“To be uninvoked is a terrible, shameful thing. There is talk in the Great City of banning it, but everyone fears the Invokers will disappear if their rights are taken away.” – King’s Herald
His first meeting with Amy had not gone quite as he had planned. Bernard had known right from the start Amy would refuse the job, what he hadn’t counted on was her fleeing before he could hook her with the one thing she couldn’t resist—money. Amy was the sort of girl who would crawl into a set bear trap if enough gold were thrown between its jaws. He certainly hadn’t expected this time to be any different.
The fact that she had fled so fast made him wonder if perhaps she was closer to the assassins than he had thought. Did she have some connection he didn’t know about? It would be disaster if she did. He’d given her the spell that would change Eberhard because she seemed the least likely to die in an unexpected burst of heroics. Had he misjudged her so badly?
He picked the tallow candle up off the dresser and fiddled with it, testing it for magic. He could sense very distantly the life magic of the animal it had been made from, but there was nothing strong enough to be invoked. It was bare, dead, disgusting, just like everything else in the outlands.
He tossed the candle back on the dresser and reached into his bag for one of his own. His candles were made with a thin strip of Maria bark running along side the wick. Magic sparkled in almost visible threads of power, begging to be touched. He ran his hand along the candle lovingly, and called to the magic.
The entire candle quivered as if about to blow up in his hands. He swiftly set it on the window sill, looking down at it thoughtfully. It would be so much easier if he could just invoke Amy’s tattoo here, but too many things could go wrong. He would have to bide his time, and find some other way to coax her into the castle. Money. He would speak to the innkeeper about money.
He started to turn toward the door, and then paused. Were those fingers wrapped around his window sill? They looked pale, as if all the blood had rushed out of them. He wandered over to the window, unlocked it, and grunted with the effort it took to hoist the nasty pane up and out of the way.
“You know, eavesdropping is a crime,” he said to the boy dangling outside.
The boy glared at him, but began struggling to pull himself over the rim. Bernard grabbed hold of one arm, and almost dropped it when he felt the sudden rush of magic. “You’re indel!”
“My name’s Rat,” he puffed out in response, managing to throw a leg over the sill as he spoke. “I work for Amy.”
“You work for Amy?” Bernard repeated, gawking.
Rat dusted himself off, and proffered him a slightly grimey hand. “You’re Bernard. Amy’s told me lots about you.”
Bernard took the hand, reminding himself to keep the handshake firm and not to wipe off the residue left from Rat’s touch right away. Weren’t rats supposed to be clean?
“Some of it good I hope.”
Rat politely didn’t contradict him. “Guess I’ll go find her now. She probably wants me for something.”
Bernard caught the boy before he could sneak through the door, and held him back. “You’re going to do me a favor first.”
“Favors cost money.”
It was tempting to reach into his pocket for a coin, but something told him if he paid the boy he’d lose both respect and money. “You’re going to do me this favor for free, so I don’t tell Amy where I found you. You’re going to do it well because you know I won’t grab some other boy off the street happy to run errands for a silver.”
Rat gave him a measuring look, and stopped attempting to escape. The tense posture didn’t ease, but at least he looked less like he wanted to bite.
“What do you want?”
“You’re going to get a little information for me, and you’re going to get it from Amy.”