Spell Caster Chapter 10
Jerryck sat on the edge of his bed, scrubbing sleep from his eyes. He needed a full night of sleep, not a disturbed half night. He had waited until the soldiers had collected the body of the quepota and disposed of it, waited until Tajor was well enough to walk back to his room unaided. Then he’d gone back to bed. Leanne puttered about the room, chatting idly. He only half listened to her. He dragged himself off the bed and slowly paced the floor to get his blood circulating better, driving away more of the grogginess. On days he had to leave, she was always given time to spend with him until his departure. At nine years his junior, he still marveled that she would even have him. She had come to the palace pronouncing her name Loo-ee-ahn-eh. In her shyness, she had dropped the first and last vowel sounds instead of correcting anyone who pronounced it wrong. When he never forgot her name, even though he forgot most others, Kendra had pushed her at him. He balked because of the age difference. It wasn’t right to impose that on someone so pretty. Until another man started flirting with her, driving him into fits of jealousy he hadn’t even known he was capable of. Then she pushed that other man away and pursued Jerryck as aggressively as he wanted to pursue her. Voices wafted up the stairs, ripping him from reverie. Zev and Darren were bringing the morning water for him to test. He went out to greet them and led the way up the last flight of stairs to the workroom. “Just to make sure,” Zev said, grinning and bouncing on the balls of his feet. “We don’t have to do this while you’re gone. Right?” “Correct.” Jerryck put out the sugar for them to drop some in the water. “I’ll do it myself in the city.” Darren stuck his nose up in the air. “Did you know there are some people so stupid they can’t spell Kershet?” “That’s not stupid.” Zev rolled his eyes instead of watching the glowing color change in the water. “You’re stupid.” Darren punched him in the shoulder. “I’m not stupid.” “Stop!” Jerryck separated the two before they could start fighting. “I’m not stupid.” Darren repeated, backing up a couple of steps. “That new kid in class is stupid.” Zev balled his fists. “She is not!” “Here.” Jerryck picked up the glowing cup of water as a distraction. “The test is still bad. Take it to the household office and report it.” “There’s a new family at the palace,” Darren said, ignoring the cup. “Came in just last week to work in the kennels. Their oldest girls is stupid. She doesn’t know how to read or write. Not even the names of important places, like Coraline Palace, or Kershet, or Bershent Fortress.” “She’s not stupid!” Zev shouted. “She’s pretty!” “Being uneducated isn’t stupid,” Jerryck said to Darren while pushing Zev’s fists down. “It’s ignorant. There’s a difference.” “Besides, I’m helping her learn.” Zev brought his fists right back up. “She’s smart enough she’ll pick up on it right away.” Darren snorted. “You just like her because she’s pretty.” “All right.” Jerryck put a hand on both boys’ shoulders, maneuvering them back to the landing and the stairs. “Pretty girl. Needs better education. Neither of you will impress her by neglecting your responsibilities. Take the water test.” They started down the stairs, and got just out of sight when Zev shouted, “What are you doing here? If you’ve flirted with my sister again I’m going to smash your ugly face!” Jerryck leaped down the stairs, rounding the curve of the tower, bringing them back into sight. “Zev!” The boy jumped, nearly spilling the cup in his hands. Below him and Darren was a zit-faced page. He looked up at Jerryck and spoke so fast his words were jumbled together, “His Majesty summons you to the royal chambers.” He turned and ran, nearly tripping over his gangly feet. Zev and Darren laughed. Jerryck shooed them on their way again. Then he quickly dressed and went to the king’s private chambers. Terrance was eating breakfast in the corner by the open doors to his balcony. He sat with his back to the doors, facing the wall where he had hung portraits of family members dead and gone. His crimson and gold canopied bed looked like it had not been slept in. His food was only half eaten. Several reports were strewn around his plate. “Good morning,” Terrance said. He looked up at Jerryck and set down his fork, then waved the parchment he been reading from. “I hear there was some excitement last night.” “We took care of it,” Jerryck said. Terrance set down the parchment and sat back in his chair. “The guards needed your help?” “I helped.” “I’m rescinding permission for you to leave.” Terrance pushed away his plate. Jerryck’s mouth opened. He closed it again with a frown. Terrance said, “You don’t have to look so worried and flustered. I know your concerns. I’ll tell Nita she’s excused from all tutoring sessions. She’ll be more than thrilled to spend that time playing hostess instead, and keep the shamaness entertained.” “And my supplies?” Jerryck asked. “I need to restock.” “A lot of the materials you use are also purchased by the medics.” Terrance picked up a list from one of the stacks of documents. “I’ll have Kellos open his stores to you. And you won’t even have to go yourself. Send a page directly to him. That way the other medics won’t give you a hard time. Plus, I know you have things stored away. You always do. You’re not really hurting for supplies. You mostly just want to get away from the shamaness. I’ve covered that. And this keeps you away from the chaos presently outside the palace walls.” Terrance’s personal servant came out of the wardrobe room. He strode across the floor. Like so many other people, Jerryck couldn’t remember the man’s name, no matter how many times it was given to him. Thin, aging, the man had nothing but wisps of gray hair. In public, he was very prim and proper. In private, he hovered over Terrance like a nanny. He scowled at the uneaten food as if it was a personal offense to him. “You didn’t eat everything again.” “I’ve had enough,” Terrance said, waving a negligent hand. He turned to Jerryck once more. “Mobs have murdered entire families and raided their cellars for anything to drink. Some neighborhoods have hired private mercenaries and barricaded their streets in attempts to isolate themselves.” “You need to dress for court.” The servant drew Terrance up from his chair. “If they’re so sick and thirsty they’re getting violent,” Jerryck said, following them to the wardrobe, “maybe I could help.” “I don’t want you there!” Terrance stopped just short of the wardrobe door and jerked his arm away from the servant. “Every magician in the city has been pressed into service. Not just the ones that are employed by the capital. All of them. The private contractors, the ones who came for a day of business, even the ones visiting as tourists. Aside from your personal safety, what if we need you here again? I can’t afford for you to be stuck there.” “You have your answer.” The servant made curt, shooing gestures, much like Jerryck had with Zev and Darren. “Go on now. Terrance needs to dress for court.” Terrance held court for a few hours every morning after breakfast, ending about lunchtime. He insisted on keeping up the formality even during times of tumult, claiming that people need something steady they could rely on. Jerryck attended as rarely as he could get away with. Every time he occupied Terrance too much beforehand, the servant roped Jerryck into attending. So instead of pursuing the matter further, he left and went back up to his tower. # Marla came bounding down the curve of the steps, leaping at him about halfway up one of the flights. He grunted at her impact. “Oof! You’re getting heavy. You need to stop growing.” She giggled at him. “I’m going to keep growing and growing until I’m as big as mama and Leanne, just like papa wanted me to.” “Good.” Jerryck set her down and ruffled her hair. He turned his ear to the voices up in his workroom. One of them was his sister. The other was the shamaness Sakila. Marla pointed up the stairs. “That’s a lady from the Chemwanitz Mountains. She has blue eyes like Leanne’s. And pretty yellow hair. And she’s nice.” “You talked to her?” Jerryck continued up the stairs. Marla followed. “Is that all right?” Kendra stood at the top the landing with Zech, her toddler, on her hip. “Marla insisted on coming up to tell you goodbye. She was afraid you’d already left.” “I’m not going,” Jerryck said. Marla beamed at him. “You’re staying?” “For now,” Jerryck said. Leanne joined Kendra on the landing. He told them, “Terrance wants me here in case I’m needed. Where are Zev and Chandra? They didn’t come to say goodbye too?” “Chandra’s mad at you.” Kendra smiled. “She says you aren’t hard enough on Zev for scaring off all the best looking lads. And Zev is still trying to deliver this morning’s water test to the household steward. That’s turning out to be more of a punishment than I first thought. Maybe he’ll learn his lesson this time.” “Have you met the nice mountain lady?” Marla ducked through the workroom door. “You met her, right? She’s so nice, even Leanne talked to her, and I don’t think they’ve ever met before.” Leanne blushed and ducked her head. She quietly said, “We met.” Sakila was seated on the same stool she’d used last time she visited. Jerryck patted Marla’s shoulder and said, “You’re in the morning class with the general studies tutor now, aren’t you?” “I’m seven!” She put her hands on her hips in the perfect imitation of her older sister and their mama. “I’ve been in the morning class for two whole years now!” “I know that.” Jerryck nodded. “I was trying to be subtle, and suggest you go get ready for it.” “You’re about as subtle as a rock through a pane of glass,” Kendra said. She herded Marla to the stairs. “If you want us to go away so no one sees you talking with someone who isn’t a magician, just say so.” “I’m glad you’re staying,” Leanne whispered in his ear. She followed up with a peck on his cheek, then silently followed Kendra and the children down. “You did not send her way to hide that you are talking to me,” Sakila said. “Did you send them away so I will not see what the girl can do with magic?” Jerryck whisked the door shut, hoping no one had heard. “Don’t say such things!” “I will never understand why everyone west of the mountains treats women who can use magic the way they do,” Sakila said. She clicked her tongue in disapproval. “And you call us Chemwanee barbaric. You should send your sister and her daughter to live with us. We will keep them as safe as every other woman who ever came to us.” “I’m not sending any of my family away,” Jerryck said. “I’ll take care of her.” Sakila nodded once and rose from her seat. She looked around the remains of the workroom. “You probably do not want to talk to me anymore. I came only to ask if you need payment for what happened here.” “Payment?” Jerryck picked up some of the books set to the side. “What for?” “For the damage in this room,” Sakila said. “You don’t have to pay for that.” Jerryck gathered as many of the books as he could carry. They would be safer in his bedroom when workers came in to repair and rebuild. He straightened with the load, facing Sakila. “I did it. Not you.” “If I had not been here, you would not of done it. I should pay you.” “What is it with you and paying people?” Jerryck stepped out of the room, heading down one flight. “Why would you pay something you don’t owe? You even tried to pay my king for something that wasn’t even your fault in the slightest.” “Your king amazes me.” Sakila folded her hands in front of her, gracefully gliding down the stairs behind his lugging clump. Jerryck nudged the bedroom door open with his foot. “Because he did the right thing?” “Because he treats me like family,” Sakila said. She stayed on the landing while he dumped the books. “I bring him bad news. He refuses payment and makes it good. Are you treating me like family because he does?” “Is just what decent people do,” Jerryck said. He came out of the bedroom, heading back up for another armload. “You didn’t really think he’d enslave your people, did you?” “Perhaps,” she said. He stopped. “And you came anyway? Why?” “It is just what decent people do.” She smiled at him and added, “When they want to make things right again.” “Lady Shamaness?” A page came up the stairs. “Her Royal Highness Princess Nita requests your company.” Behind the page came a couple of assessors, with their papers, pencils, charts, and measuring sticks. The shamaness left with the page. Jerryck followed the assessors the rest of the way up, snatching at his books.