We stood in the small chamber outside the tribunal meeting and Articulo said. “I have sought you out to ask you to not force this debate. If War is necessary I will prosecute it. I know my mother valued you. I do not wish to make you mundane.”

I waved a hand in a gesture Apophany always used to mean “have patience” and noticed it worked perfectly on her son.  “Before you continue and accidentally damage your Gift,” I replied “you should know you can’t do that to me here.”

“Explain, please?”

“I know.” I paused “There’s no student here.”

“You’d learn a great deal of humility were I to break your Gift.” he replied, and I tried to see anger in the corners of his eyes or mouth. It wasn’t there. I was a puzzle to him. There was no more point in being angry at me than at a chicken which, against all probability, has distracted millions by crossing the road. Apophany knew about the chicken, and she knew the important question was “Why do you care enough to want to know the answer?”The trick is done before the magic starts.  Articulo wanted to know.

That meant we were not going to come to blows now. I relaxed a little. So did he.I noticed, and so did he, and then I was aware we’d been reading each other for a longer than normal pause in the conversation. Criamon magi do that sometimes, and consider it perfectly normal: in some senses preferable to people lying with their mounts at each other. I decided to start us up again, because I like not having to be honest with people. I’m not saying I want to lie to them: I’m just happier if the option is there. “I am an initiate in the Enigmatic Wisdom of your sect. I am the Vessel of the Great Lie. I cannot be your witness.”

“Thank you for warning me, Brother.” he nodded. I presumed he did it to draw attention to the tattoo by his right temple, but I didn’t know what it represented, beyond an attempt to communicate fellowship that had failed.

“Ah.” Pause “When I say I know, I don’t know any of the aspects of the cult. I know your first mystery, though: you can only transgress when someone is watching, and the watcher needs to be outside the cult. They need to be a witness, and to learn something important from the transgression. You can’t just do whatever you like.”

“What is the Great Lie?”

“If you don’t know I can’t explain it to you.” I smiled “Is it wrong to admit that it feels wonderful to say that to a Criamon magus?”

“Petty, but not wrong. How did you discover it?”

“The Lie? I cannot say.”

“No, our Mystery.”

“Callida told me.” I shrugged for effect.

He looked deflated “That is disappointing. How did she discover it?”

“She asked your mother why she kept dragging about a useless illusionist like me, when she was a mistress of illusions herself. Why not have a different partner, with complementary skills?”

“And my mother said that Callida was too focused on material advantage to be a witness?”

“No. You don’t need to be a spiritual person to be a witness. Rather the opposite. She wanted me around because she was worried what might happen if she slipped into Twilight.  Fire magi don’t burn. She was an Illusionist so she needed other illusionist around to corral her Adulteration if she Ascended.

“That is not the same thing. Discovering that she needed you in case she ascended is not the same as knowing that a student makes transgression safer for us.”

“Callida worked that out. She’s a Verditius. People think that because, yes, they are mercenary, and yes, they are petty that they aren’t spiritual. That is wrong. When she pours out bronze, she’s not handling metal: she’s handling the thing that lies behind the metal, in the realm of form made manifest. She is watching the idea become ensnared in matter and become greater by its ensnarement in the material. They use casting tools not as a crutch, but as a bridge to their spirituality. Callida knew I was a casting tool.”

“You have given me much to ponder, brother, and yet the adulteration you have taken as an apprentice is still a thing of terror and wonder. It must be assessed.”

“She. She is a person. A human person. A souled individual.”

“That’s not possible.”

“Well, prepare to be enlightened then. She can cast Hermetic spells.”

“I was told she was the equivalent of a five year old? She ages?”

“Yes. She also eats, drinks, is vulnerable to Mentem magic, all of the usual tests.

“Then she’s seven now. Even if she already knew Latin, as reported, you cannot have Opened her Arts conventionally yet.”

“The Cave of Twisting Shadows is a regio, yes? I also live in a regio.”

“What is the dilation?”

“Sevenfold. She’s eighteen, now. Her apprenticeship ends in two seasons, mortal time. You walked right by her earlier today, and didn’t realise who she was.”

He looked stunned. I didn’t have any real resources, but when you see the opening, you need to pretend, until you can make good. “Even if you take her, you won’t hold her.”

“I recall your mind was made tabula rasa when you were taken as apprentice? It is not a usual Criamon practice. We value our scars. Nonetheless, in extremis…and we are the cult for such situations. We need to understand it.”

“Her. Go ahead and try, Articulo. There’s literally no winning scenario for you here.”

That was a lie of course. The Tribunal declared her a sprit, not a person, and they took her for two years. As I said goodbye to her, in her spidersilk cloak, I handed her an apple. She tossed it back to me and said “I choose the name Pupilla, and ask you to keep this for me, father.” It wasn’t something I’d planned, but I was so pleased by it that I laughed and sent a letter to the Primus.

As she was my my first apprentice to graduate, he was worried the other three might be similarly troublesome. Hortensia, Lacrimosa and Aegidius were, however, more conventional and useful. Hortensia became a  teacher, like myself, using the same method of training four apprentices at a time. Her Arts are negligible, sufficient only to open the Arts of others and provide the most basic of training.. Lacrimosa is an urban illusionist who now lives in Naples. Aegidius is a hoplite in Britain.

Pupilla came back to us because the Genius Locus of the Cave of Twisting Shadows would not permit her to enter its regio. She was the living embodiment of everything that Apophany did or believed that was at odds with the tenents of their Mystery.  Had they not been pacifists, had their violent clutch not been Apophany’s children, they would have killed her. Instead, she was sent to the Clutch of Ebony Eggs, taught them nothing, and then tried to come home. A Bonisagus wanted to claim her, and so she lobbied for her reclassification as a person. She was old enough to graduate swiftly and then come home.

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