20 Coloine, early (continued)
We got a friendlier reception than I had at the Balaenic village, even if I did have Jeddan in tow; people hailed us and wanted to know if we’d had any trouble on the way from Kinis, which I gathered is the next Viravonian village south of Erael (once again I’m spelling their words my way, and I—damn it, I was about to write “I plan to get Terrael to teach me to read Castaviran as soon as possible,” but that reminded me I have no idea where he is, where any of them are, and learning to read is so far down the list of things I have to do it might as well not even be on there. And now I’m trying not to cry. It’s been a long day, and I’ve learned too many discouraging things, and I’m being stupid) anyway, Erael is the name of this village, and not one of them imagined I wasn’t Castaviran.
Of course I didn’t correct them, just said “I have news for the person in charge” and hoped they wouldn’t think it was too strange that I didn’t say “the mayor” or whatever it is their local government is. And they didn’t, because they led Jeddan and me to a large house and ushered us inside.
It’s obvious at even a casual glance that this is not a Balaenic village; everything’s made of planed wood painted white, though most of the buildings look like they could use another coat, and the roofs are a funny pinkish-grey slate I’ve never seen before. I doubt they came from very far away, because that would be far too expensive for the people who live here. I wonder if the quarry they came from survived the convergence. I wonder if the desert around the Darssan is plains now. I wonder if the Darssan is even still there. More things I don’t have time to investigate.
We waited for a few minutes, and then this old man with a short gray beard and long white hair came into the room. “Travelers,” he said, “my name is Wilfron Kasselen, and I am the elder of this village. Please, sit down. Do you have news from the south? Are there more strange appearances? And what of the pagan invader’s troops?”
That was a lot for me to take in all at once, so I decided not to answer any of it. “Elder Kasselen,” I said, hoping that was the correct form of address, “my name is Thalessi Scales, and despite how I look, I’m not Viravonian. I’m one of the…you know the village that appeared north of here? I am one of their people. I mean, of their country, not that I come from that village. If that makes sense.”
That stunned him, and he looked like he was about to shout, so I overrode him and said, “Ask me how it is I speak your language.”
He closed his mouth. Then he said, “I don’t understand any of this.”
“I’ll try to explain,” I said, and even though my explanation to Kasselen was longer than the one I’d given the council in Jeddan’s village, it was much easier because he at least knew about the shadow world, even if he didn’t know the details of the convergence. I didn’t tell him about the pouvrin, since that would have taken forever to explain, or how the final kathana worked, but it was still a very long story. The longer I spoke, the more intense his expression grew, until I reached the end of my story and said, “Could I have some water, please?”
He got up without saying anything and went to the door, where he called to someone, and then returned to his seat bearing a tray with a pitcher of water and three glasses. “So their world has joined ours?” he said, after a long silence in which we all drank some water and stared at each other. I wondered what Jeddan thought—he must have been bored, listening to me babble in a language he couldn’t understand. He really is very patient.
“It’s more accurate to say both worlds have returned to their original state,” I said. “We’re both invaders, in a sense.”
Kasselen didn’t like that, but he didn’t challenge me. “Then what are we to do?” he said.
That was the second time someone had tried to put the burden of decisions back on me. “You’ll have to work that out for yourselves,” I said. “I’m not the leader of this village. But you will have to find a way to come to terms with the Balaenic villages around here. And that might be difficult, because they’re afraid of magic.”
“A great challenge,” he said. “But what of the pagan invader’s troops? What has happened to them?”
“The God-Empress’s soldiers?” I said.
“We do not call her that,” Kasselen said, looking grim. “She usurps the place of God and wants to see us subjugated to her rule.”
“I know,” I said, “but what I don’t know is how she was going about it down here. I’d heard only that she has most of an army in Viravon, trying to maintain control.”
“Yes,” Kasselen said. “So what has happened to them in the convergence?”
I shrugged. “Nothing, I imagine,” I said. “Though they might have lost contact with Colosse during the coup.” He gave me a startled look, and I realized I hadn’t said anything about Aselfos’s uprising against the God-Empress, so I told that story. He looked happier when I was finished.
“They receive their orders from Colosse,” he said, “and with luck they will be in confusion, and we will have an opportunity to strike at them.” He stood up, so Jeddan and I did too. “We will give you a place to sleep, and food,” he said, “before you start your journey north.
I realized I was hungry enough that it must have been dinnertime, so we joined Kasselen for a meal, and it wasn’t until it was over that I remembered the most important reason I’d had for coming here, and asked if they had a way to contact the mages in Colosse. They
I’ve just realized it’s almost three o’clock in the morning, and my eyes are burning, so I’ll have to sum this up even though my conversation with Lineta was really interesting. Interesting, and depressing, and a little frightening—anyway. The conversation went all over the place, so I’ve rearranged the details so it makes more sense. I kept dragging it off course by asking questions, but in the end, this is what I learned:
Something really strange happened in Erael in the days since the convergence. It has five mages—two who live here, and three who were on their way to something relating to the Viravonian resistance Lineta didn’t want me to pry into, so I didn’t. And the day after the convergence, suddenly only Lineta was still capable of working magic.
Coincidentally, or maybe not coincidentally, she has the same green-gray eyes I do, and Jeddan has. Cederic once told me that those eyes indicate a predisposition to do magic, but it can’t be a coincidence that those four other mages, who don’t have those eyes, all lost their magic at the same time.
I remember somebody, probably Terrael, said the worlds coming back together would restore the original requirements for magic; suppose the green-gray eyes are one of those requirements? Or that they indicate the innate ability to work magic Cederic’s research implied was part of the original world? It sounds silly, but based on
Oh no. Terrael’s eyes are blue. So are Sovrin’s. Oh, please let me be wrong about this. If Terrael…I can’t even imagine it. I’m not going to think about it anymore. It’s a stupid idea and it has to be wrong.
The important thing is that the loss of their mages has thrown this village into more turmoil than the convergence did, and they’ve (she’s) been trying to contact Colosse ever since that horrible discovery, to no effect. Lineta says the Firtha th’anest, whatever that is, is not only not responding, but acting as if it isn’t there anymore, and she doesn’t have any friends in the capital she might be able to contact.
I must have looked awful when she gave me the news, because she said a lot of comforting things I tried to be grateful for, because she was only trying to help. But I can’t stop remembering how the palace was coming down on our heads, there at the end, and that Aselfos’s troops were fighting the God-Empress’s soldiers all around us, and the God-Empress is who knows where—it’s impossible she’s dead, she’s too evil to die without taking a hundred innocent people with her—and I can’t stop imagining that everyone I love is dead, or thinks I’m dead, I’m not sure which is worse, but either way I just want to curl up somewhere and cry.
I hate feeling that way. I hate feeling helpless and weak, because I’m not weak, I’ve had a lifetime of fighting every challenge the world has thrown at me. They aren’t dead. I will find them. Cederic’s the Kilios, damn it, and there’s no way the Kilios is just going to disappear. So even if he’s not in Colosse when I get there, someone will know where he went, and I’ll chase after him as long as I have to.
There. I feel better now. I think I can sleep a few hours, and face breakfast, and then I can start planning a route to Colosse. And Jeddan and I can work on teaching each other pouvrin.