Jamus replied weakly, “I have learned my lessons…I can do all the exercises…I just, I just can’t say any of the words. I never needed them, so…so, I never learned them.”
“Arrogant little rimhawk,” Jorn grumbled. “There he goes again, claiming he doesn’t need words to work Magic. Everyone knows PrePrentices must rely on chants when they begin to weave. This is unheard of. I said it once, and I’ll say it again, the boy’s just too lazy to ever master anything, much less the River.”
“Jamus,” Sarena said kindly, sensitive to Jamus’ hidden terror, “I have seen you work Magic in silence. If you could show us here…a new spell, perhaps, so you have no idea of the words to utter, then the skeptics might believe some of what you say.”
Sagari agreed, “A test is called for. Joria, your Art is one of the simpler for children to handle. Can you devise a worthy test here?”
“Why not simply ask Jamus to weave the net for us? If he can, without words, then we can try him further. Jamus?”
Jamus shook his head, “I cannot weave the net, Mistress. I’ve never seen it. I cannot create what I cannot understand. If you show me, I’m sure I could do it.”
“Convenient excuse,” Jorn said. “If this keeps up, we’ll need a Seer to judge who’s telling the truth.”
Joria waved her hand once and the green book floated from Sagari’s hand to hers, “Here is the full chant. Use it and weave, Jamus.”
Again Jamus shook his head, “I can’t. I don’t understand the net.”
“This is a simple Prentice rote. Why even Sovin can accomplish it,” Joria said. “Here, Sur,” she extended the volume to Sovin, “would you be so kind as to show Jamus exactly what to do? He seems to be a poor student in need of some assistance from someone with a wiser head.”
Proudly, Sovin strode forward, his confidence bolstered by Joria’s praise, “I will try, Mistress.” Then he took the book and began to read,
“Thread of silver, thread of gold,
pattern ever made to hold.
Under, over, side to side,
warp and woof be knotted wide.
Thus the thread is ever tied,
net to trap the prey inside.”
Tentatively at first, and then with more conviction, the boy waved his hand. Slowly, a net began to appear in the center of the room. Barely three feet high, it shimmered with a faint silver glow, visible only because of the sunlight streaming in from the skylight above. Had the room been darker, or had it been early morning as it was when Sorra died, the threads would have been virtually invisible to the unwary eye.
Joria looked at the net for a long time. Then she said, “Jamus, can you make a net like this, now?”
Jamus shrugged, “If you want me to. It’s a mess, though, and the threads would never hold a person or even a fish from the looks of it. Do you See how the Weave is not tied off? I can fix it when I make mine, if you want me to.”
This time, Joria smiled, “There’s no need, Jamus.” She went back to her seat, and settled down tiredly, “There is no need because you have nothing more to prove to me. The net I see from Sovin’s hand is nearly an exact match to the one I Perceived on the stairs when Sorra fell. Ask Jamus to weave one if you must, but as soon as he does you will see his Magic cannot weave so unskillfully unless he tries. He said so himself.”
“I’d like to see for myself,” Sagari said, obviously intrigued by the display.
Sovin had not yet recognized the mistake he’d made. He was still standing beside his creation, smiling when Sovath took him by the arm. “You’ve a lot to answer for, boy. I think your little partner does too.” Jinda, obviously more clever than her friend, was crying, tears streaming down her face.
Jamus, however, was restored, “Shall I weave as Sovin has, or shall I make it right, My Lord?”
“One of each,” Sagari said offhandedly, “if it’s so easy for you, it should be a small matter to make two.”
Jamus raised his hand.
Had there ever been a question, that one gesture was enough to erase it entirely. The River itself stirred, heaving violently below, shaking every Master’s heart in a moment. The air about grew thick, heavy with Power—a great weight pressing down on them all. Silently, Jamus’ fingers moved and with eager assurance, Magic answered.
In the deep silence, a silver light twisted about itself. And then, two nets shimmered side by side in the hall. One matched Sovin’s thread for thread, in mirrored duplication. The other hung apart, perfectly formed, each thread meticulously tied. Jamus sighed, “I hope that’s what you wanted.”
Sagari drew a deep breath, disguising his surprise and his fear. This boy, unschooled in any of the Arts had touched the River with a Master’s hand. Magiskeep’s Lord did not know if any of the other Masters recognized the significance of the moment, but he did, and for now, it was enough. Unless this had been a freak event, Jamus was destined for greatness to rival his own. Sagari cleared his throat. “What I wanted….it is. But you had better learn to use a gentler touch on the River, boy. There’s no need to call so deep for such a small weave. Temperance is a discipline I see you need to practice. I shall have to do something about this.”
Jamus bowed meekly as was appropriate, “Yes, My Lord.”
“Sovath, after you have taken those two to the Judgment Chamber,” he pointed at Jinda and Sovin who was now shaking after finally realizing the mistake he’d made, “I want you to escort Jamus to the Great Library where he will wait for me until I am ready to instruct him on the proper behavior of a PrePrentice here in Magiskeep.”
Sovath was about to respond when Joria interrupted, “I will be glad to take Jamus for you, Sur Sovath. There’s no point in your making so many trips back and forth.
Sovath smiled gratefully and pulled the two squirming criminals from the Council Chamber. No one heard another word from or about them from that time forward.
In the Library, Jamus asked before Joria left, “Sovin and Jinda, Mistress, what will happen to them?”
“They took a life, Jamus. Often there is only one possible payment for that.”
“They’re just children. Sorra was very cruel to them. I can understand why they’d want her dead.”
“Few things can ever justify murder, lad.”
Jamus sighed, “I could never kill anyone.”
Joria shivered as the door opened and Sagari stepped through. She looked at the Great Master’s sharp features and read the hardness in his cold blue eyes and then looked back at Jamus. The boy was going to pay dearly for his Magic. “Jamus,” she said quietly, “promise me you will always remember what you just said.”
“Because one day I think you will need those words.” Then, she ruffled his dark hair affectionately with her slender hand, and walked away.
It was the last kindness Jamus would feel for many winds to come.
This story precedes Kingdom Beyond the Rim, as readers will recognize. It offers the first hints of Jamus' extraordinary skills in Magic. It plants the seeds of the rivalry that will develop between Sagari and him. Already too, are the indications of Jamus' alienation from his classmates and explains some of their animosity.
I hope you enjoyed it as a short and simple prelude to the novel series.
In case you haven't noticed, the third book in the Saga, The Wall Between has been published. It is available for Kindle and in paperback at Amazon: The Wall Between at Amazon and for other epub formats at Smashwords: The Wall Between at Smashwords