7 Nevrine (continued)
We trailed along after him, giving him plenty of space so he wouldn’t feel intimidated by Jeddan’s muscular frame. “That was impressive,” Jeddan whispered.
“It was luck,” I said. “I much prefer—never mind.” I’d been about to say “sneaking in at night” but realized Messkala might be listening.
We went along some wide passages that were made of stone and freezing cold, then up a spiral staircase and into a narrower hall that was floored with planed wood and felt much warmer. Messkala opened a door on the right and entered without waiting for us. “My Lord Governor, two magickers to see you,” we heard him say just as we entered a room that was as brutally hot as the downstairs passages had been cold.
“Thank you, Messkala,” the Lord Governor said, “you may leave,” and Messkala retreated at a pace that wasn’t quite a run.
The heat was coming from a fireplace about half the size of the one downstairs, which meant it was still far too big for the room. Everything in the room was too big for it, the chairs built as if for mythical giants, a cupboard against the wall opposite the fireplace so tall it looked as if it had been wedged into the space between floor and ceiling. The windows, on the other hand, were tiny and square and let in very little light, though that could have been the snow, which was falling heavily now. I tried not to feel intimidated, since I was sure that was the intention. It took some effort.
“Welcome to Hasskian,” the Lord Governor said. If I’d seen this room before meeting the man, I’d have guessed he was as oversized as everything else. But no, he was no taller than average, neither fat nor thin, with longish blond hair the same color as mine and, of course, the same green-gray eyes. He approached us with his palm out, and we each saluted him; the skin of his palms was hot and dry, probably from his proximity to the fire. My own skin was starting to feel parched.
“Please, sit down. Thank you for joining me,” he said. We put our packs next to the door and sat down. My feet dangled. Jeddan looked as if he belonged in the oversized room. Endolessar looked beyond us, and shortly a pitcher and a couple of glasses came bobbing past, unsupported by anything but his pouvra. Impressive, if he’d only had it for the short time since the convergence. He poured water for us, again with the pouvra, which I tried not to gulp. “What are your surnames?”
“We don’t have surnames,” I said. “I’m Thalessi Scales, and this is my companion, Rokyar Axe.”
“Thalessi, Rokyar, welcome,” Endolessar said. “May I ask your magics?” He looked eager enough that I almost forgot why we were there in my shared enthusiasm.
“I can summon water, and Rokyar can walk through things,” I said, since Jeddan didn’t seem to mind me speaking for both of us.
“I have never heard of summoning water,” Endolessar said. “Would you show me?”
I summoned a little blob over the pitcher so it fell inside without splashing. Endolessar looked thrilled. “Wonderful,” he said. “I’m sure we will find a use for you.”
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“In the defense of Hasskian,” he said. He sounded as casual as if he’d just pointed out it was snowing.
“Then—you know about the invasion?” I said, which was stupid, because how could he possibly know? But I was so preoccupied with delivering our warning and getting back on the road I wasn’t thinking clearly.
“Of course,” he said. “We discover more of these excrescences every day, more foreigners intruding on our territory. We must eliminate them.”
“The village,” Jeddan said, because he was quicker on the uptake than I was.
“We are making this territory safe for Balaen,” Endolessar said.
“No,” I said, “the villages aren’t a threat. It’s the invading army you have to worry about.”
He frowned, and said, “What are you talking about?”
So I told him about the convergence, and about the God-Empress’s army, though I didn’t call it that because that would have revealed I have far too much knowledge about Castavir for someone who doesn’t speak the language, and ended with a plea for him to leave the Castaviran villages alone. “You need to put all your efforts into defending Hasskian’s lands, and the towns dependent on it,” I said. “That army has many, many battle mages who are far better trained at warfare than your mages—your magickers—are, and if your efforts are divided, who knows what might happen?”
“Interesting,” Endolessar said. He got up and walked toward the fire. I half expected to see his hair start to frizzle from the heat. “Then you will fight with us?”
“We have to go to Venetry,” I said.
“Surely their summons is irrelevant, with this news,” he said. “They couldn’t possibly expect us to give up our only advantage, though I’m not sure how much use dropping water on someone is.”
“What summons?” Jeddan said.
“You haven’t heard?” Endolessar said. “The King and Chamber have summoned all magickers to the capital city to help in its defense against the invaders. But as Hasskian is going to meet this army before it reaches Venetry, I’m certain the King will understand your refusing the summons.”
“We have to warn them of the threat from the south,” I said. “We’re only two mages. You don’t really need us, and as you said, I won’t be of much help.”
“I can send messengers,” Endolessar said. “You’ll stay here.” He took two steps and grabbed my arm, painfully tight. I tried to pull away with no success.
“You can’t keep us,” Jeddan said.
“I can’t keep you, certainly,” he said, “but I’m counting on you being unwilling to abandon your companion, and her I can most certainly confine.”
I glanced at Jeddan, who gave me the briefest nod, then I went insubstantial briefly and stepped out of Endolessar’s grasp. “No one said I had only one magic,” I said to Endolessar’s astonished face, then we ran for the door, awkwardly scooping up our packs on the way, and dashed through it, not bothering to open it first.
We went substantial and pounded down the corridor to the stairs. “Where now?” Jeddan said.
“Out,” I said, “then we need provisions, and then we get the hell away from Hasskian before anyone finds us.” Behind us, we heard Endolessar shouting for his guards, and a stirring below told us someone was responding to the call. “Be ready,” Jeddan said, and we came out of the stairwell into the cold stone hallway, and made it almost all the way back to the entry when half a dozen guards poured out of it and headed in our direction.
“Now,” Jeddan said, and we worked the walk-through-walls pouvra and just kept running. I fell behind Jeddan, since I still can’t pass comfortably through flesh and had to dodge the guards, but it still didn’t take long for us to leave the screaming behind and tear across the moat and down the road back into the city.
There are still two pages left in this book, but this feels like a good place in the story to switch to the new one. I’m glad I thought to steal it before leaving Hasskian. Sort of steal it, that is. I’ll miss writing in this one; it’s all I have of Cederic right now.
Huh. It never occurred to me, in all this time, that he must have bought this for me because he loved me. That this was a gift of the heart. And it has so much of him in it, from the night he told me he loved me to his final goodbye, just before that kathana tore me from him. When we’re together again, I’ll read it to him. I think he’d like that.