Friday, February 3, 2012

Kingdom of Lies (Part 3 of 3)

Without looking down, Magda drew swirls, circles, and runes with a finger, lightly skimming the surface of the pool. Any pool, she knew, could be used to see. If you knew how to use the magic the water held onto so tightly.

“Show me my home,” she whispered, as she leaned forward and gazed at her reflection.

It was selfish, she knew, to risk so much for one glimpse of home. If the sisters turned their empty eyes this way, it wouldn’t only be her in danger, but Mathias and everyone else in these woods. But she would be quick, she assured herself. She could afford this one small comfort.

At first, the pool revealed nothing but her own face made pale by the darkness of the water.
Magda kept her breathing even and focused on the relaxing her thoughts until the only thing in her mind was a single, clear note.

It was different for all seers. For some, the note sounded loudly as though bellowed from a great height. For others, it was breathy and faint, just a secret of a sound so difficult to discover it required the most solitary of rooms to develop. But for Magda the note was so simple to invoke it took effort not to do so accidentally. In her mind, it sounded as clearly as any bell. Though she had never shared the note with another – it was considered folly to do so – she knew precisely what it would feel like humming through her chest and nose.

Once, her grandfather told her of a time when seers would join around a pool to combine their powers and see great distances. When that happened, each of their unique notes had sounded together. “We are a choir,” he’d said. His eyes grew watery to remember it. He was not blessed with an over abundance of emotion and so when it surfaced, Magda took notice.

As she gazed over the pool, growing increasingly frustrated with its placid surface, she wondered if Mathias and his seers might open their minds to hers. Perhaps, if they could gather enough power, they might succeed in clearing the minds of King Caldriel’s seers and break his hold over the kingdom.

The water shimmered and the note in her mind became muted. The image that rose through the shallow pool was not that of her family home in the valley of the Fold River, but that of her grandfather’s face.

Magda sat back on her heels, startled. It wasn’t unusual to see something she hadn’t asked to see. Minds wander, after all, and she recalled now that hers had done exactly that. But it was unusual to see someone who had passed onto the next world. Grandfather Pim had left them long ago. She shouldn’t be able to see him, yet there he was, pushing a smile into his tired face.

He didn’t speak. At least, not in the conventional sense. But in her mind, Magda again heard his voice answering questions she wasn’t aware she’d asked. Quickly. For, they both knew there was no time to waste on reminiscing. The stone-faced sisters would be quick to find her now.

They had just enough time for Magda to understand one thing with absolute clarity: she must kill the king.

* * *

She didn’t remember her walk back to the cabin in the woods. Bastian walked beside her, she knew, but it wasn’t until the smell of smoke teased her nose that she had any sense of where she was. The next hour – or was it two? – passed with more raised voices than she’d ever heard at the cabin.

It wasn’t every day they discussed regicide.

It was Mathias who resisted the most, and he did so with such fury that Magda nearly lost her nerve. But when he raised his hands and asked, “What power do we have that could possibly give us a fighting chance against Caldriel’s army?” Magda saw the fear that caused his hands to tremble.

She didn’t back down. Instead, she raised her chin and looked at each of the seers gathered around their rough-hewn kitchen table when she said, “We are what Caldriel fears. Why else would he pursue us so desperately? It is because he fears our power. All we need do is join our minds and free those of his seers. With their help, we’ll be able to challenge his hold on this kingdom and the next.”

Mathias stilled with his eyes on Magda. “But what of the sisters? If we join our minds, we’ll be a hundred times brighter than any one of us alone. The sisters are as sharp as Caldriel’s hounds. They would spot us and prevent us from reaching the others.”

From this, Magda knew he was no longer allowing fear to dictate his thoughts. He was planning, which was nearly as good as if he’d proposed the idea himself.

She looked at the old and young faces at the table, at Celeste whose hands were pressed together at her unsmiling mouth. How could she ask them to risk the small, happy lives they’d managed to create here? Yet, they were here. Not a single person had left the room when she proposed they take action.

“Yes, they would,” Magda said, confirming Mathias’ words. “That is why we must have someone in the palace. Someone who can join us from inside and overwhelm the sisters.”

This time it was the entire room that stilled.

Mathias broke the silence with a simple, but clear, “No.”

But Magda was tired of running. She was tired of hiding and was not at all satisfied with a prison in any shape, even if it was one she found agreeable. She could see in the press of his lips that Mathias knew this, too. He would let her go.

She stood and her red consecration robes swayed around her ankles. Though she’d been offered other clothing, she’d never accepted. It was as if part of her had always expected to return, though she never would have guessed how and with what purpose.

“I’ll leave tomorrow,” she said, and though she was more afraid than at any point during her flight, she discovered that fear was easier to carry when the path ahead was clear.

Thanks for reading! Next week, Lacey will be delighting us with an unTangled short of her very own. And the three of us have been chatting about a contest at the end of this month, so stay tuned!

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