August 21, 2009
April 19, 2009
“It is rumored that the Malia, trees that grow only on the border between Lokeli and Eberhard, are actually a rare sort of indel.” – Magic for Beginners by Gabby of the North Rim
Schreber was going to kill her. She was so certain of it, she didn’t even bother to add “try” to that mental statement. There was no hope for her; unless she could figure out some way to appease him before Bernard left.
That was a matter she’d been contemplating since abandoning Bernard’s rooms. It had been foolish to give Bernard the privacy he desired, but he was an Invoker. Even Schreber wouldn’t dare harm him—directly anyway. She would have Rat get him the letter to look at. Then he would see why she had bombed him. She craned her neck for a look out the grungy gray curtains screening off her segment of the main room. Where was Rat anyway?
“Amy! Amy! Guess what!”
She caught a flash of dirty hair and shiny bright eyes before Rat flung himself into her arms. Unprepared for him, she flew over backwards and landed in a heap on her bedroll.
“My back,” she moaned. “Can’t you see I’m in enough pain already?”
Rat only bounced up and down from where he sat on top of her. “We’re rich! I was just talking with Bernard, and—“
Amy sat up hastily and pushed him aside. “You better not have made any kind of deal with him involving me! I’m only glad you’re coming clean about eavesdropping this time. I could have killed you when Molly caught you last.”
Rat hesitated, as if he were about to say something important, and then shrugged. “He’s not that bad. Why don’t you want to help him anyway?”
She stroked the layer of fur he had carelessly allowed to ripple down his leg and thought over her response. Rat would smell a lie if she gave him an incorrect answer, but there were shades of truth to everything.
“There are certain people even I don’t mess with. You’d do well to stay away from him, and Schreber too.” She pressed her lips together. “Schreber was following him. I don’t like that. His indel-infested clan has taken far too much of the information business lately. If he’s got a professional interest in it, we’ll need to find out.”
Rat grinned. “Want me to find him?”
She hesitated, and then shook her head. “I’d like you to hit the Route and see if there are any bards or storytellers in Kaluna right now. Don’t take less than five coppers from anyone. If you’re asked to stand up and talk, make up some mushy love story about us.”
He made a face. “Gross! I’m not telling no love story.”
She crooked an eyebrow at him. “Just think of it as a chance at being paid to humiliate me.”
He thought it over, grinned, and scrambled out of her room, pausing only long enough to glance over his shoulder. “I stole his watch,” he announced to her, and then he was changing into his indel form. She swallowed hard at the sight, fighting a wave of bitterness. Rat made it look so easy, like everyone was meant to have a second form. She curled her fingers over her indelfy tattoo and kneaded the muscles underneath it till they burned.
“Stupid indel,” she muttered to herself. If she had a slick little form like Rat, she’d be able to steal too.
“Terrible luck isn’t it?” a voice behind her said. “If you’d been indel, you could have become one of us. Still, you haven’t done badly for yourself, all things considered.”
April 12, 2009
“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.”
March 15, 2009
The world and all it promised sank away the moment she saw him.
He looked well. Good living had rounded out his stomach, and added weight to an already imposing figure. It went well with the gold hoops that glimmered at his ears, and the colored tattoos decorating the right half of his face. Good living, good eating, everything that she could not and would never have thanks to him.
“Invoker,” she whispered. The word made her tongue hurt, as if the sour taste of defeat was still there. It was said Invokers couldn’t choose who had magic. It was said either you had magic, or you didn’t, but Amy knew otherwise. She knew with all her heart that if Bernard had looked hard enough, magic would have been there. It was in her dreams. It had to be real.
“My good friend,” he replied.
He wanted something, and the fact that he would probably get it just made her feel worse. She glanced around the inn looking at the curious faces surrounding her. Many, many people who would be asking her later just how close she was to the second greatest man in Kaluna. Even if he left now his presence had damaged her, but didn’t it always?
Bernard seemed to take her silence as an invitation to pour out his woes. “Amy, I need to speak with you privately. Would you mind stepping into my room for a moment?”
Of course she did. Stepping into his room meant stepping back into his life. But if she didn’t go willingly she’d be dragged in kicking and screaming. There was no sense, however, in letting him have his way without a price.
“Of course,” she stepped forward, and then turned back as if on a second thought. “Molly? I believe the Invoker would like to pay for a round of—“ Don’t say ale, she demanded of herself. What was the most expensive thing Molly had? “—Gray Demons. Its only fair to celebrate old friends isn’t it?
Bernard’s color was a satisfying match to the drinks, and so was Molly’s. She eyed the Invoker, and then Amy too. “Last time a brew of Grey Demon was successfully imported into Eberhard the Tree-Eaters still owned the unicorn forest. You’re asking him to pay for an entire bottle.”
Not really, she thought to herself. She was asking him to pay for every second of life she had to spend on the outskirts of life. Every moment serving someone who was made better by the touch of an Invoker’s hand. Every moment in hell brought to her by Bernard himself.
She leaned back against the counter and watched as Bernard drew his heavy purse and counted out coins.
“I’m worth it.”
No one would ever tell her different.