The Arcane Thief (Sandra Prowl)
Many of the previous notations are scrapped, wadded and thrown, and the book bears the scar of their passing...
A thief sits down in the darkness in a cell, and she writes.
She doesn't really write a journal. Instead, she is working, it seems, on a spell. Arcane imagery and colored ink, magecraft which is as practical as a Gond device. The feywilde, it says to her, is just another house to break into. It has been several hours. The notes of a man, Daxx, are beside her.
She has found a way in. But she is an apprentice, and not a full mage, and so she is struggling. It is not an unhappy struggle. She enjoys what she does now. It makes the days go by swifter, although that will not help her get out of the cloak.
The thief could get herself out of the cloak if she wanted to. The thief knows that they know she could get herself out of the cloak if she wanted to. It would be difficult and require certain difficult circumstances, and it would be dangerous, and she might break every cloak in a country mile as the hawk flies, but she could do it, probably.
The thief works on probably. She takes measurements of probably. Sometimes she thinks of why she is a mage. Many times, she thinks of how much she has donated to the Crying God. Many times, she wishes that she could have saved Aldek's daughter, whose face she remembers. There are a lot of measurable sins in the world, and she has stolen from a lot of people, but she has given back in equal weight except for that time. The thief thinks that returning stolen love letters is little comfort for the death of a man's daughter, even though the thief did not kill her.
The thief is not a murderer. She is a loudmouth, and a liar, and a thief, a pretty good one too, but she is not a murderer. Maybe sealing the rift in time has helped. For a little while she had felt the magic of a thread in the tapestry of the weave between her hands, and she had known that somehow, they still lived in some sense, and although she could not place just why she thought so, she knew that his thread had woven with hers.
This is an awareness she enjoys and finds comforting. Perhaps recognizing how the threads twine is the beginning of a chronomancer. Is it so different from the sympathies that govern the weave? Perhaps, is that why the weave is named so? The thief does not know and can not yet tell. She may, some day.
So she waves the scroll a little bit and purses her lips, blowing upon it to dry the ink and fix it. She could just cast the spell onto the prepared parchment but she does not. This parchment is as much a mechanism as it is a spell. It is just to help her see better.
It is easy to forget that she is condemned to die. Maybe the thief does not care anymore.
It is a strange certainty that the thief enjoys.
The thief lays quietly in her bed.
It has black blankets that have been frayed by the use and bodies of many other Legionnaires, who have slept on this bed before her, and some who slept on the bed with her. Not that anything pleasurable happened in Legionnaire beds. It was just cold. Sleeping in clothing was not abnormal. It was a certain sort of place that the thief went.
Now she sleeps alone because there is nobody else.
The sounds of people are far deeper into the pit, along with the sound of pickaxes, or more commonly, hand-picks. Pick-pick-pick. She no longer minds that sound. She has sort of come to enjoy the silence where she reads her books and studies and wonders and works at the wands and her gadgets.
The thief remembers Vixen with her red hair and her tears and she wonders where the fox went, after Vixen died. She wonders if Aldek and Caru are happy where-ever they went in the weave. Having held for a brief second the culmination of their totality in her hands during the casting that fixed that mote of time, she knows that they are somewhere, even if they are just magical energy. It's a lot for a thief to think about. It had been a long time since she tried to think about it.
The thief curls around her pillow. The thief nuzzles deeper into her cloak and her clothing and her old blankets. She does not bother smelling anything because there might as well be nothing to smell, because the thief can clean things with a cantrip. This is excessively useful.
The thief thinks about the people she has met again. She wonders if the paladin likes her. She wonders if Daxx doesn't. She wonders if Coltsbury is a long way away. She wonders if Hawklin will kill her.
Mostly she does not sleep. She can not sleep. She wants to sleep, but reluctantly she does not. Instead she gets up and forms a ball of light and sets it in the air, and then she pulls out the book, and she starts to read it. Obviously it is a cheap and stupid romance novel, but she feels obligated to read it for some reason that she doesn't think too closely about.
The world seems slower to the thief, and more regular. It is OKay if the world doesn't move fast. It is OKay if the big Private doesn't like her, and OKay if the Militia doesn't trust her, and OKay if nobody else ever trusts her again. That is OKay. She is fine.
The thief briefly thought about becoming a mage guild member, with the dragon wizard, but had thought better of it. She knew real Archmages and knew also that it was something you didn't just become because people said you were. Nobody said Caru or Aldek were. Nobody said Gilmor was. They just were. It was just what they were.
She turns a page. She isn't really reading.
Instead she is remembering that the tower still doesn't have a wizard. She fiddles with the edge of a papersheet, turns her head slightly. That is true, isn't it, she thinks to herself. And it changed. The portals changed too. And the walls. Coltsbury had talked about it.
The Tower needed a wizard.
Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Crease. The page is folded. She has her place marked. The thief draws her feet up and wonders if she shouldn't try to steal it. Who would stop her? Would anyone? What could she do with a wizard tower?
But the thief isn't an Archmage. She's barely a Mage at all. She smooths out the crease again and mends the paper with another cantrip, because that's also effortless. And then she sits and stares at the pages that she is not reading, because that might be effortless, but the world is very hard.