There was a popping noise, and he was in the guest room. He preferred not to think of it as a cell, though technically it did fit the description. Most cells, though, did not have such lovely amenities. Or occupants. A smirk flickered across the arcanist’s lips, as he strode up to the side of the great bed, where the unexpected intruder was, by all outside observations, sleeping quite peacefully. With only a moment’s thought, though, he could visualize the powerful glow of enchantment that was wrapped around and through her body and mind. He had to give himself credit for his own ingenuity. It wasn’t often he had the chance to watch his work on such full display.
The enchantment seemed a facile one, for most of his... guests. The mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets all exuded feelings of drowsiness and comfort. It was potent, for certain, but often little more than a light push in the direction of sleep—which was fortunate, for the sorts of actions that would be best undertaken on a comfortable bed, not that he partook in those often, or at all in this bed—but, when a particularly powerful mage came into contact with this particularly powerful enchantment... He bent down on one knee, admiring the sharp lines across her face, the shape of her neck and collarbones, the subtle points to her earlobes which betrayed her Keldian ancestry.
The spell was acting now in full force, a loop bounding between the little thief and the warm mass of slumber surrounding her. Its magic demanded her entire focus, pointing nearly every thought, every instinct she may have had in dream or wakefulness towards sleep, redirecting the sorcerous power in her blood wholly towards the enchantment, which spilled that same energy back over her thoughts and body, over and over again. He was thankful for his foresight; this one was a sight more fiery than those he would usually entertain, and certainly far more dangerous.
She hadn’t brought a conventional weapon, but it was often said that looks alone could kill. A well-tossed vial of Almer’s Fire would more than suffice, lacking looks, and both together were a deadlier combination. Not to mention her less-material talents. The arcanist stood, clearing his throat, and walked across the room. He sat in his armchair, at the side of the table where, with a wave of his hand, a plentiful, steaming breakfast condensed from nothing. He cleared his throat again (damned summer allergies), and spoke a word, watching as the enchantment around the slumbering thief’s body began to dissipate, noting the change in the rhythm of her chest rising and falling beneath the sheets as she began to stir.
He shifted in his seat. Something about seeing one leave the throes of his enchantment was nearly as powerful as bringing one there. Nearly. One more clearing of his throat, this time purposely. “Little thief,” he spoke, making sure that the words reached her ears, “I think you may have slept enough.”
He saw her small fists clench, and then immediately relax again, her open palms red and raw, and presumably stinging by the pained expression on her face. It was either that, or she just found him that caustic.
An attitude which could certainly be changed.
She was moving now, though, rising up from the waist with a groan of exhaustion. Even an enchanted sleep couldn’t cure everything.
“Welcome again to the world of the wakeful. And before you ask,” he added, as her half-lidded eyes clearly began to contemplate it, “you were not, and are not currently, dreaming.”
She shot him a glare like death. It was almost threatening. “You woke me up for this?”
The arcanist paused, then shook his head. “Not only this,” he gestured to his side, where steam was still rising off the bacon and potatoes, “but this as well.”
She swore and half-rolled, half-stumbled out of the bed, wincing as her hands clenched onto the sheets. “Have you applied the salve I gave you?” He asked, genuinely. He hated to watch suffering of any sort, even if she was a criminal.
The thief grumbled something, too low for him to hear, but he expected that it was a no. She snatched the cream-colored bottle from the bedside stand, and started to twist it open with her trembling fingers. “If this stuff is meant to kill me,” she tried to speak evenly, “I’ll be taking you with me.”
How testy, he thought to himself. “If I had wanted to kill you, do you think that you would have had an undisturbed rest, much less set one foot on my grounds?“
She rolled her eyes, daubing her hands with the pale lotion and working it into the creases of her palms and fingers. “That’s big talk coming from a coward like yourself.”
“What have I done to provoke such insults?” He gestured towards her, palms open and empty.
“You’re an arcanist. You all deserve it.” she stood, stretched, unaware of his eyes gazing on her naked form, and started toward him, “You hide in your towers with all your gold and all your guards and all your knowledge.” She looked ready to spit on him, but decided to sit instead, and took the plate into her lap. “And you use all your tricky little traps,” she added, “instead of coming for me face to face.“
“You’re mistaken in that,” he corrected, “I believe I did come for you, face to face. You were quite shocked by it. Stunned, even.” He smirked.
The thief turned her head down and busied herself with meat, obviously too hungry to be concerned about any poisons. Or, perhaps she had accepted the possibility, and considered it a better option than listening to his voice.
“And, if I might add,” the arcanist continued, “one has a duty to protect one’s property. Your careless chemicals could have caused a collapse.”
“Property, sure, but unfairly earned,” she muttered between bites, scarcely loud enough for him to hear.
“I must assure you, little thief, that I came by my position fairly, a far sight different than how you earn your own keep.” She was beginning to get on his nerves, and he sensed that she knew this.
“Oh, because it’s completely fair to hoard your knowledge like a fattened slug.”
His teeth ground together in his mouth. “I’ve paid for every stone in this tower and every page in that library with my own coin, thank you.”
“And how did you come by that coin?” She was grinning around a chunk of bacon, quickly gulped down. “Did your mommy and daddy send their little genius boy to the royal academy with pockets full of gold?”
Patience, now. The arcanist adjusted in his seat and exhaled, careful to keep his face composed. “My upbringing was not responsible for my current status,” she was staring down to her feet in an effort to ignore him, “but what of your own, thief? Perhaps a rebellious heiress, run off with her tutor’s knowledge to join some motley vagabonds?“
“Shut it,” she muttered, as her body started to fold inwards.
“Struck a nerve?” He grinned, “Or maybe, that’s not right at all. Maybe you’re just a little orphan pickpocket, raised on the streets, clinging to a cause you think is noble enough to undo your sins.”
“Shut it,” she insisted.
“No, not that one,” he said, “perhaps instead you’re—”
“Enough!” She snapped, jabbing a measly finger towards him.
He sat back, still wearing a smile. “There’s the girl I spoke with this past evening, I was wondering where she had gone.”
“You don’t know anything about me. And you’re not going to. I won’t say another word,” the thief said severely, eking out as much menace as she could pour into them.
He only smiled, and watched her eyes stare at him, until she returned to the meal, continuing to eat and drink ravenously. Such an appetite, and such a slender figure still. This was the mark of all mages, or at least, those that reached into the magical realm so frequently. It could be exhausting work, especially if one lacked the proper focus or training. He began to wonder aloud, “Why pyromancy?”
It won him a glance, but nothing more.
“It’s fairly destructive in nature,” he continued, “and I’m sure it takes a good deal of concentration for you to keep from burning anything flammable.”
No response, she only gnawed down on a third of a potato.
“Even aquamancy or geomancy would be far better suited for matters of subtle infiltration. Not to even mention enchantments of light and dark.” The arcanist leaned closer, observing the face she wore carefully. “So why pyromancy, little thief?”
She did not smile or find his topic inviting, giving him only a sullen stare.
He made a gesture, casting his spell, and watched her eyes blink as the air shifted between them. “So why pyromancy, little thief?”
Her lips quivered a hair, and her face began to turn away from his. Not so fast, he thought.
Another gesture. Another blink. “So why pyromancy, little thief?” He repeated, smiling even wider.
Her eyes were back on his. “That’s none of your damned business,” she replied.
“Oh, but it is,” he shook his head, fingers moving yet again, “so why pyromancy, little thief?”
Her blink was longer still this time, and the faraway look in her eyes as they opened made his heart beat just a tick faster. “... it’s what I’m good at,” she finally said, with a simple shrug.
“Of course,” he nodded, “we all have our preferences.”
“You certainly have yours,” she snorted.
“Go on,” he said, curious.
The thief paused, debating it, then spoke, “Botany and mental trickery are... an unexpected combination. I’m sure that both do well to keep you in the crown’s favor, and keep your pockets full.”
“Simply my own hobbies, little thief, nothing more. They serve me well, even if you managed to slip through the cracks,” he said.
“That’s right,” she rolled her eyes, “the calamities the crown contracts you to create would be far more lucrative.“
The arcanist’s stare remained fixed on her. “I do not create weapons for war.”
“Every spell is a weapon, when you use it in the right way.”
“More accurately, the wrong way,” he said. “It is good that those pages you’re so keen on stealing have not yet made their way into unsafe hands.”
“I’m not the one working for criminals,” she glared at him, “you are.”
He smiled at this, “A budding revolutionary as well, it’s no wonder that you chose to remain here instead of taking your cell in the capital prison.”
She seemed to expect this answer, and chewed down on the last bit of bacon before shoving the plate back towards him on the table. “Of course you think they can do no wrong, they fill your coffers.”
“What I think, little thief, is that the actions my employers undertake have no bearing on my contracting with them. I do not make the weapons with which they might wage war; my works are put towards peaceful ends. Ones which you and your employers would apparently rather see disrupted.”
“I don’t care what spells you make for them, what you’re doing is still wrong,” she crossed her arms and looked up at him as he stood.
“Even if my work has fed thousands?”
Her ears were going crimson, but she still stood, and managed to put on an accusing tone, “While thousands are starving to death from famine in the south?”
He shook his head. “This is but one of the many factors my work seeks to correct, for—”
“If you have the means to fix it, why aren’t you doing anything about it?” She was closer to him now, her face boiling with anger, frustration, embarrassment, or some blend of all three. He wasn’t quite sure it mattered.
The arcanist sighed, clicking his tongue. “These things are far more complicated than you seem to think they are. I will not explain the precise nature of my work to you now, as I must, of course, be doing some of that very work.”
“Wait,” she started to reach towards him, “don’t you—”
“Perhaps over dinner. Until then, farewell.”
He felt her moving towards him, as he focused a moment, then vanished, then heard her body thumping to the floor where he had been standing, swearing aloud at the now-empty room.
Silence closed around her like a vise. The spellthief was sitting again, shaking, staring at the featureless wooden door. No handle. No way to force it. She’d turned the room inside out twice now, and had come up with nothing. Nothing. No clothes. No tools. No reagents. No focus, no magic, no familiar. No Missy. A pang of regret wound down her spine, leaving anger in its wake.
“How can I be so stupid,” she was muttering to herself, in order to fill the space around her with anything but the oppressive quiet. “How could I let this happen?” A week, he’d given her. This was all some cruel game. Her fists clenched, aching for a face to punch. One besides her own.
She let them open, tension unfolding with them. One week, to keep her wits about her. To make sure she wasn’t killed, or worse. She’d heard stories about mind mages, what they would do to their captives. The thought of the paralytic magic holding her body against her own will made her stomach lurch. It gave an even worse movement as she recalled how doubt had been forced into her mind. That wouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t let it happen... but maybe something worse would. She made a note to invest in warding talismans before her next job. “If I have a next job,” she whispered.
There was nothing to do. Time edged forwards endlessly, at a snail’s pace. The only reprieve was a movement outside, the scraping of metal heels against stone. The spellthief had run to the wall, ready to ambush any entrant, but a flap at the bottom had opened instead, the sight and smell of a hot meal invading her senses. Fruit, bread, and beef. She cursed, loud enough to be heard, then ate it all within minutes. She needed her energy. For what, the despondent voice in her mind said ruefully, to escape from a sealed room?
The voice had a point. What good was there? She was imprisoned, at the mercy of her captor. Even had she had a window, she had no tools with which to make a descent. No magic to find another way. Looks and charm were tools, she supposed, but hard ones to make any use of while trapped behind a door with no fucking handle. It was worse than hopeless. The only saving grace was that the food didn’t seem to be poisoned, magically or alchemically. She had her wits, her strength, and her willpower, battered as it was.
There would be no rescue, of course—the cabal would’ve already assumed her death.
She swallowed a lump in her throat, vainly attempting to push away the images spilling into her mind, grieving friends, practically her family. Karsa, tears flowing freely, Drex, his face buried into her shoulder. Old Ronson, the lines of his lip set hard, gray eyes distant. Even Mother Shade came to mind. The spellthief had always suspected that her handler might know emotions besides sternness, disappointment, annoyance, and malice, but she supposed she might never find out now. What were the last things she had said to them? What were the last things they had said to her? She couldn’t remember, and the thought filled her with terror.
She had to do anything besides ponder her inevitable fate. She sat in the chair, closed her eyes, and tried to center her mind on the focus that wasn’t dangling from her neck, the quiet nothing that she couldn’t find amongst her scattered thoughts. A deep breath. Another, and another. Calm. Quiet. The iris that wasn’t there...
Her eyes snapped open, her fingers clutching helplessly above her breast at an absent amulet. She gave a grunt of frustration and leapt to her feet, pacing on the soft carpet. The bed looked soft and inviting, but soft and inviting wasn’t what she wanted, not now.
She ran her fingers along the stone that made up the wall as she walked. Maybe she could focus while she walked. She had done it before, it was a way to keep the mind off the aches of the legs after a long hike, among other things. She counted her steps, two, three, four, as she walked along the wall, fifteen, sixteen, breathing long and slow, thirty-two, thirty-three, letting her eyes close as her hands followed the wall, knowing the length of the room enough to stop before hitting the corner as she turned on her heel, two-hundred-forty-eight, two-hundred forty-
The unyielding wardrobe had made its way into her path and cruelly assaulted the smallest toe of her left foot, causing a stream of profanity to issue forth from its victim’s voice as she hopped into the center of the room.
She dropped back into the armchair, rubbing the aching toe and trying to somehow gain control of her breath. She had to do something to combat the boredom, to keep herself occupied. Waiting for the angry redness in her foot to pass, she counted stones in the wall, but lost track somewhere after sixty-two when she started to wonder who put the stones there in the first place, and had they been paid for it, and could she have perhaps looked up architectural plans, not that she would really know how to read them, and...
An itch on her back. She wrenched her arm and wrist behind, struggling and vainly scrabbling with her fingers, moaning angrily when the cushy material of the armchair failed to soothe as she ground her spine against it. She wanted to toss the damned thing over, and she nearly did, but standing so quickly made her knee bash into the table, and she fell into the seat again with a cry. She was miserable. She couldn’t generate enough anger to be mad, not really, not now; her energy was depleted. She couldn’t call up enough regret to feel sadness, either, and definitely couldn’t see enough humour in the moment for joy. No, she thought with slowly gathering resolve, she had to see her way through this with other means.
Frustration pushed aside the stinging palms and the throbbing toe and aching knee and aching head. She pulled her limbs in to sit cross-legged, hands on her knees, and focus. And breathe. And focus on her breathing. In. Out. Nothing but in, out. She was where she was now. In. Out. Trapped in a fucking tower. In. Out. Push away the pain of the past. In. Out. Push away the fear of the future. In. Out. Grounded, grounded in the present, in the here, in the now. In... hold... out...
Warm, cold. In, out. Calm, quiet, in, out. Relaxed. The hint of a smile at the corners of her closed eyes. And now. In. Out. In this place, in this time, she could think. In. Out. The emptiness of her mind and the calm of her emotions gave her room to ponder. In. Out. There is an escape. In, out. There’s always an escape. In, out. She needed there to be, she knew, or she would lose her mind. In, out. Trapped in a tower. In, out. No tools, in, locked room, out, no magic, in, no familiar, out, no tools, in, locked room, out, no magic, in, no familiar, out, no tools, in, locked room...
There was a noise, and the calm panic that she’d lulled her body into faded in an instant. Her eyes opened, startled, and the arcanist was sitting there, smiling at her, hands folded in his lap. “I was wondering when you would notice,” he gestured to her crossed legs. “I didn’t want to disturb your meditation.”
She scoffed, aware of his penetrating gaze and, worse, her nakedness. Moving to cover up would only show weakness, so... She did not. She took a deep breath. “There would be no worry of disturbing me, if I were free to leave.”
He clicked his tongue disapprovingly. “Now, now, we’ve made our deal, little thief, unless you’re willing to concede already?”
The spellthief did think about it. What would happen if she said yes? Scenarios played in her head. Being kicked out, naked. Being kept captive, also naked. The worst outcomes, she became aware, all hinged on the freedom he would have to work a spell over her mind. She had no focus, she didn’t expect to get it back. She wouldn’t be able to fight him in any way, much less mentally, even if she did have it. But she’d made a deal with him, and the lack of mental magic was part of it. She’d been silent for too long, she noticed, and cursed inwardly. “Of course not, I rather think you would be the one conceding,” she said, trying to compose herself.
“I?” He intoned, pressing a palm to his chest in disbelief, “Perhaps you overestimate your resolve, little thief. Do you truly believe your mind can’t be changed?”
“I know how wrong you are, and that’s not going to change,” she said.
His fingers moved in the air, almost lazily. She would not remember that they had. “Do you truly believe your mind can’t be changed?”
The spellthief felt her eyes blinking, slower than they had any right to. Meditation had always made her tired, hadn’t it. “It wouldn’t,” she began again, “even if you tortured me.”
The arcanist gestured, leaning in closer, the air thickening between them. “Do you truly believe your mind can’t be changed?”
Shivers ran through her at his tone, her eyes closing for a time, then opening. It stirred a faint memory of his magic. Faint enough that it felt distant, impresent, like it wasn’t pouring through her ears, like it wasn’t collecting on her tongue. She shifted in the seat, thinking that she had chosen her words carefully. “Not without magic, which you won’t be using.”
He seemed satisfied, and sat back with a smile. A moment later, her meal appeared before her on the table, and he nodded towards it. “Eat, please. My chefs love an opportunity to prepare for guests.”
“Give them my regards,” she rumbled, gnawing into a leg of lamb. And tell them to smuggle in a knife. She ate, still with surprising speed, but slower than she had throughout the day. She’d made up for the energy burned the previous night. If she had her amulet, now, she felt that she could blast a few holes through the tower, at the very least. But she did not. And so she simply relished in imagining it.
His eyes were on her with every move she made, and he eventually spoke. “You were curious about my work,” the arcanist said.
She glanced up, saying nothing.
“I wondered, after you’d stolen my work, if you’d looked closely at the papers.”
The spellthief paused a moment, then shook her head. No sense in lying about those now.
“Did you know they were of value?” He asked.
“Of course they were,” she gave him another glance, “I could tell from the scrawl.”
He was quiet for a stretch, then spoke again, “Do you read much, little thief?”
She looked up at him. “Do I what?”
“Read.” He repeated, “Spellbooks, contracts, literature, romantic poetry,” this seemed to amuse him, “do you read?“
Her face shifted. Did she look illiterate? She spoke Damean well enough, but she knew she didn’t look the part. And, truth be told, she still needed help, every now and then. So many fiddly little symbols. Not that she was an expert in Keld script, either, despite her parents’ attempts. “Yes, I read,” she sighed. “I didn’t have time to examine your work, as I think you can understand.“
“Of course,” he confirmed, “I did not want to assume. Do you know what those spells are meant to accomplish?”
Information, rearing its head before her. The one prize the spellthief thought she might still be able to escape with. “I don’t, so I expect you’re about to tell me.”
“Not paid enough to know what it is you’re stealing, hm?” He smirked.
“It hardly matters. Any spells that I bring back are meant to be made public knowledge. And it’s not stealing,” she added.
“Ah, that’s right,” the arcanist nodded, “you prefer the term liberating.”
“Shut it already and get to the point.”
The arcanist sighed. “As I was saying earlier, it’s quite good that those spells didn’t leave the grounds,” he gestured skywards. “The results could have been, as you said, calamitous.”
The spellthief folded her arms. “So you do make weapons.”
“Of a sort,” he smiled, “I wage war on famine and hunger, not men.”
“You keep saying this, while half of Damea starves.”
His face hardened. “That is precisely what I aim to correct, little thief. Do you know why it was sunny yesterday?“
“Because there were no clouds,” she replied, half serious.
“Do you know why there were no clouds?“
“Because...” Half-spun myths and stories entered her mind, visions of giant gods puffing from smoke pipes, volcanoes full of hellspawn spewing out angry storms. Those were the Damean tales, at least. Of her own people, she had a foggy memory of an artist wielding a brush long enough to paint the skies. She swallowed. “Because it’s summer.”
He shook his head patiently. “No, little thief, the patterns of our weather are not determined solely by the notches made on your calendar. They have to do with a number of factors, the content of the air, the heat from our sun, the water in our lakes, the...”
She was losing focus, chewing the pieces of meat off the bone, dimly aware that he was still speaking, until he wasn’t. She cleared her throat. “That’s all very interesting,” she said, having neither understood nor listened to any of it, “what does it have to do with you?”
“Our natural world is deeply intertwined with the tides of the magical realm,” he explained, “I’m sure you can feel it if you try, even lacking your focus. You’re a capable spellcaster.”
She felt herself beginning to blush at the compliment, but kept her eyes and face fixed. He was undoubtedly powerful, and had probably more ability than any she’d ever spoken to. And while she didn’t think of herself as a poor sorceress, she was no master. But he was an arcanist. So why was she blushing? She cleared her throat again. “So?“
“So, little thief,” he gestured, “the magical world has influence on our world, and we on it. One could conceivably direct the ethereal tides through the sky, and in doing so—“
“You can direct the clouds? No, more than just the clouds, you could control rain, too?”
“A quick study.” He grinned. “Yes, this is possible.”
“Then what are you sitting here for?” She blinked. “Why aren’t you casting rain onto all the fields? There’s a drought, why haven’t you done anything?”
“Patience,” he urged, sounding annoyed, “I am getting there.”
“Try asking the southern farmers for patience, see how long it takes them to run you out of town,” the spellthief scoffed.
“It would be quite fast,” he admitted, “but only because they, like you, do not fully understand.”
She set the plate aside. “Tell it to me, then. I at least know how to work a focus.”
The arcanist seemed to think for a moment. She assessed him as he did. Wearing a robe this time, not fine clothes and cloak. Covered in stains and burns, she had to wonder if he was merely too lazy to change from his working robes before seeing her, or if he was trying to cultivate in her a belief that he really did do some work. She realized that she was staring. He hadn’t noticed, as deep in thought as he was. She set her eyes on his forehead, waiting.
And eventually, he did speak. “Say that there are two farmers, each growing a field of different crops. One desires more rain, but the other has had enough of rain and needs more sun for his crops to grow. The first farmer employs a sorcerer to summon rainclouds. The second employs a sorcerer to banish rainclouds. You can imagine the results, I think.“
She did. The air torn open with spell clashing against spell, both farms and more destroyed in the chaos. “That’s a fine hypothetical, but it doesn’t explain why bringing rain is a negative, in reality,” the spellthief said.
“If you would let me finish—”
“You seemed finished enough,” she shrugged.
He let go of a breath. “The spells I work are maintained over long periods of time. Extensive knowledge of each specific climate is required, histories of weather patterns, statistics on growth and life. I’m speaking of years on years of data.”
Explains why your library is so boring, she thought, letting him go on.
“There is a drought in the south, yes. But it’s not as simple to remedy as you think—”
“You can make rain clouds.” She pointed to him, before reaching for her half-eaten chunk of meat again. “That means you can fix it.”
“You misunderstand me,” he spoke, and power was pouring into his words as they floated from his lips, “all will be clear if you remain quiet and listen now.”
She hadn’t seen the light in his eyes, and had scarcely felt the tingling across her skin, but she held her tongue. It was barely conscious. She could feel his tirade coming like a storm in the air, a numb sort of hum in her bones.
“The ebb and flow of pure magic is nigh unpredictable. The finest way to understand it is through its effect and image on our world. Those years of data, the weather in the sky and the growth in the earth. To attempt to reverse the tide of a river is folly. That is not to say that it is uncontrollable. It can be channeled, through foci, spells and enchantments, siphoned off into smaller streams, and it can be gently, carefully redirected, and slowly changed in its course.“
She had learned what she knew of magical theory from practical lessons, her drunken associates, and superstitious monks. This was beyond her depth. He knew it. She knew it. She didn’t even bother nodding.
“This is what my spells accomplish,” the arcanist continued, “gradual, long-term changes. The drought is not my doing, nor could I have predicted it. And though it wears at me daily, there is little I can do to help it, myself, but to provide what practical aid I can, and to continue to shift the flow of the skies away from such extremes.” He finished, and the humming in her bones ceased. He smiled at her. “Do you understand now, little thief?”
“Yes,” she spoke automatically, “but you’re still wrong.” She bit down, chewed, purposely making him wait, watching the lines around his lip flex. “You could be doing plenty to help it. But you’re not. Does the crown have the leash a little too tight around your neck? Or are you just so selfish that you won’t even risk revealing that your spells exist.”
He was able to unclench his teeth enough to speak. “The crown does not control my research, nor how I choose to use it. As I’ve said, there are larger magical factors at play than simple—”
“Even if that were true,” the spellthief interrupted, “isn’t it still worth it? People have already perished. Hundreds, thousands could be next!“
“The consequences of meddling with greater forces could end the lives of far more than that.”
She stared at him, dumbstruck. “So that’s it, you won’t even try?”
He nodded. “I am doing, quite literally, all that I can; to do more is too great a risk, little thief. You must understand my position. I cannot simply wave my hands and make crops—”
“No,” she stabbed a finger at him, “I must not understand. If I had the power to help thousands, save thousands, I would do it in a heartbeat. You’re a coward if you think otherwise.”
“And you would be a fool to do so without taking the proper—”
“Hells, it’s far better to die as a noble fool than to live as a cowardly... Ugh,” she grunted, “you disgust me.” She dropped her food and shoved the plate towards him, unfinished. “I’m done with this.”
“Done with?” He asked.
“This.” The spellthief stood, growing more exasperated. “You. This cursed tower. Your gods-damned spells. I’m sick of it.“
“You can concede, you know.” His head turned to follow her as she strode away from him, watching her take a seat on the edge of the bed.
The cover felt soft, inviting under the skin of her bare bottom. Gooseflesh chased up from it across her back. “I won’t,” she spoke after a moment, “but I’ll have nothing more to do with you.”
“I very much doubt that, little thief,” the arcanist rose. “Whatever would you do without our conversations?”
“Sit. Think. Pace around. Anything to keep from talking to you.” Her legs shifted, more surface coming to rest on the sweet soft sheets. It felt comfortable. It felt good. The tingling encouraged more tingling still.
One of his eyebrows rose. “Anything?”
She felt her cheeks reddening. “Shut it.”
“But you’ll be all alone,” his voice was calm, even, bristling with restrained power as he spoke, “I think you could use a little release, don’t you?”
She heard the words, and knew that there could’ve only been one meaning, but she couldn’t find the right way to respond besides stammering. The heat in her cheeks was growing, and her legs were moving, still against the deliciously delicate bed cover. Tingling, still, though with a growing warmth.
A knowing look, an unseen glow behind his eyes. “Yes, you could stand to relieve that tension, couldn’t you, little thief?”
“No,” she spoke, even as her hips were sliding backward on the bed, humming with energy, her mind afog with lethargy, confusion, and growing lust, “I... no, you’re, being ridiculous.”
His fingers twitched just barely, more magic charged in his voice. “You could stand to relieve that tension, couldn’t you, little thief.” Not a question.
“Yes,” she heard herself whisper, disbelieving her own ears. She felt hot. She felt aroused. And the realization only shaped it into a feeling more powerful. “Why am I...”
“Because, little thief,” he stepped closer, she could feel the magic radiating off of his body, its warmth adding to hers, “you have had a very long couple of days, now. You need to relax,” he pushed intensity into the words, “you need to unwind. It’s been some time, hasn’t it?“
“S-some time since... what?” She felt she knew the answer, but he couldn’t mean that, could he? Being so forward made no sense. Why would he be forward at all? Damn repressed Dameans... Her blistered palms pressed into the sheets, clutching them for comfort, sending ripples of gooseflesh up her arms, waves of slowness into her mind. Something about the prickly sensation felt vaguely familiar. She couldn’t place it, drowned out as it was by arousal, by need filling her mind and body.
“Since you’ve felt pleasure, little thief,” the word dripped with it, seeping into her mind, her knees pressing close together, shifting against one another as he continued, “and you need it, don’t you. You need to feel it. You need to feel that wonderful, blissful release.“
She stared at him, as her fingers clutched tighter, the muscles in her legs flexing back and forth, tensing and relaxing. Not that she was anywhere near relaxed. “That’s... not, true, I...” She trailed off.
It was true. He didn’t need to say it for her to feel it, or remember it for herself. Her last fuck had been three weeks ago. It hadn’t satisfied. She’d sought relief alone, since, but that too had failed to sate her. She knew that she was hungry for it. And here he was, offering it, or something like it.
“No more lies, little thief.” His eyes gleamed with gold, “You will tell me.”
Recognition flashed in her own eyes. Magic. Oh, gods.
“Because I am merely telling you what is already true, and you know that it is. I can only wonder what is running through your mind now,” he said.
She saw another sparkling, then gasped, as thoughts surged forwards unbidden. A body pressed against her own. Hot breath in her ear, on her skin. Hands roaming down her sides, so sensitive, squeezing her ass. She was staring at him again, unable to look away. “Th-that’s not, those aren’t mine,” she stammered through half a panic, “you’re the one doing this, a-aren’t you?”
“Yes,” his eyes lit with power, “I am doing this. But aren’t they yours?“
Another rush of thought. Lips against her own. Her front pressed into cold stone. Her back against the milky sheets, shoulders pinned. Hands circling her chest. Tongue tasting her collarbones. She felt herself rocking back, her spine touching the soft, soft sheets, her lips exhaling pure pleasure. “Stop,” she breathed, “you can’t.” One hand had detached from the sheets, was making its way in the maze of sensation across her middle.
“I cannot,” he spoke into her mind, “not alone. But you want this too, don’t you, little thief?”
A moan was enough of an answer for him, as her neck rocked back into the bedsheets, meeting its perfect softness, sending shivers and magic straight into her mind. Her body held in place as imaginary hands roved, imaginary mouths pressed against flesh, imaginary teeth nibbling against her ears. Eyes holding hers, an impossible stare to break. Magic, ancient and powerful words pouring into her ears. Her hand drifted, steadied, then darted between her legs, to the tune of yet another moan.
“That’s right,” he murmured, his voice in her ear, across the room, in her mind, breath against her lips, “you do. You want this,” his hands moved again, her whole self shaking with pleasure as her hands danced on and in her body, “you need this. I can feel it inside you, little thief, I can see what you see.” Flashes. Images. Sights and sounds and smells of sex.
The feeling of being fucked.
“You know that I am doing this,” he cooed, and she felt a real, tangible, impossibly cool breeze of air blown across her nipple, fluttering with his voice, “but you are helping me in this.” Warm body. Warm thoughts. Flesh on fire. Couldn’t think.
“Tell me,” he said.
“Yes,” she whispered.
This was not a spell she understood. To her, it felt as though her whole being was bound in it, helplessly held in the palm of his hand. She enjoyed this feeling, and it made her picture even more fantasies in her head, images and scenes and sights that served the spell’s purpose. To empower those thoughts, to color them with vivid detail, to dredge them from the depths of herself and up to the surface to be admired in the light. The arcanist was putting his light on what was lurking there, deep inside her mind. He had made them stir, but they were not his to control. He could nudge, but to her, his nudges felt like so much more.
The images and thoughts danced as one. She couldn’t tell reality from fantasy, magic from matter. Fingers, tongue between her legs, lips kissing, sliding around her front, exploring every inch, even though she knew he had scarcely come three steps closer, fingers dancing over her nipples, squeezing, her hand working fast, her mind too encumbered to stop. She didn’t want to stop. And so she felt she couldn’t stop. Another wave of excitement crashing over her, nibbling at her neck, thrusting in below, hands holding her down, magic holding her still, power coursing through her veins, pulsing with every movement, every thrust, every touch and tease and kiss and caress, building and building and screaming out with pleasure in every nerve, every raised hair, every inch of muscle melting into bliss as the near-silent, wordless cries sent forth from her lips, as her hand still moved, mind still worked, over and over and all at once.
He smiled above her as the bed’s magic overpowered arousal and pleasure, watching as her trembling turned to tiredness, her fast and panting breaths turned to deep, heavy sighs. He could see sleep tugging at her eyes, even as they stared straight ahead, yearning for some sight unseen. Her hands slowed, and slowed, and he uttered a word, her eyelids snapping shut.
Dark and warmth washed over her, so quickly and deeply that she couldn’t feel her body being dragged to the pillows, couldn’t feel the hand on her cheek, the other moving up and down her limp thigh.
He brushed through her hair, pressing his palm to her forehead, whispering as his eyes glowed with power, her own blank, sleeping, unseeing eyes opening to meet them. “Even as you have enjoyed them, little thief, the events following our meal tonight will not remain in your memory.” He watched, as her eyes began glimmering with the same gold as his own. Her insensate body was unresponsive to his touch and words, but her mind was more than receptive. “You will remember them only as dreams, as you sleep, hazy and half-formed, but they will inspire lust, want, and need. You will realize, and remember, that you have always had dreams like these. Fantasies of being captured, of the pleasure it could bring you, the desire filling your employment with exciting, wonderful danger. Isn’t that right, little thief?”
“Yes.” Her lips spoke for her, the voice that emerged sounding hollow and quiet.
“With these dreams, these desires, you will begin to find yourself attracted to me, desiring the arcanist that can hold your body and mind both captive. This desire will grow and build, and as your stay goes on,” he smirked, “perhaps you may even find yourself interested in seducing me. All of this, too, will fade from your memory,” he said again.
The glitter reflected in her eyes went dim, then dark, and her eyelids shut soundly as he removed his hand from her brow. He let it linger in her hair, smiling at her still-flushed cheeks, his other slowly making its way up to her chest. “No,” he muttered, reluctantly drawing his hands back, “best to wait, I think.” He allowed himself one last, long look, before he left the spellthief to slumber, deeply and peacefully.