Spell Caster Chapter 18
Jerryck grit his teeth all the way back to his tower to keep from grumbling. He wasn’t born noble. He hadn’t grown up accustomed to guards following him around everywhere. Some magicians already claimed he thought too highly of himself. All he needed was a noble escort to prove them right. He could take care of himself. Letz and Thessallim stood waiting for him outside the door to his tower. Thessallim still wore his stupid grin. Letz still glowered. He bobbed his head at Thessallim and said to Jerryck, “I told him to go away.” “I can be here!” Thessallim was just as enthusiastic as ever. “Go away,” Jerryck told him. “No, no, I can be here,” Thessallim said. “I’ll pretend to be your mentor. I’ll go get a bed in a guestroom. Then after a couple of weeks—” “I’ll give you the same treatment I gave Masorno,” Jerryck said. He’d had enough. It was probably childish that he got some satisfaction out of seeing Thessallim’s grin falter. “You didn’t really, did you?” Thessallim turned his head to look at Jerryck out of the corner of his eye. “Not to someone as important as Masorno. I know he exaggerates sometimes. You didn’t really sic elite guards on him and tell him never to come back, did you?” “Close enough.” Jerryck opened the door to the tower. He held up a hand to stop Thessallim when he moved to follow him in. “And you’re a lot less important than he is. Think what those same elite guards will do to you if I have to call them.” Letz stepped past the Thessallim and said, “At the very least, you’d lose your flapping tongue. That wouldn’t be very lucky.” Jerryck allowed Letz in. Then he shut the door in Thessallim’s face. He leaned his back against it, raised his eyes to the ceiling, and let out a sigh of relief. Hopefully the man left and wouldn’t have to be dealt with as harshly as threatened. Letz stood in awkward silence a few moments, staring blankly at the far wall. He was about twenty or thirty years older than Jerryck. He specialized in transportation magic, and lived in a remote tower close to the village where Jerryck and Kendra had spent their childhood. He had been the magician to come to Kendra’s cry for help when Jerryck had nearly killed himself with his first use of magic. Eventually, Letz leaned against the wall at the bottom of the steps and cleared his throat. “I must say, you handle people that annoy you much better than you did when you were younger.” “Sometimes I wish I could revert,” Jerryck said. “It’s much more amusing to play tricks on people who deserve it.” “I’m sure it is.” Letz laughed and raised his head enough to look Jerryck in the eye. “Would it really be worth it, though? Your sister would constantly be irate with you. How is she, by the way? I haven’t seen her. I know she doesn’t like most magicians, so I try to respect that and not bother her.” “She’s doing all right considering the circumstances.” “I sent her letter of condolence when I heard about her husband. I hope that didn’t offend her.” “If it did, I’d have heard about it.” Now it was Jerryck’s turn to stare at the far wall. Once again, the silence grew thick. Letz had much better social skills. He could always tell when Jerryck didn’t want to talk about something. Sometimes he brought it up anyway, like scolding him for never having finished his apprenticeship. Never for very long before he dropped the subject. The loss of his brother-in-law was definitely something he didn’t want to talk about. Letz shifted on his feet and pointed to the room on the bottom floor, the one with the space Jerryck kept clear for portals. “Mind if I leave from here? I won’t keep you any longer. I just wanted to check on you while I was in the area.” “And see if I really was looking for an apprentice?” “I still don’t think that’s a good idea,” Letz said. “I still think I may not have a choice,” Jerryck said. “Not if I want to keep my job.” “A job you shouldn’t have without…” Letz stopped mid-sentence. He tipped his chin down. “I’m sorry. I’ll go now.” He strode over to the clear spot. Jerryck went upstairs. His skin prickled with the opening of the portal, making the hairs on his arms stand up. Reaching out his senses without even thinking, he mentally monitored the procedure. Letz was the one who had taught Jerryck to open portals. He always used the same method every time. After a quick scrying trip, he first put up a barricade to contain energy should there be any trouble. Then he punched through to the other place were the portal opened to. Then widen the opening enough for it to be used. Lastly, control the energy enough that the portal could be safely used. Only at that point would he drop the protective shield. One of the reasons he was so good at portals was because, unlike Jerryck, he was also one of the best at scrying. He claimed that he had learned to make portals because scryers didn’t make enough to live off of. Kendra always laughed at that, claiming if that were true, he wouldn’t live out in the middle of nowhere, but in a city with more traffic and higher demand for portals. Jerryck reached his workroom, still monitoring. Letz stepped through the portal. Then it spiraled down to a pinpoint opening. All the energy of the spell sucked through to the other side before it closed off completely, leaving the barest of residue. That was another method that made Letz one of the best. He recuperated and conserved as much energy as possible, while others flagrantly left it lying wasted. Shortly after Letz’s portal closed, the chimes in the work room tinkled. This pattern was an alert for a magician leaving through the palace gates. So Thessallim had left as well. With everyone else’s attention on the arrival of Lord Andreno, no one bothered Jerryck for the rest of the day. Which suited him just fine. No one called on him the next day, either. Not even to accompany Nita on a tour of Kershet for Andreno. She tended to use the morning to go on different tours around the countryside, avoiding the city. It probably ran a little long. She liked doing that too. Terrance had scolded her for it on a number of occasions, claiming she did it on purpose to avoid her afternoon lessons. She would go through Zinrish Dell to show off all the flowers, visit the pond and Aconi Grove, head down to Riverbend, then take the ferry over to Unification Isle where every one of their kings had been coronated, and every royal heir took his wedding vows. A couple more days passed, and Jerryck went looking to find out if he had been forgotten. It turned out Nita hadn’t even given the countryside tour yet. And she didn’t plan to for another few days. Lord Andreno had been loudly complaining about being too tired from the journey to go on any kind of tour. After a week, his supplies got so low, he figured he’d either have to go to the medics to ask for more, or go to Kershet without Nita’s group. Since Terrance still wouldn’t let him go to the city without escort, he debated whether it would be more trouble to ask the medics, or draw attention to the fact that he needed to go. He said as much to Nita, and she promised to press Andreno. The next day, she finally called Jerryck for the trip. He donned clothes suitable for traveling with the princess and other nobles. He kissed his family goodbye. And just after breakfast that morning he rode out the gates on a horse as part of the entourage, rather than get stuffed inside a carriage with Nita, Andreno, and Chamberlain Malk. Nita’s usual bodyguards rode nearest her. There was a smattering of elite guards mixed in, Tajor and his three friends among them. Andreno’s bodyguards and more elite rode farther ahead and behind the cadre of other people that accompanied. The closer they got to Kershet, the more abandoned camps lined the road. Every once in a while, a human shape flitted about the litter, trash heaps, and collapsed remains of makeshift tents. Jerryck craned his neck. How far did they go? All the way around the city? Tajor sidled up to him. “Are your eyes going to pop out of your head?” “What?” Jerryck turned to him. “What you talking about?” “Your eyes are bulging.” Tajor smirked. “Should you be worried about them popping out? Or is that what you intend?” Jerryck shook his head at Tajor’s nonsense. “Eyes don’t arbitrarily pop out of their sockets.” He looked back out, away from the road. “What happened here? I can’t even count how many times I’ve made this trip, and I’ve never seen anything like this.” “Do you remember, a while back, when we were having a little problem with the water?” Tajor asked. “Do you remember any discussions about chaos outside the palace walls?” “Of course I remember,” Jerryck said with a frown. “But I didn’t expect all this.” “And you noticed none of it from your tower?” Tajor asked. “Don’t you have a view that goes over the walls?” “I’ve seen it so many times, I don’t really look anymore,” Jerryck said. “I hope all this mess doesn’t make Lord Andreno think ill of us.” “I’m not sure he’s noticed.” Tajor looked at the carriage just ahead. “He tends to ignore things he doesn’t think are important to him.” They pushed through the outer limits of Kershet. Groups of Garrison soldiers stood at barricades blocking the major intersections. They hurriedly move things aside for the princess and her escorts to pass through. They took the straightest route to Bershent Fortress, the castle the city had been built around. Mayor Kyle and Premiere Kimball came out into the bailey to greet them. Kyle gestured back toward the streets and said, “I apologize for all the mess out there. We’re still getting things back under control.” “You lost control?” Andreno asked as he climbed out of the carriage. “Not exactly.” Kimball cast a dark look at the mayor. He offered his arm to the princess as she also climbed out of the carriage. “We had a few people get a little unruly, some pockets of unrest here and there. Nothing we couldn’t handle.” “I heard you had a fire sweep through one of the slum neighborhoods.” Andreno looked over at the brown haze hovering over one of the poorest sections of the city. “I also heard you had rioters murdering entire families and stealing anything drinkable. And I heard that one of the men who lives under your roof was stabbed when he went outside the fortress walls a couple of days ago.” “Where did you hear all that?” Nita asked him as the premiere led them all inside the drafty keep. “I sent a few men ahead to Kershet while I was on the road.” Andreno shrugged as if it meant nothing. They entered a sitting room the premiere favored for entertaining important guests in the summertime. The constant breeze through the room kept the temperatures down. In the winter, the room was unusable. “To learn more about the water?” Nita took a seat, right in the path of the breeze, along with most of the others. Jerryck remained standing by one of the flapping wall tapestries. It would be easier to leave at the first opportunity without drawing attention to himself. “I didn’t hear about the water until they came back,” Andreno said. He leaned back in his seat, stretched out his legs with his ankles crossed. “I actually sent them to follow up on a rumor I heard about a man named Quillen living here.” “You know very well your cousin is here,” Kimball said, his entire face growing a dark glower. “I don’t know that I’d call him a cousin.” Andreno rocked his feet from side to side. “He’s just a bastard.” “Did your scouts also tell you he was the man you mentioned that was stabbed?” Kimball’s jaw was tight. “He drew very close to openly accusing some of your men.” Andreno’s jaw went slack. “Why would I have my men make a special trip on account of someone like him?” “You just said you had them make a special trip to check on a rumor of his whereabouts,” Nita said. “Not for him, for my granduncle.” Andreno’s feet stopped their agitation. “Personally, I couldn’t care less about him. He was stabbed? Maybe I should assign couple of men to keep an eye on him, keep him out of trouble. That should reflect well me back at home. For some reason, Uncle always liked him.” Kimball crossed his arms. “Perhaps because Quillen is his only grandson.” “He’s just a bastard,” Andreno said. “Not a grandson.” Jerryck tuned them all out and inched toward the door. Eventually, he managed to slip out. No one called him back or scolded him, so it must have been acceptable.