Chapter 12 – Unexplained Power

Seventh of Learning 1142

Maynor was in the practice yard when the page came for him, summoning him to the king’s presence. He finished giving the guard he was talking with a few words of advice on his sparring technique, then followed the page back toward the throne room.

Most people would have probably wondered what the king required of them, but Maynor was not most people. He was ready to serve in whatever way King Terrence needed him to, and wondering ahead of time would do nothing but fill his head with unwanted preconceptions. There were times for speculation and times to keep an open mind. In the absence of any information at all, the disciplined mind concentrated on the here and now.

Leata

As he approached the throne room, he passed a handful of minor nobles who were buzzing with excitement. They talked in hushed whispers as they passed, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. That was the first clue that something might be amiss. He steeled himself before he passed through the doors, only to relax as he saw the broad smiles on the faces of the king and queen.

He knelt as soon as he walked through the door, and the king bade him rise almost immediately, which he did.

“You just missed it,” said the king, barely containing his excitement. Maynor couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen the king like this. In fact, he may never have seen the king quite this energized. King Terrence was almost bouncing, as if he were an excited teenager before his transition.

“Exactly what did I miss?” asked Maynor.

“Sheba paid us a visit.”

“Sheba, as in the goddess?”

The king grinned at him. “That would be the one.”

He glanced at the queen, and she nodded. Normally he would never look to verify anything that King Terrence said, but the goddess? Here? And he missed it? He schooled his expression so he would not show his disappointment, but he thought the queen may have picked up a hint of it from the expression on her face. It was she who spoke next.

“It was a humbling experience. I wish you were here to share it with us, but that is not why you were summoned.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

“First,” she continued, “Papers have been drawn up to recognize Dahr officially as the king’s son. You’re to add him to the combat training you’ve been giving Eric, and their familiar Kalutu as well.”

“Their familiar, Your Highness?”

She nodded. “Yes. Events are afoot. We don’t know what they are but we know they’ll be dangerous. The goddess came by with specific instructions to train them. Princess Chari too, while she’s here.”

Maynor looked surprised but nodded. “It shall be as you say. I’ll start tomorrow.”

“You’ll start now,” said the king. “Whatever else you’re doing isn’t as important as what the goddess asked of us. We don’t know why, or how, but we’ll push their training as far as we can, as fast as we can. No time wasted. It won’t just be physical training either. There will be other training as well, so coordinate with Leata.”

“As you wish, Your Majesty.”

“Whatever’s coming, it’s going to change the world, Maynor.”

Maynor didn’t like the sound of that. Something dangerous that would change the world? “Should I put out more guards on patrol, Your Highness?”

The king looked thoughtful. “It might not hurt to step up security, but don’t push it so that men are exhausted by the time something happens. Until we know what we’re dealing with, let’s keep the response moderate.”

“Very good, My Liege.”

“That will be all.”

Without another word, Maynor bowed, and hurried from the throne room. World changing events? Danger? As the man directly responsible for the safety of the royal family, even a visit from the goddess didn’t hold his attention for long. She’d come to warn them and whatever was coming, they’d be ready. He not only needed to step up patrols of the palace, but he needed to get word to Captain Jericho on the wall, so Rish’s city defenses would be on alert as well.

Maynor made his way through the palace to Leata’s office. The door was closed. He knocked, waited, knocked again, then left and went downstairs to the back entrance to the kitchen. He found her there, giving orders to different servants as she moved imperiously through the room.

She was short, but you almost didn’t notice it due to the air of authority that surrounded her. There was enough gray in her once raven hair to make her look older than her forty years. Her skin by contrast was smooth, almost olive colored, a rarity in Twyl. Her brown eyes moved over everything as if she were constantly taking inventory, which Maynor suspected was not far from the truth. He waited for her to notice him, which took about half a second.

“You needed something?” Leata’s voice was deep, crisp and firm. She was a woman used to being in charge, and had little time for idle banter.

“I’m to coordinate with you on Prince Eric and Prince Dahr’s training.”

Her eyebrows raised, but only slightly. For anyone else it would have been an expression of the greatest shock. “Prince Dahr now, is it?”

“The king has made the decision to acknowledge the boy. He wants both of his sons and their familiar trained, ready for anything. This isn’t a casual request. The king wants their education expedited.”

“Oh dear,” she said. “Those poor boys. Kalutu as well? Well how about that.”

“And Princess Chari as long as she’s here.”

“Did something happen?”

“Yes,” said Maynor.

Leata blew out her breath. “You continue to be the third most annoying man in this castle.”

“Only the third? I’m not trying hard enough.”

Leata laughed. “So what happened?”

“Sheba paid a visit to the king and queen, and told them of dangerous times, and particularly of danger to the princes. His Highness wants them ready for whatever may come.”

“Sheba appeared? Here? In the palace?”

“Apparently.”

“If it’s bad enough for a goddess to sound the alarm, we need to take this seriously. You go round up the kids now. Your training is better during daylight hours. I can always get them with a mage after dark. I’ll try to get some time in between to teach them geography, history, and whatever else I can think of that might help.”

“I’ll do that. And you know, they’re not kids anymore. Try to remember that. They’ve all transitioned.”

“Yes, even Dahr. I heard about that. Strange tidings all around. You’d best get to it.”

“I was skeptical when the king named you to your post, but you’re the best Chamberlain I’ve worked with, even if you are a pain in my ass.”

If Leata was offended, she didn’t show it. “Go find the princes. Princes. I’ll have to get used to that.”

“I’ll bring them by your office after I’ve had them for a while. We have to be careful not to overdo it.”

“They’ll be fine. Remember how hard we had it when we were young.”

“I was never young.”

Maynor turned and left the room. It was going to be a long day.

*

The city of Tarlet had a chapter of the Adventurer’s Guild, but it was very small. In fact, the head of the guild in Tarlet was also the postmaster and the mayor. Her name was Wisita Roth, a retired adventurer who did just enough over the years, without ever becoming known or famous. Wisita was an expert at the politics of adventuring, rather than say fighting monsters. She managed to get herself on the right teams, and introduce herself to the right people at just the right time. Her most powerful skill, however, was to look at a problem, decide it was above her pay grade and pass it up the line, thus avoiding the blow back should things go wrong. Merck Vanderoth was such a problem.

The Misfits of Karmenon, already more well known than she had ever been (at least locally) had brought him to her attention, a Level 1 Priest of an unknown god, who apparently knew how they could solve the undead problem. It was a problem no one had ever had a solution for. However, Mr. Vanderoth’s solution involved finding a nameless noble he had seen in a vision, somewhere in the world.

Truth spells verified everything the Priest had said was true, but none of it made any sense. And the expense of sending this Priest around to different cities to look at nobles was prohibitive, particularly for her little chapter. It was time to do what she did best…find someone else to make the hard choices.

The leader of the Misfits of Karmenon was a serpent lord named Ressssen. She wondered why so many of them had esses in there name. It made them awkward to address. Still, she pronounced the name properly, having years of practice sucking up to almost all species, emphasizing the letter for just the right amount of time. This was a rare skill for a human, and most serpent lords made a note of it.

“Obviously, you need to head to the capital. We don’t have the resources here to fund a search for an unknown man from a vision. We’ll call it a contract. Ressssen, you and the Misfits of Karmenon will escort Merck Vanderoth to the capitol where you will relay what you’ve told me to the Adventurer’s Guild.”

Ressssen looked annoyed. Wisita was also one of the few humans that could read serpent lord facial expressions. “That’ssss it? You have a chance to participate in ending the greatest threat the civilized world has ever ssssseen and you’re sssssending ussss off. You’ll be covering our costssss, I assssume.”

Wisita kept the annoyance she felt off her face, for all that the request had been a reasonable one. Adventurers working at the behest of the guild were supposed to be compensated. Sending a team to do the job was more expensive than sending a single body guard, or paying a caravan to take him, but then, this team was part of the story, and the guild might have questions for them. There seemed no way around it.

“How much are we talking about?” asked Wisita.

“Three gold.”

Wisita looked like she was about to protest, then thought about how big and expensive this problem could end up getting and decided it was worth that much just to be shot of it. She quickly filled in a contract, signed it, had Ressssen sign it, paid the three gold and nodded curtly.

“You have your contract. Escort Mr. Vanderoth to the capitol, and turn him over to the Adventurer’s Guild there. Good luck.”

With that dismissal she turned away, still annoyed at having to pay a small local team, a team so far beneath her, to do a routine job. The nerve of some people.

*

Outside, after Ressssen explained the new contract to the team, Striker took her aside.

“Why only three gold? We could have gotten more.”

Ressssen nodded. “You’re right. But we’re in this for the long game. This isn’t about a couple of pieces of gold. It was nice to get back what we lost from being swindled, but imagine what will happen to our reputation if we take part in ending the undead threat. Imagine the glory. The fame. What we could charge for everything.

“Wisita Roth isn’t the end game. She wasn’t going to throw big money at us, but there are people who will. Eye on the prize, Striker. This has the potential to be our biggest contract yet. We don’t want to push too early. Let’sss look reasonable for when we get to Pelaro. The guild there will be bigger, and demandsss for compensssation are going to be taken more ssseriously, but honestly I’d like to sssee this as far as we can take it– and not just for the coin. To end the undead threat? It’s unimaginable.”

Striker nodded. She had already followed a similar train of thought herself. If there was any truth to what Merck Vanderoth was saying, and she had some doubts on that, it would be a momentous, history changing event. Striker’s interest in the matter was more than academic, but she kept it to herself. They all had secrets. This was one of hers.

The two returned to the group, who didn’t seem particularly curious about what Striker had wanted. She expected nothing less. This team always respected each other’s privacy, which worked well for her. Other teams in the past hadn’t always been as considerate. Part of this, she knew, was down to Ressssen’s leadership, and part of it down to the lack of interest of various team members. Dreek didn’t really get human interactions, and was happy to avoid the subject. Garne was more interested in beer and brawls. Borin was interested in understanding the others in the group, but as a salad, he was also polite, astute and reserved. Ressssen understood the need for privacy and never interfered in anyone’s business unless it directly affected the team. This was exactly what Striker had been looking for.

She knew that others didn’t understand her needs or behavior, but they didn’t have to. They only had to leave her alone when they were in town, which they all did. But now, they were about to go back out on a contract, and it would all change. There was no privacy on the road. No hiding anything. Out there, when it mattered, the Misfits of Karmenon was more than a team… they were a family. They protected each other, watched out for each other and cared for each other. Striker found herself smiling. She’d found the perfect fit.

Their only stop before leaving town was to provision. There was enough gold left to buy a few healing potions, dry rations, and a few other odds and ends. Striker purchased a few arrows to replace the ones she’d used but hadn’t been able to retrieve. Ressssen perused some of the spell scrolls, the few they could afford. She always did this and never bought one. Striker wondered if she were looking for something specific or if she just didn’t want to spend so much of their funds. No one would have objected if she had. Ressssen being stronger wouldn’t hurt the team, and she was always more than fair in the division of spoils, uncommonly so. If anything, Ressssen never took more than anyone else, and often took less.

They set out for Pelaro on foot, none of them owning mounts. They could have waited for a caravan, but traffic going back would have been light at that time of day, and Ressssen seemed to want to be out of the city, though Striker wasn’t sure why that would be. She was happy though. She felt her own restlessness, as if something important were happening and it couldn’t start until they reached their destination.

She chided herself for the childish reaction. Most likely, nothing would come of this. It was just another step on a very long journey that led nowhere and achieved nothing, as it should be. She smiled happily. The only thing that would have made her happier was if she’d actually managed to get laid while they were in Tarlet. She had been so close. Now she’d have to wait until Pelaro. She sighed. Well, it wouldn’t take long to get there, and at least she had something to look forward to, even if their current assignment turned out to be as much of a waste of time as she thought it would be.

*

Merck Vanderoth had been to Pelaro any number of times. In his earliest days, he would travel with a caravan as a worker, which provided food and protection but very little coin. He’d load and unload cargo, help build fires or gather wood, or even protect the caravan if there was an attack. As he plied his trade, he became able to pay for passage, but that ended when his addiction started. He had gone back to working his way from place to place as he didn’t want to waste coin on anything but sizzle.

As they walked, Merck examined the team of adventurers who walked both in front of him and behind, most likely to prevent him from running off. Several stole glances at him from time to time, particularly Ressssen and Striker, but also the male warrior. Garne? Something like that.

Merck realized he was at the mercy of people he’d recently ripped off. He had deliberately swindled them out of three gold for what were nothing more than worthless flasks of colored water. He thought about it for a long time.

Adventurers might depend on healing potions when the situation turned dire. If the only potions they had were his, someone could have died. They were lucky that they had tried one before leaving town. Maybe it wasn’t luck, but rather a deliberate precaution. It hadn’t occurred to him, because all he’d cared about was sizzle. It was the best and worst thing that had ever happened to him.

He had felt Tharin pulling away, he just didn’t care. He didn’t need a god, what he needed was a high. And the more he used, the less use he had for some distant being, no matter how powerful. He hadn’t been leveling, yet somehow managed to get by on the skills he already had and sheer bravado.

Except now, looking back, it seemed like the chances he’d been taking had been desperate chances. Insane chances. That they’d worked out for so long was nothing more than luck. So perhaps, it was understandable that his god had forsaken him, but who would then take him? He was a Priest, but of who? Which god or goddess had taken pity on him and claimed him as their own? He had no idea.

But he did know one thing. He had gotten lucky. Lucky that it had happened, or he’d be imprisoned after the adventurers he’d swindled had beaten him. He couldn’t repay their money because he’d spent it almost as soon as he’d gotten it. So they’d have taken it out of his hide. And he’d have deserved it. Whoever his new god was, Merck owed him or her a debt. Not only did he save Merck from a terrible beating and probably jail, but he no longer felt the need for sizzle. The cravings had been a constant companion and now they were gone. He could start over. But as a Priest?

Merck had been born in Final Hope, and there were a lot of things he’d learned growing up there as a boy. Faith was not one of those things. He’d been born to an alcoholic father, who abused his mother to the point where she was so cowed she barely existed at all, except as an extension of his father’s will. It had been painful to watch growing up, but Merck had not been strong enough or brave enough to stand up to his father. He had watched his mother go from the young loving woman who’d borne him to a shadow, no more or less tangible than the one they called Dreek. Distant, aloof, emotionless. She hadn’t left, but she hadn’t been there either. And Merck couldn’t take it, couldn’t watch it anymore, couldn’t save her, so he had fled.

On the streets, there wasn’t much to do but steal to survive, which he supposed was how Tharin had found him in the first place, and why Merck had become one of the god-touched. It didn’t happen often. It was meant to be an honor, and he felt honored. Tharin had given him a class and skills. Tharin had given him a fighting chance to survive. Merck was thankful for that, genuinely thankful. Tharin, the God of Thieves had probably saved his life. And then sizzle came along and tried to steal it.

Sizzle was like a hill that kept getting higher every time you tried to climb it. It felt like you were on the verge of something momentous. Something world-shaking. Something that made you special. It put you above others. Made you smarter, or at least feel smarter. Made you braver. He had needed that. He still needed that, but now he’d have to get his bravery from elsewhere. He’d never go back to that drug.

And so, when he was at the lowest point in his life, another being, a nameless god had touched him and given him hope. Had cured him of his addiction. Had allowed him another chance. Merck Vanderoth may have been many things, but he wasn’t a fool. Given another chance, he would take it. And he’d start with the simple goal of fulfilling the will of his god, but he had his own personal goal as well. Somehow he’d find a way to compensate the Misfits of Karmenon. He had been a victim, but they were victims too. Victims of Merck himself. He felt that in order to move forward, he had to make that right.

Not for them or for his new god, whoever it was, but for himself. If he was going to get another chance, he had to start thinking differently. It all started here and now.

He regarded the two humans, the salad, and the serpent lord. The phase shifter was nowhere to be seen, probably up ahead scouting. As he watched them, Merck made a silent promise.

I’ll make it up to all of you. You won’t be worse off for having met me.

They didn’t hear him, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t doing it for them. It was the first step toward Merck’s rehabilitation.

*

Prince Eric was exhausted, but a glance at Chari and Dahr showed that they were in worse shape then he was. Dahr could barely walk he was so sore. Maynor had driven them hard, particularly on defense, and though Chari had had lessons, apparently a fair number of them, Dahr was starting from scratch. Strangely Kalutu, who walked behind them, seemed unaffected by the pace of the day’s training. Unfortunately, it wasn’t over yet.

Chari glanced at Eric and smiled wearily as they followed Maynor through the palace. Eric returned the smile. He knew they were heading towards Leata’s office. Eric liked Leata well enough, but he was pretty sure Dahr was scared of her, having spent time in the kitchen before he became Eric’s personal servant. After all, Leata was in charge of running the palace and that included the kitchen. She kept the servants on a short leash, attempting to maintain order and efficiency. Leata didn’t like complications.

The train of thought led him back to when he had first met Dahr. Eric knew that befriending a servant wasn’t something that most nobility would consider, which was one of the things Eric hated about nobility. They didn’t see servants as people, and that was wrong. Even servants played into this, seeing themselves as somehow less than the lords and ladies at court. Eric hoped when he was king, should that day ever come, that his servants wouldn’t feel that way about him or themselves.

It was the same with choosing your god. Eric was royalty and so he, and other nobles and rich people, got to choose the gods they served, or at least the gods they wanted to serve. Not everyone passed the trials during their transitions and sometimes people had to take second or third pick after trying for the god of their choice. Rarely, a noble might not get a class at all, having been rejected by all the gods. Classless nobles were called grasslings– they existed at the bottom of the food chain.

All of this meant that royalty and nobles tended to get classes while more common folk tended not to, which was also unfair. It was true commoners were sometimes singled out by the gods to serve, but it was a rarity. Even the most undeserving noble might end up with a class, but a diligent, honest, hard-working commoner was likely to never get one. Eric didn’t know how to change the system, but he had serious doubts about its equity.

So he was thinking when they reached the open door of the chamberlain’s office. The office was too small for all of them, so they moved to a nearby salon decorated in a tasteful sky blue with sofas, plush chairs and small tables for snacks and drinks. While they sat, Leata summoned a servant and asked for tea and some fresh baked bread rolls with jam. At the thought of something to eat, Eric’s eyes lit up, and it seemed that even Dahr managed to perk up a bit.

Then it was lesson time.

“There’s a lot of history to talk about, so I want to get into it,” said Leata. “Can anyone tell me who Twyl’s strongest ally is?”

“Andara”, said Eric with certainty.

“That’s correct. The ruling family of Twyl is of Andaran descent. It’s our ancestry, but it is not what we have become.”

“Isn’t Andara mostly primitive?” asked Chari.

Leata chuckled good-naturedly. “I suspect that’s what you’ve been taught, but it’s not quite how it is. Andara, it’s true, is largely populated by nomadic peoples, with fewer, smaller permanent settlements, but that doesn’t make a people primitive. It’s just that Andarans don’t farm, and as a result, they don’t need to stay in one place. They follow the herds which gives them their food.”

“But why not plant food and settle down? Why live a life of wandering?” asked Chari.

“Because it’s the life they know and presumably love. There are advantages to settling down, but there are disadvantages too. If a blight occurs, or a bad winter, or too much rain, or not enough rain, what happens to your crop?”

“It fails?” asked Chari.

Leata nodded. “Yes. It fails. And when your crop fails, you now have large groups of people all depending upon a crop. People that need that nourishment. People that will starve without it, particularly if they don’t have enough saved to last them the winter. That population can’t just easily move to another place and plant again, it takes too long for crops to grow.

“But nomadic hunter societies can move about and go where the game is, because they don’t have permanent structures, they tend to have more dispersed populations and they aren’t depending on a single food source to be viable. If you can’t hunt, you can fish. If you can’t fish, you can gather. It’s a viable strategy.”

Chari wasn’t to be dissuaded from her argument. “But we can fish and hunt too. So why is it better to wander around the countryside than settle down?”

“Because when you farm, the population centers are larger, and when you hunt around a densely populated area, you need to bring in far more game to feed more people. Those areas would quickly become over-hunted. Over-fished too. There’d be less and less fish during the drought or blight. People would have to divide food further. Some would get sick and die. It’s not that such disasters can’t be survived. The rich and the nobility will buy their food, even if they have to source that food from far away. They’re not going to starve. It’s the common folk, the poor, the workers who’ll starve.”

Chari was about to answer, clearly wanting to win the argument, but instead she stopped and thought about what Leata was saying.

“What about rich people in Andara? Can’t they just buy food?”

“There aren’t any rich people in Andara, at least not the way you think of rich people. Tribes share what they have. Very little is individually owned. Remember, they don’t even own the land they’re hunting on.”

Chari thought about this, rolling the idea around in her head. “So what if someone claims that land, and builds a castle on it and starts defending it?”

“Then the tribes would get together and take them down, because at the end of the day, they see that lifestyle is less than their own. You see them as primitives, but they see you in much the same way. Fighting over land and borders and boundaries that don’t even exist except as lines on paper. Petty squabbles that lead to conflicts, even wars. Not that there isn’t conflict in Andara, but it’s seldom settled through combat.”

“If you like it so much, why are you living in a castle?” asked Chari.

Eric placed a hand over his face and shook his head.

Dahr laughed. “I thought it was a good question.”

“I’m living in a castle because that’s where my king lives. The reason he lives here is because a long time ago, the king who lived in this castle decided he wanted to build a castle in Andara and claim that land for himself. The tribes of Andara marched on the Kingdom of Lethe and, against everyone’s predictions, at least every Lethian prediction, the Andaran’s won. They left a ruler here a hundred years ago, renamed the kingdom to Twyl, and that family, Eric and Dahr’s family, have ruled here ever since. Pretty good for a few primitives.”

Chari didn’t say anything for a long time. Eric could see her trying desperately to come up with something to save face, but to do so, would mean insulting the lineage of her hosts. Eric came to her rescue.

“You know, while it’s true that the Andarans won the war, we learned a lot from the Lethians as well.”

He was about to say more, when Leata cut him off.

“Indeed we did. Every country has something they can share. Something we can learn from. It’s an important lesson. Lethe learned from Andara, Andara learned from Lethe.”

“What could we learn from Xarinos, do you think?” asked Dahr, fascinated.

Leata looked at him, opened her mouth to speak, closed it, and finally shrugged. “I don’t know. The Undead King runs a large kingdom, but it seems to me their problems are very different from our problems. For example, undead don’t have to eat, which is why drought and famine wouldn’t affect them.”

“If they don’t have to eat, why are there undead farmers?”

“Who told you that?” asked Leata, genuinely curious.

Dahr looked almost panicked for a second. Then he schooled his expression and replied. “Never mind. It was just something I heard. I’m sorry for interrupting.”

Leata gave him a long, considered stare, but Dahr just looked back at her blinking innocently. Eric knew that there was more Dahr wasn’t saying and was pretty sure Leata knew it too, but he knew there was no chance of getting that information out of Dahr short of torturing him. He had to remember to ask Dahr about it when no one else was around.

“Dahr, the Plains of Xarinos are a desolate wasteland. Nothing grows there. Nothing can grow there. There would be no farmers, because there’s not enough water. The soil is barren like it’s been cursed.”

Dahr looked thoughtful. “How would anyone know that if we can’t go there?”

Leata opened her mouth to answer, and closed it. “I never thought to ask, but surely some people have infiltrated the kingdom and brought out reports. Maybe even the Fellowship could have gotten information out of Xarinos.

Dahr leaned forward. “The Fellowship? Can you tell us about them?”

Leata shook her head. “I don’t know enough about them to trust the information I have. They’ve isolated themselves from the rest of the world for a reason.”

“But sometimes, some of them go out into the world, right? Have you ever met one?” asked Dahr.

Leata shook her head. “No. And I think we should get back to it. We have a lot to cover.”

The lesson continued for a while, covering Karmenon, Final Hope and Melar. Chari was happy to chime in here and add detail to what Leata was saying. It was clear she was proud of her kingdom. That made Eric happy.

The discussion on Melar, however, was cut short by Lord Ormund’s appearance. It was time to learn about magic.

*

The three young royals were exhausted, but Kalutu felt fine. He wasn’t even sure he could get tired, though he had no idea why.

Lord Ormund had brought them to a room that might have been a meeting room of some kind, and though fairly small, it was well appointed. A finely woven rug sat beneath the central table, and mosaics on each wall depicted different magical elemental symbols; flame red tiles for fire, a rich cerulean blue for water, a lighter sky blue for air and a deep woody brown for earth.

The five of them sat around a large circular table on fairly comfortable seats. Kalutu felt odd sitting with everyone else instead of standing, but Lord Ormund had insisted.

“Since some of you have never been exposed to magic before, I’ll start with a bit of a demonstration.”

Lord Ormund pointed a finger, whispered a brief incantation and colorful sparks shot out. The young royals were all impressed, but Kalutu wasn’t. The spell didn’t seem very useful and wasted what little time they had.

“Every spell is the same, no matter who’s casting it,” said Lord Ormund. “In other words, they all follow the same format. There are three sections to each casting. The first section is called Protu, which in the old speech means power. It sets the power at which the spell is cast. In some ways, it’s the most important section of the spell. We call sections syllables. So the first syllable of any given spell sets the limit of the power. Can anyone tell me why that’s important?”

Everyone was surprised when Dahr spoke up. “It’s so that you can’t use too much power and blow yourself up.”

Lord Ormund smiled at him. “Excellent. That’s correct. Limiting the power of the spell allows you to cast it safely. How did you know that, Dahr?”

“I just thought it was obvious.”

Lord Ormund looked at him thoughtfully. “Very well. Does anyone know what the second syllable of each spell is called.”

“Segra,” said Eric, confidently.

“Good! And what does Segra control?”

Eric continued as he’d previously learned some of the basics. “Segra opens the door to some other plane of existence. It defines the size and shape of the door.”

“Perfect. Well done, my prince. So the third syllable then…”

“Sets the parameters for the rest of the spell,” Dahr blurted out. Everyone turned to look at him.

“How do you know that?” asked Lord Ormund. “And don’t tell me it’s obvious.”

Dahr looked embarrassed. “I don’t know how I know. But I think that the rest of the spell defines what it is. There’s power, then definition and form.”

Lord Ormund’s eyes widened. “How do you know those terms? I haven’t even started teaching that to Eric. Tell me, at once!”

“I really don’t know. It’s just…I don’t know.”

Lord Ormund stared at Dahr disbelievingly.

“I really don’t. Why would I lie?”

“Hmmm, okay. We can talk about it later. Let’s continue. In order to cast a spell, with a few notable exceptions, you have to use the proper words in Aldevarian, the old speech, to open the door to another dimension. When I caused sparks to fly from my fingers, I cast a spell, saying words in the old speech that defined the power, the place the energy would come from and set the parameters of the spell so it behaved the way I wanted it to.”

Dahr held out his finger and stared at it. Sparks emerged, much the same as they had from Lord Ormund, except that when he pointed his finger higher, the sparks began to form into the shapes of various animals– birds of prey, lizards, spiders, snakes, even a dragon, mythical though they were. So many shapes, in every color of the rainbow, glowing, pulsating with energy, leaving behind trails of colored smoke as they ascended toward the ceiling.

“How are you doing that?” asked Lord Ormund, a note of irritation in his voice that hadn’t been there before.

“I’m copying what you did.”

“I didn’t do…that! And you didn’t cast a spell. You didn’t say anything.”

Dahr shrugged. “You can cast spells without using a vocal component. You just said so.”

Lord Ormund looked flabbergasted. “No. I said that under certain circumstances it can be done. I can’t do it myself. You shouldn’t be able to cast it at all.”

The sparks coming from Dahr’s finger formed an antelope of some kind. A moment later a wolf appeared on its heels. The wolf chased down the antelope, leapt on it, sinking its teeth into the flesh of its neck. They both broke apart into a fine mist and vanished.”

“No one can do that!”

Eric looked both impressed and amused. “Are you sure?”

Chari goggled at the display. “Dahr, this is amazing!”

As suddenly as it started, the sparks faded. Dahr looked around at the rest of them. “Why are you all staring at me?”

Kalutu finally spoke. “Do you not remember what you just did?”

Dahr shook his head. “I was listening to Lord Ormund explain magic, and I think I might have dozed off. I’m sorry, Lord Ormund. I’m very tired.”

They all stared at him, but none harder than Lord Ormund.

“I think that might be enough for today. Let’s get you all to bed.”

No one said anything on the way back to their respective quarters, but Kalutu kept a very close eye on Dahr. If Dahr hadn’t been the one to cast that spell, who had?

 

The Book of Lost Wisdom will continue with Chapter 13 – Memories of Battle, coming soon.

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