Joria stood alone in the hall for a while herself, considering and reconsidering all that had happened. She knew Jamus had suffered constantly under Sorra’s stern hand, but she could not picture him seeking revenge. For all his rashness in Magic, she had never seen him lose his temper or rage in defiance. His adopted father was far too fiery a man himself to tolerate a hot-blooded son. Rather Sagari chose meek and Will-less people to surround him. Everyone in the Keep had witnessed battles between the Lord and his quick tempered and headstrong natural daughter. Why would he adopt a son like her to make himself even more miserable? Still, Jamus was a quiet boy, and like the River itself, often the greatest danger lay in the calmest waters. She knew he had an extraordinary talent for Magic and was quite capable of weaving the kind of Spell that killed Sorra.
Joria sighed heavily, the burden of death and its consequences as great as the weight of Magic from a Master’s Call. She would witness Jamus’ questioning before Sagari and make up her mind then. Idle speculation was worthless for now.
Jamus was brought before the assembled Masters by Sovath, Master of Prentices. A kindly old man who had worn the robes of Mastery for nearly two hundred circles, Sovath had led only seven other children before the group under similar accusations, and only once before because a Master had died. That time, the charges proved false when the Council discovered the spell the child had woven had been under supervision with the Master at full fault for daring too much with his untrained pupil. With Jamus, though, there was no such evidence, and Sovath was worried. He had a special fondness for the boy and had often invited him into his own chambers when some of the other children were being especially cruel. A hearing like this, no matter what the outcome, might well ruin what little contentment Jamus could find.
For his part, Jamus seemed more confused than anything. He had heard about Sorra’s death and even caught a few rumors of Prentice weaving, but he acted as if he had no idea at all why he had been brought before the Council. Still, he remembered his manners, to Sovath’s relief, bowed appropriately and then greeted the Masters in proper fashion, “Master Sagari, Lord of Magiskeep, to your judgment I freely come. Masters of the Arts, I honor your presence. I am ready for the Touch of your Will.”
Sagari straightened a bit in his chair as the boy spoke, a slight smile curling his lips as if he were proud of Jamus’ courage. Then he spoke, “Jamus of the Rim, you have been accused of killing the Mistress of Beginnings. The evidence is small as it often is in charges of the Magic, but evidence there is.”
Sovath had no doubt now about the boy, and neither did Joria, for Jamus’ face registered such shock there was no possible way he could have been pretending. Sovath propped him up under the elbow when he began to sway as his knees buckled, “Easy, lad,” the old man whispered, “the Masters are just. The truth will be discovered.”
Unlike Sovath, Sagari seemed to harden at the boy’s reaction, his voice growing harsher as he continued, “To use Magic for injury breaks Rule and Vow, dishonoring not only the Keep but the River itself. To kill the innocent with it defies Turan’s Way and the Hand of the God. If you are found guilty here, you will be forced to die in payment and your name will be wiped from the Keep. What have you to say in your defense?”
Jamus shook his head, his body trembling in Sovath’s grasp.
“Say something, lad,” Sovath whispered tensely. “You have to speak for yourself.”
“I…I,” Jamus began. Words failed behind the tears welling in the boy’s eyes. Then he felt the heat of Sagari’s anger at his failure as tendrils of the Master’s Magic curled about him, unnoticed by the others. At first, he thought his father was trying to offer support, but soon he recognized the threat of punishment for being weak and feminine in the face of the accusation. Sagari had often lashed him with Magic for some misdeed or another and Jamus knew he would suffer now if he failed to reply. Biting his lip, the boy stiffened his shoulders and tried again, “I did not kill Mistress Sorra. I do not even know a spell to make a weaving to trip her.”
“That’s not quite true,” Master Jorn remarked from his seat to the left of Sagari. “My lessons on historical precepts included several examples of Magic’s use for ill. I do recall a similar spell in the lecture on Sogol’s Defense of Toria.”
Jamus seemed on firmer ground now as he replied, “Yes, Sur, there was a spell there. I remember the story. Still, it was more of a net to catch something, rather than make someone fall.”
“Adaptable,” Jorn said thoughtfully, “by a clever Magician, I think.”
Sagari interrupted, “And does this boy meet such criteria, Jorn? Is he clever enough? I don’t recall his having a high reputation for the Art among the lot of you.”
“He is willful,” Jorn said.
“And careless,” Mistress Jiala said abruptly. Mistress of Manipulation, and mistress of a lusty reputation for taking any many she fancied, she and Jamus had often clashed--especially when she tried to lure him into her bedroom and he managed to slip away. Boy or not he was far too attractive, even at this young age.
“He is kind and concerned, though,” Sarena said. “He has a rare Compassion for those who suffer. I cannot believe him capable of murder.”
“A defense demands proof, not opinion,” Sagari replied more harshly than necessary. Like Jiala, he too had a healthy appetite for the opposite sex and Sarena had often eluded him. Now he glared challengingly at the gentle Mistress hoping to humiliate her at least a little. It was a pleasure to be able to attack her publicly in return for all the frustration she’d caused him in private.
Sarena smiled serenely, “My Art proves itself, My Lord, and stands in defense of the boy. He is too talented in Healing to cause harm.”
Sagari snorted disapproval, “Let the records show your claim, Madame, but I will hold it of no credence. Proof is more solid than sentiment.”
Joria was frowning and shaking her head all the while. Then, she spoke, “This accusation is grave, Masters, and we argue it well. Yet, what evidence has been offered to prove Jamus’ guilt? It seems to me it should be as firm as his defense.”
“The girl,” Jorn said, “….Jinda. She heard the boy practicing a chant for weaving the spell. She also knew how he hated Sorra for tormenting him and had heard him make threats.”
“So, one accuser is enough to condemn the lad?” Joria asked sharply, “Why? Because he is an Outworlder? Because we fear the strength of his Will against our discipline? Because he does not abide by the expectations we have of children? Do we fear this child because he defies normal convention and demands a different kind of teaching than we are comfortable with? Do you really believe he is guilty, or do you simply wish to be rid of all his questions?”
“Why such a passionate defense, My Lady?” Sagari asked casually. “One would think you had a fondness for the boy.”
Joria had already heard the rumors in the Keep of her liking Jamus too much. She had always been ready to counsel him and often welcomed him to her rooms when he needed to escape some cruel prank or torment from the other children. “I am fond of him, My Lord,” she said with an ease equaling Sagari’s. “If you had not adopted him, I might well have myself. He deserves a kind parent’s support from time to time.”
Sagari glared at her, “He has a father. Why should he need a mother too? I grew up perfectly well without one myself.”
Joria prudently decided not to reply to that, “I should like, Master of Magiskeep, for Jamus’ accuser to face him here and tell her story.”
“A reasonable request,” Jorn said, nodding. “Unless I am mistaken, another witness has stepped forward as well—a boy?”
Sovath replied, “Young Sovin has supported the girl’s statement and added some more testimony of his own. I expected you to wish to hear from them. My Apprentice has the children waiting in the hall.”
“Get them,” Sagari ordered, sinking back into his chair. “Two accusers, Jamus. One voice confirms another. I am disappointed to hear this.”
With Sovath no longer at his side, Jamus swayed a little as he stood before the Council, “I am innocent. A hundred voices can lie as easily as one.”
Sagari laughed, “Jorn is right about one thing, you have learned lessons here. Is that the moral of Wizardchase I hear on your lips?”
Jamus remembered well the story of the Sorcerers’ being driven from the mortal world by the Disbelief of thousands who had used the denial of Magic as a weapon against the River. Only the few Magicians whose Will was strong enough to battle the overwhelming power of massed Disbelief survived, and they had fled to Magiskeep to continue on in the Art. Sogol had built the enchanted mountains of the Rim as a defense and since that time, Magic had remained largely isolated in Magiskeep. “Wizardchase’s lesson does apply, I suppose,” Jamus agreed. “And those whose Magic lived after the denials of so many could testify for me now. They would agree more voices do not make something true.”
Sagari nodded approvingly now. Jamus never failed to please him with his intelligence. The boy was far advanced for his age in so many ways. It was too bad he was so childish in others. “May it be so in this case…for your sake,” he said.