• Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster chapter 13

Alessandris was a young man, older than fifteen, no older than twenty. He paced back and forth in the cell, three or four steps either direction, even after they entered. His hair was cropped to one side in the latest fashion, his boots were well-worn. He had a jaunty tilt to his head, like a lot of wealthy people from Shontarra, Brend’s sister nation to the south. “It’s about time you came back.” The young man’s southern accent was so thick, it was almost difficult to understand him. He pointed with his chin to Heston and Jerryck. “Who are these two?” Heston stepped into Alessandris’ path, forcing him to halt his pacing. “I’m the man you were brought here to talk to.” “I was brought here to get an audience with King Terrance.” Alessandris’ eyes roved over the insignias Heston wore. “If I’d known I was going to be locked in here, I wouldn’t have come so willingly.” “The king doesn’t grant audiences to people who incite riots,” Heston said. “I only told people the truth.” Alessandris bounced on the balls of his feet, and raised himself up an inch or two. “And that is?” Heston still looked down on him. Alessandris stabbed his chin in Cade’s direction. “I’m sure he told you.” He settled his eyes on Jerryck again. He opened his mouth as if he were going to say something else. Heston spoke first. “I want to hear it from you.” Alessandris pointed at Jerryck, with a finger this time instead of his chin. “Who is that?” Heston stepped to the side, holding out one arm, partially blocking Jerryck from view. “I’m asking the questions here. What truth did you tell people?” “If that’s who I think it is—” “Answer the question!” Alessandris jumped. Then he blinked. He juggled his shoulders and said, “There’s magic in the water. That’s what’s making people sick. Not some dead animal in a stagnant pool upstream like the proclamation said. Like the king was told.” “Where would magic like that have come from?” “From some rogue magician—”Alessandris snorted derisively— “obviously.” “Bringing no harm to people is part of the magicians’ oaths,” Jerryck reminded him. “That’s why it would have to be a rogue!” Alessandris leaned past Heston to glare at Jerryck. “And I have my suspicions who would do such a thing.” “The first person I would suspect is someone who incites riots,” Heston said. Alessandris’ narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to imply something?” “Let me state this clearly.” Heston cocked his head. “I would suspect someone who has already caused damage, like riots, before I would suspect anyone such a person accuses.” “You think I did this?” Alessandris’ eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open. “I’ve taken the oaths! I can’t do anything that brings this kind of harm.” “The oaths don’t prevent you from causing damage,” Jerryck said. “They merely make you subject to punishment from the Gathering if you do.” “Same thing!” “No,” Heston said. “It’s not.” Alessandris shut his mouth. His shoulders hunched slightly, something most people did when they acted indignant. In this case, the hair on Jerryck’s arms stood up with the prickle of gathering magic. Alessandris didn’t say anything, no spells cast, not even muttered ones under his breath. It was possible he just wasn’t paying attention. Some magicians had less control than others. Sometimes they gathered magic without knowing it, just as a reaction to their own emotions. It was usually also a symptom of carelessness and lack of control. Not that any spell he cast was likely do him much good. Most magic wouldn’t work well because of the dampening effect of the charms and magic Jerryck maintained. But that was just ambiance. It wasn’t a complete block. Or Tajor would have been adversely affected every time he entered the dungeons. Alessandris pointed again. “Is that Jerryck?” “Why?” Heston demanded before Jerryck could respond. “It is him!” Alessandris shook his pointing finger. “I don’t want him in here. I don’t want him anywhere around me.” “Why?” Heston repeated. “I don’t trust him,” Alessandris said. The look in his eyes changed from angry to something more akin to an epiphany. His gathered energy dropped. He sucked in his breath and stared at Jerryck. “It was you. You’re the one who did this. You made the magic to poison the water!” “What?” Jerryck blurted. “You’re the only rogue magician I know of!” Alessandris recovered some of his composure. “Who else could it be?” “Oh, for the sake of an orphan, I did no such thing,” Jerryck said with disgust. “Go ahead, deny it.” Alessandris flipped his hair back from his forehead with his fingertips and tilted his nose up. “Did you think no one would figure out what you did? You can rest assured, I won’t be the only one.” Cade, still by the door, cleared his throat. Heston nodded. Cade said to Alessandris, “You promised if I brought you to the palace he would tell us why you think it’s magic in the water.” “And you promised an audience with the king!” Alessandris sneered. “Think back on exactly what I said.” Cade smiled. “I implied that there was the possibility of that happening. But first, you should tell us why you think it’s magic.” Alessandris threw back his shoulders and puffed out his chest. “I’m a healer. I recognize the difference between a biological problem and a magical one. Every person I healed, I had to fight with elemental fire. This is magic.” “And why are you so sure it was Jerryck?” Cade asked. “He hasn’t taken the oaths,” Alessandris said, rolling his eyes. “He’s completely untrustworthy. It’s obvious it was him.” Jerryck opened his mouth to retort. Cade spoke quicker. “And how do you know for certain it’s in the water?” Alessandris frowned. “Where else would it have come from?” “If you can’t answer one question with anything but your own bias,” Heston said, “and you can’t answer another at all, why what should we believe anything you’re claiming?” Alessandris’ face darkened. “Are you calling me a liar?” “You’re calling me one,” Jerryck said. “We’re just trying to figure this out,” Cade said. “Is there anything at all, anywhere in existence, that you’ve heard of or thought of, that this could be in besides the water?” “The water is bad at the same time I’m running across this.” Alessandris waved his hands around in the air. “Are you really stupid enough to think it’s just coincidence?” “Unless you can specifically pinpoint magic directly in the water and identify it,” Cade said, “it’s possible that it could be coincidental. I’m asking you, please, we would really like you to prove otherwise. It would make it easier for us if you give us proof this was magic in the water.” Alessandris dropped his hands and shoulders. “I tried, but I need more time. Or someone better with elemental magic.” “You’d have had more time,” Heston said. “If you had focused on that instead of starting riots.” “I didn’t know those people would act that way when I told them what was really wrong,” Alessandris said. “I might believe you if it only happened once,” Heston said. “You started six riots before we pinned you down.” “I didn’t mean to!” Alessandris gathered magic around him again. Definitely someone who needed better control. He glared at Jerryck and said, “What are you making that face at me for, you charlatan?” Jerryck pointed at his own chest. “Me?” “You shouldn’t look so smug,” Alessandris said. “I hired someone to help me figure out exactly who did this to the water. As soon as we can prove it was you, you’re finished. You’ll never do anything to hurt anyone else ever again.” “I didn’t poison the water!” Jerryck shouted. “So what? Even if you didn’t, which I don’t believe, we’re still going to find out who did. And I’m turning that person in to the Gathering as an example of what happens when they let anyone practice without taking the oaths. They’ll have to put a stop to anyone who defies them.” Alessandris jabbed a finger at Jerryck. “Especially you! You’re finished either way! And they’ll be so mad, they won’t stop there, I’m sure. How hard do you think they have to work to trump up charges against every female in your family, make them look like witches, and burn them! And I’ll help. I’ll testify against anyone they ask me to. Just because you deserve it!” Jerryck’s mouth went dry. If the Gathering had any excuse at all, they absolutely would tighten their grip on him. They would investigate his family. That would lead them to kill his niece. Which would devastate his sister. They wouldn’t have to work to trump up any charges. They wouldn’t need any false witnesses. Heston demanded, “Who did you hire?” Magic gathered again, this time around Jerryck. The dampening spell pressed on him like a weight, sucking the air out of his lungs. Alessandris’ haughty sneer morphed into a look of fear. He must have felt too. He took a step back, nearly putting himself up against the stone wall. “If you dare try anything against me, you’ll regret it!” Alessandris shook a finger at Jerryck, leaning to look past Heston to do so. “It’ll only make it harder on you when the Gathering comes after you!” As if someone could be harder on him than killing a member of his family. The pressure of the ambient magic increased. It was a deterrent, not a preventative. And since Jerryck was the one who maintained it, he also knew how to bypass it. Normally it required enough effort that it wasn’t worth the trouble. At that moment, the effort was just enough to require the kind of thought process that kept Jerrcyk from reacting with accidental magic. “You threaten Jerryck or his family, he has every right to retaliate,” Heston said. “Answer my question. Who did you hire?” Alessandris stuck his nose in the air. “I can’t tell you that.” “You can tell,” Heston said. “There’s a difference between can’t and won’t. Jerryck, demonstrate for him the difference.” Jerryck pushed a flicker of magic through the dampening pressure. It locked onto Alessandris’ windpipe, swelling the tissues just enough to slowly close off his airway, like one of the gentler attacks Kendra’s husband used to sometimes suffer. Alessandris wheezed. He wanted to cause distress to Kendra, he could damn well experience some of what had already caused her too much distress. Alessandris drew in a raspy breath, labored and shallow. Jerryck pushed more magic through. Alessandris’s face drooped with pain. He clutched his chest. His mouth opened and closed. His eyes bulged as he struggled to whisper out stuttered words. “Help… help… I can’t… can’t…” “Can’t breathe,” Jerryck finished for him when his last word degraded into a struggling rasp. “Now you can’t tell,” Heston said. “Now that you know the difference between can’t and won’t, let’s try again. Let up, Jerryck.” Jerrcyk simply stopped working so hard to push magic through the dampening ambiance. He still kept it up some, crossing his arms to hide that the effort made him shaky. “He said to call him Cheber.” Alissandris still wheezed, still clutched his chest, but was able to get breathy words out. “I don’t think that’s his real name. So I can’t tell you.” “You’re right on that,” Heston said. “That’s not his real name. We work with him a lot. He’s the one who led us to you.” “And when Jerryck does something else as bad as poisoning the river?” Alessandris asked. “People like that don’t ever commit only one crime. Even if you refuse to believe me, you can’t protect him forever. The next time he does something like this some other magician will turn him in to the Gathering.”