Spell Blind – Snippet 09

Chapter 9

Walking from the coffee house back to the Z-ster, I remembered in a rush the weremyste who had been testing my magical defenses as I left Robo’s. I tried to sense him, to open myself to his magic, but I felt nothing. As far as I could tell, I was the only weremyste in the area who wasn’t using blockers. I suppose a sorcerer as powerful as this guy could have hidden himself, but he hadn’t been shy before about letting me know he was nearby. I couldn’t see why he’d start now. Reaching the car, I climbed in, drove one more circle around Robo’s, and headed for home.

My house in Chandler is in a nice family neighborhood near Arrowhead Meadows. It’s not a big place, but it’s more than I need. Two bedrooms, a decent sized kitchen, living room, dining room, two bathrooms. I got a good deal on it and had intended to turn one of the bedrooms into a home office. Then the other office fell into my lap, and I never got around to it.

It was built about twenty years ago, but the previous owners remodeled the place — redid the kitchen and bathrooms, tore out the old carpet and put in oak. Then they got divorced and rather than one of them staying, they sold it and split the money. It’s a good place. Well lit and open. Usually I like it a lot. But this evening, for some reason, it felt big and empty.

Until Namid materialized in the kitchen.

I had just gotten a beer from the refrigerator, though I hadn’t opened it yet.

He took form right in front of me, his waters rough and wind blown.

“I expected you long ago,” he said.

“You my mother now?” I asked with a small laugh.

I started to open the beer, but he shook his head. “Do not drink that now. If you need to drink, have water.”

“Good God, you are my mother.”

“We need to work, and you must be completely clear.”

Strange that my mind should need to be clear and free of alcohol in order to practice magic that was driving me nuts. But he was right. I returned the beer to the refrigerator, poured myself a glass of water, and followed Namid into the living room.

“I felt it again this afternoon. The sense that I was being watched.”

The runemyste turned. “I have no doubt that you were.”

My eyes widened. “Have you learned something about the weremyste who’s following me?”

“No. But it does not surprise me that he tracks you.”

“He? Do you at least know that it’s a man?”

Namid shook his head. “I know nothing, Ohanko. I have told you this already.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Two times now,” he said. “You understand why he does this?”

I nodded. It hadn’t occurred to me until then, but as soon as he asked the question, I knew. “Yes. I warded myself with a deflection spell, in case whoever it is tried to attack me. But nothing happened.”

He said nothing.

“A deflection spell wouldn’t have helped, would it?”

“A deflection spell is easily defeated,” the runemyste said, seeming to choose his words with some care. “A skilled runecrafter would have little trouble overwhelming such a warding.”

“So what should I have done?”

He stepped to the middle of my living room floor and sat, eyeing me like an expectant cat, his head canted to the side. More training.

For once I didn’t argue.

“Do I need my scrying stone?”

“No.” He indicated the floor with an open hand that glowed like starlit waters. “Sit.”

I lowered myself to the floor in front of him.

“Clear yourself,” the runemyste said, once I was settled.

I closed my eyes and summoned the vision of that eagle in the Superstition Wilderness. As I did, everything else melted away. The Blind Angel killer, Claudia Deegan, Cole Hibbard, Billie Castle, my dad. All of it seemed to dissipate, like a vaporous breath on a cold day. In moments, I was clear, centered.

“Now,” the runemyste said, “defend yourself.”

It was like meeting up with your best friend and having him haul off and punch you right in the mouth, for no reason at all.

One minute I was sitting there, and the next, it felt as though I’d been stung on the legs and arms by twenty hornets.

“Son of a bitch! What was that for?”

“Defend yourself,” he repeated, as calm as you please.

The stinging started again, on my neck and chest this time.

I jumped up, swatting at bugs I couldn’t see. The pain stopped.

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked, my voice rising.

“I am teaching you to ward yourself.”

“You could at least give me some warning!”

“Will the crafter who tracks you be so courteous?”

That brought me up short. “Of course not,” I said.

“Then why should I?”

There wasn’t a person alive who could make me feel foolish and young the way Namid could. I guess that came with hanging out with a being who was centuries old. “I thought we were going to be training, that’s all. You caught me off guard.”

“You cannot be off guard,” he said. “Ever. Not anymore.”

“You’re scared, aren’t you?”

“I fear nothing for myself. But I would rather you did not die. I have spent too many days teaching you. It would be a waste.”

“Thanks, Namid. I’m touched.”

“Sit down, Ohanko. Clear yourself, then ward.”

I sat once more, took a moment to clear myself, and then started to recite the deflection spell from earlier in the day, just to see what it could do.

I hadn’t gotten two words out before the stinging began again. Chest, back, legs. God, it hurt!

“Damn!” I said. “You’re not giving me a chance!” I raised a hand before the runemyste could answer. “I know. Neither will the other sorcerer.”

Namid nodded once. “Defend yourself.”

I knew that I should have been able to do what the runemyste was asking of me, that my inability to ward myself was a symptom of my greatest weakness as a weremyste. I still thought of spells as being the same as incantations, as something spoken. The fact is, they don’t have to be. Namid, who was driving me crazy with these damned hornets, had not moved or made a single sound. But this did nothing to weaken his magic.

On the other hand, my need to speak spells was weakening me, leaving me vulnerable to his assault. Of course spells involved words. But spells for an accomplished weremyste could be as immediate and powerful as pure thought. The words of a spell had no inherent power beyond what they meant to the weremyste using them. One sorcerer might use a rhyming scheme, while another might just use three words. I usually used a simple list of the elements of the spell, repeated as often as necessary. I also tried to limit my spells to three elements or, if that was impossible, seven. There was power in certain numbers: three, seven, eleven, and some larger primes.

Mostly though, I tried to fix my mind on the magic I was attempting. Casting, like the simple act of clearing, required focus and concentration. The rest was a matter of style.

My goal in casting spells — Namid’s goal for me — was to get to the point where I could conjure without words, without fear or doubt, without hesitation.

And I wasn’t there yet. Not even close.