Chapter 7: Apprentice
We sat together near the hearth while Balthazar examined my new scrying disk with great interest. He turned the object over in his weathered hands several times, stopping every so often the trace a finger across the glass smooth underside of the dragon scale. Reverent would be the word that I would chose to describe his demeanor; like a man standing in the very presence of the Unanimity. When his curiosity was finally stated, he handed the scale back to me.
“I would never have thought to use the amulet,” he admitted as he rose to tend the hearth fire. “A dragon scale is not a common implement for scrying among the magi … though in fairness, few magi are bonded to dragons these days.”
I watched as he set another log on the bed of glowing embers. The flames rose up to greet the seasoned oak, lapping at it with hungry orange tongues. A new wave of warmth radiated through the room, fighting back the late afternoon chill. Uriel hoped up onto the flagstone hearth skirt and settled himself as near to the epicenter of warmth as he could manage without singing his fur. I could feel his contentment vibrating through me.
“Was it once a common thing,” I asked and then added for clarification, “for a mage to be bonded to a dragon?”
“Was it common, you ask? Oh no, I tend to doubt that it was ever common,” he answered. “In my youth, I read about such bonds in some of the more arcane text … but most of those writings were destroyed when the great library at Thorengrad was sacked and burned. I can still remember my Master weeping as flames and clouds of thick smoke filled the noonday sky.”
“Tell me again about what you saw,” Balthazar insisted as he returned to his chair.
“The interior of a room in the Duke’s palace,” I began for the third time. “The Duke, Roland his sergeant-at-arms, and a third person … I think it must have been his court mage. They were discussing an informant among the Seven Masters … an informant in the employ of the Duke. It was also mentioned that Crog is having trouble finding the Dragons. The Duke is trying to locate Master Kyros in an attempt to gain more information, as he feels that the Fire Magus can be bought or otherwise manipulated.” Embarrassment suffused me as I related the sudden ending to my scrying, “it was then that his court mage sensed my presence and I was forced to hastily end my session. The Duke thought my identity to be yours, but the court mage assured him otherwise.”
Balthazar nodded as he leaned back in his chair, “For Unanimity sake girl, why did you choose to scry the Duke in his palace; the very seat of his power. That was extremely foolish … and being foolish is very unlike you.”
“I … I did not choose Master,” I admitted shamefully. “In my excitement to try my newly crafted implement … I simply spoke the arcane words for light and see. I gave them no focus.”
“Light help us,” he groaned. “Kerri, how often have I told you, magic must have a focus … without it, the results are unpredictable and dangerous?”
“I know Master, I’m sorry, I …”
He dismissed my apology with a wave, “Never mind child.” His tone was sad and slightly disappointed, but not even the slightest hint of anger played through it. “I have much to think on,” he commented as he rose wearily from his seat, “go fetch in two extra arm loads of wood … these old bones of mine tell me a storm is approaching and we’ll have snow by morning. Then it’s off to bed with you.”
I watched him start up the stairs towards the top of his tower; he seemed to have aged a hundred years in a single afternoon. The exhilaration that I felt earlier after my success at scrying had transformed into a deep sense of doom. I waited a bit longer after Balthazar disappeared into the shadows of the winding stair case before rising to take up my cloak and head for the woodshed.