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Curses, Inside-Out: Part Four

by schefflera


also by Dreagoddess

Jeran was becoming somewhat concerned. First his sister had somehow managed to rattle the entire Darigan Citadel with a spell that evidently wasn't supposed to do that, which was impressive but disturbing. Taking her up to explain it as quickly as possible seemed to have averted a serious diplomatic incident -- but after walking through what must have been the entire city with General Galgarrath (who explained the situation accurately if vaguely as "a diagnostic spell suggested by Lord Darigan, with unforeseen results which he is currently analyzing"), he had been taken up to Darigan's study, only to find Lisha looking pale and Darigan looking frankly wilted. And Lisha had been immersed in the library, without explanation, ever since their return.

     Fortunately, Jeran was still on excellent terms with the castle cooks, and Meridell Castle didn't actually have a librarian to stop him from bringing a snack in to tempt Lisha out of her books and scrolls.

     Lisha, of course, utterly ignored him when he entered, her finger tracing along a line from the scroll in front of her and a line of concentration between her brows. Jeran had been expecting this, though, and picked up a tiny savory sausage -- one of Lisha's favorites -- and put it directly under her nose. This conveniently both blocked her view of the page and tempted her with the enticing scent. Jeran grinned at her when she looked up. "You've been down here too long. You should eat something."

     "I'm -- I'm busy." She nevertheless looked a bit cross-eyed at the sausage and took it, sliding down from her chair. "But I guess a break wouldn't hurt.... Maybe if I stop for a little bit I can figure out some other way to look. We'd better go over where I can't get crumbs on anything important...." Lisha stopped suddenly and turned around to hug her brother tightly. "Thanks. I didn't even notice I was hungry. Or, I think I did one time, but then I forgot."

     He hugged back, patting her back lightly. "You've been working too hard. I don't suppose anyone's actually going to tell me what this all is about eventually?"

     "Oh." She blinked at him. "I didn't ever tell you, did I...."

     "I have absolutely no idea, after the part where you poked the Citadel too hard with some sort of diagnostic spell."

     Lisha blushed a very red shade of orange. "I really didn't mean to hurt anybody. I had no idea it would do that. Are they -- is anyone --"

     "I don't think anyone was badly hurt. Just, er, shaken up." Jeran smiled as Lisha made a face at that. "General Galgarrath was explaining that you'd been talking to Lord Darigan before about diagnostic spells and had had 'an unexpected result' which you two were then conferring about. But I never heard what you figured out regarding it...."

     "All right." Lisha took a bite of sausage and chewed on it. "We figured out the shaking was probably because I was trying too hard. The spell wasn't supposed to be used quite the way I did it. But what I saw was real. They're -- they're cursed. And Lord Darigan can't see the curses. And they go back to the way they used to use the orb."

     Jeran tried to push past the fact that his little sister could make the whole Citadel shake because she "tried too hard" and focused on the more immediately relevant part of the sentence. "We knew they were cursed," he pointed out dryly. "That was a very large part of the start of the war, after all. And since they haven't gone back to how they were, it makes sense they're still cursed. How does that have anything to do with Darigan seeing the curses, or how they used the orb?"

     "He didn't think they still were! I mean... he said he thought it had been the kind of curse that makes a permanent, or at least really long-term, change and then goes away instead of staying active. But it turns out that what I was seeing were spells that his ancestors had put in place and tied into the orb." Lisha wrapped a piece of bread around her sausage and waved it expressively. "They didn't just... keep it around, the way Meridell did, even though it obviously worked pretty well that way. They used it for specific spells, apparently on just about everything. I don't know exactly why. I think it was supposed to make the effects stronger. But they all stayed attached to the orb, and when it was taken away, all the spells got pulled inside out, kind of." She bit her lip. "And an inside-out spell does the opposite of what it's supposed to...."

     "So a spell to, say, make the fields fertile would kill them off instead?" Jeran suggested, then winced. "That makes a terrible lot of sense, based off what we've heard about when the orb was first taken. And I guess that's why Meridell got off so easy when we lost it. Darigan and I had wondered about that."

     Lisha nodded. "And it doesn't look like getting it back untangled things. I'm starting to think it might have, only there were new spells pinning everything down the way it was by then. Mostly dark magic. He can see that part," she added. "I think he did most of it."

     Jeran blinked. "Why would Darigan have tried to preserve the curse? And how could he do it if he couldn't even see it?"

     "He wasn't trying to. It's just that everything he did since was on top of it, and a lot of the newer spells were meant to hold things together.... I'm not quite sure that's how it works." She frowned. "I'll have to ask him if it could work that way or not. But I found some scrolls on reinforcing one spell with another, even if they don't look related, and I think an awful lot of the ones he said he'd done are lined up the right ways to do that."

     "Hrm. Like putting furniture in front of the door -- even if you aren't trying to block the door, it still ends up being blocked? But that doesn't explain why Darigan couldn't even see the things you could. He's been studying magic a lot longer than you have."

     "I know that!" Lisha said, glaring at him for a moment before dropping her eyes. "I don't know why he can't see it. Unless it's because he's under the curses. He was inside the spells when they turned inside out. There's darkness magic all over him, and he can't see that either. But he believes me."

     "I didn't say I didn't believe you," Jeran pointed out gently. "I'm just trying to figure this out."

     She took a deep breath and a large bite of sausage. And then cheese. "Sorry," she mumbled after swallowing. "I just... I don't understand all of it either, and I need to."

     Jeran forced himself not to sound too skeptical. Lisha was his little sister, but she was also -- disturbingly enough -- the best sorceress Meridell had. "Do you think you can actually do anything about it?"

     "I don't know. I hope so. It makes my skin crawl, and I'm not even living under it." Lisha paused and glanced in the generally upward direction of the Citadel. "Er, inside it. Anyway, I'm trying to find out how."

     "...What does Darigan say about it all?"

     Lisha looked briefly confused. "Well, he's the one who figured out what I was seeing and what must have happened, after I drew out the diagrams."

     "I meant about removing it."

     "He wants to. He doesn't know how yet either."

     "Does he know what all you're doing towards it?"

     Lisha blinked. "Er... I don't think so." She paused, then added quickly, "I wasn't going to do anything without talking to him! I was just researching...."

     "Doing nothing but researching," Jeran chided. "Neglecting your health."

     "I'm fine!"

     "And how long do you think you'll stay that way if you do nothing but sit in the library and forget to eat? I'm just saying maybe you should talk to Darigan and make sure you're going in the right direction when you obsess."

     "I wasn't going to forget for that long," Lisha muttered. "And I'm not obsessing." She drooped a little. "I just wanted to help."

     He leaned over and hugged her lightly. "I know you do. And I'm sure you'll be able to help a lot, just like you helped Meridell. But this isn't the middle of a war. You don't have to jump in over your head right away."

     "I am not over my head," Lisha said indignantly. "...Well, maybe in bookshelves."

     Jeran lifted one furry eyebrow expressively. "Mm-hmm."

     "Um, yeah, speaking of which, do you know what happened to the ladder? It's gone missing."

     Jeran leaned back and sighed. "Boris and Morris probably stole it again to play scale-the-walls. One day I will find what it takes to wear them out."

     Lisha giggled. "Good luck. I don't know either." She picked up the wedge of cheese he'd brought her and jumped up. "But for now I'm going to get my ladder back!"

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Curses, Inside-Out: Part One
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Two
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Three
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Five
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Six
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Seven
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Eight
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Nine

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