Born in Magic

This is the story of how Cordelia Cooper went from being the servant of a half-trained charlatan to the powerful and dangerous wizard we met in Anoria. It took many adventures in the Orclands as well as attending the College of Wizardry at Kronisburg. But that’s just the way it is when you’re Born in Magic.

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Anoria’s teacher and adoptive mother Cordelia Cooper wasn’t always the powerful and dangerous wizard we met in Anoria. She started out as a poor village girl who didn’t understand her gift of magic. She was given to a half trained charlatan of a book wizard. Rojer Cartwright had no intention of teaching Cordelia any more magic than he had to to get her to make and charge magical items for him.

Cordelia found herself Rojer’s prisoner as they took ship for the Orclands. On the ship she met and befriended the Brooks family. Using a hidden spellbook, Cordelia tried to learn not just magic but how to read.

In the Orclands, Rojer drags Cordelia with him into danger and the real possibility of being sacrificed to an Orc god. But with the help of the Brooks, Cordelia gets an opportunity to go to the College of Wizardry at Kronisburg. There will be still more adventures before she can get down to studying Wizardry. That’s just the way it is when you’re Born in Magic.

Location: Cooper House
Date: 25 Barra, 86 AF (After Founding)

“Mama?” Cordelia paused a moment, just in case Mama was still sleeping. She didn’t want to wake her if that was at all possible. Mama was in such a bad way, she needed all the rest she could get.

There was silence from the bed.

“Mama?”

Too much silence. And the colors were wrong. Cordelia had seen the colors her whole life and she assumed that everyone else saw them too. But the colors and patterns that were around Mama now were different than they were supposed to be. They were dimmer and didn’t twirl and weave as much as they always had.

“Mama?” Cordelia stepped quietly to the bed, worried but not wanting to believe what her senses were telling her. She should be hearing mama’s breathing, but she didn’t. The colors should be swirlier and richer, but they weren’t. There was no whisper of breath, no movement.  And Cordelia knew that her mother would never move again.  Mama was dead.

“Mama?” Cordelia “Oh, Mama . . .”

Location:Greenshire Cemetery
Date: 27 Barra, 86 AF

Michael Cooper, all of fourteen years old, patted his father’s shoulder. “Come, Papa.  Let’s go home.”

Tomas Cooper was devastated by his wife’s death, even though she’d been sick for months. He didn’t want to leave the village’s burial ground.  Michael, though, knew that work wasn’t going to wait for his father to recover from Mama’s loss, and the count wasn’t going to forgive the family’s rent just because their mother had died. The family were sharecroppers in the eighty-sixth year after the founding of White Hall county. They didn’t own their farm or the two room house that grandpa had built, but rented it. And every year it seemed they fell farther and farther behind on the rent.

“We’ve got to get out to the fields, Papa,” Michael said. “Harvest won’t wait, and the Intercessor says that the rains will start soon.”

Harvest was the most important time of year in the village of Greenshire. Harvested crops were sold, then the rent was paid. And then you did the whole thing over again the next year. It was hard work, but it was all they knew. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to do much else if you were a peasant villager in Whitehall County.

Sometimes Michael dreamed of going out west and getting some of the elf lands that people said were free for the taking. But how could he do that now? The family needed him.  Papa was so sad all the time. His sister Cordelia was only twelve and she was going to have to do all of Mama’s work now. Susie, Eleanora and Robbie, at eight, five and two, were too young to be much help. Well, Susie could help some. Cordelia was short and thin, dark haired like all the family and if her face had sharp features, it also had a presence.

“Come on, Susie,” Cordelia said. “We’ve got to get home and start dinner.”

Location:Greenshire Market Square
Date: 15 Cashi, 86 AF

From her birth, Cordelia had walked through a world overlain with shifting colors and patterns, and lately those colors and patterns were becoming more intense. It was a gradual thing, and Cordelia wasn’t at all sure when they’d started getting stronger, but by now they were getting to be really distracting.

Cordelia didn’t have any way of knowing it, but she was a natural wizard starting to come into her power. Some people said that natural wizards had dragon blood, dragons being able to change their form at will.  But that was one of the many stories that Cordelia didn’t know. Magic wasn’t much talked about in her little village. She had no way of knowing she was different.

She knew that no one else talked about the colors and patterns.  But there were a lot of things you weren’t supposed to talk about, so that meant nothing much.

Today was market day in the village and things weren’t going well. She had made pies, but no one was buying them. She didn’t have her mother’s touch in the kitchen. So she was fetching water to serve at the market stall.

She reached the well and lowered the bucket to the water. Once it was full she started the difficult task of cranking the bucket back up. She had it most of the way up when Joey Bookman snuck up behind her and shouted “Boo!”

Cordelia jerked, startled, and suddenly there was a twisting of the colors, orange and red and blue twirled around and the crankshaft on the well broke and fell into the water far below.

Joey took one look at the broken shaft and ran off shouting, “Cordelia broke the well, Cordelia broke the well!”

Cordelia hadn’t broken the well. She was almost certain. She couldn’t have. She had been startled and jerked her hands away from the crank and the well. It had seemed, for an instant, like she was pulling the colors.

And fortunately, at least this time, the village elders agreed with her.  She wasn’t strong enough to break the crankshaft, which was an oak pole three inches thick.

That was, she would later come to realize, probably the first time her magic manifested.

It wasn’t the last.

Location: Greenshire Temple
Date: 11 Noron, 87 AF

Six months later, the village elders weren’t so sure anymore. Neither was Cordelia. At twelve and a half, Cordelia wasn’t much changed. She was still short, on the thin side, and except for her long black hair, looked as much like a boy as a girl.

“I never touched that wagon wheel,” Cordelia said. “There was just this curl of red and blue and then the wagon wheel broke.” They were in the side room of the small village Temple that Intercesor Torson used as a combination office and storeroom. His house was next door.

Intercessor Torson, the village’s only intercessor and naturally enough an Intercessor of Barra, god of harvest, listened to Cordelia’s explanation and his worries only increased. He wasn’t sure, because it had been a long time since his predecessor sent him off to Gent for training, but he thought that Cordelia’s mention of colors in the air sounded like natural magic.  And natural magic . . . well, elves had natural magic and that was enough to make it bad in Intercessor Torson’s view. He began to wonder if, perhaps, an imp or minor demon was hanging around Cordelia.

That would be bad.

Yet he did not want to condemn the girl without hearing, so he wrote a message to the Temple at Gent asking for an inquisition into the state of the girl.

Location: Green Lion Inn, Gent
Date: 27 Noron, 87 AF

“We had another one today,” Alfon Thistle mumbled. Alfon was a clerk at the temple and a deacon of Justain, God of Law, who would never be a full intercessor. He was good at his job, if bitter at his lack of prospects, and more than a little corrupt. He didn’t think much of wizards but would talk to anyone who was buying and Rojer Cartwright found him a good source of information.

“Another what?” Rojer asked, in a friendly manner, oozing the respect Alfon thought a clerk of the Temple deserved from anyone not of the Temple.

“Oh, another silly letter from a local Intercessor. This one thinks he’s got a demon-possessed girl. Young girl, strange things happening, and the intercessor at hand is one of the old types, you know, no education—or hardly any. He figures the girl has come to the attention of a local demon and wants an exorcism. We’re going to write him back and tell him to find her a wizardry apprenticeship. Say—” The clerked looked at Rojer drunkenly. “—you’re a wizard, aren’t you?”

Rojer ran his hand over the purple embroidery of his wizard’s robe in a gesture meant to look casual, but also designed to call attention to the rank the purple embroidery signified. Rojer was a handsome man, if he said so himself, thick reddish brown hair, a square jaw, a firm mouth, and his carefully trimmed beard added a distinguished and scholarly air to his appearance. “Yes, I am.  But why should I take on an apprentice who is a natural wizard? I’m a book wizard.”

The clerk snorted. “I know you’re not a real wizard, but magic is magic, isn’t it?” Book wizardry had been around for well over a hundred years, but to people like Alfon, it was still a lesser sort of wizardry. “Natural wizards have power. That’s what makes them natural wizards. Teach her to charge your magical gewgaws. That alone ought to pay for her keep. How about I give you a letter of introduction and you can just go fetch her? As long as you take her away from the village, I don’t much care what you do after that.”

Rojer let the tone of mild contempt roll off his back. There was money to be had in this; he could smell it. Besides, the clerk was right in a way. Magic was magic, though the approaches taken to learn it were different for natural and book wizards.

“Where is this village?” Rojer asked.

“Greenshire. Up in Whitehall County.”

“Where’s that?”

“You go upriver to a little place called Coppriceshire. And then follow the road down to Greenshire.”

“That’s a lot of money,” Rojer said, “to have my wagon barged up the river. If I’m going to be handling this problem for the church, then the least you could do is pay my fare.”

“I’ll have to ask about that,” the clerk said.

As it happened, Rojer did not receive any funds from the church. And he almost decided to pass on the whole thing. It was enough trouble to support himself and his mule. But he thought he might be able to get some money out of the family of this girl.  And Thistle, the drunken sot, did have a point about using the girl to reload magical items. Rojer did get the letter of introduction. That would probably make it easier to sell some supposedly magical knickknacks to the villagers.

The next day Rojer set out for Whitehall County and the village of Greenshire.

Location: Road into Greenshire
Date: 9 Zagrod, 87 AF

The letter of introduction has proved quite useful, Rojer thought, as his wagon made its slow way along the road from Coppriceshire to Greenshire. The wagon was a brightly painted affair. The walls were canvas on a wood frame. It was, in fact, a converted farm wagon, but you could hardly tell that, the way it was painted with magical symbols, most of which meant absolutely nothing.

The Temple didn’t bother to check Rojer out, but took his robes at face value, in part because it was hard to check out the credentials of a wizard. Most wizards were trained by a master and while it was, in theory, against the rules to wear the robes of a full wizard without the confirmed abilities, there was very little enforcement. In essence, you had to run into a wizard who took offense. There were a lot of people running around in wizard robes with purple embroidery, and a lot of them had even less talent and training than Rojer.

When Rojer ran off from his master, he wore the white robe with the green embroidery of a caster, which was awarded after a book wizard learned his first spells and was given his wizard tattoo. Rojer had no idea what his rank should be by now. Sometimes he even thought that he deserved the purple embroidery he wore.

In fact, were he to be tested by a wizard’s board, they would probably grant him the silver-threaded embroidery of a mid-ranked wanderer. Of course, they would kill him for wearing the purple of a full wizard, so it wasn’t something Rojer was going to test.

Besides, now he had a letter from the temple at Gent stating that he was a book wizard of the second purple rank. That letter helped him sell his potions and spells more easily. So it was with a fuller-than-normal purse that Rojer Cartwright rolled into Greenshire.

Location: Cooper House, Greenshire
Date: 9 Zagrod, 87 AF

Cordelia Cooper didn’t know about the wizard until her father came and got her. She was fixing dinner and the family’s cottage was some distance from the center of town.

“Come with me, Cordelia,” Papa said.

“Papa, I’ve nearly got dinner ready,” Cordelia said.

“Susie can manage it for now,” Papa said, much to Susie’s dismay. “You come with me now.”

“Yes, Papa.” When Papa spoke like that, there was no arguing.

They walked in silence to the little Temple, in front of which Cordelia saw a wagon. The wagon was covered with a painted canvas top that had writing on it, and brightly painted symbols. It looked like the wagon that the tinker used, but it was even more brightly painted in purple and yellow. There were pictures of little bottles and Cordelia wondered if it was a patent medicine wagon.

“Whose wagon is that?” Cordelia asked.

“A wizard is here and he has a letter from the Temple at Gent. Come on,” Papa said.

“But—”

“I said, come on!” Papa grabbed her shoulder and pulled her along somewhat roughly.

Cordelia decided to keep her questions to herself. Papa was really upset about something and Cordelia was afraid that it might be the strange things that kept happening around her.

“That’s right, Intercessor Torson,” Cordelia heard as they entered the Temple. “It’s probably not a demon, though I’ll be able to tell if it is. What you’ve probably got here, Intercessor, is a brand new natural wizard just coming into her powers. Not that that can’t be even more dangerous than a demon, if it’s left on its own, you understand. Basically, for whatever reasons, the gods decided to give some people a natural talent for magic.  And if that talent is trained, it can be downright useful. But if’n it’s not, things start getting busted.

“My master was a natural wizard and he told some stories that would curl your hair.” The wizard paused to take a drink from the mug, probably some of the beer that Intercessor Torson brewed. “So the Temple says that it’s probably best if’n I take her as an apprentice and get her trained up. But I can’t do that without a fee. It’s too darn expensive to train a wizard. There’s the magical papers and ink you gotta have to record the spells. And it’s pretty dangerous dealing with an untrained natural wizard. They can kill you without half trying.”

By now Cordelia knew that she was the subject of the conversation. And while she was somewhat relieved to know that she hadn’t attracted the attention of a demon, being a natural wizard didn’t sound that much better. What if she actually did kill somebody by accident? What if she got scared and turned little Robbie into a frog?

Papa cleared his throat and Intercessor Torson looked up. “Ah, there you are, Tomas. Cordelia, this is Rojer Cartwright, a wizard. He’s going to be your master.”

Cordelia didn’t mind the idea of being an apprentice, but she wasn’t thrilled at the thought that this man, in his gaudy robe, was her master. She saw knots and whirls around the man and there had been some around the wagon as well. Perhaps that was magic, but she saw whirls around everything, constantly changing, and always had. It certainly didn’t seem like magic. Still, Rojer Cartwright had little knots of color that she couldn’t identify tied to him in a way she couldn’t understand. She looked him over and nodded her head. “Sir.”

“Oh, call me Rojer.  No ranks among us wizardly types.”

“Yes, sir.” Cordelia looked up at her father. “I’m to go with him? When?”

“You go on back to the house, finish dinner,” Papa said. “I’ve got some business here, then I’ll bring him and the wagon to pick you up. Pack your things.”

✽✽✽

“That’s what Papa said,” Cordelia told Michael. “And Intercessor Torson just kept nodding. So I guess I’m going.”

“And all the broken stuff?  The strange things that happen?  That’s just you?” Michael said. “That doesn’t seem so bad. Why do you have to go?”

“I heard Mister Cartwright say that natural wizards are dangerous. And it’s got me worried. What if I accidentally hurt Susie? Or Robbie? You know how he’s always hiding and scaring us all. Maybe I need to go off and learn all this stuff.”

Tack jingling outside gave them warning that their father and the wizard had arrived. Michael stood up and headed for the door. “Well, if you think so.  But if anything bad happens, you come back here. You’re my sister and it’s up to me to protect you, no matter what that stupid intercessor thinks. You hear me?”

It made Cordelia feel a lot better to know that Michael wasn’t afraid of her. “I’ll be back someday. You can count on that.”

Cordelia started putting the food on the table, then called Susie, Eleanora and Robbie to the table just as Papa, Michael, and the wizard came in.

It was a strained meal. Papa explained to the younger children that Cordelia had to go away and they all cried.  Cordelia was pretty sure that Susie was crying more because she’d have more cooking to do, but Eleanora and Robbie were crying because they didn’t want her to go, just for herself.  Michael looked angry and Cordelia wasn’t sure why.

“Time for us to get on the road,” Rojer said. “You’d best get your things.”

Michael came up to the loft to help Cordelia carry her basket. “That, that . . . whatever he is! He’s charged Papa almost all the money we have to take you with him!”

“I heard him say that it was expensive to train a wizard,” Cordelia said.

“Seems to me that if the Temple wants him to take you, the Temple ought to be paying him, not Papa!” Then Michael started to whisper and handed Cordelia a small wrapped bundle. “You take this.  And when you get a chance, tie the knife to your leg somewhere. I don’t want you out there with no protection at all.”

Once they climbed down from the loft, Cordelia hugged and kissed Eleanora and Robbie. Susie still looked unhappy, so Cordelia told her that she’d left her best skirt behind, since she didn’t want to mess it up traveling.  Susie looked a little happier then.

Michael gave Cordelia a big hug and whispered, “Don’t you forget where we are. Come back. Come back anytime.”

Papa looked beaten-down. “Intercessor says it’s for the best, Cordelia. And you can’t keep breaking things here. You know that.”

“I do, Papa.  I’ll learn and someday I’ll come back, so you’ll know I’m all right.”

“Get in the wagon,” Rojer said. “Enough goodbyes!”

✽✽✽

Rojer Cartwright pulled up the wagon little more than a mile from Greenshire. “Get down, girl. I need to craft See Magic.”

While Cordelia climbed down from the wagon, the wizard pulled out a book and a blanket and headed for a patch of soft green grass between the road and the field. “You see to old Beau, girl. Unhitch him and let him graze a bit.”

So Cordelia saw to the mule that pulled the wagon. It was an old gray mule who had seen better days, but seemed friendly enough. She unhitched him and led him over to a patch of grass, while Rojer crafted a spell on the side of the dirt path that was called a road between Greenshire and Brookshire. She could see the swirls forming around the wizard and contracting down into little knots, and hooking together with other swirls and shapes and eddies. It was both like and unlike the colors she had seen all her life. After a few minutes, about the time she was finished unhitching and rubbing the mule, he was done.

“Come here, girl,” he said.

“Yes, Rojer,” Cordelia said, trying it on for size.

He waited until she had reached him, then hit her hard. It was his open hand but the blow was so hard that it knocked her to the ground and it felt like he’d broken something. He hadn’t, not quite, but the next time that Cordelia looked into a pot of water she saw that she had a large red mark on the left side of her face. Then he pointed an accusing finger at her. “You’re my apprentice. You will call me Master Cartwright or you’ll rue your impertinence.”

“But you said—”

“You sassing me, girl?” He raised his hand again, getting ready to hit her, but then he reconsidered, visibly. “No,” he said more to himself than to her. “I guess you’re just slow. I wasn’t your master when I said to call me Rojer. Now I am. I’m your master until you finish your twelve years of training.”

Twelve years! That was almost as long as she had been alive and a normal apprenticeship was only seven years. She almost brought this up, but was afraid he’d hit her again.

He motioned with his hand. “Get up now, girl. I’ve got something to show you.”

Cordelia got up cautiously, afraid both that he would hit her when she got up and that he would hit her if she didn’t, and looked longingly back down the path that would lead to her village.”

“Don’t even think about it, girl. They paid enough to get rid of you. They won’t be happy to see you back again, untrained and dangerous. ‘Sides, they’re just a bunch of peasants.” Contempt dripped from his voice. “Tenant farmers, not even freeholders. Not much better than serfs or slaves from the southern provinces. You’re training to be a wizard. Now hold still!” He reached out with his left hand and touched her on her forehead, just above and between her eyes. In a place that other people, in other lands, would call the third eye.

And suddenly the colors and shapes that she had seen all her life were brighter and sharper than they had ever been.

The grass was no greener than it had always been, but the colored swirls that had always swirled around each blade of grass, those were suddenly much more intense.

“That’s wizard sight,” Master Cartwright—no, Rojer—told her. She might have to call him Master Cartwright out loud, but she promised herself then and there that she would never call him master in her mind. That promise would prove both painful and difficult to keep over the next few years, but she would keep it.

“Now then, I know natural wizards see magic anyway, but that doesn’t mean that the spell is useless,” he went on. “You’re seeing the magic better, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir . . . I mean, yes, Master Cartwright.”

“That’s right, girl. Master Cartwright.” He smirked. “Wondered if you were going to try that ‘sir’ bit again.”

Cordelia started hating him then, but she kept her mouth shut.

“For a natural wizard, that spell makes it easy to see what’s magic and what ain’t,” Rojer said. “You saw me crafting that spell, right? Look over at that tree over there.” He pointed. “Now I want you to imagine a blue ball hanging in front of that tree.”

Cordelia tried, and as she was visualizing the blue ball, she could see the magic swirl around it. Rojer was nodding and he said, “That’s right. Now turn the ball red,” which she did.  As the ball went from blue to red, the swirling changed direction.

“Now you see?  You can manipulate the magic by thinking of certain things. A blue ball swirls it one way, while a red one swirls it the other. A purple ball swirls it in a completely different direction, and a green coil ties it all up. Over the next while, I’m going to teach you some drills that’ll help you control your magic so you won’t be half-crafting spells by accident. Now, you go get Beau hooked back up to the cart and we’ll be on our way.”

Location: On the Road
Date: 10 Zagrod, 87 AF

As the wagon made its slow way out of Brookshire, Rojer started the lesson for today.  Which was almost the same as the lesson for yesterday.  Again, Cordelia had to make the blue ball, and this time Rojer had her adjust the color of the ball a little bit. And all day long, with only the occasional break, Cordelia made and unmade that horrible blue ball.

They camped that night and the next day was just the same. Rojer spent a couple of hours crafting spells. Cordelia watched him work while trying to keep from being obvious about it, because she was supposed to be doing the camp chores. One thing was clear, Rojer was very focused while he was working. He never noticed much of anything while he was crafting. That let Cordelia sneak looks at what he was doing, as long as the camp chores got done.

She couldn’t see what he was thinking, but she could see the effect it had on the magic. She guessed that he was thinking about blue balls and other shapes and colors. It wasn’t all mental. He made gestures and she could see those gestures having an effect on the magic flow.

Rojer spent part of the morning crafting spells into magic items like the Keeper box and a few others that they used regularly. He used Slippery, a spell that went on the axles and sometimes Mend, a spell on the canvas cover of the wagon. Then they would climb aboard the wagon and move out. As the wagon moved along there would be more drill.

They reached Herinshire and Rojer sold more magic. Then it was three days of blue balls, until they reached Hillshire. Rojer sold some more items at Hillshire and muttered about the spell safe getting low.

Cordelia had no idea what he meant by that. “What’s a spell safe, Master Cartwright?”

Rojer looked at her like she was an idiot. “Don’t you know anything about magic, girl?”

Cordelia bit back the comment that he hadn’t taught her anything yet.

“A spell safe is what you store a magic item in while it matures.”

That wasn’t that much help, Cordelia thought. “Why?”

He sighed. Heavily. Like it was just too much trouble to answer. “A magic item is a little like wine. You have to let it mature gradually, over time, to get the best quality. It works like this. Let’s take Clean Cloth, the spell you’ve seen me use to clean up our clothes, and like I’ve sold in places we’ve gone through. For that one, you take a little-bitty short-bristle whisk broom and you carve symbols and patterns on it that match the spells of cleaning. It can be tricky, getting those right, so that takes a while. It takes skill and patience and an understanding of the spell you’re going to cast on it. You don’t have to do it all at once, except for the last bit. After you’ve got it all carved up and prepared right, you take magic moss and press it into the engraving. And once it’s pressed in, you cast a spell on that whisk broom to bond the magic moss into it. Then you craft the Clean Cloth into it, and when that’s all done, you take the broom and you put it in your spell safe to let it mature. Generally speaking, the longer you let it mature, the better the quality. But there are limits. No matter how long you let it sit, Clean Cloth is still Clean Cloth. It ain’t never going to turn into a mending spell.

“But that’s one of the problems of being a wizard. It takes a long time to get paid after you’ve done the work, sitting around waiting for magic items to mature.”

Location: On the Road
Date: 16 Zagrod, 87 AF

They had been traveling over a week when they reached Lakeside Village on the shore of Lake Thorenga.

Rojer told her, “Lake Thorenga is a large inland lake about six miles across and over nine miles long. It’s the headwaters of the Thorenga River, with a waterfall from the lake to the river that is over a hundred feet tall. We’ll follow the shore of Lake Thorenga south, then east around to the other side of the lake, then follow the Thorenga River west to the northern sea. Probably. Getting magic materials isn’t easy out here in the country.”

Since he was unable to buy magic materials, Rojer went ahead and bought another mule at Lakeside. “Poor old Beau, he can’t travel very fast alone. Another mule, more speed.” The new mule was called George, and wasn’t all that much younger than Beau.

It was the day after they left Lakeside that Rojer started her on the red curl, saying, “You have a start on the blue ball. Now we’ll add the red curl.”

And they did. Alternating between the blue ball and the red curl whenever Rojer called out a change. One thing that Cordelia noticed was that as the red curl curled inward it seemed to get brighter and wanted to go from red to orange. Rojer insisted that she keep it a consistent color all the way from the outside to the center. But when she did, he insisted that it was too purple. So she let it shift just a little bit to the orange while it curled into the center, and Rojer said that was better.

As they made their way around Lake Thorenga, Rojer made her make first a blue ball, then a red curl, then a blue ball again and on and on. Cordelia’s days were full of exercises, trying to hold the blue ball and the red curl both in her mind.

“Master Cartwright,” Cordelia said, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice, “what am I doing?”

“You’re learning to craft the parts of a spell. In fact, you’re learning to craft the parts of several spells. The blue ball and the red curl are used in all the practice spells.”

“I don’t understand why I’m learning it this way, Master Cartwright.” Cordelia had learned to be very careful to use “Master” when speaking to Rojer. If she used it, she usually got more information. If she didn’t, she got yelled at or hit. Or was sometimes given yet more exercises with the hated blue ball. “Aren’t the spells in your book?”

“Of course it is,” Rojer said. “Every spell book in the world probably has the practice spells in it. And all the practice spells start with the blue ball and the red curl.”

“Then why can’t I look at the book and make the spell that way?”

“Because it wouldn’t do you any good. You’re a natural wizard. You have to internalize the spell. It has to become part of you. And the best way to do that is what we’re doing. Constant practice, until each part is automatic. Step by step, one shape at a time, one color at a time. Get it right just once, and getting it right the second time will be quicker. And—” He sniffed. “—it naturally follows that if you get it right the second time, the third time will be easier still.”

None of this made sense to Cordelia, but Rojer was still talking.

“Natural wizards do their magic by feel, not by intellect. It takes a book wizard to understand book wizardry. You natural wizards are more artistic types. You’ve got to feel the magic before you can use it. And I’m giving you the tools to feel the magic.”

That also didn’t make any sense to Cordelia. She’d always been good with numbers, had a very good memory, and was good at solving puzzles. It was true that she couldn’t read. No one in the village could read except the intercessor. But she felt certain that she could learn to read, given the opportunity. And she didn’t feel at all artistic. Art was something fancy people did, in the big towns, for lords and ladies.

But one thing was certainly clear. Rojer wasn’t going to let her see his spell book.

So, it was back to blue ball, red curl and, eventually, the purple funnel, keeping one in her mind, then two in her mind, and then all three in her mind at the same time. And watching Rojer craft his spells every morning, Cordelia was almost sure that she recognized the red curl by the ripples that it made in the magic.

By the time Cordelia was capable of keeping the ball, the funnel, and the curl in her mind at the same time, they were halfway down the Thorenga River. And it was there that they met Aradrel, the elf.

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