Sesskia’s Diary, part 183

30 Nevrine

Nothing happened yesterday. I slept for a while, then practiced the flitting pouvra to go to the practice field and back. It’s very disorienting. I can flit a few hundred yards, but then I have to pause to find a new point to aim at. Jerussa says it gets easier with practice, but for now I won’t be doing any flitting into enemy territory.

Today we drilled with the army, though not for very long, all together, because the soldiers were all so fascinated with our magic they kept stopping to ask questions. I had some questions of my own for Mattiak, first of which was “why isn’t everyone terrified of us?” It’s starting to be common for me to have dinner with him, partly because I always report just at the right time and also, I think, because Mattiak likes having someone to talk to who isn’t a subordinate or interested only in military matters. The story he told me was so long, I’ve only just now gotten back—it’s nearly nine-thirty in the evening, half an hour or so before Nessan arrives, so I’ll have to sum it up:

The convergence hit Venetry hard, about as hard as Colosse was hit—physical shocks as well as the pulling everyone felt, and a lot of people thought the world was ending. Then the mages started appearing, and the manifestation of their pouvrin was taken by many to be a sign confirming the apocalypse. A few illogical people concluded if they killed the mages, the destruction would end, and others were just afraid of magic, and still others were victims of the pouvrin (don’t know if those were intentional attacks or not), and that’s how the slaughter began.

Three hundred mages were killed that first day. Some mages were sheltered by their families, and others fought their way to safety outside the walls, and the killing became more indiscriminate as society fell apart. It took three days for the city guard to pacify the mob, during which time any other mages who manifested did their best to hide. There weren’t any more mage killings, at any rate.

It was several days later that the reports from the north, where the Castaviran city had appeared, started to arrive. The news that the invaders also had mages threatened to send Venetry into another cataclysm of violence against anyone suspected of being a mage. The explanation for what happened next was Mattiak’s supposition, because no one knew how it started, but the rumor went around Venetry that Balaen’s mages had been sent by the true God to defend the country against the enemy’s mages.

Mattiak thinks the rumor was started by a group of people, maybe several mages, because it spread too quickly to have started in only one place, and it reached King and Chamber faster than could be explained even by the speed of gossip. The King latched onto the rumor and decreed that mages were to be protected, and that all mages were to come to Venetry to assist in Balaen’s defense.

That was when the second rumor started, which was that the new mages had magic that was different from what everyone had feared, good magic that couldn’t harm anyone who didn’t have evil in their hearts. Not as many people believed that one, but between them, and families who couldn’t believe evil of their own relatives just because they were now mages, and the pragmatists in government who saw mages as a weapon, the majority of Venetrians either aren’t afraid of mages or hide their fear well. And the soldiers we trained with today have seen Castaviran mages in battle, so they see us and our magic as allies.

I still think it’s odd. Maybe I’m just having trouble forgetting ten years of fear and secrecy, but I think that kind of change of heart is unlikely. Or maybe the city guard is cracking down on anti-mage sentiment harder than I realize, and the people are all still afraid of mages but more afraid of what the military can do under martial law. Or maybe I’ve been wrong about the level of fear of mages in the country at large. I don’t know. What I do know is this doesn’t change anything as far as I’m concerned; I’m still not going to flaunt my magic in the city if I can help it. The soldiers do seem genuinely unafraid of us, though, so I could be wrong.

Anyway, Mattiak set up a drill that was a lot of fun in addition to being a good new challenge. He handed out marked helmets to a bunch of soldiers, then set everyone to practicing swordplay outside the walls. Then he put our mind-movers on the wall and had them fling sponges soaked in paint at the marked targets. The idea is to learn to target specific individuals in a crowd and knock them out without hitting any of our soldiers who might be nearby.

It was almost too fun, as the soldiers ducked and ran in ways they wouldn’t on the battlefield, and the mages were laughing so hard they sometimes couldn’t control the sponges at all. I wish we had enough colors of paint that we could assign one to each mage, to more clearly see how each individual does, but I don’t think there are thirty-nine colors of paint in the world. We have enough to divide the mages into teams tomorrow. I still have reservations about treating this like a game, but Mattiak says there’ll be time enough for them to realize how serious it is.

Nessan’s divided the spies into two groups; he does stealth training with one while I teach the concealment pouvra to the other, then we switch. He hasn’t had me go through the full course since the first time, which I hope means he doesn’t think I need it. He has had me demonstrate a few techniques, like memorizing the contents of a room to be recalled later, and doing that made me realize how much better my memory has gotten since I started writing all those conversations I had with Terrael and Audryn and Cederic and the others. Though I still think a memory pouvra would be useful.

Time to join Nessan. I think Relania is close to mastering the concealment pouvra; she’s got the mental flexibility I think all the “old” mages have, or at least that Jeddan and I have as well. Rutika’s not as close, but she’s coming along so quickly in Nessan’s training it almost doesn’t matter. I wonder if I should give them all a talk about not using their new skills to steal things, but it’s possible I’d just be giving them ideas.

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