Chapter Twenty-Nine: Geasing

Leekath didn't know why they were letting her out. There was a contingency in the geas about Emia Teiat, but that didn't seem too important if Leekath accepted the obligation to begin with: if Teiat-laina defied hers, whatever it was, Leekath's would just dissolve.

"C-can you repeat that?" she asked the wizard.

"Aaeeihhyleekatheeei Hhirheek," repeated the wizard obligingly, "contingent on the geasing of Emia Teiat carried out during this casting, this spell compels you to, on release from custody to be carried out within one angle, make a diligent good-faith attempt to obey all laws and statues applicable to you as a subject of the Linnipese Empire with the sole exception of those obliging you to report criminal activity already known to you; to refrain to the extent of your ability from traveling to any other world or allowing others to transport you there; and to sincerely avoid and resist all attempts at breakage or circumvention of this geas and to refrain from attempting it yourself. Do you accept?"

This wasn't standard practice. It wasn't illegal either, but why would they dig out a wizard who could cast a geas for her? Why would they explicitly build in a clause that meant she didn't have to sell out the rebellion?

"Wh-why -"

"Just say 'I do'. Or 'I refuse'," the wizard said.

Leekath took another moment to think, but she was fuzzy-headed. Not from hunger exactly. She hadn't been without blood long enough to be truly hungry. But she missed that taste, and that was very like hunger.

"Well, Hhirheek-tepei?" the wizard asked.

"I do," said Leekath, and she felt the geas fall into place. She'd never had one on her before; there was a sharp enrollment limit on the class about them, because only one teacher could do it, and she'd never considered it very important.

The wizard released Leekath's cuffs, and Leekath rubbed her wrists. "You're free to go, Hhirheek-tepei."

"I-is there an anti-teleportation ward -"

"Nope," said the wizard.

Leekath twisted her hand in the air and murmured, and the stark holding room was gone and she was in Talyn's room.

He wasn't there.

Talyn wasn't home at all, and neither were Rhysel or Aar Camlenn. Presumably they were at the citadel. Leekath wasn't sure if it was legal for her to travel to the citadel. She also wasn't sure if it was smart. Certainly she couldn't help them with anything they were doing. She didn't have to sell out people she knew of already, but she might find herself obliged to turn in any new recruits. The citadel was in wolfrider territory, somewhere, which wasn't illegal to visit. But it was under the control of a force with which Linnip was in an adversarial state, if not technically "war" because the rebellion wasn't a recognized nation.

Leekath teleported to her room and looked through her books on Linnipese law.

Apparently she could legally travel to the citadel and other "regions and edifices" controlled by forces with which Linnip was adversarial, and speak with said forces as long as she didn't make "commitments or insinuations thereof". If she could sincerely bill herself as some kind of diplomat. Did that seem reasonable? Actually reasonable - the geas wouldn't let her con herself into believing it just to get what she wanted. But the definition of "diplomat" was extremely fuzzy. She looked it up. "Ambassadors" were more specific, but "diplomats" were any people who had professionally interacted with a representative of one government on behalf of another regarding a joint venture, agreement, stance, relationship, etcetera.

She'd talked to the ambassador from Larotia once, on her aaihhhi's behalf, about the International Seed Bank, which was a "venture". That sounded defensible. The geas didn't squeeze her.

So she could go to the citadel, and she could have ordinary sorts of conversations with people as long as she didn't suggest that she could be of any help with anything they were doing. And she could get at Talyn, or if he wasn't there either, at least at the stash of blood.

But if there was a new recruit -

Well, there probably wasn't. There hadn't been since the beginning. If Leekath ran into anybody down in the citadel she'd warn them, and -

Wait, could she warn them, even about that? They'd want to break the geas, especially Talyn, and everything she did at this point would suggest that it was there. Aar Kithen and Narax were both good enough at breaks that they could probably do it, or they might haul her to the geas instructor at school, who might also be able to even for a spell he hadn't cast. That wouldn't exactly bother her, but if she went around doing things that would cause the geas to be broken, the geas would not like that.

Okay, could she go to the citadel blindfolded and wearing a sign that said "please don't interact with me, I'll explain later"? That would be weird, but no one's first guess would be a geas, since that wasn't how Linnip generally released prisoners. Did she have any coherent story whatever about how she'd gotten out that didn't give away the geas? Would that matter, if people obeyed the sign? And then she'd be able to navigate by echolocation, well enough not to bump into things but not well enough to recognize individual people.

Unless they were wearing distinctive objects that she'd then hear later, or they had unusual builds that would be distinctive even as echoes, or, or, or.

She wished Talyn had been in his room at Rhysel's tower.

In her desk was a communication crystal to him, but he was bad about answering it, and he might have gone tearing off to Ryganaav or somewhere that he couldn't bring it when she'd been taken in, in which case he wouldn't have it. She tried anyway. No answer.

Well, she could call the blood out of the hiding place, couldn't she? Narax had an anti-calling ward on the citadel but it might be one that only applied to people. No, probably not.

She might just have to wait until school started up again and cut a class to go and fetch her blood. Then everyone would be busy with classes. Only a handful of rebels weren't teachers or students, and she didn't know them well, and they probably wouldn't stop her and introduce her to a new person if they spotted her running around.

The new term would start in a week. She could last a week, maybe. Couldn't she?

Talyn wasn't going to be off wherever he was for a week, was he?

For that matter, Rhysel and so on wouldn't let her alone all week unless she were inaccessible for some reason -

Her geas pinched her, just a little, and she winced.

It looked like she was going home to visit her family during the last week of Sutaahel break.

She groaned aloud at the ceiling.

It was so fortunate that her family already thought she was insane.

Withdrawal from the blood, that blood, was competing with Leekath's sister and fheeil for greatest contributor to increasing instability.

Iilha was at her most tolerable when her fiancé was around, and next most so when Leekath permitted her sister access to her hair. Leekath sat in resigned displeasure while Iilha ungently combed and braided and rebraided and pinned and trimmed and sprayed and gelled. It was better to have Iilha's brain occupied with the task and not with coming up with elaborate snipes.

Leekath's fheeil didn't have any such distractions that Leekath could throw his way. She didn't mind going to temple services, which were one of his most strictly enforced requirements. She did mind the lectures, the endless, endless lectures about how dating a bleeder was beneath even her, how Talyn would never understand how to take care of her, how he'd eventually abandon her for someone of his own kind, how she would put her health at risk if she tried to have his children and any children that lived would themselves be in her cousin Thiris's condition, how she could never get married to a bleeder in the temple, how he would never understand her special relationship with God, how he was taking advantage of her and her condition, how she'd been raised better, how he was probably responsible for getting her arrested.

That she minded.

She sat through it, and said "Yes, Fheeil" and "No, Fheeil" at appropriate moments, and her fheeil took that as his due and went on to explain how the only appropriate lives for her involved either marrying a vampire and living at home and having vampire babies who her not-insane family members could help her bring up, or else committing herself entirely to academics and tutoring her young relatives, and by the way her cousin Kaee needed her help with his botany experiment.

"Yes, Fheeil," she said, and went to help Kaee with the plants.

As she left, her fheeil muttered that she could have simply gone on working in Thiies's office where he could supervise her and she could be useful, but that was obviously no longer an option.

She'd held out some hope that she'd get to spend part of the visit home with her aaihhhi. Without his job, in theory, he should be much more available.

That hope didn't last long once she arrived. Instead, Thiies was completely non-functional. He'd gone nocturnal, without any incentive to fight the natural vampire sleep cycle, and slept for at least thirteen angles a day. When awake, he was as often as not hanging upside-down from his sleeping bar in bat form anyway, staring at the wall or sometimes crying.

Once during the week she spent home he went to one of his old friends and fed, but only after his husband spent most of an angle coaxing him into doing it.

Thiies didn't go to temple, he didn't participate in conversations unless prodded into it, and he shouted at Kaee - the only time Leekath had ever heard his voice raised - when Kaee opened the drawer of his desk that contained his old work.

Leekath had mixed feelings about Kaee, since through no fault of his own his education often served as a punishment for her, but he ran to her for a hug after aaihhhi chased him out of the office.

She hugged him, hoping that he wouldn't notice her shakiness. She wondered what her aaihhhi was thinking about. The plans he'd had for where to go next in his work that he couldn't implement anymore? He wasn't even reading newspapers; he couldn't know much about what the skeletal remainder of Parliament and the Linnipese occupation were doing with his country.

Leekath wished Khi were home, to distract her. He still had his dance; he'd go on having it his whole life. He wouldn't ever collapse like their aaihhhi.

The wait between feedings shouldn't have been a problem. She'd gone a week, two weeks even, without feeding. It had been a matter of course before. Her brother often went three, to spend as little time as possible lethargic with new blood and unable to dance effectively. But the taste, the taste, better than a dragon, where the taste of dragons was mentioned in their very holy text as a nearly unattainable treasure of unfathomable preciousness -

There was the shaking, with something similar to anticipation. She dropped things; she touched walls to avoid falling; she avoided getting from place to place by flight. Eventually, somehow, she would find Talyn. (She was at this point fairly confident that he was in Ryganaav or somewhere similar, working out his frustrations this way or that. Otherwise he'd have called.) When she found him she would bite him, and he would taste so, so good. It would be so, so good, and soon... one of these days... not too long in the future... she would have it. And she shook.

She was having bizarre and vivid dreams, about biting and blood and flavor and pleasure, and hunting, and about Talyn, and about the flow of time unraveling and her persisting forever in the void until she was as old as God.

Maybe that was where God came from, suggested her dreams; maybe he drank enough to become immortal...

She slept little, because the dreams were frustrating and unsettling, but even apart from the shakiness she was listless and her attention span was shot. Iilha was nasty to her about it. "Are the voices distracting you?" she snapped when Leekath's mind wandered before she answered some question Iilha had asked.

By the end of the week Leekath was in a kind of constant pain. She took an analgesic potion, which rushed tastelessly through her fangs but had no effect, and she decided that she wasn't in pain: she'd just gone long enough without a peak sensation that her body was interpreting that as discomfort.

Her fheeil noticed her taking the potion and sternly diagnosed her with guilt over her rebelliousness.

She almost laughed.

Leekath botched her teleportation away from home twice, her hand was trembling so badly. It was a small enough spell that she didn't hurt herself, she only covered her face in soot. She rinsed it off and went to the transfer point outside her house instead. She wasn't even going to stop at school first. She was going to transfer into the citadel and close her eyes and make a run for it. She needed blood. She still hadn't heard from Talyn. But Talyn loved her and didn't want her to be thirsty and he had put some of his lovely, lovely blood in a hiding place for her...

The citadel was mercifully empty on the first day of school.

Leekath hurtled towards the secret compartment, shrieking to avoid walls and corners. She flung it open, and as rapidly as she could she separated a drop of blood into her bag, unpreserved it, and expanded it into a full feeding.

She sank her fangs into the bag and moaned aloud. It was a good thing there wasn't anyone there, for more reasons than one.

When the bag was empty, she sighed and opened her eyes. She finally felt like herself again.

She put the bag away, humming along to the tonal recitations of the containers that held Talyn's blood.

There was also a note in the compartment. She'd been in no position to pay attention to it a moment ago, but there it was. He must have left it for her.

She listened to it, tilting her head and slowly beginning to shake again.

The geas itched at the back of her neck.

She skipped a class; for all she knew, Talyn had left the note for her Spell Diagrams 4 teacher and as soon as she walked into the classroom he'd send her to Barashi. As long as she suspected that, her geas wouldn't let her anywhere near the class. She also didn't dare go to the kamai class taught by Aar Camlenn, because he too could send her, but at least she wouldn't have that until Inen. This term began on a Sinen, oddly, so she only had two days of classes before she'd have Lunen and Chenen free to think.

Not actually stupid, he'd said. He'd left her a note saying that he wasn't actually stupid so he was going to tell a wizard to break her geas. No, of course he wasn't stupid, she went to a school full of wizards capable of sending spells, that was all, now all she had to do was carefully avoid each one.

She wondered if she could pass the last tier test as she was, without further studying. Then she could rearrange her schedule to only be in kamai classes, and she could arrange to have only those teachers who were not also wizards.

There were her classmates, though. Would Talyn have left the note for Kaylo? They were friends. Kaylo could undeniably cast the spell.

She skipped every one of her first-day classes and wrote polite notes to the teachers asking for the syllabi to be delivered, as she wasn't feeling well with her boyfriend missing.

The geas wasn't allowing her much time to worry about Talyn himself, though, when it demanded so much mental effort to fully account for Talyn's plan. Did his note say that whoever it was should entrap her, surprise her? Or did it suggest outright kidnapping her? Would the geas let her sleep in her room, or was she going to have to teleport to her family home every night to be "safe"?

She decided the best course of action would be to find the note. She ought to be able to hear it, if it had been left anywhere within the school. (Which was pretty dumb of Talyn all by itself, but didn't seem out of reach.) She prowled the halls, making little questioning noises to seek out the paper with the message in question written on it, but found nothing.

Eventually she'd covered all of the office halls and every dorm hall that contained someone she knew. It occurred to her, however, that even someone she did know could have destroyed the note, or stored it in a friend's room or at their family's home, and she'd never find it. She really would have to go back to her own family for the night. She really wouldn't be able to attend classes. Ugh.

The lift carried Leekath back to her own dorm hall, and she trudged into the room for her suitcase. It was barely unpacked; she could throw her textbooks into it and take it home. She'd have to write to the headmistress later to officially take the term off. She could study for her tier tests, she could take them - in another city with no one she or Talyn knew. That would cost money, where taking them at Binaaralav would be free, but her not stupid boyfriend had thoroughly cut off that option.

As for kamai, well. Maybe she could get a student who was only studying kamai, not wizardry, to tutor her as she fell behind. If she asked very nicely Kutran would do for wild kamai. None of the other kamai-only students were as well known to her, though. If she fell behind Binaaralav enough, she'd eventually be at pace with the University of Daasen students. She could apply there. Maybe.

She opened her door; her roommate was back. "Hi, Leekath," said Hihhliir.

"Hi," said Leekath, picking up her books and putting them in the suitcase. "Sorry, I -"

"Surprise!" said Hihhliir gleefully, and Leekath saw the chalk on the floor and Hihhliir's hand moving before she could do a thing about it but smile.

"What are you doing here?" Khi asked her, nonplussed.

"Surprise!" Leekath laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Leekath spent her time in Barashi catching up with her brother and giggling manically. She didn't tell him all the details, but he was good for commiserating about their sister, and he danced with her, and he had a friendly elf girlfriend with bite marks on her neck. It got to be quite late in the Barashin night, and Khi was in the process of offering to let her stay the night in his room when she reappeared in her dorm.

"Did you have fun with your brother?" Hihhliir asked, grinning. "Talyn's illusion note thing - could you really not see it? I didn't know you could do illusions that only some people could see! - said you probably missed him tons but were too responsible to go visit when he's at the dance school but he's going to be there for months and months so Talyn said tonight would be good since it's night there too and he would probably not have lessons at this angle and if it wasn't your idea you wouldn't feel guilty -"

Leekath hugged her. "Thank you," she said. "It was the most wonderful surprise."

Leekath found Rhysel after classes on Fenen and told her everything, except the parts about the blood.

"So that's where Talyn went," Rhysel murmured.

"If I'm right about how he had the geases set up, I'm safe," Leekath said. "The contingency was on my getting geased, not on my staying that way - contingencies about ongoing things are really complicated and their wizard probably couldn't do one. So the laina is still under hers, and I bet you Talyn made her promise not to arrest me."

"I thought you said that if you defied a geas, the contingent one dissolves," Rhysel said.

"If you defy it, yes," Leekath said. "I didn't, I got tricked into having it broken. So hers is still active, and if she defies it Talyn's will dissolve, if this is set up the way I think. I guess we shouldn't put it past her to have someone trick her into it getting broken, though. That could even have happened already. She might not even have needed a trick; Talyn might not have thought to make her geas include a self-protection clause. She still couldn't do anything that would predictably lead to me getting arrested, but if she didn't want to arrest me, like if she just expected me to go on being geased to obey the law forever... then she might have been able to just walk up to the same wizard who cast it and get it broken."

"So she might be perfectly free to take you into custody again," Rhysel said.

Leekath frowned. "Yes. She hasn't yet, obviously, but then, I haven't been drawing attention to myself. Also, they have Talyn and Emryl, and that needs to be fixed."

"Maybe you should stay here in the citadel. We can bring you your assignments and tutor you here," Rhysel offered. "And work on a plan to get Talyn out."

Leekath mulled that over. "That seems safest, but dangerous for whoever's transporting my assignments."

"I'll do it," Rhysel said. "If the kamai teachers at the University of Peiza don't hear from me for two days running, classes shut down - that's generally known. I think they'll hesitate to annoy me for something as small as taking home copies of assignments."

"And you're Keo's blood-sister," said Leekath.

"Yes, well. That might not help, but perhaps they'll think it will," Rhysel sighed.

"Let's work on ideas for breaking Talyn and Emryl out," said Leekath. "Is there more advanced proxic kamai I could learn to make some kind of object that would tell me about their locations? Because that's one kind of magic we know they're definitely not watching for. Or, I know! Trading them for our prisoners. Two for two. As long as we can think of some way to secure the exchange, and I bet there's a way to do that."

"Ah," said Rhysel. "There's... there's a slight problem with that."

"What?" Leekath asked. "I know Talyn's more valuable than either one, but we could probably at least get Emryl that way, and then she could help us break Talyn out more, um, traditionally. We do need to know where to find everyone... If we negotiate extensively about the exchange, I could maybe get hairs really surreptitiously and make figurines and learn about what they know about secret prisons, shields or no shields! Unfortunately I don't know where mine was, but, you know. And -"

"Nepailah-eian has escaped."