Fireballs Among Friends: Part Eight
Jazan felt the surge and the wild magic – it woke him up. Caspar started with a gasp, and Esmeralda fell off her chair. Then he heard, "Downstairs! Downstairs! Now, now, now!"
Esmeralda asked, "What's happening?"
Jazan said grimly, "Your mother is going to kill me."
The other mages came clattering down into the kitchen, with Seradar shutting the door. Rasala said, "Grimjon was messing with some of Seradar's charms – Seradar, I like the modifications to the Bori work that you've made, by the way – I was trying to get the charms away from him, and Seradar was counter-spelling Grimjon's prying, and Yvenya and Miskal were trying to protect us all from the surge, and the surge came and just... ripped it all away from us! There's a – a thing, up there, a thing all made of fire, created by magic and the surge! Grimjon teleported away, the cowardly rat, but the rest of us are here, and we don't know how strong it is or whether the remaining spells will hold it, since we all took the wards down!"
Caspar said, "You're right, Father. Mama is going to kill you."
Esmeralda snickered, but Jazan didn't feel like laughing. He looked up at the ceiling. "We have to try to stop it – at the very least, to gauge its strength."
Esmeralda asked, "Do we get to help?"
Jazan had to weigh Nabile's inevitable – and justified – reaction with the fact that the twins' power could make a real difference when confronting a beast made all of fire. He decided. "Once. You get one try. Then..." He looked at the other mages. "Start planning – you were the ones up there. I'll be a minute only."
He went to the twins, knelt down in front of them – somewhat stiffly, after his brief nap – and then took off his wedding ring. "I have always told you that you are never to touch my or your mother's ring. Correct?"
They nodded. He held the ring out to Caspar. "Tell me why."
Caspar's eyes widened as he touched it with a single finger. "It's magic! Powerful. Look at all those charms on it, Aldie!" Aldie whistled quietly in amazement.
Jazan nodded. "Some of them are old – ancient, even. This ring and its mate have been in our family for generations. But some of them are my own design. Can you feel anything familiar to you?
This time, it was Esmeralda who nodded. "There's a... a trail. It's like a scent, almost. It's... it's Mama's perfume!"
Jazan nodded. "I strengthened the spells that connect the rings. I've used it to go to her before. If you use the ring and follow the trail, your combined strength should allow you to create a transport spell with sheer muscle and still get there. If our first attempt to destroy this creation fails, you two need to go. You need to go to the palace, tell your mother, and warn Mirzah and the other mages. Caspar, Esmeralda, do you understand me?"
They nodded as one, their eyes wide. "Yes, Father."
Esmeralda asked, "What will you do, Father, if it's too dangerous and we've got the ring?"
He set one hand on each of their shoulders and smiled at them. "The Qasalan palace has been my home for two centuries. I can spell my way back there whether I have the ring or not. I promise you that if this thing is too much for us, we will wall it in with magic and return to Qasala for reinforcements."
Seradar said grimly, "It's coming. Slowly, but it's coming. It's not interested in my tower. It's coming for us."
Yvenya said icily, "And if we make it out of here, I intend to have a long discussion with Grimjon, as it seems that all his talk of the responsibility of mages was mere talk with no bones behind it. At least you, Seradar, for all your faults, attempt to repair any problems you create."
Seradar muttered, "Thanks, I think."
Rasala said, "King Jazan, I think your main role in this attack will be to channel Caspar and Aldie's power. You can help them make sure they have enough power in reserve to transport if they need to."
Jazan nodded. It was the best role for him in this – minding their power for them left him without enough concentration to spare for the delicate work, such as untangling what was essentially a magical knot with a nasty streak, and he didn't trust anyone else to take the care with them that he would. Rasala said, "Either Seradar or I should take control of the spell."
Yvenya suggested, "I would prefer a double approach. One group – the king, prince, princess, and Miskal in my opinion – should focus on immobilizing the creature. Seradar, Rasala, and I should then attempt to undo the magic that created it, or, if that proves impossible, gauge the creature's strength."
That was a good idea. Miskal was strong – Jazan could feel the power within him, earth magic as steady as an ancient tree. That steadiness would aid him, since he and the twins had too much fire power for their own good when it came to work like this. He nodded. "We'll do it."
Rasala said decisively, "Then Yvenya, Seradar, we should decide how we're going to do this. We have a good range of elemental affinities between us – my fire and air, Yvenya's water and air, and Seradar's earth and light. The only thing we lack is darkness. We'll determine what it responds to best, and that person will take the lead and hit it with all the power we can spare. Forcibly unmake it, like we did with the automaton."
Miskal grumbled, "With our luck, it'll take a darkness attack to bring it down."
Jazan didn't like to admit to the darkness in his own power – while not bad in itself, he knew as well as anyone else how often mere dark magic, such as the good Dark Faeries used, was twisted into black magic. But if it was necessary, it was necessary. He was king, and even if Rasala had more subjects here than he did, his obligations were not lessened. "My power's roots are in fire and darkness. Should a darkness attack become necessary, I will leave the cage for the creature and lead the attack."
They could hear the footsteps upstairs in the quiet that followed – Seradar, Rasala, Yvenya, and Miskal were all looking at Jazan, their faces inscrutable. The uncomfortable silence was interrupted by Esmeralda when she asked, voice trembling, "Is it big?"
Seradar said, "No bigger than your father, missy. I've seen worse."
Neither Caspar nor Esmeralda looked reassured. Jazan was the largest person in the room by a comfortable margin – Miskal was almost as tall as he, but much more slender. Jazan said, "Start preparing yourselves. This is going to take a lot of power."
They nodded, and started passing their little ball of fire back and forth, brows furrowed in concentration. Nabile was going to be furious with him, but what else could he do? It was their best hope of containing and unmaking this creature – for all they knew, it could be a danger to the whole desert.
The footsteps came down the stairs to the kitchen. Jazan could already see the air shimmering over the door from the strain it was under. He felt for the power the twins were using and prepared to funnel it and mix it with Miskal's. Most of the Order mages were already muttering spells – Jazan had learned his magic differently, and rarely bothered with verbal spells. Most of them were merely aids in reaching for the force.
Then the door simply shattered into splinters. They flew past Jazan like stinging sand, mirroring the sandstorm outside.
The beast was there, its fiery form almost painful to look at. Jazan nodded at Miskal, and they both reached for the beast, trying to meet it and match it and keep it from entering the room. It writhed and roared, but it couldn't pass them, for the moment. But it was strong – Jazan knew that, without the reservoir of power provided by the twins, they'd be in serious trouble. Miskal cried, "Now! Now! Fyora blast it, hurry!"
Rasala squinted, and her eyes widened. Jazan could hardly see her, or anyone, through the strain and the storm of magic in his eyes. "Gold! We need gold! It's Alshemar's third variation on the ceasing spells – he was working on it the whole time I was apprenticing with him – we need gold! Who has gold?"
Had she looked at Jazan? He reached up and started to unfasten a few of his earrings. He fumbled with them and held them out blindly – they were taken from his hand. He poured all his magic, all the twins' magic, fire and light and darkness all wound round with Miskal's earth, into holding the barrier. Oh, the creature fought – it wasn't living, not in a true sense, not a creature born of tangled spells and the surges of the borderlands, but it still fought, with all its considerable strength.
Caspar cried, "Father, it's too much!"
He dialed back, but the beast lunged forward and almost broke his control. Jazan couldn't take more of the twins' magic. They'd already been weary, and the short nap they'd gotten to take before this exploded hadn't been close to enough to restore them.
He had to make up the difference himself. That was what being king was. It was being the one to stand alone, when the darkness or the wild loomed close. When there was no one else to take the responsibility, it became his.
Jazan threw everything he could into the spell, putting his awareness and his strength into the cords of power holding the beast in check. It howled, thrashing – it didn't like the additional darkness in its bindings. There wasn't enough of Jazan outside the spell to even realize he should be pleased. He couldn't see anymore, not around the storm of magic. He couldn't feel anything outside the webs of power they were trying to control and the other mages fighting with him.
Jazan felt it rather than saw it when Rasala, Yvenya, and Seradar raised their hands, each of them holding a golden earring burning bright with magic, and struck.
There was whiteness – a massive light, as the magic that had held the beast together flew apart. There was the sound of falling stone, but only dimly, as from a great distance. Under Jazan's hands – he had put his hands on Caspar's and Esmeralda's shoulders once more after he'd given up his earrings – the twins collapsed to the ground, and it was all Jazan could do to guide himself down more gracefully before he shut his eyes. The air around them seemed brighter – he wasn't sure whether it was real or his own imagination. He murmured to the twins, "Another part of magic – being exhausted after a major working... good work. I'm very proud of you."
Esmeralda murmured, voice tired, "Thank you, Father."
Caspar only let out an exhausted sigh.
But at least they were safe.
To be continued...