by Alfonso Divinagracia

In his letters to the sorceress Antavara, Micah made it clear that he only wanted to learn herbology for the sake of the family apothecary. He’d expected to apprentice under a gray-haired intellectual – one who he could respect and maybe even befriend, but nothing more. Antavara had been working in herbs since before he had even been born, and he was a fair-haired lad of nineteen now. Someone entirely different greeted him at the door.

The woman was taller than him by roughly a head, and had braided her long black hair into a ponytail. She had olive skin, wide gray eyes, and full lips – and even her simple brown dress couldn’t hide her full figure. Micah narrowly caught himself eyeing her, then shook his head and looked back up. There was no way this woman was the sorceress; she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

“Hello there,” Micah said, stepping back slightly. “I’m looking for the sorceress Antavara.”

The woman eyed him with an amused, almost catlike look. “I am the sorceress Antavara. You must be Micah Rook?”

Micah swallowed and nodded. 

“Come right in, then,” she said, beckoning him inside. “Am I to assume that you’re familiar with the materials?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Micah straightened his shirt.

“Good. You start working immediately.” Once Micah was inside, Antavara whistled, and the door shut itself. “Fetch the gray book on top of that bookshelf, please.”

In the days that followed, Micah found himself learning much on of plants and herbs. All the while, Antavara guided him slowly – despite the clarity and confidence with which she spoke, Micah couldn’t help ogling her. She didn’t seem to mind, though; at most, she would merely smirk and tell him to pay better attention. 

At night, he would go home and talk to his parents of the things he had learned. They were entitled to know, after all – even if he wasn’t paying a coin for his training, he’d never have gotten it without his father knowing Antavara beforehand. Mercifully, his father kept silent on anything other than his lessons.

One afternoon, Micah finished his practical lesson on how to mix a healing salve early. He had been packing his things when he looked up and found himself staring right into Antavara’s eyes. “Micah,” she said softly – she’d warmed up to him in the few weeks that they’d known each other. “Do you mind staying past nightfall for some advanced lessons tomorrow?”

Micah never stayed past nightfall. In a town as small as theirs, word traveled fast, and he had a reputation as the Rooks’ golden boy to uphold. And it just wouldn’t do for a young man to be alone with a beautiful woman at night. 

But every scrap of knowledge counted – at least, that was what Micah told himself, although he wasn’t wholly sure if that was his true reason. Without a second thought, he nodded.

That night, he told his parents of his arrangement with Antavara, under the same pretext that she’d given him. If they didn’t believe it, they didn’t show it – anyway, they reasoned that he was nineteen, and could do as he pleased.

Micah took to the next morning’s lessons with gusto, as if he were expecting something more than more dry, rote lessons that night. Even then, unease dug at him; what if she didn’t have any ulterior motives, and truly wanted to teach him more? 

His uncertainties were dispelled when Antavara disappeared into her room and reappeared in a small black dress. “Time for your extracurriculars, Micah,” she said, her voice a pitch lower than usual. “Come on in.”

From his desk, Micah stood up and walked in. The door slammed shut, and the two spent the rest of the night learning about something much more strenuous than herbs and potions.

An hour later, Micah stirred from his slumber – his efforts had left him drenched in sweat, and he’d fallen asleep right after he’d finished for the third time. Antavara was sitting next to him, and was presently downing a potion. They were both, of course, completely nude.

Antavara chuckled. “I presume you found the experience enjoyable?”

“You could say that.”

“Good. Until I am with child, we shall continue with these activities daily.” Antavara chuckled. “And don’t worry about marriage. The child will be no burden to you, I promise.”

Micah pushed his reservations to the back of his mind. They could quibble about parenthood’s finer details later; for now, all he needed to do was sit back and enjoy the next few days.