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  • Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster Chapter 6

Sakila followed Jerryck out of the room. What exactly was he supposed to do now? Visiting magicians always came to him in his tower, if he couldn’t get rid of them first. But all magicians were men. Would his wife be all right with him taking another woman up to his work room? Even on a professional basis? Princess Nita came out of the White Room. She giggled at Jerryck. “What are you doing just standing out here?” “I… Um…” Jerryck stammered. How did he explain uncertainty to someone who always know what to do with guests? “Have you ever been to Kershet City?” Nita asked Sakila, who shook her head. “The day is clear enough, we should have a wonderful view from some of our higher outside balconies. Jerryck, why don’t you go and show her that?” “Good idea!” Jerryck beamed at the princess. “Thank you.” He headed for a wide set of stairs that went to the floors that housed important guests. Large, glass paned windows let in light that toyed with crystal-hung chandeliers lining the vaulted ceilings. The thick runner carpet muffled their footsteps. The walls were softened with painted artist renditions of people, landscapes, and historical scenes. All this was a vast contrast to the tighter, dimmer back corridors used by most of the workers and residents that Jerryck normally went through. “This is Amaryllis Hall,” Nita said. “I know that,” Jerryck said. Why was she still following them? Nita smiled at him. “Your guest doesn’t know.” “Oh, right,” Jerryck said. He waved at the corridor as they passed by some of the paintings, and told Sakila, “This is Amaryllis Hall. A lot of these art pieces are historical people, or stuff that happened in the history books.” “I’m certain you’ll be given a room here,” Nita said. “We reserve these rooms only for the most important people and their families.” Sakila’s mouth quirked the way Tajor’s did sometimes when amused. “You think I am important enough to stay in a place name for a flower?” “Named for a queen, actually,” Nita said. “My step-grandmother. She’s the one who decorated this hall the way it is. Except for the family portraits. My father had those put here.” They went up another couple flights of stairs. Nita kept up a running commentary the entire way. They reached the door to the outside balcony on the south side of the palace that would give a good view, and Jerryck stopped. He studied the charm placed above the door. Sakila stopped and looked at it too. She pointed at it. “This is some of your work.” “I have one over every door to the outside,” Jerryck said. “Some over the wall gates, and on the outbuildings too. They’re supposed to alert me when a magic practitioner enters or exits.” “Did they?” “No, I need to adjust them to recognize shamans,” Jerryck said. “I have them adjusted for hydromancers. They come through every once in a while.” “From the coast? Or all the way from the archipelago?” “Both,” Jerryck said. “This is very interesting.” Sakila stared intently at the charm. “I may have to use something similar at home. How do you adjust it so finely, so that it detects people who actually use magic, instead of just anyone with a strong aura?” “People who use magic…” Jerryck said. “Their aura tends to fluctuate more than most others. Because they use it, then regenerate it at greater capacities. That variance and the vibrations that accompany it is what the charms pick up.” “I don’t think she’s understanding all the words you’re using,” Nita said. “Why not?” Jerryck asked. “Because I don’t understand exactly what you’re talking about,” Nita said with a giggle. “And this isn’t a second language to me.” “That is all right,” Sakila said. “I will figure it out.” They went out onto the balcony. From this height, they see easily over the wall, down the hill the palace was built on, all the way to Cham River and the capital city. On the lower levels of the palace, all the outside balconies had stone balustrades at their edges. This high, balconies had wood railings that were lacquered against the weather. Jerryck had never asked why. Sakila went to the railing and put both hands on it, looking out across the view. A slow smile grew on her. “Almost like standing on a low bluff.” She walked to the right, her hand brushing along the rail. She pointed to the city. “That is the capital?” “Kershet City, yes,” Nita said, following at Sakila’s pace. “And the big, tall, black building in the center?” “That’s Bershent Fortress,” Nita said. “It was built by my ancestor who brought all our districts together to form a unified nation. All of our kings lived there until the palace was built.” “You named your fortress.” Sakila looked to her right, up at the palace towers that still stood taller than the high balcony. “Did you name your palace as well?” “It’s called Coraline,” Nita said. “My great-grandmother. It was built for her. There are a lot of people who say that’s appropriate, since a lot of the stone for it was quarried at the coast, even though there was no coral there.” They rounded the curve of the balcony and Aconi Grove came into view, upstream from the bend in the river were most of the city’s docks were built. It was closer to where the river split to go around Unification Isle, where the nation had officially been born. Sakila pointed at the green mass of thick trees. “Did the builders use magic, that they did not have to use all the trees for their wood?” “Yes!” Jerryck said. “They did use magic. The canal beneath the palace—“ “Not that,” Nita interrupted him. She said to Sakila, “He means magic was used in some of the planning stages.” He hadn’t been talking about just the planning. He tried again. “And in the spells that—” “—like the charms you use,” Nita interrupted him again for some reason. “Over the doors.” Jerryck frowned. Was he committing some kind of social blunder in talking about the details of magic in the palace? He didn’t want to create another foreign relations mess. “Most of the lumber came from other areas of the country,” Nita said. “This area used to be mostly forest, but a lot of it was harvested when Kershet was built. These trees were left because a dryad lives at the center. Aconi Grove is named for her.” “Wise to leave the grove,” Sakila said. “Dryads do get rather violent when you try to take trees too close to theirs.” “There’s a pond in there,” Nita said. “A lot of our most famous artists have done their greatest works on its banks.” She took a breath to say more, but stopped when a page came and found them. The lad nodded acknowledgment to the princess, then turned to Jerryck. “Lord Magician, Lady Leanne requests your assistance with one of her charges in the infirmary.” “Thank you for helping me with the guest,” Jerryck said to the princess. Then left the balcony and went to the infirmary. # The reception room was lined with cots. Groaning people filled them, and all the benches that people normally used to wait were pushed up against the walls. Still more sat or lay on the floor, filling nearly all the space available. “No! No! No!” One of the medics in the room came forward, fury on his face. He pointed behind Jerryck. “Get out! We don’t have time for this chicanery. Out! Begone with you.” Jerryck glanced back. Sakila had followed him. She watched, completely nonplussed, as the medic waved his arms and shook a fist at her. Whispers rippled through the reception room, across the cots and benches, everyone staring at the shamaness. She didn’t grace them with acknowledgment. “She’s with me,” Jerryck told the medic, just as Kellos entered the reception area from the back of the room. “Shows what kind of person you are,” the medic said with a snarl. “Keeping that kind of company. Maybe this will finally open people’s eyes to how worthless you are.” “That’s enough!” Kellos came over to them. He stood in front of the medic. “You don’t talk that way about a member of the king’s core staff.” “The king should get rid of this charlatan and put you in his place.” “Go back to your quarters,” Kellos said. “I’m relieving you of duty.” “What?” “You’re obviously overworked and too tired to think straight, or you wouldn’t be spouting such nonsense. We can’t have someone in your condition attempting to triage the patients that come in. We need someone with a clearer head.” The medic stood staring at Kellos, not moving. Kellos nudged him away. “Go. Now. I’ll find someone to cover your shift.” “He brought a Chemwanee woman in our infirmary.” The medic bared his teeth, but stepped back. “We don’t need that kind of trash in here with our patients.” “She speaks Brendish,” Jerryck said. “And Terrance wants her treated like visiting nobility.” “And you shouldn’t talk like that about anyone who comes to us,” Kellos said. “If I have to tell you again to go back to your quarters, I will relieve you of your position permanently.” The medic closed his mouth and set his jaw. He stomped out, glaring back at them every few steps. Kellos said to Jerryck, “My apologies for that. Now then, is she sick? Chemwanee generally prefer their shamans for healing services.” “She’s a shamaness,” Jerryck said. “She’s not sick.” Kellos’ face darkened. He stepped closer and whispered in Jerryck’s ear. “What are you doing with a shamaness?” “Protocol,” Jerryck said. “What are her intentions? How do you know she’s not going to hurt you?” Jerryck lowered his voice to match Kellos’. “She came to help us figure out the water. And I only came here because Leanne asked for me. Where is she? And what does she need?” “She’s this way.” Kellos turned and headed into the corridor at the back. He frowned when Sakila followed a step behind Jerryck, but his voice stayed calm and measured. “One of the pregnant women is refusing to eat. Her paranoia and emotions are going to her head. She’s terrified she’ll poison her baby with whatever’s in the water. We tried showing her there’s nothing wrong with her baby, and insisted she eat. She demanded we get you.” They stopped at a room about midway up the corridor on the left. The door was open. Inside, Leanne sat by a cot bearing a woman rubbing her swollen belly. Leanne smiled at them and said to the woman, “There he is. See? I told you he would come as soon as he could.” “Took long enough,” the woman said. Farther up the corridor, one of the other medics called to Kellos. At the same time, one closer to the reception chamber beckoned him with a wave. “Excuse me,” Kellos said. He headed for the one that had called from up the corridor. The one from the reception chamber ran after him, whipping past Jerryck and Sakila as if they weren’t even there. “Are you going to help me or not?” The pregnant woman was scowling at Jerryck. “Didn’t I wait long enough just for you to come?” “Sorry that took some time,” Jerryck said. “I was in a meeting with the King. Then he asked me to see to a guest.” The woman blanched for some reason. Her belly wriggled. She absently rubbed that spot. Leanne patted her arm. “I’ll just step out and let him know what your concerns are.” Jerryck stepped back to let Leanne out, and nearly tripped over a page running up the corridor. Leanne shut the door. Jerryck said, “Kellos told me she’s afraid to eat.” “She has to eat.” Leanne kept her voice quiet. A blush crept up her neck, and she stared shamaness. “This is Sakila.” Jerryck quickly introduced the shamaness to stave off his wife’s bashfulness around strangers and nobility. “She’s not a noble. We’re just treating her like one. It’s okay, she’s not even Brendish.” “You’re silly sometimes.” Leanne smiled at him, and her blush subsided. “Anyway, my patient. She’s used to medics. Right now she’s just scared. She thought she’d hear your opinion, give you a try.” “I’m not sure what I can do,” Jerryck said, holding up his hands in puzzlement. “If she’s used to medics and she won’t believe what they tell her…” “Your water test!” Leanne pointed a finger at him. “Can you do that with her food so she can see that it doesn’t have that black part?” Sakila cocked her head. “Black part?” “I’ll show you as soon as I get a chance,” Jerryck told her. Then he said to Leanne, “I don’t have the materials here to do that. They’re all the way up in my tower.” “Didn’t you say it’s just sugar with a spell?” Leanne asked. “There’s sugar here in the infirmary. Do you need anything else beside that?” “No, I can do it with just sugar,” Jerryck said. Kellos and the waving medic came down the corridor in their direction. Jerryck pressed himself against the wall to make room for them to pass. “You think that’ll satisfy her?” Sakila also pressed against the wall and said, “If it does not satisfy, it may distract. That may be enough.” “We can try it,” Jerryck said. Leanne left to fetch the sugar. Sakila watched Kellos and the medic disappear into one of the rooms. She said, “When you are done here, can you show me this water test with a black part, somewhere with less happening?” “I can show you here,” Jerryck said. A child wailed somewhere, momentarily distracting them both. Sakila shook her head. “I have too many questions. It will take longer.” Three more people traversed the corridor before Leanne returned. After that, it was a simple matter of putting on a demonstration for the pregnant woman. Jerryck did it first with water, pointing out the black color. Then he did it with a plate of food, pointing out the lack of the black color. The woman pointed to the small amount of sugar he had magicked but hadn’t used. “Can I keep this?” Jerryck shrugged. “I guess so, if you promise to start eating again.” The woman sat up straighter. “I promise!” “You can start right now,” Leanne said. “Eat what’s on that plate.” The woman started eating, and Leanne stepped back out of the room with Jerryck. She said, “Thank you so much.” “Yes,” Jerryck said to Sakila. “Thank you.” “I was talking to you,” Leanne said, leaning in close to him. She looked at Sakila. “But he’s right. Thanks to you too. Are you going up to the tower with Jerryck?” “Is that all right with you?” Jerryck asked. “Is she not a magic practitioner?” Leanne blushed. She looked away. “I’m sorry. I assumed, because she was with you…” “She is,” Jerryck said. “But she’s a woman. So I wasn’t sure you wanted me to do that.” “I trust you,” Leanne whispered in his ear, her shy blush subsiding.

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