The Weaving of Wells (Osric's Wand, Book Four), страница 1
Table of Contents
Map of Archana
Chapter 1: Revelations
Chapter 2: Mourning Epiphany
Chapter 3: Lesson and Learning
Chapter 4: Prophecy’s Demands
Chapter 5: Patterns on Parchment
Chapter 6: The Hermit
Chapter 7: Future’s Walk
Chapter 8: Buried in Sand
Chapter 9: Another Below
Chapter 10: Alliances
Chapter 11: The Descendants
Chapter 12: Portent Hunt
Chapter 13: IronForge
Chapter 14: Morning
Chapter 15: Departure
Chapter 16: Coiled Potential
Chapter 17: Homefront
Chapter 18: The Other Seer
Chapter 19: Bubbling Black
Chapter 20: Trained but Deadly
Chapter 21: Fire
Chapter 22: Old Friends
Chapter 23: The Iron Valley
Chapter 24: Reinforcements
Chapter 25: Broadening Options
Chapter 26: Weaving Wells
Chapter 27: Killing Time
Chapter 28: Wielding the Wells
Chapter 29: A Vision of Death
1 – Revelations
“Shiny!” Pebble clapped his paws and looked up at Osric expectantly.
“Here you are, sir.” Osric looked up and saw a young man offering Legati to him. “We wanted to see her in your hands again, sir.” A small group had gathered around his friends, a hopeful cast to their faces.
Osric took the sword and laid it down across his lap and smiled. In a wave of clarity, every truth washed over him as he looked up into the expectant gazes of his closest friends. He thought of the agonizing hours they had all spent trying to decipher the prophecy that had clung to them through all of their adventures. The answer to it all had been so simple, yet the timing of their attempts to answer the questions had to have been off by the slimmest of margins. He couldn’t imagine how it had escaped their notice for so long.
Osric thought back to the power lock with Gus’s wand, as he lay pinned under the collapsed ceiling. Pebble had seen it then, but Osric had never thought to look. The words of the prophecy danced through his head.
The wand that is not a wand… He thought about the hours he and Kenneth had spent mulling over those words while sparring to keep up their strength and skills on their journeys. It will be wielded in practice by two… How many times had they passed his wand around, each seeking something the others had missed, and each of them failing to find anything new in the simple stick and woven strands? It will be known by one but not known… Osric looked down at Pebble’s big, brown, innocent eyes and laughed until he thought he would pass out. The prairie dog pup was growing quickly, but he still resembled the ball of brown fluff that had always seen what no one else had. Pebble was bigger than Gus now, but Osric knew he was still the playful pup he had grown to love.
“Pebble,” Osric said with a sly expression as he recovered his breath.
“Yeppers?” Pebble asked.
“I think we all need to play a little game right now, don’t you?” A wide smile grew on Osric’s face. Gus looked over at them with a scowl. “Hey, Gus. I see something you don’t.” Osric stood up, sword in hand, and stepped forward. He was tall and lean, towering over the grumpy old prairie dog. Osric swept his sandy hair back from his forehead and looked down at Gus with confidence in his emerald green eyes.
“I don’t know why you would assume anyone would understand what you are saying,” Gus, Archana’s most famous Wand-Maker, hesitated in his reply. “But your body language suggests we should.”
Osric recognized the look on his face. It was a look he had worn himself on many occasions; the prairie dog’s pupils dilated and his nostrils flared slightly. His senses were responding to the Portentist gift indicating that something important had occurred, but Gus still didn’t understand the gift’s pull.
Osric looked into the eyes of those who had gathered around them. A crowd was growing around where they stood on the grass outside the Aranthian barracks. He could see the anticipation on their faces—they didn’t know what was going to happen, and indeed didn’t know if anything would, but collectively their minds were locked in anticipation of some unknown portent. Osric knew that there would be a great deal of satisfaction for each of them in what was about to be revealed.
Bridgett took in a startled gasp of air as Osric locked eyes with her. He could see her focus change from the hidden realm of wandcraft as she met his gaze with a smile. Her russet hair fell softly along her jawline and tumbled down her back, and the silver flecks that Osric could see in her blue eyes brought back the memory of the first time he had met her. She was wearing the same earthtone dress, but the sun had darkened her skin and worry had left subtle creases around her eyes. She was even more beautiful now than she had been then.
“Give me a moment. There is something I need to do before we continue this conversation.” Revitalized by recent events, Osric adjusted his grip on Legati’s hilt and moved as if he had not been injured and asleep for over a month. He fastened his scabbard to his waist and sheathed the sword.
Those gathered began to whisper silently as the few moments grew uncomfortable for the bystanders. They weren’t discomforted by the time it took him to prepare to sheath the sword, but by the intense lock that existed between Bridgett’s and Osric’s eyes, as well as the playful way Osric smiled while he moved.
“A day with many magical revelations shouldn’t start without experiencing magic of a different sort.” Osric stepped forward after the deep thwonk rose from the mouth of his scabbard as the sword slid into place. Grasping Bridgett’s hand, he spoke softly but with great intensity. “Thank you for saving me. I have missed you.”
Moving slowly, he planted a tender kiss on Bridgett’s forehead. Osric caressed her right cheek softly with his fingers while lifting her face to his. He kissed her with all of the passion that had been pent up inside from months of anxiety for her safety and from the distance between them. She melted into his embrace, blushing as he finally released her and she noticed all of the eyes watching them.
“Boy, I am sure you both needed that, but couldn’t it wait until after you explain why this Portentist gift is chiming like a bell tower?” Gus pleaded.
Machai grunted in a low laugh. A wide smile peeked through the dwarf’s thick mustache, and his wide shoulders shook with his laughter.
“No, Gus, you’ve got to give them that. Both of them have been through a lot in the last few months,” Macgowan spoke in their defense. His deep voice carried command in spite of the gentle way he spoke the words. Even so, nobody would defy orders issued from the hulk of a man that stood there, lips trembling in silent memory of the loss of his beloved wife.
“Don’t just make an allowance for it. I think that kiss deserves applause!” Kenneth raised a cheerful shout, which was echoed by the bystanders. His tightly tied braid of long, black hair swept from side to side as he led the crowd in cheers. Though Jane’s cooking had enlarged his waist in recent months, his arms were as heavily muscled as ever.
“Although I appreciate the thought you all have given to my love life, some things demand more prompt attention than world-changing magics do.” Osric returned Kenneth’s smile and bowed a jester’s bow.
Both Osric and Kenneth looked sufficiently chastised, turning their eyes downward to the ground in shame, but Bridgett wasn’t through with them.
“If you insist it couldn’t wait, you insist on applause, and you think a nod toward the crowd is warranted”—she turned toward Osric with mischief in her eyes—“then I’m afraid I must insist on a more impressive kiss.”
Osric looked up with pleading eyes while searching for a way to extricate himself from the situation he had found himself in. He noticed a distinct upward turn to her lips, and a playful glint to her eyes before her words registered. Shortly thereafter, the laughter began to trickle toward his ears—first from his left, then his right. He couldn’t resist the temptation to grant her wish, and so he did, taking her into his arms in a low dip that hushed the crowd.
When they stood again, Kenneth’s chest was shaking in silent laughter. Bridgett turned her attention toward him, squinting in mock annoyance.
“Now is a good time for that applause you were talking about.”
He answered with genuine praise in his vocalization, and he quickly had all but Gus joining in the joviality.
“And now would be a good time for your bow.”
Osric bent in acquiescence before Bridgett stepped to his side and curtsied.
Cowbells sounded in the distance and caught the attention of each expectant ear, interrupting the playful display. Everyone glanced around, looking for the source of the sound. The old Vigile barracks stood as a backdrop to the lush, green grounds where most of the Aranthian training took place, but even those who typically joined in scholarly talks out on the early morning lawn were gathered close to hear the chatter. The sound grew steadily louder, and moments later a herd of cattle pierced the veil that encapsulated the Aranthian grounds and came around the corner of the barracks.
With a smile, Osric shouted. “David!”
The face of James’s young assistant, with close-cropped hair and a wide, insecure expression present as always, peered out the window of the kitchen. “Yes, sir?”
“There’s your cowbell!” Osric pointed toward the southern barrier, and David disappeared to the sound of pots clattering to the ground.
“Can we get back to more pressing matters, or should I be forced to endure more waiting while you attempt to conceive a child while we all watch?” Gus folded his arms and sat down impatiently.
“You’re right, Gus.” Osric looked from one face to the next, considering how best to proceed. The cattle lowed in the distance as all eyes were trained on him. Dozens of the men gathered couldn’t appreciate the significance of the timing of the revelation, but those who had accompanied him on the first tentative venture outside of his home would.
The first prophecy he had been given on the dragon platform had told them all that a battle would still need to be fought once they had discovered what he now knew. It was almost comical how simple it all became when the truth found light.
“Gus, what does it take to initiate a power lock?” A smile creased Osric’s face.
“What, am I a student of my own trade, now?” Gus deepened his tortured scowl.
“Ha!” Osric laughed and ruffled the hair on top of Gus’s head. “If it weren’t for that attitude, and my lack of understanding of this blasted Wand-Maker gift, we may have figured this out a long time ago. Don’t look at me that way. You will see in just a few moments that I am right.”
“I’ll look at you any way I damned well please. Now, are you going to get to it, or am I going to have to spell your mouth shut until I figure it out on my own?”
“We both shared fault in the lack of discovery, so I’ll try to share this with you as quick as possible. How did Pebble describe his finding me in the rubble?”
“He found you in a hollow, basically without a scratch on you. You were understandably a bit ragged looking, but you weren’t injured seriously. Why do you ask?” Even through his greying fur and scars, Gus looked annoyed at the teaching tone in Osric’s voice. His voice reinforced the emotion for those who couldn’t see him.
“What state were my clothes in at the time, Pebble?”
The young pup smiled to be included in such a momentous day. “You were dusty and your shirt had rided up on you.” His playful understanding brought a smile and a nod from Osric.
“And remind me again about the times you examined me in an attempt to discover the truth behind what was going on?” Osric turned his attention back to Gus.
“I examined you on many occasions,” he replied.
“Yes, but tell me when. Where were we when you examined me?”
“I examined you twice in the Caves of D’pareth, then again just before we left Braya after freeing the dragons from their cages, on multiple occasions within the barracks over the last few months, and at the Grove of the Unicorns. Oh, and I examined you on the first night after we left Stanton when you noticed the power growth for the first time due to the Anduro Amulet that Bridgett wears.”
“No, you didn’t examine me on that day!” Osric was unable to contain his excitement as he knelt in front of Gus. “And if you had, at least the mystery of my wand would have been solved.”
“But now your wand is destroyed, so I don’t see why we are having this conversation.” Gus began to look uncertain, sensing that the end of the conversation was at hand.
“Has it been destroyed? The wand you created was an incredible wand, but was it the wand of the prophecy? Think, Gus.”
“I’ve examined you on multiple occasions, so don’t try to tell me that you are the wand; that’s just plain silly.”
“You’re going to kick yourself when you see, Gus,” Bridgett chimed in.
“Well, I’ll be an enchantress’s puppet,” Kenneth exclaimed.
“We’s gots a magic wand. They’s gots to figures it out. Riddles and rhymes, till we runs outa time,” Pebble sang playfully.
“Pebble, the one who looks when he’s not supposed to. Come here Pebble!” Osric could barely contain himself for another moment, but Kenneth and Bridgett had both realized and looked for themselves at different points in the verbal byplay he was sharing with Gus. How much longer until Gus looks with all the hints I have given him? Osric wondered as he rubbed Pebble’s belly, to the young pup’s delight.
“The trouble, Gus, is that you were always looking at me or at the wand you created. There was always another wand. I’ll ask you again: What does it take to initiate a power lock?”
“You grasp a wand and light the tip. Then the cycle is locked in until it is over, or death, or the wand breaks.” Gus narrowed his eyes even further.
“Are you sure?” Osric smiled, toying with Gus. He hadn’t had many opportunities to show that he knew more than the famous Wand-Maker, and to Gus’s disdain, Osric was enjoying the moments he had left.
“Of course I’m sure. Now, where are you going with this, boy?”
“Kenneth, can you help me with a little experiment?”
“I don’t know. I have heard the stories of that power lock, and Jane may never forgive me if I say yes to something so personal.” He threw his hands up in mock protest.
“The only thing I’ll hold against you is remaining a child when I want my hunter to be a brave man,” Jane answered, stepping through the crowd and pushing him forward.
“All right.” Kenneth stepped forward sheepishly in mock rebuke.
“Okay, you have just been trapped under a collapsing palace, and you find yourself waking up lying face up on a cold stone floor.
Kenneth dropped to the ground, playing the role he was given.
“You find yourself wandless, dusty, dirty, and with your shirt riding halfway up your body,” Osric bellowed in his most impressive theater voice. I can’t believe I spent so many sleepless nights examining the wrong wand! Osric thought.
“This had better be the end of the show or I’m going to ask for my money back,” Gus spoke in flat tones with a hopeless expres
“Wait, if he’s supposed to be me, let’s complete the costume!” Osric unfastened his sheath and helped Kenneth fasten it to his right hip as he lay on the ground. “When you least expect it, something bites you. You try to draw your sword, but there isn’t room under all the rubble.” Kenneth complied with the stage directions, struggling with the sword, his face a grimace of dramatic fear. “Then,” Osric continued narrating, “a handsome prairie dog pup scurries through an opening and brings you a new Gus wand.”
With a quick motion, Osric took Gus’s wand away and handed it to Pebble, who dutifully carried out his role in the reenactment.
“Oh, look! I’ve been given a Gus wand! It’s a bit small for a human, don’t you think?” Kenneth gazed teasingly at Gus. The crowd was growing as the conversation continued, and it seemed as though the entire Aranthian population was joining in the laughter with two of their most beloved acting out the scene in such a childish display. Gus was not amused.
“We’ll forgo pointing out that this is a different wand than the one I was given, Kenneth. Soon everyone will see that it didn’t matter anyway. Now, where were we?”
“You were given a Gus wand.” Gus narrowed his eyes.
“Yes, that’s right. Then Pebble reminds you that you have forgotten one important step in the ownership of a new wand by saying…” Osric pointed at Pebble.
“Yous gotsta lit the tip!”
Kenneth initiated the spell to light the tip of the wand
Gus’s eyes went wide in surprise as both of his ears and his tail twitched uncontrollably. Osric leaned into his ear and whispered the last few lines as two distinct white lights began to emanate from the location where Kenneth lay. One light came from the Gus wand, and the other from Legati, connected to the spell by its contact with his bare torso.
“Let’s get an accurate count of how many breaths the lock lasts this time. One… Two… Three… Four… Five… Six… Seven… Eight… Nine… Ten…”
* * *
“One hundred and fifty-four!” Gus shouted with a great deal of excitement as Kenneth attempted to sit upright. “I never thought that was possible! And the light that shot out from it could have easily blasted a hole in a solid wall like it did in the collapsed palace. Somebody hand me the sword, quick!”