Chapter XII – The Magician Instructs

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Sarton as an absent-minded old fogey could be difficult. Sarton as a determined instructor is downright merciless. Or at least it feels that way to me.

I’m officially locked into his workroom until he decides I’m mostly over what Lady Vorana did to me. And he throws books at me. Books on magical theory. Books of spells. For all I know, there’s a book in that pile on magical rock hunting.

“Read, read, read,” he urges me. “You’ll learn a bit, be confused by more, tie up your mind, and be worn out by the end of the day.”

If only it were this easy!

So I’m reading. Sarton refuses to tell me in what order to read things. “Every magician must learn to organize his craft according to his own way of thinking,” he lectures me. There are times reading these books I doubt I have a way of thinking, let alone that there is one in the books.

I’m beginning to catch on, though. Sarton comes and quizzes me on what I’ve read, forcing me to think about it. He pokes and prods and I’ve actually yelled at him a few times in frustration. But I come away with ideas to investigate. And that, I’m sure, is what he intends.

One good thing about this is that I’m eating better. Since Sarton won’t let me out, he’s ordering food from the Royal Masters’ Dining Hall for both of us. They even have holaisia. I haven’t had holaisia since I left home. It’s a luxury here. I had forgotten how much I missed it at first when I came here.

The bad thing is that I can’t communicate with Paviara, let alone see her. It’s not just her company I miss. She was planning to help me steal some dragon’s teeth from Lady Gwella. I don’t know if she’s actually done anything about that, or, worse yet, been caught by Lady Gwella. Sarton won’t even entertain my sending her a message.

Maybe it’s just as well. Sarton tells me that until I get over the troubling visions, it’s not safe for me to be with any woman. The feelings I have in the visions would overwhelm me. I wouldn’t be able to control my behavior. “It’s not as if you’re used to practicing self-control that way,” Sarton drily concludes. Easy for you to say, old man.

I take that back. I’m realizing I don’t know Sarton at all. The man I’m dealing with now is not the old fogey I’ve known for a year. And I’m only now learning what he does with much of his time.

Sarton observes. A surprising amount of the magic he tries and uses is to observe what’s going on in the world. It’s how he knew about Paviara and me. Not that he knows everything. He missed the Earl of Haulloran getting the queen pregnant.

I ask him about that. “One can’t look for what one isn’t expecting, or isn’t interested in,” is his response. “Knowledge is one of the cheapest and most useful forms of power. But it’s not a passive tool, Tollon. One has to use it, extend it, recognize what you don’t know, accept that some things aren’t worth bothering about. Whom the queen beds is not a priority for me to know. Whom my apprentice beds is.”

I blush out of embarrassment. Thanks for the reminder. I have to wonder just how much you saw. But I’m taking your lessons to heart, Sarton. Because I know enough to ask an important question. “But what about the earl’s wife, Lady Gwella? Isn’t she your rival?” Everyone knows Lady Gwella is out for power, power for herself.

“Is she my rival?” Sarton appears amused by the idea. “You no doubt believe that Gwella wants to be Court Magician. She does. She wants to be queen. She wants to be ruler of the world, with a harem of princes for her lovers, and untold wealth in her treasury.” Sarton shakes his head. “That doesn’t make her my rival, Tollon. She may think so. I know better. Someday you’ll understand why. And on that day, you’ll have finished your apprenticeship. Now, get back to reading!”

This is how life goes, for five days. I sit in Sarton’s library and read. I come out to eat, to take care of my body, to sleep. We talk. Sarton does his best to make me answer my own questions. I contemplate ways of killing him, only briefly. And the visions I have, of what Lady Vorana made me do, slowly begin to fade. I manage to sleep through an entire night without waking up out of a deeply disturbing dream.

I tell Sarton this over breakfast. He nods. He doesn’t smile. He says to me, “Good. You should get out today. But don’t go see your girl, boy. She doesn’t want to see or speak to you anymore.”

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