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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Olson

Chapter 41

“I figured it out!” Marla grinned triumphantly. She pointed at the candle Zev had lit for her. “You tried to trick me. I thought you lit it with magic. You made an illusion that changed the color of the candle instead.” “I didn’t think it would take you this long.” Zev looked up from the book he was studying for tomorrow’s spell. “I couldn’t get the color right. That’s why it’s all blotchy.” “I’ve seen lots of candles that are all blotchy,” Marla said. She leaned in and squinted at the candle. “I guess not quite that blotchy though.” Jerryck chuckled. He hadn’t had much to laugh about lately. The palace was agitated. Possibly because Nita had been moody and grumpy ever since the Brendish emissary’s caravan left for Shontarra. Possibly it was just Jerryck’s perception, a reflection of his own state of mind. He had finally received some response letters from the archipelago. Not that it mattered much anymore, now that he couldn’t use the excuse that he was searching for an apprentice. He had yet to open them. Instead, he sat listing every instance he could think of when his sister had changed someone’s mind, gotten them to do something they didn’t want to. The more the evidence stacked up, the more troubling it was that he hadn’t figured this out. “Have any dreams last night?” Zev asked Marla. He had sworn that she would respond best to him asking, so he’d been told to ask every day. Her smile faded. She shrugged one shoulder, turned away, and blew out the candle. Jerryck looked up from his list. “What did you dream?” “I don’t know, exactly,” she murmured. “It’s confused.” “What’s confused?” Zev asked. “The dream was,” Marla said. “I don’t understand it. Some of it made sense. There were people. But they talked funny. I don’t know anything they said. And they were fighting. And lying by how they were dressed.” The bells attached to the underside of the cupboards chimed. A magic-user had just entered the palace. Jerryck frowned at his list. He would have to hide it, in case whoever it was came up to his tower. Should he also take pains to keep them away from his sister, along with his niece? Kendra had done just fine on her own so far. Maybe he worried too much. “Who is it this time?” Zev bounced up and down on the only squeaky spot on the floor. “Is it someone trying to impress Tajor, like a few days ago? That was really funny! Can I watch again?” “How should I know who it is?” Jerryck folded the list horizontally in half, concealing the writing. Maybe making it wasn’t such a good idea after all. It put him in the wrong mood to greet a fellow magician. “Do I have to stay here again while you go greet him?” Zev asked. “Darren said a lot of apprentices greet guests for their mentors. Am I ever going to get to do that too? I want to go see who’s here. When am I gonna get to do stuff like that?’ “How about now?” Jerryck said. “Why not? Go ahead.” “Really!” Zev bounced all the way to his feet. “You’re not going to say I have to learn proper protocols first? Darren said there are protocols.” “Just be respectful,” Jerryck said. “I will!” Zev leaped out the door and ran down the stairs. Jerryck looked around the room. If he was going to have company, he should tidy up some. He sent Marla on her way, and picked up everything from Zev’s lesson. Hopefully, whoever it was wouldn’t stay past supper. If they didn’t leave on their own Jerryck could always use the meal as an excuse to get rid of them. He glanced at the late afternoon sunlight angling through the window, wishing the day was closer to supper. Much sooner than expected, the chimes told Jerryck someone entered the tower. A minute or so later, Zev burst into the workroom. “It’s a lady! From the Chemwanitz Mountains. Her name is, um, Kasila, or Samila, or something like that.” “Sakila?” Jerryck thought of his shamaness friend. “Something like that,” Zev said. “She came with the heir of Tarn. And I’m supposed to tell you to go meet her in the royal parlor. Not the White Room?” “She wants to use the royal parlor?” “I don’t know.” Zev shrugged. “She didn’t act like she cared. That’s where the chancellor told her to go meet with you. Oh, and he said to remind you that the heir’s name is Grennan.” “I know his name!” Jerryck headed out the door. The royal parlor was a cozy room near the king’s private chambers. At the end of the corridor, it had large windows that let plenty of light spill across the wide, plush couches. Colorful tapestries softened the walls. And this time of year, a fire always burned on the hearth. If Jerryck had thought about it, he’d have known that was where the heir of Tarn would go, with any guest he brought. Terrance had only two nephews, both of them the sons of the Tarn premiere, the late queen’s only surviving brother. By the time Jerryck arrived, Nita was already there, her bad mood gone. She bubbled happily at her cousin and the shamaness. Terrance entered on Jerryck’s heels. He barely had the time to get out a proper greeting for his nephew when Heston and Tajor also came in. “I hope you don’t mind, I asked your chancellor to send these two,” Grennan said to Terrance. “My father sent me to inform you of an incident that took place. Shamaness Sakila helped look into it. So he asked her if she preferred delivering her findings through me, or if she wanted to come herself.” “I wanted to come see all of you again,” she said. “And bring better news than last time. What happened was bad, but there is something that I think might help you.” Terrance sat. “What happened?” “One of our villages was raided,” Grennan said. “The invaders were fair featured, but so are a lot of people that close to the mountains. They wore Chemwanitz war paint, but no one recognized them as anyone from any of the nearby tribes. There had been no threats, no demands for punitive payments, no disputes, no warning signs at all. They just all of a sudden attacked in the middle of the night for no conceivable reason.” “My tribe was closer to them than Premiere Grinnald,” Sakila said. “So we got there first to give help. My sons tracked them. They came through a portal in a box canyon, went down to the village, then back through the same portal.” “How many attackers?” Heston asked. “Reports vary,” Grennan said. “The people were panicked and confused. We’re guessing anywhere between ten and twenty-five.” “How much damage?” Terrance asked. “Most of the men are injured or dead,” Grennan said. “Most of their winter supplies are destroyed. And that’s another thing. Any Chemwanee I know of would take the supplies, not destroy them.” “Yes, this doesn’t fit right.” Terrance furrowed his eyebrows and rubbed a finger across his forehead just above them. “Does your father need assistance for his village?” Grennan shook his head. “We have them covered. And our Chemwanitz friends have offered assistance as well. That village has strong ties with them. Family ties even. They’ll be well taken care of.” Terrance turned to Heston. “I’m sure you’ll ask for more details, but the generalities sound exactly the same.” “Except for the added detail of a portal,” Heston said. “The same as what?” Grennan asked. “There was another village that was raided,” Terrance said. “Much farther to the north.” “There was?” That was news to Jerryck. Could these raids be what Marla had dreamed? She had said something about fighting. And talking funny. “Did they say anything?” “Not that anyone reported,” Grennan said. “Same at the first village,” Heston said. “Why?” “Just wondering.” Jerryck pulled at his lower lip. Maybe this wasn’t what Marla had seen. Likely it wasn’t. Usually a scryer’s involuntary visions were about something that would affect the seer, even if indirectly. She had seen the death of the Shontese Prince. But that affected nations. A couple of backwater villages? Not likely. Mentioning it wouldn’t solve the problem at hand. “You think it’s possible it’s the same group?” Grennen asked. “They’re too far apart.” Nita sat forward on the edge of the couch. “I’ve been to that other village. Given the time frame for both the attacks, and the distance they’d have to travel, they’re too far apart.” “Unless they’re traveling through a portal instead of overland,” Heston said. Jerryck shook his head. “Too much power. For possibly twenty-five men? Even for ten… How long did it take them to travel from the portal to the village and back?” “There is more,” Sakila said. “The vibrations of magic… the signature… this portal was opened by the same person who made the poison that was put in your river last spring.” Heston’s chin tipped down, his eyes darkening. “You’re certain?” “Yes,” she said. Heston crossed his arms. “So it could be the same group. Which means we have no way of knowing when or where they’ll strike next.” “Two portals, for that many people,” Jerryck said. “Kept open for how long?” “The portal was almost a mile from the village,” Sakila told him. “Give them several minutes to go from there to the village, some time to attack, and then the time to get back again. I know what you are thinking. That would take too much energy to keep it open for that long, even for one person to use. I am telling you, impossible or not, that is exactly what happened. And whoever did it was messy. They left a lot of energy behind when they closed it. Or I would not have found it at all.” “So—” Jerryck ticked points off on his fingers— “excessive power usage, sloppy work, too many people, too much time… It’s impossible for the same person to have opened a similar portal two weeks prior.” “Why?” Heston asked. “Too much energy. Whoever opened the first portal wouldn’t be able to open another like that for more than a couple of months.” “Magicians open repeated portals all the time,” Heston said. “For just a few people at a time. And the reason that kind of travel is so expensive is because they only do it one person per day at most. If you have, say, five people going through a portal, that magician won’t open another portal for about five days or more. And they close it right away. They don’t keep it open for more than a few minutes. Certainly not long enough for these raids.” “Except that it happened,” Heston said. “Not twice in two weeks,” Jerryck replied. “There are ways of replenishing energy that you haven’t been taught,” Tajor finally spoke up. “And if I haven’t been taught them—” Jerryck said— “it’s because no one is taught them. Not in any lands that I know of.” “And does this also apply to learning how to mix the elements of fire and water in such a way that it will poison an entire river?” Tajor asked. “I’m just saying it’s unlikely that these two raids have anything to do with each other.” “Unlikely chances leave room for small possibility,” Heston said. “And if they’re not following normal protocols, we also don’t have any clue where they’ll strike next.” “What reason would they have for this?” Terrance sat back, his eyes unfocused in thought. “Neither raid took any food, animals, tools… nothing in the stores. They just destroyed them. Why?” “Vengeance, thrill, challenge,” Heston said. “It could be any number of reasons. Including stirring up trouble. Someone may be trying to make us mad at the Chemwanitz.” “Again,” Terrance said. “Why?” “That I don’t know.” Heston uncrossed his arms and held his hands out. “There are too many possibilities to list. I need more evidence for their motives. Who they are would help. I’ll worry about this end of the problem. You should worry about prevention.” Terrance frowned up at him. “For a small attack that will take place we don’t know where—or even when?” “The only two places we know they’ve attacked are villages on the border with the mountains,” Heston said. “If it was the same people,” Jerryck interjected. Heston didn’t even spare Jerryck a glance. “They were trying to pass themselves off as Chemwanitz warriors, wearing their paint and clothing, using their type of weapons. If they’re establishing a pattern, they’ll attack someplace similar.” “Assemble an advisory meeting,” Terrance said. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. “We need to figure out how to deal with this, just in case the unlikely is reality.”

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