Sea Glass

By: Maria V. Snyder

1




WORRY AND DREAD CLAWED AT MY STOMACH. I READ THE MESSAGE again. The order was clear and concise. Return to the Citadel immediately and report directly to the Council Hall. The signatures of the entire Sitian Council and all three Master Magicians were scrawled under the missive. A bit heavy-handed, but I couldn’t miss the importance nor doubt the seriousness.

“What does it say?” Janco asked. He plucked the paper from my fingers, scanned the short note and whistled. “This is major.” Scratching the scar where the lower half of his right ear used to be, Janco squinted at me in concern. “You’re not going to obey are you? ’Cause, if you do—”

“I know.” No need to state the obvious.

“The Council will escort you straight to the Keep’s dungeons where you will stay for a very, very long time,” Devlen said in a matter-of-fact tone.

I glared at him.

“Did I say you can talk?” Janco asked him.

“I am trying to help,” he replied, shrugging. His cloak covered his hands, which had been manacled behind his back.

“I don’t want your help,” I said.

Devlen opened his mouth, and Janco jabbed him in his solar plexus. As Devlen gasped to regain his breath, Janco threatened to yank out his tongue if he uttered another word.

We all knew it was an empty threat. Traveling with Janco, Devlen and two Ixian guards for the past twenty days had become an exercise in patience for me. Since Devlen’s soul was currently living inside Ulrick’s body due to a twist of blood magic, Devlen knew Janco couldn’t harm him, so he needled Janco whenever possible.

We planned to escort Devlen to Moon Clan’s lands in order to find his body with Ulrick’s soul, and then have the Soulfinder Yelena switch them back. I had sent a message detailing this plan to Second Magician Zitora Cowan as soon as we reached the Sitian border.

“Opal,” Janco said. “We need a decision. It’s getting dark.”

“Give me a minute.” I drew in a deep breath. The Council wanted me to return. My new powers terrified them, and me, too, if I thought about it for long. The Council had an excellent reason to be nervous and want me safely contained. I could drain a magician of his or her powers. All I needed was a glass orb in my hands and I could extract their magic, transforming it into a physical substance—diamonds. A magician didn’t even have to attack me as I had first assumed. Oh no, I could milk a magician dry without them doing a thing.

The Council’s messenger hadn’t waited around for a response. No one disobeyed a direct order from the Council. Certainly not a student glass magician who hadn’t even graduated from the Keep yet.

“Well?” Janco asked with impatience.

Finding Ulrick was more important, and putting a stop to blood magic was vital. “We’ll make a detour to Fulgor first. I’ll send Zitora a message. She’ll understand.” I hoped.

However, my plans didn’t go the way I had envisioned. Nope. No warning bells or strange portents would alert me that by the next day Devlen and I would be in the exact opposite positions.

Unaware of the coming storm, I ignored the Council’s message. We hiked east through a thin forest. Dead leaves crunched under our boots. The cold season had stripped the trees and bushes, leaving behind bare branches. The warming season had started a few days ago, and the frozen ground had turned into a muddy mess as we traveled farther south. Glancing over my shoulder, I noted the beauty of the stark and simple woods against the wide swaths of colors in the sky. The cool air smelled damp and fresh.

“Should we make camp before it gets dark?” Janco asked.

This section of Sitia seemed familiar to me, and my stomach knotted as I remembered when I’d been here before.

“Is your cabin nearby?” I asked Devlen.

“I was wondering if you recognized the area,” he said with a faint smile. “The good old days.”

I bit my lip to keep from contradicting him. When he wasn’t trying to play with my mind and emotions, he enjoyed irritating me, too. For example, he had lapsed back into the Daviian pattern of speech instead of trying to mimic Ulrick. “How close?”

Devlen scanned the woods and met my gaze. An odd sensation rippled through me. Seeing his cold calculation in Ulrick’s vibrant green eyes still unsettled me. Ulrick’s long eyelashes, black hair and sharp features all remained, but I longed for Ulrick’s tender smile.