Banner of the Hawk 49

Every day, Tidac could feel the fear others radiated when he was near them.

Not Branbourn or Clevis; in them he felt only affection. Marquart was beyond the boy’s understanding, but as far as he understood his father, he feared him. Since the fiasco at Port of the Gull, Marquart was a seething mass of anger and frustration, waiting to be released. Tidac avoided his father whenever he could.

Baralia radiated hatred, and Weikata radiated hunger, so Tidac did not answer the priest’s question.

Weikata shrugged and changed the subject. For an hour, he explained some of the ways in which ai had been harnessed by dziais in the age of the Comanyi. Then he brought out his runeboard. Weikata spilled the counters out into his hand and made several passes over the board, then said, “Mehak, mehancas, asuras astoras.” It was a simple calling of power for the revelation of the state of the day. When the counters had fallen, he spent some time explaining their interpretation, pointing out the major blocs of influence and their interactions, and promising to explain more fully at a later time. Tidac studied the counters hungrily. This was a power that produced knowledge, and he wanted to know everything.

In the intensity of his concentration, he did not see the satisfaction steal over Weikata’s face.

Weikata was a priest of the Remsept. Though Rem had died at the hands of the Shambler, he was still worshipped by the old guard. Weikata represented one of the newer, fiercer factions that had gone over to the worship of the Shambler. A failed coup in his home menhir had sent him out into the world seeking employment.

At their first meeting, Weikata had known that Marquart was an unawakened dziai. It was clear as well that the boy’s power outstripped his father’s, and Weikata had hungered to tap that ai for his own use. Whenever the boy left after one of their sessions together, Weikata cast mandalas, drawing on the ai which remained where the boy had sat, and was amazed.

Now, Weikata swept the counters together and began to move them slowly in the air, intoning under his breath. Tidac suddenly said, “Let me try.”

Weikata passed the counters to him. From the moment his fingers touched them, Tidac knew that was a mistake. A force within him urged him to hurl them across the room.

Weikata said, “You need no spell. Say your name over the counters and cast them down.”

The boy whispered, “Tidac Wyrd s’Marquart,” and released the counters. They fell with a rush, and every counter stuck in place on the board.  Seventy-one counters on seventy-one spaces.  A full mandala.

Weikata jerked upright with a gasp. He had never seen a full mandala. No priest anywhere had ever seen one. In most castings, most of the counters bounced away from the board and fell around it.

In the heart of the heartstar lay the counter Firedrake, Tidac’s kladak, although he did not know it yet. Every aspect of Tidac’s past and future, his character and his fate, were displayed for those who could read. To Weikata, it was power beyond his dreams.

To Tidac, the secretive, it was the ultimate betrayal of his privacy. He reached out to scatter the pattern but Weikata grabbed his arm, pushing him to the floor while he moved hungrily to gaze at the treasure that lay before him.

Tidac saw the hunger in his face and knew instinctively that this mandala would give Weikata dominance over him. Power came up out of him, from those deep wells of ai which Hea had foreseen before his birth, filling the room with an aura of shock and light. The boy harnessed the power as it occurred, shaping it in his hands and hurling it at Weikata.

Weikata froze in place, suddenly a marble statue without will or thought, and began to fall. The counters on the runeboard hurled themselves apart, in seventy-one discrete trajectories, half melting as they flew, peppering the room with softened blobs of brass.

And Tidac collapsed, insensible. more tomorrow

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