Sesskia’s Diary, part 46

6 Lennitay

I’m every bit as tired tonight as I was last night, though this time it’s because I spent half my day being ordered around by Vorantor, who’s not very good at not sounding like he’s ordering you around, and I resent him because I don’t like him, so I feel like I’m being bossed. The other half I spent performing like a trained seal for the God-Empress, who remains endlessly fascinated by my pouvrin and has no concept of how wearying they can become over time. This happened in the official throne room, which was even gaudier and more ornate than I’d imagined snooping around in it last night; the lamps that hang above are made of crystals that send sparkling light over everything, and she has mages to refresh them constantly because the th’an that power them run out quickly. She showed no sign of insanity and was pleasant and friendly, even informal, as if I were her younger cousin (I think I am younger; closer observation puts her age nearer forty than thirty, and let me just say that I hope I age that well, though if I have to become mad to get that wish, never mind) visiting from a strange land. Some of my tiredness is probably due to how tense I was the whole time, worried that I’d say something wrong or respond too slowly to a demand, but this time, at least, my manners were acceptable.

This was also the first time I’d seen mages other than Vorantor’s and the Darssan mages. It hadn’t occurred to me that there would be others, or that they would use magic for practical things. But I suppose the th’an on the collennas have to come from somewhere, and someone has to teach the masters how to draw them. And the God-Empress has to have an army to keep her empire intact, and since I know there are offensive and defensive kathanas, there must be mages attached to the army as well. I wonder how many mages there are in the Castaviran Empire. I wonder what the countries outside the empire are like. There are so many things I want to know, and no time to learn them all.

Speaking of wanting to know things, I caught Cederic early this morning (I doubt I’ve had more than three hours of sleep, so no exploring tonight) and told him what I’d heard. He didn’t even look a little surprised, though he did look sad, and he wouldn’t explain what the conversation meant even though he clearly understood it. He did tell me that based on my description, the stranger was probably Perce Aselfos, the God-Empress’s chief spy, and that he wouldn’t want to guess why Vorantor and Aselfos were meeting secretly, but I think he did have a guess that he didn’t want to share with me until he was certain.

On my other questions: Kilios is a title (thank you, Cederic, I figured that one out on my own) that identifies a mage who has mastered all known th’an and can perform all of a certain type of kathana without assistance. Cederic is the only living Kilios and has held that title for almost four years. (He sounded a little embarrassed at having to tell me this. He’s reluctant to talk about himself if it sounds at all like bragging.) It conveys all sorts of privileges, most of which Cederic doesn’t take advantage of, including one that says he takes precedence over every mage and Sai in Castavir, which is the reason for that odd ceremony I witnessed yesterday. Despite being “most high priest,” Vorantor has no authority over Cederic, wouldn’t have unless he were still Wrelan of the Darssan, but as the one with the most experience at preparing the kathana we’re here to do, he has to be in command. Ugh. So Cederic had to cede part of his rights, and Vorantor had to swear not to usurp any more of those rights than Cederic had given up. This all explains why Cederic was allowed to stay at the Darssan when the God-Empress put her support behind Vorantor’s theory; even the God-Empress can’t force the Kilios in matters magical, at least if she’s sane. I’m guessing Cederic has been using the distance between Colosse and the Darssan to keep well out of the God-Empress’s notice, because (as we learned) she only abides by this rule when she feels like it.

To my surprise, Cederic was telling the truth about the eye-color thing. It doesn’t mean you can instantly master any form of magic, or that you’re guaranteed to be better at magic than people who don’t have green-gray eyes (case in point: Terrael’s eyes are blue), but it means that you’re drawn to magic, that you have a desire to learn it. In Cederic’s case, he began practicing th’an when he was old enough to mimic other mages’ script, and in my case, once the magic woke up in me I couldn’t leave it alone. But Cederic’s being Kilios is due entirely to a lot of hard work, though I’m sure his being intelligent helped. I have no idea how I compare to the other mages of my world, assuming there are any—no, I have to believe I’m not the only one, if only because the alternative makes me feel a little ill. I almost hope the others are better than I am, because the idea of learning pouvrin directly from someone else…suppose it’s easier that way? Faster? It’s not really going to matter unless we can keep the worlds from coming back together, and then we have to find a way to send me home.

If I still want to return.

This is already far more of a home than I’ve ever had before, even in the years before Dad died and Mam became a drunk and Roda left and Bridie

It’s more a home than I’ve had in a long while. I have friends. I have value, even if only as a novelty. But if I stay here, the likelihood of me continuing my study as a mage is virtually nonexistent. Finding the concealment pouvra was sheer accident, and the madman who created it did so also by accident. I might be able to create my own, but that’s also a slim possibility I wouldn’t want to count on. And the idea of giving all that up makes me feel even more ill than the idea that I’m the only one of my kind in my own world the way I am here.

I’m not going to worry about that now. Retrieving the Codex Tiurindi is the most important thing now, as Cederic said, and even if my role in the kathana hasn’t been determined yet—that was most of why Vorantor was ordering me around this morning—I can already tell it will be important. And Vorantor’s mages have been tracking the process of the worlds coming together, and the news is not good. Cederic had predicted months; the mages are saying it might be more like eight weeks. So we all feel a sense of urgency that has everyone on edge. I think Vorantor doesn’t appreciate how lucky he is to have Cederic there; he keeps people calm just by being who he is, though he’s always perfectly deferential to Vorantor (ugh again) and redirects most requests to him.

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