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Wrede, Patricia C - Mairelon 02 (9 page)

BOOK: Wrede, Patricia C - Mairelon 02
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Kim
stared at Mademoiselle D'Auber, speechless. This was an aspect of the matter
that she had never considered. From the look on his face, neither had Mairelon,
though she couldn't tell whether his look of chagrin came from the realization
that some of Society thought he was not "enough respectable," or from
the realization that if his ward were to come out properly, he, too, would be
required to attend balls and parties. Knowing Mairelon, she suspected the
latter.

           
"I
do not think it will be nearly so boring as you
fear
,"
Renee said to Kim, smiling. "Not with Monsieur Merrill's mama in charge.
And once you have been presented, it is done, and you may attend the balls or
not, as it pleases you."

           
"And
if you do it, Aunt Agatha will turn positively purple," Mairelon murmured,
recovering quickly.

           
The
silence that followed stretched on for what seemed forever. Finally, Kim
sighed. "All right, then. I'll try it. But I still think you all have
windmills in your heads."

           
"Of
a certainty," Mademoiselle D'Auber said. "How else is one to deal
with Monsieur Merrill?"

8

           
After
leaving Mademoiselle D'Auber's, Mairelon ordered the coach to stop at the Horse
Guards, where Lord Shoreham had his office. Unfortunately, Lord Shoreham was
unable to give him any more information regarding the French wizards, though he
promised to have his records checked for anything that Mairelon might find
useful. They arrived home early in the afternoon, and Kim was immediately swept
up by Lady Wendall.

           
"Is
there anything in your wardrobe of which you are particularly fond?" she
demanded of Kim almost as soon as Kim entered the house.

           
"I
don't think so," Kim said, considerably startled.

           
"Good.
Then I will have one of the footmen take all of it to the used clothing shops
tomorrow," Lady Wendall said. "Except of course for the outfit you
have stored in the hatbox; that clearly has uses other than fashion to
recommend it. Did you speak to Mademoiselle D'Auber about shopping tomorrow?"

           
"I
forgot," Kim said. "Mairelon had other things he wanted to talk
about."

           
"Richard
always does. Well, I'll send a note around this afternoon. I suggest you spend
the time on your magical studies; tomorrow, you will be quite thoroughly
occupied."

           
Nothing
loath, Kim escaped to the library, where she alternated between watching the
monkey's antics in its wicker cage and trying to puzzle out a few more of
Mairelon's assigned texts. Since all of them included occasional examples in
foreign languages that were quite beyond Kim's comprehension, she had a long
list of questions ready for Mairelon by the time he came to check on her
progress. Mairelon readily agreed to translate and explain the questionable
bits, but his answers only frustrated Kim more.

           
"Don't
these coves know how to say anything straight out in English?" Kim
demanded after Mairelon had finished explaining a particularly convoluted
paragraph written in Greek, which boiled down to
Don't
try this; it doesn't work.

           
Mairelon
laughed. "It wouldn't sound nearly as impressive in plain English."

           
"I
thought the point was to tell wizards how to do magic," Kim said crossly.
"Not to sound impressive."

           
"Wizards
are at least as vain as anyone else," Mairelon said.
"Possibly
more so."

           
"Well,
I don't see why I have to learn all this foreign talk just so some cull who's
been dead since before I was born can sound flash when he says, 'Wiggle all the
fingers on your right hand.' "

           
"You'll
just have to trust me when I tell you it's worth the effort," Mairelon told
her. "You could probably learn quite a few of the simple spells by rote,
but it would be very difficult for you to get much beyond that."

           
"Why?
I have a good memory."

           
"Yes,
but magic isn't just a matter of memory. It takes understanding, too. Here, I'll
show you." Mairelon set the book aside and went over to his mother's desk.
After a moment of rummaging and a few more of scribbling, he returned with a
sheet of paper bearing a peculiar diagram and four words.

           
"This
is a spell," he said, thrusting the paper into her hand. "You ought
to be able to handle it at your level. You cast it by drawing this diagram,
starting with this"--he pointed--"and ending with these. As you draw
each of these points, you say one of these words, in order."

           
"How
do I say them?" Kim said, staring at the unfamiliar jumble of consonants
and vowels.

           
Mairelon
obligingly pronounced each word in turn. "Now cast it."

           
Kim gave
him a startled look,
then
lowered her eyes to study
the paper. The drawing was of a circle quartered by two double-headed arrows,
the heads of which protruded on all four sides.
Draw the circle first, then
the cross, and then the arrowheads, and say one word at each arrowhead.
Fine.
She took the pen and ink Mairelon handed her, and
bent to her task.

           
As she spoke
the first word, she felt a faint tingling. It strengthened a trifle with each
additional command, and when she looked up, she thought she saw a faint
greenish haze around several of the bookcases, and a brief shower of green
sparkles near Mairelon's coat. The effect faded almost at once. Mairelon nodded
in approval.

           
"Not
bad. But look here. The circle represents magic; the four arrows are four
directions.
Epistamai
is Greek for 'to know,'
videre
is Latin for
'to see,'
l'herah
is Hebrew for 'to show,' and
revelare
is Latin
again, meaning 'to reveal.' Put it all together, and you have a spell that lets
a magician find out what things around him have been enchanted."

           
"You
can tell that most of the time just by touching them," Kim objected.

           
"You
can't go around touching everything you suspect of being magical,"
Mairelon said. "Quite apart from the attention you'd attract, it's not
always wise."

           
"Trap
spells, you mean."

           
"Among other things.
Now, cast it again."

           
Frowning
slightly, Kim did so. This time, two of the bookcases
glowed
a steady green, the third button on Mairelon's coat was a shower of green
sparks, and one of the candlesticks was briefly surrounded by a faint green
mist.

           
The
effect took longer to fade, too. A greenish haze still remained around his
button when he finally said, "It was clearer that time, wasn't it?"

           
Kim gave
him a startled look. "Couldn't you tell?"

           
"It's
not a general spell to show
everyone
what's enchanted. It's only
supposed to show
you
."

           
"Oh.
Yes, everything was brighter."

           
"That's
the difference between knowing a spell by rote and actually understanding what
you are saying."

           
"But--"
Kim paused, frowning. Then she dipped the pen once more and began to draw the
figure. "To know," she said as she completed the first arrow.
"To see.
To show.
To reveal . . . Ow!"
An instant too late, she flung a
hand over her eyes to shut out the blinding light that flared from the
bookcases and the searing flashes from Mairelon's button.

           
"And
that
is why you can't just learn spells in English in the first
place," Mairelon said in a tone of smug satisfaction.

           
"You
might
of
warned me!"
Kim said,
keeping her eyes closed.

           
"Some
things take better if you aren't told about them first," Mairelon said.
"Besides, I wanted to see whether you'd think of it on your own."

           
"You
still could
of
warned me." Cautiously, Kim opened
her eyes. Green spots still danced in front of them, but the light had weakened
to a bearable level.

           
"If
it's any comfort, you're doing rather well. I didn't think of trying a spell in
English until my third year of formal study, and I was fool enough to pick a
translation spell to try it on. For the next week, everything I said or wrote
came out in a garble of French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and some outlandish
tongue I didn't even recognize. I couldn't explain to anyone what had happened,
and with everything I said coming out in a muddle, I couldn't use magic to
correct matters."

           
"What
did you do?"

           
Mairelon
grimaced. "There wasn't much of anything I
could
do. Fortunately,
Mother knows a bit of the Art herself, and when I came in sounding like all the
workmen at the
Tower
of
Babel
rolled into one, she could tell there was magic involved. She sent for my
tutor, and of course once he did the spell properly, he understood me. He told
the family, which settled things down considerably. There was nothing to be
done about me, though, except wait for the enchantment to wear off. I had to
make do with sign language for a week."

           
"Are
you trying to say that if I'd waited until next year to try that, it would have
been even worse than it was?" Kim demanded.

           
"Much
worse," Mairelon said cheerfully. "The further you get in your study
of magic, the more power you use without thinking about it. Using a foreign
tongue keeps it all from spewing into a spell uncontrollably. And the reason
most spells are in ancient Greek and Latin is that nobody grows up speaking
those languages any more, so every wizard can use spells written in them
without having to translate them first."

           
"So
if I was to say this spell in French, it would work just as well as it does in
Latin?" Kim asked.

           
"Yes, exactly.
Of course, the more complex the spell,
the more important the precise shades of meaning become. When we get to
advanced work, you'll find that some spells have completely different effects,
depending on whether you say them in Latin or Greek or Hebrew."

           
"And
Mademoiselle D'Auber could do spells in English if she wanted, but I
can't."

           
Mairelon
beamed. "Yes. As far as the
Royal
College
can determine, mere fluency
in a foreign language does not cause the same problems as growing up speaking
it. English is a foreign language to Renee, so she could certainly cast spells
in it." He paused,
then
added absently, "I
sometimes wonder how the Jewish wizards manage. Hebrew is used in quite a lot
of spells, and one would think--But then, if they
have
found a way
around the language problem, one can't blame them for keeping it secret. Not
after the way they've been treated over the centuries."

           
Ignoring
this novel viewpoint, Kim frowned. "All right, but why do I have to learn
three
kinds
of foreign talk? Isn't one enough?"

           
"It
is an unfortunate side effect of history," Mairelon said. "The
ancient Romans couldn't cast their spells in Latin, so they used Greek. The Greeks
couldn't cast spells in Greek, so they used Latin. And mixing in a little
Hebrew kept spells from being quite so easy to steal, because the spellcaster
had to know at least two languages."

           
"I
still say it's too tangled," Kim grumbled. "And what do all those
spells
do
, anyway? The ones I saw--on the bookcases and your waistcoat
button and the candlestick."

           
"Finding
that out is a different spell," Mairelon said. "And we're not through
with the theory of this one, yet. Now, if you alter the order, like this,
nothing happens, but if you change the arrowheads to triangles . . ."

           
An hour
and a half later, Kim's head was buzzing. She was amazed by the number of
changes that could be wrung out of the simple spell merely by changing the
order of the words or the way in which the diagram was drawn, and she had a new
respect for the reasons behind Mairelon's emphasis on accuracy in spellcasting.

           

           
The
following morning, Lady Wendall appeared at Kim's room, accompanied by a plump,
middle-aged woman whose sharp eyes belied her outward appearance of placid
respectability.

           
"
Wilson
will be your abigail," Lady Wendall informed Kim. "If you must go out
without Richard or
myself
, take her with you."

           
"Even to St. Giles?"
Kim said, nettled.

           
"Not
at all, miss," the plump woman responded. "St. Giles ain't
no
place for a respectable woman, let alone a young lady of
Quality. So if you go there, it'll be for wizardly doings, and you won't
be needing
me. My lady meant more usual places.
Shopping and such."

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