The staff began to resist me with more effort, straightening, fighting my grip, but as its bonded wizard, I had the greater strength and I wielded the greater power. I gripped harder, brought my hands towards each other. The old twisted wood began to bend. I felt her anger radiate through my palms, my fingers. It changed to rage, to denial, to fear and finally to terror as the wood began to crack audibly.
That was what it took for it, yes, her, to respond. Another moment more and she would have been shattered, and she knew it. My time as a wizard would have been ended as well, but my fury held. It was the one thing that we did share. Neither of us had wanted this. But we both had to live with it. The geas remained, even if it had corroded over time.
“This was all her plan,” I told my staff. “And you helped her. Helped her enthrall me to use my wyverns against the margraves for her own purposes. And Created the illusion the arbiter was going to enchain me?! Has she been behind this all along? All of it? Tell me, or you will most certainly share in my ruin. That will be my last act.”
Resistance. A stone wall of infinite thickness. Unmovable.
“For what I have done here, for what we have done, the council will invoke a far greater punishment than hermitage on me,” I told it angrily. “And you will be sent to the alchemists. Oh, you remember how it was, our bonding, our life-bonding. There are powers that can compel me to alter the terms our bond, those which your sister does has no access. You know that. You will be theirs for whatever length of time they desire. That will be your fate, perhaps not as terrible as mine, but you can be assured it will be an eternity of agony compared to the decades you were compelled to spend with me.”
Uncertainty. The rippling of water. Apprehension.
“This can be repaired. It is possible. You can avoid that fate. You have a single choice now. You will help me undo what she has done, or I will end it here!”
Contrition. Cleaving of wood. The understanding of consequences.
“Good. Now you will help me restructure what remains of this glamour and assist me on the task of using it against the Arbiter and the Keith,” Two hands, two minds, I had a chance. It would not endure, of course, desperate measures rarely do. But I was merely replacing a brief memory, returning what both wanted, intended. I could make it last, at least until my mission was accomplished. I had little choice in the matter. It was that, or-
Resentment. A chill wind. Deep grievance.
I glanced back down at the twisted length of bleached wood in my hand. I had little doubt she had been manipulated to do this by Gwynhafer. Offered her freedom, I surmised. That must have taken some convincing. Not even her sister, not even the greatest of the forest witches had the power to undo our bond. Only I could do that. Only I was allowed the power and not even Gwynhafer’s most commanding of glamours could force me to make use of it. Something else could, however. Had she suspected it would be enough. Perhaps.
“I will make a pact with you,” I told my staff. “You help me in this. You assist me with all your power to recover the Bardelaisch stones, and you will be freed. In ten years. To this day. That I promise, if death does not take me first. Will you allow me to finish this? Will you?!”
Blood. The pressing of hot skin. Needles through flesh.
I chuckled. Yes, of course, blood would be required to set the pact. I strode over to the Keith’s wide oaken table and picked up his knife, slit the palm of my hand. I took the staff in my bloodied hand, and repeated the offer. It sucked up the blood, healed the cut. It was done. The bonding was remade, the old geas now gone. I would not be fighting the next war of the conjunction after all. And neither would she. Gwyn’s sister, Elowyn, I could now acknowledge, given to me in an offering to Arcory for her forests and authority, would finally be freed. And I? I would be finally finished, in all ways.