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The Words of Making
The Osserian Saga: Book Two
Three books floated above the table in the work chamber in Blackstone Keep, held aloft by a levitation spell Gerin had been practicing for the past hour. In his previous attempts, he'd moved the books no more than a foot or two before the spell collapsed upon itself. Sweat glistened on his forehead as he fought to keep the stack level; if the top two books slid off the lower one—which was the only one he was actually levitating, having slipped the spell's power beneath it like an invisible platter—they would fall to the table before he could create additional spells to hold them up.
Gods above me, this is hard!
Gerin gestured with his hand, and the books began to move toward him, wobbling through the air. He was seated at one end of the table; Hollin had placed the books at the other end. His task was to lift them and bring them to him across the table's length, a distance of about fifteen feet. The table itself was cluttered with all manner of objects: magefire lamps of varying heights and designs; stacks of books and scrolls; a flagon of water and two pewter mugs; a vase of withered flowers; loose pieces of paper and parchment; three maps of different areas of Khedesh; a half-eaten wheel of cheese; the remains of a loaf of black bread; a scattering of pens and inkwells; blotting cloths; and a small bust of Venegreh, the founder of Hethnost, the fortress where most of the few hundred wizards left in Osseria now lived.
His original plan had been to levitate the books above the height of the tallest objects on the table and bring them to himin a straight line, but to his great annoyance he discovered that the higher he tried to lift them, the more unstable they became. He'd dropped the stack six times before finally giving up on that course of action. He would have to navigate them through the treacherous obstacles on the tabletop from a height of less than ten inches.
The floating stack dipped and trembled as it threaded its way slowly across the table, like a drunken man walking in an overly careful manner. Gerin used his right hand to help him direct the books, pointing the way with his forefinger, though his hand movement had no real effect on his power—it simply helped him better envision the path the stack had to follow.
He managed to maneuver them about a third of the table's length before he lost control and the books fell upon the wheel of cheese.
"This is ridiculous," he said. "The spell just isn't stable enough to do what you want me to do."
"I doubted you'd be able to succeed," said Hollin. "Levitation spells are terribly difficult, and are rarely used. They're more for theory and practice. They have little practical application because of their limitations."
"Then why bother to have me learn them?"
Hollin folded his arms and gave Gerin a look.
"Oh, all right," said Gerin. He started counting off reasons on his fingers. "It helps me learn to concentrate; I should know as many spells as I can; it's always possible that spells that are hard for less powerful wizards will be easy for me. Is that enough, or should I continue?"
He was annoyed that levitation was so difficult as to be impractical. Yesterday, when Hollin told him that levitation would be the topic of study for today, he had gone to bed dreaming up all kinds of uses for such spells: hurling tens or hundreds of arrows at an enemy at one time without the need for bows, or the range limits that came with them—who knew how far a magically flung arrow could fly? Flinging knives or darts at multiple attackers; smashing a battering ram through an enemy's gate without the need to risk soldiers to man the ram; moving matériel and troops across rivers or gullies without the need for bridges or boats; even levitating himself to simulate flight in some fashion, though he deduced there must be some reason a wizard could not levitate himself, since he'd never seen or heard of such a thing being done.
He found out quickly enough that he had been right about that: Hollin told him at the start of their lesson that a wizard's magic could not be used to levitate the source of the magic, therefore a wizard could not levitate himself. As Hollin showed him some of the more basic levitation spells and answered his questions, the crown prince realized that his dream of using levitation as a weapon in warfare was impossible.
They'd talked about the theories of levitation and studied different spells for several hours before Gerin made his first attempt with the books. Because of other matters that needed Gerin's attention, they were unable to start until late in the day, the sun already setting, casting long rectangles of dusty light across the beamed ceiling.
"We're finished with this for now," said Hollin. "These spells are apparently as hard for you to invoke as they are for any other wizard."
When Hollin left, Gerin spent some time reading a volume of Atalari history sent to him by the Master Archivist of the Varsae Sandrova, the great library at Hethnost. He came across a passage describing the power-imbued armor the Atalari had worn into battle that shimmered with a rainbow iridescence. The description hit him powerfully, for he had seen that armor once in a vision atop the massive cliff called the Sundering.
The Atalari were the ancestors of wizards, beings of magic who had long ago ruled the northlands of Osseria and shunned contact with races who had no magic of their own. He had seen the Atalari during the height of their powers in a terrifying vision shown to him and his sister Reshel by a long-dead spirit named Teluko, once a prince . . .The Words of Making
The Osserian Saga: Book Two. Copyright © by David Forbes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.