The Sorcerer: Part Eight
“Lockwood,” whispered Lisha.
Darigan, visibly shaken by the failure of their combined sorcery, shook his head. “What in Neopia do you mean?”
“I don’t know, but that magic is Lockwood’s all right. Ice. I suppose you might call it his trademark.”
“I’m sure you know best,” Darigan replied with a helpless shrug.
“Lockwood!” called Lisha, aware that the fury was beginning to build within her.
The shadow Gelert approached in his usual style, which was extremely languid and rather slow-paced. “Did you want me?” he inquired coldly.
“What did you do?” hissed Lisha, clenching her fists. “Is it not enough for you to refuse to help us? Do you really find it necessary to interfere with our attempts to save Jeran’s life?”
“I was not aware that I had done anything to compromise your magic,” Lockwood yawned.
“You lying, selfish disgusting horrible –”
Darigan hastily stepped between them and put a gently restraining hand on Lisha’s shoulder, which gave him the opportunity to experience Lockwood’s most poisonous glare in full measure.
“Mr. Lockwood,” he began rather hesitantly, “I would not accuse you of having done anything consciously to disrupt our spell, but something you did earlier may have gone awry.”
“Is that so,” Lockwood muttered.
Darigan looked at him carefully, as though he were considering something; then he said, “I have a hunch that you know exactly what this is about. And,” he added, holding up a hand before Lockwood could reply, “I assure you that removing whatever magic you performed could not possibly count as helping us in any sort of contract, magical or otherwise.”
Lockwood paused for a moment, reaching up a paw to adjust his lovely cravat, and then reluctantly decided to cooperate. “Perhaps I would have had some idea, but it is entirely impossible as I destroyed it.”
“You destroyed what?” pressed Darigan.
“Oh, it was the most excessively silly of all spells, I assure you – hardly even worth mentioning. I was very tired, and I wished to conjure up a book of spells, which was at first unsuccessful...”
A sudden memory stirred in Lisha’s mind. “That book,” she said slowly, “the one that didn’t look like any of the others – what was it?”
“I – am not entirely certain,” Lockwood replied irritably. “In any case, I tried to create the book from something else... a tree branch, if I remember correctly... When it didn’t work, I destroyed it.”
“So you attempted to create something with which you were not familiar,” said Darigan thoughtfully. “In most cases, that would simply result in a blank book – if anything happened at all. It’s rather impressive that you managed to make it work.” Then, after a moment’s silence – “Was it only a blank book?”
Lockwood by this time looked distinctly shifty. “I suppose you could not have called it entirely blank, but the contents were so very nonsensical as to be very little worth discussing...”
“Of course they’re worth discussing, you idiot,” snapped Lisha through gritted teeth.
It was extraordinarily fortunate that Lockwood never seemed much discomposed by insults (possibly because his opinion of his own merits was so very excellent), but Darigan did not think that it was worth trying him. “Come now, let us attempt to be civil... So what exactly was in the book?”
“I hardly know how to explain,” Lockwood said slowly.
“I would very much appreciate it if you would try.”
“Oh – it was ridiculous,” he answered with a slightly forced laugh. “It was as almost as though it were a record of what I had been thinking, and the contents... shifted, when I turned my mind to something else.”
Darigan’s magical fire had all but died by now, and the clearing under the evening sky was very dark and gloomy; it seemed to suit the mood. “You created a magical artifact,” Darigan sighed. “And a very strange one, unless I misunderstand you. How did you attempt to destroy it?”
“I burned it, and that was the end of it.” Lockwood looked as though he rather doubted this himself.
Darigan shook his head. “As I am sure you are aware, you didn’t. You must have been able to feel your magic everywhere around you. Frankly, I have no idea what you’ve created, but it would take longer than it’s worth for me to find out. If you could lift it, I imagined Sir Jeran would be very much obliged...”
Lockwood smiled as though he found it unusually difficult. “I am very much afraid that I really haven’t the faintest idea how.”
“A magical artifact is always difficult to destroy, and it sounds like you put a great deal of yourself into this one.” Darigan thought for a moment. “I hope the forces that interrupted our spell were not really a very good indication of your inner self. They were quite malicious.”
Lockwood shrugged, looking, for the first time in Lisha’s memory, quite wretched.
It was altogether possible that Darigan saw it too, for he leaned forward and arched an eyebrow, then spoke in a soft, kindly tone. “Anything that you were powerful enough to create you have the full capability to destroy; it is one of magic’s most basic principles. You could at least try. Otherwise – well, I’m afraid this looks like one of those spells that is going to follow you around, whether you want it to or not. The fact that I’m not really sure what it does will only complicate matters more.”
“That strikes me as exceedingly undesirable,” murmured Lockwood, staring into the darkness.
“And, really, Mr. Lockwood – when it comes down to it – do you want Sir Jeran to die?”
“I have no opinion on the matter,” said Lockwood frigidly. “And I really cannot see why it should have anything to do with me.”
Lisha resisted the urge to seize him and shake him as she had done before. It was hopeless; there was no sense in it at all. Lockwood was simply and irredeemably self-centered. She did not even think that he could help it.
“Nevertheless,” said Darigan, “I would strongly advise you to destroy your spell, if only for your own sake.”
“I suppose I can try,” Lockwood agreed unwillingly, and Lisha felt the familiar tingle of magic, although she could not see what he was doing.
After a moment, however, Lockwood jerked back from some unknown thing with a convulsive shudder, and shook his head helplessly. “I can’t.”
The clearing seemed somehow colder and darker than it had before; Lisha could see her breath in front of her, and Lockwood was shivering.
“What if he just can’t lift it?” whispered Lisha.
Darigan studied the stars in the Meridellian sky for a minute. “He could – given enough time. But there is an alternative...”
“May I inquire as to what that might be?” Lockwood asked hoarsely.
“If you can keep it distracted for long enough – long enough for us to break the curse – that may suffice. Keep its strength engaged. But we will have to hurry.” Darigan looked him in the eye. “Are you willing to do it?”
Lockwood stared at the ground, shaking his head; then he shrugged in resignation. “This is undoubtedly the most idiotic decision I’ve made in my life. Yes. Yes, I’ll do it. But,” he added venomously in Lisha’s direction, “if anything unpleasant happens because of this –”
“I think you have made a wiser decision than you know,” Darigan remarked, and stood up. “We’d better get started.”
As they made a sort of imprecise triangle around Jeran, Lisha’s eyes followed Lockwood. She could not help doubting him; and what would happen if he lost control of the magic when they were only halfway through, she could not say, nor did she care to speculate. Darigan, however, seemed at least reasonably confident. That would have to be enough.
“You had better start before we do, I think,” Darigan told Lockwood, who nodded dully. Lisha felt the icy chill of his magic spread over her, but there was no time to dwell on it. She and Darigan began their work on Jeran’s curse while Lockwood fought his own creation.
Even with its power engaged elsewhere, Lisha could feel its coldness everywhere around her, brushing against the edges of their spell. It was almost – sentient. She could not imagine where it had come from, nor how Lockwood had managed to create it; and it frightened her. But she could not spare a thought for it and so she ground her teeth and resolved to concentrate.
Without hindrance, their work continued quite smoothly; Lisha would never have been able to break the curse herself, but their combined strength was just enough to overpower it. The places where the separate spells were joined together were especially weak and made excellent starting points. Gradually Lisha felt herself slip into the magic, becoming part of it until she somehow felt that her individual consciousness had disappeared.
“We’re very close,” said Darigan’s voice from somewhere quite distant.
Then, without warning, someone entered the clearing.
It was the Court Dancer.
To be continued...