Sesskia’s Diary, part 115

19 Coloine (continued)

Eventually the crowd parted in reverse, and the short man came through, bringing with him a woman who looked to be nearly two feet taller than he was. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. She was maybe ten years older than I am, with short brown hair, and she had a dusting of flour over the upper part of her dress, just where an apron wouldn’t have protected her. And she moved with an air of authority that told me whatever else she might be, she was used to being in charge. I wondered why she hadn’t been at the front of this attack, but she said, “I thought I told you I’d deal with her once the rest of the council members got here,” which answered some of my questions.

Pitchfork man had the decency to look embarrassed. “Thought she might try to magic her way out,” he muttered.

“I told you if she wasn’t going to burn down the shed, she wasn’t going anywhere,” Riona said. “Sorcerers got only one magic in them.”

That was interesting, and I rated my chances of getting out of this alive much higher at that point, because they wouldn’t be expecting me to have any other tricks at my disposal. But then pitchfork man said, “Outsiders might have any number of magics. Who knows what they can do?”

“I’m not an outsider,” I said. At this point I had the beginnings of an idea of what was going on here, but I decided to make sure before jumping to conclusions. “I’m from Thalessa. I’m guessing you don’t see many people in this part of Balaen who look like me.”

Not that I look all that strange. Even though I wasn’t born in Thalessa, Mam’s family came from there, so my skin is darker than the villagers’, and my hair is dark blond instead of the brown most of them seemed to have. But I doubt most of those people have been more than thirty miles from their village in their whole lives, so any difference probably looked exotic to them. And if a Viravonian town had “appeared” somewhere nearby, full of blond-haired people who didn’t speak Balaenic, it would definitely have these people worried.

“She looks like the outsiders!” Yakon insisted.

“Where did you see these outsiders?” I said. “Did they come into town, or did you meet them outside? Maybe someone went to their village?” I probably shouldn’t have said all of that, but it suddenly occurred to me that a Viravonian town might have a mage who could contact Colosse, and I was so eager to reach Cederic I forgot to be cautious. And sure enough, this put everyone on edge. The pitchfork came back up, and Riona didn’t do anything to stop it. In fact, she looked as if she wanted to take hold of it herself.

“You must be an outsider, to know so much,” she said.

At that point I could see no graceful way out of the situation. Placating them was useless. I’d already decided I wasn’t going to run. So I took the approach I’d taken with the God-Empress—I can’t believe it was only two weeks ago; it feels like forever—and went with brazen audacity.

I stepped to one side, took hold of the pitchfork just where the metal met the wooden handle, and set it on fire. The man holding it shouted and yanked his hand away. Riona tried to step back, and I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her close as I threw the pitchfork down, praying I hadn’t burned my hand in that foolhardy move.

“I am not an outsider,” I snarled at her, “but you ought to be asking yourself, if I know so much about them, whether I might be persuaded to turn that knowledge to your advantage.”

“You’re a sorcerer,” Riona said. I was impressed she wasn’t afraid of me, but not impressed enough to let her go.

“I’m a mage,” I said, “and I know why these outsiders are here.”

She thought about it for a moment, then said, “Let me go, and we’ll talk.”

It wasn’t that easy. She had to convince the crowd to stand down. Then there was some discussion about a number of people who were supposed to be there but weren’t—the missing councilors, I gathered. Then she took me to her—I thought it was her home, but it was a bakery, and instead of living quarters above it was a big room with a lot of comfortable chairs that turned out to be where the town council met. There are four other councilors besides Riona, and they all just call her Chief, so I’m not sure if she’s the mayor, or first among equals, or something else. The important thing

Actually, the important thing is I’m falling asleep here. I hate getting behind in my record, but I’ll just have to finish it tomorrow. I hope Jeddan is being treated well, wherever he ended up in this place. I half expect to find him gone in the morning, even though he was pretty adamant about staying close to me. At least his first exposure to Castavirans is more pleasant than mine was, though unfortunately we don’t have Terrael and his Cap of Death to confer instant fluency on him. But all that can wait for morning.