Chapter 10

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After lunch, Korin came home to do more reading. Healing Shaiera had give him another look at the blight, more clues and hints he could hopefully tie to a disease—magical or mundane—that someone else had studied and written about.

He barely noticed the passing of time, until a tap on his shutters pulled him out of a fascinating account of influenza that had spread through Trisome a few hundred years ago. That disease had definitely been magic-driven, although this particular journal didn't get into the history of the wizard who had created it or why. And while the flu was nothing like the blight, Korin was learning a lot from the very detailed descriptions of the studies and experiments and eventually treatments this Staff wizard had gone through, picking apart the magical elements from the mundane virus. 

More tapping on his shutters. Korin set the book down and went to the window, but the alley outside was empty.

As Korin stepped back, Ádan swung in through the open window, coming down off the roof. "You know, there is a door," Korin said, although he couldn't keep the smile off his face.

"What fun would that be?" Ádan closed the shutters behind him, blocking the sounds of the late evening street. 

The room felt suddenly very small. Korin returned to the chair he'd pulled up next to the dresser for a makeshift desk. Ádan sat down on Korin's narrow bed without waiting for an invitation. It made sense—there weren't any other chairs—but Ádan on his bed seemed somehow inappropriate.

"I've been reading diaries," Korin said, turning his attention back to the books on his desk and not to Adán's long, beautiful fingers spread wide on his sheets. "Other Staff wizards who lived in Trisome. Staff and Wing wizards both. I've found some good stuff that may help me figure out easier treatments, but no hint of anything like the blight being seen before."

Ádan scooted back so he could lean against the wall, making himself far too comfortable on Korin's bed. "But it's magic, right? We know that."

"There's absolutely magic involved, but creating a disease from scratch is hard. And there's no point to it. Nature does a better job of coming up with invasive, scary sickness than we ever could. Magical diseases, they're rare, but when they happen, there's always a base of something familiar to them. Except this one."

Korin pushed the books away from him in frustration. "If there's anything natural about this, it's no disease I've ever seen, or heard of, or read about."

Ádan was listening, nodding along. "Could it be something new? Can that happen? Can diseases just spring into being?" 

"Sure. New diseases happen. Old diseases evolve."

Something in his voice made Ádan tilt his head. Out of the corner of Korin's eye, he saw the edge of Adán's smile. "But you don't think that's what's happening here."

"No. The more I read, the more I actually touch the blight..." All afternoon, Korin's suspicion had been growing. Until he was sure—almost sure. But that didn't make it any easier to say out loud. "I think someone made this. Constructed it. Which is bad enough. And it's unusual. But there's more."

Korin was too aware of the omnipresent sticky heat, of the closeness of the room, of the closeness of Ádan. Handsome, helpful Ádan, whose intelligent blue eyes were locked on Korin, waiting for Korin to continue. A flicker of magic pushed back Korin's body's embarrassing attempt to blush at the attention. 

Focus on the magic, on the blight. Focus on what's important. "The blight—I think it was crafted to kill wizards."

"Wizards like you," Ádan said, the same conclusion Korin had come to. 

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