I read this short story in a fantasy / horror? anthology in 2002, I think the story is from the 1990s.

In a foresty world there is a man who has powerful magic but the mind of a child. He (and others like him) have no conscience. They're not evil, they just do things they shouldn't and think it's funny.

In this world the people (villagers?) have a solution. At a young age they bond boys who have magic to a "mistress" who is like a dominant wife to him and serves as his conscience. She tells him what to do and he obeys her. This way society gets the gift of his magic without the destruction he would cause if he were left to his own devices.

In the story the woman he is bonded to (they have been bonded for many years and she is fond of him) finds out that she is dying. They have sex one last time and she lets him give her a fantabulous orgasm with his magic (she does not normally allow this) and then she kills him. It was poignant and sad but she had to kill him because she couldn't risk him living without her controlling him.

One other scene I remember is when she's gone for a few days and one of the villagers comes and asks him to magic something for him, and he did it but in a maliciously compliant way. I want to say it was fire ants? It was an example of the harm he could do if left unchecked.

The title of the story may have been a made up word for the female character's role - e.g. "Mistrix" (mistress + dominatrix) or something like "goodwife".

This has been bugging me for years I hope someone remembers it!

  • I would provide a link with more details, but I don't think it'd help you, that is an incredible amount of detail! – Edlothiad Aug 16 '17 at 9:12
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  • @Archipoeta We don't close story identification questions as duplicates unless there's an explicitly accepted answer. See here. – Gallifreyan Aug 16 '17 at 12:09
  • Please be aware, as per our dupe policy we don't close Story-id unless we have an answer that is confirmed. I recommend you post the answer you think it is and if the OP confirms it we'll then duplicate it. – Edlothiad Aug 16 '17 at 12:12
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    Just read through the links and yes, it must be "The promise of God" by Michael F. Flynn. Thank you! – Hcj Aug 16 '17 at 15:54

By request, this is "The Promise of God" by Michael F. Flynn, collected in The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirteenth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.

The story takes place in a universe where sorcery destroys the conscience and so wizards are paired with spouses who will punish them when they get out of control--the protagonist's wife punishes him when he almost gets rid of a neighbor's fleas (not fire ants) by summoning a salamander to burn her house down.

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