Martin arrived home with the first bell of evening. The rain now poured in a slow, steady deluge, and he looked forward to drying himself in the warmth of the kitchen. Letting himself into the darkened front room, he surmised that his apprentice must have gone out. He was almost at the rear of the shop before he noticed the boy sitting in the far corner of the room. The torch had long since burned out, and there was little but a glimmer of light on the boy’s eyes to give him away.
“Evening Jason. A bit dark in here, don’t you think?” he inquired, as he passed through, expecting the comment to be acted upon. Flinging his cloak onto a workbench in the kitchen, Martin cursed as he noticed the dying embers of the cooking fire, and moved to rekindle it. On returning to the shop, he was surprised to find that Jason had not moved.
Martin crossed the floor towards him, brow creasing with concern as the boy’s features became visible. A glazed, mournful expression showed on Jason’s face, and his stare was fixed on a point somewhere on the ceiling before him. Martin placed a hand on the boy’s forehead, checking for fever, then stepped in front, sending something skidding across the floor as he moved to break the boy’s gaze. Martin tried waving, then slapping him, then bent to pick up the debris when there was no reaction.
Closer inspection revealed it to be a piece of copo tree leaf, folded and rolled to keep its contents fresh. Flattening it out across the table revealed something the netmender had never suspected of the boy. “Cirrangill’s perfect net! Weeds! Idiot boy, do you not realise what these things can do to you?” No response. Martin started to pace the floor, shaking his head and cursing at the stupidity of anyone who took these poisons. As he saw it, he had two choices. One: to throw the boy out in the street; or two: to wait until he came down from his flight and talk some sense into him. He quickly discarded the first option; the boy was just too proficient and had too many other skills to make kicking him out feasible. Besides, he liked the boy.
Decision made, he grabbed the boy’s arm and hoisted him crossways over his back, taking hold of his legs for balance. Staggering slightly under the load, he made his way to the upper floor and, kicking open the door, dumped the boy unceremoniously on his bed. Jason’s expression had barely changed — eyes wide in a fixed stare and mouth hanging open. Martin looked disgustedly at him for a time, then made sure that the chamber-pot was empty and promptly left, passing a broom through the looped leather handle and across the door. “Let him think it over a while,” Martin muttered to himself.
Kilan Rainmaker sat, soaked and grieving, on the rocks at the mouth of the Coldwell. He still found it hard to comprehend the stupidity of the blunder he had made. Feeding his son a powder to strengthen his magical abilities had seemed a wholly justified risk, but now that the gods had dealt him a Jester, he was not so sure. Now Jason’s power seemed to come from something other than his thinking mind. He had no real control over the weather he wielded. Rather, it came from deep inside him. It was not hard to guess Jason’s present state of mind — the skies shared his tears.
Eventually, the mage raised himself to his feet, the cold from the rocks forcing him to walk stooped. Fearing the onset of a cold, he reached to his bag for the herbs which he knew would help, only to discover them missing. Cursing their loss, he made his way back toward the centre of Dargon in search of an inn in which to spend the night. Tomorrow, he would see what he could do to rectify his mistake. Kilan looked up into the darkened heavens as he walked, letting the drizzle fall on his face and mask his tears.
It took Kilan the greater part of the following day to decide on the best way to proceed, going over and over the options in his mind. To find a way to reverse individual spells or the spell as a whole would take more time than he was willing to spend, given that he did not know what the boy was capable of. He knew of few sages nearby with the necessary depth of knowledge in this particular field to aid him, but more importantly, none who would condone the spell he had used. Which left only the option of breaking the weaves he had created. At this stage of their influence, that too was a dangerous step, but no more so than letting loose a weatherweaver who had no control of his power.
To break the weaves, he would have to get close to Jason. Only through physical contact could he reverse the things he had done. However, the childish reactions Jason had showed toward any similar attempts recently gave Kilan cause for concern. If the fool boy had allowed him close in the first place, this fiasco might have been avoided entirely. Frowning, Kilan rose to open the shutters and check on the current weather. No change. Rain still fell in a steady drizzle from the skies. The street below was quiet as people took the opportunity to do any necessary indoor tasks.
Simply put, he would just have to go and see the boy. Picking up his cloak, the accustomed frown returned to his face as he found that it was still wet from the previous night; the damp, still air giving it no chance to dry out. He swung it around his shoulders anyway, then grabbed his bag before heading out of the inn.
Just after sixth bell, as Martin was reaching to tidy the nets displayed behind the counter, a tall, scrawny man walked in, looking absent-mindedly around the shop. He knew the man was no fisher, and thought he was simply sheltering from the rain, but when he asked for Jason, Martin was immediately reminded of the herbs from the previous day.
“What do you want with the boy?” Although Martin’s anger was roused, he did not know for sure that this man had anything to do with the incident.
Frowning, the stranger replied, “I am concerned for his welfare. Now if you would be so kind as to bring him to me?”
Martin shifted his stance slightly, crossed his arms in front of him and cocked his head, looking the man over in a cold appraisal. “Concerned, you say? About what?” A mocking leer appeared on his face as he mimicked, “If you would be so kind.”
The man’s moustaches twitched as he realised that he was being made a fool of. “I believe that his emotional health may not be the best, at present.”
“So it was you, you son of a Beinison whore! You are the one who got that boy weeded!” Martin’s face twisted in rage as he jinked around the counter, cat quick, but lacking the associated agility. His knee banged hard into a crate of stones, and his leg died beneath him as he reached for the stranger, who made a panicked retreat. Martin staggered woodenly after him with no chance of catching, his hands opening and closing as he reached the door, only to see the man dodging through the crowd at a brisk, nervous jog.
Martin watched the man for a while, his face pinched as if from the first taste of a Mandrakan citron. Unsure of whether he had done the right thing or not, he sat down on the step to work some life back into his leg.
Jason stirred slightly, the cold beginning to register as he moved. Eventually, it broke through his fugue, and he made his slow way to the waking world. Thoughts started to creep like rats into his mind, and he mulled over the somewhat disconnected fact that he was stiff and cold. Joints popping and muscles starting to tremble, he reached for the blanket, and woke quickly when he pulled its sodden length atop himself.
Cursing, he threw the blanket back and reached up to touch the wooden boards on the incline above him, feeling the water which ran in slow rivulets down its rough surface. A near blasphemous prayer of “Cirrangill, not in here, please,” escaped his lips as he sat up, shivering, on the edge of the low bed. Easing himself carefully onto cold feet, Jason stood, and picked a tender way to the window, walking stooped to avoid the wet ceiling.
The waxed paper was damp, and the night was deathly quiet outside. Rain no longer fell, though it had obviously not been dry for long. Opening the window, Jason looked down onto grey. Thick sea fog crowded the streets, bringing a bitter tang of salt to the air. The only breaks in the gloom were the faint, yellow hazes of lanterns which dimpled, rather than pricked, the cloak of night.
The boy crouched awhile, comforted by the silence, and thought over the previous evening’s events. He remembered his father’s entrance, his attempts at reconciliation and friendship, then his talk of Jason’s power, and then his admission of betrayal — that was about all that Jason remembered. He tried to think of any time that he had shown signs of influencing the weather since arriving in Dargon, but could think of none. He had used none of the associated ritual needed for weatherweaving, so it was not possible that he could have done anything of that nature. This was something he could try today though, if Martin allowed him some time to find a place where he would not be disturbed. Then he could finally prove that he had no mastery over the weather. Or maybe otherwise.
Eventually, he smoothed back the waxed paper and stood, as false dawn lent the night a bluish tinge. Hunger quietly complained in his belly, so he made his way to the kitchen — or rather, he tried to. The door to his room was stiff at the best of times, but tonight it was immovable. His first attempt at opening it ended with a stubbed toe and nearly a broken nose as he wrenched himself bodily into the door rather than pulling it open. Trying again, he tugged harder, thinking that it was merely the dampness which had swollen the wood, until the looped leather handle snapped in his hand and he landed on the floor.
Jason cursed and stood up to examine the handle. The leather was snapped clean through at the furthest point from the door. He tried grabbing the remains, but found that the door was still stuck, no matter how much he pulled. Wind whistled mournfully somewhere outside as Jason gave up his labours, panting, and started to shout for his master.
“Martin!” he yelled. “Martin,” he tried again. This time, though, there was some response. In the room next door, noises were being made as Martin arose. Jason quieted as he waited for the door to be given a boot from the outside. His wait was shorter than expected.
“Might as well go back to bed, kid,” came a voice through the wall. “You’re not getting out of that room for a while yet.” A creak could be heard as the bed next door once again took the strain.
Jason stood a while, waiting for Martin to open the door, despite his words. When nothing further was forthcoming, Jason started to pound on the wall between the two rooms.
“I told you, I’m not letting you out for a good while yet!” Martin sounded annoyed. Jason felt much the same way, and continued to pound, adding shouts to the dull thud of fist on wood.
“Get to bed!” Martin was shouting now, and the words were loud through the wooden walls. “I’m not letting you out until you sweat that scrud out, so you might as well quit your moaning and go back to bed! There’s water on the dresser if you’re thirsty; that might clean out your head faster too. Now shut your mouth and leave me in peace!”
Jason stood back from the wall, angry and confused at Martin’s response. He had done nothing to deserve this. All he had wanted was help in opening the door, nothing more, yet Martin was acting like it was some terrible crime to be woken early. Jason gave one last tug on the door handle, then groped his way back toward his bed, pulling out his blanket as he did so and trying to calculate just how wet it was.
Sensing that it was not as bad as he had first feared, Jason pulled the blanket over himself and settled in. He heard the delicate patter of rain once again, drumming on the wooden roof above him — he would need to get that waxed and sealed at some time, but he knew that if he mentioned it, he would end up having to do the entire roof; a prospect which he dreaded.
Jason shuffled his way to the side of his bed furthest from the ceiling and closed his eyes. He tried without success for some time to get to sleep, but only succeeded in annoying himself further as he thought over Martin’s responses, the fact that he had no real room to stretch cold muscles, and that he had nothing to do until Martin bothered rousing himself in two bells time. It had started to rain harder too — occasional splashes were landing directly on one of the cracks above his face and showering him in cold droplets.
Eventually, shivering more from impatience than cold, Jason heard the sounds of Martin getting out of bed and arose himself, making his way once more to the window. The rain still beat heavily upon the town, spattering in a haze from the waterlogged streets. “Gods,” he thought disgustedly, and closed the window again.
Shortly after, he heard Martin leave his room, and made his way to the door to await its opening. The sound of Martin’s footsteps on the landing made their creaking way toward the door — then continued past. Jason rolled his eyes in disbelief.
Jason spoke in his most pleasant tone. “Martin, can you help me open this door, please?” The footfalls paused a short while before the simple answer came.
Jason was dumbstruck. Cirrangill’s blood, what was the matter with the man? If Jason had considered himself annoyed before, it did not even begin to compare with his feelings at that moment. He was hungry, cold and damp. He had been betrayed by his father, he was stuck in a leaky room, the rain was beating down harder by the mene, and a rising wind was starting to drive water through the side of the window. “Gods damn you, Martin! Let me out of this room!” Jason started to pound on the door, not only with his fists but adding feet, shoulders and anything else he could think of to his efforts to separate the door from its hinges.
Outside, lightnings crashed and thunder boomed. Rain sheeted down and the winds howled. Jason continued hammering and yelling, oblivious to all else.
As the day wore on, Jason grew more and more resigned. The only good thing to happen this day was that the weather had slowly improved, and by eighth bell murky blue sky was starting to show in places, though the outlook was still rather grey. It was about this time that Jason heard a scraping of wood on his doorframe as he sat looking morosely out of the window. He was still getting to his feet as the door opened towards him, with only the barest rub against the frame or floor. Jason gaped at Martin, who looked blankly in on him.
“You ready to come downstairs yet, boy?”
Jason looked between door, floor and frame a mene before commenting, “I don’t believe this. I pull hard enough to break the handle, then you come along and just push the door open.” His master shifted slightly and threw a broom into the room. It clattered on the floor before sliding halfway under the bed.
“Tends to be easier if one of those isn’t looped through the handle.” His face still showed no trace of emotion. Jason just laughed.
“You had me shut in here? Why? Had you nothing better for me to do today?”
“Let’s get one thing straight. I won’t have any apprentice of mine losing his head to drink or weed. If I ever again find that you have been using … whatever that stuff was, not only will I put you out on the street, I’ll do my best to make sure that no fisher in Dargon will have anything to do with you. Seafarers are a group who know the necessities of keeping a head on their shoulders while they work.”
Jason puzzled over this a while. “What stuff? I don’t much like ale, and I haven’t been taking anything else.” Came his eventual reply.
“Sure, Jason. Well whatever it was that sent you on that trip three nights back. The stuff that I found wrapped up in the leaf.”
Jason looked blankly at him. “Nothing to do with me. I don’t remember too much after my father coming in, though.”
“Your father was here?” Martin looked surprised. “I thought he was dead, or unknown to you. I never asked in respect for your feelings, since either fact can prove a tender point. What is he, a healer or something?”
Jason laughed shortly. “You couldn’t be much further from the truth. My father is Kilan Rainmaker, a weatherweaver from Armand, and he appeared with the news that he had set a spell on me to speed my progress as his apprentice. This after I told him that he shouldn’t try any of his magics on me. My mother died because of …” Jason broke off, uncertain of whether to mention the fact that magics similar to those used on him had killed his mother. He was saved from his dilemma by Martin interrupting.
“Gods, a runaway apprentice.” Martin shook his head, in disgust or disbelief, Jason could not tell. “So you were bespelled? Is that why I couldn’t rouse you three nights back?”
“Well, being perfectly honest, I’m not sure. I think I might just have been so shocked when he told me what he had done that I got a bit, you know, knotted up.” Jason shrugged an apology, then looked sharply toward Martin. “Hold on, when did you say you found me like that?”
“The seventh,” Martin replied, after a pause.
“So, what’s today?”
“Cirrangill’s perfect net!” Jason replied. He had thought that rainwater was all that had soaked his bed that morning. He must have taken care of his bodily needs though — he had just assumed that he had forgotten to empty the chamber pot the previous night when he arose this morning. No wonder he was famished. “And you couldn’t wake me for two whole days?”
“I didn’t even try. As far as I was concerned, I was just going to let you come down yourself, then leave you a while to stew.” Martin looked contemplative for a moment. “Speaking of which, I take it you’re hungry.”
Jason let out a moan, and smiled. “Hungry? Oh, you’ve got to be joking. My stomach thinks my throat’s cut.”
Martin let out a weak laugh. “Guess you’d better come downstairs then.”
As Jason ate, the skies continued to clear. Day waned to evening, and as he and Martin talked about the situation, a hubbub could be heard arising from the surrounding streets. It seemed that this night, everyone had something to talk about. Jason and Martin ate in the kitchen, the twin torches providing more light by night than the tightly packed buildings allowed through by day. That there was something unusual in the sky was brought to their attention by a passing drunk who announced the coming of Da’athra’a. It took a while for the significance of the war god’s name to sink in, but the increasing volume of the furore outside was cause enough for the pair to check on the front of the building and the state of the street outside.
On leaving the shop, they both looked around in disbelief. The street was approaching roughly one third of the capacity of the daytime crowd who bought and sold goods on the dockside — a number unheard of for this time of night. It seemed that everyone had come out of their homes or off their boats to see the sight from solid ground.
Attempting to follow the gazes that pointed toward the heavens, Jason saw nothing until Martin pulled him out from under the storefront’s wooden canopy, holding out his arm as a guide so that Jason saw the silvery star which left its mark on the heavens. It looked immobile, yet the thing left a trail across the sky behind it. His eyes narrowed in worry as the star — or whatever it was — continued to hover like a bright, white falcon over their heads. He glanced around, open mouthed, at the crowd, and saw some praying, some weeping, some proclaiming the coming of doom, some who simply stared, and some who discussed the matter with companions or passing strangers, just sharing the experience. Martin and Jason stood together, looking in worry and wonder at this apparition which hung above them, beautiful and terrible in the night sky.
Kilan also looked to the heavens for answers that night — magic had provided him with none. It was from the window of the inn that he first saw the new star cutting its way toward Makdiar. Normally, he would dismiss such things for priests and scholars — the stars were out of reach of his magics. Now, though, it seemed that his son’s power was further reaching than he had previously believed possible. Could it be that Jason’s influence stretched beyond the realms of this planet and into the domain of the gods? He whispered an answer to his own, unspoken question. “Can I afford to doubt it?”
Kilan knew that he had to do something, and fast. He did not know what this thing in the sky was, how long it had been hidden behind the clouds, what would happen when it arrived, or how long it would take to do so.
Breathless and pale faced, he walked to the bed and emptied the contents of his bag on top of it. He withdrew a dagger from the debris and placed it carefully in his belt, then repacked and made his way downstairs, filling his bag with provisions bought from the innkeeper. Paying his due, he left to collect his horse from the stables.
Kilan tried to make his best possible speed towards the docks, though getting the populace to make way for his horse was harder than usual this night. However, since his horse was never inclined to run anyway, his journey was only slightly faster than it would have been on foot. When he reached the harbour area, he tied the beast to the rail in front of a sailwright’s shop, then hefted his bag over his shoulder. Turning, he started to walk smartly through the gathered crowd, his eyes jumping from face to face as he searched for his son. He soon saw the boy, standing by the water with the violent one beside him, occasionally turning to talk to each other while continuing to look skyward. Kilan made his way intently toward him, stepping deftly through the throng of muttering people.
As he came within a few paces of the boy, Kilan slowed to utter a short prayer for forgiveness to any gods who may have been listening, then grabbed the sheath and drew the dagger silently from it. Tears started to run freely down his face as he neared, but he knew what had to be done. Somehow, though, the boy sensed his approach, and turned toward him, just in time to let out a yell as he jumped back and defended against the dagger which sliced toward his face.
Taking a gash on the hand, the boy danced backwards, fear and shock showing openly on his face as he staggered back toward the dock’s edge. Kilan lunged forward, reaching for his son, and knocked him off balance. Trying again, he grabbed a handful of shirt, and sank the blade under Jason’s ribs before taking them both over the edge, crushing the boy brutally against a ship’s prow on their trip down to the shockingly cold water.
It had been Kilan’s intention to make sure his son was dead, but as he sank beneath the icy outflow of the Coldwell, natural survival instincts took over, and he made his way with spastic strokes to the surface, desperate for breath as another body hit the water nearby. Kilan took some splinters in his head from the hull of a berthed boat as he surfaced, and swallowed water as he immediately went under again. He came up coughing, only to find himself thrown against the dockside by the large swell that had seemingly come out of nowhere. The boats tossed at their berths, stretching their mooring ropes and crashing roughly into each other as Jason died beneath them.
Winds whipped around the dock, sending whitecaps and breakers hammering into the dock wall and putting further strain on the mooring lines. Kilan looked around for a ladder, then decided quickly that he should make his way as far as possible up the dock before climbing out.
However, his initial energy was fading, and he was finding it harder and harder to stay afloat. He wondered briefly about just sinking, and joining his son in Cirrangill’s watery peace, but knew that would render his life pointless. He went under again, briefly, and surfaced once more into the keel of the fishing boat, adding further splinters to his cheek as he struggled to keep his head above water.
Quickly, he realised the problem he was having keeping afloat with cloak, bag and boots on, and struggled his way out of them as the crowd above shouted vague directions of search to the other swimmer. More buoyant now, Kilan waited, shivering and grieving, and tried to determine his next course of action.
Shouts from above broke through his grief and he realised that the boy had been found. The end of a net hit the water some distance away, and Kilan saw the outline of boy and man being hefted up the net by the crowd above. He dared to hope for an instant that the boy still lived, then resolved himself to the fact that even if it were true, it could not be allowed.
Kilan turned and paddled back into the flow of the river, trying all the while to keep quiet and out of sight from above. Though he may have wished he could put an end to his life there and then, he still had work to do. Breathing shallow breaths in order to keep his lungs full, he pulled his way back along the pilings as one of his calves started to cramp up. Not stopping to work it out, he eventually reached the end of cover, then swam jerkily for the next ladder and hauled himself up, stretching his calf as he did so, and checking carefully for any passing watch members before scrambling onto the dock.
Though he would have been happy to just lie and shiver a while, Kilan forced himself to his feet, and found that his horse was only a short distance down the street. The crowd had all gathered to watch the resuscitation attempt, so he was safe for the present. Staggering from cold, he made his way to his horse and untethered it, as someone gave a cry behind him.
He attempted to leap onto the horse’s back, but the cramp returned to defeat him, and he had to pull himself up by saddlehorn and stirrup instead as the horse decided to start walking away from him. The mob were charging his way now, and he pulled the horse’s head viciously around, digging his bare feet hard into its ribs. The baulky animal started to trot away from the crowd, but broke into an unaccustomed run as both rider and horse started to receive the impact of well aimed stones. Kilan wailed and grabbed his arm as the rocks pelted into him before a crack to the back of his skull sent him tumbling from his mount.
The street came fast toward him, and his arm broke as he attempted to save his head from the ground. The breath was knocked from his lungs before the horse stamped hard on his foot as it ran past, pulping it into the wet cobblestones. Kilan tried to draw breath to scream as his body registered intense pain, then someone grabbed him from behind and threw him over, forcing him to use his broken arm to arrest his fall. He lay whimpering, eventually opening his eyes to see a circle of people gathering around him; a circle which opened to make way for a dripping figure. The violent one from the shop.
“Is he dead?” Kilan managed to say, looking up at the figure above him. The man said nothing for a moment, then dropped to his knees behind the prone magician, shuffling forward to cradle Kilan’s head in one hand and his bloodied dagger in the other.
“He’s dead,” the man replied, tight lipped. “And you will be right behind him when he meets with J’Mirg.”
“But I saved you,” Kilan pleaded, grasping weakly with his good arm at the man’s sleeve.
Tears landed on the Rainmaker’s face. The blade sank deep behind his ear.