Spell Caster Chapter 12
Jerryck left the room before Heston could come up with any other crazy things to request of him. He spent the rest of the day in his tower. Every once in a while he skimmed through a book, looking at the process of fog making. Most of the time, he agonized over a response letter to the Gathering. He had to figure out how to explain why he couldn’t come in person, without talking too much about the trouble their nation was currently having. Then he had to figure out exactly how to address the core issue. In the end, he followed Tajor’s advice, laying out the facts and asking who was spreading rumors about him. Over the next couple of days, he spent his mornings out in a field practicing making fog. He took care to be in his workroom in time for the noon water test. Some of the off colors weren’t showing as strong as they had at first. That should have been encouraging. Instead, the boys took it as an excuse to complain more than they already were. They complained incessantly. They whined about having to climb the stairs three times a day. They moaned about getting through the household office to turn in the tested sample. They complained about the noise of rebuilding, and workers being in the way. It got to the point that Jerryck would just do the test and get rid of them as quickly as possible, barely even looking at the results. The day before he was supposed to make the fog for Heston, the bulk of the workers cleared out before the test. Not even that stopped the complaining. Jerryck dropped in the sugar and then turned immediately back to his books. “Take it and go,” he said. “What happened to the other colors?” Zev asked. Jerryck looked. The colors that were evidence of the magic toxin were absent. Only the colors of the water element and the magic Jerryck had on the sugar remained. He took the cup and peered into it, scrutinizing for any trace of the wrong colors. “Where did you get this water?” “From the household office,” Zev said. With the shipments of water coming in from other parts of the country, more people had access. It was possible someone had put clean water in the cup by accident. Jerryck would have to double check. He sent the boys on their way, cheering that they didn’t have to turn in the test. He snagged his supply of magicked sugar and took it with him to Heston’s office. “I need you to let me into the canal chamber,” Jerryck said to him. “What for?” Heston shuffled aside whatever paper he’d been working through. “The water test came out positive,” Jerryck said. “Er… Negative.” “Which is it?” Heston asked. “There were no toxins in the water.” “Double checking is good,” Heston said. “Why don’t you just go to the vats?” “I don’t like climbing the ladder and the walkway the top. Then I have to lean out over the edge to catch one of the buckets.” Heston stared at him a moment. Then with a droll tone, he said, “You’d rather climb the stairs all the way down to the canal chamber back up again.” Jerryck shrugged one shoulder. “It’s no different than what I climb several times a day in my tower.” “True.” Heston got to his feet. He opened his desk, took out a key, then used it to unlock one of the cabinets. From that, he retrieved a large ring of master keys to the palace’s many locks. Jerryck followed him down below the palace, through the stone lined passageway to the little door near the entrance to the dungeons, which was the only way to get to the canal chamber. The guards at the dungeon entrance saluted, momentarily showing the palms of their right hands, the fingertips level with the tops of their ears. Two torch sconces were fastened to the wall on either side of the door. One of them was empty. Heston pointed to it. “Why is one of the torches missing?” “The pursuivant hasn’t come back up yet from escorting in the change of shift,” one of the guards said. Heston grunted acknowledgment. He selected a small key on his ring and used it in the lock. He took the torch from the other sconce. Then he gestured for Jerryck to go down the stairs first. Aside from the narrower, steeper steps, it really wasn’t all that different from descending his tower at night. The torch behind him lit the way just enough. He had no missteps. He navigated the loosely wound spiral down with ease. About halfway down, probably as many steps as his entire tower, a light came up from below, growing brighter and brighter as it approached. A man toting a large canvas bag rounded up the steps. The stairs were too narrow for him to pass. And Jerryck wasn’t going back up just to let him out. He wanted this test finished. The sooner they knew whether the water was clear or not, the better. Someone spoke from below him. “Why did you stop?” “The general and the magician are coming down,” the man called back over his shoulder. “Convenient,” the voice said. The light retreated. “Come back down.” They continued down to the bottom. Four men had been coming up, not two. Three of them, dressed as workers, stood to one side. Each of them held a full canvas bag. The fourth was the pursuivant, the man Heston had put in charge of running the dungeon and managing any prisoners. He held the torch and called out the orders. “I was going to send you a page,” he said to Heston. “We’re getting debris in the canal, like there was some big rainstorm up river.” “That might explain my results,” Jerryck said. “If a storm filled the river, that would clear it out.” The pursuivant perked up. “Water’s clear?” “We’re checking,” Heston said as he eyed the canal. The three men who must have just started their shift stood at the mouth of the tunnel where the canal flowed in from the river. Two of them used long poles with nets on the ends, fishing out bits and pieces of leaves, grasses, twigs, and other debris before they could float close to the buckets on the pulley system that drew the water up to the vats. The third man took everything they fished out, and stuffed it in a bag. “I’ll send crews to check the grates at either end and clean them out,” Heston said. “That should cut down some of the debris getting through.” Jerryck knelt by the water flow. He dipped in the tin cup he carried. The pursuivant said, “Careful. I don’t want you falling in again.” “I’m not falling in,” Jerryck said. He set the cup on the stone floor. The pursuivant pointed to the dark, arched opening where the water flowed out. “If my men have to go to the downstream grate and fish you out again…” “I’m not falling in!” Jerryck hadn’t ever fallen in. That was just what Old Heldavio had told people. He brought Jerryck down to impress him, thinking that if he was awed enough, that might help him to scry. The builders of Coraline Palace had perfectly cut the canal by scrying out its path. It was an engineering feat bragged about even outside the borders of Brend. Jerryck was supposed to scry the grate at the downstream end, and travel the length to the upstream grate. Instead, he accidentally translocated himself to the downstream grate. He stared hard at the cup, dropping in the sugar. If he concentrated enough on the present, maybe the past would leave him alone for a little while. At least until someone else reminded him of some embarrassment. The cup started glowing with the same colors as the test. “That’s it then,” he said. “The water’s clean.” The workers cheered. The three with the netted poles waved them around happily. Heston growled at them and they quickly dipped their poles back down into the water. Everyone else climbed back up the stairs. # Tajor’s skinny, elite friend waited for them at the top by the dungeon entrance. He smiled at Heston and said, “We got him.” Heston gave a curt nod. “Very good.” Jerryck headed out after the workers with the sacks of debris, away from the dungeons. Heston stopped him with a large hand on his shoulder. He ducked out from under the hand and said, “I need to tell Terrance about the water.” “After,” Heston said. “I need you to come talk to someone.” “Who?” Jerryck asked. “Come.” Heston turned to the reinforced door that led into the dungeons. “Corridors are no place for such discussions.” Jerryck looked around. The workers were gone. Aside from him, only military men were left. What was wrong with discussing military matters around military men? The two guards on either side of the heavy door stood at attention while the pursuivant opened it. The skinny elite followed him in without hesitation. Jerryck held back. Heston nudged him through the opening. “I hate this place,” Jerryck muttered. He avoided the dungeons if at all possible, dreading the times he had to come down to maintain the magic over the place. Heston didn’t let go of him. “You say that every time you come in.” The door closed behind them. The guards wouldn’t open it again unless given permission by Heston or the pursuivant. The entry room was round, with several doors leading off. Each door had a small, barred great at the top for looking through. Most of them were locked. Heston went through the only one that was open, beckoning Jerryck to follow. The skinny guard stepped in behind them and closed the door. This room wasn’t so bad. It was set up more like an office, where the pursuivant could keep records and do paperwork, and had one of the few doors that lacked a muffling spell. And the dampening spell that kept magic at bay wasn’t so heavy. The rest of the place, Jerryck’s skin practically itched with the weight of it. “Some of the riots in the city were caused by a magician.” Heston rested his hands on his hips. “A young one. Name of Alessandris. From Shontarra.” “That doesn’t sound right,” Jerryck said. “Magicians take oaths not to do anything that could cause harm.” “Regardless.” Heston waived that away and gestured to the skinny guard. “I sent Cade and a few others in to dig him out, bring him here.” “Why would a magician cause riots during a time of crisis?” Jerryck couldn’t quite puzzle that one out. “I’d hoped you would tell me,” Heston said. “Since you don’t know, I need you to come with me to talk to him. Figure it out.” Jerryck nodded. He followed Heston and the skinny guard, Cade, back out of the office. One of the other doors was unlocked for them to enter the corridor behind it. The stone floor, walls, and ceiling made everything so stark and gray, one might expect their footsteps to echo. The doors to every room exuded a muffling spell, preventing echoes, keeping whoever was inside from understand anything said outside, unless it was spoken directly through the grate. Cells. Not rooms. These rooms were called cells. Even though these particular chambers weren’t normally used for holding people. There were used more for dissemination, testing, interrogating… Things of that nature. Jerryck hunched his shoulders in close. He knew the corridor was wide enough for three men to walk abreast, two guards with a prisoner between them. That didn’t account for the pressure of the dampening ambience. Combined with the stunted height of the ceiling, he never could shake the feeling that the walls were closing in on him. A dungeon guard stood outside one of the cell doors. He saluted as they approached. Heston peered through the grate. After a few heartbeats, he stepped back, returned the salute, waited for the guard to drop his, then asked, “Condition?” “Agitated.” The guard’s tone was clipped, terse. “At first, he yelled a lot. Demanded to know why we brought him to the dungeons and not to the king.” “Why would he think he should see the king?” Jerryck asked. “Probably thinks he’s doing the right thing,” Heston said. “Let’s find out.” Heston pointed to the keyhole, and the guard unlocked it. The general went in first. Cade followed, Jerryck behind him.