Last week was the first week I actually missed my PostAWeek schedule. Oh well… here is the next chapter of Why Polly?
Recap: Polly, while impersonating the princess, has been kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee, and taken far, far away from her home… where she meets the very princess she was impersonating. It is revealed they all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here...
Chapter 10: The Breaking of the Silver Screen
The whole house was a mess, especially the garden outside, but the enchanters had it looking as good as new in no time. The force of the magic had up-rooted trees and over-turned plants everywhere. But when I went out again later that day there was hardly a sign of the fight the night before. Absentmindedly I swept the paths, though they didn’t really need to be swept.
While Casper and Stefan repaired the lanterns Paulina and I sat on the stairs and watched them, sewing the finishing touches on our dresses. The enchanters would raise all the pieces of one lantern into the air, piece it together, then secure it to the roof as good as new. The air in the entrance hall crackled with the magic from them. It made Paulina’s hair frizzle and become unruly, but my hair seemed to like the crackle and lay shiny and sleek against my head.
I liked to watch Casper work, the sleeves of his coat bunched up around his elbows, his muscles contorting as he exerted his force of magic. He seemed so powerful as he stood there. Beside him Stefan looked younger than ever.
I soon saw Stefan was definitely the lesser-experienced one in magic. He would use it in one large, crude burst, while Casper’s slid around and wove together in one long string of spells. It did not seem like he needed to concentrate much at all.
“It is hard to control magic when you first get it,” Stefan told Paulina and me once. “You instinctively know what you want it to do, and you try and force it to do it. But magic doesn’t need to be forced. When you use it like that it does what you want, but it comes in bursts and you can’t maintain much with it. You’ve got to go slowly, and let it flow through you.” He looked wry. “I’m still learning to do that.”
Eventually the lanterns were repaired completely and hung up. I went through all my ingredients in the kitchen to make sure they were still al there and hadn’t got mixed up together. They were fine, mainly because I’d put the lids on so tightly. Even the eggs were hardly cracked. I made a cake with them in celebration.
“Another piece, thou rose of the kitchen,” Casper said to me, holding out his plate. I looked with distaste at his feet, which he had propped casually up on my clean table.
“If you want another piece you’ll have to bake it yourself,” I told him. “You’ve clean finished this one off.”
Casper shrugged at this, picked himself off his chair, and stood up.
“Well, I’m off,” he said. “I must see the Rajah.”
I shook my head and went to finish my yellow dress.
It was my favourite dress because it had enough class not to look dowdy in Chaldean surroundings, but was also comfortable.
Magician’s Peak was beginning to feel like a second home, but it was awfully confining. When I had been in Angaria I had been free to go where I wished, to pick flowers in the morning under the light of the rising sun, and to sell them where I wished in my stall in the market. But I wouldn’t leave Magician’s Peak now for anything, if the jadess was outside it waiting for me.
I was wearing a new apron I had sewn over top of my yellow dress and rolling out pastry for pie when Radagast wandered into the kitchen. I usually didn’t mind him in there, he would just sleep and not bother me, but he was so big I could never trust him not to make off with whatever I had on the table when my back was turned. “Shoo!” I told him, waving a rolling pin.
He seemed to know I didn’t want him there and flopped out right in the middle of the kitchen. Honestly, that dog reminded me of Casper sometimes! I nudged his reddish fur with my toe.
“Go find Paulina,” I told him. He ignored that command, but he did move over and lie in front of the door that led into Casper’s workshop. I sighed and went on with my work.
I had a basket of fresh dewberries that Stefan had got from the market yesterday to make the pie with. I had never had dewberries before, but I popped one into my mouth and it was deliciously sweet and firm, all blushing pink on the outside and bursting juicy on the inside. Stefan had said it was dewberry season and Casper had told me to make a pie out of it, because that was his favourite. Normally I wouldn’t have consented, but the idea sounded so appealing I could think of no reason not to.
I rolled out the pastry, then lay it in the pie plate. With my fingers I crinkled the edges so it stood out from the plate in little pleats. Then I began mixing the dewberries up with sugar.
Suddenly there was a sound like the yowling of a cat from inside Casper’s quarters. I looked up, because I had not realised he was working in there. The yowling sounded again. By now I had learned magic often made that sound when it was resisting what it was being made to do.
Radagast did not like it. With a growl he stood up, hackles raised, fur bristling, and swiped at the door. To my surprise the door fell open. In raced Radagast, still growling at what sounded too much like a cat. I hesitated, looking at my pie, than hurried in after him.
“No Radagast, come back!” I called. I wondered how he’d managed to get in, and if it was because of the magical powers Casper said he had to posses because of his long nose. Anyway, Casper would be furious to find us in here.
I grabbed vainly at the dog’s tail as he whipped into a room branching off the workshop, It was the room with the silver screen. But it was completely filled with smoke, with Casper standing in the centre, desperately trying to hold the crackling, buckling screen together. Radagast ran between his legs.
“Oh no, come back here!” I cried. “You mangy, dratted dog!”
Casper turned to look at me just as Radagast bumped into his legs. With a crash he went flying forward, the screen blasting into raining bits of metal and plaster, the smoke turning sickly green and smelling revolting. I stumbled forward into the room.
The yowling magic stopped. I hurried over to the Enchanter and helped him up. He looked at me, standing there in my yellow dress and floured apron, with a rolling pin still in my hand, and then at Radagast, now sniffing happily at the smoking ruins of rubble.
“Oh, hang it all,” he moaned.
“Do you want help cleaning this up?” I asked.
“No,” he sighed. “I need it all where I can find it, so I know whether I can fix it or not.” Then he looked at me and grinned. “Just look at you! Like some avenging lady of the kitchen, coming to my rescue.’
I reddened and tried to hide my rolling pin in my skirts. “What were you trying to do?”
“Just see if I could make this screen hear what the jadess is saying too,” he said, and sighed again. “I think I busted it though. There wasn’t much chance I could fix it, even if Radagast hadn’t knocked me over.”
I pulled Radagast away from the smoking pile and hit him over his long nose with my finger. “Bad dog!”
“Dogs are known to get mixed up between the screaming of magic and the screaming of cats,” Casper said, and he laughed. But I could tell he was upset at the ruined screen.
“Come sit down in the kitchen and have a cup of tea,” I told him. “You need to calm down before you try to clean this up.”
“Ah, tea, the famous cure-all and restorative,” he said, following me out.
“Well, I would offer you dewberry pie, but it’s not done yet,” I replied.
I sat him down at the table and set the kettle to boiling. Then I began trying to wipe the scorch marks of his face with a dishcloth.
“Blast it, woman, don’t worry about those,” he said. “I’ll take them off myself later.”
I finished off my pie while waiting for the kettle to boil, and put it in the oven. Then I put a handful of tealeaves in the kettle to steep, before pouring out a cup. Tea really was easy to make, though Stefan could make it even faster because he heated up the water with magic. I didn’t know whether Casper could, I’d never seen him make tea.
“You ought to learn to cook,” I told him, handing him his cup.
“You don’t want to see me try,” he replied. “It’s too finicky to use such little magic, and so I get irritated and loose my grip on it. Then it pours out and shoots up in a wall of flame. Spells are easier.”
“Then try to cook the normal way, for goodness’ sakes,” I answered. “You can’t use magic for everything. And do you want to go back to eating boughten food when Paulina and I go back to Angaria?”
Casper looked thoughtful, as if he hadn’t thought of that before.
“Maybe someday you can teach me,” he said.
The pie was smelling awfully good now. I checked it and decided it needed a few more minutes.
“But I don’t know what I’m going to do about that screen,” he said, and he put his feet up on the table, in spite of my objections. I could tell when he was doing it to annoy me, his earring swung.
“I mean,” he continued, “I don’t know how I can keep an eye on the jadess. When I made the screen before I used Rubion silver, which seldom is imported here anymore at this time, so I probably won’t be able to get enough to make another if I can’t fix this one. Well, I could try to transport myself to Rubion, but I don’t know if my magic has the power to pull me so far away from that blasted flagstone.”
“You mean now you can’t see what the jadess is up to anymore?” I asked. “Oh no!”
“You said it,” he agreed gloomily, his diamond coat drooping around him as dejectedly as he drooped on the table. For a moment I wasn’t sure if he was just fishing for pity again, but I stood beside him anyway. It had been partially my fault Radagast had distracted him.
“Brace up,” I told him. “It can’t be that bad. “
His deep eyes stared up at me. They really were almost like almonds, with twinkles of mischief all around the edges. Like almond gypsy eyes.
“Well, that makes it all right,” he replied. I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic. Then he got up and went back into his workroom to try and fix the mess.
“I really wonder where he gets his magic from,” Paulina said to me. We were outside in the garden, watching Radagast chasing butterflies. “Casper seems to think I’ll get my magic from an object like his, and that’s what the legend is referring to, but I wish I knew what kind of object that would be. And how would you get it? Perhaps from a Sabean, since they would know the most about magic, but since they all have magic naturally why would they need to make an object that gives you magic?”
I understood what she was getting at. “You want to get your magic before you go back.”
“I want to go back and show them the legend’s been fulfilled,” she said. “You don’t know how horrible it is to have everyone whispering about you like they do in the palace, whether the legend’s true or not, if I’m actually hiding my magic, if perhaps the legend wasn’t referring to my father at all…”
I looked at her, standing like a true Angarian princess under the trees in the sunshine, golden-haired and blue-eyed, and somehow seeming pale and frail. She was my friend, and I wanted to help her.
“Maybe we should try to find out where Casper and Stefan get their magic,” I told her.
She nodded. “We could ask, but it’s probably in their best interests for them not to tell us. I mean, anyone could control them that way if they knew.”
“I wonder,” I said, “I wonder if the jadess knows their magic isn’t natural…”
“We’d better not let her find out,” Paulina answered.