Lotye shrunk back as Lord Jeneyeru Nightwise came close to her. Yes, I know who you are. But that did not mean she could allow herself to be less cautious. She crossed her arms and looked at his face which was close to, but above hers. A slight tremor went through her body as he touched a strand of her hair. His grin unnerved her, she couldn’t read it. It wasn’t really one of sympathy. Was this procedure fun for him, or was he gloating at her misery
He took out an instrument she knew. She recognised the aura clock at once. It had been used on her before, she had used it herself. The outcome of this test was already known to her. While the dial spun, she remembered how she had faced the aura examination before. Everything had begun in a situation quite similar to this one. Of course she had not been in prison at the time, but in her home town, but she had been equally unwilling.
She had just been through puberty and wanted to be outside, in the forest and on the cliffs around Fisher’s Point, but the aura examination in school was mandatory. The dial on the clock, not unlike the one in front of her now, to her surprise had begun to spin and had not stopped for far too long. It had only been the first step in a long series of examinations, but that moment had changed everything. She still felt as if she had been sold into slavery from that point on. Her father never would have been able to pay the tuition fees for a real school of magic. But he had seen a chance to make her earn money. So she had become an apprentice to a wizard in the next, bigger town a few years later. The old man had taken her in without demanding much from her father, probably because he had needed someone who cleaned his house and whom he could generally walk all over. At least that was how she felt. Her master had been a respected healer, good at what he did, but gruff and obstinate when it came to dealing with people, especially dealing with Lotye. He had taught her some things, too, and she had used the brass aura clock herself, measuring and studying the auras of objects and beings. But after a little bit more than a year of doing his bidding in return for little knowledge and harsh words, she had not been able to stand it any longer and her life on the streets had begun.
The examination ended in the here and now. Lotye could see how Aeto Arrowwise’s hopes of having an easy case were shattered by Lord Nightwise’s words. He turned back to her and she realised that, again, this was only the beginning. But before he was able to continue with his examination or ask her anything, the forensic wizard brought the box with the cards. The higher ranking wizard lord made quite a procedure out of opening it, as if the box contained a dangerous insect, waiting to jump out of it. After the box was opened, Lotye thought to have heard something other than just the Lord’s sharp breath. Maybe it was just my own breath, my own heartbeat. She realised that her heart had in fact begun to beat faster. She felt drawn to the box, to the cards inside she wasn’t even able to see. She remembered their strange, dangerous beauty. Until the lid was closed again, Lotye saw the cards in her memory, was completely absorbed by the thought. The peculiar answer Lord Nightwise gave to her lawyer’s question made her wonder. What are those cards? And why does he fear them?
He invited her to sit down. For a moment, she hesitated, but then she sat down with a low sigh, keeping enough distance to him to allow at least one other person to rest between them. She listened to his questions, looked at him with a hint of insecurity summoned again by his words. Then she looked down again, straightened her dress over he knees, while her eyes inconspicuously tried to check the corridor between the cells for curious overhearers.
“I stole them.”, she said lowly, without pride, but also without any hint of guilt, “I saw them being traded for gold. One man paid another one in gold coins for something. I didn’t know of the cards. The gold was out of my reach, but I figured that I still could take the thing which was worth so much. So I stole the wallet of the man who bought them. Heh, I was pretty disappointed when I found out that it were just some cards. Oh, and a scroll with some kind of instructions on it.”
“Now that we’re already talking about the truth …” Lotye looked apologising to Aeto Arrowwise, who certainly wouldn’t be happy about what she had to say. “… I should tell you. I had some training as an apprentice to a healer of the Purifying Lake. Never finished it though. I’m not able to do much more than collecting the herbs for a weak potion against stomach troubles or casting a spell to heal a small wound.” She looked unintentionally down on her thumb. Any sign of the cut was gone. Just a bit of blood caused so much trouble. “I’m far from being able to summon ghosts from playing cards.”