] Clovis squeezed Jon's hand discreetly beneath their robes. The black and green fabrics hide their intertwined fingers. They stood up high, in the stone balcony that overlooked the pit. Commoners formed a ring on the ground, surrounding the pit, howling as they called for blood.
"It is a spectacle is it not?" Clovis asked dryly, his weathered face betraying no expression.
"Yes." Jon tried to answer just as dryly. Emotions on a sorcerer or even a sorcerer's apprentice were unacceptable. Even so, he felt the blood run from his face.
A man was led into the pit amidst jeers and garbage. Forced against a stone altar much stained with blood.
The executioner lifted his axe.
Jon winced, then opened his eyes in shocked surprise as Clovis stepped hard on his foot. The axe descended.
Jon's stomach rolled and heaved, but he found he couldn't move an eyelash, let alone vomit. He felt Clovis' magic surround him, hold him in composed silence. Do you know the meaning of life? Clovis asked. It is found here.
"What is this?" A young voice asked.
Jon responded, looking down on the little boy he used to be. A pale-haired figure dwarfed by his teacher. "This was the day he showed me the meaning of life."
"Which is?" The voice swirled in his dream.
"Many things but mostly death. To give yourself an ending that betters the beginning." He stopped startled. "Who are you?"
"Who are you?" She replied. It was definitely a she.
"I asked you first." Jon asked warily. He had been schooled on dream-creatures, but bodiless voices hadn't been among them. He reached with magic for his body, but it wasn't harmed or touched.
"To know who I am, you must know who you are, a figment of my imagination."
Jon shook his head, startled. "I am not." He reached for her with his magic and found a line, a piercing of his mind with a thread that stretched across the distance into unknowable. "You are the intruder here. Do you often enter the dreams of others?"
"My dreams are my own."
Did he sense an air of uncertainty? "Where are you? All I ask for is a place. Where do you live?"
"Ryakarin." The voice wavered and was gone.
Jon pulled himself from his dream, finding his body where he left it, safe within the towers walls. No one should be able to work magic through them. He rolled from his bed, and stumbled to his feet. He must find Clovis. He stroked the stone walls with urgency. Pushing his magic against them.
When he turned, Clovis was there. A physical presence from his long grey hair, down to the battered brown robe and slippers he wore. A handy trick, but teleportation was incompatible with Jon's nature. "I have had a visitor."
"Yes. I can feel the essence she left on you. She is young, just coming into her powers." Clovis replied. "But I can not sense her location or even the method she used to gain access to you. Her magic is as foreign to me. I can not protect you against what I can't see."
"I don't think she realized what she was doing. A blood sorceress?" Jon stopped, someone like him? That was a daunting thought. "Most babies capable of blood magic are killed at birth." Jon felt a sense of mortality as he considered that had very nearly been his fate. "There are not many of those."
"And few survive to grow into their powers. And the blood magic often possesses those that do." Clovis sighed. "It is a mystery. But I cannot find her. No scrying will reveal her to me."
"Then how did you save me?" Jon asked quietly. He had heard the story often enough as a child, though not once since he had been apprenticed to Clovis. His father was a very rich and powerful man, who was unable to father children, though he went through a succession of wives. Finally a serving girl became pregnant, and there was no question of parenthood - his father would have let no one else touch her.
The Lord was most upset; his firstborn would be a bastard out of a commoner. It was even more upsetting when the signs pointed at something worse. The babe was born a minute before midnight. Its eyes were black as coal.
A priest was summoned and it was confirmed, the baby was bloodborn. It would have to be killed quickly. Except for a sorcerer, who appeared. He promised Lord Ethan a succession of children, if he let the babe live until he came back for it.
"I was just in the right place at the right time." Clovis looked at him softly. "Fate's wheels turn for who they will. Apparently they turned for this girl as well."
"I asked her where she lived, she said Ryakarin." Jon worried. Without guidance and a master sorcerer's power, the blood magic would most likely claim this girl.
"That will give me something to look for." Clovis paused. "It is late but I think you will find Dee in the solarium. Why don't you keep her company until I know something. Put her to bed before dawn."
Jon found himself walking before he could protest. Clovis had not told him what was to be done. It was unlike him to run off after anything. Normally they spent hours discussing every possibility. He tapped on the walls in mute objection as he traveled the stairs.
Dee was in the solarium, looking at the stars. "Something touched you." She whispered without looking up. Her form so small and slight even for a seven year old girl, was almost invisible in the darkness. Only her golden hair stood out. Her dark blue eyes were indistinguishable from the night sky.
Jon nodded. "A girl."
"Yes and No." Dee laughed, a glorious sound resonating against the glass and crystal. "A beautiful girl like you have never seen. She will steal your heart before you even look upon her face."
"Really?" Jon raised an eyebrow. He was used to Dee saying strange things, but this was a little unlike her.
"Yes. And Death will be your consort." Dee laughed again. "Isn't that strange. For all the men who embrace death, only you shall have her. Once when I was older I knew a man like you. He was smart and strong and brave. He danced like the wind. He came to a terrible end. But then he had a wonderful beginning. Such is the dance that Fate leads and she has danced with you tonight."
There was nothing he could say to that, so he just nodded. Dee was in a weird mood tonight. Dee always told the truth, but it was always her particular version of it.
"Aren't the stars wonderful tonight? When I was older they used to tell marvelous stories about them. They called this one the Dragon - the one who guards souls. The twelve around him are the judges and they reward souls, and this is the butterfly. Isn't she cute?" Dee rose from her chair. "I'm going to find kitty-cat. She stole a fish from the kitchen this morning, and has been hiding under the bed all day."
Jon helped Dee scare kitty-cat out from under the bed, and then tucked her into it. Dee snuggled contentedly into the covers. "When I was older I had a bed twice as big but not as comfortable. This is a good place."
"Yes," Jon agreed, "This is a good place."