This one I’ve been working on for some time now; I’ve written over 200 pages.
Mareet found herself looking up at a man’s face, but it was neither her father’s, nor that of Lord Salchen, the sorcerer to whom she was to be apprenticed. This was a stranger’s face, broad and bearded and blond, with intensely blue eyes that were staring into her own. His skin seemed unnaturally pale, though a slight flush reddened his brow, and his deep-set eyes appeared almost inhumanly large.
“Father?” she asked, turning her head away from that fearsome gaze, trying to make sense of her surroundings. She was not sure whether she had just awakened, or undergone some more curious transition. Her memories seemed oddly fragmented and uncertain, and she had no idea where she was, or how she came to be there.
“No,” the blond stranger said gently, in a voice that did not match his strong features. Despite his foreign complexion he spoke flawless, unaccented Walasian. “I am Barzal of Blackfield, and I have just bought your contract from Lord Salchen.”
“But… where’s Father, then? He was to negotiate the terms.” She did not look at the blond man, but at the room in which she found herself.
She was in a stone chamber, one that looked somehow familiar, though she could not remember where or how she might have seen it before. Sunlight slanted through a row of windows in one wall, illuminating rich red-and-gold carpets and a row of heavy chairs of what appeared to be finely-carved walnut, but the light brought little warmth. A strange, acrid odor hung in the cool air.
She was sitting in one of the chairs, slumped down in it, her hands clutching the arm-rests, and the big blond man was standing just a foot or two in front of her, looking down at her with an expression of concern. He was, she realized vaguely, finely dressed, in green velvet and yellow satin, and carrying a carved walking stick.
At one end of the room, a dozen feet away, stood a black-robed, black-haired figure – Lord Salchen, she belatedly realized. He looked somehow different than he had when last she saw him…
“Your father isn’t here,” Barzal said. “This isn’t what you think; it isn’t when you think. I’m afraid I’ve taken the liberty of erasing your memories of the last two or three years. This is the fourteenth day of autumn in the twenty-third year of the Emperor at Lume.”
Her eyes turned forward and upward and met his again. “No, it’s the seventeenth of spring in the twenty-first – ” she began.
“No,” he interrupted firmly. “It isn’t. You simply don’t remember the two and a half years you have dwelt here.”