For once, things were going right. Neither Tythel or Haradeth found any trace of Alohym response to the flare of light. Light and Shadow, it’s been so long since things worked in our favor! Tythel resisted saying it out loud, however. To speak of good fortune was to invite the Shadow to teach you humility.
Tythel was feeling plenty humble after the past week. She didn’t see a reason to invite a further lesson.
When she approached the camp, Armin was in an animated conversation with Ossman. “I’m telling you, it’s like…like I’m more in tune with the Lumwells.”
Ossman shrugged. “Armin, I don’t know lumcasting from farming. I don’t say you’re wrong, I’m saying that we don’t have enough information.”
“Enough information for what?” Tythel asked, stepping into the ring of trees.
“Armin’s insane theory.”
“It’s not insane!” Armin protested.
“It’s a theory that came from your lips, Armin, within an hour of nearly being dead. It’s insane because you’re insane.”
Armin held up a finger in protest. “Just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean my ideas are.”
Tythel snorted. “So what’s your theory?”
“I don’t think the Lumwell I was attuned to was ‘tainted’ with Unlight, not the way we thought. Well, I thought, because the whole flathing lot of you knows as much about lumcasting as Tythel does about human reproduction. No offense, your highness.”
“My father taught me about reproduction,” Tythel objected.
“I’m sure he did, your highness.” Every word dripped with good-natured sarcasm.
Tythel rolled her eyes. “I’m so glad you are back up and talking, Armin. I hadn’t yet gotten used to you being quiet, and yet I find myself already missing the silence.”
“Same,” Ossman muttered.
“You both think I’m wonderful, don’t deny it.”
“You do make me wonder,” Tythel said, relieved to have some back and forth going. Seeing Armin back up and back to his old self was a weight that had needed lifting, “about my sanity, about my morals, and about my pain tolerance.”
Armin grinned at her. “The first I cannot speak to, for I’m a crazy as they come. The second I have no doubt of, your highness, but it would be indecent and poor Ossman would have to go somewhere else. As for the third, that certainly isn’t a vice I’ve ever tried, but whatever pleases your highness.”
Ossman found Armin’s response hilarious. Tythel just started at him, her head tilted. “I don’t think I quite understand the joke.”
“And thus proving my point about your knowledge of both lumcasting and human reproduction. May I continue with that point?”
Tythel didn’t see how that proved Armin’s point about her knowledge, but from the way Ossman was grinning at her now, Tythel was certain she had lost some imaginary point. “Very well,” she said coolly.
“Wonderful. My point was, Lumwells contain Light, which is not the same as the Light. Every Lumwell is near infinitely deep, a vast well of power mages can draw upon so long as they have a lens and attune themselves. But Lumwells do shift their…resonance, based on what’s happening around them. A Lumwell near a sight of great death will get tainted from the tragedy, or during a celebration it could become more active. But Unlight isn’t an emotion or an event. It’s a different kind of power than ours. And yet that Lumwell was tainted. How?”
Tythel shook her head. “I have no earthly idea.”
“Exactly! Nothing in the world makes sense for it. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen happen on Aelith. Because the Alohym didn’t come from Aelith. But they brought their Unlight, and I think they’re deliberately corrupting Lumwells with it. Just light Unlight sucks light out of the air when it’s showing, the Lumwells are being sucked up by Unlight and becoming…something else. Unlumwells?”
Tythel was glad for the terrible name. It gave her something to think about other than the implications of Armin’s theories, “I’d prefer we try again at that name. But how does this tie into your improved sense of the Lumwells?”
“Well I held the Sun Stone, I could feel all of them. At least, I thought I could. Just for a moment. Several Lumwells were corrupted. Maybe two or three dozen. If it’s a deliberate corruption, your highness, I think the Alohym are going to try and do it to all them.”
The thought made Tythel shudder. “And what would that do?”
Armin took a deep breath. “Every single mage who isn’t already adapted to Unlight will suffer the same fate I almost did, your Highness. And…I think that’s what the Alohym want.”
“You think the Alohym fear mages?”
“No, your Highness. I think the Alohym came here for our Lumwells. I think they invaded to corrupt them, so they could produce Unlight instead of Light.”
Tythel glanced at Ossman, who still looked disbelieving, then back to Armin. “It…makes sense.”
Ossman snorted. “You can’t be serious.”
“I am, though.” Tythel’s blinked a few times, the rapid staccato blinks of fear. “No Empire goes and conquers a people for fun. There’s some resource they want. Land, or gold, or food, or ports – something they need from the land they are subjugating. Why couldn’t they have been thinking about our Lumwells?”
“I think it’s a bit far-fetched, your highness. We’re basing this off of some supposition Armin has based on a maybe connection he had to all the world’s Lumwells? Rather flimsy evidence.”
“What’s flimsy evidence?” Haradeth asked.
Tythel nodded to him. “Armin, would you be willing to share your theory with Haradeth?” Armin nodded. “For what it’s worth, I agree with Armin. But while he does that…Haradeth, have you seen Nicandros?”
Haradeth pointed a bit into the woods. “He’s caring for the horses.”
Tythel took a deep breath. “Alright. Thank you. I have something I need to talk to him about.” She didn’t wait for a response, didn’t want to risk any of them saying something that stole her resolve. Seeing the others together, getting to laugh with them, had dispelled the anxiety enough where she had the strength to do this. I hope. She walked past Eupheme’s sleeping form and found Nicandros brushing down the horses.
“Nicandros,” she said, make sure to stand downwind so her scent wouldn’t frighten the beasts.
“All quiet on your end too?” Nicandros asked.
Tythel nodded. “No one saw Armin’s display.”
“Good. If you’ll let me finish up here, I’ll…” Nicandros looked up to see Tythel. Tythel could only imagine what she looked like, but it must have been fairly ghastly from the way Nicandros frowned. “What’s wrong, girl?”
“I need to talk to you,” Tythel said, “about your son.”
Nicandros’ eyes narrowed. “What about my son?”
Tythel took another deep breath to steady herself. “I know what happened to him. Nicandros…I know how Thomah died.”
Staring at her, hands starting to shake, Nicandros put down the brush.