The Sorcerer: Part Five
By midnight Lisha had tried every spell she could possibly think of, but Jeran remained unconscious. Most alarming was the fact that his condition seemed to be deteriorating: he rolled restlessly from side to side now and then, as if he were experiencing something unpleasant in his dreams, and – though this might have been a product of Lisha’s imagination – she thought she could detect a faint sheen of sickly purple at the tips of his blue fur.
She had few thoughts to spare for Lockwood; however, when he did cross her mind, she was vaguely surprised that he had not yet left to go his own way. They had conversed, very briefly, earlier.
“Aren’t you leaving now?” she had asked him, amazed that even he could have the indecency to remain here after pointedly refusing to do anything to help save Jeran.
“An excellent notion, to be sure... and where do you suppose I should go?” He was lounging on a rock, unconcerned as ever now that the shock of the Court Dancer’s appearance had worn off.
“I don’t care,” said Lisha dangerously. “In all honesty, I hope from the bottom of my heart that you get eaten by wild Neopets. But it would probably make them sick.” Then she turned back to her brother; if he replied, she did not hear him.
Many hours later, Lisha had exhausted her powers and her store of knowledge; and still Lockwood had not departed. The world spun dizzily before her weary eyes as she slid to the ground next to Jeran.
“No,” she muttered to herself, sitting back up. She would not let herself fall asleep; the Court Dancer had given her no hint as to when the curse might take Jeran’s life or become irreversible. These hours were unspeakably precious, and if only she had been able to think clearly, she was certain that she would have been able to accomplish great things.
The trouble was that sleep seemed so absolutely blissful. At the moment she wanted nothing more in the world than to drift away, snuggling into luxuriously soft pillows and a warm soft bed –
A sigh from the darkness somewhere nearby her caught her attention, and the voice that followed was so very ordinary, awake and non-mystical as to momentarily dispel all thoughts of immediate sleep. “You do realize that your capacity for any sort of rational thinking is going to be next to nothing if you don’t close your eyes soon?”
It was Lockwood, sounding rather irritated and perhaps more ruffled than she had ever heard him. “I can’t do that,” her voice explained; she listened to it with no small degree of wonder. “I don’t know how long my brother has.”
“That hideous monster of yours mentioned a slow death... Unless it has a singularly odd perception of time, I imagine it had more than twelve hours in mind.”
This seemed reasonable, and before Lisha could compose an answer, she was gone.
Lockwood shivered and pulled his overcoat more tightly around himself. It was damp, of course, and freezing cold; but it was perhaps the biting wind which made the most monumental contribution to his discomfort.
Suddenly he shook his head. What a ridiculous situation – a sorcerer waiting to freeze to death with perfectly accessible and not particularly difficult magic waiting just at his fingertips. His first attempt brought merely the illusion of fire, which was not very helpful as it produced no warmth at all and in fact radiated quite a chill. On his second try he burned his glove conjuring up a few sparks of real fire, though Lisha, deep in exhausted sleep, did not hear his yelp.
“I need a book,” he remarked to himself, thinking aloud because he was really extremely tired and liable to get his thoughts tangled if he didn’t pay careful attention to them. What books were there? The only one that came readily to his mind was a beginner’s sort of book entitled Modern Spells, which he had considered reading but had never quite gotten around to. It was worth a try, he decided.
Trying to picture the cover, he snapped his fingers and willed a book to appear. Nothing happened at all. He took a mental step back from the situation and considered.
It was possible, he decided, that the magic was not working because he had no clear idea of what he was asking. What should he be asking? He had no idea whether it was even possible to conjure a book out of thin air; all of his spells to date had involved altering the form of something that was already in existence.
He picked up a sturdy branch and willed it to become Modern Spells.
Lockwood was so startled when a heavy book weighed down his paws that he dropped it in the mud. Picking it up, he read its title – Modern Spells. Something struck him as odd about the cover, but there was no time to dawdle, so he opened the book to the first page.
“It was possible, I decided, that the magic was not working because I had no clear idea of what I was asking,” he read, then shook his head and read it again. The contents seemed to have changed, however. “Then shook my head and read it again. The contents seemed to have changed, however.”
He threw the book down in annoyance. What in the world he had done to produce magic like that he had no conception, but it was not at all what he had wished for.
Finally the true problem at hand came to him: he, Lockwood, had no idea in the world of the book’s contents, so he could not actually recreate it. What he needed was an existing copy...
He wearily did his best to construct a spell that would bring all the copies of Modern Spells in the near vicinity to where he was sitting. When he thought that everything was satisfactorily arranged in his mind, he let his magic flow through it and make it real.
Instantly several purple books plopped down around him, all of them more or less identical, some a bit more tattered than others. He stared at them all for a moment; then he shrugged and picked one up, rather pleased that he had been able to devise the necessary magic on his own. A basic warming spell was among the first listed, and he hastily cast it on himself, somewhat amused to find that it was far simpler than the summoning spell he had ultimately used. As an afterthought, he cast it on Lisha and as a further afterthought on Jeran; then he went to sleep.
Lisha, when she awoke, was astonished to see Lockwood asleep under a tree surrounded by a good dozen books. She found it stranger still that all of them appeared to be the same book; multiple copies, in fact, of Modern Spells. And she felt extremely warm and comfortable. Then she remembered that Jeran had been cursed and that in the desperate race for time it was already midday.
She scrambled to make sure that her brother was still alive, and was relieved to find that he was. His condition, however, had not improved.
She took a shaky breath and sat down to ponder the possibilities. In yesterday’s panic she had not been very rational; she had gone up against a spell that was too strong for her to break by any methods she knew. Sometimes specific spells had counterspells that were easily cast despite an inexpert magician – such as the one she had used years ago to reveal the Court Dancer’s true nature – but Lisha did not know even know what this spell was. She would need access to –
“Books!” she cried suddenly, everything coming together in her head. The Aisha bounded over to Lockwood and began to shake him, so excited as to manage the remarkable feat of forgetting how much she despised the Gelert. He rolled over with an irritated noise of some sort and sat up, sadly regarding his dirty, crumpled jacket.
“Lockwood!” Lisha shrieked in his ear. “How did you get those books?”
He shot her an extremely unpleasant look, then set about removing his coat at his own meandering pace. Lisha, though certain that he was doing it intentionally to aggravate her, could not find it in herself to care. Instead she waited, dancing from one foot to the other.
“Surprisingly warm, isn’t it?” she remarked, looking around at the frosty landscape. “You’d think...”
“Oh,” said Lockwood, suddenly remembering his basic warming spell and deactivating it.
It immediately felt as though freezing hurricane-force winds were bearing down upon Lisha, and she gasped, already beginning to shiver. Lockwood in his shirtsleeves fared no better and immediately put himself back under the spell.
With a sigh, Lisha cast an intermediate warming spell on herself and Jeran. She was surprised to find that her fairly good spirits had quite suddenly deserted her; and, come to think of it, it was more astonishing that she had managed to be at all cheerful in the circumstances. She could only surmise that some odd side effect of Lockwood’s magic had enhanced her mood.
“So you thought to keep me and Jeran from freezing as well, did you? That was very altruistic for someone like –”
“Would you like to know how I got the books, or shall we wait and discuss it at a later date?”
“No, let’s discuss it now,” she snapped.
“It was a simple matter of bringing all the copies of Modern Spells within... oh, what measurement did I use? I can’t remember... In any case, I summoned them here.”
Lisha stared. “Why didn’t I think of that before? If they did use an existing curse out of a book, I can find it easily enough! I only need the right books!”
Lockwood shrugged rather infuriatingly.
Lisha’s eye fell on an odd-looking book. It was also entitled Modern Spells, but its cover was different: a blurry mix of purples, yellows and greens all clouded together. “What in Neopia?” she muttered, reaching to pick it up.
Lockwood snatched it from under her nose. “Nothing particularly fascinating, I assure you. It was only an experiment.”
Deciding that he had no wish to discover what others might read when they opened it, he found a use for conjuring real fire in destroying it completely, hopefully never to be seen again.
After looking at Lockwood in puzzled suspicion for a moment or two, Lisha shook her head and put it out of her thoughts. “Books, books, what books do I need... I thought you weren’t going to help me?”
“I’m not,” he snapped. “How was I to know you’d make use of it like that?”
“Conceited idiot,” she muttered, doing her best to remember helpful book titles. “Magic Spells, perhaps? If a faerie had any part of the casting – useless otherwise, but worth a shot. Advanced Curses is essential, so is Professional Curses... Vile Curse of Pestilence is a bit one-sided, but it might have something useful... Evil Spells would be excellent if only anyone could make the spells work, but as it is I don’t think it’s much use. I’ll have to include Lost Spells of Neopia... Oh, I just can’t think of any more; that will have to do.”
Ignoring Lockwood’s sardonic, critical eye, Lisha sat down and set about devising the spell. She discovered that it was going to be rather more difficult than she had at first imagined; it was one thing to summon one book and quite another to summon a whole list of them. Casting the spells one by one would be similarly tedious. “Ah well,” she sighed, “at least we have some time.”
“Not necessarily,” Lockwood corrected her with the slightest hesitation.
“Well of course there’s no guarantee, but as you said, a ‘slow death’ is sure to mean more than a day...”
Lockwood shook his head impatiently. “Your hideous monster never mentioned the word ‘slow’.”
“Of course she did, you said -”
“It may astonish you to discover that I lied.”
To be continued...