“Is the lunch adequate, sir?”
“Yes, Satbada, it is entirely adequate. It’s just that it looks like he’s going to be at it for awhile.”
“Of course, sir.” He could have added that it was, of course, proper for him to retard his own lunch so that his companion would not be left eating alone later, but that would have been wasteful of words. Postlavanderon of course understood that, unsaid.
Narnemvar was once again raveling at the curse. He was seated across the clearing. The others spoke, not in whispers, but in low tones.
“It’s odd. The harder he concentrates, the slacker his face goes. I wonder if it’s protective.”
“He hasn’t told me much about his life, but he’s sort of a family legacy. He doesn’t want riches or fame. He wants friends to ‘fool around’ with. My brothers befriended him before me. They’ve passed on bits and pieces.”
“I see, sir.”
“Yes, I’m sure you do. Regarding that, it amazes me that he hasn’t noticed. Or perhaps he does, in a way, but chooses not to acknowledge it.
I was speaking, though of the fact that for most of his life, while he was young and dependent, he was working under the gaze of masters who were much less talented than he was. Perhaps he learned to keep his face blank when he was going off to places that his master couldn’t follow.”
“I hadn’t thought of that sir. If I may ask, is there anything about him that I should know?”
“Know first that he is not just a powerful magician. Many are powerful. Narnemvar is able to craft new spells – spells that have never been crafted before. Other mages tread carefully with spells. I’ve been told that one wrong pronunciation can be deadly.”
“I have heard that as well.”
“He thinks they’re being fussy. That they’ve gotten too used to playing the part of the dour, careful handler of dangerous power, for monetary purposes, and are tricking themselves into being too careful.
My father believes that he has a talent that hasn’t been described before. He has enough of a feel for how the magic will go that he just doesn’t make a mistake that will damage him. He makes changes in the places where it’s safe to do so. Relatively safe, anyway.
He was joking with my oldest brother when he developed the Shipwrack spell.”
“I thought that was an ancient spell, sir.”
“No. It was an ancient story. Our family, and several other noble island families put out the story deliberatly. We staged wrecks and sabotaged vessels. In the very old days we could use seers to fine tune our plans. After the seers were banned, we relied mostly on the belief we had engendered and on bribes and courtesans.
Then this magician with a charming, foolish apprentice arrived. Everyone thought the man was overprotective, the way he would monitor every move his apprentice made. Then came the blessing of the ships for the windy season.
The apprentice was allowed to go out among the people as he chose and he had made many friends. When the friends learned that the two of them had no experience of boats, they taught the apprentice all the things about boats that they could. Names of parts of boats, names of methods of moving boats, names of types of boats, and names of winds.
They also taught him many of the local names for things not boat related, especially those things that might interest a young man. My brother could see magic. Many in my family can. He could see the gestures that magicians made and hear their words.
So when the magician was hired to bless the boats, and when he said that the apprentice would do it because he could name all of the different parts of all of the different boats, weaving them into the spell and making it more effective, and when the apprentice began to add some words that sounded like boat parts but really referred to rude things, my brother could hear him. He was delighted. It was a great jest. No one could hear but my brother and the master and the master might not know, because he didn’t know the names of boating things.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the apprentice enjoyed watching my brother trying not to laugh and failing. He wanted to increase the jape. He added, after the blessing, a little untying spell intended to untie all the lacings in my brother’s clothing. But the last little spell came too close on the heels of the larger, modified spell. The two spells together didn’t bless the ships and then drop my bother’s pants, they combined into one spell. It detached every part that had been named from every other part that had been named. Cargos and men fell between boards that disassembled under them.
Most of our people rightfully wanted to kill the magician and his apprentice. The magician saw this and disappeared without even a puff of smoke. He never returned. The apprentice had been ducked into the water, though, and couldn’t swim. My brother saved him and helped him hide.
My father saw the opportunity to train island mages to cast the newly discovered ancient spell. There have been many stories. Stories we tell to our neighbors. Stories we tell to our friend, here. Stories we tell to other mages. I’m not sure how we’ve managed to keep them straight.
Many mages can now protect our shores if one of the shifting countries or guilds from the continent decides to sail around the finger and start eating islands. The foreigners know very well that we have the magic and can use it in many ways. They’ve become very polite in the last thirty years.”
“Quite a legacy. So you believe that he’s an eighth level magician?”
“Oh, yes. At least eighth. Possibly the only eighth level magician alive. Possibly the only one that’s ever been alive.”
“A lucky thing for your family,” Satbada said, in a voice that acknowledged that it was a dangerous thing, indeed, but that he was prepared to help deal with whatever difficulty arose because of it.
Postlavanderon was both a little relieved that someone else knew, and a little embarrassed that he had burdened a servant with such knowledge. Still, Satbada was from a family that had been in his family for ages. He could handle a great many things. He probably preferred knowing.
“Yes. Our family has a history of luck.”
“He seems to be rousing.”
Narnemvar didn’t seem to be rousing, particularly. He stopped moving his hands, though, holding them out in an odd position. His voice slowly dropped into a monotone hum. His eyes were definitely still elsewhere, though.
“Perhaps you can warm his stew a bit.”
“Yes, sir. And hot water for tea.”
Satbada pulled the hot stew off of the fire, so that it could cool a bit before serving. He placed the tea bucket in its place. No mention was made of any discrepancy between what his master had suggested and what he did. If the master noticed, he wouldn’t comment, but would work out the need for the difference himself. And if the master didn’t notice, well, there was no need for him to bother himself with cooking details.
Satbada’s respect for the master had risen. This was a heavy burden for a young man. He almost caught himself hoping that the Great Master would soon assign a grandson to the task of traveling with the mage. But it was not his place to form opinions about such things.
Narnemvar twitched a bit and sniffed. “Something smells good,” he mumbled, and blinked. It was a minute or so before he noticed that his hands were still up and began to lower them. Satbada began to brew tea with water that wasn’t really hot enough. The mage would not notice and it was probably safer to hand him cooler tea.