Read Nightlord: Shadows Online

Authors: Garon Whited

Tags: #Parody, #Fiction, #Fantasy

Nightlord: Shadows (10 page)

BOOK: Nightlord: Shadows
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I acknowledge that it’s possible I’m just being paranoid. People trying to kill me makes that an occupational hazard. I’ve learned to live with it. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong, though.

It was tempting just to stab a tendril through a magical connection and see how much I could drain out of an observer, but it was vaguely possible that someone friendly was checking to see if I was awake. Torvil, Kammen, and Seldar were in Mochara, and people there might be interested. For all I knew, any of the three might be one of the observers.

Instead, I picked the nearest scrying spell and used a spell of my own. I opened a distant-viewing spell, tracing back along the connection of the existing one to make a two-way connection. Moments later, I had a window into a magical workshop and could see a middle-aged fellow in dark blue robes. He didn’t look at all familiar.

“Hi there!” I said, brightly. His eyes went wide, his mouth came open, and both his hands came up. His gesture brought a lot of magical force to bear and disrupted both spells.

Huh
, thought I.

I tried it again on the next-nearest scrying portal. This one had an elderly fellow in a black robe on the other end. He seemed equally unfamiliar. So far, I was being spied on by strangers.

“Hi there!” I tried, again. White eyebrows climbed his forehead.

“Hello,” he replied, startled. He didn’t immediately end the spell, but I could see he was ready to.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“I strongly doubt it.”

“I see. Then, might I ask why you’re spying on me? Isn’t that a trifle rude? I mean, I’m no magician—just a wizard—but doesn’t that still qualify me for some courtesy in the fraternity of magic-workers? That’s a part of my thinking on why it’s rude to watch me without my permission, you see.”

“Hmm. I suppose it is.” He looked thoughtful.

“I’d also like to know why you’re doing it. I can think of several possibilities, but I don’t want to assume. You understand, I’m sure, that I’m curious. Would you please tell me?”

“That mountain has been haunted for decades,” he said, “and there has been a sizable amount of magical disturbance in it very recently. I presume you had something to do with it?”

“Yes. To both.”

“You’ll understand that wandering mountains make people curious and concerned.”

“You have a very good point,” I admitted. “Will it help to know that it should be staying where it is and the hauntings have calmed down?”

“I would think so,” he admitted.

“Good to hear. So, about all these people peeking at me?”

“I have no control over their actions. I, however, will certainly be more accommodating to your wishes in the future.”

“Thanks. But could I ask a favor?”

“You may ask. I may not agree,” he replied, cautiously.

“It’s not too much, I hope, to have you tell other magicians that I
do
find it rude? I mean, I’m trying to not be offended, but I’m afraid I still feel more than a little annoyed by it. If it keeps up, I might overreact. I am just wizard, after all, and not well-versed in the finer points of magical etiquette.” I smiled at him, fangs and all.

“And,” I concluded, “I’m also a nightlord, in case anyone didn’t notice.”

“I see your point. Very well, I will pass your word along. And I apologize for any unwitting offense I may have inadvertently given.”

“Thank you. You’ve been most reasonable. I appreciate that.”

“The feeling is mutual,” he assured me, with considerable sincerity.

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

We cut our spells, much like hanging up a telephone. I looked around and saw the remaining scrying portals wink out in quick succession. Doubtless, the casters realized how unmannerly they were. Either that, or they were listening to my half of the conversation.

Still, it might be worthwhile to remove the temptation. If people couldn’t find me, it would be harder to spy on me. It could be a good idea to have some sort of shielding spell, both against location spells and against mental intrusion.

I sat down on the throne and thought. Bronze came over to keep me company and I scratched her forehead with my talons while I thought.

Locating spells usually work like radar. A signal goes out from the spellcaster; the signal is tuned to respond only to something that matches the search criteria—a person, a type of person, an object, or a type of object. The non-magical method of beating them was simply to be too far away, which told me that, whoever was looking for me, he or she was willing to put out a lot of power just to find me, or was fairly close by—say, on this side of the Eastrange.

It was possible they simply opened a scrying portal in the great hall and looked, rather than searching. That’s a lot like clicking between channels, rather than searching for the show you want. There’s not much to be done about that, though.

The magical methods of beating a locating spell consisted of a hack, a disguise, or a shield. A hack surrounded the subject and altered the signal of the location spell, resetting it to find something else—purple canaries, for example. As a result, any locating spell signal that reached the original target would start looking for purple canaries, instead of whatever it was supposed to find. The drawback was that a hack would affect the whole spell, and could be noticed by the spellcaster.

A disguise wrapped the subject in a magical barrier that would act like a filter. Any locating spell that hit it would register whatever the disguise told it to. If the disguise said, “I am a purple canary,” the locating spell would accept the subject—nightlord, mammoth, polonium parrot, whatever—as a purple canary. The drawback to that was that if someone caught on to your disguise, they could just look for purple canaries.

A shield, on the other hand, simply acted like a wall. If the locating spell was like a searchlight—to suddenly switch similes—then a shield was a shadowed area that it couldn’t see. The drawback to that was the constant maintenance. Every time a locating spell hit it, looking for the shielded subject or not, it would block the locator, expending some of the shield strength. Over time, it would erode away and eventually fail.

Hmm. Could I build a shield spell enchantment on something? One strong enough that the usual reverse-entropy effect would be enough to undo the damage from locating spells? I thought about it deeply for a couple of minutes. I didn’t know. It would depend on how rapidly the enchantment gained strength and how many location spells wore away at it. But did the reverse-entropy effect depend on how powerful the enchantment was? Was it a compound-interest expansion, or a fixed value? Or were there other variables, such as magical field density and efficiency of the enchantment’s spell design?

I need a laboratory and a spreadsheet.

On the other hand, can a locating spell be told to look for shields? Some types of shields, notably the blocking shields, can be detected and located. That still doesn’t tell you what’s inside the shield, but it does tell you something is hidden… which, given its location and size, may tell you something more.

All right, until I can plot some curves, I’ll just have to regularly check and maintain two spells… well, three, because I’ll also want a spell to alter my skin color at night. Being a bloodthirsty creature of darkness makes people nervous; no point in rubbing their noses in it.

On the other hand, maybe there was a simpler way. An Ascension Sphere absorbed ambient magical energy. A Disruption Sphere, on the other hand, absorbed waves of energy—spells.

I experimented for a bit, building magical structures and throwing energy at them. What I worked out was a fairly effective system. A shield spell doesn’t have to block a location pulse if it absorbs the location pulse. Come to that, it doesn’t have to block a mind-affecting spell, either. Or a spell designed to freeze my heart into a solid lump of ice—which happened once. It can
absorb
the incoming spell, instead.

Much like an Ascension Sphere, this would absorb active magical energy directed at me, rather than just soaking it up from the environment. Instead of acting like a hole at the edge of a swimming pool, allowing water to constantly trickle through it, this would be set at a higher level. It would only absorb power when waves of it rose above the normal ambient level. Perhaps just as important, it wouldn’t pump that power into the interior and keep it. It would simply ground it out, discharge it into the local magical environment. And, best of all, it wouldn’t interfere with my ability to throw spells out through it.

The major limitation would be how much power it could handle in a burst. Like a lightning rod, it could ground out the charge, but if the bolt of lightning was big enough, it would fry the rod.

I looked around the hall. I didn’t see any scrying portals, but my paranoia was acting up. I decided to step inside my mental study and do some preliminary work, rather than risk allowing some random observer to get a good look at how my magical defenses were set up. Besides, I didn’t want a Disruption Sphere; that could be annoying. I want something that will cling to me—maybe Disruption Armor. I could cast the spell on my armor, or on the padding underneath, so it was more form-fitting…

I settled back on the throne, closed my eyes, and stepped inside my own head.

The place was a mess.

I usually walk through a mental door into a home office sort of environment. A leather couch sits along the right-hand wall, bookcases line the left, and a big, comfy chair behind a glass-topped desk faces me. The room is decorated with lots of small lights, like candles, scattering a very even glow everywhere, with some dark wood paneling and a couple of large rugs on the floor. Next to the entry door, another door leads to what I think of as my mental workshop. That’s pretty much the whole place.

Papers littered the floor more than ankle-deep. The desk was clear, but the piles to either side of it implied the expedient of sweeping everything off it. The couch was a lump under a pile of papers. And the bookcases along the left wall were jam-packed.

I kicked my way to the top of the papers and walked on them to examine the bookcases. A lot of new books had arrived, on a lot of subjects. At a guess, these were the leftovers from digesting a million ghosts. While I do learn some things from eating someone’s soul, most of it fades away quickly. Still, a faint trace remains, usually as a sense of familiarity about something they knew intimately. Multiply that by a million or so and I probably know a lot of things that I don’t know I know.

Well, the groaning bookcases I could deal with. I looked at the wall behind the bookcases and concentrated. The wall moved back, widening the room. The bookcases themselves divided into four sections, rotated in place, and lengthened to touch the now-distant wall. The shelves thickened, grew a center partition—bookshelves on both sides, now. I redistributed books to ease the bulging sidewalls.

Now, about all these loose papers. I picked up an armload, put them on the desk, seated myself, and started reading. They seemed almost nonsensical. Handwritten in many styles and languages, they were rambling thoughts on various subjects, often starting in the middle of a sentence and ending in the middle of another. It was as though someone had torn a bunch of random pages from people’s diaries and dumped them in here.

Inside my head. Ah. Yes, I suppose this might be a symptom of indigestion.

While I might not be all that well-versed in imagination dueling, I’ve been extensively trained in the proper use and workings of a wizardly headspace. I don’t know that anyone has ever combined that with a basic understanding of Freud, but I was willing to give it a go. With a moment of concentration, the floor rippled aside and down. A rectangular hole formed, becoming a set of wooden stairs arrowing downward, disappearing into darkness.

I heard movement down there.

“Hello,” I called. “I need an assistant.”

There was movement and some noise—slithering, rasping, heavy breathing, some metallic clicking, a wet sucking sound, and what I can only describe as many-legged scuttling.

Just offhand, I don’t think I want to go down there. And what is that smell…? Are those eyes looking up at me?

No, I definitely don’t want to go down there.

“Just send up a logical and helpful subset of my personality, please.”

My basement sounded grumpy and dangerous, but I also heard footsteps on the stair. Moments later, a dignified fellow ascended. He was tall, slim, and dressed in what I can only call a butler’s outfit. Just as he reached the level of the floor and stepped out, Something tried to rush up the stairs behind him.

I don’t want to talk about it. It was very large and personally frightening. I barely managed to kick it in the face and slam the trapdoor. I shot the bolt on the door and sat on it while It pounded on the underside a few times. It gave up after a half-dozen hits and thudded back down the steps.

There are a lot of unpleasant things in my subconscious.

“Good evening,” the butler said, once things had quieted. “I am a personification of your personality. I embody your willingness to recognize that something has to be done, accept it, and simply do it.”

BOOK: Nightlord: Shadows
2.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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