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  • Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster Chapter 11

Updated: Apr 8

For the next several hours, Jerryck kept finding things that other people had no business touching. The two men poked about, taking measurements, writing notes, jotting figures and numbers. They asked a lot of questions, half of which he couldn’t answer. Then the rebuilding began. Since he wasn’t picky about the materials his furniture were made out of, the carpenters had a lot of the supplies they needed on hand. After a couple of days of hauling, cutting, sawing, thumping, and pounding, Jerryck was almost relieved to leave them when a rookie elite guard came saying that General Heston wanted him. Just before he stepped out of the workroom, the chime went off that indicated a portal was opening. All the workers stopped, leaving deafening silence after all the noise from their tools. One of them said, “That’s different than what you said was someone coming into the tower.” “Different activity,” Jerryck said. “Don’t worry about it.” He sent the guard to tell Heston that he would be a few minutes. Then he headed down to the room at the bottom of the tower. He kept a space there clear for just this purpose. He stepped automatically, not watching, his eyes going out of focus. The tingle of the magic grew stronger the closer he got. Every once in a while, the Gathering of Seats needed to quickly get a message out to a particular magician. Instead of sending Gintario, their normal representative messenger, they had the option of opening a small portal, just large enough to slip a written letter through. They could send it to the court magician, or to a district magician, or to the official city magician for any particular population center. Ressell, the Kershet City Magician, got a lot more of these than Jerryck did. Usually, the only time they sent something to the palace was when they put out a general announcement, like an upcoming convention. But the next one of those wasn’t scheduled for more than a year away. He waited outside the room, using his senses to monitor the progress of the portal. They employed some of the best portal makers known. It only took a couple of minutes for it to stabilize, a small object to come through, and then close up again, leaving the barest amount of residue from the magic. Jerryck hesitated. He hadn’t been very nice, or even remotely tactful in the last letter he’d sent them. He rolled his shoulders and opened the door. Better to get it over with. The letter had dropped to the floor like it was supposed to. He picked it up. Broke the seal. Unfolded it. It was formally written, addressing him with his title, and stating the governing body that had sent it. Then it got to the meat of the matter. Even that, they had kept severely abrupt, getting right to the point and wasting no frivolities. Lord Jerryck, Court Magician to Terrance, King of Brend An official correspondence from the Gathering of Seats We have received word that you have asked for, received, and followed the advice of a practitioner of shamanism concerning a pregnancy in the Coraline Palace infirmary. Consorting with shamans is strictly forbidden. You are hereby ordered to appear before the Gathering to explain your actions, or refute these accusations. “That’s not going to happen,” Jerryck mumbled to himself. If he wasn’t even allowed to go into Kershet, Terrance certainly wouldn’t tolerate him gallivanting off two countries to the south to Kemetulla. And how had they known about Sakila in the infirmary, anyway? Had someone there tattled on him? If so, why? Alchemical medics didn’t deal with the Gathering if they could possibly help it. One of the patients? If so, even Kellos probably wouldn’t be up to helping sort this out. And whoever it was, how had they gotten word to the Gathering so quickly? It had happened less than a week ago. For the moment, the matter would have to wait. There were other, more pressing concerns, such as being summoned by the king’s general. Jerryck crushed the letter in a fist and left the tower, going directly to the antechamber outside Heston’s office. There, the three elites who were seen most often with Tajor lounged casually against the wall. The skinny one watched everything, as usual. The one with the cleft chin was smirking, jabbing the one with a crooked nose in the ribs, who glared at him. The nighttime sergeant of the watch paced back and forth, stopping when he saw Jerryck. He stood still, crossed his arms, and glowered. “Lord Jerryck,” Heston’s aide said. He rose from behind his desk. “The general said to send you in immediately.” The office was rectangular, with the desk and two uncomfortable oak chairs near the door. Weapon racks, cabinets, and files filled the entire other half. Tajor stood near the chairs, in a beam of sunlight from the window, with the same expression he always wore when making mischief. Heston sat, dwarfing his large desk, looking as mean as ever. When Jerryck came in, Tajor said to the general, “Aww, aren’t you going to play anymore?” Heston glared at him for a moment. Then he turned, his eyes trailing down from Jerryck’s face to the crumpled letter he still held. “What’s that?” “This?” Jerryck lifted it. “It’s nothing. Well… I mean, it’s something. It’s from the Gathering.” “I thought they already sent you your letter this year.” “They did.” Heston pointed to the letter. “Then what’s this?” “They’re being annoying.” “Is it sensitive information?” Tajor asked. He held up a hand. “Or can we see it?” Jerryck shoved the letter at Tajor. Heston’s scowl deepened. “You’re going to simply trust him with whatever they just wrote you?” “He knows all about magical stuff,” Jerryck said. “This isn’t magical stuff.” Tajor chuckled, and held the letter up. “This is human nature stuff.” Jerryck snatched the letter back and quickly re-read it. “They’re the Gathering. They’re talking about magic.” “They’re men in power who feel like their authority has been challenged by a historical enemy.” Tajor rocked back on his heels. “What’s this advice they’re accusing you of getting and following?” “Something about Shamaness Sakila, I assume,” Jerryck said. “She’s the only practitioner of shamanism I’ve talked to. And we did talk in the infirmary.” “What exactly were you doing in the infirmary?” Tajor asked. “I helped the head medic and my wife with one of the pregnant women. The patient didn’t like what the medics were telling her, and she asked for a second opinion. Mine.” “So why don’t you just write them back and tell them that?” Tajor said with a shrug. “The woman was second-guessing the medics. So there happened to be a shamaness doling out some advice along with yours. So what? Unless someone was standing there listening to the entire conversation, don’t you think it’s rather presumptive to assume you got advice and followed it? Could you demand they tell you who’s spreading these rumors about you?” “Good idea!” Jerryck stuffed the letter in his pocket and turned to leave. “Wait,” Heston said. “I called you. Remember?” “Oh, right.” Jerryck turned back to the room. “What did you need?” Heston steepled his fingers on his desk. “The night the quepota came, did Tajor catch its magic?” “Yes,” Jerryck said. Heston interlaced his finger so hard they turned white. He narrowed his eyes at Tajor. “Why didn’t you answer that succinctly instead of leading me on a will-o-wisp chase?” “I was afraid it would hurt your feelings?” Tajor somehow made the statement a question. “Try again.” “Um…” Tajor rolled his ash colored eyes up to the ceiling and tapped his chin, as if trying to make himself look deep in thought. It might have worked if he wasn’t also smirking. “I was afraid you would hurt my feelings?” Heston rose from his chair, fingers splayed flat on his desktop, his anger palpable even to Jerryck. Tajor’s smirk faded only slightly. “All right, how about this. It was dark. Perhaps Jerryck didn’t see me react the way he thought. And if no one really saw it, not clearly, then did it really happened?” “I could see clearly enough to know your reaction to magic,” Jerryck said. “Don’t let him distract you,” Heston told Jerryck. Tajor laughed. Heston shouted, “This isn’t funny! You requested we keep his curse of yours secret. Then you do something stupid like this?” “My question stands,” Tajor said. “And it’s similar to another question I heard somewhere once. If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make any sound?” “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jerryck said. “Of course it would. Just because you don’t hear sound doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” “How do you know if you didn’t hear it?” “A sound doesn’t require any material for it to be real. Just like there are things that you can’t see that are real. You simply follow the evidence that proves it.” Heston made a sweeping motion with his hand. “This is all just more evasion!” “I think it’s relevant.” Tajor tilted his chin with cocky attitude. “It was dark. The only witness was in distress. So did it really happen if no one in a calm frame of mind saw it?” “My frame of mind was stable enough to know what happened.” Jerryck raised his arms in frustration. “And even if it wasn’t, you don’t have to see something for it to be real. The evidence at the time pointed to the fact that you did come in contact with strong magic!” “Does any of this really matter?” Tajor shrugged. “We had to get rid of the creature somehow. I was the safest person there. It’s not as if the men were killing the thing. How well are the regular guards trained for fighting in the dark?” “They’re trained perfectly well for defending the walls,” Heston said. “Oh, well then, that settles everything.” Tajor used cheerful sarcasm. “Next time a quepota approaches, will just go out and set up castle walls around it. Why didn’t we think of doing that?” Heston went rigid as stone. He stood staring, using the same expression that usually had any of the guards cringing. People who weren’t even under his command sometimes cringed under that expression. Not Tajor. He smirked some more, meeting Heston’s eyes directly. “Jerryck…” Heston’s voice had quieted to a soft purr without erasing any of the ire on his face. “Since you interfered in the situation, making the sergeant allow Tajor to hurt himself, I need you to help me on a little exercise to make sure there are no repeat occurrences.” If talking to a shamaness in the infirmary got the attention of the Gathering, what would helping with a military exercise do? The last thing Terrance needed was them to send a representative to harass him. At the same time, Terrance had said there was chaos outside the palace walls. Heston was probably pretty busy with that and trying to find the person who tainted the water. And yet he was taking time for this small matter anyway. Someone should ease some of the load for him. “I can do that,” Jerryck said. “Very good.” Heston stepped out from behind his desk. He went to the door and yanked it open. He pointed to the sergeant and the elite guards. “You three. Get in here. Now.” The sergeant, Cleft Chin, and Crooked Nose all entered. Heston walked back to his desk before turning on the sergeant. “It’s been brought to my attention that if your men could fight better in the dark, the quepota might not have given you so many problems.” “That thing was dangerous,” the sergeant said. “Killing my men, making them afraid to move around—” “What did they fear more?” Heston leaned his hands on the desktop. “The quepota? Or the dark?” “The quepota.” “Prove it. Tonight. We’ll do a capture-the-flag scenario out in Aconi Grove. Jerryck will use magic to make the night darker and—” “What?” Jerryck interjected. “I will?” Heston moved only his eyes, shifting them to look at Jerryck. “You said you’d help.” “Help, yes, but you didn’t say anything about making night darker. How am I supposed to do that?” “You’re the magician.” Heston stood straight, crossing his arms. “You tell me.” “Why can’t you stick with something more mundane? You said you’re doing it in Aconi Grove. Won’t it be dark enough under the trees?” “The grove has clearings in some places,” Heston said. “Moon’s more than half full and waxing. Can you make a cloud cover it or something?” “No. Maybe with a little time to practice I might be able to make ground fog large enough to cover the grove, but not clouds to keep the moon covered tonight.” “Perfect.” Heston clapped his hands once. He said to the sergeant, “You just got a reprieve of several days. Get your men ready to do a night scenario of capture-the-flag in Aconi Grove in fog.” Jerryck held up his hands. “Wait, wait, wait…” “Can you or can’t you make fog if you have a few days of practice?” Heston asked. “Yes, but…” Heston splayed his hands on the desk again, leaning forward to do so. “But what?” Jerryck didn’t really have a legitimate excuse. It was just coming together faster than he expected. He said, “All right, give me five days. I’ll make you fog.” “Good.” Heston sat down. “I’ve one more thing to ask you. Everyone else, out.” Tajor smirked once more before he followed the other three men out. Heston rubbed his eyes and said, “I never asked you. Do you think the poison of the water was made by one person? Or multiple?” “I can’t imagine something like that made only by one person,” Jerryck said. “Poisoning an entire river takes a lot of power. But there’s only one signature.” “Don’t imagine,” Heston said. “Follow the evidence.” “One person did this.” “Have you given any more thought to finding him?” Heston asked. “I thought you were doing that.” Heston paused, tipping his chin down before saying, “You have better access to this field of work.” “And you’re better at digging out criminals,” Jerryck said. “I wouldn’t even know where or how to begin.” “I can help you with that,” Heston said. “You’ve always done well without me before.” Heston pressed his lips together. He shuffled a couple of stacks of papers around on his desk. With a wry grimace, he said, “Fine.”

 

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