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Fireballs Among Friends: Part Four

by saphira_27


Esmeralda said, "Look, Father! Mama let us have coffee!"

      Jazan thought wryly as he drank his own coffee that Esmeralda had more than enough energy of her own. Thankfully, Nabile was of the same opinion, and Jazan knew that she'd given the twins hot milk and honey with just enough coffee added in to give it flavor. Seradar and Rasala nursed their canteens as well as they waited in the entrance hall of the palace.

      Seradar had accepted the offer of new robes – he'd had little other choice, given that his were falling apart from the burns. Rasala had accepted robes, but had added her Order cloak and hat, and Jazan thought little of the resulting outfit – it looked as though she were more worried about her standing among the Erisim than practicality.

      Nabile walked into the main hall of the Palace, followed by little Neera and Jessamine. Jessamine, a Royal Kacheek of only three, ran straight to Jazan and hugged his leg. He stroked her dark hair as Nabile said, "Aldie, give those Scamander treats you got from the quartermaster back to me. Now."

      Neera, a five-year-old pink Zafara, squealed in disgust and hid her face in Nabile's skirts. Which, Jazan knew well, was the exact reaction Esmeralda had hoped to cause.

      Esmeralda protested, "I wasn't actually going to use them..."

      Caspar elbowed her. "You'll get us set to lessons with Nightsteed today! Stop it!"

      Esmeralda took the packet out of her pocket. "Well, if you'd let us get a Mauket..."

      Caspar elbowed her again, and she silenced herself, which saved Jazan from having to give her the talk again about how a Petpet was a major responsibility and all four children had to prove themselves ready for it. Caspar would be a good king in time, since he knew when to be silent. Jazan hoped he could do as fine a job today – he had many things he'd like to say to Rasala, but none of them would be helpful.

      Nabile smiled at Jazan, and she reached out to take his hands – he smiled at her. She said, "Nightsteed and I should be able to keep any catastrophes from happening. And if we do run into a catastrophe, Mirzah's here."

      Jazan looked over at the children, and noticed that Esmeralda wore her sword. She was fairly good, especially for her age – she had a gift. But he didn't intend to give her the opportunity to use it. If a nine-year-old had to draw steel, he had failed catastrophically as a father. Caspar was armed, too. He didn't have a sword – he was competent enough for a beginner, but he had no love for it the way Esmeralda did – but he had a knife on his belt. At least that had some other uses besides fighting.

      Jazan asked, "Are we all prepared?"

      Seradar nodded, and thumped his staff on the tiled floor for emphasis. The old Gelert said, "Let's start, before that blasted automaton rips my tower apart!"

      Jazan nodded – he appreciated Seradar cutting straight to the point. He had to deal with bureaucratic niceties more than enough.

      As they departed, he thanked Fyora for small mercies that Rasala didn't seem to be a morning person. He didn't want to be on the receiving end of another impassioned defense of the Order.

      Caspar asked, "Father, how will you stop the automaton?"

      Jazan said, "It'll be easiest to stop it and disentangle it from the wards by dismantling the spells entirely. Seradar will be able to allow us entry into his warding-spells, and that'll cripple the automaton's use of fire. Then we have enough power among the three of us to remove the animating spells while staying out of range of the creation."

      Esmeralda asked, "Is that why you couldn't dismantle it yourself, sir?"

      Seradar nodded. "Exactly. I couldn't get at it through the tangle of the ward-spells from outside my tower, and inside I was too busy dodging it to get the time to take it apart. Remember that, kiddos. Always think twice before you cast a spell you won't be able to undo."

      Caspar said, eyes brightening, "Like setting things on fire! Father says to be careful with fire-magic because you can't put anything back together."

      Jazan nodded. "Very good, Caspar." The twins – his little firebrand and his little scholar. Rasala's and Seradar's interest was far from unwarranted – when they were grown, they would be a force to be reckoned with, and that was without taking into account the fact that Caspar would wield the power of the Qasalan throne.

      But they had to be allowed to grow and learn on their own. They had pressures enough as prince and princess. Their magecraft was a release for them – a place where they could learn and play freely. He wouldn't allow any other person to give them pressures there as well.

      Esmeralda asked, "Will we get to see the automaton? Why've I never seen an automaton before?"

      Jazan smiled at her. "That's what apprentices are for." Seradar laughed, and Jazan continued, "You may get to see the framework, but you won't be seeing it while it's still wandering around, or your mother will have my head."

      Esmeralda pouted, then asked, "Will we get to help put his wards back up? Why don't you ever work on the wards at the Qasalan palace?"

      Jazan said as they crested a dune, "The palace doesn't have wards – too many people come in and out of its rooms. There are some guardian spells and alarm spells, and most of those have been anchored in place. Seradar's tower is fairly new."

      Seradar said, "And you can make the junior members of the Mages' College do the hard labor on the alarm spells."

      Jazan nodded. "Though as I'm riding herd on the Qasalan aristocracy, I occasionally envy them their lot."

      Esmeralda informed Seradar, "He yells at the letters on his desk a lot. Mama thinks it's funny."

      Jazan sighed. Nabile did find his travails with some of Qasala's more obstinate – or, less charitably, simple-minded – lords amusing. He wished he could – it would make dealing with them easier. Caspar scolded, "Aldie!" Then he asked Seradar, "Have you lived in Qasala long, sir?"

      He shook his head. "Not very long – not in comparison to my own life, at least. I spent most of my life in Brightvale. At one time, I was the head of the Greensward Guild – Brightvale's name for their Mages' College."

      Rasala cut in – too quickly. It was obvious she was trying to change the subject. "How far is it to your tower, Seradar?"

      The old Gelert sneered at her. "Far enough to tell tales. Do you not want the little prince and princess to hear about what the Order of the Red Erisim did to me? Were you hoping to make a good impression on twin mages?"

      Jazan winced. The children's eyes were wide – Caspar's violet like his mother's, Esmeralda's as gold as Jazan's own. There would be no keeping them from the whole tale, even if they had to listen to every conversation in the palace.

      But there was even less stopping Seradar. He half-snarled, "The Darkest found me, when Altador awoke. Possessed me. Climbed around my head and took control. I couldn't do anything – not even when she used me to attack my own apprentice, Princess Roberta.

      "Then, when I came back to myself again, the Order of the Red Erisim called me in to a general meeting. And they told me they were casting me out for use of black magic."

      Esmeralda cried, "But that's not fair! It wasn't you!"

      Seradar said grimly, walking so quickly that even Jazan had to work to keep up with him, "That's what I said. They said it didn't matter. They said that since my body had used dark magic, I was no longer to be trusted. They removed me from the Order after decades of loyal service and excellent work. And when Hagan saw that, he removed me from the Greensward Guild as well. A life's work, ripped away from me. And all thanks to them!"

      He raised a finger and pointed it at Rasala, who flinched back as though the Gelert had tried to curse her. The Bori cried, "I know – and it was wrong!"

      She looked at Jazan, running ahead up the next dune so that she could be in front of him. "That's why I came to Qasala. I corresponded with Jerdana of Altador and Queen Fyora, who both vouched for you. I wanted to ask you to join the Order, and use those letters to have you accepted. That would force a change in the bylaws, which would put some sense into our dealings with black magic and its aftermath."

      Jazan almost tripped over his own sandals. Him, join the Order of the Red Erisim? Meet with them in a pointy hat?

      Take orders from Rasala and the other elected leaders? Have to go where others sent him? Hah! Even if he would – which he would not – he could not. He had his own duties as husband, father, and king to attend to, and would not forswear them.

      Esmeralda said heatedly, "My father doesn't use black magic!"

      Caspar said, "I think she means during the curse, Aldie. When he met Mama in Sakhmet."

      "But Mama said that was when he was under the curse. So it doesn't really count as Father doing it because he's not the same person, really."

      "But it counted even less when Mister Seradar was possessed by the Darkest, and that still caused the Order to kick him out."

      "But that's stupid!" She paused. "And I guess that's what they're all saying, that the rule is stupid. So, Father, if you join the Order that'll make them change the stupid rule?"

      Jazan couldn't help but smile wryly. "They'll end up changing the rule with or without me." So that was why Rasala had come all the way here, at least. It was better than deliberately trying to entrap the twins. Not that he intended to cooperate. But if she was this stubborn in everything she did, he pitied the rest of the hide-bound Order members.

      They continued their walk – Caspar and Esmeralda were talking in low voices, and Jazan had a feeling from the way they were looking around that they were plotting something. He'd learned to listen to those instincts, and resolved to keep an eye on them. But Rasala and Seradar were both quiet, and even the twins' voices couldn't dispel the tension in the air.

      Before the sun was high, they drew close to Seradar's tower. Jazan could feel the power in the air – but he realized he could also sense the presence of other mages. He said, "There are mages here. Three, and strong."

      Rasala shut her eyes, then scowled and made a noise that was almost a growl. She ran up a dune and shouted, "Grimjon! What in the blazes are you doing here?"

      Jazan didn't know any Grimjon.

      But he did know impending trouble when he heard it.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Fireballs Among Friends: Part One
» Fireballs Among Friends: Part Two
» Fireballs Among Friends: Part Three
» Fireballs among Friends

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