List of what I still need to do:
- Work out who knows which pouvrin to make our training more efficient. The goal is for every mage to learn the fire and mind-moving pouvrin. They’ll have to be the foundation of our defense (offense?) even though it means we lack flexibility. I just don’t know any other pouvrin we can turn against the enemy, and there’s no time to discover more.
- Start teaching the concealment pouvra. If we can be hidden as we work pouvrin, the enemy mages won’t be able to find us to strike back. I hope. This assumes we can also teach these mages to maintain concentration on that pouvra while working others.
- Practice Tarallan’s tactics. It’s easier to understand the theory than I’d imagined. Not so easy to put it into practice. He wants a lot of simultaneous attacks, which means teaching the mages more of the organized movements Norsselen taught them, and that takes time. Like everything else.
- Learn the flitting pouvra. This may be selfishness on my part, but I can’t help thinking it could be useful to us. It’s still not coming together, though.
Not only the King, but the entire Chamber and Tarallan showed up at the manor around mid-morning without having bothered to give us any warning of their arrival. Fortunately, we knew he’d be here sometime, so nobody was too flustered, or at least not flustered enough to be unable to perform. They all went through their rehearsed demonstration while Jeddan and I stood near King and Chamber, then Jeddan and I showed off the walk-through-walls and concealment pouvrin.
The King was delighted by all of it. I think he hasn’t realized our magic has anything to do with the war and thinks it’s all for his personal amusement. Batekessar looked sour, more sour than usual I mean, and Lenssar looked bored, but I think he was covering fear. Jakssar just watched everything carefully, as did Crossar, but where Jakssar seemed to be formulating questions to ask, Crossar seemed to be analyzing our strengths and weaknesses. Which makes sense, if he’s Chamber Lord of Defense, but it felt uncomfortable, like he was doing it so he’d know how to defeat us if that became necessary.
And when he turns his attention on me, I feel as if he’s doing the same thing, as if he’s trying to figure out what use he can make of me. I don’t like it, but what can I do, other than try to stay out of his way and remind myself that if he ever physically attacked me, which I don’t think he’d do, I can easily defend myself.
After we’d shown off everything we could, Tarallan said, “Do you have any questions, your Majesty, my lords and lady?” I felt as if that was something I should have asked, but he’s our commanding officer, so I guess we’re his responsibility.
“Sesskia, how is it you know so many magics?” Jakssar asked, overriding whatever the King had been about to say. “You seem so young to be so formidable.”
“I did almost nothing but study magic for ten years,” I said. “It’s something that matters to me. And the better I understood how it worked, the more magics I was able to learn.”
“Magic was illegal all that time,” Batekessar said. “You brag about breaking the law openly to your King?”
“Magic has never been illegal, Batekessar,” Crossar said, “just feared. Thalessi was brave to risk death for the sake of magic. I’m not sure I would have done that.”
“I’ve seen enough,” said Lenssar. “We should leave them to their training.”
“I have more questions,” the King said, whining. He whines a lot. “Most of these magics seem useless in our defense. Why do you even have them?”
“Honored, each of us developed a pouvra when we became mages,” I said. His tone of voice really gets under my skin and makes it hard for me to be patient with him, sovereign or no. “We didn’t choose which one. So even though we’re all learning pouvrin we can attack the enemy with, some of us still have other magics we need to practice. And studying one pouvra makes it easier for us to learn others.”
“It’s good that you can all produce fire,” the King said, proving that he once again hadn’t been paying attention. “That was impressive.”
“Thank you, Honored,” I said. “Would you like to know anything else?”
“I want to know if you can take over someone else’s body with that going incorporeal magic,” the King said. “Make them do what you want.”
The idea made me sick. “No, Honored, and it’s extremely dangerous to pass through living flesh, for both of you,” I said. “We don’t do that.”
“Implying that you can,” Crossar said.
“And we don’t,” Jeddan said. “We can’t ‘take over’ anyone else, either. Honored.” He sounded dangerous, and the King looked nervous.
I said, “But General Tarallan has some ideas for how it can be useful in other ways, Honored.”
“Intelligence gathering, mostly, your Majesty,” Tarallan said. “Combined with the concealment pouvra, we could have spies capable of entering enemy strongholds and retrieving valuable information without being noticed.”
“Or men and women capable of stealing anything they wanted,” Crossar said, again turning that needle-sharp gaze on me. “Am I right, Thalessi?”
“I suppose that’s true, Honored,” I said, “though I don’t think a mage is any more likely to be a criminal than anyone else.” Which was a non-answer to the question he was really asking, but if he wasn’t willing to come right out and ask Are you a thief? I didn’t feel obligated to give him an open answer.
“Well, keep up the good work, everyone,” the King said, addressing the room. “I’ll probably come back and watch you work sometimes. I think it’s important for a King to be aware of what his subjects are capable of.” Without noticing how all our faces blanched at the idea of being under royal scrutiny, he turned and left the room, followed immediately by Batekessar and Lenssar.
Jakssar said, “You’re setting a remarkable example, Sesskia,” before following them herself. I think she might see me as some kind of figurehead for female empowerment. She certainly seemed to be scrutinizing the women mages carefully. (I don’t think I’ve said that we have more female mages than male, though not by much. With fewer than fifty mages in all, it’s impossible to say if that means anything about the mage population in general.)
…to be continued