22 Nevrine, continued
Crossar stayed behind to talk to Tarallan. It didn’t seem like a private discussion, but I didn’t think it had anything to do with me, so I was about to excuse myself when Tarallan said, “Nessan tells me all mages have the same eye color. Is that true?”
It took me a minute to remember where I’d heard that name before—the soldier at the gate. “It’s true,” I said. “Nobody who doesn’t have those eyes developed magic after the event.”
“Fortunate for you no one knew that until recently,” Crossar said. “You would have found it much more difficult to stay hidden.”
“I’m grateful for that, Honored,” I said.
“So would it be worth seeking out more like you?” Tarallan said. “Rather than waiting for them to come forward on their own?”
“We don’ t actually know whether everyone with those eyes developed magic. If they aren’t already mages—if they haven’t already developed a pouvra—I don’t know how to give them that,” I said. “So I’m not sure it would increase our numbers any faster. It would depend on how many resources you have to put toward doing it, identifying actual mages before sending them here.”
“Then we’ll focus on training the ones we have, and spread the word of the King’s summons more widely,” Crossar said. “But I don’t know how much time we have.”
“The enemy has laid siege to Hasskian,” Tarallan said. “If we leave immediately, we might be able to trap them against the city before it’s overcome.”
“Hasskian can hold out indefinitely,” Crossar said.
“Not against the weapons this army has,” Tarallan said. “Not only those battle mages, but weapons we’ve never seen before. They seem to work like rifles, but they fire shot the size of a man’s head that fractures when it hits its target. My spies tell me Hasskian’s walls are starting to look like lacework.”
My stomach churned at the thought of Hasskian and all its inhabitants being overrun. I wondered if those mystery weapons could be the war wagons. The God-Empress couldn’t have many of them, could she, if Vorantor had transferred most of them to Aselfos’s troops? Idiot, who says that room you saw was the only one she had? I thought. I considered telling them about the war wagons, realized I couldn’t without giving away knowledge I shouldn’t have, realized further there was nothing I could tell them they didn’t already know, and held my tongue.
“I don’t have the power to order the army away from the city,” Crossar said, “and the—” He seemed to realize I was still there, listening, and turned a frown on me. “Excuse us, Thalessi,” he said, and I nodded and walked away.
It’s strange that the Chamber Lord of Defense doesn’t have power to maintain the kingdom’s defense, if he can’t order the army to move. I guessed the King, frightened of Venetry being overrun and himself taken or killed by the God-Empress’s army, insisted the army make their stand here. I don’t know enough about strategy to understand what the best battleground is, but I think Tarallan, and probably Crossar, do, and it’s not in the area surrounding Venetry. My respect for the King, never great, is diminishing.
Tarallan and Crossar talked for a while longer; I watched them covertly as I worked with my group. Finally Crossar exchanged farewell salutes with Tarallan, looked at me in a way that told me he knew I’d been watching, and left the room. Tarallan also looked my way and nodded to indicate I should join him.
“You heard enough to know what the problem is,” he said without preamble.
“I guessed the King doesn’t want the army to leave Venetry,” I said.
“Not a single division of it,” Tarallan said. “Even though the enemy has divided her own forces somewhat. Hasskian’s the only city of any size in that area, but she’s spreading out to take over all the smaller cities surrounding it, taking what provisions she can and killing the inhabitants. If she can afford to do that and still smash Hasskian’s defenses to powder, she’s a formidable threat.”
“Does that affect what the mages are doing?” I said.
“Only in the sense that the more of you we have, the better,” he said. “Hence my question about searching out mages rather than waiting passively for them to arrive.”
“They still come in, a few at a time,” I said, “and about half of them already know the offensive pouvrin. I just wish I could be sure they can use them, um, offensively.”
“No way to know until we come to that point,” he agreed. “I’d like to discuss more of the tactics I want you to use, but I don’t have time until evening. Let’s meet over dinner.”
“All right,” I said, and we arranged a time. Then he left, and I went back to working with the mages. Two more came in that afternoon, both fire mages, both in my group (interestingly, the majority of my group started with the fire pouvra, and most of Jeddan’s knew the mind-moving pouvra first, and the third group is primarily the see-in-dark pouvra. Something for me to study if I had any time which I do NOT). This gives us a total of forty-nine mages. We’re going to need another dining room soon.
Out of forty-nine mages:
- Thirty-six know the fire pouvra, and fourteen of those can do the fire rope.
- Twenty-five know the mind-moving pouvra. All of them except Jeddan and me can lift weights of at least five pounds, all the way up to Saemon at several hundred, and I think he hasn’t reached his limit.
- Twenty of 1 and 2 combined can do both pouvrin.
- Eleven mages have three pouvrin, and all of those except Relania have fire and mind-moving as two of theirs.
- The remaining eight are all, probably not coincidentally, Relania’s pacifist friends. They’re all good at seeing in the dark and walking through things. I haven’t told them yet that this makes them perfect spies. I’m saving that in reserve for if Relania gets too smug about her pacifism.
I’ve spent the last few nights going over what I can remember the Castaviran mages doing, wondering if there’s any way I can build a pouvra to replicate those things. I have a good memory, but I don’t
Oh. The shield. Cederic’s shield kathana. Tarallan never said anything about the God-Empress using it, and I think Cederic only taught it to the Colosse troops. But—no, it’s impossible. It was so complicated, I can barely remember half of what he did.