Jessie was glad to get out of the Registrar’s office. She’d been fairly certain they were both going to die at a couple of points. She glanced at Kyle to see how he was taking it, and was surprised to see how bad he seemed. His face was pale, his eyes were wide, and at some point he’d managed to mess up his hair. Actually, he looked a little punch drunk. She reached out and used one hand to guide him to a bench by the water fountain in the hallway they now occupied. He moved and sat without speaking, which did nothing to dispel the impression he was physically traumatized. “Hey, are you alright?”
“Do you realize what happened in there?”
She thought about that. A lot had just happened, she wasn’t sure exactly how to prioritize the list. They’d found an even worse alternative to normal government bureaucracy. They hadn’t gotten what they came for. They’d almost been killed by a giant freaky flower. The giant freaky flower had delivered a cryptic warning. Jessie thought the warning thing was the most important detail, but if Kyle was paying attention to that they would have been running. She hazarded, “You didn’t get the patent?”
He waved a hand dismissively as though that was barely on the radar. “It told us there’s a whole other use for magic! Magic that’s not spells!”
“Oh, yeah, the ‘tekhnikos’? That sounds like technique.”
“It’s ancient Greek, I think, and it’s like that. If I’m remembering correctly it means ‘related to the craft or art.’ So, ‘the art of light’ and ‘the craft of sound,’ or maybe it’s speech. Except the Registrar clearly meant it to be a class of,” he paused for a long moment seeming to hunt for the right words, “non-spell magic.”
This is really hitting him, Jessie thought. She thought she understood the distinction between these “techniques” and “spells”, or at least she could see how a computer didn’t have to be an electrical device and she could sort of extend the metaphor, but there were clearly implications that weren’t apparent to her. She was certain they didn’t have time to discuss it. The cryptic warning was fresh in her mind even if Kyle had missed it. She opened her mouth to remind him, then closed it again remembering she wasn’t really on his side. Then she thought, screw it, and decided to remind him anyway. After meeting the Registrar she was even less eager to get caught in the middle of a magical fight, and if whoever she was working for wanted her to back up their plans they could share those plans. “The super creepy flower also said people knew we were here. I assume it meant unfriendly people.”
Kyle slumped and ran both hands through his hair further disordering it. Then he actually grabbed a couple of handfuls and tugged making a loud groaning sound.
“If we move quickly we might beat them. Maybe no one is here yet.”
“Thomas the Illusionist is an Archmage!”
OK, Jessie thought, that’s kind of a non sequitur.
“He probably knows all about this tekhnikos lux. I bet the instant he heard about my spell, my technique, he realized exactly what it was. That’s why he came down on me so hard, he knew exactly what I had. Oh hell! That’s why he’s got a monopoly on illusion. He’s got the same thing. He’s always going to be the cheapest provider of illusions, whenever he needs a new light spell he just invents one on the spot. How does he do it? The light-sensitive binding is new. Or is it not? Was it suppressed? I didn’t read anything about it after that first article and I never could look it up online. Or are there other bindings? I don’t know what this all means…” He trailed off his expression working like he was still talking to someone.
He hadn’t heard a word she’d said. That was a problem. They needed to go. She briefly considered slapping him, but that felt a bit too much like a scene from a movie. Kyle was already babbling like a shocked extra, so she thought she should keep it together. Instead she ran some water from the drinking fountain into her cupped hand and tossed it into his face.
The water was commendably cold and the shock was enough to make Kyle look up. Jessie spoke, “Giant flower say, ‘People coming!’ Go now? Yes?” She gave an exaggerated nod in answer to her own question.
Water dripped down Kyle’s face, his eyes were still a little wide but now they were focused. “I guess so, I think I saw a back exit on the way up.”