Sesskia’s Diary, part 49

9 Lennitay, very early, maybe just past midnight

More research today. I mean yesterday. Still not enough successes for Master Terrael, so I’m still working on the glass instead of with fire. Though we took a small break in the middle of the morning for me to demonstrate some of the pouvrin, mainly fire and water. I’m getting better at juggling water, which is fun, and this time I did splash Terrael in the face. Just a little. He laughed with everyone else.

I don’t know how much longer it will take before they can do the kathana. I have this horrible feeling they’re waiting on me, which makes me work even harder but makes my work less effective. The mages in charge of tracking what they call “the convergence” (presumably because it sounds less awful than “unavoidable catastrophic destruction”) have stopped saying how long until it gets here, which makes me even more nervous. But, again, that makes me less capable, and my hands start to shake, and then I have to sit in a corner and watch everyone else until I regain control.

It’s interesting to watch Cederic and compare him to Vorantor. Vorantor bustles a lot. He likes to draw people’s attention to what he’s doing, even if what he’s doing is complimenting someone else’s work. Which he does, frequently—gives compliments, I mean. But he’s the sort of person who thinks he’s being a leader because he read somewhere that’s what leaders do.

Cederic, on the other hand, is always quiet and rarely makes comments, but when he does, everyone stops to listen, even people who aren’t involved in whatever he’s talking about. And he does a lot more listening than Vorantor does, and listens with his whole attention—I know this from experience. So when he does give praise, you can see it really matters to the person he’s giving it to. They may listen to Vorantor, because he does most of the talking, but they pay attention to Cederic, especially when he doesn’t say a word. Even Vorantor’s mages give him a kind of respect Vorantor can’t command. It makes me feel proud on behalf of him and the Darssan contingent, even though we’re so much smaller.

I don’t know why I’m going on about this. The exploring I did was far more exciting than writing about stupid Vorantor. Though I have to write about him a little, because I decided I need to spy on him a little more closely, just in case he has any more clandestine meetings. I haven’t told Cederic, because he would definitely object—he still believes Vorantor is his friend, and I know he hates that I sneak around the palace at night. But I think Vorantor is more dangerous than he seems, and I won’t be satisfied until I know why he met with Aselfos. Fortunately, he has a routine he rarely deviates from, in the evenings: he eats dinner with Cederic and some of the other Sais, then all of them go to their common room, which is around the corner from the dining hall, where they sit and talk and have after-dinner drinks. (Our common room is larger, and the conversation is more lively, and there’s more use of th’an for amusement.) Vorantor always retires early, no later than nine o’clock, and goes to sit in the observatory for half an hour, then retires to his room, where he reads for another half hour before going to sleep. I know the last part because I sat concealed in his room last night, watching him. He’s really very dull. He didn’t sneak out later, and he didn’t meet with anyone in the observatory. But his meeting with Aselfos didn’t sound, even what little I heard of it, like a chance encounter or a one-time event, so I’m certain he’ll meet with the man again. Unfortunately, I can’t just follow him around, concealed, waiting for it to happen, so I’ll need to make a better plan. Last night was just to confirm his pattern, so I didn’t spend much time watching him before I got down to my real exploring.

This time, I used the concealment pouvra immediately and went down the stairs, counting, so I could keep track of where I was with regard to the tower. There are no doors off the Sais’ stairwell, which descends in a series of landings in a sort of tall chimney, and by the time I reached the bottom, I’d determined I was at the floor above the base of the tower. So then I started looking around for a way into the tower, or failing that, a flight of stairs that would take me one story lower where an entrance might reasonably be found.

Part of me wanted something mysterious, so I was a little disappointed when access to the tower was as easy as following the hall off the stairs to a junction and then turning right. That led me to a short double door made of brass that filled the width of the hallway. I used the see-through pouvra to verify that no one was standing immediately behind it, learned that it opened on a hall that curved downward immediately to the right, and went through it—the conventional way, since the walk-through-walls pouvra still makes me nervous.

The curving hallway actually went in both directions, with a gentle slope that suggested it followed the contours of the tower, and wasn’t so dim that I needed the see-in-dark pouvra. I went uphill for a bit and soon found one of the narrow windows on my left, which let in the light of the moon. It looked out over the palace rather than Colosse, which told me that “my” window, or the one that would give me access to the “staircase” to the observatory, was on the opposite side of the tower from here. I continued walking, occasionally passing doors on my right that I itched to explore, but first I wanted to see if I had an exit from this place. All the doors were made of brass like the first, but single rather than double. Once I passed a brass double door on my left that I guessed led to another level of the palace, and I really wanted to explore that one, but I kept going, and my persistence paid off when I reached the final window, looked out, and saw a jutting brick just inches from the top of the window frame.

to be continued…