The Sorcerer: Part Six
“You – you what?” spluttered Lisha. “You lied? Jeran’s life depends on this! Every second I waste –”
It was altogether possible that Lockwood was more annoyed with himself for his unwonted display of selflessness, than with Lisha for her outrage; therefore he only replied coldly, “In that case perhaps you should consider starting whatever it is that you plan to do.”
“Ooh!” said Lisha in outrage, wishing more ardently than ever to strangle the handsome Gelert. But, having shifted her focus to Jeran’s predicament, she reflected some minutes later that perhaps Lockwood had been uncharacteristically thoughtful; she had, after all, been in sore need of the sleep. Either way she was willing to let it slide because there were really much more important things to worry about at the moment.
Lisha soon discovered, to her serious chagrin, that her own particular brand of magic was not conducive to summoning spells. She was also forced to consider the logistical problems of scanning through so many large books in a relatively short amount of time, which were staggering. She could think of no reliable magical way of doing it, and she did not relish the idea of reading furiously against the clock, hoping that Jeran did not die while she searched.
Nevertheless, she cast summoning spells for Professional Curses and Lost Spells of Neopia, deciding that they were the most likely to be useful. Both of them were exceedingly rare and valuable, and Lisha was forced to expand her spell’s area to exhausting proportions. Even so, Lost Spells of Neopia refused to appear, though one ancient, forbidding copy of Professional Curses swam reluctantly into being under her nose. Upon further inspection it had a Darigan seal on it, meaning that she had undoubtedly stolen the scroll from the Darigan library; however, as there was not much she could do about it just now, she began to read.
The Lost Desert scripture, though written in standard Neopian, was astonishingly difficult to read, and many of the concepts detailed within the first few paragraphs were simply beyond Lisha’s comprehension. After an hour or so she rubbed her eyes and stood up and glanced over at Lockwood, who was sitting reading one of his copies of Modern Spells and appeared uncharacteristically absorbed. She looked at Jeran, who was lying where she had left him. There was no doubt about it; the ends of his fur had turned a sickly purple, a certain sign that the curse was spreading. How rapidly, Lisha did not know.
“I think –”
As Lisha had remarkably little idea as to how she was going to finish the sentence, it was perhaps an act of providence that she was interrupted.
She was immediately aware of magic, extremely powerful magic, searing through the air around her; it took her several seconds to realize that two large and threatening figures were now looming over her, and she was rendered quite speechless when she realized that one of them was Lord Darigan himself.
Lord Darigan it was; standing beside him, an exceptionally irate Darigan Meerca. “There it is!” the Meerca cried, and snatched Professional Curses from the mossy patch of ground upon which Lisha had dropped it. “Sacrilegious! Unendurable! Throwing priceless, ancient scrolls in the dirt!”
Lisha blinked, looking in alarm from one to the other. Lockwood, behind her, crossed his arms and looked accusatory, doubtless attributing the intruders to some fault of Lisha’s.
The Meerca shook the scroll violently in Lisha’s face. “Do you have any idea how much this is worth! You – you destroyer of literature! You - ”
Lord Darigan cleared his throat rather loudly, and the Meerca grudgingly fell silent. “If you will forgive Sylas, who has recently had a number of difficult things to deal with...” He looked at Lisha hesitantly. “I believe we’ve... met?”
“Y-yes,” stammered Lisha. “Ah, yes, that is, I’m Lisha. Sir Jeran’s sister. And you are Lord Darigan, if I remember correctly...”
“Quite,” he agreed politely, placing a hand on Sylas’s shoulder to restrain him. “Mr. Sylas, the scroll has been recovered, wouldn’t you agree? I am sure all of the assistant librarians will be very anxious to find out what has happened. Perhaps I should send you back to the castle.”
“I suppose,” the Meerca agreed reluctantly. “But you will take care of these – these – these infidels, my Lord?”
“Naturally,” Darigan assured him, and Sylas disappeared in a puff of purple smoke.
Lisha and Lockwood both stared for a moment. She wondered how the magic had been done, and marveled at the amount of power it must have required; he wished enviously that he knew how to replicate the feat, and made up his mind to learn how at the first opportunity.
Then, since the situation seemed to call for something more, Lisha said, “I’m terribly sorry I stole your scroll, Lord Darigan. That is, I didn’t actually mean to steal it from you, and I always meant to return it.”
Darigan sighed, then sat unceremoniously on a tree stump. He looked rather out of place in the verdant Meridellian woods, and altogether quite frightening, but Lisha sensed somehow that he did not mean them any harm.
“The fact is,” said Darigan, “that we were quite baffled when one of our library’s valuable scrolls disappeared. It wasn’t so much the worth of the scroll – we have many rarer ones – but the fact that someone had managed to penetrate the Citadel’s defenses, which are, frankly, quite elaborate. When we looked into the situation, we discovered that somebody had been using extraordinarily powerful magic in some remote part of Meridell’s woodland. We thought it would be prudent to investigate. As a matter of fact, we were entirely prepared for a massive hostile force directed against either the Citadel or Meridell... which, er, is not exactly the case, I take it?”
“Not at all,” said Lisha firmly. “If you’ll just come this way, I think I can explain everything.” He looked rather surprised, but got to his feet and followed her to the little clearing where Jeran lay.
Darigan frowned but remained silent, so Lisha continued. “After you – well, when Kass was in charge of the Citadel – he sent a dancer to Skarl...”
“Ah, yes,” said Darigan. “The Court Dancer. We did put up a search for her immediately after the war, but I’m afraid it was rather feeble. We had a great many other things to set to rights, and it didn’t seem particularly pressing. Apparently we should have devoted more energy to it.”
“You couldn’t possibly have known,” said Lisha with a sigh, taking a moment to consider how much simpler everything would have been if Darigan’s forces had found the Court Dancer years ago. “Well, anyway, she cursed Jeran. And,” Lisha burst out angrily, “I haven’t the faintest idea what she used or how to break it!”
“I see. So you’ve been using a great deal of magic trying to lift the curse?”
“Yes,” she replied miserably.
“So that would explain all of the breaking and unwinding spells,” Darigan mused. “And you wanted books – the source, I assume, of the formidable summoning spells that were cast... I am rather curious as to why you wanted to create a magical artifact.”
Lisha stared blankly at him. “I... didn’t, I don’t think.”
Darigan stared back. “It’s generally rather difficult to create a magical artifact without knowing it – as a matter of fact, it’s generally rather difficult to create one at all.”
“How do you know all this?” asked Lisha, who was slowly recovering from her amazement, sufficiently at least to be stunned by Lord Darigan’s magical capabilities.
He smiled. “It’s not terribly difficult, I assure you. Sorcery nearly always leaves traces; the magic of eliminating the traces is very, very advanced, and to be entirely honest I am not certain how it works, only that it exists.”
“Well,” Lisha said in puzzlement, “I believe you, but I’m almost absolutely sure I didn’t create any magical artifacts by mistake.” A thought struck her. “You’re certainly welcome to ask Lockwood, though. I suppose he might have been fooling around.”
“Lockwood?” Darigan inquired, turning automatically in the shadow Gelert’s direction. Lockwood had managed to fade into the background, some yards away, so well that the two of them had quite forgotten his presence.
“I am supposed to be teaching him,” muttered Lisha. “Actually, we were on our way to visit you – Jeran had high hopes that you could make him a little less despicable and worthless. Whatever you’d like to ask him, I wish you the joy of it.”
“Ah,” said Lord Darigan, in some bewilderment. “I see... Well, if you don’t mind, I think I will ask him. I should have known you were not the only one casting spells here; some radically different styles were used. I only assumed – in any case, magic like this can be dangerous, particularly if he has no idea what he’s doing.”
Raising his voice so that Lockwood could hear him, Darigan introduced himself. “My name is Lord Darigan, and you are – Mr. Lockwood? I would be very obliged if you could answer a few questions.”
“Certainly,” replied Lockwood; Lisha thought that he looked slightly suspicious, but he approached the two of them and sat down upon the rock he had used for the same purpose earlier. “I am honored to make your acquaintance, my Lord.”
He did not sound precisely honored; however, taking into account the fact that he was Lockwood, a tone of respectful civility spoke of the deepest regard that could possibly be expected.
“We have been discussing, ah, some of the magic that has taken place in this area over the past day or so,” explained Darigan. “Lisha can account for most of it, but one very significant piece of sorcery is yet unexplained.”
“Is that so?” Lockwood replied languidly.
“I was hoping that you might be able to explain it. I don’t mean to interfere, but I’m a hopelessly devoted scholar of magic of all sorts; and, to be frank, I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered a spell quite like this one before. The particular one I am wondering about is something very unusual – the creation of a magical artifact. Does that ring any bells?”
Upon consideration, Lisha wondered if Lockwood’s expression was not rather guarded; with Lockwood, however, one could never tell.
He gave a slightly unnatural smile. “Indeed, Lord Darigan, you must be – if I dare propose the possibility – mistaken in some way. I first attempted to conjure fire, and, upon discovering that it did not work, I devised a spell to summon the book Modern Spells. I found a very satisfactory warming spell and that was the end of it.”
Darigan cast an eye in Lisha’s direction, then shrugged. “Ah, well. It is too bad we couldn’t get to the bottom of it, but I believe you have more pressing things to worry about at the moment. Would you have any objection to my helping you lift your brother’s curse?”
“Objection!” exclaimed Lisha. “How can you even ask? On the contrary, I would be overjoyed! But,” she faltered, “are you sure you can leave your kingdom for so long?”
“Really, you need not worry in that respect,” Darigan assured her with a slight smile. “I have a feeling my citizens do quite well without me, especially as I have many capable officers working under me. Besides, if anything were to happen to Sir Jeran and I had been there, it would be an inter-kingdom affair, possibly even justification for another war.”
“Thank you,” said Lisha sincerely, and was most astonished to feel tears in her throat, which she did her best to swallow.
“It’s really no trouble at all,” Darigan told her kindly. “Now, why don’t we get to work?”
Lockwood continued to sit and look rather pensive.
To be continued...