Janna looked down at the garnet in her hand, and wondered, again, why she didn't leave George and his "errands" behind forever. Sighing, she leaned back and stared at the rock. She knew why: he wouldn't tell her if she was finished or not. Every time it was "Just one more thing, Janna. Then you'll be done. Just one more thing." Well, this would be the last time. Janna sighed, putting her hands on her stomach, she leaned back and stared at the stars, not thinking of anything. A sudden snort from her horse brought her mind back and she rolled on her side and looked at him. The horse flicked his ears at her, and went back to eating the grass.
"I should stop worrying, huh?" she asked, rhetorically. Rolling over, she put the gem back in her bag and unrolled her bedroll. "Tomorrow we should get to..." she paused trying to remember the town name, "Greyton, and I will get us a room at the inn." The horse swiveled his ears in her direction but did not stop eating. "I'll even spend a bit extra and get you some oats, would you like that?" The horse, as usual had no reply. She yawned and looked up at the sky at the crescent moon. Pulling off her boots, she climbed in the bedroll, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.
It was late afternoon, when she finally reached Greyton, several minor delays had added up to a much longer time on the road than she had intended and Janna had a headache. Carrying her bags up the walk to the inn, she could hear people singing as she approached the door. She pushed open the door and saw a group in the middle of the room, singing at the top of their lungs. Two other men played instruments to accompany the singers. Janna could feel her headache getting worse.
The innkeeper hurried up to her, "Hello sir! How are you today? Would you like something to drink? Eat? My lovely wife has made a fine roast beef today, and we have fresh bread! Don't mind that group there," he waved in the general direction of the group who had finished their song. "They're from the University." He paused, and looked at her. "Pardon me for saying to, sir but you don't look well, would you like a room? A bath? I have rooms in the back, much quieter. You'll barely hear anything."
"Yes, a room please, and bring some food up." Janna replied. She didn't bother to correct the "sir."
"Excellent! Would you like anything else? Something to drink, maybe? We have an excellent local brew." Janna shook her head. "No? All right then, that will be seven coopers for the room, three for the meal, one extra to eat in the room, and did you have a horse in the stables?" Janna nodded. "Then four coopers a day for the stables." Janna's head pounded and she did not feel like haggling. She pulled out her purse.
Opening the oven door, Rose shut her eyes against the blast of heat. She looked at the loaves of bread inside, the tops were nicely rounded and golden brown. Wrapping her apron around one hand she grabbed the loaves one by one and put them on the counter to cool. The owner's wife, tossed the last of the chopped vegetables into the pot and turned to face Rose. She had an odd look on her face.
"Do you need anything else Mistress Stone?" Rose asked.
"Oh, um, would you just wait a moment? Roy would like to talk to you." She didn't wait for Rose's answer but hurried to the kitchen door.
Rose pulled out a stool and sat down. She had an idea what was coming, it was hard to avoid gossip sometimes. Both of the Stones had been giving her odd looks all day, and their conversations would go silent whenever Rose entered the room. She looked up as Master Stone walked in the room with his wife following him.
"Rose, my dear, I'm glad you are sitting down. I'm afraid…" he paused, thinking. "Ah, Lisa and I have some news. As you know we were very short handed when you came to Greyton, Our son Alex had just moved and then our daughter had that accident…"
Rose wondered why they were telling her this again. Maybe they think I've forgotten in three months? She wondered, not letting her pleasant expression slip.
"...I'm trying to say is we just got word that Marcia's leg is better and she wants to come back to work next week." Master Stone looked at her hopefully. Mistress Stone smiled at her over her husband's shoulder.
"We'll be happy to give you a recommendation." she said "You're a very hard worker, you know. If you want I send word to my cousin. He has a farm in Cohenville, and always needs workers."
Rose barely listened. What day was this? She thought to herself. It's almost the end of Flower… A thought occurred to her. "When do you need my room?" She asked. "Can I stay another two days or would you like me to go now?"
Both of the stones were silent for a moment, their mouths open. They looked at each other, some invisible communication passing between them. "My dear, we would never throw you out so soon! You can stay until Airday, the end of the week." Master Stone said.
Rose nodded, and stood up. "Thank you sir, you are generous." She refrained from pointing out that Airday was not the end of the week. But then again, she had never expected this job to last very long.
They both beamed, and Mistress Stone stepped forward and clapped her hands. "Well! With that settled, let's get back to work."
"Oh yes," Master Stone said. "Oh, darling," he turned to his wife, "there's a new guest who would like a plate brought to his room. I put him in the third room off the back stairs, would you take one to him?" The crowd in the main room started signing again and other people shouted for the innkeeper. He turned back to the door with a look of annoyance, then quickly plastered a smile on his face and hurried out.
Mistress Stone grabbed a plate from the sideboard with one hand and quickly loaded it with food. Grabbing a napkin with her other hand, she covered the plate and handed it to Rose. "You heard which room?" she asked. Rose nodded and took the plate. She walked out the back door and headed to the stairs.
Wiping her face dry, Janna hung up the towel. She picked up the bowl, and walked to the open window, tossing the dirty water outside. Turning back, she leaned against the sill and looked around the room. It was small and the bed, piled high blankets and a feather bed, took up most of it. Pretty nice, she thought. She crossed back to the small table near the foot ofthe bed and set the bowl down next to the pitcher. Pulling the small stool out from under the table she sat down and picked up the towel again. It was embroidered with a picture of three rocks, pink and blue flowers grew in green grass beside them. That makes sense, she thought to herself, Stone Garden Inn. She rubbed her fingers around the stitches, feeling the spell underneath. It was a spell against theft. She picked up the towel, and concentrated. Someone spent a lot of time on this, more than he needed to, she thought. The spell was not complicated, but the Magician who had done it had a devious mind. Any stupid, desperate thief who walked out with this would find it, and the bag he carried it in, stopped at the door. Literally! She wondered where the other half of the spell was? In the door or in the frame? She felt the spell again, "He may have spent a lot of time on this, but he didn't think the spell all the way through." She muttered to herself. "If the idiot who tries to take this pulls hard enough he could get out the door." She set the towel down again on the table, shaking her head. George would have made me pull that out and redo it a hundred times, if I'd ever made anything so sloppy, she thought.
A knock interrupted her thoughts. Standing up she walked to the door and opened it. A young woman stood in the hallway. She was slightly shorter than average, had green eyes, and her long black hair was pulled back into a single braid draped over one shoulder. She held a plate covered by a napkin, and looked expectantly up at Janna. Her plain blue dress was covered by an apron. The apron had the same rocks and flowers embroidery in the corner.
"Hello, I have your food." she said, and held up the plate.
"Oh. Come in." Janna said, stepping back.
Breezing past her, she walked directly to the table. Transferring the plate to one hand, she picked up the pitcher and bowl and set them on the windowsill. Then she put the plate on the table, whisking the napkin off and folding it neatly beside the plate. Janna watched, fascinated. The girl had a natural grace to her movements, almost like a dancer. She stared as the girl reached into a pocket in her apron, pulled out eating utensils and placed them on top of the napkin. She turned back to Janna who was sitting on the bed.
"Do you need anything else?" she asked politely.
The girl nodded and started towards the door.
"What's your name?" Janna burst out suddenly.
The girl smiled, "Rose. But if you need anything, ask for Master Stone, the innkeeper." she walked out, closing the door behind her.
There is something about that grace, Janna thought. It means something. She was sure she had read about it in one of George's books. She stood up and walked over to the table. She looked down at the slices of meat glistening pink on her plate. Her stomach growled, and she picked up the napkin. The fork rolled off and fell on the floor with a clatter. Bending over to pick it up, she caught sight of the towel sitting in the bowl on the windowsill. An idea occurred to her. Could I do that with the garnet? I'd need a couple of things. But if I did… Smiling to herself, as the plan formed in her mind, Janna speared a carrot and started eating.
Wiping the tables in the main room the next morning, Rose saw the woman from the night before coming down the stairs. Deciding to get another look at her, she walked over to a table with a better view of the stairs and started to run her cloth over it. The woman was tall, that was obvious, but that seemed to be the limit of her outstanding features. She wasn't thin or fat, or beautiful or ugly, her medium brown hair was very short - which was probably why Master Stone called her "sir" all night. Her clothes were just as plain: plain white shirt under a brown tunic, darker brown breeches tucked into boots, they were neither expensive nor badly worn.
She walked to a table and sat down, Rose tucked the cloth in her apron and approached the table. "Good morning, would you like something to eat? We have hot cereal."
Rose went back to the kitchen, prepared a tray and brought it out, setting everything in front of her.
The woman nodded her thanks, picked up a spoon, then looked up at Rose, "Can you talk?" she asked. "Do you have time?"
Rose looked behind her at the kitchen door, Mrs Stone was at the market and would probably be there for a few more hours. She shrugged and sat down in the chair across from the woman.
She held out her hand, "I'm Janna."
"How are you?" Rose said, taking it. "I'm Rose. If you missed it last night." she added.
The woman smiled at her then looked down and stirred her cereal, apparently at a loss for words.
"Did you sleep well?" Rose asked.
"Fine." the woman paused again, then took a bite of her cereal.
"Where are you from?" Rose asked.
"Silver City." she replied, still staring into her bowl.
"Silver City! Have you met the Empress? Or…" Rose leaned forward conspiratorially, "Are you her? Traveling secretly? In disguise?" she smiled slyly.
Janna choked and grabbed for the napkin. She laughed and wiped her mouth. "I'm common as dirt. I'm not the empress." She looked at Rose "Where are you from?" she asked, "You're not from this area."
Rose wondered how she knew, and was about to ask, when Master Stone called her name from outside. She stood up.
"Wait, before you go," Janna said, putting up a hand. "Is there an apothecary nearby?"
"Try Green Leaves, that's the closest one." Rose said. "Go south two streets and turn left, look for the store with yellow shutters." Master Stone called her name again, and she hurried out.
Janna was lost. Green Leaves, run by Master Green, did not have what she needed. He had sent her to Brown. Brown didn't have it either, but he had sent her to Red. Janna had wondered if Red didn't have what she needed, would Yellow be next? or Blue? However, Red did have what she'd needed, sparing her further speculation.
"Would you like directions back to your inn, lady?" He had asked.
Janna looked out the window at the late afternoon sun. "That's all right, just give me directions to Talon Street and I'll find my way from there."
She cursed herself in retrospect. Talon Street, Talon Street, she looked around, doesn't this place believe in signs? She turned left.
As she rounded a corner she came across an argument. A cart full of offal had overturned in the road. Another cart with a broken axle had been dragged to another side of the square. Janna covered her nose as the smell hit her. A crowd had gathered in a circle, and she walked forward, curious. In the center of the circle, two men fought in the street. She wondered which one owned which cart. A whistle blew and two Guardsmen pushed through the other side of the crowd. They pulled the men apart, separating them. Janna faded back to the edge of the crowd. The First Guardsman stepped between the men, and she seemed to be trying to talk with him, when the second man suddenly twisted out of her partner's grip and leaped on the first man. The First Guardsman tried to separate them again, when a flying punch caught her in the stomach and she doubled over. The second Guardsman pulled out his whistle and blew three short blasts. Other whistles answered from nearby streets. Janna stepped away from the now cheering crowd. They won't do anything to you, she told herself, walking away quickly. It's been too long, they can't know anything. Just ask someone for directions and go back to the inn. She kept walking. She didn't hear the man following her, and never heard his spell.
Rose walked up the stairs to her little attic room. After helping the Stones all day with deliveries, they had told her she could take the rest of the night off. She opened the little window over the shed and looked at the half moon rising over the town. Maybe I'll go out tonight, she thought. She locked the door and pulled her skirt off, letting it drop to the floor, she crossed the room to the thin straw mattress on the floor, shedding her petticoat on the way. Sitting down, she pulled off her stockings and unlaced her bodice, smelling the evening breeze coming through window. At least they cleaned out the stables today, she thought, taking off the rest of her clothes. Naked, she gathered up her clothes in a pile and put them on a shelf. She thought about that tall girl, Janna. She's traveling alone. I wonder if she's headed towards Silver City. If she is, would she let me travel with her? She seems nice, if I see her tomorrow, I'll ask her. She walked back and stood in front of the window. She shifted. A black cat jumped on the sill and leaped outside.
Janna woke. She did not move or open her eyes. Where was she? Hard surface, the air was still, must be inside somewhere, she moved her hand carefully, feeling she was on the floor. She listened, straining her ears, a fly buzzed in the room but nothing else. She started to sit up, if there's anyone in the room, she decided, they must be making an amazing effort to keep quiet. Her head exploded with pain.
"Crap!" she yelled. Putting her hands over her eyes, she waited for the pain to pass. Hoping that the side effects of whatever spell her attacker had used to knock her out would pass quickly. Gods! Who attacked me? I don't know anyone here. Who would even bother? She sighed. Who cares? Get up. she told herself. If someone's going to go to the trouble of kidnapping you in a strange town, you don't want to stick around and ask why. The fly, silent for a moment, started to buzz again. She stood up, the pain in her head fading, and looked around the room. It was mostly empty. A table with a chair beside it was pushed against the opposite wall. The only door was to the right of the chair. A window, open to the early summer breeze, was to the left of the table. Janna's bag sat on the floor under the table. The fly landed and began to crawl across the floor. A line of charcoal crossed the floor about three-quarters of the way across the room. It had been drawn across the floor and, unbroken, up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the other side. Janna took a step forward towards the window. The fly, startled at her movement, flew up and away. As soon as it crossed the line, it fell to the floor and was still. Janna stopped. Slowly she took a step back and watched the fly. It did not move. It was dead.
"Oh." Janna said, as realization hit her. Backing up until she hit the wall she slowly lowered herself to the floor and sat down to wait.
After a few minutes, the door opened and a man walked in. As Janna watched him, he closed the door and sat down on the chair. Had he gotten fatter since she'd seen him? She wondered, of course, I wasn't making careful observations. She looked at his face, greasy, light brown hair had been carefully curled and artfully styled. His tunic was made of fine material, but strained across his stomach. His beard, while fashionably cut and curled, only made his round face look rounder. Laying his hands palm down on his knees he looked at Janna. She looked at the scar on the back of his hand and wondered what the one on his palm looked like. Meeting his eyes, she waited for him to speak.
"Janna." he said slowly.
"Roberts" Janna answered, mockingly, in the same slow voice.
He frowned, paused a moment, annoyed, then continued. "So, after all you've done to me, now I will have my revenge."
Janna stopped listening. Gods why did it have to be Roberts? She remembered her last encounter with him:
Sitting cross legged on her bed, Janna heard George call her name from downstairs. She ignored him and focused on the daggers laid out in a row in front of her. Picking up a pin she picked her finger, wincing slightly at the pain, and began to chant her spell. She held her finger over the blade of each dagger and milked her finger until a drop of blood fell. As the drop hit the metal, it danced and sizzled like water on a hot pan, then disappeared. George called her name again. He was closer. She continued to ignore him. Raising her rand, she licked her palm and laid the wet skin against the leather grips while she continued her chant. She tried not to shudder at the sensation of her hand suddenly going dry, and was very glad she had not tried this with sweat. Just as she said the last word, George threw open the door and grabbed her arm.
"There you are! Didn't you hear me calling?" He did not wait for an answer but pushed her ahead of him and out of the room.
Janna tried not to stumble on the stairs, "What? What is it now?" she asked. They reached the bottom step and he took her arm again, pulling her to the front door. Someone was yelling outside.
Opening the door quickly, George pushed her outside. "Be careful." he said, and closed the door behind her. She heard the lock turn on the inside.
"Is this how you pay your debts George? Sending me a girl?" The man yelled.
Janna turned to face him, keeping her hands behind her. She noted that the midday street had suddenly become very empty.
"Who is she?" The man yelled at the house behind her, "Your servant? Your lover? Your wh-"
"Student." Janna interrupted. "I'm his student."
"Student, eh? Well I'm Roberts." I'm giving you my name because I want you to know who killed you." holding his hands in front of him, he began to rub them together as if he were molding a ball of clay. As she watched, his hands slowly grew apart as if the "ball" was getting bigger.
Janna suddenly realized it was hard to breathe, as if something was stealing the air away, little by little, with every breath. What is he…? She thought. Realization struck her. He means it! I'm not prepared! What do I do? George is going to pay for this. Taking a deep shuddering breath, it was even harder now, she looked at Roberts and did the only thing that came to her mind. She said a word and a dagger dropped into her hand. Just as Roberts raised his hands above his head, she threw it. He screamed and she saw the red tip of the blade between his knuckles. Her breath returned in a rush and she ducked. The door behind her shuddered as spell hit it, and she smelled wood burning. She glanced behind her and saw a new scorch mark on the paint.
Standing up again she looked at Roberts, who was writhing on the ground screaming and cursing. She said a word again and the dagger reappeared in her hand. She had a brief moment of celebration that her spell had worked perfectly. Roberts screamed louder, his hand and wrist were entirely covered in red now. The door behind her opened, and George peeked out, taking in the scene. Pulling a handkerchief out of her pocket, Janna looked at him and wiped the blade. He stood back and held the door open as she walked inside. For a second, he looked like he was going to say something. Then he thought better of it and went outside to find a Healer.
"... and then I saw you in the crowd and thought: Why the Gods have given me a gift! They want me to have my revenge! Clearly because there you were: wrapped up with a bow!" Roberts finished his story, and looked immensely pleased with himself. Janna saw a small black cat sitting in the window. Roberts didn't seem to have noticed it.
Janna feigned a yawn, "Are you going to keep me long? I need to get going."
Roberts gave her a dirty look. "You'll stay here until I decide what to do with you. Maybe I'll send a letter to George, or maybe I'll just watch you starve." Standing up he walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. Janna listened his footsteps fade away. Putting her head between her knees she thought hard. What can I do? Convince Roberts to break the line? How? Her mind ran in circles.
There were intriguing scents in this alley. Possibly rats. There had been rats in the past. But not now. No rats now. A window was open above her and voices floated down. That was more interesting. She jumped up to the window to look. Inside, a man sat in a chair and talked. A woman sat on the floor against the wall across from him. She was not listening. The man did not seem to notice. This spot was high up. She would be able to see any rats. Or maybe one of the people would give her food. Tucking her paws under her, Rose settled down to watch.
Something thumped softly at the front of the room, Janna looked up. The cat had jumped down from the windowsill. Janna frowned to herself with worry.
"Don't cross the line, cat." Janna she said. "Don't need anything else dying around here." she added, darkly, to herself.
The cat sat down on the floor on front of the table. It shifted and the girl from the inn sat on the floor, naked.
Janna stared, shocked. "You're a were!" she said finally.
"I am." Rose said.
"Can you help me get out of here?"
"I can try."
"Can you break that line?" Janna pointed, Rose started to stand up. "Wait!" she stopped. "Don't cross it. Don't even touch it. Anything that crosses it dies. If you have something on you, like a..." she trailed off, realizing what she was saying.
"Sorry," Rose said dryly, "I forgot to fill my pockets before I left." She looked down at the floor. Carefully she laid down on her stomach, legs in the air and studied it some more. Janna watched her, saying nothing. After a few long minutes Rose stood up. "Let me apologize in advance for this." she said.
Stepping as close to the line as she dared, she squatted down. A distinct smell filled the room as the stream of urine washed away the line.
Janna laughed, surprised and relieved. Rose stood up, carefully stepping away from the puddle, looked at Janna and smiled tentatively in return.
Janna stood up. She crossed the room to the table and let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She picked up her bags and looked for her daggers. They weren't there. She gestured, but nothing came to hand. He must have them somewhere, she thought. Glancing out the window at the shadows gathering in the alley. She realized she hadn't heard anything from the rest of the house. Where was Roberts? He should have realized something was wrong by now. Shouldn't he have at least come in to check on her? I should leave, she thought, wait until he sells them. Or come back here later. No, another part of her said, do it now.
"I need to do something. Do you want to wait outside?" she asked Rose.
"No." Rose replied. "What are you going to do?"
"Find my stuff." Janna said grimly.
Walking to the door, she opened it as silently as possible. The room was at the end of a hallway. Loud gasping snores came from behind a partially open door at the other end. Another hall, halfway down the hall seemed to lead to the front of the house. Janna walked silently to the bedroom and pushed the door all the way open. Roberts lay on his back on the bed, oblivious to everything.
Stupid of him to sleep now, she thought, looking around the room, there was one window and the door she was standing in. She walked inside, her fingers rubbing together unconsciously. I could kill him, she thought spotting the trunk at the foot of the bed. She put her hand on top of it, feeling the spell that held it closed. It was just like the spell at the inn, all flash but easy to get around. She whispered a few words and it released. She looked at the front, there was no padlock. All right, she thought, I won't kill him because he's going to die from stupidity someday. She opened the lid and her daggers sat in top, neatly laid out in a row. Picking them up, she sheathed them and looked around the room again. However, I should make sure he doesn't follow me.
Rose watched Janna as she entered the room and walked to the trunk at the foot of the bed. She opened it, took out something, Rose saw a flash of metal in the dying light, The man on the bed snorted and rolled over on his side. Rose wondered if she should look for empty bottles under the bed. Janna stood up and walked over to her, motioning her to come close.
"If you want to watch that's fine, but be quiet." she whispered.
Rose nodded and followed her back into the bedroom, leaving the door open.
Janna walked over to the window and started chanting and drawing with her finger on the frame. Rose could barely hear what she was saying, she leaned closer and realized it wasn't the volume, but the words themselves. The words she was saying would not resolve into – words. It was strange, like listening to a very loud band singing in a foreign language from several streets away. She wondered if this happened with all Magicians or just Janna. She tried to remember if she had ever been around another Magician before but could not. Janna stopped and pointed to Rose to go into the hall. Rose walked out and Janna followed her, closing the door behind them. As she pulled the door shut, she started chanting again, and drawing with her finger. Rose watched, intrigued and still amazed at the way her friend's words just seemed to skip past and understanding in her mind. Abruptly stopping her chant, Janna gestured and stepped back.
"Look at the door." she told Rose.
Rose looked around the hallway. There was the door at the other end, but it seemed like there should be something in front of her. She blinked several times, she had the odd feeling she was missing something, but at the same time her mind was telling her there was was nothing important here. She blinked again and strained to see what was in front of her, but the longer she looked, the more her thoughts drifted. Everything, even a mote of dust floating in the air, was more important than this thing in front of her. She turned back to Janna, who grinned broadly. "If he gets out, he's not going to bother me again."
"It works, huh?" she asked, and started towards the front of the house. Rose looked at her, then back at the door, then she trotted to catch up.
Janna pulled off her tunic and held it out as Rose reached her. "Do you have clothes around here? I don't know if there are any shops open at this time."
"Don't worry about it." Rose said, and shifted.
Janna shrugged, put her tunic back on and opened the door.
Rose, as a cat, lead the way back to the inn. As they entered the yard, she suddenly ran ahead and around the stable, jumping up on a shed roof and disappearing into the darkness. Janna paused for a moment, trying to see where she went, but following a black cat in a dark inn yard was impossible. Turning back to the yard, she looked around, there was a small flower garden in a corner of the yard surrounded by a border of rocks. More rocks lined the path to the door. Walking to a corner, where it would be less noticeable, Janna looked around until she found a rock that appeared to be about the right size. She put it in her pocket and walked inside the inn. Only a few people sat in the main room. She ignored them all and made a beeline towards the stairs.
A soft knock at the door woke her. Sitting up, Janna rubbed her eyes. When did I fall asleep? I only meant to close my eyes for a minute, gather my thoughts. The person at the door knocked again, politely. Janna got up and walked to the door, knowing who it was.
Rose, clothed again, was standing outside holding two covered plates on a tray.
"I brought some food." she said.
Janna thanked her and stood back so she could enter. Setting down the tray, Rose produced bread, silverware and napkins from her pockets. Janna took a plate and sat down on the bed, balancing it on her crossed legs. Rose sat down on the stool and faced her.
"How did you know, this morning, that I wasn't from here?" Rose asked, finally.
"What?" Janna asked, then she remembered, "Oh, you've got a bit of an accent. It's kind of flat so you must be from the south."
Janna nodded and took a bite. "It's all little farm towns and villages south of here, so I'd guess you're from one of them." She paused, remembering the map of the Empire that George had hanging in his study and how many times she had stared at it, while he lectured her for something or other. She continued, not looking up. "You don't look anything like the innkeeper or his wife, so you're probably not related to them, and the boy in the stable, who does look like them, is too young to be married. I thought maybe you're filling in for someone who's sick? And, if that's so, you're not going to have a job when he comes back."
She looked up, Rose had stopped eating and was staring at her. Janna looked at her, wondering if she shouldn't have spoken up. Then Rose chuckled and Janna relaxed.
"Right on every count." She said, taking a bite. She chewed, swallowed and continued. "I was born in Clay, and I'm an herbalist. I didn't mean to stay in Greyton - there are two, no, three, herbalists in town already - but my companion left with all my money. The Stones took pity on me. Their daughter had just broken her leg and they were desperate for help. They just told me that she's coming back next week." She looked at Janna, who was watching her curiously.
"Do you mind if I ask you something personal?" she said.
"What's it like being a were?"
"What do you mean?"
"Can you change anytime you want? Are you only a cat or could you be something else? Can you talk to animals?" she asked, the questions spilling out in a rush.
Rose held up a finger, "One: I change with the moon." she said. "When the moon is full, I'm a cat. When it's new I'm a person. It gets harder and easier to change in between." she held up another finger. "I can't turn into any other animal. I'm just a cat." she paused, thinking, "What else?"
"Talking to animals." Janna prompted.
"Oh, I can't talk to cats, but they like me. Even the feral ones will come over." She wiped the last bit of food with her bread, ate it, then set her plate aside.
"What's it like being a Magician? Who taught you? Did using magic come on you suddenly or did you build up to it? What were you before you were a Magician?" Janna stared at her, and Rose smiled. "Tit for tat." She said. "I answered your questions."
Janna smiled and looked down. She looked up again almost immediately, meeting Rose's eyes. "I was a thief." she said flatly. "Before I was a Magician, I was a thief." she smiled sardonically, "I met my teacher when I broke into his house."
"Why did you break in?" Rose asked.
Janna paused, thinking before answering. "I didn't have anywhere to live," she said softly, looking down again. "I broke into George's house – George is my teacher – because I heard a rumor that he had money. He caught me. When he grabbed me, I felt a shock. I thought he'd put a spell on me but he felt it too. He said I had talent, and took me in, and taught me."
"Couldn't you do magic before?"
"No. It doesn't come out until you meet another Magician. That's what they say at least."
"How long did you live with him?"
"A few weeks ago he told me to go to Bluestone and get a particular gemstone, a garnet, from this man. He said when I got back he'd tell me if I could leave."
"Why do you need him to tell you? Is he forcing you to stay?"
"No, he's not forcing me…" She looked away for a moment. "I don't… There might be something more he needs to teach me. What if there's something I need to know?"
"I don't know." she scowled. "I know that he told me that garnet was very magical and it's not." Suddenly she set her plate aside, stepped off the bed and over to the window where the pitcher and bowl still sat. Picking up the bowl and towel she poured a little water in the bowl and wiped it out with the towel. Rose watched her sudden activity curiously.
"Would you hand me my bag there on the floor?" Janna asked as she tossed the water in the bowl out the window.
Rose handed her the bag. Opening it, Janna put her hand inside and pulled out a crumpled ball of paper. She unfolded it. Inside was a red gemstone, faceted and a deep reddish-orange. She put in the bowl, and dug in her pocket. Pulling out a rock - Rose recognized it as one from the yard - she set it down next to the bowl. Picking up her bag again, Janna pulled out three packets of herbs and emptied them one at a time over the garnet, saying a few words with each one. Then she picked up the rock from the table and put in the bowl on top of the garnet and placed both hands over the bowl, covering it.
"Wait a minute. You'll see something" she said with a smile.
Suddenly she leaned forward, and said a spell, then dropped her hands and stepped back. Rose saw a few wisps of smoke float up from the bowl. Wiping her hands on her breeches, Janna stepped forward and looked in the bowl. Then she reached in with both hands, picked up something, and held both hands out to Rose. Rose looked, a garnet, both apparently identical sat in each hand.
"You turned the rock into a garnet?" She asked.
"No. Just an illusion. It would never fool an expert. But I tied it to the rock, so it'll last until after I get home. Pretty good, huh?"
Janna, looking both embarrassed and pleased, wrapped one garnet in the crumpled paper again and shoved them both back in her bag.
Rose gathered up the empty dishes. "I'll take these downstairs." she paused a moment, letting her activity cover for her indecision. "Are you leaving tomorrow?" she asked tentatively.
"Yes, I'm going back to Silver City." Janna said, picking up a stray fork from the bed and handing it to her. "Do you want to come with me?"
"Do you mind? I don't have a horse, but I can walk."
"You can ride with me. Besides, you won't weigh that much in a few days." She ducked her head and smiled.
Rose grinned back. "You're right. Thank you. I'll meet you in the morning."
Janna held the door open for her as she walked out.
The moon was just past full when they reached Silver City. Janna rode her horse through the city to a three story house in a nice neighborhood. She tied her horse outside and walked to the door. Rose, a cat now, followed her. She did not bother to knock but walked in. A man came down the stairs to meet her. He wore an old robe with a ragged hem and was unshaven.
"Hello George." Janna said.
"Hello Janna. Did you get it?"
Janna pulled the fake garnet out of her pocket and held it out. "Anythin' else ya need or c'n I go?" she asked, deliberately dropping into a street accent.
George grabbed the rock from her and dropped it in his pocket. "'Is there anything I need or may I leave?'" he corrected, then looked at her wide grin and relented. "No. Congratulations, you're a Magician." he said.
"Thank you." Janna said. They stared at each other for a minute.
"Do you need anything?" He asked.
"No, I'm good."
"Yes, I'm sure." she said, irritated and amused. Then a thought occurred to her. "What did you need the garnet for?"
"Paying a debt."
"You told me it was magic"
"You needed something to keep you busy."
Janna scowled at him.
Glass rattled and George turned to looked behind him at Rose. She had jumped up in a window and was walking behind several empty glass bottles, pushing them precariously towards the edge. "I see you've picked up a companion."
Janna looked over his shoulder, "That's Rose."
"She's a were."
Janna looked back at him. "How did you know that?"
"If you'd bother to look, Janna..."
She threw up her hands, "Not this again. Good-bye George." Turning around she walked to the door. The bottles rattled behind her as Rose jumped down to follow her.
"Hold on a minute." George said. He opened a drawer as Janna turned around again to face him. Pulling out a purse, he handed it to her. "Here. Good-bye Janna."
Janna took the purse, it clinked and was heavier than she expected.
"Send me a letter sometime."
Waving her thanks, Janna walked out the door.
Leaning against her horse, rope in one hand, purse in the other, Janna tried to decide if she should count it now or later. Rose twined around her ankles. Later. She decided bending over and lifting Rose onto the saddle. Putting her own foot in the stirrup she lifted herself up and sat down. She paused for a moment, letting the summer breeze, carrying the noise and smells of the city wash over her. She was not sure what she should do now. But, she thought, I have time, money and a friend. I'll find something. Picking up the reins she kneed her horse to walk and rode down the street toward the city gate.