I decided on a two-pronged approach for the spirits’ containment. Animals were also creatures of habit, but even in the domesticated there was always a random chance of unpredictability making them prone to wander off (to hunt or be hunted), or expose themselves as unnatural by using their power in defense, so I considered using a gem as an alternate.
While a gem would also be prone to loss, it would only be through something outside of my control.
“Gran said to put you all inside a familiar, but I could also use a gem. Which would you prefer?”
Most of us despise cats. Some of us don’t like to fly, so birds, especially owls, are not good for us. We can taste their kills. A gem would be satisfactory. A dark one.
“All right. After I meet with Tyrel today, I’ll see what the market has to offer.”
Tyrel could no more stop his magic than he could the tide. It was a form of protection for all of the Cancelers so their enemies would never surprise them, even as they slept.
Whenever we spoke, I could feel the spirits roiling in side my body, fighting the pull of his power. It seemed to get worse even though our meetings were spotty at best. What strength they’d gained back afterwards seemed to leave in greater amounts the next time, which meant the Canceler’s power was increasing as well. Or was it just responding to the growth of my own?
I had some time, so I decided to wander the market first instead of later.
Normally I found all the sensory assault to be pleasantly distracting from my thoughts, and was amazed at all the things to be had in the world I knew, whether good or evil. It was thrilling as much as it was disturbing, and the looks of men grew bolder when they thought I was alone.
The tent of precious gems looked every bit the part. Perfumed women full of curves and false promises danced with a subtle eroticism that brought men close, the men who protected them with shining scimitars filing in behind them until it was too late, and they found themselves drawn into haggling matches that made them sweat.
There was no ‘just looking’ tolerated there; I couldn’t help grinning at their discomfort, but Tyrel would not wait long, and everything that I’d do at the Gem Tent would be a result of what happened between us.
“Bear with me once more, Abdiel.”
We have no say in that, Tina. If we leave you…
That got me to thinking about the Void in a foolish sort of way: if it was being filled with magic, it wasn’t a void anymore. How were the spells there kept from colliding with one another? What would happen if they did? How were they contained from coming back and harming the world?
“Tina! Over here!”
The spirits pushed at my back, as if they’d tear it to get out, and I stumbled, almost falling.
“Are you well?” A passerby held me by the arm and righted me.
“Yes. Yes, I’m all right. Thank you for helping me.”
He nodded and went on his way.
He grows stronger, Tina.
“Can you withstand him, just this last time?”
I believe so. I will quiet the others.
“I’d like that.” I managed to walk without attracting anymore attention, and seated myself across from Tyrel, who had a meal for two brought over. He wanted this to be drawn out, and in the interest of our mutual plans, I couldn’t make a hasty exit or excuse.
Abdiel did what he said, and although I could still feel them quailing within me, they held themselves together. I could only feel Tyrel’s power through them. The pull was strong, but so was Abdiel.
“Tyrel.” I slid in across from him, and he smiled, all charm, as if we’d been lifelong friends. I took it as a good sign.
“My treat, Tina.”
I mumbled thanks around a mouthful of food, not realizing how hungry I was. He grinned at the voracity.
“Slow down. No one will take it from you.”
I blushed, but I slowed down. “Sorry.”
“No need to be. Glad I could be of service. So, how do we cancel each other out?”
I told him, then asked him about the Void being filled with so much random, cast-off magic.
He never considered it, trusting to the words of his masters that the Void simply was, and therefore was unable to even be filled.
I took a sip of peach wine that he’d ordered special. “This mission is getting bigger.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have to find the Traitors Guild, then get our questions answered about the Void.”
“Those were your questions, Tina.”
“You’re not curious.”
I hadn’t expected him not to be, but something else occurred to me.
“What if it wasn’t a Void at all?”
“What if the Masters were just hoarding magic for their own ends?”
“What sort of ‘ends’?”
I had his attention. “To seize all the magic they’ve canceled in others, and turn it loose on us?”
“To what purpose, Tina?”
“What humanity has always tried to do, Tyrel. Rule the world.”
He wanted to laugh at me, but the thought had taken root, and his smile died as it formed.
Tina…we are weakening.
“Thank you for the meal, Tyrel.” I wiped my mouth one last time after draining my cup. “I’m going to the Gem Tent to find something to put my spirits in; they don’t like it when we meet.”
He stood, leaving coin on the table. “My powers are no less responsive, though I try to filter them so they don’t kill you. If there’s a way to cut it off, I haven’t found it.”
“You control its intensity?”
We walked together toward the Gem Tent.
“I can, but it’s a strain after some time.
“The forces warring within us…”
He nodded. “I’ll leave you now, Tina. Choose your familiar wisely. We’ve a long way to travel.”
“I will. When do we leave?”
“No sense delaying here. Tomorrow at first light?”
I nodded. “All right.”
The noises and music that shrouded the Gem Tent grew louder as Tyrel walked away, the darkness of his robes like a living shadow among all the color and bustle.
The spirits in me finally quieted, and as I approached the dancers and the entrapped crowd, a gleaming raven watched me from the top of the tent.