The Death of Me

Just what happened to make Kallizar the way she is? Why does she live so far from anywhere, in a country threatening to destroy her homeland? And what is the darkness that flickers behind her eyes?

An excerpt from Fire in the Blood:

 

“You’re up early.” Aeva laughed as Riat jumped slightly at her words. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”

Riat settled back down into one of the comfy chairs in the lounge of the Fortress. “That’s all right. I’m still a little jumpy, I guess, even though I’ve been here for two months.”

Aeva smiled and flopped down into a chair facing him. “And how are you liking it?” she asked. “Better than what you had expected?”

“It’s… incredible,” Riat said. “I didn’t know if she was serious about any of it, but…”

“Kallizar is quite unique,” Aeva agreed. “We were lucky.”

 Riat chewed his lip. “Aeva, if I ask you something, can I have your word that you won’t tell the Sorcerer?”

“Only if you call her Kallizar,” Aeva winked at him. “She’s the boss, but she’s also your friend.”

Riat smiled. Aeva liked this – he looked even nicer when he smiled. “All right then. If you promise not to tell Kallizar.”

“Ask away.”

“It’s kind of why I’m up early,” Riat began, not knowing how to phrase his question correctly.

Aeva’s smile faded. “You want to know why she was screaming this morning.”

Riat looked down. “It’s none of my business. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, it’s all right.” Aeva rubbed her face with her hands. “Truth is, I don’t know, and Kallizar isn’t exactly falling over herself to explain anything.”

Riat didn’t miss the undertone in Aeva’s voice.

Aeva sighed. “I wish I knew more,” she confessed, caught by Riat’s gaze, “because I only know a little bit about magic, and nothing about Kallizar. What I think I know I’ve just had to guess, and that just makes me want to ask Kallizar even more questions. And we know how well that works.”

“I get more response from asking her horse,” Riat agreed. “And all he does is snort at me.”

That made Aeva chuckle a little. “Anyway… I know the basics – Kallizar has magic, obviously, so how old she is is anyone’s guess. Most of the people in Montega thought she was around one hundred when she came over from Fyan, and it’s been nearly that long since she was back there.”

Riat shook his head. “That’s intense. She looks around thirty, maybe.”

“Something about magic lets Sorcerers recover from sickness and injury faster and slows down their aging, but other than that, I don’t understand it either.” Aeva tapped a finger on her knee. “Actually, asking Kallizar about that might be fine. That’s not a personal thing.”

“And she’s really from Fyan, then. I wondered, since she’s got a bit of an accent in Vaerish.”

“So far as I know, yes. And she didn’t leave under happy circumstances, or she wouldn’t have stayed in Montega.”

That was an understatement. Montega was the outcasts’ town, the last sanctuary for people on the run from something before being forced out on their own or fleeing the country altogether. That Kallizar had left Fyan for the country on the verge of war with them meant something very bad had happened, and the fact that she had stayed in a place like Montega meant something even worse. Riat couldn’t suppress the shiver that crept down his spine. “Are you sure it’s safe? I mean, safe for us?”

“No one’s keeping you here. Anytime you want to leave, you know where the door is.”

Aeva’s vehement reply caught Riat off-guard. “No, that’s not what I meant,” he said hastily. “I mean, something happened to Kallizar. Something bad. Wouldn’t it be safer for us – and for her – if we knew? Whatever it was, she came to Varaetí to escape it. That’s a big deal.”

Aeva took several deep breaths. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. It’s just that Kallizar’s the first friend I’ve ever had, and she genuinely cares about me.”

Riat understood.

“But I think you’re right. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, since you’ve only been here a little while, but there are times when I wonder if she ever really escaped anything.” The black flames burned in Aeva’s mind and she shivered.

“The thought had crossed my mind.” Riat’s thoughts went to the screams that had woken him. He didn’t even know what feelings must have been at play to make such heart-wrenching sounds.

“Then I suppose I had better tell you, before you find out half of the story on your own and don’t stay around for the rest.”

Aeva jumped so badly she actually slid onto the floor. Riat managed to get his feet under him, but just barely. Both of them turned to see Kallizar leaning against the far door way, her face impassive.

“How long have you been there?” Aeva sputtered, getting herself back together.

“Long enough. Your explanation of magic was a bit underwhelming, but more or less accurate, by the way.” A smile lit Kallizar’s features.

Aeva gulped. “Um, wow, you’ve been there for… a while.”

Kallizar pushed away from the wall and crossed her arms lightly. “You two trusted me at points in your lives when trust should have been an impossibility. I owe you the same courtesy. After that, if you want to leave, you know where the door is.” She winked at Aeva, whose face flushed. “Now come on. I’ll explain as we walk – some of this is going to take showing for you to believe.”

 

I was the Honored Sorcerer of Fyan, a member of the High Court and advisor to my friend Fawlen, King of Fyan. His family was the only family I had ever really known.

At the Fyanish palace lived emissaries from the powerful nation of Lubek and its long-time ally, Patal. No Sorcerers had been born on Lubeki or Patalian soil in centuries, so they demanded that as a token of continued peace, the Honored Sorcerer be sent to live in Lubek. When they realized Fawlen would not willingly trade me away, they resorted to darker means to drive me from the High Court. In the end, they arranged for the murders of the queen and the young prince with me at the center of the chaos.

My king ordered me hanged at dawn.  

I escaped the prison, found my one remaining friend in the palace – Cade, my servant – and booked us passage on a merchant ship headed for Varaetí. Montega hid us until I built my Fortress in the woods, banished from my home and hidden from the world.

 

“We thought we were safe here – no one from Fyan would set foot on Vaerish soil without a declaration of war, and no one in Varaetí knew that I existed.”

The three of them were outside now, walking through the largest of Kallizar’s gardens. Aeva belatedly realized they were headed towards the off-limits corner. Her pulse quickened – she told herself it was out of excitement, but she didn’t entirely believe herself.  

“I’m guessing there’s more to the story, then.” Riat’s words sounded matter-of-fact, but no one was fooled.

“Unfortunately, I failed to take the Lubeki and Patalian emissaries into account; they were still in Fyan and King Fawlen was looking for any means possible to get revenge on me. They offered him the perfect solution: send a young Sorcerer to Varaetí to force me out of hiding, and when I showed my face, have all the Fyanish merchant houses’ ships ready to bring me back to face judgment. I’m sure the emissaries expected the merchants to fail, but it would give their own allies a chance to grab me.”

Kallizar opened the iron gate and motioned for the two to follow. Dozens of vibrantly colored flowers grew here, none of them familiar to Aeva’s eyes. Fyanish lilies, Kallizar had told her. Aeva resisted the urge to pick one.

Kallizar wasn’t finished. “What they didn’t count on was the young Sorcerer. They assumed he would be eager to help capture the fiend who had murdered his country’s royalty. He was eager to find me, but not for Fyan or anyone else: what he wanted was my knowledge, my spells, and my life. I barely knew he was here before he poisoned me and ransacked my study.”

Both Riat and Aeva stared at her. “That’s horrible. How did you survive?”

Kallizar stepped around one more corner and gestured to the left.

“Kallizar,” said Aeva, her voice suddenly much too calm to be genuine, “what is that?”

“That would be a gravestone.”

“I can see that. Why does it have your name on it?”

The Sorcerer leaned against the black marble. “My choices were flee or die. I didn’t flee far enough, because they still caught me. That poison, Tan’jeht, was created specifically for use against Sorcerers, destroying the magic in our blood. I didn’t have a chance. I was murdered almost a century ago.”

Riat couldn’t breathe properly. His eyes were glued to the stone, Kallizar’s name staring back at him. “But… resurrection is impossible. Even for Prophets.”

“That is true. But there are other things magic can do.” Kallizar’s voice was soft. “I was terrified when I reached Varaetí – afraid that every morning, I would wake up with a knife over my throat. I used a spell to anchor my soul to my body, to protect myself from death long enough to get help.” She looked away. “I had no idea what the effects would actually do to me.”

“What the effects… what happened to you?” Aeva slumped to the ground in a kind of shock, her voice barely audible.

“Aeva, you’ve seen proof enough in my eyes. There’s something there that shouldn’t be,” Kallizar replied gently. “What you’re seeing is the touch of the After. It got a taste of my soul and it won’t be happy until it gets the rest of me.”

Riat took in slow, deliberate breaths to try to calm his nerves. He wasn’t successful. “So… you’re dead.”

“Was.”

“You were dead. But now you’re not, because you had a spell powerful enough to bring you back?”

Kallizar answered him plainly. “I had a spell to keep my soul from crossing to the After. When I died, that spell triggered and prevented me from seeing the After for more than a minute or two. Because I anchored that spell to my physical body, it didn’t break when I died – the After has no hold on this world.”

Riat didn’t even understand half of that, but he tried to accept it anyway. “What happened to the boy?”

“I’m sure the emissaries were… displeased to discover that the boy had killed me. And they never took failure lightly.”

Riat had one more question. “Then, this morning, the screaming…”

“Do not ask me about the After, Riat.” The calmness in Kallizar’s voice was gone, replaced by a fragile sort of fear. “It is not something for the living to know.”

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-Alexis

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