26 Lennitay, continued
The room was growing very warm, and I had trouble not rubbing away the sweat prickles under my armpits. Because I was focused on my mark, I didn’t see the next part, but I’d watched the Darssan mages practice, so I knew they were drawing th’an in a loose pattern surrounding the circle and the body-scribing mages.
With the magic made ready by the first th’an, and given duration by the body-scribers, the Darssan mages now defined the reality they wanted with a series of complex th’an. On the west side of the circle was a definition of our reality, and on the east side was the same definition with some key differences, namely, the existence of the Codex Tiurindi. I waited, and counted, my heart beating in time with the rhythm and not accelerating at all.
Then Cederic was in front of me, a pot of silver ink in his hand and a brush in the other, painting a th’an on my forehead, and the second he removed the brush I summoned the fire and scribed my th’an in lines of gold as thick as my wrist, halfway between myself and the red mark, which put it exactly over the circle.
White light sprang up from both sides of the circle, blazing brighter than the mages’ blue bodies, and I squinted hard, blinking away tears, and watched the fiery th’an shrink in on itself and then hover, distorted and frozen, over the center of the circle. I was aware of Cederic and Vorantor directly ahead of me, Cederic drawing th’an on the air and Vorantor scribbling on the floor, and then the white light filled my vision, and I closed my eyes and threw up my arms to cover them.
Nothing happened. The drumming stopped and the room was completely silent. I heard someone walking toward me and opened my eyes, blinking away afterimages, and saw Vorantor bend to pick up a small book, no larger than one of my hands. It was bound in gray leather and was locked shut. Vorantor pried at it, with no success, and Cederic gently took it out of his hands and gave it to me. “Sesskia,” he said, and I used the mind-moving pouvra to unlock it. That set my head to pounding, so I handed the book back to Cederic and massaged my temples.
Cederic opened it, then handed it to Vorantor with a bow. I’m pretty sure he only did this because he knew Vorantor wouldn’t be able to read it, and he could afford to look gracious. Vorantor turned a few pages and tried to appear wise and contemplative, but I thought he only looked like a fool.
“It is the book,” the God-Empress said, and everyone moved aside while trying not to look like they were fleeing. She walked right up to Vorantor and took the book from him, and the air hummed with the sound of fifty-one people, myself included, trying not to shout at the divine madwoman who had no experience in handling ancient books. Though it didn’t look ancient, something the God-Empress pointed out immediately. “This can’t be the right one,” she said.
“No, God-Empress, the book comes from a time when it was new, so it has not experienced the passing of time,” Terrael said, surprising everyone except Cederic. Then he shocked everyone by taking the book away from her and turning to the first pages. “I can’t read it yet, God-Empress, and I apologize for asking for more of your patience” (I had no idea Terrael could be so diplomatic!) “but I can verify whether this is the book we wanted, if you’ll allow me a moment.”
He skimmed the first few pages, turned to the back and examined the binding, then turned to a page about two-thirds of the way through and looked at it closely. “The first pages contain the name Veris, the binding has been repaired where an extra signature was inserted—a signature is a bundle of pages, God-Empress—and this is the page where Veris gave the book to her successor, Barklan; the handwriting changes. This is the Codex Tiurindi.
Now it didn’t matter that the God-Empress was standing among us; everyone cheered, or gasped, or cried, or did something to express their excitement and relief, which meant that Cederic turned away with his head bowed, and I hugged Audryn and we both tried not to dance. Terrael was already trying to read the book, but Vorantor took it gently from him and said, “All in good time, Master Peressten! God-Empress, thank you for allowing us the joy of your presence on this day. I assure you—”
“Don’t bore me with your assurances, Denril Vorantor,” the God-Empress said, all traces of her earlier lack of focus gone. “You told me the book would keep my empire safe from this disaster. Show me.”
That shut everyone’s celebrating down. Vorantor’s mouth sagged open. “We—God-Empress, we need to translate it, it’s not so simple—”
“Show me something, Denril Vorantor, or I will make your life very simple indeed,” the God-Empress said.
to be continued…