Double Magic – Chapter 4


Sylvia’s eyes widened. She stumbled in surprise. She could not believe what she was seeing. Four ill-clad ruffians with drawn daggers had burst into the room.

“Kill them all,” the one in front yelled. “Even the children.”

The intruder spotted Sylvia trying to regain her footing and rushed at her. A grin spread over his pockmarked face. “This one is mine,” he said. “After I have a little sport first.”

As he bent to seize her, Sylvia grabbed the skillet lying nearby with both hands and thrust it at his gut. The rogue bent double. She raised the pan and slammed it into his chin. Blood and bits of teeth sprayed forth from his mouth. Crispy grasshoppers and hot oil spattered everywhere.

Sylvia scrambled out of the way of the falling man. Still clutching her weapon, she swung it as hard as she could at the head of one of the others surrounding Mason. The brigand’s skull cracked from the impact, and he slumped to the ground.

“Behind you,” she screamed.

Mason twirled to face another assailant. He took a slight step to the side, avoided the knife thrust, and pinned the outstretched arm of his attacker under his own. With a deftness Sylvia could only gasp at, the lord plunged his dagger into his adversary’s heart. The impresario’s eyes widened in surprise. Apparently, Mason was as shocked as anyone by what he had done.

The last scoundrel bolted for the door. “We will be back,” he growled over his shoulder as he left. “More of us next time. You cannot escape your doom.”

“Is everyone all right?” Mason immediately asked his sisters. When Patience burst into tears, he said, “Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said. “Big hugs and kisses later, once we are safe.”

“Wait!” Sylvia shouted. “You’re going to leave? What about us? They said they will be back. You heard him.”

“Your struggle with street hoodlums is no concern of mine,” Mason said.

“You wouldn’t be standing now if not for this skillet.”

Mason hesitated. He looked at the two men who had been felled behind his back and shuddered. “All right,” he said. “You can accompany me. I will figure out a place where you can hide.”

Sylvia shook her head. She stared at Rangoth sitting complacently in his high chair, his eyes drooping closed. “No. Not good enough. The master comes as well.”

“The wizard? Look at him. He is falling asleep!”

“He nods off that way after he has finished sometimes, but we cannot leave him behind.”

For a moment, no one spoke as Mason screwed up his face in thought. “All right, all right,” he said at last. “What is important is to leave as swiftly as we can. If you look after the wizard, you can bring him, too. Hurry, we must go.”

Sylvia roused Rangoth out of his reverie, then turned her attention back to Mason. “Why did they attack? What is it you have done?”

“Me? Nothing, of course. As I said, problems on your street...”

“You’re in the thick of this,” Sylvia cut him off. “Certainly, no one would have any reason to accost an old wizard and his servant girl. There is no wealth here. What is it you have done?”

“I don’t know. There must be a mistake.”

“Okay, a discussion later. But where are we going?”

Mason frowned. “The palace,” he blurted. “It is the safest place in the kingdom. No one attempts any mayhem under the eyes of the queen.” He wrapped his arm around Patience, who was still sobbing. “Come along now. Everyone back to our coach.”

Sylvia forced herself to calm down. She did not like rushing into strange situations without good reason. But even if no more brigands returned, when the tax collector came tomorrow, what then? She hadn’t obtained the three brandels. She and Rangoth would become slaves.

What did she know about this lord of the court, anyway? Obviously, he had had at least some training about how to defend himself. Although... his shock when he dispatched the ruffian indicated that, heretofore, it all had been play. As she thought about him, a small rush of passion made her blush. His red curls were quite beguiling.

So, in for a copper, in for a brandel. She shrugged and squatted to rouse Rangoth from wherever his thoughts had taken him. “Come along, Master. We are going on a little trip.”


Sylvia settled into the padded seat of the coach as it left the stable. What had happened scant moments before began to sink in. She had disabled two men, maybe even killed one of them. Left their bodies behind with no explanation. Shut and locked the door so that thieves would not...

She shuddered as sudden remorse washed over her, a feeling she had never experienced before. Two men, no matter how vile, had their lives forever altered because of what she had done. The images of the attack reverberated horribly in her mind, something she would never forget. No, she told herself; they would fade away. She had done no wrong. She had defended Rangoth and herself. There had been no other choice.

For a long while, no one in the carriage spoke. Only the clop of the horses’ hooves made any noise. Patience’s sobs quieted to a soft murmur. Her two sisters said nothing, their eyes still wide with shock. Mason tried to put his arms around all three but could not manage it.

Sylvia beckoned to Lalage. The oldest sister staggered across the space between the two facing coach benches. She curled into a ball in Sylvia’s lap. The matron said nothing. She sat apart with Rangoth on a servant’s bench behind the two facing rows.

“Why did this happen?” Sylvia asked Mason as the journey settled into a gentle trot. “The attack was meant for you. It has to have been.”

“I don’t know,” Mason stammered. “I really don’t.” He shrugged while still managing to keep his two sisters tight to his chest. “I do not meddle in the politics of the court at all. I do not matter.”

“It has to be related somehow to an intrigue around the queen,” Sylvia said. “Why else...” She stopped and changed her tack. “And if the queen is involved, the palace is the last place you...I mean we, should be.”

Mason pulled his sisters tighter. “The safest place in all Procolon is the palace. And the safest place in the palace is the queen’s nursery. She has little ones of her own. When we arrive,” he told the matron, “hustle these three into safety there. This is very important. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Milord,” the matron answered softly. “When one is not noticed, they can go anywhere. Those strutting finery are the ones who have their motion restricted.”

“What about Rangoth and me?” Sylvia asked. “Are you going to dump us at the palace gate?”

Mason shook his head slowly. “No, not there. You would not be safe. No carpenters were present at the gate when we left the palace, but by now, some might have congregated there.”


“To shout and harass anyone who wants to pass through.”

“Where will you take us?”

“I don’t know!” Mason scowled. “I’ve said that more than once already. Give me a moment to think everything through.”

The pace of the trotting horses slowed a bit. They had reached the foot of what was grandly called the “palace hill.”

Sylvia heard shouting and peeked out the coach window. There was a noise coming from the front of the gate. She turned her head toward it and blinked. There were not only a few craftsmen there but what appeared to be over a hundred people, all agitated and angry.

Carpenters waved their measuring sticks in the air. Seamstresses brandished tambours and spools of thread. “No more machines that sew,” they shouted. Bakers wearing their puffy toques lofted mixing bowls and yelled, “Hands knead with tender care. Worthy work takes time.”

Yes, some workers were dissatisfied, Sylvia thought, but she did not care. She had too much to worry about on her own.

The carriage came to a halt at the rear of the crowd. Mason rapped twice on the carriage roof, poked his head out his window, and craned his head upward. “Groomsman, what can you see?”

“Please take patience, Milord,” the servant replied. “A squadron of sentinels is marching down the hill from the palace itself. They will arrive shortly and force open a path for us to enter.”

Mason sat back down and patted his sisters clinging to him. “A few moments more, my turtledoves, and this will be a fading memory.”

After what seemed like an eternity to Sylvia, with a rattle, the palace gates swung open. A herald at the fore of the troops bellowed to the crowd. “Hear ye, hear ye! The queen has spoken. Select four to enter. After the performance tonight is over, her majesty will hold an audience with you. Speak then of your displeasure. She will listen to you, but no more than four.”

“Our means of livelihood,” one in the crowd shouted. “The fact is simple enough. This surge of discoveries disrupts what has been the practice for generations. Ban its use. Ban it now.”

“No more new magic.” the crowd took up a chant. “No more new magic. Ban the new spells now.”

“Do you want the audience or not?” the herald asked.

“All of us,” the workers yelled. “All of us to see the queen.”

The herald signaled to the troops. “Very well, then, if it is violence you desire then you shall have it.”

With a precision clap, the soldiers snapped to attention, raised their shields, and drew their swords.

“Wait, wait,” one in the crowd shouted. He moved to the front and turned to face the others. He extended both of his hands palms out. “Remember what we have planned. Lead with our heads, not our hearts.”

The chanting continued for a few moments more, but no one else moved forward to challenge the speaker. The noise softened and then finally stopped. The crowd shuffled around. A second man and two women came to the front. “Go back to your homes,” one of them said. “You will hear what happens tonight or the first thing on the morrow.”

Gradually, the workers drifted away. Sylvia relaxed a bit as the path ahead became unblocked. The coach crept forward. When it reached the gate, one of the sentries poked his head through Mason’s window. “Ah, Milord,” he said. “It is prudent you get inside before the sun falls any lower. We may have to call out reinforcements when darkness falls.”

“You suspect more trouble at night?” Mason asked.

“The queen is trying to placate them as best she can. Perhaps the audience after the enchantment will calm things down.”

“The enchantment!” Mason slapped his head. “I had completely forgotten. I must speak with the sorcerer I hired immediately. This is important. I have to explain before the performance begins what he can and cannot do.”

“No need, Milord,” the guard said. “As Lord Wetron instructed me, I sent the master on his way when he arrived.”

“There will be no enchantment at all? What entertainment instead?”

“Do not fret. Lord Wetron has procured a replacement sorcerer and is instructing him as we speak.”

“That’s my job!” Mason exploded. “I am the impresario of the court. I am the one who is in charge of all the entertainment.”

“Your court function cannot be as important as what has happened,” Sylvia blurted. “Focus.”

The sentry shrugged. “You will have to take that up with your brother, Milord.”

With both hands, Mason pushed Sylvia’s words away. He scowled and tapped his fist on the roof of the carriage. “Continue to the palace,” he instructed. “I will see about this.”

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