Authors: John H. Carroll
Tags: #knight, #dralin carnival pelya, #ryallon swords and sorcery, #tathan of the shadows
“Do you want to go exploring?” Ebudae asked.
“We could go into the ancient city and fight monsters if you want,
although climbing down all those stairs to the academy below the
manor seems like a lot of work and I’m feeling lazy.”
Pelya shook her head. “No. I’m not in the
mood today. Your grandmother keeps the house nice and cool, plus I
don’t feel like getting blood and gore on me.” She rubbed her
shoulders. “Actually, I’m kind of cold. Let’s go out to the
fountain and get warm for a while and then we can practice more
“Alright. We can do that,” Ebudae agreed
with a suspicious look. They stood and headed toward the backyard,
using the kitchen exit. “You mentioned your mother earlier. Do you
want to visit the fountain because that’s where her ashes were
“Yes,” Pelya admitted, not looking her
friend in the eye. Instead, she looked around at the pond,
rosebushes, willows and other large trees in the vast back yard.
There were also ivy-covered buildings, a few of which had secret
passages leading underground.
They walked to an old fountain with a small
statue of a woman in the center. The statue’s clothing was painted
bright yellow with gold lacework. Her hair was black and she leaned
over, pouring water from a vibrant blue jug. The clear water within
appeared to glisten with the radiance of the sun.
Rosebushes grew wild around it and the grass
was green and fresh. The roses had three times as many thorns as
normal and the blossoms were all dark violet, an extremely unusual
variety not found anywhere else in the city. Pelya’s father had
told her that the fountain used to be dry and the ground barren
until the day after her mother’s ashes had been spread.
They sat on the edge of the fountain and ran
their hands in the water, watching the ripples. Ebudae turned to
one of the nearby rosebushes tapped her finger against a glistening
thorn. She watched as a drop of blood welled up before putting the
finger in her mouth and sucking on it.
“Why do you always do that?” Pelya asked in
exasperation. “Every time we get near those rosebushes, you stab
your finger and suck the blood off. It’s macabre.”
Ebudae shrugged and explained the best she
could. “It feels good. They’re sharp and they leave a . . .
stinging sort of burning sensation. I like it.” She poked the
middle finger of the same hand to emphasize, and then the ring
finger. The sharp stinging shot through the finger and into her
hand and she held up the blood spotted fingers. “See? It’s not a
real injury. It just feels good.”
weird.” Pelya shook her
head. She couldn’t resist the urge to duplicate the action though
and tapped a nearby thorn as well. “Ow!” She stared at the blood
spot for a moment and sighed before sticking it in her mouth,
glaring as Ebudae grinned impudently.
When she took the finger out of her mouth,
the wound was completely healed. Ebudae’s healed as well. It was a
peculiar trait of the rosebushes that the injuries didn’t last
after the blood was cleaned off, although the two girls were the
only ones silly enough to ever test that theory.
They sat at the fountain for an hour,
soaking in the heat of the day and running fingers through the cool
water. Occasionally they would chat, but mostly remained lost in
their own thoughts. When the humidity became uncomfortable with
sweat beading down their faces, they headed back inside.
Ebudae’s grand suite consisted of three
bedrooms, a bathroom, an office, a library and two magical
workrooms that Ebudae kept locked. The main workroom connected to
the suite directly while the secondary one was only accessible
through the first. Lady Pallon didn’t know what the rooms were for
and preferred not to know the girl’s activities.
The large workroom they entered had magical
items scattered carelessly on tables, stands, chairs and shelves.
There were old, comfortable couches that the girls liked to sit in
while studying and a couple of writing tables with ink, quills and
paper. Bookshelves against the stone walls held over a hundred
books, a luxury few could afford. They were kept more neatly than
anything else, showing an added amount of respect. The comfortable
smell of book bindings and paper permeated the silent room. Unlike
the library, which held tomes of history, politics and vapid
poetry, the books in this room were from the ruins below the city.
Many contained artwork and stories that would make adults blush,
forbidden philosophies and more importantly: books of all things
The girls went into the secondary workroom.
A large rune of concentric circles drawn in silvery liquid on the
floor of one corner took up a quarter of the room and had candles
all around it. Other rune circles were drawn on the walls around
the room, though they were in mundane colors. Three worktables had
different components Ebudae used to make magical items. Bubbling
liquids in various tubes, bottles and vials filled with colored
liquids were scattered around a potion-making table. Odors from the
long-brewing potions tickled Pelya’s nose uncomfortably.
“We’ll work on defenses against magic some
more,” Ebudae said. “That’s going to be your biggest need in the
Guard. There are wizards everywhere in this city and all of them
know how to overcome someone with a mundane weapon.” Ebudae stopped
in front of a table with a scroll on it. “The Guard wizards are
good at their job, but it’s even better if you can take care of
“The problem is that using magic is tiring
and I need all my strength to fight with the sword.” Pelya chewed
on her lip and crossed her arms. “Casting also requires gestures,
which means I can’t draw as soon. It also leaves me light headed
for a moment when I need to be assessing the battle.”
“The spells I’m teaching you are ones you
can cast when you
you’re going into danger, especially
when you go alone.” Ebudae opened up a scroll. It would be a
perfect spell for Pelya to learn.
Pelya rolled her eyes. “Guard units always
stay together when on duty and the rest of the time I’m with an
aunt or uncle, Daddy, or you.” She looked over Ebudae’s shoulder.
“What spell is that? I can’t read the writing.”
“It’s a spell that protects your mind. You
can’t read it because it’s in one of the ancient languages you
haven’t learned and probably never will.” Ebudae knew her friend
had other interests like using swords and hitting people with
chairs. Pelya could read nine languages and speak four fluently,
but that didn’t compare to the twenty-three Ebudae could read or
ten she could speak.
Ever since learning to read, Ebudae had
spent every available moment soaking up each book she could find.
When she was nine, she had discovered a magical necklace in the
ruined academy below that enabled her to absorb languages even
faster and even speak them if she was willing to put in the effort.
Still, twenty-three languages was a feat few people accomplished,
even old wizards in their towers. It was an extraordinary
accomplishment for a sixteen year old, but Ebudae knew she was an
extraordinary person even though she tried to hide the fact from
“It seems to me that a scroll that old would
make it harder to learn and be more powerful.” Pelya put her hands
on her hips. “That means that it’ll knock me out even harder before
a battle. And how can I learn it if I can’t read it?”
eyes. “I’m going to
teach it to you and there’re only a few words you’ll speak during
the casting that you need to learn.”
“Oh.” Pelya stretched like she was warming
up for drills. She paid extra attention to stretching her fingers,
which amused Ebudae.
“And just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s
more powerful.” Ebudae smoothed the scroll out with a hand. “It
powerful, but it’s also one of the best-written spells
I’ve ever seen. You’ll be able to cast it fast with little negative
Pelya became more interested. “I like that.
What exactly does it do?”
“It clears your mind so you can focus and
make decisions faster. Then it coats your mind in an eggshell
barrier that’s soft on the inside and hard on the outside,” Ebudae
explained excitedly. “Very few spells will be able to break through
it to befuddle your mind.”
“How long does it last?”
“It’s strong for two or three hours and then
it fades away gradually over a few hours after that. Of course
it’ll go away faster if spells do hit it, so keep that in
“Right.” Pelya gave a sharp nod of
acknowledgement. “Standard stuff.” She unhooked her sword and laid
it on one of the tables.
“Good, let’s start with the gestures.”
Ebudae performed a series of six hand motions, each of which
gracefully flowed into the next. She loved watching her hands as
the long fingers danced through the air. It was her favorite part
Pelya stared at the movement before looking
at Ebudae in frustration. “I can’t move my hands like that.” She
held them up in the air. “They’re strong and fast, but yours move
like hummingbirds and are as delicate as porcelain.”
Ebudae sighed in exasperation. She wished
her friend could just duplicate the motion, but knew it was
expecting too much of anyone. Taking a deep breath, she
strengthened her resolve and began going through the gestures one
at a time.
After an hour, Pelya was doing a good job.
It would never be as precise and fluid as Ebudae, but doing it
correctly was the important thing. “I’m comfortable with that even
if it does feel like my fingers are going to tie themselves around
my thumbs.” Pelya grinned wryly. “What’s next?”
“The words.” Ebudae glanced at the scroll to
make certain she had them all fresh in her mind. “The language is
smooth and pretty. I love the way the words caress my tongue. We
can sit for this part.” She picked up the scroll and they went to a
couch to sit down. “We’re going to go over each and every syllable
at first. Then we’ll start stringing them together.”
It took another hour until Pelya could say
the entire incantation with confidence. They ate a snack and rested
awhile before continuing.
“Alright. Now it’s time to put it all
together. We’ll start with individual components of the spell,
combining words and gestures. Between each one, we’ll discharge any
energy gathered.” Ebudae pointed at a pair of silver rods set in a
large bowl of murky water. The water had ingredients that soaked
magical energy to help the discharge.
“Are there any ingredients or items that I
have to use?” Pelya asked.
Such things were common for many spells, but
this one didn’t need those things. “No. The gestures and words are
works of art in my opinion. You’ll be able to cast it with just
Pelya nodded and began. They took it through
the six parts of the spell over the next half hour, pausing between
each part to discharge energy. “I’m ready.” There were beads of
sweat on Pelya’s forehead. It required great effort to manipulate a
spell, even in parts.
“Are you confident in your ability to cast
the spell without error?” Ebudae asked the question intently. If a
person casting a spell doubted their ability, it would be easy for
it all to go terribly wrong. Things could still go wrong, but the
caster had to recognize and accept that without fear in order to
“I am.” The answer was simple and
determination in Pelya’s eyes lent weight to their truth.
“Good. Stand in the middle of the circles
and cast the spell.” Ebudae pointed at the large, concentric
circles in the corner of the room. They made up a ward with runes
written in each circle using liquid yucerm, a weak metal that could
channel vast amounts of magical energy. It was expensive, so she
didn’t use it for very many things. It was necessary for that
particular rune circle though. It was where Ebudae practiced
casting all her spells. If something
go wrong, then the
circle would absorb the energy of an errant spell, preventing it
from destroying the caster. It would also protect the rest of the
building and everyone in it from a cataclysmic error.
Pelya stepped into the center of the circle
and turned to face Ebudae. Putting her hands together in front of
her, Pelya closed her eyes and took deep, level breaths to clear
her mind. It was a difficult task for many students to be able to
concentrate on magic, but Pelya had refined her mental abilities
throughout a childhood of weapons drilling. It served her well with
A few moments later, Pelya’s eyes opened and
she rested her arms at her side. When Ebudae encouraged her, the
warrior girl began slowly, but self-assuredly, performing the
gestures of the spell. At the same time, she spoke the words,
making certain to pronounce each inflection precisely.
Wisps of Pelya’s hair that had escaped the
braid fluttered back as a magical wind blew against her face. It
affected only her, leaving everything else in the room alone. A
soft, white glow of energy formed around her hands as she neared
the end of the casting.
Pelya’s hands rose to either side of her
head with the last gesture. As the final word was spoken, the
supernatural wind reversed direction and hit Pelya in the back. She
kept her balance against the force as the white glow soaked into
the pores of her face and head, disappearing with a shimmer of
light in her eyes.
Pelya took a deep breath and let her arms
relax down to her sides. She let it out before slowly walking out
of the circles. Ebudae grinned at the look of awe on her friend’s
face. “It feels amazing, doesn’t it?”
“Yes! Everything I see is sharper, like all
of my senses work twice as well.” Pelya blinked a couple of times.
“I see what you mean about the egg shell, but the inside is soft
and velvety, not slimy like egg . . . stuff.”