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 29, 2009
The man named Schreber did not need Amy’s keen memory to be remembered. He was a warrior, a leader, and the owner of the only indel retreat in Outer Kaluna—the Wolf Trap. Everyone knew that. What most people did not know, and what Amy had been paid to never reveal, was that Schreber had ties to the Western Stronghold. Amy didn’t think he had the power to order someone’s assassination, but there was no sense in taking risks. Dealing with him would be messy.
“Don’t worry too much about it. You may remember Invokers are a rare sight this side of the gates. People hope to see something worth gossiping about—or worth being paid to report.”
Bernard’s eyes narrowed, and he mouthed her words as if trying to devise some secret from them. She waited, praying he wouldn’t slip anything important in the next few moments.
“It’s about the Duke—“
Amy didn’t give him a chance to say another word. She clapped a hand over his mouth once again, and yanked him back till he was laying on the bed. “Cover your head with the pillow and keep your nose pressed into the sheets. Do not move until I tell you,” she whispered.
Schreber would give her hell later, but if she got something worthy of his attention it would probably come out alright. If not, there were places she could hide until things cooled down. She waited until Bernard’s head was completely covered by the pillow, and then reached deep into her shirt for what she kept hidden there.
The soft leather pouch she withdrew contained eighty or so sectioned rabbit intestines, their ends tightly sealed to prevent what was inside from leaking out. Not the wisest thing for an Invoker to see (or smell) herself carrying, but under the circumstances she had no problems using it.
She pulled a needle from where it had been thrust through the leather, and pierced the membrane with it, carefully spraying the floor near the door and the window sill with pungent fluid.
An outraged snarl came from outside the door, and Amy caught the soft sound of padded cat paws running as fast as could be managed. Schreber had been listening after all. No doubt he’d be back in human form, his nose dulled to the scent, and listen in once more. After he stopped wretching, and if he could find clothing so it wasn’t obvious to everyone he was snooping. They had a little time, now all she had to do was make sure Bernard didn’t know what she’d done.
She replaced the pouch around her neck, and reached for her belt loop, where the only other object she carried at all times rested. Another pouch, this one containing several mishappen glass tubes. She selected one, tried not to think of how much it cost, and dashed it against the floor as hard as she could.
The smell of lavender flooded from the container, almost strong enough to make her gag, but it covered the smell of the repellant. Whatever Bernard had it in mind to say, it better be good.
“Alright,” she said, lifting the pillow from his head. “You can tell me now.”
He sat up, coughed, and grabbed for his handkerchief. “What’s that stench?”
“I dropped a bottle of perfume. The Duke.”
He stretched out on the bed and rolled till he was facing towards her and away from the furnace pipes. “The Duke is receiving threatening letters. He sent me to reestablish myself on the streets and keep the Duke informed about any news that may be useful.”
Discussion time. ^^ What do you think is going to happen next?
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.
March 8, 2009
“It is a very blessed indel indeed able to take the form of the Eberhard Boar. When a child is found to have this magic, celebrations are made everywhere in Eberhard, and the child is taken directly to the castle for training as a knight of Eberhard.”
Amy Quintessa did not have quite the same outlook on life as the other indelfy. Where her friends saw endless poverty and no way out, she saw opportunity. When they muttered about the treasures locked away behind Inner-Kaluna’s great bronze gates, she pointed out that same barrier kept the indel from imposing on them.
It was just that attitude that made her succesful at her business, and the first person people turned to when they needed help. She might never be rich, even by indelfy standards, but if things kept up she’d have a very nice retirement in her future. All she needed to do was keep her head up, stay friendly, and retain a golden track record.
The accusatory voice of the bartender cut through all conversation in the shadowfy inn, and caused more than a few people to glance her way. The bartender seldom said anything to her unless it would cause her trouble, one way or another.
“There’s a man in your rooms. He says he knows you. Were you expecting someone?”
Color flared in her cheeks as she caught the speculative glances sent her way by the farmers crowding the main table. Stupid of her to not check her room first. Who needed her advice so badly? They were getting charged double, no matter what it was they wanted.
“Not anyone in particular, did he give you a name?”
She rather hoped the man hadn’t. The last thing she needed was for Melissa to have had time to invent her own gossip.
Melissa leaned back until her spine cracked and set the thick glass mug she’d been cleaning down with a thump. “No name, but you could see clear enough he came from the other side of the gate. He’s got tattoos all over his face and not one of them proper for an indel. Do you suppose he’s foreign?”
“What sort of tattoos?” she asked, eying the crystal glass Melissa was pulling from the top shelf with care. Melissa must have really meant what she said by the man being from Inner-Kaluna. Crystal glassware wasn’t even used for the indel who made their living along side the ‘fy.
“Go see for yourself,” Melissa snapped, pouring a dark amber liquid into the glass, “you can take this with you. He wants to stay here at the inn for a while, so you’ll be moving your stuff into the basement till he’s gone.”
Amy eyed the glass, and decided a half copper or two was indeed worth playing waitress to her landlord. “Do you at least know how long he’s planning on invading my personal space?”
“Not long,” an oddly familiar voice said from the top of the stairs. “Unless you make things difficult.”
She closed her eyes for a moment and prayed to every star in the sky it was not who it sounded like. When she at last opened them and turned around, disappointment flooded through her veins.
It was Bernard. The invoker who had marked her magicless.