Sovath escorted Jinda and Sovin to the center of the room. The girl cast a sidelong glance at Jamus, shied away when he met her gaze and then cowered into Sovath’s side. The Master soothed her and gently pushed her forward, “Go on, girl, tell the Masters what you know.”
“I already did,” Jinda whispered, trying to hide behind him again.
“They need to hear it now,” Sovath said, again pushing her forward.
Sagari leaned forward and said with uncharacteristic kindness, “Come on, child. Truth is always an easy thing to say. Tell us what you know.”
Reluctantly, Jinda stepped up to the platform, “Jamus hated Sorra. She was mean to him all the time. He told me he wished she was dead. I said, hah, what good is a wish? Then he said Magicians make wishes true. That was when he got the Spell book from Master Jorn’s shelf. He copied down some words. I heard him reading them over and over in his room one night. He didn’t have his lessons ready for Mistress Joria because he was practicing those words instead.”
“When was this?” Sagari asked.
Jinda furrowed her brow, thinking, “The second day of the Sevenstin two ago, I think.”
“That would be about right,” Joria said, remembering a day when Jamus was completely unprepared for her class. She had thought it unusual until he told her afterward how several of the other students had taken his lesson notebook and dropped it into the well. Now she wondered.
“Which book did Jamus copy from?” Jorn asked.
Again Jinda’s brow furrowed, “The big green one you keep by the study tabe, Master.”
“The Book of Sogol’s Defense, the very one we talked about before.”
Jinda nodded, “I think so. Jamus said something about spells working both ways.
I didn’t know what he meant.”
Sagari looked at the other Masters, “Do any of you have anything more to ask?”
When they shook their heads, he nodded to Sovath, who promptly urged Sovin forward.
The boy was far more self-assured than either Jamus or Jinda in the presence of The Masters. He spoke without hesitation, “Jamus asked me to tell him the story ofSogol’s Defense the way I understood it. He said he wanted to be sure he was right about something. I told him Sogol’s Spell was a net, like he thought. That’s all. Later, Jinda told me she heard him chanting. I never did, but I did find this under his desk one day. I thought it was mine, so I picked it up. It’s Jamus’ writing…” Sovin handed a scrap of parchment up to the platform.
Joria peered over Sagari’s shoulder at the document while the Master of Masters read it aloud, “….thus the thread is ever tied, net to trap the prey inside.” Sagari looked over to Jorn, “Is this the spell from Sogol’s Defense?”
Jorn nodded, “Part of it, My Lord. Those do seem to be the last few words.”
“It is, unfortunately, in Jamus’ hand,” Joria said. “I recognize his writing.”
Sagari studied the parchment. Indeed it was a childish scrawl, mostly printed and ink blotched as if an unaccustomed hand were wielding the quill. He extended the incriminating writing for Jamus to see. “Jamus, is this yours?”
Jamus gulped and nodded, “It is, My Lord.”
“Why did you write these words, then, if you are innocent of casting the spell?”
“That looks like a page from my notes, Master….the ones I took in Master Jorn’s class. He had warned us…me especially, how we had to be careful with words in weaving any spell. I copied the spell down twice, as he told it to us; changing some of the words….he…gave it to us as an example of the things that can go wrong when a word is out of place.”
“Master Jorn?” Sagari asked.
“Indeed, My Lord. On that point, the boy is telling the truth.” Jorn picked up a green covered tome from the floor under the hem of his robe and held forward. “I have the text in question here if you need to read it.”
Sagari grunted, took the book, read quickly, compared the scrap of parchment and looked up at Jamus, “Then, Jamus, you can produce the rest of your notes to show us where exactly this part was torn.”
Jamus swallowed again, panic rising in his eyes. He glanced hopefully at Joria, “My notebook, Sur Sagari, was…it was taken…I mean, I don’t have it. It fell into the courtyard well.”
Sagari scowled, his face reddening, “A pathetic lie or a foolish truth, boy. Either way you’ve condemned yourself with no proof to back up your claim. We have two witnesses who heard you practicing the spell, and now this,” he waved the parchment about. “More than enough to pass a judgment, I should think.”
Visibly shaken, Jamus’ started to fall and Sovath propped him up quickly.
“Steady, lad, you mustn’t faint,” he whispered urgently in the boy’s ear. “It wouldn’t be proper here and will make your father angry to see you weak like that. Here now, brace against me so he can’t see.” When Jamus had done so, Sovath spoke aloud, “My Lord, I will vouch for this child. He is a fine charge under my care who has never said me a cross word.”
“You and the handling of your charges is another matter we’ll contend with, Master Sovath. We cannot have unsupervised children running around the Keep chanting dangerous spells….”
Joria bolted upright to interrupt, “That’s it! My Lord, you said it all! The chant…Masters, think about it. The chant…”
Sarena was next to brighten, “Madame, you are right. And every one of the Masters here assembled who has ever had the experience of young Jamus in class will realize, the last thing the boy would ever do to weave a spell is use a chant.”
Jorn grunted now, “The ladies speak true, My Lord. I’ve kept the lad many a wind after class to learn rote or even a basic chant of Comprehension.”
When several of the other Masters admitted to the same, Sagari reconsidered, “If this is so, then we must suspect this evidence and….” He fixed his eyes on Sovin and then Jinda, “…the witnesses.” The pair flinched under his scrutiny, but managed to stay planted by hold on to each other. Now he looked at Jamus, “Boy, what do you say about this? Have you so neglected your studies and learned none of your lessons? Speak up. Scholarly failure is a grievous fault, but certainly better than murder.”