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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 12

Flashback Part 5! Tezzeret trains Jace: Round 2!

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 12

How long has Jace been with the Consortium you ask? I don't know, but it's long enough that Jace is now on his first Recruitment drive. It's his turn to be up on a balcony while watching someone else get attacked by a firecat (courtesy of the lovely... and bitchy... Baltrice of course). Jace and Baltrice still are at each other's throats. Jace criticizes her that she lacks originality and that's the exact same test he had to go through, and this guy is only a swordsman. But Baltrice is much better at this game, and she holds back from him what Paldor's instructions were regarding his role. Reading the man's mind seems too easy, so Jace sets up elaborate illusions for our terrified potential Consortium member. When they get back to base, Jace gets chewed out (But I assume not about specifics) for failing to do the test properly, but Paldor decides young Sevrien passes.


Jace releases some steam to his friend Kallist, saying he was never told what he was supposed to do, and Kallist point out the obvious. The Consortium has plenty of illusionists, but only one mind reader. Perhaps he was supposed to test the man's willpower or pain threshold or any number of other things. Maybe it was simple a test for Jace himself to practice on someone under real conditions. But Jace scoffs at the idea. Sevrien had no chance against him. He was only a swordsman after all. With that statement an angry, magic-less, best-friend leaves and slams the door on the clueless mind-reader.

...In the presence of the master...

Tezzeret isn't happy that Jace is late, and they get right down to business. Tezzert has a multi-planar organization to run so there's no time to waste. Some guards enter the room and bring before the planeswalkers the unconscious form of the traitor who had tipped off Ronia. He's burned and scarred, but still alive. Not murdered.

But what would they want with this man? Tezzeret has told Jace they got all his secrets from him the old fashioned way. No mind-reading required. And like an animal trainer trying to calm a wild beast with soft words and light touches, he tells Jace not to worry, he just wants him to make contact with the man's mind. And Jace does so. And Tezzert continues to talk. That minds are there for more than talking to... or destroying (as he brings up the name of Jace's old mentor, and noticeable Jace doesn't react with rage). The mind is real, as real as mana. He just needs to feel it:

And Jace did, though he had to close his eyes to blot out the physical world around him. For the first time, Jace felt the mind of another living being not merely as a source of images to be read or as an engine to be turned off, but as something far more. Something all its own. In his own mind he felt the other, turned it, examined it like a jeweler with an unfamiliar stone, prodded at its contours.

He feels it, in a way he's never done so before, but now what? Now Tezzeret asks him to shape it. To change it. And with that, Tezzeret has pushed too far. As much as Jace was against being a part of murder, altering someone's mind hits him in a way he can't explain. It hits him to the core of his being.

Jace refuses.

Jace says outloud that it could kill him, and Tezzeret questions why he's concerned about the life of a traitor, and Jace makes up the excuse on the spot that it may be dangerous to himself should that happen. Tezzeret backs off slightly, pretending there is understanding behind his voice, and then he springs his trap.

He tells Jace that he was hoping the man's memories could simply be erased, but if it's not possible... well then... Jace will just have to kill him. Tezzeret hands him a knife.

Why? Is all he can ask.

"Because Paldor told me of your 'problems' when you uncovered this man's treason?" Tezzeret hissed at him, his voice as cold as those sliding walls. "because you cannot become what you could be - what you should be! - without overcoming the barriers you've placed on yourself!"

"You think I'm asking you to kill this man," he continued, his voice suddenly far more calm. "But I'm not. I'm asking you to save him, Beleren. I cannot trust him to live with what he knows. I'm asking you to give me another, more merciful option." Jace stared at him, his jaw working.

He had to choose.

And still Jace couldn't get himself to change the very mind of a person. The man has to die. So Jace tries to find a way out and begins a summoning. But no. Tezzeret stops him. If the man is to die, the man must die to Jace's hands.

Jace caves to Tezzeret's will. He turns to face the unconscious man laying before him and dives in to his mind. And with Jace giving him what he wants, it's time for Tezzeret to offer the comfort and care. (Gotta give positive reinforcement.) Tezzeret says Jace must come and have a drink with him for the great work he's done today.

The rest of the night was a blur, and it wasn't until days later that he didn't even pull of the task as intended. He didn't just wipe out the secrets of the Consortium, but all the man's memories altogether. He was essentially an infant in a child's body. But by this time, Jace has convinced himself he didn't care.

...Fast forward...

Jace's time after the incident becomes routine. He trained with Kallist, and Kallist trained with him. Jace learned and grew, and his missions were assigned to him that suited that growing skill.

As his power grew, the nature of his assignments became ever more nefarious, ever more brutal. After a few months, he was once again accompanying Kallist on assassinations, though still it was always the swordsman to do the final deed.

And eventually, he no longer needed to drink to stifle the guilt.

* * *


Let me tell you about my interest level as I read each chapter. I begin reading, and I think to myself that I'll just read a couple pages to wherever a natural stopping point would be, then I'll finish the rest at a later time (I've been pretty busy lately.) And then just when I feel like I'm ready to stop, the chapter hooks me.

Here, it was obviously when Tezzeret hits the scene. The way he handles Jace. The way he shapes him to be the weapon and tool that he wants him to become is so perfect. A kind word here, an enticing offer there, and sprinkled with veiled and overt threats to keep him off balance. It's beautiful.

My favorite chapter so far.

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