Apprentice magician Talisman Morning has always been lucky. It’s a problem.
Talis knows his luck is a magical talent -- but he can’t control it. And good luck for him can mean bad luck for other people, and a lot of trouble. He’s beginning to wonder whether he belongs with the magicians at all, or whether he should give up and run away ... until he meets a royal guard who asks for his help.
King’s guard Jeryn de Machaut could use a magician. He thinks he’s overheard a plot against the king, but he has no evidence and no support. But a wayward apprentice with a knack for being in the right place -- and stumbling over hidden objects -- might be exactly the luck Jer needs.
Together, Jer and Talis will uncover a palace conspiracy, save a king, and find their own best chance at love.
They went out the nearest open arch, and followed the road down the hill. Rainclouds danced along, an accompaniment, not directly above but visibly to the side. Talis avoided puddles and mud without even noticing. Jeryn did the same with the ease of someone used to taking in and responding to his surroundings.
“So.” Talis finished the last of the nuts and fruits. He was fairly sure that Jer, possessing infinite legs and a lot of consideration, was shortening that stride to not make him have to keep up. “What is it you think I can do? You had an idea.”
“I did. The way your magic works ... it protects you, right?”
“More or less. It’s not infallible. And sometimes it’s a lesser of two evils question. Stop to fix a broken boot-lace, watch a half-built shop-awning crash down right where I’d’ve been ... I’ve never been so happy to need a new lace.”
“Do you constantly have near-death experiences, or do you just enjoy telling me about them?”
“Are you concerned?” Talis threw him a grin, the best version, deliberately sparkling. “For me?”
“Yes,” Jer said promptly. “I do appreciate not being rained on, by the way. Is that on purpose?”
“I’m not actively doing it. I think you’re benefiting from walking next to me.” So close, in fact, that their arms occasionally touched. Every time sent scattered sparks through Talis’s body.
Jeryn de Machaut was exactly the sort of person he shouldn’t have daydreams about. Tall, warm, luscious as an artist’s inspiration, serious and practical and prepared. A king’s guard, dedicated and honorable. The sort of man who took on extra cares, and then did his best to fulfil them all.
And Talis was a disaster, a walking luck magnet, a magician without control, not to mention short and skinny and good at surviving. He knew all that.
He tried hard not to feel the next starlight crackle of want, when the back of his hand brushed Jer’s.
“I thought,” Jer said, “that if you went over the barge with me, if you stood where the king would stand, felt what he’d feel ... if you had a sense that someplace wouldn’t be safe, or a feeling that you shouldn’t go out on the river, tomorrow ... does that make sense? I can look, but if there’s nothing physically there I won’t find it.”
“That ... makes some sense, yes.” Talis hopped over a puddle, this time on his own, because he’d seen it. “I think I might know if I’d be in danger. If I stayed aboard. I think I might have a sense that I shouldn’t, if, say, your barge is going to sink.”
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“But then again the problem is, I might not know, because I know I’m not. Aboard. Going with you. On the king’s little leisure trip. So I’m not actually in any danger.”
They followed the road in silence for a few steps. Rain dripped from rocks and bushes, but never directly overhead.
Jer said, “What if you were coming with us?”
Talis tripped over nothing.
Jeryn caught him, practiced reflexes and graceful muscle right there. “Sorry! I thought --”
“I don’t trip,” Talis said, astounded. “I think maybe the magic knew you’d catch me.”
“Of course I will.” Jer’s eyes were the color of sea-storms: salt and pewter, crashing grey waves. Holding emotion like treasure in the depths. “I want to. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“No, it’s fine, it’s just ... me. On the King’s barge. On a pleasure-cruise. How would you even explain me?”
Jer shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll ask whether I can bring a friend.”
Talis sputtered, wordless.
Jer shrugged again. Even casual motions rippled, fluid, with the ease of someone who knew his own body extremely well. “Amet likes his people to be happy. And, yes, I’ll be on duty, but we have shifts; I’ll be off later. He’ll tease me about having finally found a lover, and then he’ll forget about it. Especially with his own lovers as distractions.”
“Oh, fuck,” Talis said, weakly. And now he was the one swearing. In front of the honorable disciplined guardsman. “I thought you were the practical one. Your plan involves inviting me to the King’s boat orgy.”
Jer blushed once more. Vividly. “If you don’t want to --”
“I absolutely do. So much.”