Sunday, 12 June 2011
#SampleSunday – 12th June 2011
I would have to cast the spell. I had no idea what it did. But that didn't matter. If it was good, I would take advantage of it. If bad I would just change the spell form randomly on the second casting and see what happened.
I didn't say it was a great plan. Anything could happen with an untried spell form. It is what makes research such a dangerous and solitary practice. All habitual spell researchers kill themselves. It's just a matter of time. Sometimes they learn something useful first. Sometimes they remember to teach someone else what it is that they have learned.
I was. I had drank a couple of beers for breakfast. I'd even eaten something, though it was a chore and my stomach felt like a lead balloon afterwards.
“Good,” Larner oozed, “Glad to hear it This afternoon, you will begin teaching. I'll come and fetch you.”
I nodded acceptance. I had a plan. Everything would be fine. Or not. But it would be something other than this, and anything that wasn't this was good.
“You will see that the master is fair and just, Sumto. You won't regret serving him.”
I nodded easily and sipped my beer. The snuffling and growling of the dogs had faded slightly. “I don't.”
He nodded happily, headed for the door and opened it. On an impulse I asked him who I would be teaching.
He turned back, holding the door open. “Kukran Epthel, of course. There is no one else here who needs to learn.”
“But there are others?”
“Do you think he would be alone? Do you think his wisdom would have gone unnoticed? Of course there are others. He is one of many. Though few have attained immortality. That learning is a rare privileged, rarely earned. There are a handful of others. He is not the oldest, but he is the best. Not the greatest, but the wisest. Anything else? Should I stay?” His voice had become animated, his eyes bright.
I shook my head. No, I don't want you to stay. Go away Larner. Just go away.
He did and I spent a few brief moments thinking over what he had said. One of many. Not the oldest, not the strongest. And there were more, not like him, not walking corpses, but more Necromancers. Many more, by implication.
I turned away from the door just in time to see Sapphire drop to the balcony with a muffled thump, tuck into a roll and come to his feet inside the room, eyes alert, body taut and ready to move. He looked better than the last time I had seen him. No blood, no bleeding. The bruising on his face had subsided somewhat, his eyes were more widely opened, I noticed as the cold blue of them focused on me.
“Dammit you made me jump,” I hissed.
He smiled. “Sorry. Are you here?”
“Of course I'm here, are you blind?”
“Yes,” Dubaku said from just behind me.
I spun like a top. “What the hell... will you stop doing that both of you? Is there anyone else here?”
Sapphire snorted as he came by me. “Do you have it?”
“Yes.” Dubaku held out a shortsword, sheathed.
“Good.” Sapphire took it and tucked it into his belt. “This'll help.”
“What are you both doing here? And how did you get in?”
Dubaku shrugged his thin shoulders. “My ancestors helped me. And so did you; I couldn't get through the door the first three times but this time he stood and talked for a while. It helped. This is for you.”
I took the silver ring he held out to me. “What is it?”
“Put it on.”
I hesitated, pointed at the shortsword. “And what was that?”
“Mine,” Sapphire said succinctly.
I let it go. Doubtless Dubaku had stolen it, or reacquired it more accurately.
“How did you know Dubaku would be here?”
“Jocasta sends vivid dreams. We fixed the time last night. If that works you are leaving now. I'll make a diversion.”
“How have you managed to stay free so long? How many have you killed?”
“Twenty-three,” he grinned. “And I am way way better than them at this. Better training. More practice. They're just barbarians. Nothing. You slip behind them and they think you have disappeared. Superstitious fools. If I am not under their noses it's like I don't exist.'”
It was the longest speech I'd ever heard him make. “Could you teach me?”
“Are you five years old?”
“Training starts at five. No exceptions,” he grinned.
“You are enjoying this,” I accused him even as I admired him.
“Absolutely. Try the ring. Time to go.”
He shrugged. “Ruins the plan to get you out if you don't leave.”
“They are taking me to Kukran Epthel this afternoon. I'm going to kill him.”
“I like your plan better. How?”
“I have a knife for that, for the rest I'm making it up as I go.”
His snort of humor was tinged with approval. “Spontaneity. Confound the opposition with unexpected actions. Good. But we are allies. Tell us what you have in mind.”
“They want me to teach him. I'll try for as large a stone as I can get. I am planning to start with the spell Jocasta showed me, it may be enough, if not I will generate a random spell form and see what happens.”
He shrugged, glanced at Dubaku. “Do you know what he means?”
Dubaku nodded. “I've been learning about spell forms. A random form can have any effect, just as you might expect. Any effect at all. It is very dangerous thing to do.”
“Hmm. Risky. But if we all move at once it might work.” He shrugged. “Or not.”
“Keep Jocasta out of it.”
“I mean it. Look, if this goes sour then I don't want her in his hands. She has too much knowledge and too much stone to risk him controlling her.” It was a blatant rationalization and I suspected they both knew it. Sapphire's next words confirmed it.
“If necessary I'll kill her to keep those weapons out of his hands,” he said, far too casually.
“I was joking. But listen, we would have a better chance with her. Think about it. I'll be around.” He nodded to Dubaku and headed back out the window. He gripped the balcony, pulled himself over and disappeared from sight. I listened for a moment, heard a shout, and then others as he was spotted and the chase was on again. I shook my head in wonder. Twenty-three. Not for the first time I wondered where my father had found him, and where he was from. Training begins at five, he had said, training to be an assassin? Where did they train assassins from age five? And what did they begin to teach them at that age?
“This is rash,” Dubaku said.
“Yes, but I am going to do it anyway.”
“A knife won't kill him.”
“I know. It was a joke. For Sapphire. I have another idea for that. I plan to set him on fire. I figure he is dry and will burn pretty good.”
“He will be guarded.”
“I know. I'll assess it when I see him.”
“We are not idle, Sumto. Things are happening. Sapphire is not alone in addressing the numbers of the enemy.”
“What are you doing?”
“Raising the populous. The army is gone. There is only a small garrison here. It might be wiser to wait.”
I shook my head. “I won't wait. I know my own limits. If I obey him it will get to be a habit. I think that is what happens to all of them, regardless of how he makes them obey him the first time. I've been thinking about it. Pretending to be him. Working out what he thinks, how he thinks, what it would be like to be dead and yet alive, how he would 'feel' and what would amuse him. I think all the torture and trickery just amuses him and the secret is that he has a spell that reinforces obedience. He will order me to show him a spell today, not ask me. I know it.”
Dubaku was silent. “And if you obey once, will it be enough for him to own you?”
“I won't obey, I'll push power into an unknown spell form, knowing that whatever happens cannot yet be called a spell by any sane being. I won't cast a spell, I'll unleash chaos.”
After a moment he nodded. “Shankara.”
A faint luminescence grew into the form of a tall woman who stood behind him and wrapped him in her arms, fading into nothing as she did so, and taking him with her.
After a moment I stirred back to life and went to the door. I waited to be sure he was ready and then opened it.
The guards became instantly alert. “What do you want?”
The door had not been locked once since I was put in the room. I hadn't found it odd at the time but why take the chance, I wondered? Part of a game? Or were they so sure that I could not get out? Over-confidence. They had been overconfident with Sapphire and that had cost them twenty-three men so far.
“What? Oh, food. I'm famished.”
“And some more beer, eh?” The other piped up.
“Yes. More beer. Good idea.”
“Shut the door. We'll see if it is possible.”
I nodded. “Right. Good.”