Dinah's New Year's party went on until dawn, long after the would-be saboteur was dragged off to the Guild. Cyprian interrogated the Eeee that night, and learned that the saboteurs had planned their operation so as to lay blame for the disaster at the feet of the mages. The acid eating through the wood of the perch-posts could be mistake for "magic" by the typical uneducated Eeee. Rory's hasn't heard anything on the man's business or plot since then adults don't seem to consider it important to consult his opinion on the subject.
The young unicorn's energies have largely been devoted to his studies and his practice. Tanieta has started to assign paying patients to him for treatment. Even when anti-mage sentiment as at its highest, there's never any shortage of patients at the Guild. The fervent protests against the mages that sparked riots earlier seem to have tapered off since the party, though occasional graffiti still appears on the walls of the Guild's tower.
When Rory isn't busy with patients at the Guild, he's helping in the clinics, free and otherwise, elsewhere in Babel, or on assignment guarding someone else's secrets. In between this, he sandwiches time poring over dusty manuscripts about Light magic, still trying to piece together Koshiro's theory that Life, Light, and Shadow magic are all the same, or at least connected. The Guild's Scryer has been too busy to tutor him personally, though she tested him and did the paperwork to make him an official apprentice in the Sphere. Any progress he's made since has been on his own, however, and looking at ancient books is definitely the dullest way he spends his time.
Even the busiest Journeyman gets time off now and again, however. He spent one of these free evenings with Mages Cyprian and Flutenote, who were surprisingly eager to play games with him. It turned out that both of them enjoyed certain three-player games a great deal, but they had been a long time without an eager third to participate. Rory learned k'trinzhai, a highly stylized game of war, revolving around protecting one's own "king" piece and eliminating the king pieces of one's opponents. He also learned tri-gammon, a kind of race game wherein one rolled dice and moved one or two of a number of pieces under one's control. The goal in tri-gammon was to run all your pieces along the lines of the three-pronged board from your start zone, through the start zone of the player to your right, and ending in the start zone of the player to your right. Complicating the game immensely was the ability to "capture" the pieces of your opponents by landing on one when it was alone. Captured pieces had to escape from prison, then begin the race all over again in their starting zone.
K'trinzhai was Cyprian's favorite, while Flutenote preferred tri-gammon. Both games had a noticeable political edge to him, as the players could try to entice an opponent into a temporary alliance against the third. Rory's newness at both games made him an easy mark to take out for either of the two, but the older mages were more interested in seeing him learn than anything else. Hence, he found them often vying to use his forces to engage in their own, more subtle, strategies against each other.
By any measure, the evening was a success, and they promised to repeat it "sometime soon." Times being what they were, it took a while for everyone to be free again and when that time finally came, it turned out to be the day before Mage Flutenote was scheduled to leave.
Flutenote, along with several other mages of the Guild, including Cyprian's apprentice, Josh, and the illusionist, Kris, who had helped with the party, was leaving the Babel Guild Hall for Caroban, and from there, for other assignments. Ironically, given how Rory is, there isn't much work for certain other Spheres. Not to mention that, as the meeting had shown, not everyone was comfortable staying in war-torn Babel. Curiously, Seraphae, the fire mage who had so stridently favored leaving, wasn't one of those scheduled to depart.
Patterns of pale blue and white accent this tall, open chamber, lit by the skylight overhead during the day, and by ceramic braziers supported by chains, and sculptured nymph-like Eeee with butterfly wings. More of these "flutterbys" mythical creatures given a pastoral look by this decorator decorate the walls or are worked into the motifs of various furnishings. One supports an urn in a fountain at one corner of the chamber, others are at play in a planter in another corner, some float in a wind chime by the window in the third corner, and a pair guards the grate of the fireplace in the fourth. Nooks and perches for fliers abound on the walls, making much of the useable space in the room difficult to access for one without wings. In deference to the current, non-flying inhabitant, numerous rope ladders hang down from these small spaces, making them more accessible.
These thoughts and others occupy Rory's mind as he returns to his room, back early from his last patient for the day, with an hour or so to spare before his evening engagement with Cyprian and Flutenote. Silhouette meets him at the door to his suite, signing, "How was your day?"
"Well, it had its good points and its really sad points," Rory says. "I mean, there was this little girl who had a really bad cold, and that was hardly any trouble at all, but she was born blind. I suppose that's not all that bad when you're an Eeee and rely on your ears anyway, but I still felt sorry for her, and I felt like I wasn't doing enough by just helping with a little cold. She likes candy, too." Rory says this as if it were a rare thing, and a special sign of some trait of character. "I was pretty busy, but it got me to thinking … if I can do Light Magic, and make people see things that they normally can't … would that apply to helping someone 'see' who is blind? I mean, not permanently there's no way I could be that powerful but what if I made a spell that could help someone see for just a little while. Like … to see a sunset? Or to see what she looks like in a mirror? Or to see her mom and dad and little baby brother? Just a thought."
"If you were born blind, would you still understand what seeing was?" Silhouette wonders, after listening to Rory. "Or is seeing something you have to learn how to do, like … walking, or drawing?"
"I really don't know," Rory says. "That's a good point. Maybe just being able to see once wouldn't do much good. It would just be … weird." He sighs. "I mean, something awful might happen, like she suddenly gets dizzy and throws up. I've seen acolytes do that before when they get their first spell to work." He makes no mention of his own experience in the matter. "And I'd hate to get someone's hopes up. But when you're doing this kind of work, I guess these kind of thoughts pop up. I guess I can do a lot with magic … but what should I do with it?" He holds that position, looking thoughtful for a moment, then claps his hands and says, "So, how was your day?"
"Pretty good. I went out to check on the Revenants' leader you remember, the one you saved. He's completely healed now and he was organizing his people to help the Rinala priestesses move one of their clinics to a new location. They got it all done safely. There was one Yodhrephath who noticed them, then slunk off quickly. I followed her for a while to make sure she wasn't going to rat on them to the Yodhsunala or anyone." Silhouette signs. "But she wasn't. She met up with another patrol and told them there was nothing unusual going on in that section of the city, and that she'd been through it already and the patrol should skip down a few blocks."
"Really?" Rory says, though it's more rhetorical than anything, since he accepts most anything Silhouette says as gospel. "Wow. Well, thank you for checking up on him for me. I really feel bad about not paying another visit to check on him myself. I've just been so … you know … busy." He grins. "Thanks, Silhouette. That makes me feel a whole lot better! Oh yeah do you know how to play K'trinzhai?"
"I watched while you learned the last time," Silhouette signs. "I think I understand it. Tri-gammon looks easier. Well. It looked easier until Flutenote started explaining about what moves you should make when based on the what die combinations you were most likely to get next." Flutenote's explanations of strategy, based on probability theory, had made Rory's eyes cross, too, though the play itself seemed simple enough.
Rory nods. "It's a Chaos thing. 'Statistical analysis.' It's a bunch of math-stuff, and it gets all gobbledygooky real fast. I mean, real numbers are bad enough, but they actually have imaginary numbers, too!"
The shadow unicorn pauses. "Wouldn't you be good at that, though?" she asks.
"You'd think so!" Rory says with a "hmph," "but it's a very specific sort of imaginary number. It's … uh … oh, it's math stuff. You don't just make up any ol' number you want. I think they just call them 'imaginary' because they're too complicated to be real."
Silhouette nods her head vigorously, as if finding that explanation entirely credible. "Anyway … why did you ask if I knew how to play?" she inquires. Her signs have a hesitant, yet expectant quality to them.
"Well," Rory says, "you see, Mage Cyprian and Mage Flutenote both know how to play k'trinzhai and trigammon, and we played … and we're going to play again tonight. I know it's only for three players, but, you know, what with Mage Flutenote leaving and all, I'd hate for Mage Cyprian to be left all alone. He and Mage Flutenote would play games now and then, I guess, and if she's gone … well … maybe you could be a third player. Tonight, of course, maybe you could just keep us company, or, I don't know, maybe they'd like to play against you. Wouldn't that be different? Assuming they'd be interested, you know, but it couldn't hurt to ask."
Silhouette's hands are still for a few moments, then she gives a big smile. "Do you think it would be all right?" she signs, eager and anxious at the same time. "Really … I was thinking of asking you if I, you know, could. Come along. And really be there. Remember that spell you worked out, so that I could be more solid and most adults wouldn't just overlook me even if I was trying to be conspicuous?"
Rory grins. "If you'd like, well, if I have time, I'll start on a spell. And if we're short … uhm … well, I'll just have to ask them if I could be a little late. I'm a full-fledged Journeyman of Shadow now, so … well … no better time than the present to give it a shot, huh?"
The shadow girl looks nervous, but also excited. "All all right. Yes. Let's do it!"
"All right, then!" Rory grins, obviously excited as well, at the prospect of a new adventure. "You … uhm … figure out what you're going to wear, okay? Or how you're going to look. I mean, you'll still be, you know, shadowy, but while the spell's in effect, you probably won't be able to just change things around however you want. Well … honestly, I don't know. Shadow elementals are naturally rather shifty-shapey and all that, but this isn't exactly the same thing."
Silhouette nods. "I want to look nice for Queen Flutenote. She is royalty. Remember that dress I was wearing, when we danced on the airship, before we went to Lamu? I could wear that."
"Perfect!" Rory says. "All right you go change, and I'll set up the magic circle. Then when you get back, I'll have you stand in the center and I'll do my magic-jig thing and we'll be all set! Whoo hoo! Cyprian and Flutenote are going to be so surprised! At least, I hope so. I mean, it's not like I do stuff like this every day."
A large semi-circular room with a great open space at its center, and nooks the size of small rooms that ring the outer walls, furnished to serve different tasks. Winding staircases with banisters painted like rivers, and ladders made up to look like waterfalls, permit access to the various "nooks" as they rise on different levels. At the center of the room a great fountain plays, water pouring from the mouths of four seahorses. Beyond the fountain, near the windows, a multi-tiered cloth-covered platform rests. At some of the corners of the tiers, the cloth has worn thin, and it looks like the tiers are made up of ordinary shipping pallets turned upside down and stacked on top each other. Three chairs, one far more ornate than the rest, have been gathered onto the platform, around a single small table.
Mage Flutenote sits on her "throne", its peeling silver gilt undermining its impressiveness, with her crown in place and her head held high. "We welcome you to our court, Lord Stormshadow," she says regally, before directing a curious look to her guest's companion. "We do not believe we have met your friend. Cyprian, seated at the table with her, leaned back to look when the newcomers entered, and on catching a glimpse of Rory's guest, rose politely.
Rory bows, dropping to one digitigrade knee in as best an imitation of how he imagines that a certain unicorn knight would, in the presence of royalty. "I am honored to be here, Your Highness," Rory says, falling into the role with enthusiasm that pretends to be somber. "This is the Lady Silhouette," he says, gesturing to the ebon unicorn beside him, a shadow granted an unnatural degree of solidity by the workings of ritual, and a great more detail that brings out the folds and frills of her gown worn specially for the occasion.
The night-dark unicorn at his side drops a graceful curtsey, taking the full skirts of her gown into dainty hands. The formality of her dress might appear funereal in another culture but Babelites treat white, not black, as the color of death. She wears a ribbon in her mane, tied at the base of her neck in a ruffled bow. The clothing catches the light with the glimmer of satin, and light filters through the lace of puffed sleeves. The features of her black face are distinct and feminine, the large eyes, sans iris or white, a little spooky above her slender muzzle, the spiral of her horn rising between them. She rises, signing, "I am honored, as well, and hope I do not intrude."
Flutenote, with the graciousness of a queen, says, "Your friend is most welcome, of course, Lord Stormshadow. We shall have to have a servant bring another chair."
Cyprian bows in answer to the other two, with apparent ease in courtly manners. His mouth twitches in a smile. "Allow me, your grace," he says, mildly, stepping down from the dais to fetch a chair from one of the ground-level nooks.
"Drats!" Rory whispers under his breath to Silhouette. "I knew I forgot something." Then, louder, he says, "Oh! I guess I'll have to translate, unless you know Silent Sign. Silhouette said that she's honored, as well, and she hopes she does not intrude." He makes a mental note to provide a "running translation" so Silhouette doesn't get left out.
"Of course she does not," Flutenote answers after the translation. "Any friend of yours, Lord Stormshadow, is welcome in our court." She waits, patiently, while Cyprian brings over the chair and places it opposite her. "Please, do make yourselves comfortable."
"Thank you, Your Highness," Rory says, and he gives Cyprian a sheepish grin as well, as he takes a seat. "Is everything all settled for your trip to Caroban, Your Highness?"
Cyprian holds the chair for Silhouette, who seats herself in it with a little awkwardness. The black unicorn is as unused to solidity as she is to such courtesies, but she manages to sign her thanks to the Eeee anyway, glancing over her shoulder. Flutenote nods in answer to Rory. "It is. We understand that the journey will not be long, though we expect it to be a dreary affair." She sighs. "Little though we have appreciated this city whilst it was our home, we find ourselves sad now to be leaving it, and particularly, such friends as we have at this court." She looks to Cyprian and Rory in turn, meaningfully.
Rory smiles abashedly. "You're most kind, Your Highness. I'll try to find the time to come visit Caroban now and again. I'm sure I'll be headed that way regardless, eventually, as there's only so much I can learn of Light from books." His words are slow and deliberate, as he tries very very hard to sound distinguished. He even tries to add what he thinks is a distinguished-sounding accent to his speech.
"I am Mage Cyprian," the black-furred Eeee introduces himself to Silhouette, quietly, "and it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance." He extends his right hand for hers, and when she gives it, he bows, brushing his lips over the air above her knuckles. He releases her hand, and Silhouette looks both pleased and terribly embarrassed, signing something that Rory can't see from this angle, then turning her head away from the Eeee.
At the exchange between the other two, Cyprian smiles, as well. In fact, he seems to be controlling a grin as Rory completes his distinguished speech. When he speaks again, however, it's on a different subject. "I fear we have chosen our entertainment for this evening poorly," he says, "suited to three players, and not four. "Perhaps we should select another game Towers?"
"Towers?" Rory repeats. "I'm not familiar with that one. And, if it's a problem, I can bow out and let Silhouette play. She beats me at all sorts of games! Well, lots of them, in any case. It's sort of hard to play card games with shadows."
"No, that's all right!" Silhouette signs. "I don't need to play. I only wanted to watch. I mean … watch while you knew I was watching. Oh, dear, Rory, don't translate that, it sounds awful. Just tell them I'm here to meet them and keep you company, all right? And maybe I could offer you advice if that's all right."
"Towers is a four-player trick-taking card game," Cyprian explains, then adds, "Not, I gather, the Lady Silhouette's forte."
Rory scratches his head, confused at what parts he should translate. "Well, not my … uhm … forte, either," Rory confesses. "She says she's just here to meet you and keep me company, and to offer me advice … but … Silhouette, you sure you don't want to play? I've never been in a four-player card game before. Unless you count 'Go Scrounge.'"
Silhouette looks daunted by the prospect. "No, I think I think that might be a bit much. I'm only just getting used to the idea of talking to people. People who aren't you." She smiles hesitantly at Cyprian and Flutenote. "Though I suppose it would be easier if they knew what I was saying. On second thought, maybe it's just as well. This feels so strange!"
For their part, the two adults seem content to let the unicorns sort out what happens next. Cyprian leans back in his chair, folding his hands on the table before him, while Flutenote sits with her usual calm, formal demeanor.
Rory leans over to whisper, "Oh, come on! You can do it! It's just a card game. Besides, it might be a long time before we can have four players again. I'm curious to find out how it's played. Pretty please? I'll owe you one?"
"Oh … all right," Silhouette agrees at length, fidgeting her hands after she answers.
"Thank you!" Rory squeals, forgetting all decorum, as he throws his arms around Silhouette in a "hug". (Solid or not, old habits die hard.) "It'll be fun!"
Silhouette giggles, making a silent "oof" and patting Rory on the back. "Hugs are more fun when you're solid!" she says when he sits back again
Cyprian quirks an eyebrow to Flutenote after the agreement between the unicorns. "And your grace?" he asks.
Flutenote inclines her head. "If it pleases our guests, it pleases us. By all means, let us play Towers. You will do us the kindness of explaining the rules to our guests?"
Rory settles back into his chair. "Yes, please!" He grins eagerly. He can hardly keep himself from doing something embarrassing like bouncing in his seat or banging his hooves against the legs, he's so excited that things are going so well!
"Towers," it turns out, is a trick-taking game for exactly four players two pairs of partners, sitting opposite each other. In their current arrangement, Rory and Cyprian form one partnership, and Silhouette and Flutenote another. The partnerships alternate between "defender" and "attacker" role, with the "attacking partnership" having the goal of taking exactly eight of the thirteen total tricks, while the "defender" tries to manipulate the attacker into taking more, or fewer. Each player must follow suit if they can, with the highest card played to a trick taking it. It's a deceptively simple game to play, as Rory and Silhouette soon discover that taking exactly a certain number of tricks is harder than it looks.
What Rory lacks in skill in card games, he makes up for in enthusiasm not, necessarily, that it wins him any more hands, but that he has a grand time playing, whether winning or losing. Mostly, he just can't get over the novelty that Silhouette is beside him, actually holding cards, and solid ones at that. (Not like shadow cards, which are transparent, so you can see right through them, which totally defeats the purpose). Somehow, he actually manages to win a few hands, though he privately suspects that it's just something that grown-ups are obliged to do now and then: humor the kids. (He's not complaining!)
Of course, being partnered with a grown-up and not each other means that /one/ of the kids has to be on the winning team at any given time. But Rory thinks to himself that the kids are doing pretty well, all things considered, and might even be holding their own if they were partnered together. Silhouette plays with a curious intensity, spending her time focused on her cards, or on the expressions of her fellows at the table. During a lull while Cyprian deals, she signs, "/It's so strange not to be on /your/ team!" to Rory.
Rory giggles at this. He signs back, "Yeah! Maybe if we get good at it, we could try being on the same team, and do this again sometime." His smile diminishes a little, as he remembers once more that it will be a very long time after tonight that "doing this again sometime" will be able to include Mage Cyprian and Mage Flutenote at the same time, but he pushes that aside. He's had to say goodbye to friends many times over … and goodbyes aren't so bad if it means that you'll get to say 'hello' again later on.
Silhouette giggles. "I hope getting good won't require understanding all that stuff about probabilities and remembering what cards have been played!" Then she catches a little of his melancholy, glancing to Flutenote herself. The eccentric Chaos mage waits with solemn patience for the deal to be completed.
"May I ask,, Lady Silhouette," Cyprian inquires in the lull, looking to her directly as he speaks, even though he doesn't understand her sign language, "where you are from?"
At the query, the unicorn girl glances nervously to Rory. "What should I say?"
Rory looks to Silhouette, and for a moment his eyes betray an "I knew she was gonna say that!" thought, and then he breaks into a grin and signs, "Well, what would you say? I guess either Lamu or Aeonia? Mage Cyprian's not going to bite!" Actually, now that he thinks of it, what with Mage Cyprian being the Avenger and all that, he's not too certain about the not biting part, but he's fairly confident that in the current situation, Silhouette is in absolutely no danger of such an eventuality.
Silhouette nods, squares her shoulders, and looks back at Cyprian with a smile. "It's … um … complicated," she signs, keeping her hands where both Rory and Cyprian can see them. "I'm from Aeonia, originally, like Rory like all the other Aeonians." She taps her horn for emphasis. "Something happened to Rory and me a long time ago. We're not exactly sure what. For a long time we didn't remember at all, and now that we do remember some of it … well, for me, it's like remembering something you read in a story, not something that happened to you, or that was you. If that makes sense."
She pauses a moment, then goes on, "Anyway, after what happened, I wasn't a regular Aeonian anymore. Just a shadow. No one notices me when I'm not trying to be obtrusive, and when I am trying, it's still mostly other kids who notice me, or grown-ups who are good at looking. Rory's trying to make me solid again. He did this spell so I'd be solid," she thumps her hand against the table, then looks surprised at herself, "for tonight. It's very strange to be three dimensional!"
Rory translates, then stage-whispers to Cyprian, "The 'solid' part is a modified Elemental spell, by the way!" He does his best not to look overly proud.
The Eeee has finished dealing, but neither he nor Flutenote seem in a great hurry to pick up their cards. They exchange glances, then Cyprian looks to Rory. "Forgive me for asking, Journeyman," he says, sounding genuinely apologetic, "but is this play-acting, or truth?"
"Uhhhhhh," Rory says, scratching his head for a moment, as he ponders that, really, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference about things like this, "well, it's as close to truth as we can piece together. You'd have to ask Master Koshiro for all the details … but I've done that myself, and I still don't quite have it all figured out. I mean, if you think that's confusing, then you ought to consider that I'm not even sure where I'm from. I mean, whether I'm actually from Aeonia, or whether I'm the son of a knight who came from there, and whether that makes Silhouette my sister or my mom or … uh … Ouch. It kind of hurts my head just thinking about it. Master Koshiro didn't exactly help there, either, but, you see, he's a Shadow Dragon, so I guess he has to be a bit confusing and mysterious. I think it goes with the territory. And when it comes to confusing and mysterious, this one's a doozy!"
"The spell you have worked is a formidable one, Lord Stormshadow," Flutenote says. "We are impressed. In fact, when you brought her, we will confess we thought her to be an actual Elemental. But we have never yet seen an Elemental who could play a game of any complexity, much less do so intelligently. We understand your confusion … and the evident truths at its root." The equine touches her crown. "We are all too familiar with truths both hard to explain, and hard to credit."
"Really?" Rory says, hopefully. "Does this make any sense to you at all, then?"
Flutenote inclines her head solemnly. "It does."
Cyprian shakes his own as if to clear his thoughts. "My apologies I am a little startled. Did either of you speak with the mages at the College about treating your condition, Lady Silhouette?"
Rory looks to Silhouette, and though she's being addressed at this point, he says, "I ran everything by Mage Crucible, when we came back from Lamu with Daughter of Fire she's the Fire Hedge Wizard who thinks that all mages are gods, but who agreed to come back to Caroban to undergo proper training. I don't know if she still thinks mages are all gods, though."
"I've been … worried someone would think I was a … you know, free-willed spirit," Silhouette signs, slowly. "And not a regular person who got sort of … hurt. I guess. Plus, it's not so bad, being inconspicuous. It's safe. No one bothers you."
Rory dutifully translates that.
Flutenote and Cyprian exchange glances again. "What did Mage Canticle have to say on the matter?" Cyprian asks of Rory.
Rory strains to remember exactly what he did say. "Uh … I think it was along the lines of … uhm … " He scratches his mane. "Well, basically, there was that examination, and they said that more or less since Silhouette's not a free elemental, and she's not a ghost, and since she's tied to me, then that's okay as far as the free-willed spirit problem is. Or something like that. But it never quite got to the part of how to get her … you know … back to normal. I've been trying to figure out Master Koshiro's approach to magic that is, that he thinks Life, Light and Shadow can all be thought of as a single Sphere in the hopes that if I get to be really really good, I can come up with some super-duper alley-ooper spell that can undo the bad part of what got done to Silhouette, and un-shadow-ify her … hopefully without any nasty side effects like, you know, obliterating myself in the process. That'd really stink."
Flutenote tenses her jaw, repeating quietly to herself, "Not a free elemental, not a ghost, and tied to you."
The black-furred Eeee appears to reach a conclusion of his own, and he nods to Rory. "That explains your program of study though I cannot say I understand the Light connection. Your goal is certainly admirable, as well as intriguing. The limitation on your current spell to ah solidify Lady Silhouette, would mainly be that it needs to be renewed, I am guessing? What are the other faults you hope to remedy? Lack of voice," he muses.
"Well, yeah, there's that," Rory says, "plus, normally, she doesn't look like this. She isn't all black, you see. I mean, not right down to the eyes and all. Hey, Silhouette, would you say your eyes are sort of a xocholatl brown, do you think? That's what I think, any road." He scratches his head. "Really, I don't know that there's anything inherent about Life, Light and Shadow Magic in and of itself that would be in the business of solidifying people who've been turned into shadows, except that's the sort of magic Master Koshiro used that got her into this mess in the first place. You see, it was some sort of weird healing spell when Corwyn uhm, that is, the knight who is sort of my dad, I guess you might say, or as close as I've got to one got really badly bonked, and in order for Master Koshiro to heal him, what with how bad he was, it could only be done with, well, ending up with Silhouette like this."
"Violet eyes," Silhouette says, quietly. "Sylvan had violet eyes, and dark brown hair/
"Except, and this is the really lousy deal part of it," Rory says, "Corwyn didn't exactly come back. Instead, they got me. So Oh! Oh, I'm so sorry! I got it mixed up. Silhouette had violet eyes. Or, that is, Sylvan had violet eyes. And xocholatl hair. And … ow. My head's starting to hurt again."
"I think that I'm sort of Sylvan and you're sort of Corwyn," Silhouette adds. "Except we're more mixed together than that. But that's who we used to be."
"You see, Sylvan was this lady unicorn who was a Life Mage, way back when, off in Lamu, and Corwyn was a knight," Rory says. "And Master Koshiro was this LifeLightShadow Dragon Mage who lives in this cavern. He's still around, actually. I don't know how old he is. But anyway, there were some bandits there and I don't even know who they were who hurt Corwyn real bad. Sylvan couldn't heal him, so she went to Master Koshiro. He said he was so bad that the only way he could help was this really weird spell. And what happened when it was all through was that I came out of it. I'm all weird black and white like this, I think, because Corwyn was white, and Sylvan was black, and I'm sort of them blended together … kind of. And then here's Silhouette, too. And, yeah, like Silhouette says, she's sort of Sylvan, and I'm sort of Corwyn, but we're kind of mixed up. It's really messy."
"For starters," Rory says, "neither of them was this short!"
The chaos mage watches the two unicorns with deep compassion in her eyes. "How terrible for you," she pronounces. "And this Koshiro could not help you beyond this? One would think there must be something the College can do." She looks heavenward, with a certain dark undertone to her voice.
Cyprian smiles a little at Rory's last words. "It's as if the two of you are growing up a second time. A weird spell indeed. It's a shame that our library here is only an echo of what it once was. I wonder if Master Zahirinee would be able to offer you any insight?"
"Oh?" Rory's ears perk up, and he looks hopeful, but then they wilt a little. "Well … Master Zahirinee, isn't he in charge of a whole territory now? He's got to be awfully busy and all, and I'll bet that people all over Sinai go, 'Hey! I wonder if Master Zahirinee knows?' and they want to come look in his magic pool for the answer, and that's got to be really annoying. But … " He twists his mouth in thought. "I suppose I could always write him a really really nice letter and just ask. I mean, he could always say, 'Thank you for asking, but I'm really too busy,' or 'I can't help you right now, but my brother-in-law knows a lot about really strange curses involving getting stuck in non-corporeal forms, and maybe you could write him instead,' or something. Yeah. Maybe I could get a lead!"
The mind mage leans back. "That might be wisest. Though there is something uniquely compelling about being able to meet Lady Silhouette in person, if I may say so. It is easier to pretend the truth is something else when she's not looking you in the face and explaining the matter after an evening of cards."
"Oh! The cards!" Rory exclaims. "Hey, can we play another game, you know, while Mage Flutenote is still here?" He beams. "And maybe tomorrow, I can draft a letter!" He looks to Silhouette. "Sound like a plan?"