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  • Rebekah Olson

Chapter 35

Jerryck left the matter with Heston, and went about his job. There were still a few tasks that required his attention. The closest one to his location was a window pane that needed a crack repaired. It was a time consuming, if simple task, using the earth element. He headed for that one. He finished up right about lunch time, so he went to the common dining hall. Over the rumble of the people eating and talking at the long tables, Kendra tried to wheedle out of him exactly what had happened between him and Gintario. She wouldn’t accept that he didn’t want to talk about it, so he ended up telling her the matter was unresolved. Sitting and eating, his gaze wandered over to a charm he kept above the double-wide doorway to the bailey outside. It was part of a system of charms, all connected to set off chimes in his workroom, set to ring when a magic-user entered the palace. They hadn’t played for Gintario. He left his food half eaten, and wove through the tables and people to stand directly beneath the charm. With a word, he released the adhesive magic on the back that kept it on the wall above the door frame. It dropped into his hand. It gave low energy readings, even though he had just recharged the entire network within the last week. Sometimes a single charm could go faulty. Still, the others should have picked up the slack. Taking it with him, he went to check on some of the others spread about. After the next three were in exactly the same state as the first one, he stopped. Redundancy was the beauty that made a system like this so effective. As long as the connection between them held, they all shared power and worked together to make up any slack. They wouldn’t all go faulty at the same time. And even if they did, that would trigger a different alert for him. Holding all four charms in one hand and covering them with the other, Jerryck closed his eyes to shut out distractions. He concentrated on the connecting magic. He identified the feel of it on each individual charm. He tried following the connection from one charm to the next, and it wouldn’t go through. It wasn’t broken. It wasn’t severed. It felt more like it was somehow disrupted. He isolated the connection magic on each charm. One by one, he tried tracing the exact path from each charm to another. On every singe one of them, it stopped about halfway between, still there, just unable to get past some sort of barrier. He went through the process a third time, just to be sure. Still concentrating on the energy of the magic, he opened his eyes and uncovered his hand from the charms. They were a glowing mix of blue and green. His sister and wife might argue about the exact shading, calling it teal, or aquamarine, or turquoise, or some other such silly thing. He just saw them as the aura of magic. He blinked. How had they started glowing? He hadn’t cast any kind of spell for it. He looked around. The people traversing the area paid him no more attention than before. None of them stopped and stared at the charms, or asked him questions. Each one of them did, however, also glow their own distinct colors. Their auras were slightly visible. He looked down at himself. He was glowing too. What was going on? He hadn’t cast a spell to adjust his sight. Why was he seeing auras? It couldn’t be another accident. Those were accompanied by a drain that hadn’t happened this time. Sakila, the Chemwanitz shamaness, had altered her vision to see auras without casting a spell. It had been very purposeful on her part, nothing accidental about it. Perhaps he had simply stumbled on whatever technique she used. Tajor approached. Every color imaginable swirled in rhythmic patterns through his aura, set into motion by his curse. It made for a breathtakingly mesmerizing, if dizzying display. Jerryck rubbed his eyes. “Are you all right?” Tajor asked. “Yes, I just…” He stopped jabbing his fingers into his eyelids. “I need a spell broken.” “What spell?” Tajor cocked his head. He pointed at the four charms. “Those?” “No, no, these are fine… Sort of… I think…” Jerryck held them up for Tajor to see properly. He scrutinized them all over again. There was a paper thin line of pale blue color between all of them. “Or maybe not.” Tajor dipped his face down to Jerryck’s line of sight, the colors around him obscuring the colors of the charm. “See something odd?” “As a matter of face, yes.” Jerryck turned, holding the charm up, away from where other auras showed up behind it. He scrutinized another in the same way. “I think I’m seeing a subtle disrupting spell.” “If that’s what you want broken—” Tajor said as he reached out— “prepare for the entire construct of all the charms to collapse.” “No!” Jerryck jerked them all away and dropped a couple. He snatched them back up before anyone else could touch them. “Change of mind?” “This isn’t the magic I wanted you to break,” Jerryck said. He closed his hand over the charms. “I think I may have cast a spell on my eyesight. I’m seeing auras.” “There’s no spell on you for that.” Tajor put his hands on Jerryck’s shoulders. The swirling rainbow of colors that surrounded the man didn’t vanish. It didn’t even react to anything, like it normally did to magic. He squinted at Jerryck. “Whatever you did, the magic is gone. Only the effect remains. Is it something that will wear off, maybe?” Jerryck rubbed his eyes again. “I hope so.” “What exactly were you doing when it happened?” Tajor let go of Jerryck’s shoulders. “Would doing the exact opposite also have the opposite affect?” “I don’t know.” Jerryck opened his palms and looked at the charms. He’d been focusing on the magic there. How could not focusing on the magic clear up his vision? “How about you figure this out later?” Tajor steered him away. “The king wants you in the White Room.” “You’re doing the job of a page?” Jerryck asked, going along placidly. With Tajor steering him, he didn’t have to watch where he was going. “I’m summoned too, so they sent me to fetch you. More efficient that way.” By the time they reached the White Room, some of the auras Jerryck saw had faded slightly. Perhaps that meant the problem would eventually resolve itself, like a spell that wore off into nothingness. Only a few elites were there. Instead of straining his eyes by looking at them, he sat in a chair and closed his eyes, toying with the charms in his hand. Before long, the door opened and a couple of people entered. He opened his eyes to see who. Tajor stood right in front of him, smirking. The shock of colors swirling around him punched Jerryck in the head, blocking out everything else. “Tajor,” Heston barked. “What did you do?” “I stood here.” Tajor’s smirk leaked into his voice. “Why did he jump like that?” “Jerryck,” Terrance said. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing!” Jerryck jumped to his feet. He tried to look past Tajor, directly at Terrance and Heston. “Why do you keep blinking like that?” Terrance asked. “Are you all right?” “Yes. I’m just seeing auras. That’s all. It’s a little disorienting.” “I trust you’ll take care of it.” Terrance drew himself up and changed the subject. “I’ve already sent for Ginario, so we only have a few moments. When he comes in, I’ll confront him. He’ll pretend offense, I’m sure. He’ll likely propose compromises. Then I’ll propose a compromise of our own.” “I don’t need a compromise,” Jerryck said. “I need a solution.” “Do you have one in mind?” Terrance asked. “Besides ignoring and placating. That isn’t going to keep working. Try making it appear that you’re cooperating. Give them exactly what they demand, without the results they’re after.” The door opened again. Tajor’s friend, the skinny guard, led Gintario into the room. Once properly announced, Gintario bowed appropriately. “Your Majesty. This is an honor I did not expect.” “It’s not for your benefit,” Terrance said. He crossed his arms. “It’s for those you serve, despite the fact that they never apologized to me, or made amends.” “They have nothing to apologize for,” Gintario said. “No amends to make.” “And so—” Terrance continued— “this is also the last time they will receive this courtesy if they ever again try to meddle with my staff.” “Meddle?” The glowing cloud of tan and blue around Gintario shifted more toward blue, the color of manipulation. “And this time, their action is direct enough, they cannot deny trying to manipulate my staff.” Terrance glared down his nose. His mostly green aura had little movement, remaining calm and steadfast. “No one dictates to me who is eligible for hire into whatever position I choose.” “No one is dictating to you, Majesty,” Gintario said. “You can hire anyone you want, as you said. But your available choices may be severely diminished if the Gathering pulls every licensed magician out of your country for fear of enabling a dangerous renegade.” “You think that’s a threat?” Terrance let out a small chuckle. “I’ve long considered expelling every licensed magician who has sworn oaths to the Gathering. So please, pull them. It would save me the trouble of enacting it myself.” “You can’t do that,” Gintario said with a gasp. Now a ruddy swirl snaked its way through his aura, curling and twisting. Something about the way it moved nagged at Jerryck. “Changing your mind?” The deep green around Terrance brightened, strengthening into almost a jewel tone. “We have alchemists that would love to fill the positions magicians hold. There are plenty of talented magic-users in the mountains, or in the archipelago who could immigrate, which would strengthen our relations with those nations, repairing old wounds in the case of the archipelago. And that’s not accounting for those who’ve hidden their talents for fear of retribution from the Gathering. We wouldn’t lack if I banished every magician they’ve licensed.” Gintario’s aura pulsed. “Alchemists and shamans!” “And Archipelago hydromogists,” Terrance said. “And women in hiding.” “This is outrageous!” Gintario fumed. “This is insulting!” “So is the assumption that the Gathering may control whom I hire.” Terrance uncrossed his arms and put his hands on his hips. “And if you continue speaking to me with that tone, I will also take your attitude as insult.” Gintario recoiled, drawing back his chest and dropping his shoulders. The ruddy swirl in his aura bled over to a more bluish-brown. The vibrations were far too similar to the line of color inserted between Jerryck’s charms. “My apologies, Majesty.” Gintario dipped his chin down. “I’m sure we can work out some sort of arrangement that is beneficial to the both of us.” Terrance snorted. “If you’re going to tell me you’ll stay out of my way for the next two weeks, like you told Jerryck, don’t.” Jerryck didn’t remember telling anyone that. Had he? Terrance kept talking. “You have treated me with utter contempt and disrespect by trying to go around behind my back and attempting to manipulate my staff. I’ll put you up tonight as a courtesy to the Gathering. Tomorrow morning, you leave.” “Then I’ll be taking Jerryck back to Kemetullah with me?” Gintario asked. “One of the Seats would be happy to play his mentor, I’m sure.” Terrance shook his head. “He just got back from Shontarra last week. I need him here.” Jerryck held up the charms. He peered at the thin line of the disruption spell with Gintario’s aura behind it. The visible colors made everything easier to compare. Gintario tapped his chin and cast his eyes up to the ceiling, giving the appearance of thinking it out. The blue in his aura strengthened. “Perhaps if you have another time to send him? Say, in a month or so?” “Or someone else could come here,” Terrance said. “It could only be one of the best.” “I doubt any of the Seats will come.” Gintario splayed the fingers of one hand, helpless to change the matter. “It doesn’t have to be one of the Seats,” Terrance said. “How will we know that whoever comes is one of the best then?” Gintario asked. “Everyone claims to be the best. Very few are.” “A test then.” “I suppose the Gathering could come up with some sort of test,” Gintarrio said. “Or they could use the scores of the tests the magician took to get their license.” Jerryck focused back and forth between Gintario’s aura and the disruption spell. The man looked at him and asked, “What are you doing?” “Not the Gathering.” Terrance drew Gintario’s attention back to him. “They’ll be so happy about getting Jerryck to comply, they’ll approve the first person who applies. No. He’s my court magician. I want someone who meets my approval.” Gintario’s eyebrows raised. “You’re going to test them for qualification?” “Jerryck’s not the only one in my palace who knows a lot about magic,” Terrance said with a smile. “If you suggest one of those alchemical medics you keep around, this discussion is over.” Gintario put his hands on his hips. “More than over, I’ll tell the Gathering how insulting you were. How you still wrongfully blame them. How you tried to threaten to expel magicians. They’ll not only pull them, they’ll set them all against you.” “It was you!” Jerryck burst out, pointing at Gintario. “How did you do that?” “What?” Gintario scowled at him. “You you adding to the insults too? What are you accusing me of now?” “You disrupted the link in my charms for my alert system without breaking the spell.” Jerryck lowered the charms. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Gintario said. He turned back to Terrance. “Tell me who you have in mind for the tests. And it better be someone good.” Terrance held up a hand to Gintario to wait. “Jerryck, which alert system? You have a few of them.” “The one that tells me when a magic-user enters the palace.” Jerryck picked up one of the charms with his free hand and held it for everyone to see. “It looked like they were underpowered, but I just charged them up. There was a disruption spell in the link between them. The signature matches Gintario’s vibrations. But he would have had to cast it either before he entered the palace, or just as it was about to set off the alert. And it’s so subtle and light, if I had charged up the charm, it would have powered right through the disruption and broken it. I would never have noticed it was there.” “Clever,” Terrance said. “How did you do that?” Jerryck asked Gintario. “I don’t know of any spell that gets that subtle.” “I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” All the blue leached out of Gintario’s aura. The neutral tan blazoned so bright, it made it difficult to see anything else. “Tajor?” Terrance smiled. “What do you think?” “Shamans can make magic that subtle,” Tajor said. “I’m no shaman!” Gintario nearly spat the word. “Sorcery could also get that subtle,” Tajor said. “Sorcery?” Jerryck closed his hand around the charms again. “A sorcerer doesn’t use words to cast a spell the way a magician does,” Tajor said. “He simply does the magic with nothing more than his own aura as the catalyst. In many ways, it’s more difficult to learn, but in the long run, it’s much more powerful and simpler. And it’s very difficult for a mere magician to detect sometimes, because he’s not looking for it.” “Does the Gathering know you have this ability?” Terrance cocked his head at Gintario. “Have you done this in the households of any other national or district leaders?” “I… I…” Gintario stammered, looking intermittently between Jerryck, Terrance, and Tajor. “This can’t possibly be. Why would any of you think such things? Everyone knows sorcery is a myth.” “Answer the question,” Heston growled. “You answer mine!” Gintaro put on a snarl. He whirled on Jerryck. “How would you know there’s a disruption spell if it really is that subtle?” “Adjust your sight so you can see auras.” Jerryck held up the charms again. “The evidence is right here.” “Things like this are what justify him holding his position,” Terrance said, looking rather smug. “This isn’t the first time someone the Gathering sent has looked at him, at something he’s done, some nefarious action he’s disrupted or exposed, and claimed that’s impossible.” “You’re not referring to the incident that started your troubles with some of the islands.” Gintario tipped his chin down, glaring at Terrance. “The Gathering has made it clear what they think of you blaming them for that.” “And yet their claims don’t refute the evidence. Absolutely I’m referring to that. And absolutely I still blame them. And yet, here I am, gracious enough to allow a compromise, whether they deserve it or not.” “Then who did you have in mind for testing? You haven’t answered me that.” Terrance waved a hand to Tajor. “Him.” Gintario shook his head. “It should be a magician! Someone approved by the Gathering of Seats.” “I don’t need their approval.” Terrance used the same hand to wave that away. “But in the spirit of compromise, I’m certain you can get them to approve.” “Why would I do that?” “Or I could register a formal complaint with the Gathering.” Terrance smiled. “And use your misbehavior as an excuse to banish any magician who’s sworn allegiance to them. And warn every other national and district leader that—” “All right!” Gintario held up both hands in surrender. He sighed and hung his head. “I’ll get the Gathering to agree to let this guard, this…” “Tajor,” Terrance supplied the name. “…this Tajor,” Gintario said. “He’ll test applicants to mentor Jerryck through the last two weeks of his official apprenticeship. But then the has to get his license! No more delay after that!” “Very good!” Terrance clapped his hands together. “We’re agreed. If you need any official documentation from me, send a message to my office and I’ll have it ready by the time you leave tomorrow morning.” Gintario nodded and slunk for the door. Heston blocked him. “Fix what you did to Jerryck’s alert.” “I’ll do it,” Jerryck said. “I don’t want him messing with it any more than he already has.” Heston let Gintario go. “This should protect you for a while,” Terrance told Jerryck. “How?” Jerryck asked. Terrance grinned at Tajor. “What’s the likelihood you’ll approve any of the applicants?” “I might approve someone like Shamaness Sakila,” Tajor said. “I’m not accepting applications from anyone but magicians,” Terrance said. “Otherwise, that gives room for the Gathering to claim we cheated and lied to them.” “Oh… well… In that case…” Tajor started chuckling, “I’m not likely to approve anyone. I haven’t met any magicians who even match Jerryck’s skill, let alone surpass it enough to properly mentor him.” Jerryck pocketed his charms. “Any of the Seats surpass me.” “I haven’t met any of the Seats face to face.” Tajor smirked and added, “And if I ever did, you don’t think I could find a way to humiliate and mock them?” “They’re not going to apply anyway,” Terrance said. “How do you figure that?” Jerryck asked. “That would be equivalent to me adopting a wayward orphan boy who’s actions are in constant defiance and rebellion to my laws,” Terrance said. “Trust me. They’re not going to come and apply.” Jerryck frowned at him. “I obey their rules. I’m not rebelling.” “You defy their requirement for oaths to them,” Terrance said. “You may not have it in your heart that you’re rebelling, but in your actions you are, whether you think of it that way or not. And now you have their leave to continue rebelling. If applicants don’t get so annoyed with Tajor that they just give up, he’ll humiliate them to the point that they look absolutely inept.” “And when the Gathering figures out that he’ll never approve anyone?” Jerryck asked. “By then it will be too late.” Terrance grew a slow smile while he spoke. “It’s not wise for any governing body to rescind their own word. They lose credibility in the eyes of their subjects, and they become vulnerable to rebellion.”

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