• Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster Chapter 19

Tajor and two of his friends, the skinny one and the one with the cleft chin, followed Jerryck. He asked them, “Do I still need to be in there?” “Do you hear anyone calling you back to stay?” Tajor asked back. The cleft chin guard snickered. The skinny one elbowed him in the ribs and he stopped. Tajor stood staring at Jerryck with that smirk he always wore when he made mischief. Jerryck shook his head at whatever they thought was so funny and walked away. They kept following. He sought out Ressell, the official city magician of Kershet. Although there were very few page lads to point out the location, the fortress was so much smaller than the luxurious sprawl of the palace that finding him was fairly easy. “Hello, Jerryck,” Ressell said. He sat at a table counting coins and recording numbers and columns headed by the names of various magicians that lived in and around the city. “Have a nice visit with Letz and Thessallim?” “It was no different than any other visit they’ve paid me,” Jerryck said. “I told Thessallim not to bother you about that particular subject.” Ressell dropped a few coins into a small leather purse. “I guess that was too much to hope for. I suppose it’s also too much to hope that Letz talked some sense into you?” “About finishing my apprenticeship? Or taking on an apprentice?” “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Ressell wrote another figure on the parchment. “Neither do I,” Jerryck said. Ressell looked up at him, eyebrows raised, pen hovering over what he’d just written. Jerryck asked, “What are you doing? You’re no accountant.” “I was given some money to pay magicians who helped here in the city while the river was sick.” Ressell set his pen in its inkwell. He dug through a stack of papers off to the side. He pulled one out and handed it over. “Here. A list of names. People you should talk to if you’re serious about finding someone new in the trade. Some of them mentioned boys with potential. Some of them are new in the area and may know someone elsewhere.” “Thank you.” Jerryck had been prepared for a lecture. Ressell always told everyone they had to respect the office, if not the man in it. That never stopped him from giving a piece of his mind to the king’s court magician, even before Jerryck filled the position. Ressell went back to his coins and columns, so Jerryck left him. He headed back out to the bailey to leave. Tajor and his two friends still followed him. He asked, “Did I forget something?” “Besides us?” Tajor smirked, setting off his snickering friend again. “I’m just going out into the city,” Jerryck said. Tajor nodded. “And we’re coming with you.” “I don’t take escort guards with me around the city,” Jerryck said. “Did you miss the fact that not all the chaos is completely under control yet?” Tajor sounded rather droll and his smirk faded. “Did you really think you’d be allowed to wander around through that unguarded?” “I hadn’t thought about it,” Jerryck said as they went out the gate. No, he had thought the escort guard Terrance insisted on was for the road to Kershet, not for going about the streets of the city itself. Tajor nodded. “We figured.” “Why you?” Jerryck asked. “There had to have been someone less annoying than you available for this.” “How can you say such things?” Tajor gasped and put a hand over his heart. His friend’s giggles turned into laughter. “And you—” Jerryck pointed at the guard— “are almost as annoying as he is, with the way you laugh at everything.” “Almost?” Tajor emphasized the word. “You don’t think you’re annoying, with how you can’t ever remember his name is Garret?” “At least you can always see me.” Garret grinned. He hiked his thumb at his skinny friend. “Cade’s the one who disappears all the time. In fact, I’ll make you a deal. If you can guess what he’s doing while you can’t see him, we’ll leave you alone.” “How should I know what he’s doing?” Jerryck demanded. Garret laughed again. “And that’s why this is a safe deal.” Jerryck threw up his hands. He wasn’t going to get them to leave him alone. The harder he tried, the more they would annoy him. Better to just put up with them hanging about, watching his every move. He’d get done faster and get rid of them all that much sooner. Surrounding Bershent Fortress, the wealthiest residents of the city walled in their properties. Their houses rose up three and four stories above the tops of their walls, giving them a view of the street and the passersby. Normally, the wide avenues between the properties teemed with carriages and pedestrians. Some of them were residents out and about. Some of them servants going to and fro about their various errands. Others were just gawkers and tourists, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone well known. Today, the carriages were absent. The foot traffic was sparse and furtive. And every person was questioned at the barricades at major intersections. The estate style city residences of the wealthy faded into the more modest middle-class housing. A few more streets, and barricaded intersections, and houses started sporting signs outside them announcing what services were offered out of that building. Jerryck made one stop here, arranging for a service to collect all the purchases he would make, and transport them up to the palace. The farther they got into the commerce and trade areas of the city, the less the barricades blocked their progress. More and more people filled the streets, dashing about, or strolling casually, or burdened down with bundles. Carts wheeled by, both hand pushed and horse-drawn. Some people gawked at Jerryck and his elite guards. Others gave him a wide berth, keeping their heads down. Cade came and went. Once in a while, he would exchange a quiet word or two with the others. More often, he was silent. Jerryck never actually saw him join or leave. Just sometimes he was there. Sometimes he wasn’t. Garret vacillated between laughing maniacally, and intimidating anyone who looked at Jerryck sideways. Tajor stuck to annoying anyone and everyone who would give him half an ear by peppering them with questions, whether they deserved it or not. Jerryck made his way through shops, one by one, crossing them off in his mind. Some of them carried supplies he needed to restock his workroom. Some of them were names on the list Ressell had provided. The last one he almost skipped, thinking he probably wasn’t going to get any information there anyway. But, best to be thorough on the off chance the owner was in a good mood. The shop was owned by a paltry magician whose skill with magic was unreliable enough that he was unable to make a living with it. His main income lay in his retail shop. Still, he had credentials and a license from the Gathering of Seats. He always resented, loudly, that Jerryck did not. “You can’t have an apprentice,” he told Jerryck. “What?” It took a moment for Jerryck to switch his train of thought from shopping to the subject of an apprentice. “Why not?” The man looked down his nose. “You’re not a legitimate magician. You shouldn’t even have the job you do. You’re not qualified.” “You think you could do his job better?” Tajor asked. “Absolutely!” The man stuck out his chin. “I have credentials.” “Credentials make you better?” Tajor had that mischievous gleam in his eyes. “More skilled? Better talented?” “Credentials prove I’m legitimate.” “I think that’s licit and illicit you’re thinking of.” Garret snickered. “You don’t even have your terminology correct.” Tajor leaned on the counter. “Do you get your magic as mixed up as your words?” “No!” The merchant swept an arm, pushing Tajor’s hands off the counter. “I don’t care what words you use for it. I’m valid. That’s that.” Tajor put his hands right back on the counter. “This license you speak of, it holds more validity to you than the opinions of your King?” The merchant drew in on himself, his shoulders slowly hunching up, his face darkening. He ground his teeth. “Get out. All of you.” “Why?” Tajor asked. “No one walks into my store and questions my loyalty to my face.” He responded to Tajor, but glared at Jerryck. “Asking for clarification is questioning your loyalty?” The gleam in Tajor’s eyes turned malicious. “Or are you just pretending to be offended to try and hide something?” “Get out!” The merchant made wild shooing gestures, whirling his entire arms. “Get out! Or I’ll…” Tajor leaned back, just enough to put him out of range of the gesticulating arms. When the merchant trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished, Tajor asked, “You’ll what?” “I’ll do something you’ll regret!” “Like what? Call the city guards?” Tajor looked down at his uniform. He looked over at his companion’s uniform. Their double-breasted shirts had all the colors and markings of palace guards, automatically a higher rank than mere city garrison soldiers. The gold star on their collars also mark them as elite, even higher rank than the average palace guard. He leaned in to the merchant again. “How will that work out for you?” The merchant banged his fist on the counter. “I’ll use magic!” “Now wait.” Jerryck waggled a finger. “The Gathering of Seats disapproves of any magic that would bring harm to someone.” “What kind of magic will you use?” Tajor spoke as if Jerryck hadn’t. “The kind our illicit court magician can’t protect me from? Should I get worried over that? I mean, after all, if he’s not even qualified to fill a position the King judges him worthy for…” “Get out!” The merchant’s face turned red. He shouted so loud, people on the streets were looking into the shop then hurrying on their way. “Get out! Get out!” “Let’s go.” Jerryck headed for the door, mentally scratching this man off the list of people Ressell had advised him to speak with, even though he hadn’t gotten any information at all. The man chased them out. “You’ll regret this, Jerryck! I’m reporting your search to the Gathering of Seats! You’ll never have an apprentice! You hear me?”

 

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