His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 16

His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 16

He stared at me, his face as still as ice, not allowing me the satisfaction of drawing even the hint of a smile. “Clearing is a technique for the most inexperienced of runecrafters,” he said after a weighty pause. “When you can cast at will, with the immediacy of thought, without having to pause to clear, then you will have mastered what you call magic. Right now, when it comes to runecrafting, you are little more than a child.”

That stung.

“Defend yourself.”

The assailing spell crashed down on me, its weight palpable. I felt as though I had been encased in glass. I couldn’t move. Not to cry out, or to fight free of the invisible prison he had conjured. Not even to breathe. Panic rose in me like a tide, though even as it did, I had time to think, in a distant corner of my mind, that he must have been saving this one for a time when he was really ticked at me.

I couldn’t use either of the two most common and rudimentary warding spells — reflection or deflection — nor could I rely on the sheathing spell I had cast. Those were my stand-bys, the spells I went to whenever possible. Namid knew this of course. He wanted to push me away from the magic with which I was most comfortable, and for good reason. The most comfortable spells were also the easiest, and the most readily defeated by other weremystes.

My lungs were starting to burn, and my panic was about to tip over into desperation.

An idea came to me. It was ridiculous to the point of foolishness. But magic didn’t always make sense, and I had no other ideas.

I’d envisioned Namid’s attack spell as a prison of glass. So why not three elements: me, the glass, and a giant hammer?

Power surged through me as if I’d stuck my finger in an electrical outlet. My body jerked, and an instant later I could breathe again.

Namid canted his head to the side, surprise and — dare I think it? — a touch of pride on his crystal clear features. “That was well done, Ohanko. What spell did you cast?”

“What spell did you cast?”

“It was a binding, a crafting intended to paralyze you.”

I shook my head. “Then my spell shouldn’t have worked. It felt like you had encased me in glass — that was the first image that came to mind. And so I imagined a hammer shattering it, and somehow that worked.”

“And why should it not?”

“I don’t know,” I said, shrugging. “Your spell had nothing to do with glass.”

“That matters not. I have told you many times before that runecrafting is an act of will. The images or words you use do not matter.”

“I know that. But . . .”

“You know it, but you have not understood it until now. Not really.”

He was right. He was always right. But this once it didn’t bother me so much. Because even as I had told myself again and again that the words of a spell didn’t matter, I always assumed that my wardings needed to be matched in some way to the intent of the assailing spells they were meant to block. I was starting to understand that they didn’t. They needed to match my perception of those attacks, which was totally different, and much easier.

I said as much to Namid, and he nodded, the smile lingering. “It has taken longer than I would have liked, but you are learning. Defend yourself.”

He threw attack after attack at me, some of them torturous, others merely terrifying. But the last one was the worst. He managed to mess with my mind so that with no warning I found myself in the middle of what felt like a phasing. Disorientation, paranoia, delusion. All I could think was that it was too early, that the sun couldn’t possibly be down yet. And so with the last shred of rational thought I could muster, I grasped at three elements: me, the phasing, and sunlight.

When my thoughts cleared and I remembered where I was, I sat up — somehow I had collapsed onto my back. Namid was watching me, in a way that made me vaguely uncomfortable.

“What?”

“You have come far,” he said. “Today alone, I sense the progress you have made. It may be that we are ready for a new kind of training.”

“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”

“We will not begin today. You have cast enough. But soon.” He nodded, more to himself than to me. “Yes, I think soon.”

I stood, stretched my back. My shirt was soaked with sweat, the way it would be after a workout at the gym. But I felt good; I could tell that I was getting stronger, quicker with my spells.

“When was the last time you saw Leander Fearsson?”

I turned. Namid was standing as well, his eyes gleaming in the late afternoon light.

“Today. Why?”

“How is he?”

I stared at the myste.

“Ohanko?”

“Did you really just ask me how my father is doing?”

“Do your friends not do this? Does not Kona Shaw, and the woman, Billie?”

“Well, yeah, of course they do, but they’re . . . ? What is this about, Namid? You’ve never asked about him before.”

“If it makes you uncomfortable I will not do it again.”

“It’s not that– I’m not uncomfortable. But you don’t ask questions casually. So why don’t you tell me what this is about.”

“I am sorry if I have disturbed you, Ohanko. I will leave you now.”

He started to dissipate.

“No!” I said.

His form solidified once more.

“I don’t want you to go. I was . . . You surprised me with the question. The truth is, he’s not doing well at all. He’s more incoherent than usual. He’s not taking care of himself. And worst of all, he seems to be in pain, though I can’t tell if what he’s feeling is imagined or real.”

Namid’s waters roughened, like the surface of a lake under a gust of wind. “What kind of pain?”

“He talks about burning, and about somebody testing him, prodding him. I don’t understand half of it, but as delusions go, it strikes me as worse than usual.”

“I am sorry to hear this.”

Something in the way Namid spoke the words caught my attention. “Does any of that mean something to you?”

“Tell me more of what he said.”

I frowned, thinking back on the conversation I’d had with my Dad that morning — if I could even call it that. “He said they were burning him, and something about brands. He thought he was being marked, like whoever was doing this owned him. I tried to get him to tell me who had hurt him, but he wouldn’t.”

As enigmatic as Namid could be, it was pretty easy to tell when he was troubled. Moments before he had been as clear as mountain water. Now his face and body were turbid, muddied, like the waters of a churning river. “What else?”

“That was all–” I stopped, the memory washing over me. “No, there was one other thing. He said that they think he matters, but he doesn’t. And then he told me that I did matter — he was pretty emphatic about it — and he said that if I spent too much time with him, they’d find me and they’d hurt me, too.”

 

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