Chapter 12

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            Finished tying her dark blue sash around her waist and arranging the shirt of the same colour that kept the deep V of her robes from being obscene, Kallai checked the painted wood box that sat in the middle of her desk. She grinned when she found paper folded inside, sitting down immediately and opening the letter.

            Dearest Kallai,

            I hope you’re doing well and that today’s quiet for you. Stay strong and know you’ll be free from school in less than two years. Kallai shook her head but smiled at the attempt to make her feel better about things. But Sevilen was right. She only had the rest of the year as an Indigo then the whole year as a Violet left to go before her schooling would be over, and she’d finally be free of her tormentors. She let her mind drift towards that distant day for a moment, then brought her attention back to the letter in her hands.

            I’m sorry I haven’t been able to correspond as often as I usually do. I only just finished the shipment of message boxes for the Army, as ordered by the Council. But don’t worry, after that reptile Nahack reported our letters and alerted everyone to my invention, I’ve added extra layers of protection around my laboratory. There won’t be a second time, so rest assured, our letters are safe. She winced, wondering what surprises her cousin had put into his protections. She hadn’t forgotten the spell he’d developed that agitated every insect in the area, causing them to swarm the person who set the magic off. If Nahack was smart, he’d stay far away from Sevilen’s lab, especially since her cousin didn’t like him, and so had no reason to perform the counter spell.

I’m very interested in this Shuu person you mentioned in your last letter. In reply to your question, no, I’ve never come across someone claiming to be an elemental mage before. Kallai sighed, but continued reading.  I believe one of my books may have made mention of it, but I haven’t yet been able to locate the particular text. Unfortunately, another of my assistants has quit and I haven’t had the time to hire a replacement, so my organization has suffered. She made a face. Her cousin’s inability to keep an assistant for more than a few weeks was already legend, both among his coworkers and Magi as a whole. While rumours attributed it to everything from human experimentation on the assistants to sexual harassment, Kallai suspected the truth was that the assistant couldn’t handle Sevilen’s intensity. He went from single-minded scientist, to smiling eccentric, to cutting cynic and back again regularly. She was used to the personality shifts, but most weren’t. She sometimes suspected that her cousin did it on person, to get rid of those he disliked.

My persistent need for a trusted assistant has had my mind taking a different path, and I had a thought. If, once you’ve graduated, you can’t find anything you’d like to do better, I would very much like to hire you as my assistant. Kallai nearly dropped the letter, her eyes widening. I know you’re intelligent, trustworthy, and steady, which is far more than I can say for most of the candidates I’m forced to speak with. And before you worry, I don’t require magic of my assistants, just preparation which I think you’d do admirably. She almost laughed at the way he’d headed her off before she could obsess over the impossibility of it. Instead, her eyes jumped to the next line of his flowing script.  It’s a thought, one I hope you’ll consider. If you’re amenable, I’ll bully the officials I deal with until they agree to hire you come graduation.

Write me soon so I know all is well with you,

Always yours,


P.S. I advance my scout from red five to red six and my archer from blue eight to blue nine. Your move.

Kallai carefully folded the letter back up, laying it on her desk, as her mind raced. She’d worry about Sevilen’s moves in their ongoing game of Siege later, still fixated on her cousin’s proposal.

His assistant. She could be Sevilen’s assistant. It’d be real work, something she could do, probably better than anyone. She knew him, knew his moods, knew what he needed. And she’d be in a place where even her parents couldn’t complain about, given how often they said she should be following in Sevilen’s footsteps.

The notion practically sparkled in her brain, as she turned it this way and that, looking for flaws. Even if it didn’t work out in the end, just the idea was enough to make her giddy and gave Kallai something to look forward to. If she could get through school, if she could just hold out until she graduated, she had a safe path ready for her, one that would keep her close to the only person she was sure loved her.

Humming to herself, Kallai practically danced around her room as she finished getting ready. Breakfast would be served soon, but even the prospect of facing cruel words and taunts from those awake this early couldn’t lessen the happiness that had her smiling. She had an escape plan, and one that would ensure she was treated well.

            With that thought to warm her, Kallai walked out of her room with her head held high, for the first time in eight years.

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