into the palace and challenge her directly.
Elaine reached the gates and stared in horror at the scene before her. Countless people were scattered on the ground, some bleeding badly after being trampled by their fellows. Others were held in place by magic, or transfigured into animals or inanimate objects; a dozen had warts and boils burned into their faces through various prank curses and hexes. The Levellers had been thoroughly hammered by person or persons unknown, she thought, feeling sick. This was the sort of abuse of magic the Grand Sorceress was supposed to prevent ... and it had happened right in front of her residence.
Light Spinner dropped to the ground, robes billowing around her, as a pair of Inquisitors arrived. Elaine heard her snapping at them – where had they been when all seven hells were breaking loose? – but tuned her out, searching instead for the source of the magical pulse. It was easy to tell that the magical field had been badly disturbed, as if someone had rung a colossal bell and the echoes were still audible. She might not have been the most sensitive magician in the world, but it was easy to trace the pulse back to its source.
A young man lay on the ground, completely stunned. Elaine knelt down beside him and took his pulse, then drew her wand and started casting diagnostic charms. The results shimmered up in front of her; a moment later, she felt her eyes narrow in puzzlement. None of the charms seemed able to decide if she were dealing with a magician or a mundane. There was magic in him, definitely, yet it was concentrated in his brain. But a normal magician would have magic flowing through his body.
She looked up as more Inquisitors and a string of druids finally arrived, followed by a small army of City Guardsmen, who had been emboldened by the appearance of their ultimate superior and her Inquisitors. Elaine couldn’t blame them for keeping back; City Guardsmen weren’t meant to take on magicians, no matter the situation. It was rare to have any Guardsman with magic of his own; the ones who did tended to be transferred to the Inquisition.
“Find out what happened,” Light Spinner ordered, her voice somehow effortlessly ringing out above the throng. “And get these people some medical attention!”
Elaine scowled inwardly as Light Spinner, followed by a worried-looking Dread, came over to where she was waiting. It was impossible to read her expression behind the veil, but Elaine knew her well enough to know that she was deeply annoyed; someone, for whatever reason, had seen fit to challenge her authority right in front of her palace. And she’d also heard the Leveller attack on her person ...
Light Spinner stopped, peering down at the young man. “Is that ... is that the source of the pulse?”
“I think so,” Elaine admitted. “Who is he?”
She studied the young man for a long moment, feeling an odd sense that she’d seen someone like him before. He was handsome enough, with short brown hair and flawless face, but there were odd lines carved into his skin that suggested age or bitter experience. His clothing, however, suggested the aristocracy; bland his outfit might have been, but the tailoring was superb. Elaine could never have afforded such clothes, at least until she had been promoted. And she would have considered it a waste of money in any case.
“He reminds me of Duncan or Jamal Conidian,” Dread said, slowly. “What happened to him?”
“I’m not sure,” Elaine confessed. Dread was right; there was something about the stunned youth that reminded her of Charity Conidian. She cast the charms again, allowing him to see the results as they appeared in front of them. “But he was the source of the magic pulse.”
Light Spinner shook her head. “Take him to the hospital,” she ordered, as she stepped backwards. “You can run tests on him there.”
Elaine nodded. There was something ... odd about the way the magic field was responding to the boy. No,