You were saved not in order to live.

I knew I didn’t have time for tears. Master Teagan was dead and whomever had sent the tree after us had to be nearby. Pushing my grief to the background, I looked around. I spotted him a few feet from the base of the tree.

He was tall and blond-haired. Most people would have found him quite handsome. However, I could feel the dark energy rolling out of him, like bubbling tar. I almost asked him what he wanted. Then, I saw it.

The man was pretending to use magic against the tree. If I hadn’t seen my master doing just that in earnest when I was attacked, I would have been fooled. I gasped as the tree released me suddenly.

As I slipped free of the branches, he caught me and drew me back protectively. Bright blue eyes locked with mine and I suddenly felt dizzy. “Are you all right, lad?” he asked, smoothing my hair.

I swallowed thickly and nodded. “Master,” he rasped, looking for Master Teagan, but the man stopped me by cupping my chin. “My master…”

“It’s too late to help him, little one,” he said. He sighed and shook his head. “I was barely in time to save you.”

I bit my lip and shivered. He drew me forward and I balked. Then, in my head I heard a soft voice said, “Go with him!”

I stumbled forward, looking around for whatever might be speaking to me. I didn’t have far to look. Half-hidden in a thicket, there was a small brown rabbit. One look in the intensely blue eyes told me all I needed to know. It was familiar that Phillip had told me I should have had long ago.

“He wants you to increase his power,” the familiar told me. “That’s the only reason he didn’t kill you when he did your master. If he learns that you know what he is, things will go much worse for you. Just… go with him, Keenan.”

I swallowed thickly and then looked up at the man. I recognized him now, but I couldn’t remember his name. “You are…”

“Malloran,” he said. “I will teach you magic, little one, if you choose.” My mind whirled as I tried to think of some way out of that. Nothing immediately came to mind.

“My – my name’s Keenan,” I said. That, at least, wasn’t committing to anything one way or the other. I could figure out what to do about the other matter later.

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