Chapter 11

"Today," Meea told her class, "we're going to talk about the other kinds of mages and what we all need to do to help and accommodate them. You probably already know the basics, from your families; it shouldn't take long just to brush up on everything. Let's start with redmages. Who's closely related to a redmage?"

A little boy raised his hand first. "My sisters and my ma," he said.

"Oh, lucky you, and what do you do to look after them the way redmages need to be looked after?"

"We run errands for them, in town, so they don't have to go out and be around people who don't know very much. And we remind them of things, and my sisters still keep diaries and we help them remember what to write. And my ma can't remember how to read anymore so we help her go to her appointments and remember what foods she likes for her and stuff."

"Good. Redmages have two basic needs: not to be touched except by designated personal-discretion loved ones and their scheduled clients, and to be helped to remember things. Who's closely related to a whitemage?"

"My pa," said another boy.

"And what do you do?"

"We make sure everything he's going to eat or touch is really clean and well-cooked. If we're sick we don't go near him unless he's going to heal it right away. We make sure we don't get hurt so he doesn't have to heal us when we could have just been careful instead, and if there's anything dangerous like going up to wash the high windows he doesn't do it because if he got hurt he would take so long to get better. When he's sick, we make sure he can rest and doesn't have to do anything."

"Good. Whitemages need help to make sure they stay as healthy as they can, and when that fails and they get ill they need to focus on getting better and not on other things. Who's related to a bluemage...?"

"My brothers," said a girl. "All of them."

"Oh, that must be an interesting family," said Meea. "And what do you do?"

"When I'm around them I act like I used to so they know how to react," said the girl. "Even though I'm older now, I don't try to make them understand that... I use their prompts when I need them to do things. And even when they aren't very interesting to be around I spend time with them, since just because they won't know what they're feeling if they get lonely doesn't mean they can't."

"Very good. Bluemages don't lose their memories, exactly, not like redmages, they lose something much more complicated, so it can be hard to deal with them. Their attendants and families are more able to meet their needs than anyone else because bluemages have trouble with new people, but if you meet one it's good to have a general idea of why they act like they do. And lastly -"

"My parents and my ma's boyfriend are all greenmages," said a boy.

"And what do they need?"

"Reminders to eat, but not too much, and drink enough water, and pee and go to bed, and change position when they're sitting or standing for a long time," he said. "And checking for little injuries like if they bite their tongues."

"Right. Greenmages don't instinctively know how to react to things like being hungry or thirsty or tired, anymore, so they need reminders in words, or writing. Pain is the last thing to go now that we know enough about how they work, and it can get them in real trouble if they get hurt and don't notice."

"And, um..." added the boy.


"Pa said, sometimes, greenmages lose things out of order? Same as how it's not always the same order for redmages or bluemages -?"

"It's pretty regular. Breathing is always last, so we know enough now never to dwindle a greenmage to death. Breathing comes after reacting to pain," said Meea.

"Yes, but, before that. He said sometimes there's a thing that usually would come after breathing that... doesn't always."

"Well - there are rumors about that," Meea acknowledged. "But if it happens it does so only rarely -"

"What's the thing?" asked Nicixa.

"This is just a rumor," says Meea. "You don't need to worry about it."

"What is it?" Nicixa demanded.

"Well," Meea sighed. "You know how if someone near you is upset, you feel a little upset, too?"

Everyone nodded.

"Some people say that that's an instinct too, and that greenmages could lose it. But if this ever, ever happens, all it means is that there would need to be reminders just like everything else. Greenmages still want to eat and drink - they just might not remember. They still want to be kind to people, even if they don't feel it instinctively. And this would happen late. And in most everyone, it wouldn't happen until they'd already lost breathing. You don't need to worry about greenmages you know."

"But," said Nicixa.

"And greenmages can still have their feelings hurt like anyone else," said Meea firmly. "Don't spread nasty rumors. If you're attending a greenmage you can ask them what they need reminders for but there's no call to talk about it beyond that."

The students nodded solemnly.

They were stopped, on the way in. Meea didn't want to kill Liatsi's guards, and would have had to in order to get Wiar and Luvi in, since she couldn't pause them along with herself. She told herself she was glad there weren't such obvious holes in her Princess's security. Not that this had helped when Wiar had been taken.

But the guard recognized Wiar, and Meea too, and had no standing orders to make life awkward for them. It was Luvi he wanted explained.

"She's from our Temple-Guild," Meea said, still squeezing Wiar's hand. "I - Wiar, do you want to claim Luvi as your third - companion?" Say yes, she pleaded silently, along a channel the guard wouldn't be able to intercept.

Wiar nodded, smiling.

"With that servant of his and you as the first two?" said the guard.

"Yes," said Meea.

The guard looked at Wiar.

Meea nodded firmly. Wiar nodded along with her, biddable.

"All right," said the guard.

Why are you letting me in? I ran from here and I'm not even dressed like a mage anymore and the Archduchess thinks I colluded with the Caplari! Meea thought, but she didn't say it, because how could that possibly help. She smiled and led Wiar in by the hand and made sure Luvi was following them.

First floor parlor.

Meea knew where that was.

If Liatsi's goldmage were under orders to kill her on sight...

He would have chased Meea, wouldn't he?

Ugh, she wasn't good at this sort of tactics. She had Wiar with her. He was not in any condition to testify that she hadn't kidnapped him or contributed thereto, but she also had this spare bluemage who could verify where Meea had been at any given time. Unless it was dark. Meea was pretty sure she had not been in total darkness except with Liatsi, Wiar liked the lights up to read body language... But Liatsi wasn't the one who needed to be convinced. Liatsi trusted her. The Archduchess needed to be convinced, and if Liatsi needed to keep her secrets about being in the dark together and buy that secret with Meea's life -


Meea's life wasn't very expensive anymore.

She'd let her do it.

First floor parlor it was, then.

There were of course hallways in the palace. Wiar seemed to have been mostly greenmaged about the specific corridor in the Revel House, but he was not thrilled about walking through these, either. They hugged the wall. Meea put a hand over his eyes, but he shook her off, trembling but looking around.

She wondered if he could remember the place at all.

He seemed to find it at least loosely familiar, because when they got to the corner with the spiral stairs and Meea tried to steer Wiar and Luvi left, Wiar leaned right, to where the steps led up to his room.

...His and Iamica's room.

Forgetting about Iamica had gotten them into this mess. Well, farther into it. Iamica would not have failed to notice that Wiar was missing.

Iamica deserved to know that he was alive, and in what condition, and if they went straight to Liatsi then even in the best case scenario Iamica would wait hours more not knowing while other matters were sorted out.

Would she still be locked up or might someone have realized by now that she was harmless? The Minister of Intelligence had seemed paranoid enough to leave her behind bars until the entire thing was behind them. Guarded? Probably. But Meea had been let in. Liatsi was still in talks with her aunt; they had not completely resolved the situation, and the door guard had not been under any special instructions about Meea.

So Meea steered the other mages to the stairs that led down.

This guard didn't recognize Meea but he did recognize Wiar. They went again through the rigmarole of Wiar claiming Meea and Luvi as attendants and confirming that Iamica was one too. Meea didn't think he remembered Iamica existed, but he nodded when Meea squeezed his hand.

And when the guard let them by -

There was only one occupied cell. Iamica was pressing herself to the bars, having overheard the conversation, which had included Wiar's name. "Wiar? Wiar -"

Wiar looked at Iamica and his mouth fell open in wordless, uncomprehended recognition. He could forget her name, her face, her existence, but he couldn't forget her; she was stamped indelibly into his soul. He could read her like a book.

Better. He probably couldn't read books any longer.

Iamica reached through the bars and Wiar took her hand and Meea tried to think how to describe what had happened. In the end she crouched down and just said: "Someone took him. He's very dwindled now. But I got him back and Liatsi will find out what happened."

Iamica sniffled, but she smiled for Wiar, who kissed her knuckles and brushed the tears off her cheeks through the bars, and Meea said, "You deserved to know but I need to find Liatsi and I had better not leave him -"

"Don't leave him," echoed Iamica. "With someone he loves who loves him, all the time, if he's this bad, and I can't follow if he wanders off from here - don't leave him. Go with Meea, Wiar."

Meea pulled, and Wiar let Iamica's fingers fall from his and followed. "I love you," he said helplessly to Iamica, when his skin could no longer sing it to hers, "I love you, I love you -"

Luvi, silent, obedient, went after them.

The door to the parlor was closed, but not guarded.

Meea opened it, holding Wiar by the hand.

And there were Liatsi and the Archduchess. Luvi hesitated at the door, curtsied automatically, backed away.

"You," said Siava.

"Wiar," said Liatsi, getting to her feet. "Where was he?"

Meea fell to her knees, bowed her head. "I found him in the Revel House, Princess, with the help of that bluemage, Luvi, who I encountered misused and abandoned near it. Wiar is very dwindled, Princess, he can't confirm what I say, but Luvi can still take instructions and will take mine, if you want something seen and don't wish to spend Tse Curin on it. Wiar's been greenmaged. I don't know how the Revel House convinced any greenmage to do it to him, but I got him out anyway."

Liatsi reached for Wiar's face, cupped it in her hands. He smiled faintly, eyes closed. When she sat he knelt next to Meea at Liatsi's feet.

"The Caplari have greenmages," Siava mentioned. "It's only golds and reds they don't."

"I'm increasingly unsure it was the Caplari," Liatsi says. "I hope you're sufficiently reassured by now that it was not Meea."

Siava shrugged. "So you say. I suppose if she could not be trusted near you, you would not have gone unharmed for the duration of her employment, and the redmage certainly cannot be convinced not to trust her. I remain suspicious of Palar and Jehade."

Wiar flinched, falling from his knees to a sprawl on the floor, when Jehade's name was spoken; Meea took his hand.

"The timing, the target," Siava continued, ignoring Wiar.

"The damage is done," said Liatsi. "If it was malice it was on a miniscule scale relative to the movement of nations however personally affected I may be, and it was neither subtle nor strategic. This was not the first volley in a war, and replying as though it were would be insanity."

"You plan to simply take the slap? Your redmage is destroyed, look at him," said Siava.

"You upset him," murmured Meea. "He doesn't like to hear the prince's name."

"Because he saw the prince for what he is," scoffed Siava. "Which ought to be more than enough to convince you to send a covert goldmage to assassinate Jehade so his little brother will inherit in his place, Liatsi, even if you don't want to send the navy."

"We saw no evidence that Wiar detected anything more than a basic incompatibility which does not reflect on the Caplari heir's ability to rule Caplare," said Liatsi.

"Which you heard from Tse Witwex."

"Aunt, you had just agreed that she is not under suspicion."

"I agreed she wasn't likely to harm you, that the redmage will go on finding her harmless regardless of what she does, but she is still Caplari and still -"

"- still not the culprit. What do you have against her?"

"Nothing personally," Siava said. "It is merely very convenient that the Caplari delegation came while you had a Caplari bodyguard ready to explain away your redmage's distress."

Meea ached to defend herself, but Liatsi was better with words, and knew her own aunt, surely. Meea kept stroking the back of Wiar's hand while he shook on the ground.

"I chose Meea for reasons of my own," Liatsi said. "There is no plausible way for her to have communicated with the Caplari royalty beforehand."

"Jehade, though," said Siava. (Wiar sobbed. Meea gathered him up in her arms and was loved loved loved despairing and loved.)

"Aunt, please," exclaimed Liatsi.

"He will hardly remember it!"

"He is unhappy now and you could easily avoid it."

"The Caplari heir. You have your evidence that there is no good there, you have an obvious reason for him to target your redmage. I met him myself some years ago and he was wicked then too. And you will do nothing?"

"I will," said Liatsi firmly.

"Madness," said Siava. "You were not ready to take the crown, after all -"

Meea wanted to scream. She settled for looking into Liatsi's eyes.

Liatsi's pupils, contracting to pinpoints.

Wiar tracked Meea's gaze, then suddenly shrieked and tossed in her arms until she couldn't hold him -

- and threw himself at Siava.

They toppled together out of her chair, his hands clenched in her hair against her scalp, and they both howled like they were burning.

"Wiar," said Liatsi. "Wiar, stop -"

"Kill her!" Wiar screamed. "Kill her kill her if you love her kill her I can't hold I can't I can't kill her kill her -"

That couldn't all be the same 'her'. He couldn't remember anyone's names, and Meea didn't know who he meant -

Siava was out of breath.

Siava did not inhale again after her scream had faded to a thin keen.

Meea flicked her knife out and plunged it into Siava's eye, and Wiar quieted for the space of a gasp, and then he wept.

"Meea," said Liatsi. "Meea, explain, now."

Meea let her knife go where it was lodged. "I think - I think -"

"At once."

"I think she was a greenmage. Somehow. I think she was conditioning you. I think Wiar noticed you were changing while she did it. He knew it wasn't me because he Knows me so he figured it had to be her and she was dead-souled too, he distracted her so she couldn't hurt you more but he couldn't keep it up, it hurt him -"


"Luvi - I'll get -" Meea opened the door and tugged Luvi in and closed up the room again. "Luvi see in the past Siava at a Godspring describe it -" (Wiar sobbed in the background when he heard the Archduchess's name but Meea knew no other way to uniquely specify her for Luvi.)

"She was close to four years old," said Luvi. "She was touching the water. It went green."

"Where was she immediately before that?" Meea pressed.

"A whitemage's office."

"Where did she go after she went to the Godspring?"

"The whitemage's office."

"What was the whitemage doing?"

"Before, he healed her and then fell asleep. After, he was sleeping."

"Stop seeing." Meea scratched at a drying spot of blood on her arm. She looked at Liatsi.

Liatsi was frozen on the spot.

"I'm sorry," murmured Meea.

Liatsi shook her head. "How did she hide it?"

"If she used it sparingly it would be the easiest to hide." Meea swallowed. "She may have done Wiar herself, though. And I do think she was working on you. She didn't breathe right -"

"She had a couple of - very trusted servants," murmured Liatsi. "Always whispering in her ear."

"Did you ever see her with her tongue bitten, other injuries -"

"No. But I didn't see her very often, not until recently." Liatsi sat down heavily. She looked at the body. "I could send Tse Tsimir."

"You could," Meea said, kneeling at Liatsi's feet again.

"I have to explain her death. I suppose I can have other bluemages verify the story that she was a greenmage. But her supporters - she had so many -"

"What did she want," Meea said. "That's what I can't figure out."

"She went to Caplare, before. She hated the prince," murmured Liatsi. "Maybe she changed him. Maybe she did it badly. Could a greenmage do that? Dead-souling?"

"Maybe. She didn't have time to do very much to you. Not unless she'd been planning it for days at least, and it seemed spur-of-the-moment."

"Not very much. Well. That would be a comfort if I knew what it was and could make Tse Faix turn it back for me." Liatsi was tearing up, just slightly. A smudge of eyeliner drew a curve down her cheek.

"You could send Tse Tsimir and kill her earlier," whispered Meea. "In front of witnesses who could see the message written on his arm -"

Liatsi shook her head. "She didn't have time to do much. We can't go back far enough to save Wiar, either. What about the bluemage?"

"Dwindled out at sea. Pirates."

"I won't see another mage wasted on this fiasco. She didn't have time to do much. I will - I will think of something and I will salvage what I can. Oh, gods. Meea. My Meea, I'm so sorry."

Meea swallowed. "It's all right."

"It isn't. It isn't, but come here."

Meea collapsed into her lap, and Liatsi held her, and they cried just like Wiar, while Luvi stared into space.