Chapter 9

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Book clutched in his left hand, Tier'ghan knocked on the door of Magister Novi's office with his right. The voices from within faded and then the door swung open. Serenity sat in one of the chairs facing the desk while Magister Novi leaned a hip against the front, her arms crossed over her chest. The office itself was in more than its usual disarray. Piles of books littered the floor and the desk was nearly overrun with stacks of papers. In one corner a broom spun in lazy circles, trapped by a couple of boxes of dusty looking robes. The warm sweet scent of sassafras tea filled the air.

"I didn't think you'd leave Quenoor's side." There was no challenge in Magister Novi's statement, which filled him with relief. He felt guilty enough as it was for leaving the room.

Tier'ghan shrugged and held up the book for her to see. "I found the book."

She made no move to take it, simply nodded. "Serenity and I were discussing the incantation you used. I believe we might have been wrong in our first assessment."

"Wrong? So I haven't invoked some old god?"

"It still remains a possibility, but I don't want to jump to conclusions before we've run some tests."

"Well ... that's why I'm here. I spoke with Kellir about the book, but ..." he hesitated, not entirely sure he wanted to tell them what had happened. "He couldn't offer much help other than to tell me that the words themselves are imbued with magic."

"They are enchanted? But enchanting things takes incredible skill and power." Serenity shifted in her seat to look at Tier'ghan. "Why would anyone waste that kind of energy enchanting a book?"

"Why, indeed." Magister Novi straightened and approached him. "May I see it?"

"Yes, though I noticed that once certain passages are read they disappear."

Magister Novi clicked her tongue as she took it and flipped through the pages. "How interesting. I've heard of disappearing ink but this seems a bit more ... sophisticated. I wonder if the missing passages are the same across all copies. Though I'm not sure where to find any more. I'd never heard of it till today so I doubt it's well known. Either way, that is something we can investigate later. Right now I am more concerned about you personally. I asked someone for their help. They should be here any time now."

"You asked for outside help?"

"Not ... exactly."

Tier'ghan shuffled his feet and glanced toward the still open door. "If it's not about the book, what is it about?"

Magister Novi gestured to Tier'ghan with one hand. "You shouldn't be standing ... hells, you shouldn't even be alive. I've never heard of a mage surviving being harvested unless there was intervention immediately."

"Or they have a paladin to protect them in the first place." He knew he sounded bitter. He was bitter. The year he'd graduated the ratio of paladins to mages had been two-to-one. He should have had his pick, yet he'd not received a single request and every time he'd approached anyone he'd been very politely brushed off. He supposed he couldn't blame them. Unlike the other graduates he'd not received even one work invitation. For a high-level mage it was a slap in the face. He should have had magistrates following him around begging for him to come work in their city. He knew the rumors about his unpredictable magic had hurt his prospects, but it wasn't until after graduation that he'd realized just how badly his reputation had been affected.

"I'm truly sorry about that. I am. But we cannot force paladins to pair with a mage or stay with them."

"I know." The more he thought about it, the more he realized how right Quenoor was about the academy failing him. And not just academically. If it had been up to him, he'd have never returned here. He took a breath and let the tightness in his chest dissolve. It was useless to dwell on it now. "So if you think there is something wrong with me?"

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