Curses, Inside-Out: Part Four
also by Dreagoddess
Jeran was becoming somewhat concerned. First his sister
had somehow managed to rattle the entire Darigan Citadel with a spell that evidently
wasn't supposed to do that, which was impressive but disturbing. Taking her
up to explain it as quickly as possible seemed to have averted a serious diplomatic
incident -- but after walking through what must have been the entire city with
General Galgarrath (who explained the situation accurately if vaguely as "a
diagnostic spell suggested by Lord Darigan, with unforeseen results which he
is currently analyzing"), he had been taken up to Darigan's study, only to find
Lisha looking pale and Darigan looking frankly wilted. And Lisha had been immersed
in the library, without explanation, ever since their return.
Fortunately, Jeran was still on excellent terms
with the castle cooks, and Meridell Castle didn't actually have a librarian
to stop him from bringing a snack in to tempt Lisha out of her books and scrolls.
Lisha, of course, utterly ignored him when he
entered, her finger tracing along a line from the scroll in front of her and
a line of concentration between her brows. Jeran had been expecting this, though,
and picked up a tiny savory sausage -- one of Lisha's favorites -- and put it
directly under her nose. This conveniently both blocked her view of the page
and tempted her with the enticing scent. Jeran grinned at her when she looked
up. "You've been down here too long. You should eat something."
"I'm -- I'm busy." She nevertheless looked a
bit cross-eyed at the sausage and took it, sliding down from her chair. "But
I guess a break wouldn't hurt.... Maybe if I stop for a little bit I can figure
out some other way to look. We'd better go over where I can't get crumbs on
anything important...." Lisha stopped suddenly and turned around to hug her
brother tightly. "Thanks. I didn't even notice I was hungry. Or, I think I did
one time, but then I forgot."
He hugged back, patting her back lightly. "You've
been working too hard. I don't suppose anyone's actually going to tell me what
this all is about eventually?"
"Oh." She blinked at him. "I didn't ever tell
you, did I...."
"I have absolutely no idea, after the part where
you poked the Citadel too hard with some sort of diagnostic spell."
Lisha blushed a very red shade of orange. "I
really didn't mean to hurt anybody. I had no idea it would do that. Are they
-- is anyone --"
"I don't think anyone was badly hurt. Just, er,
shaken up." Jeran smiled as Lisha made a face at that. "General Galgarrath was
explaining that you'd been talking to Lord Darigan before about diagnostic spells
and had had 'an unexpected result' which you two were then conferring about.
But I never heard what you figured out regarding it...."
"All right." Lisha took a bite of sausage and
chewed on it. "We figured out the shaking was probably because I was trying
too hard. The spell wasn't supposed to be used quite the way I did it. But what
I saw was real. They're -- they're cursed. And Lord Darigan can't see the curses.
And they go back to the way they used to use the orb."
Jeran tried to push past the fact that his little
sister could make the whole Citadel shake because she "tried too hard" and focused
on the more immediately relevant part of the sentence. "We knew they were cursed,"
he pointed out dryly. "That was a very large part of the start of the war, after
all. And since they haven't gone back to how they were, it makes sense they're
still cursed. How does that have anything to do with Darigan seeing the
curses, or how they used the orb?"
"He didn't think they still were! I mean... he
said he thought it had been the kind of curse that makes a permanent, or at
least really long-term, change and then goes away instead of staying active.
But it turns out that what I was seeing were spells that his ancestors had put
in place and tied into the orb." Lisha wrapped a piece of bread around her sausage
and waved it expressively. "They didn't just... keep it around, the way Meridell
did, even though it obviously worked pretty well that way. They used
it for specific spells, apparently on just about everything. I don't know exactly
why. I think it was supposed to make the effects stronger. But they all stayed
attached to the orb, and when it was taken away, all the spells got pulled inside
out, kind of." She bit her lip. "And an inside-out spell does the opposite of
what it's supposed to...."
"So a spell to, say, make the fields fertile
would kill them off instead?" Jeran suggested, then winced. "That makes a terrible
lot of sense, based off what we've heard about when the orb was first taken.
And I guess that's why Meridell got off so easy when we lost it. Darigan
and I had wondered about that."
Lisha nodded. "And it doesn't look like getting
it back untangled things. I'm starting to think it might have, only there
were new spells pinning everything down the way it was by then. Mostly dark
magic. He can see that part," she added. "I think he did most of it."
Jeran blinked. "Why would Darigan have tried
to preserve the curse? And how could he do it if he couldn't even see
"He wasn't trying to. It's just that everything
he did since was on top of it, and a lot of the newer spells were meant to hold
things together.... I'm not quite sure that's how it works." She frowned.
"I'll have to ask him if it could work that way or not. But I found some scrolls
on reinforcing one spell with another, even if they don't look related, and
I think an awful lot of the ones he said he'd done are lined up the right ways
to do that."
"Hrm. Like putting furniture in front of the
door -- even if you aren't trying to block the door, it still ends up
being blocked? But that doesn't explain why Darigan couldn't even see the things
you could. He's been studying magic a lot longer than you have."
"I know that!" Lisha said, glaring at
him for a moment before dropping her eyes. "I don't know why he can't see it.
Unless it's because he's under the curses. He was inside the spells when
they turned inside out. There's darkness magic all over him, and he can't see
that either. But he believes me."
"I didn't say I didn't believe you," Jeran
pointed out gently. "I'm just trying to figure this out."
She took a deep breath and a large bite of sausage.
And then cheese. "Sorry," she mumbled after swallowing. "I just... I don't understand
all of it either, and I need to."
Jeran forced himself not to sound too skeptical.
Lisha was his little sister, but she was also -- disturbingly enough -- the
best sorceress Meridell had. "Do you think you can actually do anything
"I don't know. I hope so. It makes my skin crawl,
and I'm not even living under it." Lisha paused and glanced in the generally
upward direction of the Citadel. "Er, inside it. Anyway, I'm trying to find
"...What does Darigan say about it all?"
Lisha looked briefly confused. "Well, he's the
one who figured out what I was seeing and what must have happened, after I drew
out the diagrams."
"I meant about removing it."
"He wants to. He doesn't know how yet either."
"Does he know what all you're doing towards
Lisha blinked. "Er... I don't think so." She
paused, then added quickly, "I wasn't going to do anything without talking
to him! I was just researching...."
"Doing nothing but researching," Jeran
chided. "Neglecting your health."
"And how long do you think you'll stay
that way if you do nothing but sit in the library and forget to eat? I'm just
saying maybe you should talk to Darigan and make sure you're going in the right
direction when you obsess."
"I wasn't going to forget for that long,"
Lisha muttered. "And I'm not obsessing." She drooped a little. "I just wanted
He leaned over and hugged her lightly. "I know
you do. And I'm sure you'll be able to help a lot, just like you helped Meridell.
But this isn't the middle of a war. You don't have to jump in over your head
"I am not over my head," Lisha said indignantly.
"...Well, maybe in bookshelves."
Jeran lifted one furry eyebrow expressively.
"Um, yeah, speaking of which, do you know what
happened to the ladder? It's gone missing."
Jeran leaned back and sighed. "Boris and Morris
probably stole it again to play scale-the-walls. One day I will find
what it takes to wear them out."
Lisha giggled. "Good luck. I don't know either."
She picked up the wedge of cheese he'd brought her and jumped up. "But for now
I'm going to get my ladder back!"
To be continued...