28 Coloine (continued)
There were actually three of them, two women and the man Baltan. One of the women, short and with gray-streaked hair, had her hand stretched out toward Jeddan, as if she needed the gesture to work her pouvra. The other woman, who was young and very pretty, was standing a little ways back and hadn’t done or said anything, so I didn’t know if she was a mage or not, but she, like the other woman, had green-gray eyes, so I figured the odds were good.
I realized Baltan was still screaming on the ground, so I dismissed the pouvra and, after a second’s thought, extended a hand to help him rise. He ignored it and scrambled to his feet. “What did you do?” he said in a hoarse, terrified voice. “That wasn’t scribbling.”
“Let Jeddan go,” I repeated, and flicked fire at the woman, not to burn her, just to nip at her feet, and she squeaked and Jeddan fell. “I told you. We’re Balaenic and we can work magic the way you do.” Then I realized what he’d said about scribbling, and I added, “Did some strangers come this way? People who don’t speak our language, and work magic by writing?”
“They’re with them, Baltan, how could they know that?” the woman said.
“No, Gismara,” the other woman, the one who’d been silent, said. She came forward and laid a hand on Gismara’s arm. “Didn’t you see? They’re like us.” She took a few more steps forward, extended her hand palm out, and said, “I grant you the freedom of my name, which is Nanissa. Be welcome here.”
I placed my palm against hers in greeting and said, with no hesitation, “Sesskia. And this is—” I caught myself before I usurped Jeddan’s right to privacy. I’ve decided that, for good or ill, we mages have something very personal in common, and I want the connection that sharing praenomi gives, but that doesn’t mean I can make that decision for Jeddan. But I think he reasoned the same way I did, because he said, “I’m Jeddan,” he said. “Thank you for the welcome, Nanissa.” Then I had so many questions I didn’t know how to begin, but Nanissa began for me.
“You’ve got a lot of control, for only having a couple of weeks to learn,” she said. “Fire…that’s frightening.”
I exchanged glances with Jeddan. “Maybe we should have the rest of this conversation indoors,” I said, and not because the wind was picking up and I was feeling cold. If they assumed we’d only been mages for a few weeks…I started going over possibilities in my head, all of them tangled and confusing.
Nanissa gestured down the street toward the rest of the town, and now I realized we had an audience. Men and women and children peered out from practically every doorway, some brave souls even venturing onto doorsteps. Nanissa called out, “It’s all right, they’re not dangerous.”
“That’s not a given,” Baltan said, glaring at me. (He was so antagonistic he almost made me regret my decision about praenomi.)
“I’m sorry I burned you, but I didn’t feel like hanging there all day until you realized we’re not a threat,” I said. He just glared harder.
The other woman, Gismara (poor woman, I bet she’s been teased all her life—or maybe that story isn’t as widely known as I think) said “We can’t trust them on the basis of all of us having the same kind of magic.”
“You’re right,” Jeddan said, surprising her. “We could still be enemies. But isn’t it worth that risk to learn more about yourselves?” Gismara tightened her lips and said nothing more. It was so frustrating they were so suspicious—I know, Jeddan was right that even if we were the same kind of mages, we might still want to do them harm, but with Balaen in general being so fearful of magic, don’t we have a…maybe an obligation?…to band together? Or is that me indulging in a rare fit of optimism? I don’t know.
Nanissa took us to a tavern and asked the woman behind the bar if we could use the private room. She looked at us skeptically, but nodded, and we all went into this dark, low-ceilinged room that probably would be more cheerful in summer, when the small windows let in a brighter sunlight. Just then it seemed dreary. But Nanissa just sat down and said, “What can you do?” to Jeddan even before he’d taken a seat.
He blinked at her abruptness. “I can pass through things,” he said, “and see inside things.”
Nanissa’s mouth fell open. “You have two magics,” she said. “How is that possible?”
I put my hand on Jeddan’s wrist to keep him from speaking. “First I have to ask you a couple of questions,” I said.
“We get to do the talking,” Baltan growled.
“All of this will make more sense if you just answer two questions,” I said. “Please. Then we’ll tell you anything you like.”
Nanissa hesitated, then nodded. Baltan rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair. Gismara, to my surprise, looked like she was actually listening instead of stubbornly resisting anything we might say.
“First question,” I said. “There was an…event…about two weeks ago, 15 Coloine or so. Felt like being pulled hard in different directions. Did you develop magic when that happened? Or right afterward?”
Nanissa looked puzzled, but nodded. “We all did. But you already know that, if it happened to you, so I don’t see the point of that question.”
“You will,” I said. “Second question. Did something else happen to each of you, something other than the con—the pulling? Something traumatic, like being trapped in a burning house, or almost drowning?”
Nanissa looked at the others. “No,” she said. “Why?”
“So it was the convergence that did it,” Jeddan said to me. “How? Or is it ‘why’?”
“Time for you to talk,” Baltan said. “No more stalling.”
“All right,” I said. And before Nanissa could start asking questions, I told them everything.
I explained how Jeddan and I had become mages well before the convergence and that we’d been studying pouvrin for years, which is why we had several. I explained about the worlds coming together and how the convergence had triggered something in them that woke up the magic—something related to the color of their eyes.
(It’s getting harder to deny that the eye color is related to magical ability, even though it sounds so stupid. Such an insignificant thing on which to hang such power. And poor Terrael. If he’s lost his magic…it makes me want to shout and scream at whoever or whatever set up this stupid rule—one of the four false Gods, maybe? Or is it just the way the world is? I still hope I’m wrong.)
to be continued…