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  • Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster Chapter 14

Jerryck shook. He wrapped his arms tighter about himself and relinquished the effort of pushing magic through the dampening ambiance. Alessandris relaxed, no longer wheezing or rasping. Heston punched him in the side of the neck, just below the ear. He dropped face first on the stone floor, sprawling limp. Jerryck gasped. “What was that for!” “You were done,” Heston said. He pounded his fist on the door. The guard outside opened it. “What does that have to do with you hitting him like that?” Jerryck demanded. Heston stepped out of the cell, telling Cade, “Fetch the medics.” Jerryck knelt by Alessandris. “Don’t bother. I can take care of this. He’ll wake up fine.” Heston came back in, grabbed Jerryck’s arm, and hustled him out into the corridor before he could do anything. “The medics aren’t for waking him.” “Then what…” Heston walked up the corridor toward the entry chamber. “Don’t ask and you won’t have to know.” Jerryck hurried to keep up, his feet almost as unsteady from the magic usage as his hands and arms. “How’s this going to reflect on Terrance when he goes back to the city and tells everyone how he was treated here?” “He’s not going back to Kershet.” Heston pounded on the door at the end of the corridor. It opened too. “Where else would he go?” Jerryck asked. “Another cell.” Heston strode into the entry. “He’s never leaving this dungeon.” Jerryck’s feet stumbled, betraying his weakened state. “That’s rather harsh.” “Harsh is getting innocent people killed because you feel like inciting riots multiple times,” Heston said. “We can’t afford to be lenient. Do that once, and how many others will start causing problems and getting people killed this way?” “I don’t want to hear any more.” Jerryck went to the main door and said to the guards there, “Let me out.” They looked to Heston, who shook his head. They weren’t going to let Jerryck out. He whirled on Heston, “You have no cause to keep me in here!” Heston took Jerryck by the wrist, holding up his hand. Try as he might, he couldn’t quite keep it from shaking where everyone could see. Heston narrowed his eyes. “Is this because of the magic you did? Or is something else bothering you?” Jerryck blinked and looked away. Heston pulled him. “Come.” They went into the office on the side. This time, the pursuivant sat in there. Heston said, “Mace, we need a moment.” The pursuivant nodded and left, closing the door. Heston drew out a hard, three-legged stool, one of the only seats in the room. Jerryck sank onto it. Heston said, “Take deep breaths. Don’t fight the shaking or try to hide it. Just relax and let it calm down on its own.” Jerryck lowered his head into his hands. “I never thought I would need healing advice for myself from you.” “You’re showing the same signs of men in battle,” he said. “Or any confrontation. Deep breaths. Fill your lungs. That’ll help clear your head more than anything else.” Adrenaline. That was what he was describing. Jerryck put his hands on his head, raising his arms and expanding his chest cavity in the process, which allowed for more air intake. Some of the shaking calmed with each breath. Incrementally, control of his extremities returned and he regained the ability to hold them steady. “What bothered you more?” Heston asked. “The threat against your family? Or the accusation that you’re the perpetrator?” “If someone would poison an entire river…” Jerryck paused to shudder. “Would they do something else later on?” “Guaranteed,” Heston said. “You sound so sure.” “This was a deliberate act.” Heston paced in a circle around the outer edges of the cramped room. “No one has claimed credit. No one has stated that it was for any kind of political statement, or declaration of war. No one has even refuted the false story about a dead animal contaminating the water with a rare disease. Not credibly.” Jerryck numbly restated what he understood of Heston’s words. “So this wasn’t to get attention, make a political statement, or start a war.” “It may have been an attempt to cause strife between Brend and the Chemwanitz Mountains,” Heston said. “That’s speculation. Whoever they are, they’re probably observing our reactions. Where? I don’t know. I found no trail when I went upriver. I may not have been far enough up. Or maybe they’re downriver. Or in Kershet. I’m searching. But I’m having trouble searching out potential magic-users, likely someone underestimated, or not well-known, or new. I need your help.” “I wouldn’t even know how to start,” Jerryck said. “Start with your closest contacts,” Heston said. “Tell them you’re looking for someone new with high potential. You’ll get a lot of false leads. It can’t be helped. Bring every one of them to me. I’ll have my men track them down.” “They’ll want to know why I’m asking.” “You’ll have to figure out yourself what to tell them.” Heston stopped his pacing and stood in front of Jerryck. “Make it plausible. Have any of your associates ever contacted you with a question like this?” “A few times,” Jerryck said. “When they were looking for an apprentice.” “Tell them you’re thinking of taking one on.” Jerryck dropped his hands between his knees. “The Gathering won’t like me doing that.” “I’ll let you in on a little inside information,” Heston said. “You’ll need to take one on. Terrance is planning on doing some rearranging in the household after Nita’s next birthday. Everyone in a high enough position will be required to take on an apprentice. That’ll include you. And Terrance won’t care if the Gathering likes it or not.” “If I ever did take on an apprentice, it would most likely be my nephew Zev.” “Your colleagues don’t need to know that,” Heston said. Jerryck nodded and stood. Heston led him out to the entry chamber and out of the dungeon. As soon as Jerryck got into the regular corridors of the palace, he breathed even easier. He turned to head to his tower. Heston caught his arm again. “We need to tell Terrance.” “Oh, right.” Jerryck turned that way. “Of course. He’ll need to know I’m sending out all these contact letters.” “And the water,” Heston said. “He’ll want to send word to the kitchens before they start making supper.” “Supper.” Jerryck was missing something. Something about the kitchens. And supper. And… food… He’d forgotten to eat lunch again. He stopped mid-step and slapped his forehead. “No! My wife and sister are going to be furious!” “What did you do this time?” Heston asked. “What didn’t I do!” “I’m not helping you with women problems,” Heston said. He continued on. “I’ll inform Terrance while you deal with them. Good luck.” Jerryck turned back to face the way to his tower. It would be so easy to go up there and hide from everyone for awhile. It wasn’t like the problem would get any worse for putting off awhile. Instead, he headed to the kitchens. Sometimes it was better just to get unpleasantness over with. The moment he walked in, a plate flew threw the air, narrowly missing his head. It whapped the door frame, the antishatter spell on it pinging and leaving a small dent in the wood. “What the—” Jerryck looked the way it had come. Kendra was grabbing a handful of spoons while scullery maids and cooks scattered away from her in all directions. The spoons didn’t come anywhere near as close as the plate had when she threw them. Unfortunately, she was close behind them and bearing down. “You want to work yourself to death! Fine! Don’t expect me to help you out! I’m not serving you hot meals at odd hours of every day when you just happen to remember that you have to eat to keep going!” “I was testing the water!” Jerryck raised his arms to fend her off. “Then I had to take care of… something else for Heston.” “I don’t care!” she screamed. By now, they were the only two in the large room, making it seem all that much more vast. She stopped just short of arm’s length, close enough he could see tears in her eyes. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself!” He dropped his arms, letting his shoulders sag. She had good enough aim, she might have missed his head on purpose. He bent and picked up the plate. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.” “You never mean to.” She sniffed, wiping away the tears before they could fall. Her voice dropped quiet enough he probably was the only one who could hear it, even if others had still been in the room. “Remember, please remember, you have more accidents when you don’t eat right.” “That’s just yours and Leanne’s theory,” Jerryck said, shaking his head. “There’s no evidence to support that.” “There’s my observations.” “Which are biased.” She closed her eyes, grit her teeth, straightened her spine, took a deep breath, and her face cleared. A couple of cooks peeked out from a side room. She said to Jerryck, still quiet, “That may be. I’ll allow for that possibility. But don’t think that means I won’t keep hounding you. Just be glad Leanne wasn’t here and I didn’t tell her. It makes her cry. Now, you said you were helping out the General?” Some of the scullery maids came out from wherever they were hiding. Leanne wasn’t among them. Disappointing. Except according to Kendra, she probably would be crying if she was there. Perhaps it was best she was absent after all. Jerryck bent to gather up the spoons from the floor. “Actually we were helping each other. The initial water test came out clear, so he took me down to the vat chamber to test it from the source.” Staff melting out of the shadows and side rooms all paused and looked at him. Kendra held out a hand. “And?” “And then…” Jerryck really didn’t feel like telling her about what happened in the dungeon. So he skipped it. “And then he went to tell the king that the water is clean and safe to drink.” Cheers erupted. Except from Kendra. She cocked her head at Jerryck. “And?” “And what?” She glanced around. With all the jubilant noise around them as cover, she leaned close and spoke softly in his ear. “You’re as pale as when you’ve had an accident.” Jerryck sighed. “I didn’t have an accident. There was an incident in the dungeon I had to help take care of right after the water test. And I had a chat with Heston over it, and we decided I have to help find who did this to the river. Which means pretending to look for an apprentice.” “The Gathering won’t like that.” “Yes, well, I don’t like that someone poisoned our water.”

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