Spell Blind – Snippet 10
Not to make excuses, but it’s hard to focus when you’re being stung by dozens of invisible, magic hornets.
I tried to cast the deflection spell again, though I knew it wasn’t the right defense against this attack. It was the warding I knew best, the one I turned to when I didn’t know what else to do, and at that moment, I couldn’t even get it to work. I should have tried a simpler conjuring. There are lots of warding spells. One of them sheathed the body in a sort of magical cocoon; another, which I’d yet to learn, allowed a weremyste to transport himself somewhere else. Ideally I would have liked to try a reflection spell and sick the vicious stinging bastards on Namid. Somehow, though, I knew it wouldn’t work. The problem was, I couldn’t come up with anything that would.
After a few minutes, the stinging stopped and Namid just sat there with his eyes fixed on mine.
“You are not even trying.”
“Yes, I am,” I said, sounding like a bratty little kid. “I’m out of my depth here, Namid. The magic we’ve done before and what you’re asking me to do now. . .” I shook my head. “They’re totally different.”
“They are not different at all. You need to clear and focus. Otherwise you cannot defend yourself and you will be killed. It is that simple.”
A book flew off one of my shelves and sailed right at my head. I ducked. The book hit the opposite wall and fell to the floor.
“Damn! You’re crazy! You know that?”
“You warded yourself.”
“No, I didn’t. I just ducked.”
“Did the book strike you?”
“Then you warded yourself. You did so without craft, but it was a warding nevertheless.”
“What’s your point, ghost?”
His expression didn’t change at all. I needed to find a new way to get him riled.
“That you ducked without a thought. You simply acted. That is how magic should be. You think too much, Ohanko. And at other times you do not think at all. You are a most difficult man.”
I had to grin. “Yeah, well, you’re the one who always shows up uninvited.”
I did. And this time when the attack came, I resisted the urge to speak the deflection spell. Instead I envisioned his attack bouncing off of me, two dozen watery hornets clattering against the walls. My body, the hornets, the walls. Three elements. I didn’t bother repeating them three times. I inhaled, feeling the magic build within me, and released it.
I wasn’t stung once.
“Better,” he said. “You knew how I would assail, and when. But still, that was better.” He paused. Then, “Defend yourself.”
Fire this time. Aqua green flames licking at my hands and arms. I almost panicked. But instead I managed to turn that fear into craft. Deflection wouldn’t work, so I went with the cocoon. Shielding, it was called. Once more, three elements: my body again, the fire, the cocoon. It worked.
“Good,” the runemyste said, sounding surprised. “Defend yourself.”
A second later, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned just enough to see, then froze. Not two feet from where I sat, a snake lay in a tight coil, its head reared back to strike. I didn’t have time to mark what kind it was, or whether it was venomous. This was Namid I was dealing with. I assumed the worst.
This time at least, I had a pain-free second in which to think. Camouflage spell, but with a twist. Snakes hunted by smell, using their tongues to taste the air, and they waited for motion before striking. So I had to make myself invisible and scentless. Pit vipers could also sense temperature, but I didn’t know how to lower my body temperature to match the air in the house.
Camouflage wardings were the most complicated spells I knew, almost as difficult as some of the simpler transformation spells. I visualized myself blending with my surroundings, so that to the snake I would appear in every way to be nothing more or less than empty space. I slowed my breathing, and recited the spell to myself.
The snake. My body. My scent. The air around me. The wall behind me. The picture hanging on that wall. Back to the snake again. After a few moments, the snake’s posture changed. Its tongue flicked out three times, as if it were trying to find me again. I eased my Glock free.
Before I could shoot it, the snake vanished.
“Good, Ohanko. Very good.”
I closed my eyes.
“Let me rest a minute.”
I thought he would argue, but he nodded and sat there.
“Are there other warding spells you can teach me?” I asked.
“You must master the ones you know.”
“I understand that. I’m asking if there are more.”
“Of course. There are always more.”
I laughed. “Always? You never run out?”
“Never,” he said, without a trace of humor. “If you cannot remember one, you must create one yourself.”
“Wait. You mean I can make up my own spells?”
“You are a runecrafter. How do you think the spells you know came into being?”
I shrugged. “I guess I thought that you made them up, or brought them from the Runeclave, or something like that.”
“Magic is a craft, and though it might not seem so, it is a living craft.” Something resembling a grin crept over the spirit’s face. “Your father created a spell.”
“Teach it to me.”
“I do not know that you are ready for it.”
That stung. “He was that much better than me?”
“He was older when he created this spell. And at that time, yes, he was a far more accomplished crafter than you are now.”
“Teach it to me anyway.”
It was a complicated spell. Impressive, but complicated. My father had found a way to combine two different kinds of transporting spells, one which allowed him to move himself a short distance, and another which in effect transported an object — in this case his weapon — to his hand. The trick, of course, was to carry off the two spells simultaneously, so that he could go from being unarmed and vulnerable to being armed and protected in the blink of an eye.
Try as I might, I couldn’t do it. It was good practice. After several tries, I’d nearly mastered a basic transporting spell. But my pistol always wound up lying on the floor in the spot where I’d been.
I gave up on that one for the time being, vowing to practice it on my own later. Namid had other spells to teach me, and for once I was eager to learn. Maybe it was the stark memory of feeling so vulnerable on the street earlier in the day. Maybe it was hearing that my father had been better at this than I was. Whatever the reason, on this night I worked my craft as I never had before.
I was in the middle of trying a new assailing spell when I heard a knock at the door. Namid’s glowing gaze locked on mine.
“Are you expecting someone?” the runemyste asked.
“No.” I glanced at my watch. Almost nine-thirty. We’d been working for close to three hours. Whoever it was knocked again. I stood and started toward the door.
I glanced at him and nodded. Then I crossed to the door, unlocked it, and prepared to pull it open, all the while reciting a shielding spell in my head.