The Sorcerer: Part Nine
It was somehow not comforting to know that Lockwood had created this monstrosity himself; nor was its malevolent, cunning awareness very reassuring. And yet, whatever it was, it had come from him. The only possible conclusion was that all of this must be in him somewhere.
Lockwood glanced over at Lisha and Darigan to ascertain that everything was going well. He was rudely jerked back to his own sorcery as a tendril of his former Modern Spells began to weave its way into Jeran’s curse, momentarily reinforcing it. It was altogether very disagreeable, he thought, and there was also the fact that had he never been coerced into making this trip, none of this would ever have happened –
It was altogether very disagreeable, I thought, and there was also the fact that had I never been coerced into making this trip –
“Oh, stop it,” snapped Lockwood wrenching the magic away from himself. “You’re not a book anymore...”
Now there was a thought. Indeed, it was not a book any longer – but why should it not be a book again? Or perhaps a less unpleasant sort of artifact, one that could not potentially bare his thoughts for the world to read. What else did one make into a magical artifact? The first object that came to mind was a sword, but that struck him as a rather unwise decision. The first object that came to mind was a sword, but that struck me as a rather unwise decision.
“How excessively irritating!” Lockwood exclaimed. He was no longer altogether certain which were his thoughts and which were the – whatever they were; he could not even remember where he had left off. Something about a sword, it had been – creating a magical artifact, that was it. Something about a sword, it had been – Perhaps a shield? Or a necklace? Those seemed a bit safer –
Perhaps a shield? Or a necklace? Those seemed –
“This is intolerable!” With a sudden surge of power he trapped the spell, containing it within the first thing that came into his head. For a moment he leaned against a tree, recovering; when his thoughts reasserted themselves, he was rather astonished to find himself holding an elegant white necktie.
Then, suddenly, something slammed into him, pinning him against the tree, and a voice hissed in his ear. “Did you forget my warning so soon, Mr. Lockwood?”
Lisha tore herself away from her spell, although she was uncomfortably aware that any breach in concentration could result in the failure of their magic. “Lockwood!” she cried.
“No, by all means finish what you’re –” A knife against his throat cut him off, and despite his valiant words he half hoped that Lisha would abandon Jeran’s curse and come to his rescue; but her concentration was already back to her brother.
Lockwood swallowed. “Madam, is there not some way that we could renegotiate our agreement...”
He cried out in horror as the Court Dancer, in a sudden motion of furious hatred, sliced the dagger across his muzzle and cheek. “Not so handsome anymore, are we?” she hissed mockingly. “You can die with a face that matches your worthless soul.”
But she had underestimated Lockwood’s strength and his ability to keep his head in a crisis. Tentacles of ice wrapped around her arm and throat, pulling her inexorably away from him despite her struggles. At that moment Lisha and Darigan snapped the last threads of Jeran’s curse and Darigan pointed his staff at the Court Dancer, letting out a fierce stream of purple light. She disappeared into thin air.
It had not occurred to Lisha before that she had never once entered Lockwood’s rooms in the castle. They were quite sunny and pleasant, which was not precisely what she would have imagined, though she could not for the life of her have said why. The beautiful day was, however, astonishingly suitable for her current frame of mind. Jeran, who had been perfectly healthy but rather jumpy after the curse was first lifted, was now entirely back to normal and practicing his archery in the Castle’s fields. Darigan had solemnly promised to come and visit her whenever he found the time; furthermore he had extended a very kind invitation to her and whatever friends she cared to bring to stay at the Citadel.
“I’m afraid you may not find it very pleasant, as you are used to Meridell Castle,” Darigan had cautioned her. “But you are more than welcome there. And if you like you can explore our library; you may find it easier than magically stealing scrolls from it. I believe the librarian may forgive you in time.”
“That was an accident,” protested Lisha, but she was very grateful for the invitation. “I will come, you know, so I hope you mean it.”
“Oh, I do,” Darigan said in surprise. “Whyever would I ask you if I didn’t want you to visit?”
Evidently, Lisha decided, Lord Darigan was not terribly familiar with Meridellian court manners. She let it slide, however. “Well – I can only say thank you. I don’t like to think of what might have happened if you hadn’t come.”
Darigan smiled. “It was nothing. Quite a worthwhile adventure, actually. Now I’m afraid I must go, but give my regards to Lockwood and to Jeran – I am not sure he was paying much attention when I delivered them myself.”
Lisha had agreed to do so, but as a matter of fact several weeks had now passed and she had yet to speak to Lockwood. He had not stirred from his rooms and she was in fact quite apprehensive about what he might be doing; however, upon the whole, she had judged it best to allow him some time to digest everything that had happened. She had an idea, dating back from that last desperate scene in the woods, that he had great potential to be a decent character given some coaxing and moral education. All the same, Darigan had warned her.
“I think he is quite good-hearted, but keep in mind that that monstrous spell did come out of some part of him. I’m afraid his temperament cannot be entirely flawless.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Lisha had promised.
All in all, she thought that it was more likely vanity than anything else keeping him confined to his quarters. Lisha did not pity him for what had happened, but she knew him well enough to realize that he would take it rather hard. She also knew something that Lockwood did not, which was that if he allocated some of the time formerly spent admiring his appearance to a more worthwhile kind of thinking he would be much improved in a matter of weeks.
She knocked cheerfully on his door.
“Come in,” called a dreary voice.
The shadow Gelert was sitting at his desk writing something in his elegant hand, though Lisha was not close enough to see what it was before he put it into a drawer.
“Well, you look better than when I saw you last,” she observed. “Does it still hurt?”
“No, not really,” he said dully.
It was conspicuous, though, Lisha noted with a high degree of glee. The scar that started on his muzzle and ran down his cheek did not entirely spoil his good looks; but it made him less superbly flawless and somehow gave his face a different character, though she could not have said precisely what the difference was.
“Jeran has been waiting to thank you personally,” she remarked. “Unfortunately he hasn’t had the opportunity. Did you know your sister had arrived?”
“So I was told.” He shrugged.
“Don’t you want to see her? – she’s very anxious to see you, you know.”
“On the whole, I had really rather that she did not. And,” he added, with a steely glint in his eye, “it is all your fault.”
“Oh, don’t be so depressing. You know, you look a little like that dashing Gelert in the Thieves Guild...”
“Thank you,” said Lockwood, deeply mortified by any such comparison. He shook his head. “It really is hideous, isn’t it?”
“Well,” she said tactfully. “It’s not in a very nice place, and frankly it’s quite an ugly scar as well...”
Lisha had decided some time ago that the best strategy would be to depress Lockwood’s excessively high self-opinion while she still had the chance. If only she could convince him to rely on his character and not his appearance, her cruelty would do him a world of good. He was not the kind of man who needed kind reassurance and gentle encouragement.
“The only thing I can state with certainty,” he told her sadly, “is that the entire thing was extraordinarily unfair.”
“You call it unfair,” Lisha said cheerfully. “I call it poetic justice.”
He stared at her as though he found the notion rather startling.
“Well, think about it. While you sit here feeling sorry for yourself, you are still in perfect health with all the magic in the world at your fingertips. Stop thinking about your face and try doing something helpful for a change. Incidentally, you might take this as an opportunity to actually be nice to people rather than just charming them with your appearance.”
Lockwood seemed completely taken aback by her tirade, and it was several moments before he spoke, and then rather uncomfortably. “I... will be sure to consider it.”
“Very well then, Lockwood – by the way,” she interjected, “do you even have a first name?”
“Of course I have a first name,” he replied guardedly. “And several middle ones, for that matter. Why do you ask?”
“I was only curious, you idiot. It’s hardly an unreasonable question. So what is your name? As you don’t seem to use it, I give you my word I won’t call you by it.”
He shrugged. “Harlan, for whatever pleasure it may give you. I am quite convinced that it doesn’t suit me at all.”
“No,” she agreed, “it doesn’t really.”
“For that matter,” he returned airily, “do you have a last name?”
“Hmm,” said Lisha thoughtfully. “I suppose it’s Borodere. Anyway, Mr. H. Lockwood, why don’t you come downstairs with me and meet your sister?”
“I suppose I might as well,” he said with a touch of sadness. “Let me get dressed.”
Lisha watched him walk over to the door, then remembered something quite suddenly. “Whatever happened to that... thing of yours? The magic, I mean?”
“Oh, that,” Lockwood said rather shiftily, not turning around. “Well, I – as a matter of fact – I imagine we will find out one day.”
Lisha, deciding that this would have to do for the time being, allowed him to leave; and she waited, tapping her paw thoughtfully against the desk. If she was still going to teach him sorcery, the first thing they would have to do was go to Lord Darigan and find out exactly what had happened to Lockwood’s monstrous spell. Then – well, after that, there were still a million things to cover. Lisha wondered whether she had not been doing him some injustice overall. Looking back on their former arguments, she came to the realization that most of what he said was really quite humorous and intended to be so. If only she could develop that part of him, he might be significantly less odious and despicable.
“I believe I am ready,” Lockwood announced, reappearing. He added in a mutinous mutter, “Or at least as ready as I ever will be.”
And so he went downstairs with her, wearing a black suit and a wine-red cravat so beautiful that Lisha could not help but give a small sigh of aesthetic satisfaction.