Magics promise vlhm 2, p.18

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2, page 18

 part  #2 of  Valdemar (02): Last Herald Mage Series

 

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2
 



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  The eyes cleared for a moment, bright with fear. "Often enough," the boy confessed cautiously. "When I was around too much. I tried not to get in his way. Sometimes he'd get mad about something, and take it out on me. But not in front of people, not before tonight."

  “So he hit you. Then he sent everyone else away. What then?"

  "He . . . came around the table. He grabbed me before I could get away, twisted my arm up behind my back, and made me go with him to his study. And ..."

  The eyes clouded again.

  "And?"

  "I don't remember!" Tashir wailed softly. "Please, I don't remember!”

  Vanyel set in motion the spell that called the vrondi, the mindless air elemental that could not abide the emotional emanations associated with falsehood. In his hands, because he could give it energy beyond its own, the vrondi would be able to settle within the youngster's mind: he would be incapable of lying so long as it was there. Vanyel watched the vrondi settle into place, a glowing blue mist like a visible aura about Tashir's head and shoulders. He would not see it, but Vanyel and Lores certainly could. He glanced over at Lores, and saw the older man's lips compress, his face grow speculative.

  "Are you sure, Tashir?" he urged. "Think. Your father took you up to his study; what happened in the study?"

  'I don't remember!” Tashir whimpered. "I don't!”

  Vanyel sighed, and dismissed the vrondi with a word. The mist dissolved, faded away, but slowly, not all at once as it would have if it had met with a lie. There was only one other thing he could try. He reached out tentatively with a Mindtouch.

  Tashir should not have been able to detect it. But suddenly he jerked away, his eyes wild and unreasoning, and a shield snapped up so quickly Vanyel barely had time to pull back his Touch.

  “Look out!” Lores cried, diving for die floor, as half a vase rose from the wreckage, flung itself across the room and smashed against the door. More fragments followed it, all rising from the wreckage to smash against the door, creating a rain of flying shards that pelted them both like fine hail.

  Vanyel didn't move so much as a hair. He clenched his jaw, and reached out with his own power to damp Tashir's Gift with an external shield.

  Sudden silence.

  "Tashir," he reached out for the youngster, with his hand this time, not his mind. "Tashir, I want to help you. I believe you. I will not allow anyone to harm you, or to imprison you for something you didn't do."

  The adolescent's eyes slowly calmed; grew saner. He stared at Vanyel for a long moment, then buried his face in his hands and began sobbing, trembling on the jagged edge of hysteria.

  "I-don't-remember -" he choked. "Oh, please, I don't, I really don't."

  Before he could do anything to comfort or calm the youngster, Vanyel heard a noise in the distance, muffled by the door, that made his hair stand on end.

  The sullen, angry roaring of a mob -

  Lores' head snapped up, and a look of grim satisfaction spread over his face. "The armsmen," he said smugly. "They must have spread the word. That's the people of Highjorune out there, Milord Herald-Mage. You don't rank them, and they aren't likely to listen to you. What's your plan now? They're going to want the boy. I think you should let them have him."

  Tashir gave a kind of choking gasp, and looked straight into Vanyel's eyes, his whole body pleading for rescue. His eyes were swollen, tears smeared across his face, and hair tumbled into one eye, his expression was tragic and hopeless.

  Vanyel could no more have resisted a boy who looked like that than he could have given up Yfandes.

  "I still outrank you, Lores," he said coldly. "You are still under my orders. Get out there and do what you can to keep them off."

  “Keep them off? You're madder than he is!"

  “Move!” Vanyel snapped, rising to his feet, as the flickering of torches lit the gap in the open door Lores made no further protest; he snorted, and stalked across the entryway to the door, his backbone stiff with unspoken resentment.

  Vanyel followed him as far as the door, and once he had barely cleared it, slammed it shut practically on his heels. He heard a muffled exclamation, and the muttering of the mob grew louder and nearer. Vanyel threw the bolt into place across the door; it was metal, but it was not going to hold up against a concerted attack.

  "That . . . isn't going to hold them for long," Tashir said fearfully, brushing the hair out of his eyes with the back of one hand.

  "It won't have to," Vanyel answered absently, moving his Othersenses out and down and hoping that it was no coincidence.

  There was that node, the most powerful node he'd ever encountered outside Tayledras lands. Given that Highjorune was situated on top of the convergence of those energy - streams, given that the node had to be around here somewhere. . . .

  Had the palace been built where he'd have put it?

  It was no coincidence. The palace was situated directly over the node; a node so strong it roared in Vanyel's mind.

  "Now that pompous peabrain is going to find out why I outrank him," he growled to himself, and reached -

  The current-power had been wild; it was nothing to this. He had compared channels in his mother and Yfandes to a dripping icicle and a waterfall. This was to those streams what a raging Firestorm was to a campfire. But Vanyel knew its secrets and how to control it, and it raged to his will.

  He set his mind in the spell-cycle; he murmured a few words, gathered his will, and cupped his hands, unconsciously mirroring the shape he wanted to create.

  Then he snapped his hands open, crying out a single word of command.

  A flash of light made his closed eyelids burn red for a moment. Tashir cried out fearfully.

  Absolute and complete silence descended on them like sudden deafness.

  He opened his eyes; a steady, yellow glow on the outer walls was just barely visible to his Othersight.

  He had erected a mage - barrier about the palace that would keep out anything he didn't want in, including such intangibles as thought - or other magic. He could pass through: so could anything he brought with him. No one and nothing else.

  With effort his thoughts passed it.

  :Yfandes? How are you and the stranger?:

  :They are ignoring us,: she said. :You have frightened the Young One, and angered Lores. The mob has not made up its mind.:

  :Even if they do, it won't get them anywhere. Give me a moment to make up my mind.:

  Vanyel severed the connection between himself and the node. He could control it, yes, but at a price. He'd just earned himself another scattering of silver hairs. Among other things.

  He opened his eyes and saw Tashir huddled up against the wall, shaking so hard his teeth rattled. He walked stiffly to the bench, and touched the young man's shoulder. He got no response. He turned Tashir's face into the light, and saw his eyes glazed over in withdrawal.

  "Damn." Vanyel sat down heavily beside him. "Now what?"

  He thought hard for a moment; made up his mind quickly, and reached for the node again.

  The shock as he touched it the second time was a little less. When he could catch his breath again, he used the node-energy to boost his own Mindspeech far beyond what he could have reached alone, sending his mind out questing for a Mindpresence so dear and familiar it could almost have drawn him on its own.

  Touch.

  Startlement. :Who?:

  :Savil?:

  Recognition and relief. :Gods! Ke'chara, what has been bloody going on? Where are you ?:

  He told her everything that had happened, from the time he'd been awakened by the nightmare. He compressed as much of it as he could, warned her in advance before he Mindsent her an image of Tashir, and even so, the close resemblance to Tylendel came as a shock to her that mirrored his own. He had been Tylendel's lover - but Savil had been mentor, friend, confidant, and near-mother to Tylendel, the role she filled now for Vanyel.

  :So,: she sent, after she regained her mental balance. :Plans?:

  :I'm
taking him into protective custody, and getting him out of here.:

  :How, with a mob - oh, gods.: Realization and fear. Flatly-:You're going to Gate.:

  :Do you see any other choice?: he asked. :Even if the mob weren't there-I tried to remember what little I've heard about investigative procedures. Preserve the evidence. If I break the shield-spell to get out, anybody can get in, and I don't have the power to set a second spell, not this solid, not from the outside. From the inside I can tap the node, but the interference I'd create with the shield would keep me effectively out of the node. You know that. Shields are permeable to the creator, but they still resist penetration. We have to find out what happened here, and we won't if anyone can get in and muddle things up.:

  Her mind-voice was gritty and gray with grim concern. :Far too logical to make me happy, love. But you rank me these days, and there's reasons enough for that for me to follow your lead. Where are you coming in?:

  He'd thought about that very carefully. :The door to the old chapel. It's on sanctified ground, it's one of the few doors inside Forst Reach big enough to use as a Gate-terminus, but it's not under constant use, and I know it as well as I will ever know any place. So be ready for me, because I'm not going to be worth much when I come through :

  :As if I didn't know. Be careful - please.:

  :I'll try.:

  He cut the connection to the node, which dropped him out of the link with Savil, and turned his mind to one nearer at hand.

  :Brightlove-:

  :Chosen-:

  :I'm Gating myself and Tashir out of here. You and the Young One make a run for it. If that damned fool calling himself a Herald can't take the hint, it's not my fault; I've got too many balls in the air as it is.:

  She trembled with concern :I will warn Jenna; if she can get him to mount, she can carry him off whether he likes it or not. I won't tell you not to use that means of escape, only - take care!:

  He touched her with a mental caress. :I shall.:

  He opened his eyes, and considered the possibilities, finally deciding on the open archway onto the stairs as his best bet. Putting a Gate-terminus on the outer door where the shield was would be risking more magically than he cared to. At full powers, maybe. Not now.

  But first - He shoved outward a little, chuckling nastily as the expanding shield shoved Lores down the stairs and into the courtyard. There. That should keep them quiet for a bit.

  He walked to the center of the hallway, raised his hands, and began.

  He spun bits of himself, his stored powers, into the structure. He could not tap the node for this; the only possible way to use external mage-energy for a Gate would be - at least as far as he had learned - if two mages were lifebonded, for at some deep level, two lifebonded were one. And, as always, as soon as he had formed the Portal around the edge of the archway, his uniquely sensitized channels began to burn painfully as he resonated to Gate-energy. When the Gate was complete, he'd be in torment.

  But that was something he had learned to accept and work around. The Weaving - He spun himself, his own substance, out into threads that quested for the unique place he sought, the place where he would build the other end of the Gate. At some point he was no longer having to send those searching filaments; they were pulling on him, and it was all he could do to keep them from spinning away from him and taking everything that was him with them. Then, finally, one of them found the chapel door – another - a third - There was a flare of light, not so bright as the one when he'd built the shield, and his knees gave.

  Oh, hell- he thought dazedly. I wasn't as ready as I thought I was.

  He crouched on the filthy, shard-covered floor, panting in pain, for a long, long moment before he had the strength to look up. But when he did, he saw, not the wreckage of the Highjorune Great Hall, but the welcoming, familiar corridor that led to the old Forst Reach chapel. And thrice-blessed Savil, tunic on backward, waiting. The pain -

  I ... think I'm in trouble. I've never . . . been this drained... before, he thought, somewhere under the red wash of burning. Oh, gods - if I'd known it was going to be like this, I'd never have had the courage. . . .

  He got to his feet, somehow; he staggered like a mortally - wounded drunk trying to get to Tashir. He was so dizzy he could hardly see, and only concentrating on each step, one at a time, enabled him to cross the hallway to the young man.

  "Ta-shir," he croaked, and prayed for a little intelligence in those eyes. His prayers were answered this time; the young man stared at him with a kind of foggy awareness, though he still trembled in every limb. "Go ... get up ..." His feeble tugs on Tashir's arm were answered, the young man stumbled to his feet. "Go ... there ...”He pushed Tashir toward the Gate, every step bought with black - red waves of pain.

  Maddeningly, Tashir stopped, right on the edge.

  Vanyel screamed in frustration and torment, and shoved, sending the young man stumbling through, and unable to keep his balance, fell right through after him.

  Fell from torment into agony; strength gone, control gone, sight, sound, all senses. There was only the pain -

  And then there was nothing.

  Eight

  "You look like hell," said a rough voice just above I his head.

  What an amazing coincidence, Savil, Vanyel thought without opening his eyes. I feel like hell.

  "I seem," his aunt continued dryly, "to spend an inordinate amount of time at your bedside. And don't try to pretend you're not awake."

  "I wouldn't think of it," he whispered, cracking his right eye open. Savil was lounging in the chair she'd pulled up next to his bed, feet on his bed. "Mother will have a cat," he observed, prying his left eye open as well. "You know how she feels about boots on the bedcovers."

  "Your mother isn't here at the moment. How are you feeling?"

  He took a quick inventory. ”Other than some assorted joint-aches, about the same as when I got back to Haven. Which is to say, as you pointed out, like hell. What's been going on? How long was I out this time?''

  "Your outside matches your inside, we're not in a war with Lineas quite yet, and three days." She quirked one corner of her mouth as he groaned, and continued. "I took the liberty of deep-scanning you while you were wit-wandering, and I got in touch with a couple of merchant-contacts in Highjorune. Useful birds, pigeons. Particularly when one can tell their little heads exactly where you want them to go. You want your briefing in sequence, or by specifics?"

  He had been inching into a sitting position while she was talking. She poured a goblet of cider from a pitcher next to her, and handed it to him when he was secure.

  "In sequence," he said, after a sip to help moisten his throat. "And you'd better start with how Father is taking the new houseguest."

  "Your father doesn't know about him, thank the gods." The other corner of her mouth twitched up to make a real smile. "Your old aunt is no fool, ke'chara; he was due to make his Harvest-tide inspection round of the freeholders the same morning you Gated back and fell on your nose. I simply installed Tashir in the guest room next to yours and didn't bother to tell anyone until after Withen was gone." She hesitated a moment before continuing. "I have to tell you, having that boy around is unnerving. He acts like a ghost, whisking out of sight when he sees me coming; he's given me chills more than once. He's too like our lost one... Well. He is not well-wrapped, even I can tell that, and I'm no Mind-Healer."

  Vanyel nodded thoughtfully. "I've got too many questions, and nowhere near enough answers. So Tashir is here, and Father doesn't know about it. A not insignificant blessing. Keep going."

  "Yfandes and the new Companion got back about noon. By nightfall I'd gotten a pigeon or two back with news. Lores is going back to Haven to protest your actions to Randale, and he's carrying a demand from what's left of Deveran's Council that Tashir be turned over to them. Vedric finally stuck his nose in; he showed up the next day. He seems to be on the side of the Lineans, but he wants Tashir turned over to the Mavelans for trial and sentencing." She pa
used for breath. "That's the bad news. The good news is that since that fathead Lores - yes, dear, I know him, he's a fathead and always has been one - isn't a Herald-Mage, he can't Gate back to Haven. It's going to take him a good long while to get there, especially since the Companions are in on our little conspiracy. ''

  "The - how?"

  "Jenna is going to be an invalid all the way home. If he makes the same time he'd make on a spavined horse, he'll be lucky."

  He coughed on a swallow of cider. Savil patted his back, a gleam of amusement in her eye. "I got that from 'Fandes through Kellan. Jenna is not happy with her Chosen, and intends to make him pay for it. So, Lores is going to be delayed. So far as I know, nobody knows where you and the lad are; Lores assumed you'd gone to Haven. That's more good news. So you're safe for a bit, maybe long enough to find out what really happened."

 

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