“Even if everything you say is true you’re still business rivals.”
“That’s more complicated than you might think.” Thomas looked around the table. Jessie looked with him. Almost all of the food was gone. Jessie thought she’d eaten the bulk of it. How was that possible? Surely her stomach was the same size it had always been. “Do you need me to get us anything else? The kitchen has some lovely pastries.”
Jessie shook her head then prompted, “Complicated?”
“Indeed. How much do you know of the magic Kyle has been using?”
“It’s somehow easier than other magic. It takes less energy or something.”
“That’s good enough for a layman. The tekhnikos are like fire. They can be a tremendous force for good, but they also let one person do a lot of harm, and it’s easy to discover an effect that works in an unexpected and detrimental way. The magi who know them, mostly the archmagi, keep them aimed toward good. My domain is illusion, and it’s a lot to handle on my own. Kyle and I could split the illusion business and that work.”
“You’d just give up a fortune?”
He broke out with his broad infectious laugh again. It was such a big friendly chuckle that Jessie wondered if Thomes’s belly was shaking like a bowl full of jelly. “Oh I don’t think I’ll miss a single fortune. Do you have any idea how much money I have? Besides, my plan isn’t to sell the same amount of illusion at a lower price. I intend to sell vastly more illusion at a lower price. I might even make more money.”
She wanted to find a hole in that logic, but couldn’t. “Can I have more time to think about it?”
“Of course. I’m not trying to rush you, and a bit more rest would probably be good for your recovery”
* * *
Todd escorted her back down the elevator without making much eye contact and locked her back in her room. He apologized about that and made sure she knew he’d bring her anything she wanted. She took him up on that getting him to bring more food. He didn’t seem confused by the request. Perhaps they had a lot of people who ate huge meals because of the magic.
She spent a little bit of time trying to think through all the explanations. Eventually, she decided she wasn’t certain. There were things that bothered her. For example, the way the illusion industry was locked up. Still, that could have been part of guarding the tekhnikos. She hadn’t been left with anything concrete to object to. If she did she could sort of imagine Thomas explaining everything in his comforting grandfatherly way.
He’d made it sound reasonable that she was locked in her room after all.
Jessie watched TV for a little while because it took her mind off her problems. The same soap opera that Suma had liked was playing. Jessie was interested to learn that the guy who’d been in the coma when she’d last tuned in was now awake, in charge of a fairly large company, and apparently evil. She watched as he arraigned for bad, though not irredeemably bad, things to happen to business rivals then got handsy with one of the show’s starlets. Jessie couldn’t tell if the starlet was intended to be enjoying the attention or not. Maybe the network would make up their mind based the show’s ratings.
She ate more food. It turned out the kitchen was fully stocked, so she killed time by preparing her own stuff. Then she realized she hadn’t prepared nearly enough, and ordered a bit more into her room. Her rib felt fine, which meant it shouldn’t be sucking up any more nutrients to repair. Presumably she’d already had enough calcium, she’d felt that while she’d been working the magic. She wondered what all of the stuff she was eating now was supplying: Iron? Sugar?
At some point she found herself doing exercises. She tucked her feet under the couch and did sit-ups. That felt good, so next she did some push-ups. She started by doing them from the knees, but that didn’t seem to take much effort. She switched over to the military form keeping her toes and back stiff. She did nearly 100 without feeling much more than a pleasant burn in her muscles.
That confused her, so she tried some pull-ups. Normally, before getting her rib cracked and then fixed, Jessie doubted she would have been able to do one pull-up. Now she was able to knock out first 10, then another 100. 100 did make her arms hurt, but it wasn’t terrible and she thought she could keep going.
Then she smelled something on her own breath: vanilla.
She tried to tell herself it wasn’t really her breath, it was just something in the food she’d eaten. To prove that to herself she hurried to the fully stocked bathroom and brushed and flossed her teeth. Then she brushed her tongue. She put her hand up to her face, huffed some breath and sniffed. Minty, with a hint of vanilla, like a race car that was being very careful about halitosis.
She crouched and jumped making her best distance. She hit her head on the ceiling.
Thomas had been lying, and he’d placed an enchantment on her. She didn’t know if it was taking effect faster than he’d thought it would, or if he just hadn’t realized she’d been exposed to the effects of this spell before. Either way she was Enchanted. Now she was going to end up as gaunt and nutty as Servant! She was willing to bet that in a day or two she’d also be as loyal.
The thought was so depressing that Jessie walked back to the bedroom, curled up in a ball in the hospital bed, and cried for a bit. That didn’t help her out at all, of course, but it did help her get her emotions in check.
After that she began to plan. The plan she came up with was, perhaps, one of the worst ideas that had even been hatched out of pure desperation. It did have one small advantage, there was no way Thomas would ever see it coming.
There was no chance he was that nuts.