Monthly Archives: June 2016

Sesskia’s Diary, part 125

23 Coloine

Another dream, more intense this time. This had better not be a pattern, because I won’t be able to bear it if it keeps happening, night after night.

We reached the edges of the God-Empress’s army about an hour before sunset. It’s big, but not as big as I feared, and while there’s smoke coming from Calassmir, there’s none of the noise you get when a city is being overrun. I can’t explain the difference, but I think of it as being more…terrified, I guess. That could just be me putting my own interpretation on it, but that’s how I see it. There was a lot of shouting and screaming, though, and occasionally we heard these deep thunderclaps I didn’t recognize, but they couldn’t be anything but battle noises.

So the army is clearly attacking, but we don’t know more than that because we decided to rest and come at the problem fresh in the morning. The good news is Calassmir doesn’t appear to be in immediate danger of falling. I hope I’m right about that.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 124

22 Coloine

I dreamed of Cederic last night. It was a very intense dream, so much so that when I woke up to nothing but bare ground it was so disorienting I had to go for a walk so Jeddan wouldn’t see me cry. I’d resolved to stop dwelling on the possibility that something bad has happened to Cederic and all my friends, to be strong instead of weak and tearful, but I could feel his arms around me and his lips on mine, actually feel it, and when he wasn’t there…. I hope I don’t dream like that again.

Today there was more walking and more talking about pouvrin. Sometime around noon, just after we’d eaten and rested for a bit, Jeddan said, “I’m going to go insubstantial for a bit. I want to try something.”

I nodded, and watched him go in and out of that state. It’s hard to tell someone is insubstantial, actually, because it’s not like they turn misty or pale or resemble any natural object that’s capable of slipping between things. It’s more in the way they move, as if parts of them get to places before the rest of their bodies. Jeddan can hold that state longer than I can, longer even than I think he’s capable of holding his breath, but we haven’t talked about that so I don’t know how he does it. He can’t talk while he’s insubstantial, though, and he does start to fall through things if he stands still long enough, though again it doesn’t happen as soon as it does to me.

After about half an hour, he stopped walking, went solid, and leaned over to put his hands on his knees and breathe deeply. “I got dizzy,” he said.

“That’s happened to me when I use that pouvra too often,” I said. I waited for him to rise, and then we walked on, though I was impatient to find out if he’d learned anything, or even just what the point of that exercise had been.

“There’s definitely a shape there,” he finally said. “It’s like…a cage, maybe? Or a mold for iron or bronze? But I’m on the inside, not on the outside as you seem to be.”

“Can you describe the shape?” I said.

He shook his head. “Eventually, maybe,” he said. “I just think discovering we are doing things the same way is important. I was afraid our magic was just too different for us to learn anything from each other.”

“I think Castaviran magic is easier in some ways,” I said, “since each th’an is clear, and you know when you’re getting it wrong because it just doesn’t work.”

“But you said you’d learned to create a pouvra using th’an,” he said.

“Yes, but I don’t know enough th’an to make that a practical method of learning magic,” I said. I did the binding pouvra then, with no results—I practice it occasionally, hoping to work out what it’s for.

“If the two countries can learn to coexist, maybe you’ll have the chance,” he said.

“Do you think that’s possible?” I said. It was something I’d been thinking about, off and on, between wondering what we’d find at Calassmir and what the God-Empress’s next target might be.

“It’s either that or the strangest civil war anyone’s ever seen,” he said. “Two countries invading the same piece of land at the same time.”

“But maybe war is inevitable,” I said. “Balaen and Castavir can’t remain autonomous; their lands overlap too much. One of them has to come out on top.”

“Just so it isn’t your God-Empress,” he said. “You’re lucky she didn’t have you killed before.”

“I know,” I said, and then I think we both ran out of things to say for a while. With Jeddan, that’s not awkward or uncomfortable; he’s good at quiet, and so am I, so we went a couple of miles before I picked up the topic of pouvrin again, this time talking about things I thought might be possible. We went back and forth coming up with ideas until it was time to camp for the night, and now I’m sitting by the fire across from him. He’s watching the logs. I wonder what he thinks about.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 123

21 Coloine

To look at him, you wouldn’t think Jeddan was very restless. He’s so big and calm that he looks stolid, like nothing moves him. But when I explained to him this morning what I’d decided, he said, “We should get started, then, if it’s really three days away.”

“You don’t have to come,” I said.

“What else is there for me to do?” he said. “Go back to my village, back to a life of hiding what I am, never able to learn anything new? Travel somewhere else, alone, and get hopelessly lost because I’ve never been farther than twenty miles from my village? I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. At least until you teach me those pouvrin.”

I thought about protesting further, but I discovered that the idea of traveling alone again, after being surrounded by friends for so many weeks, made me feel incredibly lonely. So I just said, “You understand it’s dangerous and we could be killed.”

“I know,” he said, “but I’ve been in danger of being killed for years. This is just a different kind of fear. And it doesn’t seem so terrible. Maybe that’s crazy, but it’s how I feel.”

It was crazy. And I completely understood. I’ve taken so many risks for the sake of my magic over the last ten years that the idea of risk, in general, doesn’t frighten me. I’m not deterred from acting just because something bad might happen. Not that I’m terribly reckless; I like living, and I carefully consider my actions before I take that leap. Mostly.

Anyway, we packed up our few things and headed west. I think we made good time. It’s been a while since I’ve been this far south, and while I know I kept us on the right course, I wish I had a map. We’re going to run out of food by the time we get there, so there’s something to add to the list of things to do in Calassmir, if we can. It’s going to be a busy trip.

We talked about pouvrin while we walked and discovered that we perceive them very differently. I see pouvrin as three-dimensional shapes given form by memory and sense. Jeddan says to him it’s more like being shaped, as if he’s altered to be something that can, for example, walk through walls. The only thing we both agree on is that you have to bend your will to meet the pouvra, that force does nothing but make it slip from your grasp.

We discussed the walk-through-walls pouvra a lot. Since we can both do it, there’s a chance that each of us understanding how the other does it will be the key to learning from each other. Jeddan’s very intelligent and comfortable to be around. I wonder if the other mages are like him? I really hope we don’t all have different ways of understanding pouvrin, because it could take forever just to be able to speak the same language.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 122

20 Coloine, very late (continued)

Jeddan came to stand next to me, thankfully not saying anything inane like “are you all right?” and held my shoulders so I didn’t fall down. I vomited until I was wrung out and empty, then I wiped my mouth and stood up straight. None of the villagers would meet my eye. That’s small comfort.

I walked away down the street so I wouldn’t have to see more killings. Jeddan followed me, still silent. He’s very good at quiet, which makes him a comfortable companion. I think we might become friends, even. At some point, I stopped, and looked into one of the shop windows, though I don’t remember what I saw there, and then I said, “Let’s go,” and we walked away from Erael without looking back.

We had to dodge Jeddan’s village on the way north, and I asked him if he wanted to get anything, and he said no, so we just kept going. Around sunset we stopped and made a fire; it’s starting to get cold at night, and I wish we’d thought to equip ourselves for sleeping outside, but not enough to go back. We ate, and then I started writing, and Jeddan asked about the book and was satisfied with the brief answer I gave him, which is that it’s a record of my journeys. Eventually he fell asleep, but it’s been another hour or so since then and I’m still not done.

The truth is that I’ve been thinking about the God-Empress, and Calassmir, and the army, the whole time we’ve walked today. Calassmir does have an army detachment there, because it’s only another fifty miles to the southern border of Balaen and there’s always been a lot of bandit activity down that way, what with the trade caravans traveling from the jungles where they harvest medicinal plants. But I don’t think it’s very big. If the God-Empress came on them unawares (and why wouldn’t she) they might not be able to put up much of a fight. And, as I wrote, capturing Calassmir puts her in a position to drive deeper into the heart of the combined countries.

The southern trunk route leads to Garwin, where the Myrnala branches south and west, and the Royal Road is named that because it goes all the way north to Venetry, the capital city. Either highway would put her in a position to conquer more Balaenic cities, and I have no doubt her ultimate goal is to rule the new world.

I just don’t know what to do. Time for a list:

  1. I could warn whatever city is her next target. Both Garwin and…actually, I guess Hasskian would be the next city north of Calassmir…anyway, they’re both defensible and have military presences.
  2. I don’t know what her next target is. If I guess wrong, it would be catastrophic.
  3. I could just keep going to Colosse. Those cities are defensible and they probably don’t need my warning.

3a. i.e. I could take the cowardly, selfish way out.

  1. I could find out what her next target is and warn them.

1 and its corollary 2 aren’t very sensible options. If I guess wrong, I’d be wasting my time in addition to risking catastrophe. And much as I just want to run to Colosse as fast as I can, I’d hate myself for taking option 3.

But 4…I’d have to sneak into the God-Empress’s camp, and hope to find some kind of drawing or plan because I can’t read Castaviran, damn it, and that’s incredibly dangerous even with the pouvrin. And I certainly can’t ask Jeddan to risk his life over this, so I’d be doing it alone. And even if I did succeed in learning the God-Empress’s plan, I’d still have to find a way to convince whatever city she’s attacking next that they’re in danger from someone they’ve never heard of, at the head of an army they’ve never seen.

So that’s settled. I’m going west to Calassmir. And I’m hoping the God-Empress’s army isn’t so enormous that they’ll have taken the city before I get there.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 121

20 Coloine, very late (continued)

I had just enough time to realize the battle mages had entered the fight—villagers began collapsing, gray-faced, or screaming through flames—when Jeddan shouted and ran past me, throwing himself at one of the battle mages’ horses, and then through it. The terrified animal reared up, dumping the battle mage on the ground and knocking his board from his hands.

It shook me out of my stupor. I feel bad that I didn’t think to attack first, but the truth is I’m used to fighting from the shadows, protecting myself from discovery so I could live to fight another day, and attacking just didn’t occur to me until then. Then I lashed out with the fire-summoning pouvra, which I’ve gotten very good with; it engulfed another battle mage, who also fell off her horse, screaming and beating at herself. I didn’t take time to admire my handiwork, just bolted from my hiding place and ran straight at the leader, wrapped my arms around his leg, which was all I could reach of him, and worked the concealment pouvra on both of us.

I was hoping it would have the same disorienting effect it had had on the God-Empress’s soldiers back in Colosse, but I wasn’t able to look around to see because I was too preoccupied with not being shaken free by the leader. He was disoriented, because he dropped his sword and leaned down to beat at me. I squinted hard and exerted all my will to see him, his arm flailing around, and switched my grip to his wrist and just let myself go limp.

I had about half a second to realize this was a bad idea before he tumbled off his horse and landed atop me, knocking the wind from me and making me lose my concentration and turning us both visible again.

Terror at being pinned and helpless gave me the edge I needed to recover first, and I shoved him and scooted away only to have him grab my upper arm and pull me back. We struggled for a bit, but he was a lot bigger than me and soon he had me pinned again. “What are you?” he said, breathlessly.

I’d like to say I came up with something clever like “Your worst nightmare” or “Retribution,” but all I did was stammer out, “None of your business” which sounds even stupider when I write it. He scowled and said, “I think the God-Empress will want to know about you. Thank me for sparing your life.”

“Oh, she already knows about me,” I said, “and you’re a cocky bastard if you think I’m in any danger from you.” (See, I can be witty and clever. Sometimes.) Then I spun out a string of fire and looped it around his neck, crossing it in back like a garrote and drawing it close enough to singe his skin. He started to jerk away, came up against the fire, and froze. “Let me go,” I said, “or I tighten the noose.”

He wasn’t stupid. He let go of my arms and knelt in the street, holding perfectly still. I rolled to the side and stood and looked around. To my surprise, the fight was nearly over—and the Viravonians had won. They’d taken losses, but more soldiers than villagers lay dead in the street, and a couple of women were controlling the horses, and Jeddan was coming toward me, limping a little but otherwise unharmed. “I didn’t know it could look like that,” he said, nodding toward the line of fire.

“It took a lot of hard work,” I said. Then I returned my attention to the leader, who looked furious now. “Is the God-Empress with the army?” I said. He ignored me. I tightened the noose fractionally. “You know, that fire will burn a long time before it kills you,” I said. “Besides, think of this as a chance to brag about how she’s going to bring her army down on this village and burn it to the ground.”

“This village is nothing in God’s eyes,” he grated out. “She has greater conquests to make.”

“Really? What conquests?” I said.

“She is God. She will rule this land, Castavirans and invaders alike. You think you’ve won today, but you have only delayed the moment when she drags every person in this village into the street to peel the flesh from their bodies and feed it to the dogs.” He looked as if I would be first and he would hold the knife.

“That does sound like something she’d do,” I said. “Where is she now?”

He just glared at me. I said, “Fire. Neck. Lots of pain.” (I was bluffing. I’ve only just been able to bring myself to burn flesh, and I don’t think I could do it in cold blood. But I’m a really good liar and he didn’t know I wasn’t serious. I feel sick thinking about it now, like I was a child playing at war without understanding what it meant.)

He clenched his jaw, then said, “There is an invader city some three days northwest of here. It is to be her first conquest.”

I briefly considered my mental map. The only “invader” city anywhere near here was Calassmir. That scared me. Calassmir is on a couple of major trade routes, and the Royal Road and the southern trunk route both converge on it. If the God-Empress could take Calassmir, she could move her army easily through Balaen—I mean, along the Balaenic highways to any Balaenic city and probably a few Castaviran ones.

“What’s the size of her army?” I said. He clenched his teeth harder and looked away from me. “Talk,” I said, but he said nothing, and I had to either make good on my threat or give in. So I gave in. I dismissed the fire and shoved him toward Jeddan, who held him fast as easily as if the man had been a kitten. Jeddan’s got shoulders like a lumberjack. He might be a lumberjack. I still don’t know what he does for a living.

I hadn’t really thought about the God-Empress until that day—too busy surviving. When she’d disappeared in Colosse, we had no idea what had happened to her, though as I wrote before I was fairly certain she wasn’t dead. So whatever that th’an was that she did at the end there, it seems it took her to Viravon, to her army. All I know about the army is it’s about a third of the combined Castaviran armed forces, but since I don’t know how big that is, it doesn’t really tell me anything. On the other hand, if she’s attacking Calassmir, her army has to be fairly big, because Calassmir isn’t a small city. I wonder if she has any war wagons, or if Vorantor gave them all to Aselfos?

I’m stalling, aren’t I? Because I really don’t want to write what came next. Maybe I’d feel different if I really were Viravonian, because I know some of what the army has done here, the atrocities they’ve committed against helpless people, and even if the Viravonians don’t want revenge (which they do, true God help them) they have to be ruthless to survive. But I’m not Viravonian, and I can’t kill a man in cold blood, so when the black-bearded villager took the leader’s own sword and drove it into the man’s stomach, I turned away and threw up. I am never going to forget the look on that man’s face for the rest of my life.

to be continued…

Sesskia’s Diary, part 120

20 Coloine, very late

It’s taken me nearly an hour to convince myself to write the events of the day. So much has happened that I’d rather forget, because I feel so guilty about it, guilty too because it was so easy to tell myself that the Viravonians have a right to defend themselves in the ways they’ve learned over the years are most effective. But there’s nothing I can do except move forward. And maybe I shouldn’t have started this entry this way, maybe I should have just written it out and let things unroll the way they did today. It’s one of those days where I feel every one of my choices was a bad one.

I only slept a few hours last night because I was up so late writing, but they were restful hours despite the mattress feeling thin, and Kasselen fed us a very good breakfast. (I don’t think I wrote that Jeddan and I stayed in his house. He was an excellent host.) Even so, I felt lazy, so we took our time packing our things—Jeddan has a backpack with essentials, including shaving tackle, and he makes a ritual out of shaving that I’m sure will become annoying when I’m in a hurry, but today it didn’t bother me—and then visited a few stores in the village.

I found someone to buy one of Audryn’s hair clips, only one because it occurred to me that Castaviran money would do us no good in a Balaenic town, so I saved the other to sell later. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s enough for an emergency. Erael is a very pretty town, as pretty as Jeddan’s village, and it makes me angry that they’re probably going to destroy each other because they don’t have the good sense to make common cause.

We were just about to head out of town when we heard horses coming toward the village from the south. That is, Jeddan heard the horses first, and pulled me to one side of the road to put us behind a stack of boxes displaying the last vegetables from someone’s kitchen garden. I resisted, and he said, “We haven’t seen any horses around here, just mules and oxen. And that sounds like quite a few horses. I don’t like it.”

I was impressed with Jeddan’s paranoia, so I stood with him behind the boxes and watched. By this time a lot of people had heard the approaching riders, and it was clear they weren’t happy about it. Mothers dragged their children off the street, storekeepers shut their doors, and soon the street was empty except for about twenty or twenty-five people lounging casually in doorways or on hitching rails. But their seemingly relaxed stances did a poor job of concealing tension. Some of them were standing very near posts or hammers or pitchforks, things that could become weapons under the right circumstances. All of them looked like people who expected a brawl to start soon.

It took only a minute or so for the riders to come into view, and by then we could also hear the ominous sound of a lot of marching feet, thudding echoes in perfect rhythm that to me screamed “soldiers.” Sure enough, six men (or women, I couldn’t tell at that distance) rode at the head of a double column of thirty or so soldiers. They were fully armed and armored, down to the chicken helmets, but their long-sleeved linen tunics were green instead of black and they wore short green surcoats bearing the falcon emblem over their steel mesh shirts.

The man in the lead had black stripes sewn to the cuffs of his shirt, three or four of them, and for some reason he was carrying his helmet in the crook of his arm instead of on his head. The other riders’ tunics and surcoats were white, and each carried a very familiar wooden board in his hands. (His and hers. Two of the mages were women, I eventually discovered.)

They rode right down the middle of the street, ignoring the villagers, who turned to watch them go but otherwise didn’t move. The leader raised his hand in a gesture that meant “stop,” and they did, right at a point where they were surrounded by villagers. I have no doubt he did that on purpose, and I can see why he thought he had the upper hand. Poor bastard.

He said, in a loud voice that carried the length of the street, “In the name of the most benevolent God-Empress Renatha Torenz, greetings. God requires that all Castaviran subjects contribute to the support of her army, which protects her subjects against enemy incursions. You will provide five hundred measures of wheat, four hundred measures of oats, two hundred bales of hay, and twenty casks of beer, all to be collected in three days’ time.”

“We need that food to survive the winter,” a man called out. He stood a little ways behind the leader (captain?), arms folded, leaning against a post as if he were entirely relaxed. His long black beard quivered in the brisk, chilly wind that had begun rising as the soldiers approached, as if in warning, or in omen.

“Your duty to God will bring blessings. She will not permit her servants to starve,” the leader said, not turning around.

“We went hungry last winter ‘cause of her demands,” the man said. “We won’t do that again.”

“If you refuse to give willingly, it will be taken by force,” said the leader. He gestured, and the soldiers began spreading out, drawing swords and choosing targets.

“Your choice,” the black-bearded man said, and to my surprise lightning forked out of the clear sky and struck the ground at six equally spaced points surrounding the soldiers, hitting some of them and making them fall. The bolts that didn’t strike targets radiated tendrils of electricity, making the other soldiers fall back.

I looked up to see where the lightning had come from and saw instead Lineta, leaning out of an upper window with her board and scribbling rapidly. Then she screamed as fire circled her, and dropped back inside the room, and then everything was chaos. Villagers leaped to the attack with their makeshift weapons, or took swords from dead soldiers, and as the lightning faded, battle was joined.

to be continued…


Burning Bright front cover

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In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena’s crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

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Sesskia’s Diary, part 119

20 Coloine, early (continued)

We got a friendlier reception than I had at the Balaenic village, even if I did have Jeddan in tow; people hailed us and wanted to know if we’d had any trouble on the way from Kinis, which I gathered is the next Viravonian village south of Erael (once again I’m spelling their words my way, and I—damn it, I was about to write “I plan to get Terrael to teach me to read Castaviran as soon as possible,” but that reminded me I have no idea where he is, where any of them are, and learning to read is so far down the list of things I have to do it might as well not even be on there. And now I’m trying not to cry. It’s been a long day, and I’ve learned too many discouraging things, and I’m being stupid) anyway, Erael is the name of this village, and not one of them imagined I wasn’t Castaviran.

Of course I didn’t correct them, just said “I have news for the person in charge” and hoped they wouldn’t think it was too strange that I didn’t say “the mayor” or whatever it is their local government is. And they didn’t, because they led Jeddan and me to a large house and ushered us inside.

It’s obvious at even a casual glance that this is not a Balaenic village; everything’s made of planed wood painted white, though most of the buildings look like they could use another coat, and the roofs are a funny pinkish-grey slate I’ve never seen before. I doubt they came from very far away, because that would be far too expensive for the people who live here. I wonder if the quarry they came from survived the convergence. I wonder if the desert around the Darssan is plains now. I wonder if the Darssan is even still there. More things I don’t have time to investigate.

We waited for a few minutes, and then this old man with a short gray beard and long white hair came into the room. “Travelers,” he said, “my name is Wilfron Kasselen, and I am the elder of this village. Please, sit down. Do you have news from the south? Are there more strange appearances? And what of the pagan invader’s troops?”

That was a lot for me to take in all at once, so I decided not to answer any of it. “Elder Kasselen,” I said, hoping that was the correct form of address, “my name is Thalessi Scales, and despite how I look, I’m not Viravonian. I’m one of the…you know the village that appeared north of here? I am one of their people. I mean, of their country, not that I come from that village. If that makes sense.”

That stunned him, and he looked like he was about to shout, so I overrode him and said, “Ask me how it is I speak your language.”

He closed his mouth. Then he said, “I don’t understand any of this.”

“I’ll try to explain,” I said, and even though my explanation to Kasselen was longer than the one I’d given the council in Jeddan’s village, it was much easier because he at least knew about the shadow world, even if he didn’t know the details of the convergence. I didn’t tell him about the pouvrin, since that would have taken forever to explain, or how the final kathana worked, but it was still a very long story. The longer I spoke, the more intense his expression grew, until I reached the end of my story and said, “Could I have some water, please?”

He got up without saying anything and went to the door, where he called to someone, and then returned to his seat bearing a tray with a pitcher of water and three glasses. “So their world has joined ours?” he said, after a long silence in which we all drank some water and stared at each other. I wondered what Jeddan thought—he must have been bored, listening to me babble in a language he couldn’t understand. He really is very patient.

“It’s more accurate to say both worlds have returned to their original state,” I said. “We’re both invaders, in a sense.”

Kasselen didn’t like that, but he didn’t challenge me. “Then what are we to do?” he said.

That was the second time someone had tried to put the burden of decisions back on me. “You’ll have to work that out for yourselves,” I said. “I’m not the leader of this village. But you will have to find a way to come to terms with the Balaenic villages around here. And that might be difficult, because they’re afraid of magic.”

“A great challenge,” he said. “But what of the pagan invader’s troops? What has happened to them?”

“The God-Empress’s soldiers?” I said.

“We do not call her that,” Kasselen said, looking grim. “She usurps the place of God and wants to see us subjugated to her rule.”

“I know,” I said, “but what I don’t know is how she was going about it down here. I’d heard only that she has most of an army in Viravon, trying to maintain control.”

“Yes,” Kasselen said. “So what has happened to them in the convergence?”

I shrugged. “Nothing, I imagine,” I said. “Though they might have lost contact with Colosse during the coup.” He gave me a startled look, and I realized I hadn’t said anything about Aselfos’s uprising against the God-Empress, so I told that story. He looked happier when I was finished.

“They receive their orders from Colosse,” he said, “and with luck they will be in confusion, and we will have an opportunity to strike at them.” He stood up, so Jeddan and I did too. “We will give you a place to sleep, and food,” he said, “before you start your journey north.

I realized I was hungry enough that it must have been dinnertime, so we joined Kasselen for a meal, and it wasn’t until it was over that I remembered the most important reason I’d had for coming here, and asked if they had a way to contact the mages in Colosse. They

I’ve just realized it’s almost three o’clock in the morning, and my eyes are burning, so I’ll have to sum this up even though my conversation with Lineta was really interesting. Interesting, and depressing, and a little frightening—anyway. The conversation went all over the place, so I’ve rearranged the details so it makes more sense. I kept dragging it off course by asking questions, but in the end, this is what I learned:

Something really strange happened in Erael in the days since the convergence. It has five mages—two who live here, and three who were on their way to something relating to the Viravonian resistance Lineta didn’t want me to pry into, so I didn’t. And the day after the convergence, suddenly only Lineta was still capable of working magic.

Coincidentally, or maybe not coincidentally, she has the same green-gray eyes I do, and Jeddan has. Cederic once told me that those eyes indicate a predisposition to do magic, but it can’t be a coincidence that those four other mages, who don’t have those eyes, all lost their magic at the same time.

I remember somebody, probably Terrael, said the worlds coming back together would restore the original requirements for magic; suppose the green-gray eyes are one of those requirements? Or that they indicate the innate ability to work magic Cederic’s research implied was part of the original world? It sounds silly, but based on

Oh no. Terrael’s eyes are blue. So are Sovrin’s. Oh, please let me be wrong about this. If Terrael…I can’t even imagine it. I’m not going to think about it anymore. It’s a stupid idea and it has to be wrong.

The important thing is that the loss of their mages has thrown this village into more turmoil than the convergence did, and they’ve (she’s) been trying to contact Colosse ever since that horrible discovery, to no effect. Lineta says the Firtha th’anest, whatever that is, is not only not responding, but acting as if it isn’t there anymore, and she doesn’t have any friends in the capital she might be able to contact.

I must have looked awful when she gave me the news, because she said a lot of comforting things I tried to be grateful for, because she was only trying to help. But I can’t stop remembering how the palace was coming down on our heads, there at the end, and that Aselfos’s troops were fighting the God-Empress’s soldiers all around us, and the God-Empress is who knows where—it’s impossible she’s dead, she’s too evil to die without taking a hundred innocent people with her—and I can’t stop imagining that everyone I love is dead, or thinks I’m dead, I’m not sure which is worse, but either way I just want to curl up somewhere and cry.

I hate feeling that way. I hate feeling helpless and weak, because I’m not weak, I’ve had a lifetime of fighting every challenge the world has thrown at me. They aren’t dead. I will find them. Cederic’s the Kilios, damn it, and there’s no way the Kilios is just going to disappear. So even if he’s not in Colosse when I get there, someone will know where he went, and I’ll chase after him as long as I have to.

There. I feel better now. I think I can sleep a few hours, and face breakfast, and then I can start planning a route to Colosse. And Jeddan and I can work on teaching each other pouvrin.