Dtrink Out the Storm Kel Boon did
not like magic.Heknewall the arguments– it’s natural as breathing; Noreela gifted it to us; it’s the language of the land–
but it was something he did not understand. And in his time serving the Core, things he did not understand had usually ended up terrifying him, at the very least. At the other extreme, they had tried to kill him. So he used
magic, as much as anyone in Noreela used it, happily leaving its manipulation to the Practitioners. But he did not like
Strange, then, that his best friend and lover was a witch. Kel looked at his latest carving, sitting back and stretching the ache from his muscles. He’d been working on the piece for two moons, picking a moment here and there between commissions, or spending more time working on it when paid projects were sparse. He made a scant living selling his carvings; he could afford to eat, drink and keep a roof over his head. His craft would never make him rich, but he was fine with that. Rich meant visible.
Lately, he’d had plenty of time to work on this, his own very private sculpture. When it was ready, he’d give it to his love, Namior Feeron. It would be his gift to her on the day he proposed marriage.
It was good. Namior’s love of the cliff hawks that lived and hunted along the coast had meant that Kel’s choice of what to carve for her was easy, and the hawks’ own particular grace, charm and mystery made the task a pleasing one. He had completed the basic form and was now working on the detail, trying to capture the bird’s light elegance in the weight of wood. He’d chosen a hunk of wood from a young wellburr tree’s higher branches; light and solid, beautifully grained, still rich in natural oils. His climb to cut the branch had been an adventure in itself, and Namior had asked how he’d gained such bruises and grazes on his legs and stomach. He told her he’d been involved in a drunken scuffle at the Blue Ray Tavern. You fool,
she’d said, already starting to kiss the bruises better.
Kel brushed wood dust from the hawk’s eyes, grunting in satisfaction. A good afternoon’s work. He stood and began tidying his worktable. A blanket went over the carving, just in case Namior called on him unexpectedly, and he oiled and sharpened each of the chisels, blades and files he’d been using. Then he wrapped them in greasecloth, rolled them together into their leather pouch and tucked them beneath the table. The wood shards he swept by hand into a bucket and threw onto the unlit fire. When burned, the wellburr wood would freshen his rooms and fill the air with an exotic, spicy smell.
He looked once again at the unfinished carving, given ghostly shape by the blanket. He imagined the blanket moving, the sculpture screaming like an attacking hawk, venting violence through every pore. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply and listened to the first gust of wind outside. Something whistled behind him, and for a moment he thought it was the breeze finding its way beneath the door. But the thick curtains over his windows and door were still, the candles around the walls flickering only slightly, and he knew what was making the noise.
Namior called it a voice carrier. It was a machine. She’d insisted on him taking it, rebuffing his objections, because he lived at the top of Drakeman’s Hill, and she was sometimes too busy to climb all the way up there to see him.
Another breath of wind rattled the front door in its frame, and candlelight shivered in sympathy.
The machine whistled again.
“I’m coming,” Kel muttered, but he smiled. It would be good to hear Namior’s voice, and he hoped they could arrange to meet that evening.
Kel crossed the room to a curtained alcove in the corner, and behind the curtain sat the voice carrier. It glowed softly, emitting the whistle from tiny holes in its chalky shell, and it had risen a hand’s width from the shelf, floating in the air as though Namior’s intention made it lighter.
He reached out and touched the small machine, cringing at the slight warmth that bled through its exterior. It almost felt alive. As his fingertips made contact the whistling stopped, and he heard the expectant silence he was used to.
“Namior,” he said. She was cruel; she always waited for him to speak first.
“Kel the woodchopper.” Her voice came clear and sharp, almost as if she were in the room with him. From instinct he glanced around, just to make sure. And as usual, he was alone.
“How are those mad old witches you insist on living with?” he asked.
Kel was silent for a moment, eyes half- closing as he considered exactly what he’d said.
“I’m fooling,” Namior said.
“Wait until I see you,” he whispered.
Namior laughed. “You and which army, exactly? But Kel, my mother and great- grandmother sense a storm coming, and they think–”
“It’s uncanny, how they can sense a storm just by listening to the wind and seeing storm clouds boiling overhead.” He stepped sideways and pulled a curtain to one side, looking out over the rooftops of the village below. “And observing the white- crests out to sea.”
storm, Kel!” Namior said. “A surger. High tide, big waves, heavy rain, like nothing you’ve ever seen since you’ve been here. Trakis and Mell want to go to the Dog’s Eyes, drink out the storm and defy nature. Will you come?”
“I’m a sculptor and a tortured artist. Do you really think I want to use bad weather as an excuse to drink?” He always felt it strange talking to a glowing, floating machine, so as usual he had his eyes closed as he spoke to Namior this way. And that helped him picture what she said next.
“Of course. Followed by my taking you to my rooms and examining your greatest sculpture.”
Kel smiled. “It needs oiling.”
“I’m up to the task, I think.”
Kel opened his eyes and looked around his rooms. The curtains at the door and windows were shifting now, candles dancing in excitement, and the wind and rain beat at the walls. “Sounds like the world’s ending out there,” he said.
“Well, you will
live at the top of Drakeman’s Hill.”
Kel glanced back at the hawk he was carving for Namior, and once again tried to imagine her face when he revealed it to her at last. “You’re welcome to live with me up here.” Namior was silent for long enough for it to become uncomfortable. Training,
Kel thought. Mother, great- grandmother . . . a whole family of witches.
“See you at the Dog’s?” he said at last.
“I look forward to it,” Namior said, and the machine stopped glowing and settled back down.
Kel closed the curtain on the voice carrier and stepped back, smiling. She might be good at avoiding certain questions, but Namior was also adept at saying exactly what she meant. I look forward to it,
she had said. Five words that drove away the cold and made Kel feel warm all over.
He shrugged on a heavy coat, a scarf, and a hat made from furbat skin, and strapped a knife to his belt. Storms reminded him of that terrible night in Noreela City. With every blink he’d hear the screams and see the children dying, and if there was lightning, it would imprint those memories on his mind even more harshly. He’d once told Namior that he hated storms, though he could never tell her why, and she had laughed as she asked why he chose to live next to the sea. Same reason I fell in love with a witch when I don’t trust magic,
he’d responded. I’m a man of contradictions.
She had smiled as though he’d made a joke, but he often spent deep moments considering this, and thinking that he’d been hiding for so long that he no longer knew himself. Pavmouth breaks was
a fishing village on the western
shores of Noreela. It was built on either side of the River Pav where it merged with the sea, extending up the slopes of the valley on both sides: a gentle rise to the north, with a slow fall to the sea; and a steeper rise to the south known as Drakeman’s Hill, ending with a sheer cliff into the sea on that side. The harbor was natural, enclosed and expanded centuries before with a long, curving stone mole projecting out into the sea. The river was spanned by bridges in two places. The first, oldest stone bridge stood closest to the sea at the harbor throat, while a mile upriver was the newest crossing known as Helio Bridge–a hundred steps high and half a mile across, spanning between the sides of the steepening valley inland.
Namior Feeron lived in the northern part of the village, her family home perched on the shallow hillside and built so that it had views both out to sea and across the narrow river mout...
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