Sesskia’s Diary, part 9

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.)

“That’s fair,” Terrael said, and then he looked at me and he didn’t look at all penitent. I get the feeling Terrael is the sort of person who can’t stand not trying new things, even potentially fatal things, which means we have a lot in common.

Then we both started talking at once, stopped, started again, and then fell silent. It seemed Terrael had as many questions for me as I did for him. “Sai Aleynten said you’d answer my questions,” Terrael said.

“He said you’d answer mine, too. So I think we should take turns,” I said, and Terrael nodded. “You can go first,” I added, because I could see he was about to jump out of his skin with impatience, another thing that told me he was fairly young. I realize that, technically, I’m still fairly young myself—twenty-seven isn’t exactly ancient—but when I was his age, I’d already had cynicism beaten into me by life, and Terrael is just so eager all the time. But I’m getting off track.

Terrael nodded, began to say something, then said, “Oh, we should probably go somewhere we can sit comfortably. This might take a while.”

“That’s fine,” I said, but I was thinking If this takes a while, there had better be food. Terrael showed me to another sitting room, this one containing several chairs with actual backs, and I sat in one and immediately felt better. Soft chairs are just so relaxing, and there’s something about them that makes me think of reading, which is one of the things I like best in life. Oh! Maybe Terrael’s Cap of Death made me able to read their language! I wish I’d thought of that when he was still here; he could have brought me a book. Something else to find out in the morning.

Terrael perched on the edge of his seat so no part of him touched the chair back. “What country do you come from?” he asked. No preliminaries. Just what I’d expect of him.

“Balaen,” I said, and he looked confused and said he’d never heard of it. “I could show it to you on a map, if you have the right map,” I said.

“Good idea! Let’s go—” he said, and I had to grab his hand and make him sit down.

“I don’t think where I’m from is the most important issue right now,” I said. “Besides, it’s my turn.”

“But that wasn’t really an answer!” Terrael said. He can be a little whiny.

“Too bad for you. Why do you need—tan, was it?—to work magic?”

Th’an,” Terrael said. “It’s just how magic works. I might as well ask you why you don’t need them. How did you learn to work magic?”

“That wasn’t an answer,” I said.

“Too bad for you,” Terrael said, and he grinned at me, which made me laugh. That broke down the reserve between us, and from there the conversation went more smoothly. I’ll just summarize what I told him and what I learned from him, so I can get to the more interesting things.

What I told him: I explained about magic being rare where I come from, and people who can do pouvrin being feared. I didn’t tell him about the magic waking up inside me—I’m never going to tell anyone about that—but I did explain how I’d spent ten years searching for old records and stories about pouvrin and learning to use them. I also told him the pouvrin I could do and the ones I was trying to discover, like the invisibility pouvra, and that made his eyes go extra wide and round, and he told me that was impossible for their magic. So I guess that’s one for my side, so there, Sai Aleynten and your flinging innocent women into convenient counters! Let’s see…I think the only other thing I told him was about how it felt to use a pouvra, which he seemed very interested in, though he wouldn’t say why and I didn’t care enough to ask.

What he told me: more about the Darssan—how it was founded centuries ago by a woman named Audryn, with the help of Castavir’s first king Eddon (Castavir is their country), and how it started as a place where mages could be safe from threat of persecution or death. It seems there was a time in their history where magic was as feared as it is in Balaen. And over the centuries it turned into a repository of knowledge and a home for mages, where they can study and create new kathanas to use for the benefit of Castavir. Terrael’s been here for three years. He didn’t come out and say it, but from what he did say I worked out that he’s some kind of prodigy—mostly people don’t qualify for the Darssan until they’re nearly twenty-one, and Terrael said he was nineteen. And he said Sai Aleynten is the head of the Darssan, something called a Wrelan, and has been for two years. It turns out “Sai” is a title, not a name; they call regular mages Master (and I don’t know why that translates when Sai doesn’t) and Sai means, basically, “great master.” Which might explain Sai Aleynten’s permanent smugness.

I asked him about the kathana that brought me here, but his explanation was too technical for me to understand. Maybe if I knew more about their magic—but he repeated what Sai Aleynten had said about it not being able to summon anything living, and how they’d been analyzing it for flaws ever since I appeared. He did tell me more about what it was supposed to summon, a book that would help them create a powerful kathana, but when I asked what that was supposed to do, he said I should ask Sai Aleynten. Which means I’ll probably never find out, because the idea of going begging to Sai Aleynten, even for something like that, makes me irritable.

Let’s see, what else…. I asked him to explain more about his magic—like, if you work pouvrin by learning their shape and bending your will to the magic, then letting it come from within you, how do you learn th’an and so forth. Terrael had trouble with this; it sounded like it was something that came so naturally to him that it was like trying to explain how to walk. But what I understood was that people studying to be mages have to learn hundreds of th’an and how to shape them perfectly. If you don’t get a th’an exactly right, nothing happens. So they practice their penmanship a lot. Then they have to learn the ways th’an can be combined into kathanas. Some combinations just don’t do anything, but mages are always learning, or rediscovering, new combinations. And some mages get to be so good at th’an they can scribe runes on air and have them work just as if they’d been written on stone. One more reason for Sai Aleynten to look smug. Really, it’s amazing he even deigns to walk among ordinary people.

Right. That was another thing. Castavir—the whole region, really—went through this awful catastrophe several centuries ago, where a lot of knowledge was destroyed, and mages were feared, and they still haven’t recovered everything that was lost. I told Terrael that my country had suffered something similar a long time ago, so it seems the catastrophe had a wider area of effect than either of us believed. We tried comparing histories, but couldn’t find anything in common. Then

NOTE: there is nothing missing from this diary entry. It cuts off like this in the original.