This week’s Rainbow Snippet comes from Apprentice’s Luck, coming from JMS Books this summer! It’s a new story in the Middle Lands (the Magician universe, which along with Magician includes “Sorceress” and “The Twelfth Enchantment”), but it should stand alone fine if you’ve not read the others. Talis and Jer are so much fun to write – my flirtatious, sarcastic, complicated apprentice magician and his honorable opera-loving king’s guard…
I put an earlier snippet – their first meeting – in a previous Rainbow Snippets post, if you want to read that one too!
(In case you’re not familiar with #RainbowSnippets, check out their Facebook Group – new posts every Saturday (depending on time zones). The weekly pinned post will collect comments from authors linking to their six-line Rainbow Snippet post for the week.)
They went out the nearest open arch, and followed the road down the hill. Rainclouds danced along, an accompaniment. Talis avoided puddles and mud without even noticing. Jeryn did the same with the ease of someone used to taking in and responding to his surroundings.
“So.” Talis finished the last of the nuts and fruits. He was fairly sure that Jer, possessing infinite legs and a lot of consideration, was shortening that stride to not make him have to keep up. “What is it you think I can do? You had an idea.”
“I did. The way your magic works…it protects you, right?”
“More or less. It’s not infallible. And sometimes it’s a lesser of two evils question. Stop to fix a broken boot-lace, watch a half-built shop-awning crash down right where I’d’ve been…I’ve never been so happy to need a new lace.”
“Do you constantly have near-death experiences, or do you just enjoy telling me about them?”
“Are you concerned?” Talis threw him a grin, the best version, deliberately sparkling. “For me?”
“Yes,” Jer said promptly. “I do appreciate not being rained on, by the way. Is that on purpose?”
“I’m not actively doing it. I think you’re benefiting from walking next to me.” So close, in fact, that their arms occasionally touched. Every time sent scattered sparks through Talis’s body.
Jeryn de Machaut was exactly the sort of person he shouldn’t have daydreams about. Tall, warm, luscious as an artist’s inspiration, serious and practical and prepared. A king’s guard, dedicated and honorable. The sort of man who took on extra cares, and then did his best to fulfil them all.
And Talis was a disaster, a walking luck magnet, a magician without control, not to mention short and skinny and good at surviving. He knew all that.
He tried hard not to feel the next starlight crackle of want, when the back of his hand brushed Jer’s.
14 thoughts on “rainbow snippets: rain, or the lack thereof, and daydreams”
Congrats on the new release!
Thank you! 🙂 It’ll still be a couple months for this one (July, I think), but I’ve been having so much fun with it – I keep wanting to share it with you all! 😀
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Sounds like a good magical power to have…though I’m guessing there’ll be a glitch in the works somewhere! ❤️
Oh, it’s fascinatingly complicated! It can be very personally helpful…but also inadvertent bad luck, or at least side effects, for other people nearby, as it were…here, from slightly earlier, Talis trying to explain…
“My magic is—it doesn’t work like that. It does what it wants.”
“It’s some sort of luck, though.”
“It is, but only for me.” He still had a hand on Jeryn’s arm; neither of them had moved. “You saw it. In the tavern. I’ll know when to step out of the way, or I’ll find a dropped purse in the street, or someone’ll have a spare coat if I’m cold. But that means that someone else gets hit with spilled ale. Or loses their purse. Or gives up their coat, on a random whim.”
“Oh,” Jer said.
“I honestly don’t know how I’d even use it for what you want. I might be safe, if I stood on your king’s barge or your riverbank and tried to help protect him. But I might miss a danger to someone else, if it’s not about me in particular. Or even put them in danger, in my place.”
Jer didn’t say anything for a second. Complications moved behind his eyes, tides in the winter oceans; but all he eventually said was, “That sounds more like a curse, than magic.” He also put his own hand over Talis’s, fleetingly, as if he couldn’t not, before lifting it away.
“Curses are magic,” Talis pointed out. He’d moved his hand, too. Seemed like the expected response. “And I really am sorry. I do believe you. And it sounds like the king trusts you. I hope you can find someone who can help.” He considered this, suggested, “You could come up and make a formal request. At the School. Second Sorceress Lilac might listen. I think the king’s some sort of great-grandnephew, cousin, several times removed, relation to her family.”
“I thought you said magicians try not to interfere.”
“We do, but we’re also human. And we like a lack of political instability and assassinations. So we can get on with exploring the mysterious secret workings of power. Or in my case failing to explore. It might be worth asking.”
“It doesn’t sound,” Jer said, “like it’s your fault. If you are failing. I’m not sure—”
He was interrupted by the universe, in the form of a red-faced overdressed man—a wealthy merchant, from the cost and cut of his clothing, hat, the chain at his neck—coming along the street, battling his wind-tugged velvet cloak and personal heat from lumbering along, and complaining to his equally overdressed companion, “I swear I’ll give this cloak away, it’s a nuisance—” By chance, he spotted Talis: short and slender and wearing only a silky shirt and old trousers and thin boots, standing close and talking to a guardsman in a side alley by an tavern: a handful of assumptions just waiting to be made. The man yanked off the cloak, held it out, pleaded, “You could use this, couldn’t you?”
“Ah,” Talis said, attempting to fend off valiantly offered crimson velvet, “thank you, but I don’t need—you don’t need to give me your—”
“Oh no no no, go on, I’m sure you’re freezing, take it!”
Talis gave up, because the alternative was having several pounds of velvet dumped on his head. And it was an expensive cloak. “Thank you.”
The large man beamed. And, strolling away, arm looped through his companion’s, began saying, “…so much better, less weight, of course, and one does like to do something charitable, rather than just throw good material away…helping those less fortunate, you know…”
Jeryn was staring at him. Talis shrugged. “Want to share a cloak?” It’d have room for them both, and then some.
“I think,” Jer said, “I didn’t completely understand. Now I do. A little.”
“It’s not always that obvious.”
“And you live with that. All the time.”
“The Sorceress is good at shields. The School’s well warded. So if I’m back behind the walls, it tends to behave. And I’m…” He didn’t know what he was. Terrible at control. Good at being not in control. “Working on it. I suppose. Oh, well; I will be warmer.”
“Are you walking back up? In this weather?” Jer stopped, shook his head. “No, you’ll end up getting a ride on a cart, or handed a bag of leftover toasted nuts as someone closes a market-stall, to keep your hands warm, won’t you?”
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Oof…definitely more of a curse to anyone with a sense of empathy for others, then. 😳
Exactly! Like, whatever happens, *he’ll* probably be fine…but he knows other people might not be. (Also one reason he would never, ever, want to be on a battlefield or something like that…nothing would touch him, but the people next to him…) (It’s also a good thing Jer has a lot of patience and also good reflexes.)
Maggie had suggested they go up and sit on the hill behind the School, the small gathering-spot with carved boulders and smooth wood and a place for evening firelight or spellwork contained in a carved glass bowl. Not coincidentally, this meant no other apprentices were nearby.
Down below he could see the city like a morning tapestry: multihued, embroidered, woven with lives and purposes. Textures of silk and wheat, leather and coin. Carts and motion in the streets, alive and quick. Flowing tea, ale, wine. Music like birdsong dressed in fanciful ribbons and lace and masks, from the round dome of the opera house.
He thought of thunder-grey eyes, and loyalty, and the way Jeryn’s storybook-painting face went from solemn to bright when amused.
Maggie had said something. Talis refocused hastily. “Sorry?”
“I’m not certain we’re doing you much good, I said.” Her voice was rueful, not blaming him; she tapped fingers on stone again. “Not that it’s your fault.”
Talis, horrified, breathed, “It is me—I know, of course it is, but—without the shields up here, at the School, I—if I leave—”
“Oh, no!” This time she took his hands, both of them, in that small aged but firm grip. And squeezed, and let go. “No. We would never abandon you. How long have you been with us? Two years?”
“Nearly. Next month.” He pulled up one knee, hugged it. The boulder was big enough for that, a slab of blue-veined comfort. He’d left the velvet heap back in his small apprentice’s room, turned into an extra blanket over his equally small bed.
The shirt he was wearing was one of his oldest, one he’d arrived with. He’d bought it, and one other, with the money he’d got from a ring he’d stepped on in the street. The ring had had a family crest, and had belonged to a finely dressed courtier who’d come rushing back, young and flustered and desperate at having lost a family heirloom. They’d given Talis their entire purse, in gratitude. He hadn’t argued much.
He’d needed clothing. And the gratitude had been real.
He touched his sleeve, remembering. He wanted to be a better person. He wanted to be the sort of person who worked for and earned rewards, who believed in causes, who protected people.
He was, however, a person with no real skills other than looking small and precious and winsome, fortuitously spotting the exact softhearted mark who’d pour money into a guitar case in exchange for a song or tale, and ducking under a table just before a tavern brawl broke out.
Jeryn, with the sense of duty and dedication and serious king’s guard loyalty, would likely see every day of Talis’s previous life as fundamentally selfish, even dishonest, even if not intentionally so.
He looked down at his boulder-bench. It knew exactly who and what it was. True to itself, through and through. A rock. Literally and proverbially such.
“I think perhaps it’s our fault.” Maggie considered him, head on one side. “If we can’t get you any means of control, if you can’t contain those ripples…”
“Then I’ll live here at the School and be a recluse. Not a teacher, obviously. A wild mystic. Isolated. In a cave. A hermit. Could we use an ornamental hermit?”
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Aww, poor Talis. 💜
At least he also gets to meet the man of his dreams? :p
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There you go! ❤️
Oh, my. I do like that snippet!
These two are SO MUCH FUN. They’re becoming two of my favorites of my own characters, I suspect… 😀 😀 Next bit? ❤
“I thought,” Jer said, “that if you went over the barge with me, if you stood where the king would stand, felt what he’d feel…if you had a sense that someplace wouldn’t be safe, or a feeling that you shouldn’t go out on the river, tomorrow…does that make sense? I can look, but if there’s nothing physically there I won’t find it.”
“That…makes some sense, yes.” He hopped over a puddle, this time on his own, because he’d seen it. “I think I might know if I’d be in danger. If I stayed aboard. I think I might have a sense that I shouldn’t, if, say, your barge is going to sink.”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“But then again the problem is, I might not know, because I know I’m not. Aboard. Going with you. On the king’s little leisure trip. So I’m not actually in any danger.”
They followed the road in silence for a few steps. Rain dripped from rocks and bushes, but never directly overhead.
Jer said, “What if you were coming with us?”
Talis tripped over nothing.
Jeryn caught him, practiced reflexes and graceful muscle right there. “Sorry! I thought—”
“I don’t trip,” Talis said, astounded. “I think maybe the universe knew you’d catch me.”
“Of course I will.” Jer’s eyes were the color of sea-storms: salt and pewter, crashing grey waves. Holding emotion like treasure in the depths. “I want to. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“No, it’s fine, it’s just…me. On the King’s barge. On a pleasure-cruise. How would you even explain me?”
Jer shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll ask whether I can bring a friend.”
Talis sputtered, wordless.
Jer shrugged again. Even casual motions rippled, feline and flexible with the ease of someone who knew his own body. “Amet likes his people to be happy. And, yes, I’ll be on duty, but we have shifts; I’ll be off later. He’ll tease me about having finally found a lover, and then he’ll forget about it. Especially with his own lovers as distractions.”
“Oh, fuck,” Talis said, weakly. And now he was the one swearing. In front of the honorable disciplined guardsman. “I thought you were the practical one. Your plan involves inviting me to the King’s boat orgy.”
Jer blushed once more. Vividly. “If you don’t want to—”
“I absolutely do. So much.” He let the moment extend, before adding, “We might not need to. We’ll see how this works. I’m still not sure I’m your best option.”
“I think,” Jer said, “you’re the option who listened to me. Who said yes, when I asked. I think I’d rather have that than someone who’d already decided I was imagining it all. Do you want more food? I’ve got an apple.”
“Of course you do.”
“Was that a yes?”
“No, you can save it.” Their arms brushed again: elbows, hands, shared space. Companionable. Comfortable. Drawn together. The sparks danced under Talis’s skin some more.
Inside the gates of the city, Jer steered them in the direction of the palace grounds and specifically the small royal boathouse, down at the river. Before that, he paused by a street stall and handed over money in exchange for two small pies, buttery-golden and steaming-hot.
He handed one to Talis. Talis looked at it, and up at Jeryn.
“What,” Jer said, “I was hungry, I’ve already walked up and back this morning,” and bit into his.
The pie proved to contain spiced pumpkin and carrot, meatless, rich with flavor. It warmed Talis’s hands, and stomach: outside and in.
Jer said, watching him, “Jade told me magicians didn’t eat meat. I didn’t know whether that was true.”
Talis finished off his pie. Licked a buttery fingertip. “Yes and no. Some do, some won’t. No good magician will be wasteful, or so they tell us. However you end up defining that for yourself. I’m not picky.” He could’ve said more—I couldn’t afford to be, we took what life gave us, it was all I’d ever known, until the School—but he didn’t think Jeryn needed to hear the more depressing details of his early life.
Anyway, it hadn’t been a bad life. Better than some.
Jer’s smile was fond, and a little sad, for some reason. “Do you want more?”