15 Coloine, twenty minutes later
We won’t be destroyed. I can’t believe it was sitting in Cederic’s room this whole time. It seems obvious now, but I think—no, I should start at the beginning.
Cederic came racing back in here a few minutes ago, clutching some large papers that turned out to be our maps. He practically fell to his knees in front of me, spread them out one atop the other, and said, “There’s a pattern. I didn’t see it because I was so obsessed with the missing th’an—you won’t see it, Sesskia, you don’t know the th’an, but—come and look at this, everyone, and tell me what you see!”
It’s true, I was mystified, but Terrael looked at it, shoved his way to a different position, and said, “It’s the unlocking th’an.”
“The lines are not quite perfect,” Cederic said, “but even with Sesskia’s information, we knew we did not know the location of all the ruins. Knowing what th’an it is lets us extrapolate the position of the remaining ones.” He took my chalk and drew a th’an quickly, connecting the marks on the map and interrupting the line once so it wouldn’t activate. It’s an elaborate shape, and it’s surprising anyone could look at those X’s and see that pattern, but I think desperation makes everything look different.
“So what does it mean?” asked one of the mages.
“It means they bound the land to the kathana,” Cederic said. “It explains why the ruins are all so uniform, and so small; they were built specifically for that purpose. That is why Master Peressten was unable to identify the missing parts of their kathana. The ruins are the missing parts.”
He stood and brushed off his knees. “Sai Howert, take half our mages and clear the circle for a binding kathana. The rest of you, copy these marks to your boards—be accurate, but don’t worry about perfection. We need to connect these ruins in a new th’an. You are looking for anything that suggests union or coming together. Master Peressten, with me, please.”
He walked away without waiting for Terrael to respond. I followed him, Terrael trailing behind, to where the books of the Darssan library were piled on a couple of tables scrounged from nearby rooms.
“For this to work, we need three things,” Cederic told us—well, he told Terrael, and I listened. “We need a binding kathana—”
The room stretched and contracted with another tremor. Cederic fell silent until it passed. They feel like they’re lasting longer as well as coming more frequently now. “We need a binding kathana,” Cederic said, “one based on the original unlocking kathana. Sesskia—”
“It’s not the right one, is it?” I said, and I can’t describe how discouraged I was. “The one I’ve been working on.”
Cederic shook his head and laid his hand along my cheek. “It was not wasted effort,” he said. “We still need your magic in the kathana. The binding th’an are simple; you may be able to learn them in time. Master Peressten, we also need to draw a new th’an that connects all the ruins, or as many as we can find. And we need some way to attune our kathana to the landscape, to the ruins themselves, in effect scribing th’an on them the way Sesskia draws on her board.”
He drew in a deep breath, and in a lower voice said, “And I have no knowledge of how to do that. I need you to go through the books I cannot read, looking for some hint to that secret.”
“Sai Aleynten,” Terrael said, “that could be impossible. We’ve been through these books dozens of times. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“You saw that th’an on the map when no one else did,” Cederic said. “We need to look at these books with a fresh eye. And pray what we need is not in one of those books we cannot read.”
Terrael nodded. “I’ll—” Another tremor. “—do my best,” he said. “And I already have an idea.” He began shifting books on the table, making a neat stack, because even in this nightmare he’s still Terrael.
I pulled Cederic to the side, and said, “You know there’s no way I can learn a new th’an in time. What can I really do?”
Cederic sighed. “If we cannot find a way to put your magic into this kathana, everything else we do may be for nothing. And I see no way to accomplish that. What do you see?”
I had to shake my head and say, “I don’t know.”
“Then practice pouvrin,” he said, “and think, and allow me more time to consider. We still do not know what Aselfos has in mind, nor what the God-Empress might do. If it comes to it, you may be defending us against one or both of them.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” I said, and went to stand near the door. I practiced pouvrin until my eyes and my chest ached, then rested and wrote for a bit, then back to pouvrin. My fire-summoning pouvra is more effective now; I think I could encircle five people at once, and I’m steeling myself to burn flesh. My mind-moving pouvra isn’t ever going to be strong enough to hurt anyone, and though I think I could drown someone by holding a globe of water around their head, that’s not practical in a fight, where the person might have fifteen friends trying to kill me at the same time.
But the concealment pouvra, and the walk-through-walls one—I figured out how to turn them outward, so I can work them on another person. I’m still not sure how useful that will be, particularly turning someone else virtually invisible, but it’s something.
Cederic and Terrael are having an intense discussion, Cederic gesturing with large swoops and Terrael shaking his head. It reminds me of the first time I saw them interact, when Terrael was trying to convince Cederic to use the aeden on me, and how much I disliked Cederic then. That seems so long ago, but really it was less than two months. Two months to go from hating someone to loving him—I think I must have been more lonely than I knew. I hope I didn’t
I was going to write “I hope I didn’t just attach myself to Cederic because I was desperate for love,” but I feel certain it’s not true. We still have so much to learn about each other, and I don’t want to be like Mam, blaming Dad for every little thing that went wrong and for not being a good provider, even though he went out on that boat every night and brought home a good catch, then had to sell it himself because Mam was unreliable. But I trust him. I feel more myself than I ever have when I’m with him. I don’t want the world to end just as my life is really beginning.
Another tremor. Cederic is pointing at a book and now Terrael is nodding. They’ve got their boards out and they’re drawing. I can’t believe they found anything useful—we weren’t able to bring the entire Darssan library here, so what are the odds that one of those books would have the right th’an? No, more likely the two geniuses saw potential in something completely unrelated. I should be practicing now, but I can’t stand the tension, I have to see if they’ve figured it out. I don’t want to disturb them, though, so all I can do is stand over here by the door
I hear someone coming. A lot of someones. Boots.
It’s soldiers. Aselfos or the God-Empress, I don’t know, but it can’t be good. I’ve called out a warning and now I’m going to stand where I’m the first thing anyone entering this room sees. Putting the book away now and hoping this isn’t my last record.