This is a scene from Chapter 16 of The Nemesis Gene. The whole chapter’s currently published on Wattpad.
Ludo was awake. The monks at the seminary had brought him back from the brink of the after world, but he was still too weak to leave his bed. The room was light and airy with the shutters thrown open to the morning sunshine. Jerrod sat on the side of the cot, being careful not to jar the master’s wounds. The master was weak and gaunt, but his eyes gleamed. ‘They told me of your day at the Temple. The mission was successful. At least so far.’
‘There is more?’
Ludo scratched the slight stubble on his chin. ‘I’m afraid so. Yes.’
Jerrod waited. How much of this mission was predetermined and how much left to chance was something of a mystery. Perhaps he was about to find out.
‘You have memorised the spell?’
‘Yes.’ But not intentionally. The words still lodged in his memory like an old nursery rhyme.
‘Good. Then you must destroy the parchment, if you haven’t already. The spell is yours alone.’
Jerrod sat back. ‘What am I to do with it? It was for the benefit of the council, or so I believed.’
Ludo winced, at a sudden pain, or at his pupil’s dim lights? ‘I don’t have the strength now to deliver a lecture on the custody of spells. Suffice it to say that once a particular form of sorcery has been fashioned and passed on it is then owned by the practitioner.’
‘So … again … what am I to do with it?’
‘That’s not for me to say. It will become apparent—when the time is right.’
Jerrod digested this information. The glimpse of that other world was still fresh in his mind; the white light, the sounds, the feel of powdery snow on his face. He had tried to convince himself that he had produced an illusion for the benefit of an audience, like a cheap fair-ground magician, but he knew in his heart it had been real enough. Could he go there again? Ludo’s next statement brought him back to the present with a start.
‘Leave here. It’s not safe. Take Lady Ellin.’
‘Take her where? Where could we go?’ Inexplicably, his heart began to pound.
‘Head north, towards the Crystal Peak. The magic is strongest in the mountains.’
Jerrod stared. ‘Why there? It’s a hard journey. She’s not strong.’
‘As to that, I think she’s stronger than you know.’
But the hard terrain was not the only danger. ‘As soon as we leave Aldred will have word of it.’
‘Even so. You must both leave soon. There are others who will help you.’
‘She might refuse to go.’ It was a slim hope, but he clutched at it. Setting out alone with Lady Ellin to cross the Crystal Peak was a prospect more daunting than anything he had met so far on this bizarre journey.
‘I doubt it,’ Ludo said. ‘But in the event, you must convince her.’
The master was tired then, but he managed a few words of encouragement before sinking into a doze. Jerrod went to his room in the seminary and found the parchment lying where he had carelessly dropped it on top of a pile of dirty linen. In the seminary guest hall he tore it into tiny pieces and fed it to the flames in the central fire place. Now the magic would be his alone, and with him always, unless he either lost his memory, or lost his head. The latter seemed by far the more likely possibility at the moment.
The next day was overcast with a punishing wind once again tearing at cloaks and head scarves. From the Temple forecourt he looked out towards the distant mountains. Crystal Peak was partly lost to the clouds, but there was enough of it visible to make him sicken at the prospect of scaling those icy slopes. He was no mountain goat. The estate at Denyston was almost flat, with only slight undulations of the land across the wheat fields. The Three Crones were the closest he had come to any kind of challenging topography. He flinched at the thought. That was where all this had begun, he was sure of it.
He was about to enter the Temple arches when a hand plucked at his sleeve. He turned sharply, expecting a challenge, but it was only Brother Lorens. ‘Brother Jerrod,’ he said. ‘Your pardon. I have news.’ They walked away from the stream of pilgrims and took shelter behind a wide column. ‘Lord Aldred—he and his men have left Lanminster. Did you know?’
‘Early this morn. I was out walking. I always rise with the dawn. I heard the ring of horse hooves on the cobbles not far from my lodging. It was them alright. The whole company, with Lord Aldred behind the standard bearer. They were in a hurry. Nearly ran over a baker’s boy.’
The news was welcome, but almost incredible. Why has he left now?
‘He’s surely not riding out after Eadric. Not with his whole company.’
‘No. Eadric’s no great prize, whatever he’s guilty of. There are rumours.’ Lorens looked quickly aside to check they were not overheard. ‘Castle Dauria is under siege.’
image credit: Alpha Coders