Curses, Inside-Out: Part Two
also by Dreagoddess
High in the tallest tower on the Darigan Citadel, a large
window was thrown open to the ragged breeze and patchy sunlight that more and
more often made their way through the dark and roiling clouds that tended to
shadow Darigan wherever it went. Two figures stood peering out the window, not
at the sunlight but down over the city streets.
"I think, your highness," rumbled Galgarrath,
"that as soon as the heating conduits are shored up and reenchanted, we should
build a proper reservoir. The temporary one we built when we expected to regain
the Golden Orb is likely to give way and flood three neighborhoods if it even
holds long enough to fill up in the first place."
"That definitely won't do." Darigan frowned.
"We've had more real rainclouds of late --"
"That can't last, your highness."
"Can it not?" Darigan shifted his wings to catch
the breeze and looked upward. "I think whatever curses trailing us have begun
fading, if slowly."
"Maybe." Galgarrath considered the clouds himself.
"I think the ground's loosening a bit around where you planted Illusen's gift."
And a strange gift it was; Illusen had given it after a quest she'd participated
in, to retrieve Kass from the realm of the Three. "Still, we can't count on
it continuing. Unless maybe the air faeries around here like clockwork toys."
"No, I didn't mean --" Darigan broke off, thinking,
then resumed. "I didn't mean to say we didn't need the reservoir; I was going
to ask whether there was any danger of flooding from the rains we've had."
"I don't think so. What else did you have in
mind? I know that look."
"Merely that it might be worth asking if the
air faeries would -- what in all the worlds --"
Darigan was up and reaching for his staff within
heartbeats. Galgarrath already had his sword out and ready to defend his lord.
Though...defend against what was the question.
Everything still seemed peaceful outside. Except
for the people running out and looking around in terror, of course. But no enemies
were surging out of the sky, no explosions were evident. Darigan frowned for
a moment in concentration, then said, "The spells holding the Citadel aloft
are still fine. ...The engines?"
"Still shut down," Galgarrath replied tensely.
Kass had kept the Citadel floating far higher than usual, and with little training
in magic before the Three had gotten hold of him, had relied on the engines
to make up the difference. They had been verging on an utter and very destructive
breakdown by the end; if they had failed one by one, the entire structure would
have been unbalanced. "We've had other priorities than repairing those."
"I know that, but they're the only thing
I can think of that would make the entire Citadel shake like that!" Darigan
snapped, then shook his head abruptly. "I need to get a better look."
Galgarrath started toward the door. "Then we'll
go and -- your highness! I can't follow you if you go out the window!"
Darigan paused with both hands on the windowsill
-- from outside -- and wings beating madly. He wasn't exactly designed to hover.
"Come on, then. I'll carry you."
Galgarrath looked dubious, but let Darigan grip
him firmly and take off again. People were milling around beneath them, a worried
buzz of conversation reaching them even at a height. Some stopped and pointed
as the two flew past, seeming relieved that at least someone was doing something.
These people had been through far too much lately.
Darigan made a wide circle, both watching for
any possible sign of the source of the tremors and letting himself be seen,
and then broadened it further, diving over the edge and spiraling downward and
This was...puzzling. Extraordinarily puzzling.
There didn't seem to be anything wrong. Not with the spells, not with
attackers, not with pure natural disaster. Darigan was trying to decide if an
earthquake was possible when the earth in question was floating in the
air when he saw a curious shape heading towards them. Galgarrath drew his sword,
but Darigan called out, "No! They're Meridellians." Hopefully with some kind
of explanation. Darigan lifted a hand in greeting, then flew back to the rim
of the Citadel to set his general down gratefully.
Galgarrath braced himself against the continuing
tremors, though he didn't sheathe his sword. Just in case, presumably, anything
happened. Darigan walked slightly closer to the edge, peering downward at the
"You think they know something about this, your
highness?" Galgarrath asked, still scowling.
"I hope so." Darigan caught the alarmed look
his general threw him and shook his head. "I seriously doubt it's an attack
on their part, at this point, and if they can shed any light on the question
at all, it will be an improvement." Granted, their information might be alarming
-- but at least it would be a start.
The Citadel had been shaken on several levels;
the more violent motion was beginning to die down, but that only made a strange,
thrumming vibration Darigan could feel in his bones more prominent. Taking into
account recent peace treaties, he forced himself not to flinch as white Unis
bore down on his land; taking into account the peculiar behavior of the land
in question at the moment, he tried not to take offense when the first Uni to
land jumped back off with all four hooves and peered at the vibrating stone
It shook itself all over -- nearly unseating
its rider -- and made a second attempt at landing. This attempt was far more
successful, and the other Uni quickly followed suit. As soon as their riders
had dismounted, however, both Unis darted back up into the air with distrustful
glances at the supposedly-solid ground.
Darigan was not surprised that one of the riders
was Sir Jeran. He was slightly surprised that the other was Lisha, and that
she looked completely mortified. "It should stop in just a minute," Lisha said
hurriedly, looking around her at the shaking city. "I think."
Galgarrath sheathed his sword, now that he'd
had a good look at the new arrivals, and Darigan swallowed the impulse to introduce
them upon remembering that they had already met and fought together, when he'd
gone mad. "That would be nice." He glanced downward at Meridell, which he thought
looked relatively normal. "If you're making predictions, may I hope you have
some idea what's going on?"
Lisha stared at the ground. "I was practicing,
like you said to. Not with my wand," she added hastily, "but with the diagnostic
spells you showed me. There really wasn't much magic in Meridell to diagnose
other than mine, so I tried the Citadel instead. I didn't think it would actually
affect anything. You'd said it wouldn't hurt my wand, after all. I'm
Utter silence fell after this explanation, as
if the entire Citadel had paused to listen. Darigan realized after a second
that the actual source of the effect was that the shaking had stopped and his
teeth were no longer buzzing. "I wouldn't have expected a diagnostic spell to
do that, myself."
"I didn't either! I guess I didn't do it right.
Everything up here looked...weird."
"That part could be because the spell
is really meant for single objects." Darigan turned to Galgarrath. "Would you
go and reassure everyone that...." He paused. Announcing that the young Meridellian
sorceress had caused the tremors by accident really wasn't that reassuring,
particularly since the spell shouldn't really have had quite that effect. "That
we aren't about to fall out of the sky, at any rate, and that I'm still looking
into what actually happened."
Galgarrath didn't look terribly pleased, and
cast a dark look at Lisha, but apparently he considered Jeran sufficient protection
for his lord. He bowed briefly and left to attempt reassurance.
After he'd left, Lisha said in a very small voice,
"I really am sorry. I didn't think it would do that."
"I really don't think
it should have. Can you describe to me exactly what you did, and what
you mean by everything having 'looked weird'?"
"I'd been practicing by putting enchantments
on different things and then going back later to detect what was there, but
I already knew what everything was so it wasn't really having to figure
anything out. I couldn't think of anywhere in Meridell that would have enchantments,
so I just thought I would try the Citadel. I didn't even know if it would work
so far away, but I just...held up my hand and started feeling for it like you
showed me. And then everything looked weird! It was all...fuzzy, like
the earth magic on my wand, except everything was like that. And then
someone started shouting that the Citadel was shaking and...I stopped."
Darigan gave her a long look. "This is going
to sound wildly irrelevant, but bear with me. What happened when you did
practice with your wand?"
Lisha blinked. "Um. The first time it felt just
the same, but then I tried to concentrate on not going around anything...
and I, um, I think the Bullseye target I was aiming at vaporized."
"I think," he said carefully, "that going 'around'
the curse on your wand still may have bled off a great deal of the power you
were putting into it. The fact that you produced any effect at all, never mind
an increasing one, suggests that you grew accustomed to casting very
high-powered spells -- possibly to the point of compensating for the wand's
function entirely on your own. You might want to try that sometime, in fact;
it's useful not to have to be carrying anything." Darigan paced to the edge
again, eyeing the distance to the castle. "You may have compensated for the
distance by putting an inordinate amount of energy into the spell, which could
explain the shaking -- I don't particularly like the idea that the support spells
can be destabilized so easily, and there didn't appear to be anything wrong
with them, but it has to be considered. The blurring may also be a function
of distance, and too much power -- or the size of your target. There's really
too much detail in an entire city for that spell; it's no wonder things looked
"No," Lisha objected, "I didn't mean all the
magic was like that. I could see some of the details. I mean, there were
some really clear shapes, even though I wasn't sure what they were. The kind
of bowl and column-shaped earth and air are the ones to make it float, right?"
Darigan gave her a slightly stunned nod, and she plunged on. "But there's this
-- this fuzz all through the whole Citadel, and it's made from all six kinds
of magic, and there are just hints of shapes in the fuzz but...." She hesitated,
taking off her thick glasses and rubbing her eyes. Darigan waited patiently.
"I think some of them are bad," she said quietly. "I thought I recognized something
when the fire magic came back, and I've been thinking about it, and... it was
shaped like a healing spell. Kind of. And, all right, fire reflects the water
magic, and water goes with healing spells -- but if the fire is the right way
around, then the fuzzy water magic has a, an inside-out healing spell on it...."
"I think I know all the spells on the Citadel,"
Darigan said slowly. "I've never perceived anything like that."
"I'm not just making things up!" Lisha
protested hotly. "It was a long way away, but I could still see some
things really clearly. I know what I saw!"
"I didn't suggest you were making it up," Darigan
returned a bit sharply, then made a deliberate effort to calm himself. The whole
situation was downright strange, but snapping at Lisha wouldn't help. Especially
considering he could hardly consult his own old teacher -- Morguss had aligned
herself with Kass and now seemed to have disappeared by some more mundane method
than being claimed by the Three. Besides, it wasn't as if he could have predicted
that the spell she'd tried could do anything but fail under the circumstances.
"I believe that you saw what you claim," he said, "but that still leaves some
question as to what it was you were seeing. And why you would see it when I
"...I don't know. I wish I did. I wish you could
see it, then you'd know. It's just...it's wrong. I don't want to see
As her voice rose slightly
with distress, Galgarrath was returning to them, having presumably finished
spreading the word that there was no imminent destruction involved. He stopped
short, looking rather disconcerted. "Dare I ask, your highness?" he asked a
"Despite the fact that it probably shouldn't
have worked effectively at this distance -- never mind causing tremors -- Lisha's
spell allowed her to perceive some diffuse magic pervading the Citadel that
I've never seen."
"Possibly." Darigan nodded to Lisha. "I'd appreciate
it if you would come up to my study, though; there are spells intended
for analyzing larger areas, and this bears investigation." He glanced back up
at Galgarrath. "It sounds as if it's mainly on the order of signature magic,
but she thinks she recognized the pattern of an inverted healing spell in it,
which suggests a disease or injury curse, and if someone has laid any new ones...."
"We've been under a curse causing disease for
years now," Galgarrath pointed out gruffly. "You never found it."
"I concluded it had run its course, but left
lasting marks...." Darigan trailed off. "You have a point. That was never a
Lisha chewed on her lip, but seemed at least
a little relieved that she wasn't to be blamed for this after all. "Can you
see a curse that you're under? Um...I mean, you were cursed too and...well,
can you see that?"
"...Sometimes. Usually, unless it's specified
in the curse itself. But there are two ways to cast a long-term spell -- one
is to make it continually active; the other is to effect a permanent change
and then allow the spell to dissipate. I assumed the latter, especially as our
children don't go through the original stages...." He stopped abruptly. "Can
you see it?"
"The curse? Not right now, but I could
try another spell..." She gulped. "If you think it won't do anything
"We can go up to my study first," Darigan said,
"and I can show you a variation meant for use on people. It's the same principle
-- perhaps," he added reflectively, "I explained it too generally."
"Well, you were in a hurry to come back up here."
Lisha grinned and added, "Once General Galgarrath wasn't going to keep threatening
to throw you out the window."
Galgarrath looked offended. "Your highness, do
you have to blame me every time you want to visit Meridell? I only threatened
"I know, but it was very entertaining." Darigan
tried not to smile. "Let's go, then."
To be continued...