Friday, August 22, 2008

Chapter 13 (of 43)

XIII


There was some work that Zedwig had to do in order to cover the mess he’d made with fireballs. This was a kind of magic he was far more comfortable with, being of the constructive sort. He’d moved the earth back into its place, and hastily coaxed the grass into regrowth until it was mostly impossible to tell that he’d blown up half the hillside.


Two weeks later, he still wasn’t sure why he’d allowed himself to fall into that sort of pit. He generally did everything by the letter of the law; in fact, he’d been that way for his entire life. He’d been thinking about Fangline, although not going near him by any measure, but had possibly reached some conclusions about the curious aura around the prince. He wondered if that was what had made Zedwig so quick to accept his request.


Fangline was royalty, so he could insist Zedwig do anything he wanted the mage to do, but Schloeffelonia had never actually had a king that abused his power in such a way. Because of benevolence, Zedwig had never really felt any sort of pressure in that vein. No, the pressure he felt from Prince Fangline was far more deeply rooted than mere political hierarchy.


Still, there was a lingering sense of guilt. It came from multiple directions, with one being as simple as breaking the law of the land, and another being as complex as the apparent rush of power he thrilled with even now in recollection of his destructive creation.


He swore to himself he wouldn’t do it again, but still couldn’t help to recall it, relishing the sensations like echoes of color.


Even though he’d decided that destructive magic was clearly what it seemed to be, both destructive outwardly and inwardly, at last he indulged Fangline anyway with another book, deciding furthering his study without the active participation of Zedwig himself would do no harm.


On this afternoon Zedwig was sitting at his desk, which was unpleasantly in disarray as he’d been having a horrible time trying to organize his thoughts as well as his life. He was determined, however, to force his will against his disheveled existence and train it back to rights. There was some progress until Fangline came in.


The prince strode across the room to Zedwig’s desk, dropped the book on the untidy pile of papers the mage had been struggling with, and leaned his hands upon the desk’s surface.


“Lightning,” said Fangline directly.


Zedwig picked up the book and changed the subject.


“You’ve finished it already?” he asked then perused a page in the idle way people do when they’re holding a book but have nervous tendencies.


“Yes,” replied Fangline, and then he waited.


Zedwig withdrew in the unspoken way that had begun to become familiar to both of them.


No,” said the mage. He put the book down on the desk carefully then cast a glance up at Fangline.


Fangline didn’t reply, yet he did reply, acting as what he was, or what he seemed to be: a magnifier. It appeared to Zedwig that since he’d last seen the prince, Fangline had realized what he was, and decided to use it. So by using it, he put more pressure on Zedwig to do his bidding in only a few seconds than could have been done with any number of words. He reminded him of how it felt, of the power, and the knowledge. He very nearly pleaded with Zedwig, but not quite, because the mage was fairly certain pleading wasn’t to be found in Fangline’s entire palette of moods, but what he communicated to him in that moment was a higher language that spoke in word, tone, hue, and sensation.


“Don’t,” objected Zedwig, turning away as if that would make a difference.


“Then you know what I’m doing,” said Fangline, who did not move.


“Of course I know what you’re doing,” replied Zedwig.


“What am I doing, Zedwig?” asked Fangline with honest curiosity. “I’ve never heard of anything like it, but it’s almost as if I mirror you somehow.”


Zedwig sighed.


“You are a magnifier,” said Zedwig.


“But only for you,” said the prince.


“Not necessarily,” replied the mage. “Do you find that you can generally predict what people are going to do next? Are there very few people who can surprise you? Do you often guess what someone seems to be thinking?”


“Yes,” said Fangline. “But … I thought I was just smart.”


Zedwig grinned despite himself at this.


“Well, yes, Your Highness, you are very smart,” said Zedwig. “Exceptionally so. However, knowing how much of your intellect is caused by, linked to, or the cause of your ability to magnify is fairly impossible to tell and is sort of like asking if the chicken or the egg came first.”


The mage paused for Fangline to soak in his words, for he was above all things an instructor at heart.


“Magnifiers are exceedingly rare in the world anymore, and I would say you’re a rather weak one.”


“Hmn,” replied Fangline, who didn’t seem to like being told he was weak in any capacity. “Then why is it so powerful with you?”


Zedwig thought about that for a moment.


“There is one explanation, and that is I happen to be extraordinarily sensitive to the realm of magic.”


“Naturally, as you’re the best mage in a thousand years.”


“But I don’t know if that would fully explain it. I really have no experience with the matter, aside from what I’ve had with you.”


Zedwig finished, and felt like waiting expectantly for Fangline to leave, but instead afforded him patience and perhaps a few questions.


Fangline lingered a moment, and Zedwig felt him poised, strained, and ready to link with the mage but honoring Zedwig’s request that he refrain, so instead he languished on the edge of his senses.


This was the best or, according to perspective, the worst thing Fangline could have done to break Zedwig’s defenses, for when the mage sensed Fangline’s restraint he pitied him. In this state of pity, Zedwig gently pulled away the formless, substanceless wall that lay between them.


Fangline was immediate and nearly overpowering, and Zedwig brought his hands to the desktop to brace himself.


“Lightning,” said Fangline, again.


The strewn papers beneath Zedwig’s hands were twisted and crumpled into his fists.


Some hours later, in the riding meadow, Zedwig lay contentedly beneath a tree in the leaves of grass, staring up through the crossing branches above him to parallelograms and polygons of blue sky. Fangline sat docilely by the mage’s feet, his back against the trunk of the tree and gazed out across the meadow, seeming entirely satisfied.


The damage had been fairly minimal this time, as lighting wasn’t a projectile, and mostly just a force that moved through the air to destroy whatever happens to be surrounding the mage at the moment it struck. So, instead of blowing away part of the hillside, it only caused a few burns and swaths in the grass, which were easily reparable.


He was lazily drowsy and, closing his eyes, felt an unusual contentment with Fangline nearby, as if part of himself was the prince, and desired his presence to feel complete.


Together with his magnifier, he had expelled massive amounts of magic over the space of two hours. It was more than he’d ever done in a month. It was exhilarating and exhausting.


“I think I like fireballs better,” Fangline said contemplatively.


Zedwig sighed and listened to a bee pass by them both, being intoxicated with the still-glowing motes of his own vast power.


“What do you think?” Fangline asked the mage.


Opening his eyes, he looked up at Fangline who had the same look of open curiosity from before, a look that rarely graced the face of the prince. Zedwig thought for a moment which of the two magics he might like better, but Fangline beat him to speaking.


“Not to say that they’re both not absolutely brilliant,” said Fangline, who seemed to Zedwig to be walking a fine line between fascination with the mage’s power and worship of the same. Perhaps generally Zedwig would find that alarming, but in his current spent state, he relished it.


“Either is fine,” said Zedwig, resignedly, and he closed his eyes and began to drift.


Fangline very carefully brushed a stray strand of hair from Zedwig's face as he slept.



1 comment:

spasticfreakshow said...

hmm. fang is possibly bisexual. his carelessness over zedwig's very life is what condemns him to death. it's hard to imagine lint's major characters dying, but i don't see how realistic it is for things to move forward without someone dying. war isn't fun, eh? even if it's for the sake of justice.