Axbridge by Sasha L. Miller is another short and sweet fantasy novella with more of a first blush of romance rather than a full-blown relationship. We have Tannis, a soldier regularly partnered with mages, searching for the village healer when his partner is badly injured by a rogue mage. The healer, Isani, has experience with said mage, Corric, and offers his help and the hospitality of the village while Tannis continues to hunt the rogue.
Since this story is all of 18,000 words, we don’t get a whole lot of background in the world or the characters, but I thought the author did a pretty good job of showing who the characters are. Tannis is strong and loyal to both his partner and his country. He’s also incredibly open-minded and actually quite sweet and respectful towards others, even when they are less than wonderful to him. He’s confronted by both the village leader and Isani, and he doesn’t get angry, he just explains. I wish I had that ability! Isani is prickly, but obviously cares about his village and people in general. He’s had issues and his current situation certainly doesn’t help – he’s overly sensitive to people coddling him (when we first meet him, we find he only has one leg), and it takes a confrontation with Tannis for him to calm down about it. There are also all these aborted looks between the two – like they are watching each other, but trying not to be noticed. It’s adorable.
Basically, it’s short and sweet like a good first date – you meet each other, you hang out, and you’re left wanting more. The romance is still a possibility, but nothing is set yet. It’s really more about the fight and the fantasy than the romance. The story is more a way to get the two to meet. I really wanted there to be more, but I loved the potential we were left with.