He looked at his right hand. And magic. I used to spy on the young Lords, being taught to develop their abilities. I used to practice in private, and think I could impress the Lord, who was probably my father.
Who beat the crap out of me when I asked to be presented. As if he'd present the bastard he'd got on a servant! And I woke up dull and . . . a Cyborg, unable to do magic at all.
If the wires are completely gone . . . can I do magic again, or is the damage done?
He held his hand out into the sun and closed his fist . . . and the light concentrated down into a faint glow.
It's not much. Yet.
But it's back.
The Youngest Magicians
Leon shrugged indifferently as his older brother and friends all walked off, pointedly not inviting him and Vlasiy.
He eyed the tattooed outsider. "You've made bows and arrows before, haven't you?"
The man bristled. "You think so?"
"Well, you look like you know what you're doing. Testing material for bowstrings, and working on arrow shafts. Were you a scientist?"
Now the man looked amused. "Because I'm trying to be systematic? To figure out what went wrong so I can do better the next time? Yeah, I got that kind of training, but only in school. My father expected me to be a snobby noble, like him--without a penny to his name and scraping by to put on a decent show on the few occasions we went to town."
He looked at his arrow shaft end-on and nodded in satisfaction. "Yeah. I've made my own and hunted for the table. Of necessity. I've hunted, trapped, fished . . . I'm eating well enough, for now. A deer or two from now, I'll be doing fine. Because I've done it before."
"Wow! Is there anything you need?" Vlas was looking impressed.
The man laughed. "Shoes. Actually, while you're exploring, keep your eyes open for good clean clay deposits."
"There a good layer in the river bank, down by our camp. My sister's trying to make cups."
The man raised his brows. "I need a good sized bowl . . . May I accompany you downstream?"
"Umm, sure." Leonti thought that over. Sighed. "Until almost anyone says otherwise."
A snort. "Da. I understand that, and will leave politely when told to."
He stepped aside and stuck his work behind a bush, and pulled out some really ugly things he stuck his feet in. "Raw hide. Rabbit. It's too thin to be decent shoes, but it beats barefeet. While they last."
Leon nodded. "I didn't think about shoes. Civilization's a lot more complicated than I'd realized."
Vlas led the way down stream, looking back a bit dubiously, as if he'd attached a stray dog and knew exactly what his mother was going to say.
Leon grinned at the thought. Not that my mother will be any happier.
Uncle Volya will pitch a snit. Ivan will get his nose up in the air . Dad . . . will consider how to use it to his advantage.
Khar spotted the clay layer, and followed it as it angled down, and then grabbed a stick and started digging into it, discarding the dry, exposed clay.
"My sister tried soaking the dry clay."
"Eh. It's hard to get it smooth and even that way. Digging it up damp is better . . . umm, less likely to break when you bake it." Khar looked around with a sharp grin. "The advantages of growing up so poor that even the scion of the Family pitches in and helps with everything are suddenly obvious. If there was any way to make it instead of having to find the money to buy it, we made it."
Leon looked around at movement, a batch of the servant kids, looking down the bank at them. I haven't been allowed to play with them for a couple of years now.
Vlasiy waved. "Hey Samuil! Max! C'mon down and see what we're doing!"
They all slid and climbed down the hill, and there were even a bunch of girls with them, with bags of acorns.
And then Khar was handing out lumps of soft clay and showing everyone how to make pinch pots, while making a couple of bigger bowls himself. "You have to let them get completely dry before you bake them, or they break. Then you'll need to find really fine sand, mix it with water and slosh it around to get a thin layer all over the inside, and bake it again, real hot."
A woman voice calling, had the kids guiltily snatching theie bags and their new bowls and heading back to the camp.
Khar loaded his bowls with more lumps and picked them up carefully. "Thank you for this, and . . . well, thank you."
He headed back up the river, and Leon and Vlas looked at each other. Muddy messes.
"We'd better clean up before we go back." Leon headed for the river.
And keep in touch with Khar.
And back at the camp, the first person he sought out was Makariy. The old man, well, not as old as his father or Forty-nine, but . . .the children's tutor had been dunning him forever with useful knowledge that was now mostly irrelevant. But . . .
"All those adventure stories you used to tell us. Do you know how to do that stuff? Can you tell us how to build a log cabin?"
Makarity's brows rose. "Yes, but . . . I wonder if anyone packed an ax? It takes a lot of trees. These nice straight pines would be good, but . . ."
Leon bit his lip, and looked around. "I can't imagine asking my father to chop down a tree with his magic . . ." and there he was. Listening.
And his uncles.
Ivan laughed. "Us? Now we're reduced to woodcutters? I think not! I'm going hunting in the morning. I suppose the younger set might find knocking down trees amusing, but make sure they do it away from camp, so they don't break anything."
Volya grinned. "We should make some boar spears. The oaks are thicker down hill, surely this world can supply us with pork chops."
"Feeding on acorns," Makariy muttered quietly.
Leon frowned. "We're pretty high up. Should we move lower? The snow will be deeper up here, and colder, this winter."
His father eyed him. "Now that is a good idea. Much though I hate to give up that handy well . . . I think some exploring that way is an excellent idea."
Leon watched him walk away, and into the trees. His father stopped at a straight oak sapling, giving it a shake to test its strength. Leaning down to slice it, because cutting a spear was not beneath a True Man's dignity . . . or not cutting it.
His father straightened up abruptly. Stood stiffly for a long moment, then turned and walked back. Looking pale.
Leon choked on a cold knot of terror.
The plague. It can't be. We cannot have brought the plague with us!
At dinner, their father told Benedickt to collect his young friends, a few supplies and explore down hill.
"Scout out a route down to that valley. Survey the game, for hunting, and possible sites for us to move too. We're on the boundry from foothills to mountains, and may get substantial amounts of snow up here."
Uncle Voyla snorted. "It'll snow down there, too."
Father nodded. "Probably. But we'll want farms down there, not up here."
He's getting Benedikt away from the plague!
Leon, relegated to the children's table, turned to look from Father to Brother.
"No." A duet, topped by his father. "You are too young."
He slumped. "Yes, Father."