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…

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