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  • Rebekah Olson

Chapter 40

“Kendra!” Jerryck marched through the kitchens. Everyone was bent over their many various tasks, or scurrying out of his way. No one looked at him. Not even long enough to point him toward his sister. So he called for her again. “Kendra!” Leanne wended her way between the prepping tables, wiping her hands on a small towel and then slinging that over her shoulder as she got to him. She drew him off to the side, out of everyone’s way. “You look upset. What’s wrong?” “I need a word with my sister.” Jerryck looked over at all the heads turned away from him. “That’s what’s wrong. Where is she?” Leanne kept him moving, turning in to a storage space filled from floor to ceiling with barrels and wooden bins of dried foodstuffs, beans, rice, lentils, and grains, among other things. She said, “Your sister is in a foul mood, has been for over a week. The only reason no one’s asked you to come calm her down was because I told the head chef that you’ve been in a foul mood too.” “I have not!” Jerryck shouted. She hunched her shoulders, the color of a flush creeping up her face. He swallowed, and lowered his voice. “All right, maybe a little.” “Did you have another fight with Zev?” she asked. “Yes. Why? How did you know that?” “Because that’s why I had to head you off the other day,” she said. “If you try and talk to her about having trouble making Zev get through his lessons, all she’ll do is yell at you.” “I don’t need to talk about Zev’s lessons.” Jerryck clenched teeth. He glanced out into the kitchen. He didn’t see anyone nearby, and there was a lot of noise out there to cover anything he said. Still, he lowered his voice even more. “I need Marla to come back. He was doing fine until she stopped coming.” “Marla’s in trouble,” Leanne said. “For over a week?” “For however long it takes until she admits why she tried to skip class and get Zev to do the same.” “Jerryck!” Kendra came to the room. She stopped right in the doorway, putting one hand on either side as if blocking the way out. Skewering him with a glower, she spoke with a low and dangerous tone. “What do you think you’re doing coming into my kitchens and disturbing my workers like this.” “Why did Marla try to skip class?” Jerryck asked. “That’s why you disrupted everything? Seriously?” “I need her to come back every day,” Jerryck spoke quietly again. Kendra’s grip tightened on both sides of the door frame. He pressed on anyway. “Have you asked why she tried to skip class? “Of course I have!” she snapped. She glanced behind herself, then let go of the door frame to step inside the storage and stick her face right in his. She whispered, “She said she dreamed the Prince of Shontarra was murdered and she just wanted to talk to Zev about it.” “You don’t think she dreamed that?” “I don’t think that’s why she tried to skip class,” Kendra whispered. “She’s had nightmares plenty of times and not acted this way.” “She always had more time to talk to him before.” Leanne’s voice was nearly a murmur. “And she did say this dream felt bigger than any others.” “No bigger than the one she had before the water went bad last spring.” Kendra somehow kept a bite in her tone even through a whisper. “And she didn’t try to skip class for that one either. She didn’t even act this way with the nightmare she had the day before her papa died. So why should I believe it’s making her misbehave now?” Jerryck half turned away, worrying at his lower lip with his fingers. Zev had said Marla feared she was making bad things happen in her sleep. But she hadn’t caused her own papa’s death. She certainly hadn’t poisoned an entire river. What if she was just seeing things right before or just as they happened? Like a gifted scryer. The last he knew, the Shontese prince was fine. Maybe a little crazy since the death of his last son, but physically in good health. But if someone murdered him… “I need to check something.” Jerryck stepped around his sister and walked out. # Chamberlain Malk would know the health of the Shontese Prince. He was the man in charge of foreign relations. Jerryck wound his way up through the palace to the floor where Malk’s office was located before remembering the man was rarely ever there. With all the officials and administrators that worked in this part of the palace, the wide corridor was filled with traffic. Jerryck snagged one of the many pages as the lad ran by and asked, “Where is the Chamberlain?” “In the king’s office,” the lad said, turning to talk to Jerryck without stopping, making him walk backward. “With him, the princess, and the priad.” With that, the lad turned forward and ran off in the direction he’d been headed. Jerryck navigated the flow of moving people to the wide stairs at the end of the corridor up to the floor where the king’s offices were. On the landing, the large vases of spring flowers had been replaced with trellises of autumn ivies. There were just as many people sitting on the benches, doing whatever it was people did while sitting in a crowd with uncomfortable, fancy clothes on. Jerryck ignored them all and moved on into the reception area outside the king’s office. “Lord Jerryck,” the king’s scheduler said. “Were you sent for? Or do you need him?” The door flew open. Nita stomped out, face full of indignation. Jerryck looked inside. Terrance was pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. Tajor was yawning. And Malk was covering his mouth with a hand and twitching like he was chuckling silently. Malk saw Jerryck, and motioned for him to come inside. As Jerryck enetered he asked, “Is everything all right? What is she mad about this time?” “Not what,” Malk said. “Who. The answer is Tajor. She’s mad at Tajor.” “What for?” Jerryck asked. Tajor smirked. “That’s a different question entirely, isn’t it?” Terrance lowered his hand from his face. “He gave very logical and sound reasons why she should stay here and continue her training, instead of going to Shontarra.” “She hated it there,” Jerryck said. “Why would she want to go?” “To attend Andreno’s coronation,” Terrance said. “She feels bad for him, and wants to give him encouragement.” “Coronation,” Jerryck repeated the word. He blinked a couple of times, letting the word sink in. “And Prince Sanbralio?” Terrance frowned at him. “Did you not receive the message I sent you an hour or so ago?” “I... um… well…” How was Jerryck supposed to admit that he had negligently ignored it? “The page said it wasn’t a summons. So I had him write it down for me to read later.” “So you didn’t get the message,” Terrance said. “I was a little busy.” The excuse was stupid, and only half true. He’d been busy being frustrated with his nephew. Nothing serious. “Prince Sanbralio took ill a few weeks ago,” Terrance said. “He didn’t recover. We received a messenger earlier today that arrangements are now in progress for Andreno’s ascension to the throne immediately following Sanbralio’s funerary memorial.” “We will, of course, send an emissary,” Malk added. “Nita wanted to be that emissary.” Jerryck stared at them for a few moments, still absorbing that his niece’s dream had been reality. They stared back at him. Was he supposed to say something? “Are you all right?” Tajor asked. “You’re looking a bit piqued.” “This shouldn’t be all that much of a shock to you,” Malk said. “You were there. Surely you saw the old prince’s declining health.” “He died of illness?” Jerryck asked. “Yes,” Malk said. “Specifically pneumonia, alongside just sheer wasting away from self neglect and depression.” “He wasn’t murdered?” Jerryck double checked. “Of course not!” Malk said. “Do you have any idea what a mess there would be, the kind of investigations that would be going on, the delays in the new coronation? Why would you ask something like that?” “No reason,” Jerryck lied. Tajor raised an eyebrow at him. He backed slowly to the door. “No reason at all.” He fumbled with the handle of the door, and escaped the room before anyone else pressed him for an answer. He almost bumped into a couple of people in the reception area, so he paid more attention until he got out of the press of people, up stairs to higher floors, and into the corridor with the entrance to his tower. The rooms here were all for guests, usually the ones with magical talents. At the moment, they were empty. Alone, Jerryck leaned against the wall and let out his breath. Marla had been correct that the Shontese prince had died. She was incorrect that he had been murdered. Had she scryed it partially, and then surmised the rest because she falsely thought she was to blame? Footsteps approaching had Jerryck looking up the corridor. It was Tajor. He stopped in front of Jerryck and crossed his arms. “What do you want?” Jerryck asked. “How about the truth?” Tajor raised that one eyebrow again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jerryck said. “Do you remember that time I told you that you’re rotten at lying?” Tajor rocked back on his heels. “It still holds true.” Jerryck turned his back to Tajor and stepped inside his tower. “Don’t you have other things do to? You’re the priad now. You have to have something more important than bothering me.” “The king sent me after you.” Tajor followed him in. “Did I mention that you’re rotten at lying? Or do you really think I’m the only one who can tell?” “He didn’t say anything.” “You ran out of the room before he could,” Tajor said. “Is this about your niece?” “No! It isn’t. You can go now.” Jerryck tried pushing him back out of the tower. He may as well have pushed against a tree trunk. “Not ready to try telling the truth yet?” Tajor asked. Jerryck slumped. He put a hand on the stone outer wall and tried a distraction. “Why would you think this is about my niece?” “Because her magic abilities are the only thing I’ve ever heard you lie about,” Tajor said. “And protecting her is the only thing I’ve ever seen you act this uncharacteristically unreasonable over. You don’t normally get physical, and this is the first time you’ve ever tried pushing me.” He should have known a distraction wouldn’t work. Tajor was a master at giving distractions. He wasn’t subject to them. “Jerryck. The truth?” “She dreamed someone murdered Prince Sanbralio,” Jerryck murmured. “So she’s only half right.” “That’s an assumption,” Tajor said. “There are ways to murder someone without getting caught. Especially if it puts you in power and you can hamper anyone trying to look into it. Nita’s studies aren’t the only reason I suggested she stay here.” “You don’t trust Andreno?” “Not one little tiny bit,” Tajor said. “He’s a conniver and a schemer. He had eyes on the throne even while we were there. Some of the guards made wagers on how long Sanbralio would live after Andreno was officially named heir. And if this had happened to a noble in Brend, I can guarantee you that this death would be seriously investigated with the idea of possible murder.” “But Malk said it wasn’t murder.” “Which is what the public is being told,” Tajor said. “It’s a little outside of our jurisdiction. There’s nothing we can do, except guard ourselves against him.” “So it’s possible that Marla saw all this correctly,” Jerryck said. “Like a gifted scryer having a dream against their will.” Tajor nodded. “Exactly like that. Which should be a relief for you. Scrying is easier to hide than some other magical talents, like making things explode.” That was true enough. Jerryck leaned his back against the wall. The smooth firmness of the stone seeped through his shirt and a weight dropped off his shoulders. Now that he knew what the problem was, he could teach her how to hide this easily enough. “You should go talk to your sister.” Tajor opened the door to step out of the tower. “And I’ll go let the king know not to worry about you.” Jerryck straightened up and went back down to the kitchens. This time, people looked him in the eye and greeted him with smiles. They quickly pointed him to Kendra, and Leanne. People just as quickly filled the two women’s jobs when he said he wanted to speak to them privately. Kendra took them down to one of the basement storages filled with vegetable bins and the dank smell of roots. “You’re calmer,” Kendra said after she had shut them in. She set the lamp she brought on one of the bins. “I assume you found whatever it is you went to check on.” “Marla is scrying in her sleep,” Jerryck said. “Prince Sanbralio is dead, just like she dreamed.” “You didn’t teach her this?” Leanne asked. “I’m terrible at scrying,” Jerryck said. “You haven’t seen it, but I have to take a nasty potion to help me get it started. If you ever smell me mixing up that concoction, you’d understand the reason most magicians prefer to work at the tops of towers. It’s so that the high breezes can carry away the stink of some of what we have to work with.” “I already figured that.” Leanne wrinkled her nose. “I’ve smelled some pretty terrible things in your workroom.” “That potion is worse than most,” Kendra said. “Sometimes, he pukes after he drinks it and has to start all over again. And the potion isn’t the only reason he avoids scrying. Sometimes, he had trouble coming back. Old Heldavio, his mentor, gave up trying to teach him to scry when he kept transporting himself to the spot he was supposed to look at.” Jerryck didn’t mention the void. He had never told her about it. Every time he tried to scry, that void always opened up around the edges of his vision. The longer he kept at it, the closer it got to him, the stronger it dew him. The closer it got, the more distinctly he heard pleading, screams, and cries of anquish coming up from it. That was probably why he kept accidentally moving his body with magic. It was a defense. If his body was there, he could see it with his eyes. He wouldn’t have to scry it. Kendra stared into the lamp. “I suppose I should have expected this.” “Why would you expect her to have magic?” Jerryck asked. “Just because I have it doesn’t mean any of my nieces will.” “She got it from me,” Kendra said. Jerryck nodded. “Through you. From the same source I got it from, whatever that was.” “From me,” Kendra repeated. “You and I both got it from our mama.” “Our mama wasn’t a witch,” Jerryck said. Kendra looked up at him, the lamp casting long shadows on her face. “She was running for her life when she stumbled into that village and met our papa. Heldavio never told you all this?” “No.” Kendra hugged herself. “Aunt Chetty told him, the night before we left the village.” “Aunt Chetty?” Leanne asked. “The innkeeper’s wife,” Jerryck said. “She wasn’t really our aunt. We just called her that. She was our mama’s best friend. She took us in when our parents died.” “Mama had a passive ability,” Kendra said. “She enhanced other people’s skills. That’s why Papa was so good at healing people with all his herbs. It wasn’t just him. But it shielded her from anyone looking.” “Chetty told Heldavio all this?” Jerryck asked. Kendra rubbed her hands up and down her arms. “She told him because he already knew about me.” “Knew what?” She looked him right in the eye and said, “I have passive magic ability.” He snorted at the absurdity. “No you don’t!” “You don’t know about her passive magic?” Leanne stared at him wide eyed. “I thought you knew!” “Kendra doesn’t have passive magic!” Jerryck said. “Why do you think people tend to do whatever I tell them?” Kendra gave him a droll look. “Even you did, when you were a bratty little kid.” “Because you yell at them if they don’t,” Jerryck said. “That’s a cover.” Kendra laughed. “That and I’m so used to getting anything I want, it’s made me short tempered when it doesn’t happen fast enough. Didn’t you ever wonder why the villagers depended on me so much to keep you under control?” “Wait, wait, wait…” Jerryck waved his hands around, shaking his head. “This can’t be true. Heldavio had taken the oaths to the Gathering. And one of those is to kill any woman he finds that can do magic.” “Heldavio said one of the reasons he came north to be the court magician to King Clarrence was to avoid taking the White Seat on the Gathering,” Kendra said. “At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. He said all I needed to understand was that he disagreed with the way they treated women. His healing skills made killing anyone repulsive to him, completely against his nature. After we came here, I watched him shelter several of them, and then help them escape out of Brend.” Leanne started giggling. She put a hand to her mouth, but the giggles kept coming. In between them, she managed some words. “I’m sorry. It’s not funny. We’ve all really gone against set traditions, haven’t we.” “You know about this,” Jerryck said to her. “I don’t keep secrets from Leanne,” Kendra said. “Just from your own brother?” “I thought you knew!” Kendra threw up her hands. “You’re so good at knowing whether or not anyone has the slightest magical ability, we both thought you knew and just never said anything to protect me.” “I didn’t know,” Jerryck said. “Well, now you do.” Kendra smoothed her kitchen apron and picked up the lamp. “I can teach Marla what I know about keeping passive magic hidden. How do you plan to help her?” “Keep her coming up to the tower every day,” Jerryck said. “I’m teaching her control.”

 

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