Lightborn by Alison Sinclair

Book: Lightborn by Alison Sinclair Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alison Sinclair
I’ve heard that name,” said the prince, after a longer pause than usual. “He is not contracted to the palace.”
    Could he remember? She had taken a risk—for all three of them—in putting that name before Fejelis. But surely after ten years . . .
    “Your father may have mentioned him, or you heard some gossip,” she spoke lightly of that. “He hasn’t been around the palace much. Tammorn is not of the lineages; he was born up in the northwest. His magic came in late and unrecognized, and brought him all kinds of trouble. He was a petty criminal when he crossed paths with my father, who used to advise for the city watch. My father recognized him for what he was, had a word with the prince, and brought Tam to the Temple’s attention.”
    Without Isidore’s patronage, the high masters might have elected then to burn out Tam’s magic, for all his past offenses—including his great impertinence of being born with power outside their carefully tended lineages. “Tam will be one mage who’ll be wearing full mourning, and meaning it.”
    Fejelis blinked, but otherwise betrayed nothing. “. . . His rank?”
    Might Fejelis actually remember ? A nine-year-old child, fatally poisoned, muscles spasming uncontrollably, face mottled slate gray with asphyxia. Chance—in the form of a desultory flirtation—had put Floria in the orchard with Tam at her side when they heard the sounds of what they thought at first was a small animal in distress. Tam had acted before either of them thought of the compact and the law, and the contracted mages who should, rightfully, be summoned. Even the saving of a child’s life was a grave violation of the compact.
    “Fifth, by Temple reckoning. Were he not a sport, it might be higher.” Even after five years with his magic bound, the Temple had not forgiven Tam.
    “Ask him,” the prince said, without hesitation—the effect almost one of blurted words. “. . . Have him come to the salle , at the end of my regular practice time.”
    “And may I tell him why?”
    Fejelis nodded slowly, light sliding on his hair. “. . . Yes,” he said, at last. “Tell him why.”

    Unlike most high-ranked mages, who lived in the Temple or in its immediate vicinity, Tammorn lived in Minhorne New Town, across the river from palace, Temple, and indeed any destination of any account. Which meant that the brisk mage wind that cleared the lingering smell of the burned Rivermarch bore it toward the New Town. All the way across the bridge, the smell of ash followed her.
    Yet almost as soon as she reached the far bank, the breeze abruptly changed direction, and leaves, litter, and scorched scraps whirled suddenly skyward. The wind tugged her tunic, lifted her hair. Ten yards on, the air was sweet, still, and flowing lightly from the north, as the clouds indicated. Somebody with power enough to deflect winds cared about the place. She thought she knew who.
    The New Town was home to artisans, merchants, and craftsmen who had failed, through lack of luck, industry, or skill, to establish themselves in the city proper. It was also the gathering place of an unruly collection of self-styled revolutionaries and idealists who preached liberation from dependence on magic, and enthusiastically adopted Darkborn inventions. An unlikely place to find a high-ranked mage—but then, Tam was an unusual mage.
    He was sitting on a bench in his front garden, gently jiggling the infant draped over his thigh and gumming on a double fistful of his scarlet trousers. That particular red was one of the new chemical dyes, a by-product, ironically, of the blind Darkborn’s experiments with tar. Its touch made Floria’s asset-imbued skin itch. She had been meaning to take the matter up with Balthasar when his next term on the Intercalatory Council came around: there were poisons enough in the world without creating more.
    “Tam, you can wear that color; just don’t let her chew on it.” Tam’s expression took on a

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