Sesskia’s Diary, part 118

20 Coloine, early (continued)

“They were going to kill you,” Jeddan said. “I couldn’t let that happen.”

“They weren’t going to kill me, they wanted me to help defend the village,” I said.

He shook his head. “That was the council. There were a lot of villagers who wanted you dead. They’re afraid of any magic, and yours…I didn’t even know fire was possible.”

“Oh,” I said. “Then I really am grateful.” I probably would have escaped on my own before the villagers were a threat, but if not, I couldn’t have fought them all off.

“Like I said, you’re a fellow sorcerer,” Jeddan said. “I knew there had to be others, but I’ve never met any.”

“We’re called mages, and neither have I,” I said. “Can you teach me your see-inside pouvra?”

“I don’t know. Is…pouvra…what you call magics? Can you teach me yours?” he said.

“We’ll have to see,” I said, and then I remembered my actual goal. “But I don’t have time to find out. I have to be on the road again.”

“I’m coming with you,” he said.

That threw me. “No, you’re not,” I said, which sounded stupid then and it still sounds stupid when I write it now.

Jeddan was just a big dark shape against the trees, but I could tell he’d squared his shoulders like he was expecting a fight. “I’ve been studying magics—pouvra—for four years,” he said. “I was caught in a mudslide, thought I was dead, then I was sliding through it—between it—and I knew I’d done something I couldn’t bear to give up. Magic is everything to me, and I’m not going to lose the chance to learn more of it. And I know you want to learn what I know, too. So I’ll stay behind, if that’s what you want, because I’m not going to force my company on anyone. But I think you want me with you.”

It was true. I did. “You’re right,” I said. “We need each other. And there’s so much more to magic than you realize.” I looked around, remembered Jeddan couldn’t see in the dark, and reached for his hand, which is really big and strong. I keep forgetting to ask what he does for a living. “We’re going to find a place to sleep, and then in the morning we’re going to pay a visit to some people who may or may not be friendly. And they don’t speak our language. So you’ll just have to trust me, okay?”

“All right,” he said, but he sounded dubious. He’s been very patient since then, even letting the Viravonians take him to his own room rather than stay with me—I’m sorry, but even though I’m excited about meeting someone else like me, I draw the line at letting strange men share my bedchamber.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We slept under some trees that had already begun to shed their leaves, so with the dampness it wasn’t a very comfortable sleep. I probably shouldn’t bitch too much about the mattress I slept on last night, since it was far better than a pile of wet leaves on the hard ground.

In the morning, before we went anywhere, we shared some of the food and I told Jeddan my praenoma—return courtesy for courtesy and all that—and all about the convergence. Everything, not just the event and what came of it—all about th’an and kathanas and Castaviran magic, and what I knew about pouvrin, and that I was trying to find my husband and that’s why I was going north, or would be going north eventually.

Jeddan listened in silence, only interrupting me with questions once or twice, until I explained about my pouvrin, and then he got the kind of look you get when you find out your grandmother’s paste brooch is a twenty-carat diamond.

“Show me,” was all he said, and I demonstrated everything except the see-in-dark pouvra, which has no discernable effect and would only make me blind in the daytime, anyway. Then he just sat there staring at me, or past me, or something, until I said, “Are you all right?”

“I thought I was doing well with two,” he said, but in a joking way.

“It took me ten years to master all those,” I said. “But who knows what we might accomplish if we work together? It has to be easier than reading those old books.”

“I didn’t read any old books,” he said, and now it was my turn to look stunned. “Seeing inside things…it’s just a variation on being able to slip between them. I didn’t know it was impossible to learn a pouvra that way. I didn’t even know they were called pouvrin.”

“If you hadn’t already told me you were coming along, I might have kidnapped you,” I said, and he laughed, probably because there’s no pouvra in the world that would let me overpower someone his size.

Anyway. That took a few hours, and then we circled around the village and headed off south down the road toward the Viravonian town. I decided it would be best for us to approach it in the opposite direction to the one facing Jeddan’s village, in case they were also expecting foreign invaders. That took us about an hour and a half, between walking the couple of miles to it and then staying out of sight while we made our way around to the southern side. Then we just walked up the road toward it.

to be continued…

Sesskia’s Diary, part 117

20 Coloine, early (continued)

They took me down a few steps and along a short stone corridor to a room even smaller than the shed, also windowless, made of rough brick, with a heavy wooden door that was black as if it had been burned long ago. Then they cut the rope off, but before I could break away they slapped manacles on my wrists and pulled the chains they were attached to taut so I was spread-eagled against the wall, which was damp and gritty and clung to my hair.

I shouted at them some more, and Riona came forward and said, “There’s nothing to burn in here. We’ll give you some time to change your mind, but you’re not leaving this place until you agree to fight for us.” Then she and the others left the room, and I was alone in the darkness.

I was so angry all I could do at first was shout and swear and yank on the chains, which only made my wrists hurt. Then I did the see-in-dark pouvra and looked around. They’d actually left the bag of food with me! And I still had my books and the hair clips! I started to laugh, then stopped when it occurred to me someone might be listening. I slid my wrists through the manacles—this was very hard because I kept accidentally turning them insubstantial with me—and rubbed them where the edges had cut into flesh, then I gathered up the pack of food and had something to eat.

I hadn’t seen anything more of this cell than the door and the hallway that led to it, so I was reluctant to try to exit by any of the other walls, just in case it was further underground than I thought—I’ve already experienced being trapped inside a large solid object and I don’t need to repeat it. So I decided to wait a couple of hours until dark, just for extra security, then I was going to leave the village and…well, I didn’t exactly hope the Viravonians overran them, but I was angry enough that I didn’t much care if their stupidity hurt them.

Only I didn’t get that far. About an hour after I’d been thrown into the cell, while I was trying to decide where to go next, I felt a horribly familiar sensation in my left arm—the queasy, slippery feeling of flesh sliding through immaterial flesh. I squeaked and threw myself in the other direction, coming up hard against the wall and scraping my cheek against the rough brick. I got quickly to my feet and tried to make my breathing slow as I looked around for whatever had passed through me.

It was a man, taller than I am, broad in the neck and shoulders. The see-in-dark pouvra told me only that he had short dark hair and was wearing the same kind of clothing the villagers did. That, and he couldn’t see in the dark the way I could; he was sort of fumbling around with his hands outstretched, searching for something. “Who are you?” I said, which wasn’t a very good question, but it was better than all the other ones that occurred to me.

He stopped moving and felt behind him for the wall. “I’m here to get you out,” he said. “I’m a sorcerer. Like you.”

“Oh,” I said. It seemed really ungrateful to tell him I could get myself out. So I said, “You can walk through things?”

“Yes, and see inside things, but I don’t think that’s useful right now,” he said. He sounded proud, and I remembered what they’d said about mages having only one trick. And then I realized what he’d said. I grabbed his hand and said, “Can you teach me?” I didn’t care that we were both crammed into this tiny, damp, horrible cell; all I could think was that I’d finally met someone like me, and he knew a pouvra I didn’t!

“No, but I can make you immaterial long enough to get out of here,” he said, and I realized he’d misunderstood me just as he closed his hand more tightly over mine and said, “You have to hold your breath,” and then I felt the familiar sensation of my bones and muscles slipping between the wall, and it was a good thing I’d reflexively taken a breath, because the stranger dragged me through the back wall of the cell without waiting for my assent. I was annoyed, a little, but—well, he still hasn’t taught me the see-inside pouvra, so I’ve decided not to call him on his impertinence.

It wasn’t quite full dark outside, and the moon was overcast by high, thin clouds. We’d come out into an alley behind a row of buildings, all of them wooden except the cell; probably one of them was for law enforcement, because I doubt they just happened to have manacles lying around for the convenient detention of innocent women. I tried to yank my hand away from my rescuer’s, but he held on more tightly and said, “You have to follow me exactly or we’ll be seen.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me your praenoma,” I said. I realize how rude it was to demand that gift of him, but he was asking me to trust him with his life, and that’s an intimate enough relationship to justify it.

“Jeddan,” he said, as casual as you please, so he must have felt the same way. “Now follow me.”

“No,” I said. “I have a better way.”

He turned to look at me, and even in the dimness I could see his mouth open to argue with me, so I worked the concealment pouvra on both of us and enjoyed how his expression went from annoyed to confused to awestruck just before the pouvra forced me to look away. “It’s not invisibility, but it will keep people from looking too closely at us,” I said, “and we’d better go on holding hands or I can’t conceal you.”

I’ve known Jeddan for a few days now, and it’s true he has some habits that irritate me, but he’s quick to grasp the essentials of a situation and he doesn’t waste time exclaiming about how wonderful or impossible something is. He took us through the back streets of the village, not that there were very many of them, and into the forest that lies to the east without raising any alarms. Once we were safely inside the trees, I released the pouvra and we both stood there rubbing the feeling back into our fingers. “Thanks,” I said, again deciding not to tell him I could have escaped on my own.

to be continued…

Sesskia’s Diary, part 116

20 Coloine, early

I can’t believe it only took a handful of weeks for me to grow so accustomed to my big soft bed with all the pillows that this ordinary mattress feels thin and lumpy. I didn’t sleep well, and when I did sleep I dreamed of being in this enormous house with a million doors, looking for Cederic, and every new room I entered had ten new doors leading out of it. I miss him so much. I wish these Viravonians—but I want to bring this record up to date.

So I met with the council—it occurs to me now I have no idea what that village is named. Nor do I care. They seemed so reasonable, but it turned out they were just like every other isolationist hamlet on the borders of Balaen. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first thing I did was demand the return of my things. They refused, trying to establish their authority over me, so I sat and refused to speak until Riona, exasperated, said, “It doesn’t matter, does it?” and called for a messenger to bring me the books and the clips. I half expected them to pretend the clips had disappeared, since they are fairly valuable—Audryn’s people must be wealthy for her to go around wearing that kind of jewelry so casually—but no, they brought everything back. I don’t know if anyone read the books, though I think not, or our conversation would have gone very differently. I was just happy they were undamaged.

The council meeting was far too long—it seemed everyone had to have their say, and their say was usually a repetition of what someone else had already said, so I’ll sum up:

Three days before, they’d experienced the same effects we had in Colosse—the pulling sensations, the confusion, and there had been some actual tremors, but (of course) they’d passed by late afternoon, and there were no lasting effects other than some furniture and boxes being knocked down. So it was a curiosity, but nothing anyone worried about.

The next day, some people came into town, people with hair like mine, armed with strange-looking swords, looking suspicious. (No detail on what “suspicious” looks like, but I’m guessing the Viravonians were being as cautious as anyone would be in investigating a village that appeared out of nowhere, from their perspective, and that probably looked furtive.) The council didn’t know how the first interaction began, but it was immediately clear that the strangers didn’t speak Balaenic.

It was, on the other hand, unclear (and here I have to commend the council for not just blaming the outsiders) how the altercation began, or why, but swords were drawn, people were injured, and one of the Viravonians used magic to help them escape. This made the villagers terrified and angry and, as a result, disinclined to give any stranger the benefit of the doubt. If I’d approached the village from the other direction, I’d have seen the fortifications they threw up to defend against the outsiders returning. They’d sent out a group of men with some military experience to follow the Viravonians, and of course they all came running back when they discovered a village where one hadn’t been before. That was two days before I showed up.

The whole time this discussion was going on, I was working out how much to tell them. Explaining about the convergence was probably a bad idea, given that they had no concept of magic except as something scary that bad people use to hurt good people. But I couldn’t think how else to explain about a Viravonian town appearing two miles down the road from them. And I also couldn’t think of a good lie that would help them understand the truth. So in the end I went with the truth, though I had to gloss over the details of how magic works to accommodate their lack of understanding on that front.

When I was done, they all just sat there, as I’d expected. Then one of them (I don’t remember their names except for Riona, and even she didn’t give me her surname or placename, so I couldn’t call her by any name) said, “I would say you’re lying, but no lie is that elaborate.”

I could think of several lies I’ve told over the years that were more elaborate than that, but I kept my mouth shut. Another one said, “So what should we do now?”

I didn’t realize at first that that was directed at me. Then I said, “That’s not my responsibility. You people govern this city. You need to decide.”

Riona said, “Will they have many…you said, mages?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but probably more than just the one. Maybe not many more. I got the impression that most mages go to the big cities for work. But magic isn’t feared in Castavir, so it’s certainly possible they’d have several.”

“And you will fight on our side?” said one of the councilors, a round-cheeked woman with silver hair.

That startled me. “I don’t know that it has to come to a fight,” I said, “and I have to leave in any case.”

“We have no way to communicate with them,” the woman said, “and they’ve already shown themselves to be aggressive. If you don’t fight with us, we will be overrun. Where’s your loyalty?”

“If you’re thinking like that, then you have a bigger problem than neighbors you can’t communicate with,” I said. “This is how the world is now. It’s not Balaen versus Castavir, or shouldn’t be.” But I already knew how this was going to end. I couldn’t guarantee the Viravonians wouldn’t be hostile; I already knew they were in rebellion against an empire that has been trying to crush them for over a century. True God alone knew how they’d feel about the new world the convergence had thrust them into.

“You’re right, it isn’t your fight,” Riona said, standing up to show the meeting was over. Since I am occasionally stupid, her giving in just then didn’t rouse my suspicions. “Thanks for explaining it all. We’re sorry for the misunderstanding. Can we do anything to help you on your way?”

Well, that had me suspicious, but it was getting late and I was tired from having slept on the ground for several nights in a row, so I just said, “I was hoping to sell these clips so I could buy food for my journey.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Riona said, and called for another messenger. While she was giving the girl her instructions, I talked a bit to the other councilors about the weather, and was there a larger city nearby where I might find transportation, and so forth. I wanted to ask them why they weren’t afraid of my magic, but decided not to remind them about it just in case it was all an oversight and they might try to execute me if they remembered.

The girl came back after about twenty minutes with a knapsack full of food, and I thanked Riona and the councilors and followed them down the stairs and out of the bakery—where I was seized by about a dozen hands that threw me down and wrapped rope around my body, tying my arms to my sides. I kicked, and shouted, and summoned fire, but they were ready for that and flung me from one pair of hands to another as they carried me off down the street, breaking my concentration.

to be continued…

Sesskia’s Diary, part 115

19 Coloine (continued)

Eventually the crowd parted in reverse, and the short man came through, bringing with him a woman who looked to be nearly two feet taller than he was. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. She was maybe ten years older than I am, with short brown hair, and she had a dusting of flour over the upper part of her dress, just where an apron wouldn’t have protected her. And she moved with an air of authority that told me whatever else she might be, she was used to being in charge. I wondered why she hadn’t been at the front of this attack, but she said, “I thought I told you I’d deal with her once the rest of the council members got here,” which answered some of my questions.

Pitchfork man had the decency to look embarrassed. “Thought she might try to magic her way out,” he muttered.

“I told you if she wasn’t going to burn down the shed, she wasn’t going anywhere,” Riona said. “Sorcerers got only one magic in them.”

That was interesting, and I rated my chances of getting out of this alive much higher at that point, because they wouldn’t be expecting me to have any other tricks at my disposal. But then pitchfork man said, “Outsiders might have any number of magics. Who knows what they can do?”

“I’m not an outsider,” I said. At this point I had the beginnings of an idea of what was going on here, but I decided to make sure before jumping to conclusions. “I’m from Thalessa. I’m guessing you don’t see many people in this part of Balaen who look like me.”

Not that I look all that strange. Even though I wasn’t born in Thalessa, Mam’s family came from there, so my skin is darker than the villagers’, and my hair is dark blond instead of the brown most of them seemed to have. But I doubt most of those people have been more than thirty miles from their village in their whole lives, so any difference probably looked exotic to them. And if a Viravonian town had “appeared” somewhere nearby, full of blond-haired people who didn’t speak Balaenic, it would definitely have these people worried.

“She looks like the outsiders!” Yakon insisted.

“Where did you see these outsiders?” I said. “Did they come into town, or did you meet them outside? Maybe someone went to their village?” I probably shouldn’t have said all of that, but it suddenly occurred to me that a Viravonian town might have a mage who could contact Colosse, and I was so eager to reach Cederic I forgot to be cautious. And sure enough, this put everyone on edge. The pitchfork came back up, and Riona didn’t do anything to stop it. In fact, she looked as if she wanted to take hold of it herself.

“You must be an outsider, to know so much,” she said.

At that point I could see no graceful way out of the situation. Placating them was useless. I’d already decided I wasn’t going to run. So I took the approach I’d taken with the God-Empress—I can’t believe it was only two weeks ago; it feels like forever—and went with brazen audacity.

I stepped to one side, took hold of the pitchfork just where the metal met the wooden handle, and set it on fire. The man holding it shouted and yanked his hand away. Riona tried to step back, and I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her close as I threw the pitchfork down, praying I hadn’t burned my hand in that foolhardy move.

“I am not an outsider,” I snarled at her, “but you ought to be asking yourself, if I know so much about them, whether I might be persuaded to turn that knowledge to your advantage.”

“You’re a sorcerer,” Riona said. I was impressed she wasn’t afraid of me, but not impressed enough to let her go.

“I’m a mage,” I said, “and I know why these outsiders are here.”

She thought about it for a moment, then said, “Let me go, and we’ll talk.”

It wasn’t that easy. She had to convince the crowd to stand down. Then there was some discussion about a number of people who were supposed to be there but weren’t—the missing councilors, I gathered. Then she took me to her—I thought it was her home, but it was a bakery, and instead of living quarters above it was a big room with a lot of comfortable chairs that turned out to be where the town council met. There are four other councilors besides Riona, and they all just call her Chief, so I’m not sure if she’s the mayor, or first among equals, or something else. The important thing

Actually, the important thing is I’m falling asleep here. I hate getting behind in my record, but I’ll just have to finish it tomorrow. I hope Jeddan is being treated well, wherever he ended up in this place. I half expect to find him gone in the morning, even though he was pretty adamant about staying close to me. At least his first exposure to Castavirans is more pleasant than mine was, though unfortunately we don’t have Terrael and his Cap of Death to confer instant fluency on him. But all that can wait for morning.

 

Sesskia’s Diary, part 114

19 Coloine (continued)

It was boring. I went over plans for escaping, plotted a journey to the Myrnala, wondered why the kathana hadn’t returned me to Colosse and was Cederic going out of his mind with worry yet, thought about pouvrin and whether I could create one based on a kathana or at least part of one. There are so many things I’d like to do with magic, now that I know how th’an and pouvrin are related—the enhanced hearing pouvra, for one, and the memory one so I don’t have to feel bad about making up bits of the conversations I record because I don’t remember everything exactly.

I also practiced the binding pouvra, the one I’d been learning just before the convergence that was based on th’an from Vorantor’s original kathana to bring the worlds together. I still have no idea how to make it do anything, but it’s the first pouvra I’ve ever created, and knowing that made me feel confident even though everything else around me was uncertain.

It must have been two or three very boring hours before the door opened, slowly, and someone stuck a pitchfork through the narrow gap, pointed at where I would have been if I’d still been tied up. I just stood and waited.

Gradually the head of the pitchfork was followed by the man holding it, who was followed by two other men. All three of them were looking down, squinting the way you do when you go from a bright room into a dark one, so I cleared my throat and then had to swallow a laugh because the pitchfork swung up really fast, and the three men all tried to move in different directions at once. Then it was less funny because the one man thrust the pitchfork at me, abruptly, and I had to step to one side because I didn’t want to reveal the walk-through-walls pouvra and just let it pass through me. “I’m not going to hurt you,” I said, raising my hands again.

In hindsight, their reaction was sort of funny—they looked exactly as if they’d just heard a dog comment on the weather. At the time, it was just baffling. The man with the pitchfork said, “How do you speak our language?”

That confused me so much all I could say was, “What?”

“It’s a trick,” one of the other men said. He had very short brown hair, as if he’d had his head shaved and it was only just growing back. “She only knows a few words.”

“What else can you say, outsider?” the pitchfork man said.

I looked the three of them over. They didn’t look like farmers—the pitchfork man was definitely not familiar with his “weapon.” But they also didn’t look like aldermen or councilors or whatever it was this town had for government. People like that have an air about them that marks them as different. I looked past the trio and saw a crowd gathered behind them, but no sign of anyone holding a position of responsibility. So I said, “I want to talk to your mayor.”

The pitchfork came a little closer to my nose. “That sounds like memorizing to me,” said the third man, who was shorter and skinnier than the other two and had a sort of nasally whine to his voice.

“I was born in Thalessa,” I said, “I’ve spoken this language all my life, and I don’t know why you’re so afraid of me, but I—” I was about to say I haven’t done anything you should fear and then I remembered the fire, so I shut my mouth.

“She’s a sorcerer,” the brown-haired man said. “We should kill her before she does like the last one did.”

“You’re from Thalessa?” pitchfork man said, ignoring his friend. “I was there once.”

“I haven’t been back in ten years, but yes,” I said. Actually, I was born in Venetry, and when my Dad lost his rank and his surname when I was two, we moved to Thalessa, but this man didn’t need to know my tragic history.

“She looks like them,” the short man said. “It’s a trick.”

“And even if it isn’t, she’s still a sorcerer,” the brown-haired man said.

Pitchfork man chewed his lip in thought. Then he said, “Yakon, go get Riona. She’ll have to make the decision. You—” He jabbed the pitchfork at me. “You may be Balaenic, or you may not, but either way you’ve got magic and I’m not letting you out where you can use it on folks.”

I nodded and kept my hands high. The short man ducked away into the crowd, which parted for him but otherwise stayed put. I guess this was more entertainment than they saw around here all year.

“So, how long ago were you in Thalessa?” I said, though I didn’t think I’d get a response. Sure enough, he just grunted and wouldn’t meet my eyes. So I just stood there and ran through more escape plans—conceal myself, step backward through the wall of the shed…which still left me without my books. I was in a position where I’d just have to see where things went.

to be continued…

Sesskia’s Diary, part 113

19 Coloine

Well, that was interesting.

It’s—honestly, I don’t know where to begin, so much has happened in the last two days. Except that’s stupid, of course I should just begin at the beginning, when I walked into the village yesterday morning.

I’d debated whether to enter early, when there would be fewer people around to be suspicious of the stranger, versus mid-morning, when business would be in full swing and I’d have more options for selling the hair clips and therefore might get a better price. I decided on mid-morning, because the village was big enough I figured they’d be accustomed to visitors and I wouldn’t attract as much attention.

Hahahaha.

I attracted all sorts of attention when I came strolling down the main street—unfriendly, fearful attention. The sort of attention where you can tell people are nerving themselves to accost you. By the time I realized how universal this attention was, I was a good way into town and trying to decide what I should do, other than pretend I wasn’t aware of the whispering.

No one had actually attacked me, so I casually veered over to inspect some apples in a bin outside a store, making the owner take a few steps back over the threshold and shut the door in my face, then sauntered back the way I’d come.

Or tried to. I’d only gone a few paces when I saw people moving in on both sides of me, trying to act casual, but they were really so tense I started to feel afraid. It’s true I can turn the walk-through-walls pouvra on other people now, but only one at a time, and after what happened at my nearly-disastrous “wedding” to Aselfos, I was more than ever convinced that trying to walk through a person could be seriously fatal. And there were a lot of people moving in on me, maybe fifteen or twenty, some of them much bigger than me.

I stopped walking and surveyed the crowd, looking for a place I could summon fire that might get me out of this. The group of men encircling me stopped about ten feet away, close enough that I had to keep myself from panicking. Other villagers were coming up behind them, watching to see what might happen, making me feel more panicky because they represented one more obstacle I had to get through.

So I held my hands away from my body, my hands spread wide to show I wasn’t holding anything, and I said, “I don’t want any trouble,” which is sort of clichéd, but getting eloquent in a situation like that is the sort of thing that gets people dead.

Then the strangest thing happened, and even now, knowing why they reacted that way, it still strikes me as odd: the crowd backed away, the way you do when you’re surprised; this sound like wind rushing over ripe corn rose up as everyone one of them took in a startled breath; and then they grabbed me.

I fought and shrieked and kicked, and I know I hurt at least a few of them, but there were too many for me to escape—so many that they could carry me away rather than dragging me, and now I can be grateful for not being dragged, but at the time I was just terrified. I kept shouting at them to put me down, but that only made them move faster, and in no time they’d wrestled me into a shed, where three of them held me still while others searched my pockets and took the hair clips and the books, at which point I lashed out with fire because the thought of losing those books terrified me more than the thought of what they might do to me.

This made them all start shouting, and one of them hit me hard in the side of my head, which made me lose control of the fire so it went out. I don’t remember much after that, but when I finally regained my senses, I was alone in the shed, my hands and feet were tied, and my things were gone.

I just lay there for a while, trying to become calm and figure out what to do. My first instinct was to burn my way out of there and run, but that would mean leaving the books behind, and that wasn’t going to happen. On the other hand, they now knew I could do magic, so it was possible they were out there planning my death, and staying in the shed might be a bad idea.

On a third hand, though, they hadn’t killed me outright, which meant…what? That they weren’t sure what to do with me? True, there aren’t any actual laws requiring mages to be put to death, but the fear of them is so widespread, particularly in small towns like these, that no one in authority so much as blinks if somebody executes vigilante justice on someone proven to be a mage. Assuming anyone in authority ever finds out. So it was strange they’d locked me up instead.

I decided to untie myself, at least, because the floor of the shed was mucky and smelled bad, and I didn’t feel like lying on it any longer than I had to. Manipulating the ropes with the mind-moving pouvra wasn’t too hard, though it did take time because the ropes were thin and the knots were tight. Then I got up and explored my cage.

It was about ten feet square, with a roof of wooden shingles about six feet high, no windows, just an old door hanging on leather hinges. I could see three ways of escaping that didn’t even require magic; they were probably as panicked as I was, to resort to confining me here. I sat down, thought better of it, and stood and leaned against the back wall and stared at the door and made a list. I don’t remember exactly what it included, but this is my best guess:

  1. I can either leave now, or wait for them to get me.
  2. If I leave now, I get away clean, but I leave my things behind, which is unacceptable.
  3. If I wait for them to come for me, I might not be able to escape again.
  4. If I leave now, I can search the village for my things…which could take forever, and I can only stay concealed for so long.
  5. If I wait, I might be able to find out why they attacked me and why they didn’t just kill me when they saw I could do magic.

Much as I wanted to run away, I decided I would have to take a chance on staying. It was reckless and dangerous, but I think I’ve said before that I hate not knowing things, and in ten years of traveling through tiny, hostile villages, I’ve never once been attacked simply for walking into town. It was strange, and it bore investigating. So I stood there and waited.

to be continued…

A note about Sesskia’s Diary

Today’s entry was the 112th in my ongoing serial story. It’s been a lot of fun to write, and I hope you’re enjoying it.

I intend to publish all of Sesskia’s Diary as a trilogy called Convergence someday, which will be available for purchase. Entry #111 marks the end of the first volume, though Sesskia hasn’t reached the end of the “book” she’s currently writing in. In the next several months, she’ll explore the new world created by the convergence, meet new friends, encounter new villains, and discover that she’s no longer the only mage of her kind. Keep watching for the announcement that volume one of Convergence, The Summoned Mage, has been published!

 

Sesskia’s Diary, part 112

Probably 17 Coloine

I feel so much better now that I’m not half-naked, even though my palm is still sore where the skin is missing. Funny how quickly I’ve gotten used to using the walk-through-walls pouvra, when it used to terrify me. I mean, I’m never going to love the feeling of my bones and organs sliding through stone or wood, but I sort of take it for granted now, and not just because it seems to have saved two worlds.

But while I was rummaging through that woman’s dresser looking for something to wear, I realized I’d gone through her bedroom wall without thinking twice about it. Maybe that was just my anxiety about wandering around in nothing but my breast band, that nothing else really mattered, but I think after what I went through in the convergence kathana, it’s a pouvra I feel more or less comfortable with.

I still don’t really know what happened. I mean, it’s clear the worlds aren’t destroyed, but since this is a Balaenic village in the far southwest, judging by the stars, it’s possible Castavir was destroyed and I was somehow transported back to my own world, which was spared—but I can’t bear the thought of Cederic, of all my friends, being dead.

So I’m going to assume that the worlds came back together successfully, that the damage was minimal, and that Cederic is still, for the moment, in Colosse. What’s worrisome is that it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to walk there from where I am right now, and who knows where he’ll be by then?

Time for a list, so I can calm down and stop panicking about whether I’ll ever find my husband again:

  1. I am, as I wrote, somewhere in southwestern Balaen. Probably.
  2. This is where Viravon is, in Castaviran geography.

2a. Who knows what the consequences of 1 and 2 might be?

  1. I have no money, but I think I can sell Audryn’s hair clips (sorry, Audryn) and get enough to speed my trip along.
  2. I still have these books, though this one is filling up fast. It’s also the one Cederic gave me, so it’s doubly precious.

It took me two days’ walk to reach this town, which fortunately for me lies on a well-traveled road running north and south through the forest; I don’t want to think about what might have happened if I’d been well and truly cast out in the middle of nowhere, because it’s been a long time since I’ve had to live off the land, and this time of year it gets harder to find ripe fruit that hasn’t either been harvested or eaten by birds. As it is, I was starving by the time I reached this place.

I scouted around the outskirts, very carefully, until I found a house whose owners were out, then I did the walk-through-walls pouvra and helped myself to some food and a shirt that’s a little too big for me, but better than nothing. I waited until nightfall to do all that, since I’ve learned from experience that it’s bad to rely too much on the concealment pouvra, and although this isn’t a really big town, closer to a village really, there were still a lot of eyes that might be able to see past the pouvra’s compulsion to look elsewhere. So I’m going to sleep in the woods again, more comfortably this time, and go into town openly tomorrow to find someone who’ll pay me for these clips (sorry, Audryn).

It’s late in the season, but I might be able to find a ride at least some of the way toward my goal. But I’m not counting on it. I doubt a town this size has anything worth hauling two weeks’ east to the Myrnala River and the handful of settlements along its banks. Handful of Balaenic settlements, I should say. I wonder what people thought when Colosse appeared out of nowhere? Not that I know that’s what happened.

I think I’ll see what I can learn from these villagers tomorrow. They might not know anything’s changed, because this place doesn’t look as if the convergence touched it at all. There’s certainly no activity of the kind you’d expect after a disaster, no broken buildings, nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just a typical village like you find all over the borders of Balaen, out on the frontier: houses of wooden beams with plaster between them and thatched, peaked roofs, mostly single story except for a couple of buildings near the center of town, like the inn—oh, that’s good news, I hadn’t thought about it, but if they have a building for hosting travelers, they’re likely not as suspicious and xenophobic as some of the places I’ve been to.

This one’s also more cheerful than most because so many of the houses have brightly painted doors and shutters, and I saw flowers growing around the ones on the edge of town where I did my scouting. So I feel fairly positive about my chances of learning something valuable. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find someone heading north who’s willing to give me a ride.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 111

unknown, could be 15 Coloine still (continued)

The th’an on my body activating had been agony. Being insubstantial while inside another object was a different kind of pain—not so much pain as the kind of discomfort you want to crawl out of your skin to get away from. It disoriented me for a few seconds as I felt my bones and my organs and my brain adjust to sharing space with something else. I hoped that the discomfort would lessen as my body adjusted, but it only got worse. Soon all I could think about was getting out of there, and it took an effort of extreme willpower to remain where I was. I’d lost count of how long I’d been part of the ruin.

Then I realized that when I became substantial again, I’d be a permanent part of it.

I began struggling to move, trying to keep track of what was me and what was stone as I walked in what I hoped was the right direction. If there was a right direction. I needed to get out of the ruin; touching it from the outside would be enough to keep it insubstantial. I couldn’t see, because I didn’t have enough concentration to spare to make my eyes work.

I was having to remind my body with every step that my muscles were connected to a brain that could make them move, all the while fighting the tide that threatened to make me part of the ruin. The air I’d inhaled before I did the pouvra…it wasn’t like I could tell it was running out, but it was becoming more difficult to convince my body that it was separate from the stone.

Then I was out, first my legs, then one arm, and I had to move more carefully so as not to lose contact with the ruin. Finally I was at a point where my palm was the only thing resting against the stone, but I could barely remember what I was doing or why I had to go on doing it. And then I went unconscious.

I woke up at some point and lay looking up at the sky. It was late afternoon (it’s nearly evening now) and there were big, puffy white clouds trailing across the sky. I was probably still a little light-headed, because I lay for a while imagining shapes in the clouds: a shell, a crab missing a leg, a dragon. The th’an had disappeared from my body. My left hand hurt a lot, and when I looked at it I discovered it was missing all the skin of the palm and fingers where I’d rested it against the ruin.

Oh, yes, the ruin. It’s not a ruin anymore. I think the original buildings were split in half—not evenly, not down the middle like cutting a cake, but like a brick wall, jagged where it’s missing bricks—and the merger put the pieces back together to look the way they had before the original disaster. Well, not perfectly. I suppose you could still call it a ruin, because large chunks are lying on the ground, but it’s not nearly as destroyed as it used to be. I think you could live in it if you didn’t mind the mess, though it’s not much more than a couple of rooms with a roof.

I wonder why there were books there, if the buildings were only made to be part of the th’an. Just one of the many things I’d like to ask its builders, though “What the hell were you thinking?” is at the top of that list.

But it seems the worlds are one again. I don’t know how much destruction has happened. I also don’t know where I am. I thought, though now I realize Cederic never said this, that the kathana would take me to where I needed to be and then return me to the circle. I’m trying not to panic over the fact that it didn’t, that I’m sitting here in a clearing in a forest (I forgot to say it’s in a forest) next to what used to be a ruin, with no shirt and my only possessions being Audryn’s hair clips and these two books that I always keep on me. I’m grateful it’s the end of summer, and still warm, rather than midwinter, but I have no food and no money and my stores of gratitude aren’t very high.

I’m going to wait for nightfall and hope it’s a clear, moonless night, so I can find my bearings by the stars—it’s been a while since I’ve had to do that, but I still remember how. Then I’ll start walking. If I’m really lucky, the mages will have some way to track me down, but if not, I’ll have to find a town and hope I can convince them to be friendly. Then I’ll make my way to the Myrnala River and see what happened to Colosse. Cederic and the mages might stay there, or they might go back to the Darssan, depending on whether that desert wasteland is still there. Who knows how many other changes there might be? But I’ll find him. I’ve faced worse than this and survived.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 110

unknown, could be 15 Coloine still (continued)

The mages were done scribing th’an, the inert ones, in black ink rather than chalk, and there were so many of them they made a thick pattern around the black circle. They outlined two more circles, one only a few inches across, near the northwest point, the other about two feet across, centered on the south point.

Three mages were walking around the room, slapping the walls or stomping their feet. “Right here,” one of them said, and the others came to sit on the floor with her, making a loose circle around a spot that didn’t look very special to me. Then each of them took off one shoe and began tapping with the heel on the wood, as if testing for sound.

“Sesskia,” Cederic said, and I turned to face him. His face was so emotionless it looked as if it had been carved of marble. “It’s almost time.”

“What’s going to happen?” I said. My voice didn’t tremble. I’m sure I looked as emotionless as he did. He was already under enough stress without seeing me burst into tears.

“The binding kathana is simple enough,” he said. “And we have found a th’an that connects the ruins, as many as we can identify, in a way that will reverse what the original kathana did. We will make a correspondence between the ruins in each world so they will be drawn back together. Binding the worlds at those points will allow all the other places to merge, not only in Castavir but over all three continents and all the oceans, though any manmade constructions that overlap that are not one of the ruins will be destroyed. It is the best we can do.”

“That doesn’t explain why Terrael used me as a slate,” I said.

Cederic looked away from me. “The ruins give shape to the th’an; they are like instructions for how the worlds are to fit together. If the ruins in each world are simply drawn back together, they will destroy each other, and the worlds will also be destroyed. So the ruins must be made to slip together, to occupy the same space at the same time. To be insubstantial just long enough for the worlds to merge completely.”

“You need the walk-through-walls pouvra,” I said. “That’s how my magic will be part of the kathana. But I have to touch things to make them insubstantial. How am I supposed to touch all those ruins, let alone quickly enough to make a difference?”

“The th’an on your body will draw all the ruins into one place, symbolically, so that what you do to one, you do to all,” Cederic said.

“What if you’ve missed some of the ruins? Won’t the kathana fail?” I said.

“The th’an connecting the ruins is what matters,” he said. “So long as enough of those ruins are part of the th’an, the worlds will still come together. Any of them we miss will be destroyed, as any two overlapping structures will be. We have done our best.”

“You—” Another tremor, putting me at seven places throughout Colosse and in two places I didn’t recognize, and it felt like having my heart and lungs ripped out of my body to be pulled back together. “You aren’t telling me everything,” I said when we’d both recovered.

Cederic looked away from me again. “You will need to maintain the pouvra for almost three minutes,” he said.

I felt my stomach churn. “I can’t hold my breath that long,” I said.

“You will have to,” he said, still looking away. Now I know he was trying to keep his composure, but at the time I felt abandoned. But then he looked back at me, and said, “I cannot even touch you without ruining Master Peressten’s work. I wish I had thought of that before I told him to begin.”

“I understand,” I said, and he leaned down and kissed me, gently. It felt so much like a farewell that tears came to my eyes, and I had to duck my head so he wouldn’t see them. “Can we do it now? The kathana?” I said.

He nodded, and took my hand to lead me to sit in the larger of the th’an-described circles, with my back to the rest of the circle. I crossed my legs and rested my hands on my knees, forcing myself to breathe normally and relax so I could fill my lungs as deeply as possible when the time came.

From somewhere off to my right, the three mages began tapping a beat, then pounding it with the heels of their shoes. The wood resonated, making a hollow sound: thump, thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, THUMP. Mages moved past me, and I could hear their bare feet brushing the wood as they moved with the rhythm, finishing the kathana.

Then Cederic knelt in front of me, hand raised to my forehead. I didn’t dare break the rhythm by speaking, and that was when I realized I hadn’t told him I love him. But I think he knew what I wanted to say. The cool ink of the writing tool brushed across my forehead, once, twice, and then I sucked in a deep breath—

It felt as though I were being branded over my whole upper body, everywhere Terrael had drawn th’an. I let go that breath and screamed—I couldn’t help myself, it hurt that badly. Cederic was gone. The room was gone. I was in a white void that spun so fast some of my hair came loose and whipped past my face, stinging, and I had to swallow hard to keep from throwing up from dizziness.

Pale gray shapes lunged at me through the whirlwind, though none of them struck me; it was as if I were already insubstantial, though I knew I wasn’t because I could breathe easily. Then a darker shape loomed up in front of me, rushing hard and fast toward me, and I sucked in a deep breath and worked the walk-through-walls pouvra just as I would have collided with it, and turned it insubstantial with me.

to be continued…