Lessel clipped the gremleens’ nails, but let the clippings fall to the floor. She repacked ice shavings around the ice elemental, then straightened her spell books on the shelf.
She strayed to the window and stared into the forest that crowded her keep. The night was almost here.
Dretch came to sit beside her, on the ledge. He smoothed his fur in quick strokes. Tari, his gremleen brother, peeked out from behind a chair and stuck out his tongue.
Dretch stopped his grooming, but was careful not to look at Lessel. “Taking a last look?” he asked.
Lessel snaked out a hand to grab him by the scruff. He hid his head in little hands. Lessel smiled.
“I tell you what, Dretch,” she said. “I’ll let you aid me in the summoning. As champion of the earthen powers you should be the first to make obeisance before the greater power I now embrace.”
She dropped Dretch and went up the steps to the tower.
Dretch pulled a sour face at Tari and followed his mistress.
Lessel positioned a great bowl of polished glass in the center of the tower room and filled it with the milk of a humpback whale. She murmured a few words, then laced the milk with the whale’s blood. The eerie song of the dead whale filled the room.
Lessel checked her book, then made quick marks on the floor to guide her spell.
Dretch stood still, listening to the whale song. How could Lessel call this a tired power? The power of the earth was varied and strong, the heat of the core in dynamic opposition to the cool strength of the ancient seas. Lessel had served the earth mistress all her life. Dretch had seen her braid power with weaves of strength and subtlety.
But of late she had sought a fresh, raw power, and had found it in the crackling energy of the cosmos.
He looked up, to the open top of the tower and the waiting stars. Night after night his dread had grown as he watched her woo this alien power; but she would not listen to him.
Tonight she would reach up to the nebulae and guide the power of the unmade stars down into her waiting body.
“Dretch!” Lessel snapped her fingers, bringing Dretch out of his thoughts. “You must stand here.” She indicated a mark on the floor, then handed him the curved, mirrored uthanor. “Hold this so it catches the light as it leaves the bowl and redirect it to me.”
Dretch obediently held up the uthanor and pointed it toward her mark on the far side of the bowl.
Lessel nodded, and moved on around the room. Dretch watched as she placed small reflectors at the parameters of the spell. With this much amplification she would burn herself out, or worse, send the whole tower up in flames. He looked around the room, seeking somewhere to hide if need be, and caught sight of Tari peeking in.
Tari grinned, then winked. Dretch shook his head. Lessel would fry them both if Tari was caught at some trick. Tari nodded a grinning yes, then ducked behind the door.
Slowly Lessel began to dance. A night breeze breathed into the room. Lessel swayed and twisted to unheard music. In the stars’ light the bowl glowed white, and the whale song added its resonance to her working.
A crackle of light flashed, just outside the dome. Another lit the room, but did not enter.
Lessel redoubled her efforts, panting now as she writhed in the prelaid patterns of the spell.
Dretch felt an alien presence approach. He would have fled but his feet were bound to his mark by Lessel’s spell.
The power entered the opening, coming slowly like a king to inspect an offering.
Lessel had woven boundaries in the air to guide it into her bowl, and down this pathway the power flowed. It pulsed, white and blue, with shafts of red.
The whale milk boiled from the bowl in a steaming cloud.
A desire to dominate and fully own filled every corner of the room.
Lessel danced in a frenzy of power and ecstasy. The power swelled into a small sun with ropes of fire flashing from its surface. Dretch cowered on his mark and held the uthanor before him like a shield.
With a leaping twist Lessel finished the dance. She threw herself open, arms out, panting on her mark.
A long arc of light lanced out of the bowl, hit the uthanor, and shot across the room to Lessel. Her body rocked with the impact. Her hair stood out straight from her head and her mouth stretched in a silent scream.
She would break–the power would be loose!
Dretch tugged at the uthanor, trying to turn it back to the night sky. Cold malice and domination rolled over him, fighting his will for control of the uthanor.
Through the cloud of steam and pulsing light he saw Tari in the doorway. In a pair of tongs he gripped the ice elemental.
Tari crept forward, shielding his face, and pressed the elemental against the hot glass of the bowl.
The bowl exploded. Shards of glass flew into the air, becoming molten drops.
Dretch turned the uthanor to face the tower opening and held it firm.
The ball of light hurtled against the mirrored surface, driving him to his knees, then shot up into the cosmos from which it came.
Tari jumped to the crank and closed the the tower’s opening.
Dretch let the uthenor clatter to the floor.
The room was still and dark.
“Dretch,” Lessel’s voice was a rough whisper. “We must prepare a tribute to my earth mistress.”
Dretch smiled, and stretched himself out on the floor to rest.
“I am here to assist,” he said.
Suanne Warr writes out of Hillsborough, North Carolina.