20 Nevrine (continued)
Again, I didn’t even stop to think about the potential dangers. I just went insubstantial and let him run right through me, which made him stumble and go to his knees. Then I was terrified I’d killed him, and that fear turned into anger. Fury. Here was this man who had so much magic potential, had learned so much in a way I’d never thought possible, and all he could do was cling to his so-called power and bully others and tell them, essentially, that they’d never be as good as he was. And that infuriated me. It was a good feeling, a clean feeling, and I knew what to do with it.
“Jeddan, get him up,” I said. Jeddan hooked his hands under Norsselen’s arms, hauled him to his feet, and turned him to face me. Norsselen fought him, and shouted obscenities at me, until I got right up into his face and looped fire around his neck. That made him shut up fast, though he was still furious. I didn’t care anymore about what he felt.
“Listen to me, you idiot,” I said, loudly enough for everyone to hear. “I am sick of your posturing and your insistence that everyone defer to you because of some fantasy of power you dreamed up. I think you got lucky in developing several pouvrin and you don’t want anyone else to match you. How you manage to reconcile that fact with Jeddan and me working far more pouvrin than you all day long is a mystery I don’t care to unravel. But I’m not putting up with you any longer.
“If you can humble yourself, you’re welcome to learn with the rest of us. I’ll be happy to teach you. But if you persist in behaving as if the true God dropped you on the throne of Balaen to rule over the rest of us, I will turn every pouvra in my power on you until you are nothing but a puddle of weeping flesh. This is not a threat. This is a promise of the future. Drop him, Jeddan.”
Jeddan did so as I released the noose of fire. Norsselen looked up at me, and it makes me sick, now, to remember how much his expression of fear satisfied me. “If you can’t subordinate your pride to learning magic,” I continued, “get out. I’ll take responsibility for it to King and Chamber. I think they’ll understand when I tell them you were undermining our ability to defend Balaen. Now, which is it going to be?”
I thought about relenting a bit, telling him how much we needed his unique abilities, which was true as far as it went. But it didn’t go past an idle thought. I can’t believe how much pleasure I took in bullying him.
Norsselen got to his feet. He was shaking. Then he turned and left the room without saying a word. I realized I was shaking a bit myself. I said, “I think we’re done for today. I don’t know what you do for entertainment, but we all need to relax. I’ll be here in the morning, and anyone who wants to learn—” I glanced at Norsselen’s mages—“can join me and Jeddan.” Then I went to my room and sat unthinking for a while. And then, as I always do, I wrote.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can think about the consequences of what I did. I don’t know where Norsselen went. I think he’s probably gone. I guess I’ll find out come the morning. He might try to strike back at me, but right now I can’t think about that. I can’t think about anything except how afraid he looked at the end, and how much it satisfied me. It was wrong, and yet
There. I took about ten minutes to think it through, to calm myself. Because I don’t know that I was wrong in what I did. I’ve known a lot of people like Norsselen, and most of them don’t respond to anything but violence. I just never thought I’d be that person, the one facing them down. I feel like a stranger to myself today. Me, Sesskia, who’s spent a lifetime staying out of the way and not making waves, giving orders and facing down bullies and making speeches, true God help me. That’s not who I am. Except that now it is.
I never wanted to be this person. I was happy with who I was. But it seems this is what these mages need, and I don’t see how I can abandon them. I just wish I hadn’t taken such joy in tearing Norsselen down. I wish I had someone to talk to about it.
I tried telling Jeddan, but he just said, “The bastard had it coming to him, and everyone in that room knew it. The worst I can say is they probably shouldn’t have been so relieved it wasn’t them doing it, which is cowardly, but maybe none of them could. I think you’ve been their leader since we came through the door, Sesskia.” And that wasn’t helpful. I don’t want to
Oh, hell. I’ve just received a letter—it was directed to Norsselen, but nobody could find him, so they brought it to me. The army’s back. And it seems I’ve just nominated myself as the mages’ official liaison to Mattiak Tarallan, Commander General of the Balaenic Army.