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XIV. Three word spells



I spend the next two hours feeling horrible and relieved. I wander down to the official Institute bar, the Book Dragon, and have two pints of ale. Zelin shows up toward the end of the first one. How she knew I would be there I have no idea. We basically don’t talk about it, or anything else. Then she walks me to the board where they post the results and there’s Shmoke standing there.

“As if there was any doubt,” he says, shaking my hand. We joke around. I feel 85% relieved, 10% sad and 5% anticlimactic. Next thing I know, Shmoke is lighting a bowl—no, not the Golden Bowl. Lucette wanders in and timidly approaches; Shmoke lets her read her result on the board. She reads it four times, then fist pumps, and then I hand her the pipe.

“So,” says Shmoke amiably, “what’s your first sorcery spell? Wanna learn it right now?”

Spells. Spells, spells. I think about it for half a second and go for the three-word sleep spell, commonly referred to as “stone sleep.” This makes my spell book look like this:

AG SEK MIN: Stone sleep

PAF NIS: Lock; TRT SKO: Fire attack; TRO CLF: Webs; KNO EUR: Reverse; TRO STIST: Throw person (I like this for various reasons, just one of which is that I can throw myself to the other side of a wall, which could be great or dangerous but is certain to surprise someone, possibly me)

AG: Sleep; GAO: Light; ROK: Knock; SKO: Flame; PAF: Hold door; XU: Reveal; POJ: Conjure; PRAG: Partial invisibility; GFUG: Rise up; SHESH: Quiet

We chat a bit, the old guy makes me practice (on a convenient mouse), and then we split. In a few minutes I’m back in the shop, the night already pitch black outside with the rainy sleet of March about to turn to snow. Mom smiles at me (wow!) and asks how I did (oh my gosh! I passed, Mom) and then takes off for her exciting evening with Constable. Gloom settles right down around my head. I go upstairs to cuddle with Cudgel and find someone else already there doing just that.

“How did you get in?” I can’t help asking.

“I’m a thief,” says my best gay thief friend, “didn’t you know?”

“Okay,” I say, “why are you here?”

“Wait,” he says. He cocks his head to listen. I roll my eyes and do the same. The toilet (work of magic, that is) flushes. The bathroom door creaks. “I think someone’s in your house,” he says.

The door opens. It’s Zelin. “Ag sek min,” I hiss at her, twirling my wand.

“Ak vika,” she says, slumping. Laughing, Fen and I catch her and lay her on the bed. Cudgel is discomfited, but soon assumes the proper place atop the sleeping Elf as though he had conquered her on his own. Fen and I sit on the rug.

“So we’re off to Valen again, right?” he says.

“We are off to Valen again.”

“To get the Key!”

“To get, as you say, the Key. Capital K.”

“Aw, Peach, why so sad?”

“Did you just call me Peach?” I ask.

“Term of endearment, dear,” he says. “So? Had a hard time at the orals?”

“I had a hard time at everything,” I say, “and then in between I broke up with Padric.”

“Ohhh. Oh, I am so sorry, Dais. I really am.” We both think about that for a moment, and then he says, “That man was never right for you. You do know that.”

“Yeah,” I say, examining my lap. “Yeah. I knew it all along, I guess. Still, it was kinda comforting, knowing he was there, knowing he was, you know, Padric.” I wipe my eyes. Damn it. I seem to be crying a little.

“He’s a great guy,” says Fenric. He adjusts so he can put his arm around my shoulder and pull me in for a light cuddle. “He really is a good guy. He’s just not the right guy for you.” We think about that for a minute. Fenric is surprisingly comforting too. But obviously he’s not the guy for me. Presently he says, “Want to talk about what brought this about, or would you prefer another subject?”

“Another subject,” I sniffle.

“Okay,” he says. “So. You and me, Jan and Gurth and Lali, Sleepyhead here, Lucette if she deigns to accompany such déclassé individuals as us. That’s seven. Want another?”

I note with comfort that he left out any mention of the ex. Whoa. I am now old enough to have an actual ex. I laugh. “Yanos?” I suggest.

He gives me a look, then decides I’m joking. “Actually,” he says, “maybe Glee Fredkin? She’s been in there. Maybe it’s time we tried the three sorceress thing.”

I tilt my head left and right, thinking about it. Maybe I do the head tilt thing just to make the marbles fall into their holes. I shrug and say, “Worth a try. How many is that?”

“Eight,” he says. “You, me, J, Z, G, Lali, Glee and Lucette. Traditional number.”

“Okay,” I say. “And when should we plan on embarking?”

“Soon,” he says. “Is tomorrow too soon?”

“No, we should,” says Zelin from the bed. I look at her. Her eyes are still closed. She says, “Saw Grego, Greggy, Gregorio an’ some people talking in Sleepy’s, Stacy, frickin’ Eleanor.”

“Eleanor??” I reply.

“Not Unwin?” asks Fenric.

“Nope,” replies the recumbent elf maid. “I figure she just got bit by the bug, huh? Anyway. What else could they be up to?”

“Do either of you know what the heck this Key is?” asks Fenric.

“No,” says Zelin, “but it’s something real.” She opens her eyes. “Something important. Kickass spell, Daisy.”

“Thank you,” I say. “Yeah. Important. As in, I want it and I don’t want Greggy to have it.”