18 Senessay (evening)
Maybe I was wrong about that last sentence. Again I’m so overwhelmed by what I’ve learned I don’t know what to think anymore. So I’ll start with what I’m sure of, which is that Terrael wouldn’t meet my eyes when he finally showed up, about two hours after the end of my interrogation. The first thing he said was “I’m not sorry.”
“I was furious with you earlier,” I told him, “but since I’m not dead, I decided to be glad it worked and forgive you. But if you ever try anything like that on me again I’ll strangle you with your own robe.” (That’s actually what I said, not me being clever in retrospect. Though I don’t know how I’d make it happen. Terrael’s tall and I think he’s stronger than he looks.) Continue reading
Things I learned during my interrogation of Sai Aleynten, better known as Smug Git:
- They have never seen magic like mine before.
- This place is a sort of cross between a school and a co-operative of magic.
- That cap could have killed me.
- My coming here was, as I guessed, a complete accident.
Obviously the thing I’m most concerned about right now is number 3, though number 4 runs a close second. How dare Terrael risk my life like that? Yes, I’m glad I can understand these people now, and no, there’s no way he could have explained the situation to me and gotten my consent, but I’m still angry. Fortunately for Terrael, I haven’t seen him since last night, when he escorted me (in silence) back to my room. In the morning, a white-robe brought me breakfast (gruel studded with raisins and sprinkled with sugar, better-tasting than it sounds) and waited for me to finish (it’s hard to eat when someone’s staring at you, did you know?) then escorted me down the hall to a chamber near the mouth of the corridor. It was a much bigger room than the “sitting rooms” I’d seen before, maybe thirty feet in both directions. There was a table made of some wood so dark it was nearly black, a long, plain thing like a stone slab, and two chairs facing each other across it, but on the long sides, so we weren’t fifteen feet away from each other. Sai Aleynten stood next to one of the chairs, hands clasped behind his back, smug gitty look on his face as usual. “Sit down,” he said, pointing at the other chair. I tried to think of something rude to say to that, but in the end I just sat. So did he. Continue reading
Later, same day
I’m in a different room now, one of the bedrooms lining the inner curve of the corridor. I learned in following Terrael—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Terrael did come back, after maybe half an hour, and gestured for me to follow him. The women didn’t stop me leaving, though I saw one of them look at the other with this expression that said she thought it was a bad idea to let the strange woman wander around with no one but Terrael to supervise. Terrael didn’t seem worried that I might run off. I don’t know what to make of him. He’s young enough, I’d guess eighteen or nineteen, that he might not be sufficiently cynical yet, but…I don’t know. He has this air of eager confidence about him I just don’t understand. But he’s polite, and he’s trying to communicate with me, and in general I’d feel bad about knocking him down and running away. So I just followed him. Continue reading
15 Senessay (I think)
I’m calling it tomorrow because the light went out at some point, and I finally fell asleep on that horrible gritty mat, and when I woke I felt better. Rested, at least. Two of them came in before that and grabbed my arms, and marched me down the hall to one of the interminable doors, which turned out to be some kind of commode. There was a porcelain basin like the ones I’ve seen in some of the big manors, only this one didn’t have water sitting in the bowl, it had water flowing through it so it was constantly cleaning itself. I was glad to see it, because I was starting to have a pressing need to piss and there wasn’t anywhere in my cell I could relieve myself. So someone is thinking of my needs, at least on that level.
They also brought me food before I slept, a couple of slices of a kind of dark bread I’d never tasted before and a bowl of thick, spicy red soup with beans and some grain that looked like wild rice, only white and bland. It was filling and strange, and if I didn’t know I was in some other country before I’d be sure of it now. Food is one of the things that varies most between places. I’m trying not to be worried that I don’t recognize it, because that means I am definitely far from home, and I don’t know how I’ll get back. Continue reading
Still 14 Senessay, probably (though without the sun, who can tell?)
Well, that was a waste of time. And it started so well, too.
The mind-moving pouvra worked, which was a relief; after that first failure, I was a little afraid I couldn’t use magic at all, even the fire summoning, and I didn’t want to be trapped here with no way to defend myself. The lock was strange, with tumblers that moved not at all the way I’m used to, and I would’ve bet I knew every kind of lock there was, after all these years of opening them. If it hadn’t been for the mind-moving pouvra, I might not have been able to open it at all, even with my tools, which got left behind with my pack in that old barn. I used the see-through pouvra on the door, which makes a two-foot-wide hole in whatever I’m looking through—not really a hole, it just seems like it, and I’m the only one who can tell it’s there. Continue reading
14 Senessay (maybe)
I’ve managed to keep this book hidden so far. I don’t know where to start or what happened, maybe the new pouvra did something, because it’s too big a coincidence otherwise. Everything hurts, not just my arms but the whole rest of my body, and my stomach feels like I’m going to throw up again, though they haven’t fed me since I did. The door is locked, but when I try to use the new pouvra to pick it, my body just aches more. I can’t focus. I need to start at the beginning.
I think it was nearly dawn when I woke feeling like I needed to take a piss. So I got up, or thought I did, but I felt as if I were stretching like taffy at a carnival, like part of me was still stuck to the ground and the rest of me was being pulled away from it. That made me think I was having a dream, but I’ve never dreamed so real before, and my arms still hurt, which I didn’t think happened in dreams. And I still felt this need, though by this time I could tell it wasn’t my bladder; it was just this pull, and it was starting to hurt. So I stood and let it pull me for a bit, thinking it might hurt less if I didn’t fight it. The air looked thick, like heat waves only sideways to the ground, and when I turned around I saw they surrounded me and even went through me. That was when I panicked. I ran for the door, but it was like wading through the tide, only hot and dry and stronger than any tide off Thalessa ever was. I know I tried swimming and I tried going in other directions, but it didn’t matter, it just kept pulling me away from wherever I tried to go. Continue reading “Sesskia’s Diary, part 3”
13 Senessay (later)
It worked. I made the bunk in the corner lift off the ground and I didn’t even tear anything, though my arms hurt afterward as if I’d used them instead of the pouvra. Then I practiced working the lock, which was harder because I had to picture what it feels like to use the picks on it—I still can’t look inside things instead of through them, though I haven’t given up on that—but eventually I could lock and unlock it with the new pouvra faster than I ever did with lock picks. Of course, it’s only the giant one on the barn door, and it’s probably a hundred years old, so it wasn’t exactly a difficult lock—I’ll have to try again on something more finicky. I can’t help remembering being caught in Wirstan for stealing that stupid woman’s purse, and how they would have shut me away for good if I hadn’t found a couple of skinny iron nails to pick the lock with. No more worries about having my tools taken away!
I’m feeling a little low, the way I always do after I learn a new pouvra. It’s as if I put so much of myself into figuring it out, then learning to bend my will to the magic, that everything else feels like a disappointment. There’s still time to sleep before dawn, when I’ll have to move out again. This barn smells musty, and the hay is all stale and prickly, so I assume it’s been abandoned for a while, but I don’t want to take the chance that someone will come along and want to know what I’m doing here. People on the borders of Balaen don’t trust travelers (how well I know that!) or even anyone who comes from anywhere more than half a day’s walk from their home. And I’ve come so much farther than that.
This is also the time when I wonder if I wouldn’t have been happier just staying in Thalessa, working at the fishery, which was awful but at least it was steady work. But that lasts about two seconds before I remember the smell of fish guts, and that tiny hovel that I could never keep clean, and Mam getting drunk all the time and then begging me to forgive her, over and over again. I couldn’t have stayed, anyway, not once this magic took me over and I started doing things I couldn’t keep hidden. Besides…
I was going to write “it’s beautiful” but that’s wrong, it’s powerful and terrifying and when I use one of the pouvrin it fills me to bursting, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything, however dangerous it might be. But it’s not beautiful.
Sleep, now. I haven’t decided where to go next. Maybe Barrekel, it’s nearly harvest time and they could probably use some hands out at those big plantations. I’ll need to start saving for the winter.
Read from beginning
I’m going to try again tonight.
If I’m wrong, this could be my first and last entry in this new book, the sixth record of my travels through Balaen and beyond. Probably will be my last entry, considering how that last test left me pissing red for a week. But I think I know what I did wrong, and I feel pretty confident. Mostly confident. Terrified. No one’s ever going to read this, and I’m not sure why I keep writing, except to have someone else to talk to, even if it’s myself. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m going mad.
I don’t even know if these preparations matter. None of the ancient writers agreed on anything, and they all swore by their own methods. Fast for twelve hours. Sit by a puddle of water in which the moon is reflected and meditate. Burn three kinds of incense. Take off all your clothes—I’m definitely not doing that, even if I am the only one around. The best I could do was find common threads and then use my instincts—that’s something they all did agree on, that magic comes from who you are, at the core, and all this incense and water and fasting and nudity are supposed to make you more yourself. Or something. Anyway, I need this pouvra, and I’m willing to try anything at this point.
Maybe I am mad. Any one of these pouvrin I’ve learned could get me executed, if I wasn’t torn apart by a frenzied mob first. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when magic wasn’t feared, but I have all these stories that say otherwise. Maybe I should have taken up a career as a traveling tale-teller; it would be less dangerous. Though with the kind of stories I’ve learned, I’d probably be just as likely to get killed, suggesting maybe magic isn’t as evil as all that. I can see why people think it is. The pouvrin I’ve learned are a little frightening—I can summon fire, or water, and I can see through things, and I think I might be able to walk through walls, though I’ve only done that once and I’m afraid to try it again. Suppose I went solid in the middle of something? And if I do this right, I’ll be able to make things move without touching them. I hurt myself trying, last time, but—I’m stalling now, aren’t I? No sense putting it off any longer. If I can make this work, they’ll never be able to trap me again.
The story that became Sesskia’s Diary was something I played with for about a year without getting much further than the opening scenes: a woman appearing in a vast cavern, surrounded by people who don’t speak her language, possessing an unusual magic and therefore fought over by several factions who want her power for themselves. It seemed like it had potential, but I couldn’t make it work. Then, sometime in July of 2014, I had a stray thought: what if I told this not only from my heroine’s point of view, but as the diary she keeps during her travels? I’m certainly not the first to think of this, so I’m not claiming to be marvelously original, but somehow it struck me as exactly what I needed for this story. I wrote a few “entries” as an experiment, and a week later the story began to flow. It was a fascinating experiment, and when I started keeping a regular blog, it occurred to me that it might be fun to publish it as a serial on the blog. And here we are.
Just to avoid confusion, I’ll explain that yes, book six is where the story begins, and you’re not missing five other books. It will become clear very quickly why the story begins where it does. Also, some of Sesskia’s entries are very long, and may be divided by me into shorter pieces for ease of reading. Aside from that, I’m going to let Sesskia’s story unfold the way she wrote it.