Spell Blind – Snippet 19
I drove back to Chandler, my heart pounding out a salsa beat, and my hands sweating so much the steering wheel grew slick and I had to wipe my palms on my jeans every few seconds. I spent more time glancing up at my rearview mirror than I did looking ahead. I don’t know what I was watching for — maybe some red glowing car, driven by the bald guy I’d seen in my stone. Every time a car drew too close to my rear bumper I started to hyperventilate.
By the time I reached my office, I’d stopped shaking for the most part. But I was still jumpy; walking from my car to the office, I must have glanced back over my shoulder a dozen times. I hated this. I’m not one to go through life scared; I’d spent too long on the job for that. But this sorcerer had gotten into my head.
More than anything else, I was mad at myself for letting him get the better of me. I knew full well that I couldn’t stay locked up in my house or office and still do my job.
Usually when I was in a mood like this, Namid was the last person I wanted to see. But as soon as I was inside my office, I called for him, something I had never done before. I didn’t even know if it would work.
His name was still echoing off the walls and wood floor when he began to take form in the middle of the room.
“Ohanko,” he said. “You summoned me.”
I took a breath. “Yeah, I did. He found me a third time.”
“It was inevitable that he would.”
For reasons I couldn’t explain that made me feel better. “I know that. But . . . I’m not sure what to do now.”
“You do what you always do.” I thought I saw a smile creep over his glimmering face. “You tread like the fox, and you do your job.”
“I heard him laughing, and I heard his voice.”
Namid didn’t seem overly impressed by this, but he asked, “What did he say to you?”
“Just that I was his now.”
“It means nothing.”
I nodded, glanced toward the bank of windows. Why had that gray sedan slowed as it drove past?
“Listen to me, Ohanko.”
I faced him.
“It means nothing,” he said again, his tone more pointed this time.
“We both know that’s not true.”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “Three times. He knows you now. This increases his ability to do you harm. But he had that ability already. His main purpose in doing this is to track you, to know what you do from one moment to the next.”
“So he can do that?”
The runemyste nodded. “He can.”
“And this is supposed to make me feel better?”
“Yes, Ohanko,” he said, the way he might if he were explaining something to a ten year-old. “If he wanted to kill you, he would have already. He tracks you to follow the progress of your investigation. There may come a time when his purpose is darker. You must be wary. You must learn to ward yourself at all times, with spells more effective than deflection. But this was true already.”
I walked to the windows. The gray sedan was gone. It was just another day in Chandler, and no one on the street seemed the least bit interested in me or my case.
“So then, I really do keep going about my business.”
“Is that not what I said?”
I laughed. “Yes, it’s what you said.”
He sat, that familiar, expectant expression on his face. “You need to work on your craft. Now more than ever.”
I checked the clock. It was a few minutes past two o’clock. I felt like I’d been awake for thirty hours.
“Yeah, all right,” I said, sitting opposite him. “But not too long. I have a date tonight.”
He frowned. “Distractions,” he said.
I grinned. Then I closed my eyes and summoned that clearing image of the golden eagle. After a few moments, I opened them again.
The runemyste nodded once. “Defend yourself.”
For the next two hours, Namid threw a wide variety of assailing spells at me — the stinging and fire spells he’d used the night before, a suffocation spell, which scared the crap out of me, and one spell that blinded me temporarily. That one was frightening as well, not to mention frustrating. It took me several minutes to come up with a warding that would defeat it, and all the while Namid was using his power to throw books and cds at me. By the time I could see again, I was covered with bruises and my office was a mess.
Despite all that, however, Namid seemed pleased when we were done.
“You conjured well, today,” he said, as I stood and stretched my back. “You are starting to cast by instinct.”
I was sweaty and tired, but I felt good, the way I would after a long workout. “Well, you don’t give a person much choice.”
“I will leave you,” he said. “You have a big date.”
I laughed. “Yes, I do.”
He started to fade.
The fading stopped, and a moment later he was as substantial as he ever is. Once more I had the urge to reach out and touch him, just to see what it was like. He was staring at me, and I realized he was waiting to know why I’d stopped him.
“What you told me before about the red sorcerer — is it true?”
“About him tracking you?”
“About him not being able to hurt me anymore now than he could before. I thought that once an enemy tested you three times–”
“We call it ‘sounding’.”
“Sounding,” I repeated. I’d heard the term before, though in my fear I hadn’t yet connected it to what the red sorcerer was doing. “Well, he’s sounded me three times. I thought that means he can do anything to me, and I’m powerless to stop him.”
“A runecrafter can always ward himself.” He paused, eyeing me, perhaps trying to decide how honest he could be. “The danger to you is greater, it is true. But your skills are increasing as well. And as this crafter learns more about you, you also learn more about him. You are linked to each other now. He can hurt you more easily, but you can sense him sooner. The sounding is not without risks for him as well.”
“He must be pretty confident then. He probably knows that I can’t hurt him.”
“You are more than you think you are,” Namid said. “You would be wise to take precautions; keep yourself warded. But he would be wise not to underestimate you.”
“Thanks. Really,” I added. “I mean that. Thank you, Namid.”
He tipped his head to me, and then started to fade again. This time I let him go.
I drove home, showered and changed before getting back into the Z-ster and driving to Tempe. It was early still, but I hoped that maybe Billie would be done with her work already. I kept an eye on the mirrors, but no one was following me. I tried to make myself relax. Even without any reassurances, I knew that Namid was right. I was getting stronger, and just as magic was an act of visualization and of will, so too was it a product of faith, of belief in oneself. If I convinced myself that this red sorcerer had power over me, I wouldn’t survive his next attack. If, on the other hand, I believed that I could protect myself from whatever he threw at me, I at least gave myself a fighting chance.
I found Billie’s house without too much trouble, and parked out front. I started to climb out of the car, but then stopped myself, making certain once again that I hadn’t been followed by the red weremyste. Satisfied that he wasn’t nearby, I walked up the path to her door and knocked. The house was small, built in Spanish Mission style, and it seemed to have been well cared for, at least from the outside. There was a little garden out front with flowers and a few small cacti, and a small lawn that had recently been cut.
Billie came to the door in a t-shirt and jeans, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Seeing me, she gave a puzzled smile, her forehead creased. “Hi!” She peeked at her watch. “I know I told you not to be late. . .”
I shrugged. “Yeah, sorry. I’m kind of through for the day, and I thought maybe, if you were, too, we could get an early start. But if you’re still working I can come back later.”
“I have a bit left to do. Not much. What did you have in mind?”