Sesskia’s Diary, part 35

3 Lennitay, after dinner

So. Eavesdropping. I followed Cederic and Vorantor, keeping behind groups of mages and acting as if I were interested in their discussions. When Cederic and Vorantor left the cavern, I lagged behind them as they moved along the corridor until they were out of sight, but not out of hearing—fortunate they weren’t wearing those sandals. I stayed just close enough to know which one of the sitting rooms they entered, which was the one Cederic and I had used when I read to him, and then they shut the door and I stood alone in the corridor, trying not to panic.

I wrote that I’ve only used the walk-through-walls pouvra once. It’s frightening. It makes you mostly insubstantial, which means it’s impossible to breathe, and alters whatever you walk through to be a little insubstantial too. But you can still feel, and it feels as if you’ve been turned to liquid, and you’re flowing through the cold stream that is the other object, and if you don’t concentrate, you’ll be swept away and mingled with it. But I also feel if I try to pull away from the other stream, I could go too far the other way and become solid in the middle of whatever I’m moving through, which would make it become solid too, and that sounds like one of the more gruesome deaths I can imagine. But I was sure whatever Cederic and Vorantor were about to discuss was important to me and not just to them. So I took a few deep breaths, did the concealment pouvra (because coming through the wall completely visible would ruin everything), prayed the walk-through-walls pouvra wouldn’t negate the concealment, and went straight at the wall before I could think too hard about it.

I felt that moment of transition, that sensation of being fluid and the horrible feeling of having all my organs exposed to the wall’s near-immaterial substance, and then I was through and standing next to the door. Cederic and Vorantor were seated across from each other, and Cederic was using a th’an to pour water for them. The pitcher was steady and he spilled not a drop, which made me proud and a little smug on his behalf, because I’d bet Vorantor couldn’t do as much. He can’t write th’an on air, either.

They were chatting, mostly small talk about people they both knew and I didn’t. I paid close attention to this conversation, so I could record it more accurately later, but I didn’t bother remembering that part. I leaned back against the wall and prepared to wait for a while, but a few seconds later, Cederic said, “I hope you are convinced by this, Denril.”

Vorantor sipped his water, put the glass down, and said, “I was about to ask the same of you.”

“Sesskia’s arrival nearly brought down the Darssan around our heads,” Cederic said, which was news to me. No one ever talked about the day I came here, and while Cederic had said the kathana was dangerous, I had no idea just how dangerous that was. “Imagine the devastation if the transfer had not been confined to a single individual.”

“You know I have never downplayed the extent of the coming catastrophe,” Vorantor said. “I know very well how bad it will be. Which is why we have been working so hard to find ways to minimize it.”

“It will be impossible to protect everyone, Denril,” Cederic said, in a voice that implied they’d had this conversation a dozen times before. “We have to prevent it happening entirely.”

“If you would allow yourself to think rationally—” Vorantor began.

Do not accuse me of irrationality,” Cederic said, sounding so intense that Vorantor flinched back. “We worked side by side for years. I disagree about the results of our research. That hardly makes me irrational. You are the one who sits there and counts casualties and talks about acceptable losses instead of working with me to prevent the coming disaster!”

“I apologize, Cederic, my words were poorly chosen,” Vorantor said, but I’m pretty sure he was lying. He wanted—still wants—Cederic to be off-balance in Colosse, so he can get him to do as he wants. “You are correct, we disagree, but time and again our research has indicated that complete prevention of the worlds’ coming back together is impossible. Containment is the only solution.”

“We are close to summoning the Codex Tiurindi,” Cederic said, calmer now, and he definitely surprised Vorantor. “And thanks to Sesskia’s input, we will be able to read it when we do.”

“Astonishing,” Vorantor breathed. “You did not put that in your letter.”

Cederic actually smiled. “I wanted to tell you to your face and see your reaction.”

“Well, I hope you’re satisfied with my surprise and delight,” Vorantor said, laughing. It was a strange conversation. At times, they sounded like mortal enemies, and then they could joke and laugh together like old friends.

“Entirely,” Cederic said. “Now, Denril. Please see sense. The Codex Tiurindi will show us how to keep the two worlds apart permanently. No future generation will have to struggle to prevent chaos the way we are right now. I want us to work together again. Please.”

“I was unaware Cederic Aleynten knew how to make requests,” Vorantor joked, but it made Cederic recoil as if he’d been slapped. “You know the contents of the Codex are in large part a mystery. We don’t know what we will learn from it. The end is fast approaching, old friend. We no longer have time to entertain your…optimistic ambitions.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Cederic said.

“I mean it is time for you to work with me,” Vorantor said. “You have failed to prove that your theory is correct. I, on the other hand, have a great deal of proof on my side. The God-Empress sees the need for action, now, and has entrusted me to carry out her orders. I am to collect what you have learned and bring it back to Colosse for the Sais to study.”

“Denril—” Cederic said. His voice was rising.

“Don’t shout at me, Cederic, you know it doesn’t affect me,” Vorantor said. “You have a choice. Stay here in the Darssan, with your mages, and face destruction—you know this is too far from civilization for my kathana to protect you. Or come with me and have a part in saving the world.”

Cederic said, “This world, naturally.”

“The destruction of the other world is regrettable, but there’s no hope for it,” Vorantor said. “Its mages will have to save it themselves.”

“They have no mages,” Cederic said. “You are condemning a world to death.”

“As I said, regrettable, and the thought of all that death pains me, but I have an obligation to this world,” Vorantor said.

I’m a thief. If I went around reacting in surprise or anger or fear or horror all the time, I’d be a dead thief. But hearing Vorantor talk so casually about the destruction of my world made me so furious I nearly dropped the concealment pouvra and throttled him there in that seat. Cederic said, “You cannot take the knowledge in our heads. We will still be able to summon the Codex Tiurindi.”

“Possibly,” Vorantor said. “With the help of the woman. I thought her name was Thalessi.”

“Sesskia is not a name she shares with casual acquaintances,” Cederic said, “and her magic is key to that kathana, yes.”

“Unfortunate that the God-Empress has instructed me to bring her with me, then,” Vorantor said, and he sounded so sly that I know, I just know, the bastard waited until that moment to strike at Cederic when he was at his lowest point.

Cederic sat straight up in his chair. “She is not a thing you can simply carry away,” he said.

“No, but she will not refuse the God-Empress’s command, I think,” Vorantor said.

“I would not count on it,” Cederic said. “She has no more loyalty to this world than you have to hers.”

“I have brought thirty-five mages, thirteen of them Sais, to ensure her compliance,” Vorantor said.

“That might not be enough to contain her,” Cederic said.

“They aren’t to contain her,” Vorantor said. “My orders are to begin killing the mages of the Darssan if she refuses. From what you wrote of her, we know she’s developed an attachment to them. The God-Empress thinks she won’t want to see them die when she can prevent it with a single action.”