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  • Rebekah Olson

Spell Caster Chapter 7

Sakila followed Jerryck back down the corridor. They passed by Kellos again, who frowned once more at the shamaness. Then out in the reception chamber, the replacement medic there scowled at her too. A couple of people reached out to Jerryck as he wended his way through the rows of cots. They stopped when they saw her following him. Inside the palace proper, more people stopped him in the corridors. Most of them asked for advice on caring for family members or friends with symptoms too mild to send them to the infirmary. They all eyed the shamaness with suspicion. When he led her to his tower and shut the door behind him, he leaned against it and breathed a sigh of relief before climbing the four flights of stairs to his workroom. He offered Sakila one of his three pine stools. She sat at the worktable and asked, “So what is this water test you do with a black part?” He took out the sugar he used on the daily test and put in front of her. He didn’t have any of the tainted water on hand. He should have thought of that on his way to the tower. Too many distractions. He glanced around his workroom for a little something that would work for a demonstration. Sakila stared hard at the sugar on the table. “What magic is linked to the sugar? And why? If the sugar melts, will that not leave one side of the link open?” “Yes,” Jerryck said. How had she figured that out so quickly? There was no flair in her aura, so she hadn’t used magic. Was she more sensitive than he? So much so that she could actually feel out the magic on the sugar? Just how powerful was she? She looked up at him expectantly. “What does it do?” “It makes magic glow you can see its colors.” “You cannot see magic’s colors by adjusting your sight? Like when you see a person’s aura?” “That’s different.” Jerryck sat on another stool opposite the table from her. “Why?” She leaned her elbows on the table, one on each side of the sugar. “A spell is just a piece of the aura of the one who cast it. Why is it different?” He shook his head. “Magic has its own aura.” “It looks that way because the color is usually different from the strongest color of the caster. It does not have its own aura. If you read the waves, you read the mark of the caster.” “Waves?” Jerryck gave her confused look. “I’ve never heard that term in reference to magic.” “Perhaps I have the wrong word.” She tapped a finger on the table momentarily, like some people did while they were thinking. Then she said, “When water shakes, it gets waves on its top. Perhaps shaking is the right word. What do you call it when something shakes so much that it seems to buzz, like the hum of the bee?” “Vibration?” “Yes, vibration, that is the word. Vibration makes waves. And all energy is vibration.” “Huh?” “All energy is vibration. Magic is energy. So it vibrates. Vibration makes waves. And no two waves are the same. Every spell you cast will match the wave for your aura.” “You’re talking about signatures.” Jerryck leaned forward, drinking in the new angle of thinking. “I know about signatures. I’ve just never heard them described like that.” She smiled. “How many shamans have you spoken with?” “You’re the first.” “We do use magic,” she said. “Though we prefer to study it. This has led us to use it differently than you magicians.” Jerryck frowned. “That doesn’t make sense. The more you study it, the more that should lead you to doing it the way we do.” “Why?” “The more you study, the more you understand how dangerous magic can be. We follow specific safety rules because the more complex and difficult the spell, the more dangerous it is.” As soon as he said it, he realized he was feeding her the teachings the Gathering of Seats put out. Perhaps he was more influenced by them than he thought. “Not if you study enough to know what you are dealing with, how to avoid the dangers, and how to avoid what you are weak with.” “Magicians have tried doing it that way in the past. They ended up dead.” “Is that what you’re Gathering told you?” “Yes.” The word left a bitter taste in his mouth. His mentor had expressed no love for the Gathering, and he had instilled that disdain on Jerryck during his apprenticeship. It felt wrong to admit that he was spouting off their claims without even thinking about it. “And these magicians who ended up dead,” Sakila said. “Where they studying shamanism?” “Of course not.” Her smile turned a bit smug. “That is why they ran into danger. Studying magic the way we do makes us more careful. We learn exactly what the dangers are so we can avoid them, instead of following silly rules imagined up by other people that keep us blind to the real problems we face.” “Is that what you think the Gathering is good for?” He half smiled with bemusement. “Keeping magicians blind?” “They keep people from even looking.” Her smile disappeared. “No one can tell if they would be good at anything other than spellcasting, like you magicians.” Jerryck leaned forward again. “Do you look for any abilities beside shamanism?” “Of course,” she said. “And when we find someone so gifted they cannot stop themselves from using magic, we send them where they can learn. A boy from my village went to study with a summoner in Ahnjwat almost 10 years ago. My chosen brother, before he died, knew of a young set of twins, a boy and girl, who always received anything they put effort into praying for. So he sent them far to the east, to study with a priest.” Jerryck rested both his elbows on his sturdy worktable. “How would you tell if someone is able to do shamanism?” “I give a little test,” she said. “Then I can tell if they have the ability, and they can see if they actually want to study more.” “What’s your test?” “I have never heard of a magician asking this many questions.” She sat a little straighter, looking rather pleased. “I thought none of you would even speak with me at all.” “Don’t tell anyone,” Jerryck said, smiling sheepishly. “With the history of past conflicts between shamans and the Gathering of Seats, none of us are supposed to talk to any of you.” “I will tell no one. Would you like me to give you the test? Just for fun?” He sat up, spine straight, shoulders back. “Absolutely!” “I normally use tea—” she looked around the shelves in the work room— “but since the water is bad, do you have something else here that uses every element?” “I have some clean water.” Jerryck got up and snagged his teapot. “One of the privileges of being on the king’s core staff.” He poured two cupfuls and magically heated them. He added the tea, and set them on the table to steep. Sakila held her palm just over the lip of the cup nearest to her, the steam from the water curling around her hand. “Can you feel an aura without casting a spell?” He opened his mouth tell her no, but hesitated. That was what he would tell other magicians. She wasn’t a follower of the Gathering. She certainly wouldn’t report his answer to them. He said, “I think… Sometimes? I’ve never done it on purpose.” “You have never felt your own aura on purpose?” He shrugged. “With magic, lots of times.” “Can you clear your mind?” “I do every time I prepare to cast a difficult spell,” he said. “When you do that, do you feel energy around your body like a cloud?” “Yes.” That was another thing he would never admit to other magicians. His mentor had advised him to keep that information to himself. Very strongly advised. “That is your aura,” Sakila said. “Clear your mind until you feel that.” Jerryck did so. He had practiced, and done it so much throughout his career, it took him very little time. He was just about to tell her he was ready, when she pushed his teacup closer to him and said, “Now, put your hands just over this, and feel its aura combined with yours.” Jerryck placed his hand over the cup without touching it, just as she had. Steam from the hot tea warmed his palm. The sensation of his aura now came in contact with a foreign energy. Everything about it was alien. He began to withdraw. “Wait.” She pushed her own hands near his, and again he came in contact with a foreign aura. This one, a little less alien. She said, “The aura of a live being is always moving, like fire. No two flames are the same. Each one dances around, never making the same move two times. That is the nature of your aura.” She placed her hand just above her cup again. “The aura of a thing not alive is like rock. It moves only when something makes it move. That is the nature of the aura of the cup.” Jerryck put his hand back over his cup. Comparing it to rock made the sensation easier to tolerate. The aura of the cup lay about its surface like sediment on the bottom of a pond. The outer edges were so light, he could barely perceive them. Further in, it became dense, pressing its weight against his hand. Then a different aura inside the bowl of the cup caught his attention. “Liquid,” he said. This aura had a smooth, definite surface. “Is the aura of any liquid like water?” “Water moves by how it is held,” Sakila said. “Sometimes it is still. Sometimes it moves gently. Sometimes it moves with great strength.” Another aura brushed against his, the way a gentle breeze would whisper on his skin. “There’s something else in this. It feels like air.” “The tea herbs, plants, are like air. It can be still. It likes to move. Sometimes it moves in a pattern, like wind in a cave. Sometimes it moves with no pattern, like wind in a storm. Sometimes the movements are soft. Sometimes they are strong.” The concept was so simple. This was like seeing without using his eyes. If he got really good at this, he could probably move around in complete darkness and not bump into a single thing. He closed his eyes and stretched out his aura. The aura of the worktable lay still about it, solid and stable, unless something moved nearby. Then it swirled and eddied like dry leaves in the wind, only to settle back down like sand rolling down the mound in the bottom of an hourglass, leaving little trails that were like the grains of wood, putting it back into the same stable, reliable form it had been in before. On the opposite side of the worktable from him, Sakila’s aura radiated out, licking at everything around her. He expanded some more. His aura swept across the floor. Crept up the walls. Flowed around his bookcases, cupboards, and shelves. The paper and the leather of the books, scrawled with dried ink, their aura lay about each one with a definite surface, but swirled inside itself like wind in a bottle. Every once in a while, a tiny particle would burst out, the way a fire would throw off sparks when hit with a blast from a bellows. The jars on the shelves varied. Some of them were glass. Most of them were fired clay. All of them had an aura like rock. Their contents varied. Some mimicked their containers, still as rock. Others stirred in response to the touch of his aura, as if he opened a long forgotten closet and disturbed the air in there. If they responded this way just to his touch, could he manipulate, or make use of them this way too? He gave a little push of energy, just to test. “Jerryck?” Sakila’s voice had a hint of trepidation, a hint of warning. The dried herbs and powders swirled inside their containers. The jars vibrated and rattled. The shelves cracked along the wood grains, splintering. Raw magic burst out of him without warning. The window glass flowed out of the panes and piled up on the floor as sand. Books fell. The cupboards creaked, leaning crooked. Their doors opened and disgorged some of the items stored within. The jars imploded, disintegrating into dust. Their contents exploded, flying all over the room. Sakila slapped her hands on Jerryck’s temples. “Be calm!” Placating energy flowed from her, into him. It soothed all the raw magic, calming, giving him enough pause to get hold of it again. He drew in a ragged breath. The room shuddered one last time, and the magic dissipated. Exhaustion crashed over him. His eyes rolled up, even as he fought to remain conscious, terrified of the void that always loomed when he passed out this way. Sakila’s magic continued to flow. Now it invigorated just enough. Remaining awake became less of a struggle. He took deep, even breaths, stabilizing further, until the danger of fainting faded away. She removed her hands. The magic flow from her ebbed to a trickle and tapered off. On his own again, his weariness weighed down. He would need food and sleep. And even still, it would take him a couple of days before he got completely back to normal. “I am so sorry,” Sakila said. “I did not expect that. I have never seen anyone do that before.” “It’s not your fault,” Jerryck said. “I know better. I can’t play around too much or accidents happen. Please, I beg you, don’t tell anyone of this either. If the Gathering ever found out about this weakness of mine…” “Weakness!” She surged to her feet with the biggest grin she’d worn yet. She made a fist and flexed her arm muscles. “This was strength! You would make a wonderful Shaman. You would just have to learn to control.”

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