Seeing through her eyes, the wizard stood and made his way back toward the steps. “I’ll start down now,” he said to his pupil. “Come help me when you’re ready.”

Nicodemus nodded.

By the stairs, Shannon found Boann watching him. “Did you convince him?” the goddess asked.

Shannon smiled sadly and cast a few flamefly paragraphs for light. “He’s too impressed by his new abilities.” He paused. “He needs time to see that he hasn’t escaped his limitations.” Through Azure, he watched Nicodemus close his eyes and lean into the wind.

“But his progress is unexpectedly quick,” the goddess said. “Perhaps he might be right? Perhaps there is a chance he will be ready in time to save you?”

Shannon exhaled. “There’s no telling, but I certainly hope…” The strange choking sensation filled his chest again. “Nicodemus,” he called, to keep the feelings at bay. “I need your help after all.”

The young man sprang up and came running, concern painted across his dark face.

“Besides, there’s a pot of stew waiting at home,” Shannon said through a smile. “And you didn’t cook it, so this time it won’t taste like boiled horse sweat.”

Nicodemus laughed and then took Shannon’s arm, careful to prevent his skin from touching the old man’s.

Suddenly the old linguist had to draw a sharp breath and look away.

“What is it, Magister? Does it hurt?”

“No, no,” Shannon said as firmly as he could. “There’s a…” His hand came up to his neck. “A sensation here… I can’t… I don’t know if there’s a word for…”

Again he tried to name the feeling. But the words in his heart mashed themselves into a small, spiny ball and jammed themselves into his throat.

He was choking on a jagged mass of the words “loss” and “gratitude,” “desperation” and “relief,” “fear” and “awe.”

He was choking on the sharp knowledge that he was slowly dying.

“Maybe it’s heartburn from drinking my horse sweat stew,” said Nicodemus.

Shannon laughed and decided that the best word for the strange emotion in his chest was “love.”

He looked at his student. The boy had become a man, and in him Shannon saw a flickering potential that just might grow strong enough to give the world hope.

Nicodemus looked back at Shannon. His young face was lit by several incandescent paragraphs. The bright words had illuminated his smile with soft white light and, by contrast, filled his dark eyes with a joyful, sparkling black.


Blake Charlton first overcame severe dyslexia in the sixth grade when he began sneaking fantasy and science fiction books into special-ed study hall. Inspired, he went on to graduate summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University. After college, he worked as an English teacher, a medical writer for UCSF and Stanford, a tutor for the learning disabled, and a junior varsity football coach. Blake is currently a third-year medical student at Stanford Medical School, where he teaches creative writing for medical students and has received a fellowship to write fiction. Spellwright is his first novel. His hobbies include cycling, swimming, backpacking, and collecting jokes about dyslexia and premature baldness.

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