It was currently just before sunrise. Claude however, had yet to sleep, nor did he feel anything like sleeping. That did not mean he was not tired, however. He had just finished the thirteenth diary entry, which was about as long as the last two. It took up two whole pages. It took all his energy just to copy it so he was forced to rest for two hours before he even got to translate it.
He’d translated so many pages by now, however, that he didn’t need to refer to the dictionary for the simplest and most common words, so things went much faster.
The moon had set, however, so there was no light in which he could bathe. The skies were completely black, save a few light pinpricks that got through the clouds.
Claude gave up on sleeping at all. There wasn’t enough time to get decent sleep, and any he did get would only make him grumpy when his sister woke him up. He was sixteen, so it shouldn’t be too hard on his body. He could always nap in class if it came to that. It wasn’t like he was the centre of his instructors’ attention. They might actually be happy to see him asleep rather than disturbing class.
That said, he still needed to rest a bit before he could push on with his work. He wondered if the end of the diary would contain any more interesting information. He was grateful for being sensitive to magic. If not, he would never have discovered this chance to learn about the true world of magic.
He never expected that the Amsra dynasty’s founder was far more than the leader of the simple stonemason brotherhood as he’d been taught. He was not just a descendant of a white sterling noble family, but also the largest supplier of the materials essential for their continued rule.
He might have been preparing for that one strike the diary mentioned for decades. He had yet to read the final diary entry, but he was pretty certain he already knew how it was going to end. Given the hindsight the history books offered, inaccurate as their version was to reality, the attack obviously succeeded and the few survivors were chased to Siklos. He had no idea, however, what happened to the diary’s author, or his friend.
The night sky was slowly dissolving into day just above the eastern horizon. Claude slipped his head into his bedroom and checked his hourglass. If it had kept turning on time, it should be just about five in the morning. He slipped back into the room. He felt much better now, despite not having bathed in the moonlight, and continued his work.
He lit his oil lamp and focused his attention on the 16th page of the cookbook.
Date: 26th of the 8th, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
This couldn’t be right… Claude was really familiar with the date written in ancient Hez, especially the symbols for numbers. It helped that they differed the least from the ones currently used. He could make out enough in the consistent format to read it by sight.
The last entry was on the 23rd of the 8th of 3341 NM. Why was two days skipped?
He looked carefully at the page he already had translated but that was really the date. Did somebody maybe tear out the other entries? But he couldn’t see any leftover bits of page, or anything in the binding that might suggest that.
He pondered this strangeness for a few more moments before shrugging and getting back to translating.
Date: 26th of the 8th, 3341 NM. Weather: Sunny.
We are leaving for Symposium tomorrow.
We stayed in the main camp all of the last three days. The baron and Tawari helped me make the gunpowder and we’ve got seven buckets of it now. We tested some of it in the mountains half a day’s ride from town. It works exactly like I predicted. If enough of it is used, we can get an explosion even bigger than that spell.
The strength and exact effect of the spell depends on the attributes and power of the caster, and exactly how the incantation is performed. With the gunpowder, however, the power-to-weight ratio is consistent, as is the kind of effect.
We blew up an entire knoll with our last test. I was very happy to see everyone gaping when the smoke and dust cleared. (If I’m honest, I was, too.)
The only really issue is that you have to be really close to the gunpowder to set it off. The furthest we were able to stretch it was ten metres. And then you only have fifteen seconds to get clear. Tawari can do it, but I certainly can’t, both because I’m only a four-ring and because I don’t specialise in combat magic like Tawari.
I don’t know if I’ll survive this, but I will make sure the tower is destroyed, the city taken, and all the magi killed.
I’ve decided to leave the diary here, just in case. I hope someone will find it and read about what happened.
If someone has, and you’re reading this right now, I’m Landes Palik. My family lives near Lake Balinga in a small fishing village called Whitestag. My father is Kuyez Palik, my mother is Alosha Molliny. I have two older brothers and a younger sister.
There’s an island in the lake called Egret. One of Loenk’s other towers is there. It’s where I learnt magic.
Please go there.
Loenk is dead. And I don’t know who will control the tower when you read this, or when you get there. My old home is in the basement near the steps. I hid some of my stuff under a loose bluestone tile on the ground. If you lift it out of the way you’ll see the stuff underneath the stone under it. I didn’t use magic to hide it, so no one should notice.
The stuff is in a stone box. There’s 35 shaliuns. Please give ten to my parents and five to my sister. You can keep the rest as a thank you gift. I also have two more diaries there and a book with my study notes.
I’m poor, so I can’t give you much, that’s already everything I own I didn’t bring with me…
This entry, too, spanned two pages, though it didn’t fill the last one.
Claude’s bones were frozen when he was done. Had fate arranged this? That this cookbook, which had drifted all over the continent for hundreds of years, found its way to this very town, at this particular time, and that he, one of perhaps only a few that were sensitive to magic, and no doubt even fewer that were aware that they were, found it? In his case, he only found out he was sensitive to magic because of the book itself! On top of that, Claude was already going to Egret. And his plans already included exploring that very tower’s ruins. He was not a very religious man, but he couldn’t help but feel like hands had been pushing him, arranging everything behind the scenes.
The lamp flickered as the oil ran dry, then whiffed out completely. The smoke rose hazily in the weak light bouncing off the clouds.
Claude rubbed his face, hard. Fate or not, this was how he found himself. What choice did he have but to go looking for that long-dead man’s — what has he it called again — stuff? He flipped open the diary.
His greatest worry was that, in the hundreds of years that had passed since that final entry was penned, someone had stumbled onto the stash. The tower collapsed decades ago and was now just a pile of rubble, if the things had not been taken already, they may be squashed beyond use, or they might be so trapped, so buried he could never find them or get to them even if he did. He prayed none of that was the case. He burned to learn their secrets.
The god of war’s shrine bell finally rang welcoming as much as announcing the day.
People slowly emerged from their houses, first in a trickle, then in a stream as they began their day.
Claude stared at the scene, his heart uneasy. A manual for learning magic would already have been shocking enough, but a diary that unveiling a secret six hundred years buried? That was something else entirely. He couldn’t say he wasn’t somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t a manual, however. But the secrets the diary unveiled were ample compensation.
Claude would not mention any of this to anyone, of course. It would bring nothing but trouble for him, even if he didn’t mention anything about the origin of his new knowledge. It would be only worse if people found out he could read magic text. That meant he had a talent, a talent of which he was aware, for magic. That could not be allowed. He would be lucky to spend the rest of his days in some prison. Less lucky to be executed on the spot. And miserably unlucky to become a guinea pig.
What was he thinking? Claude rubbed his face again. One of the disadvantages of his active imagination was its easy distraction. He had better wash his face and tackle the now way too long day.
His initial disappointment with the diary had now completely vanished. It would indeed have been disappointing if this massive coincidence only lead to him reading the thoughts of some non-descript magus. He was not disappointed with what he’d actually been given instead.
He could not fast forward time, however much he wanted, however, so all he could do now, was calmly live through the day and night that separated him from that lake, that island, that tower, and those books.