a fantasy writer who has told her stories all over the country. Alaskan winters shaped Mahaffey as a writer, and her work is built off of the myriad of personal and collective experiences formed underneath that mystical landscape. Born in the south to a family of storytellers, Mahaffey has developed her own voice that is suffused with the temperament of the wanderer instinct. Set in a world where magic is at once subtle and pervasive, her novels bring to life symbols and stories of the old fairy tales told with wry humor and passion. In 2005 she was granted the Individual Artist Project Award from the Rasmuson Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska. Ella Bandita and the Wanderer is her first novel.