The Tower bell of Mâton’s
College of Magic tolled the end of the morning session. Master
Rinstarki had not quite finished his portal to the Câlaren, despite
the surreptitious help Darma had given him on some of the subrituals.
Indifferent to the lesson, nine of the Master’s ten morning
students left immediately, but Darma stayed and helped with the last
incantation. “Is it ready, Master?” she asked, looking at the glow around the worn oak door.
should know, Darma,” Master Rinstarki said. “You did
half the work. Open it. Quickly now, or
be late for lunch.”
opened the door into a flurry of snow and wind. Two peaks of the
Câlaren pierced the sky before her, while the third was but a
step away and buried in snow. “Shall I go through, Master?”
can if you hurry. Don’t shut the door!”
ran forward, and nearly fell as her feet touched the icy path beyond
the doorway. Recovering, she bent and scooped up a handful of
snow, the first she had ever held.
best if you pack it into a ball. Like this!” Master
Rinstarki’s eyes twinkled as he made a snowball.
followed his lead. “What is it for, Master?”
for throwing at someone, of course! But not at me. Now,
off to the dining hall with you. I don’t want the Archmage
in here claiming I’ve kidnapped you.”
wish you would,” Darma said, half seriously. “This is the most
fun I’ve had all week. Goodbye, Master!” Clutching her snowball
from the supposedly holy mountains, Darma left Master Rinstarki’s rooms
and stepped out into the bright spring sunshine. Most of the
students were already disappearing across the school’s central
quadrangle into the courtyard that led to the dining hall, but Darma
didn’t care. In a choice between food and magic, Darma usually chose
“Darma.” Startled, Darma took a step backward as Archmage Sunestri appeared
less than three feet in front of her.
she said calmly, with the barest suggestion of a nod. Sunestri
was prone to sudden, magical arrivals, albeit not usually to see her
specifically. His purpose was as much to intimidate as
communicate, maintaining his status as the one person on Mâton
that everyone—from master mages to farmers to his only surviving
relative—feared. It was a fear Darma preferred not to show.
She looked at him, steadily but politely. As usual, he wasn’t
really there. Darma could see the bushes through him. She
wasn’t impressed. She had learned to do the same at the age of
saw what you did this morning,” Sunestri said. “Good
shook her head. “Master Rinstarki did it. I only helped
be modest. How many specialties does that make now? Seven?
magic was actually her eleventh specialty, but Darma wasn’t about
to admit that to Sunestri. “Something like that. Once I
truly master portal magic, that is. I don’t think I could
do it on my own yet.”
think you could. Darsuma, it is time, past time, for your Robing.”
what every other student wanted, but the thought filled Darma with panic.
“But I’m not ready! There are six Masters here
I haven’t studied with yet.”
father laughed. “True, but you’ve worn out the other
nineteen, and fulfilled the advanced study requirements several times
over. Most mages only ever achieve two specialties. Even
I have but five of them. Would you stay in the nest seeking to
gain them all? You are needed elsewhere.”
didn’t sound good. Darma had always hoped that her first
assignment as an adept would be at the school, teaching under the
supervision of one of the Masters. “I’m needed elsewhere?
looked at her. His eyes were calculating, and there was something
almost feminine in the curve of his smile. “How would you
like to be Queen of Mâvarin?” he asked.