Sunlight fell like a soft curtain of gold across what would one day become the Confessors' Palace. A little girl chased a nightwisp among the stone foundations, laughing happily.
Magda Searus leaned against a towering pile of stone and watched her daughter. It was good that the child had this time to enjoy the spring, she thought. Winter—the long winter of war—would come again soon enough.
But for now Arabella could play in the dirt with the magical wisp, Yilla, who had been her companion since birth. Girl and nightwisp seemed so happy.
"What troubles you, dearest?"
Turning, Magda beheld the great wizard Merritt, the man she loved more than life itself. As far as she could see, he had materialized out of thin air. His face was grave, but his eyes danced with light-hearted joy in the moment.
Magda's gaze was drawn irresistibly to Arabella again. "I fear for her, Merritt," she said. "This power…" she opened her palms upward, as if in mute plea to the Creator Who dwelt above the world and watched over Her children. "What future will Arabella inherit?"
"Our daughter will serve the Midlands and fight the darkness, as her mother before her," Merritt promised. "I have Seen the Hall of Judgment where one day other…'Confessors' will rule."
'Confessor' was the title Magda had chosen, because with her touch she could make people confess their most evil deeds and darkest desires. Only Merritt remained unharmed by her fearsome powers.
When he had first granted her the powerful magic that was both gift, and, Magda increasingly saw, curse, her rage had been uncontrolled. Only the fierce necessity of her quest, the injustice that had made her agree to wield this magic in the first place, had let her endure the pain of the Shakai'iah.
And only Merritt's immunity, whatever its cause, had protected him from spending eternity as her slave.
Despite the warmth of the spring sun, Magda shivered.
"I have a gift for you."
Merritt held out a heavy leather book. There was a symbol on its cover, half-concealed by a sparkling jeweled clasp. Magda took it and touched the symbol, her fingers drawn to it as if by some ancient power. Yet the book felt new.
She looked up, her fingers still resting against the golden inverted cross symbol, and Merritt answered her unspoken question: "It seemed right, " said the Wizard.
Merritt could See the future—it was one of his many gifts—and consequently he and Magda were always getting caught up in the echoes of things which hadn't happened yet. Magda was never sure if Merritt had the power of Sight because it was his duty to make sure the things he Saw happened—or did not happen in some cases—or whether he was simply supposed to make them happen in the right way.
But Magda had faith that the Creator had given Merritt his gifts, including the power to give her the gift of Confession, for a reason.
She trusted that the Creator knew what She was doing.
For some reason Magda couldn't quite explain to herself, the symbol on the cover of the book reminded her of the Creator.
She undid the clasp and opened it, but the pages were blank. They seemed expectant.
"The book is for you," said Merritt. "I have enchanted the pages so they will disguise themselves from any but another Confessor. As long as there is someone who shares your power, there will be more pages. A Confessor may easily call up a section of the book by speaking the appropriate name. Rain will not fall upon these pages. Neither unfriendly eyes nor the ravages of time will touch the book of the Confessors."
Merritt spoke as if his words themselves were a spell, as if he bound the wild magic of the air to the book and to Magda's soul.
"None but another Confessor?" Magda asked. She tucked the book under her arm and twirled a lock of hair around her fingers. "So you cannot read my words, then, oh Great Wizard?"
"Of course not, dearest," said Merritt. He smiled.
Magda loved her Wizard with her whole soul, but the thought in her mind was that Merritt was far too cunning to have devised an enchantment he could not break if he chose.
It was fortunate that Magda had nothing to conceal from Merritt.
But likewise, he could not hide the truth from her.
Arabella came running up to her parents at that moment, however, so Magda could not tease Merritt further. She watched father and daughter gravely examining the foundations of the palace, and wondered if any of the three of them would live to see it completed.
Merritt had Seen the Confessors of the future here, though. Someday, others of Magda's blood and power would live in the as yet unbuilt palace.
What would those future Confessors think of Magda's choice to carry the burden of this power?
Would they even remember her?
Magda and Merritt had many enemies. Magda might not live to explain to Arabella.
But Merritt's gift would help her reach out to those future-Confessors…to her daughter also, when Arabella was old enough to understand.
Magda took out a quill, leaning more securely against the stone, and opened the book once again.
To my daughter, she began carefully, tracing the runes in her finest script. And to all those who follow after…