Chapter no 2

Sword Catcher

I’m sorry.” Not looking the least bit sorry, Dom Lafont—a nervous little man with black-rimmed spectacles perched on a warty nose—shook his

head. “It isn’t possible.”

Lin Caster placed her hand flat on the wooden counter that separated them. The Lafont Bookshop in the Scholars’ Quarter was a dusty little place, the walls festooned with old prints and sketches of Castellane and

famous historical figures of days past. Behind the counter, shelves of books stretched away: some bright and new, in fine colored leather jackets, some plain, bound galleys produced by the Academie to aid students in their coursework.

It was one of those—a treatise on hereditary illnesses by Ibn Sena, a teacher of medicine—that Lin itched to get her hands on. She craned her neck, trying to pick out exactly which of the bound manuscripts on the

shelves it was, but the shop was too dimly lit.

“Dom Lafont,” Lin said, “I have been a good customer of yours. A

frequent customer. Is that not the case?” She turned to her friend Mariam Duhary, who was watching the interaction with worried eyes. “Mariam, tell him. There is no good reason that prevents him from selling me a book.”

“I am aware of that, Domna Caster,” Lafont protested. “But there are rules.” He wiggled his nose like a rabbit’s. “What you are asking for is coursework for the medical students at the Academie. You are not a student at the Academie. If you had a letter from the Justicia, perhaps—”

Lin wanted to slam her hand down on the counter. The man was being ridiculous. The Ashkar, as he knew perfectly well, could not attend the

Academie as students, or apply to the Justicia for relief. These were Laws— bad Laws, that made her stomach twist, her blood run sour in her veins. But they had been the way of things since the founding of Castellane. “For

students,” she said, making an effort to be calm, “these manuscripts are free. I am offering to pay. Name your price, Dom Lafont.”

Dom Lafont spread his hands wide. “It is not a matter of money. It is a matter of rules.

“Lin is a physician,” Mariam said. She was a small girl, birdlike in her delicacy, but her gaze was firm and searching. “As you know. She cured your gout last fall, did she not?”

“It still comes back sometimes,” he said sourly. “Every time I eat pheasant.”

Which I told you not to do, Lin thought.

“Lin merely seeks to acquire wisdom that will allow her to heal more of the sick, and relieve their suffering,” said Mariam. “Surely you cannot object to that.”

Lafont grunted. “I know even your own people do not think you should be practicing medicine,” he said to Lin. “I know you have no business pawing through knowledge not meant for your sort.” He leaned across the counter. “I suggest you stick to what you know—your little amulets and magic trinkets. Don’t you have enough wisdom already, you Ashkar?”

In that moment, Lin could see herself in the shopkeeper’s eyes. Someone powerless, someone clearly different, almost foreign. And yes, she wore, as the laws of Castellane required, the traditional colors of the Ashkar: a gray dress, a blue jacket. And around her throat, the traditional symbol of her people: a hollow golden circle on a chain. Lin’s had been her mother’s once.

But more than that marked her out. It was in her blood, in the way she walked and talked, in something invisible that she sometimes felt hovered about her like a fine mist. She was knowably, clearly, Ashkar—alien in a way the sailors who thronged the port of Castellane simply weren’t.

Travelers had a clearly delineated role and place. The Ashkar did not.

Don’t you have enough already, you Ashkar? It was what all Castellani felt to some degree. The Sundering had destroyed all magic, erased it from the world. All save the small spells and talismans of gematry, the ancestral

magic of the Ashkar. Because of that, Lin’s people were hated and envied in equal measure. Because of that, special Laws applied to them. Because of that, they were not allowed out of the Sault, the walled community in which

they were required to live, once the sun had gone down. As if they could not be trusted in the shadows.

Lafont shook his head, turning away. “There is a reason books like this aren’t meant for hands like yours. Come back if you’d like to buy something else. My door will be open.”

The world seemed to darken before Lin’s eyes. She took a deep breath, her small hands knotting into fists—

A moment later she found herself outside the bookstore, being steered down the street by Mariam. “Mariam, what—?”

“You were going to hit him,” Mariam said breathlessly. She had come to a stop between a lodging house for students and a shop selling ink and quills. “And then he would have called the Vigilants, and you’d have been fined, at least. You know they aren’t sympathetic to the Ashkar.”

Mariam, Lin knew, was right. And yet. “It is unbelievable,” she fumed. “That inbred bigot! He didn’t object to my knowledge when he wanted me to treat him for free, did he? And now it’s Keep your filthy hands off our books. As if knowledge belonged to any one type of person—”

“Lin!” Mariam interrupted in a whisper. “People are staring.”

Lin glanced over. Across the street was a tea shop, already crowded with students enjoying a day free of lectures. A group had gathered around a weathered wooden table outside to drink karak—a heavily spiced tea with cream—and play cards; several were looking over at her, seemingly amused. A handsome student with a mass of ginger hair, wearing a paper crown, winked in her direction.

What if I asked one of them to buy me the book? Lin thought. But no; it wouldn’t work. Malbushim tended to be suspicious of the Ashkar, and even Dom Lafont would see through such a ruse so soon after she’d made her attempt. She returned the young man’s wink with a steady glare. He put a hand over his heart as if to indicate she’d wounded him and turned back to his companions.

“We ought to get back home,” Mariam said, a little anxiously. “The streets will be a madhouse in an hour or two.”

This was true. Today Castellane’s independence was celebrated, with speeches, music, and parades stretching on into the night. Visits to temples to give thanks were conducted in the mornings; by the late afternoon, the Palace would have begun distributing free ale to the populace and the

celebrations would become considerably rowdier. By Law, all Askhar had to be locked inside the Sault by nightfall; it would not do to be caught out in the jam-packed streets.

“You’re right.” Lin sighed. “We’d best avoid the Great Road. It’ll be packed. If we cut through these back streets, we’ll reach Valerian Square.”

Mariam smiled. She still had dimples, though she had grown so terribly thin that even her made-over clothes seemed to hang on her. “Lead the way.”

Lin took Mariam’s hand. It felt like a bundle of twigs in hers. Cursing Lafont silently, she set off, guiding her friend through the steeply tilting, cobblestoned byways of the Student Quarter, the oldest part of the city.

Here narrow streets named after Imperial philosophers and scientists wound around the stately dome of the university. Built of ash-colored granite, the pillared dome of the Academie rose like a storm cloud over the steeply gabled rooftops of the shops and lodging houses frequented by students and their tutors.

On an ordinary day, students in their uniforms of rusty black would be dashing by between lectures, with leather satchels of books slung across their backs. There had been a time Lin had wondered what it would be like to study at the Academie, but its doors were closed to the Ashkar, and she’d had abandoned that dream.

Still, the Scholars’ Quarter had a hold on her imagination. Colorful shopfronts sold items of interest to students: paper and quills, ink and

measuring tools, inexpensive food and wine. The ancient buildings seemed to lean together like tired children, exchanging secrets. In her mind, Lin imagined what it must be like to live in a lodging house, among other students—staying up late to read by the light of a tallow candle, ink-stained desks on wobbly legs, narrow diamond-paned windows with views of Poet’s Hill and the Great Library. Hurrying to morning lectures with a lighted lamp in hand, part of a crowd of eager students.

She knew it was unlikely to be so romantic in real life, but nevertheless, she liked to imagine the atmosphere of dusty books and companionate study. She had learned a great deal at the Physicians’ House in the Sault, from a series of stern and unsmiling male teachers, but one could not have described it as convivial.

Glancing around now, one could sense the festive atmosphere in the air. Windows had been thrown open, and students clustered on balconies and even rooftops, chatting animatedly over bottles of cheap wine. Lamps of red and gold, the colors of Castellane, had been hung on ribbons threaded from balcony to balcony of the windows overhead. Brightly painted shop signs swung in the breeze; the air here was scented with paper and ink, dust and

candle wax.

“You’re still angry,” Mariam observed as they crossed Historians’ Way.

She and Lin stepped aside to let a group of clearly inebriated students stagger by. “You’re all red. You only turn that color when you’re furious.”

She bumped her shoulder against Lin’s. “Was it a particularly important book? I know Lafont said it was coursework, but I can’t imagine there’s anything the Academie could teach that you don’t already know.”

Loyal Mariam. Lin wanted to squeeze her hand. Wanted to say: I need it because of you. Because you have been getting thinner, and paler, all year; because none of my remedies have made you even a little bit better. Because you cannot clamber up a ladder or walk the length of a street without losing your breath. Because none of my books can tell me what is wrong with you, much less how to treat it. Because the knowledge we had before the Sundering is half lost, but I cannot abandon hope without trying everything, Mariam. You taught me that.

Instead, Lin shook her head. “It was what he said, that even my own people don’t want me to be a physician.”

Mariam looked sympathetic. She knew better than nearly anyone else how hard Lin had struggled to convince the elders of the Sault that she, a

woman, should be allowed to learn medicine. They had finally permitted it, not believing she would pass the physician’s exam. It still gave her pleasure to remember that her scores had been higher than those of any of the male students. “It was not the whole Sault, Lin. There were many who wanted you to succeed. And think how much easier it will be for the next girl who wants to be a physician. You forged the way. Do not mind the doubters.”

The idea pleased Lin. It would be lovely to have more female physicians in the Sault. People she could trade knowledge with, discuss treatments, patients. The male asyar ignored her. She’d hoped they would accept her after she passed her exams, and then again after her first year of practice, but their attitude had not changed. A woman had no business doctoring,

whether she was good at it or not. “I’ll do my best not to mind them,” she said. “I am awfully stubborn.”

“Oh, indeed. You’re as stubborn as your grandfather.”

Lin would usually have objected to being compared to Mayesh, but they had just reached the Biblioteca Corviniana, the Great Library, and a chatter of voices had burst out all around them.

The Library had been built two hundred years past by King Estien IV, and thus was a relatively new building in the quarter. Its stone doors were closed today, but a wide marble courtyard opened out in front of it, crowded with people. Estien, a patron of philosophers, had ordered that raised

squares of marble be erected outside the Library for the purposes of debate. Any citizen of Castellane was allowed to climb upon one and hold forth on any topic they chose, free from accusations of disturbing the peace—as long as they did not stray from their perch.

There was, of course, no rule that anyone had to listen, and thus the

various speakers tended to shout their opinions as loudly as possible. A tall young woman wearing the green-lined cloak of a student of science was shouting about the unfairness of the Academie, expecting foreign students to pay for their own lodging when the Castellani were housed at no expense. This drew friendly boos from a group of drunken students who

were singing a bawdy version of the anthem of Castellane.

Nearby, a blond young man in a tightly buttoned black tunic was loudly denouncing the monarchy. This drew more interest, as criticizing the royal family was dangerous business. Most of the scholars at the Academie were the children of merchants and guildmasters, shopkeepers and traders. The nobility employed private tutors, rather than sending their children to the

free university. Still, loyalty to the crown and the Charter Families ran deep. “Hey! You, there!” someone shouted, and the blond young man raised an inquiring eyebrow. “Just saw the Vigilants coming around the corner. You’d

better hie off if you don’t want to wind up in a crocodile’s belly.”

The young man gave a bow of thanks and leaped down from his marble podium. A moment later he had vanished into the crowd.

Mariam frowned. “I don’t think anyone was really coming.”

Lin glared around, but there was no way to tell who had shouted at the anti-monarchist. The shadows were lengthening, though, the Great Library

casting its pillared reflection across the courtyard. They could not afford to keep dawdling.

They turned onto Vespasian Way, an avenue lined with university lodgings. Through open doors, Lin could see students in their black cloaks running up and down steep sets of stairs, laughing and calling to one another. Someone on a balcony overhead was playing a vielle; the melody of their lament drifted through the air, rising and falling like a gull over the harbor water.

May she have the courage

to have me come one night there where she undresses

and make me a necklace of her arms. Otherwise, I will die.

“Musicians really do make being in love sound awful,” said Lin. “Just endless moping away, all alone because no one can put up with you.”

Mariam laughed softly. “How can you be so cynical?”

“Not to mention, apparently love makes you poor, and sickly,” Lin went on, ticking off the list on her fingers, “and terribly likely to die young, in a very small room with bad lighting.”

“If it was that awful, no one would do it.”

“You don’t have a choice, I hear,” Lin said as they turned onto Yulan Road, where the Student Quarter dead-ended in a wide thoroughfare lined with Shenzan lane houses, terraced and surrounded by low walls with iron gates. Shenzan traders and sailors had settled here in the time of the Empire, their traditions blending over time with those of Castellane. “Love just

happens to you, whether you like it or not; otherwise there wouldn’t be so many songs. Besides, people do all sorts of things that are bad for them. I ought to know.”

The lane houses had given way to shopfronts selling everything from

jade sculptures and cheap jewelry to fireworks and paper lanterns, painted with symbols for independence, luck, and Daqin—the Shenzan name for Castellane. Delicious steam wafted from the doors of white-painted noodle shops, where Shenzan sailors and students enamored of cheap, delicious food rubbed shoulders at long rosewood tables.

Lin’s stomach growled. Time to get home; she was sure there was a whole honey cake in the pantry. Nearly whole, at any rate.

She ducked down an alley topped with a stone arch, narrow enough that she and Mariam had to walk single-file. She could see over some of the low walls into the gardens of the lane houses, where chrysanthemums and

poppies bloomed. Giggling came from overhead: Families were already sitting on the roofs of their houses, from which they could command a view of the red-and-gold fireworks that would later explode like falling stars over the harbor.

When they emerged finally from the alley, Lin cursed under her breath.

She must have taken a wrong turn. She had meant to cut past Valerian Square, behind the Justicia. Instead they had emerged from the side streets into the middle of a cheering crowd facing the Convocat.

By the Goddess, she thought, her heart sinking. No.

She turned to see Mariam gazing around, wide-eyed. The square was packed as tightly as a trader’s caravan. “But I thought—”

“We were going to avoid the square. I know,” Lin said grimly. Nearby, several carriages had circled together. Their doors were thrown open, and girls in fashionable clothes—merchants’ daughters, their brightly colored boots showing beneath the lace hems of their frocks—were leaning out, giggling and calling to one another. Lin caught something about a princess and a kingdom, and two names she recognized: Conor Aurelian, and Counselor Bensimon.

Outside the Sault, there was no Ashkar with as much power as her grandfather, Mayesh Bensimon. Within the walls, his power was matched by that of the Maharam, but here, among the malbushim, the only Ashkar whose name they knew was Mayesh’s. For Mayesh stood at the shoulder of the King, at the side of the Prince. He advised, he counseled, he listened to their fears and desires and dreams. He mapped a path for them to follow.

No one stood closer to the throne save perhaps Legate Jolivet, the head of the royal army.

All through the spring there had been rumors that Prince Conor would marry soon. Lin knew her grandfather would be at the heart of deciding what alliance he would make, what advantage it would confer on Castellane. It seemed these girls knew that, too. Everyone did.

Taking hold of Mariam’s sleeve, Lin began to push her way through the crowd, past wine-smelling shopkeepers and loudly singing guildmasters.

Something struck her lightly on the shoulder; it was a thrown flower. A yellow aster, the symbol of House Aurelian. More crushed flowers were littered in the square, their gold petals ground to a fine dust.

Lin swerved to avoid the massive raised dais on which sat the Charter Families with their banners, and received several filthy looks from those who seemed to believe she was trying to get closer to the Convocat. She could hear Mariam complaining that she wanted to stop, to look, but Lin’s

heart was beating too fast. She couldn’t wait to get through the crowd to the other side, before—

A gasp went through the crowd. Mariam stopped dead and tugged on Lin’s hand. With a sense of resignation, Lin turned to see that the stairs of the Convocat were no longer empty. Prince Conor Aurelian had appeared atop them and was gazing out at the crowd.

Long ago, Lin’s grandfather had brought her to a King’s Speech here in the square. He had arranged for her to sit upon the dais, among the Charter Families, as King Markus spoke. Lin had understood nothing of his speech about taxes and trade, but she had loved the spectacle of it: the cheering crowd, the clothes, Queen Lilibet all in green, her throat circled with

emeralds as large as the eyes of crocodiles. The young Prince at her side, his thick black curls just like hers, his mouth drawn down in a scowl.

Mayesh had seated Lin next to a fair-haired girl with fat curls and a thin mouth. Antonetta, her name had been. She hadn’t said a word to Lin, but Lin hadn’t minded. She was enjoying looking at it all too much.

That was, until she had become aware of the eyes that rested on her. And not just the nobles—who had been gazing sideways, discreetly—but those in the crowd: the merchants and shopkeepers and ordinary people of Castellane. They had all been staring at the Ashkari girl, up on the dais with the nobles as if she were just like everyone else. As if she were better.

It was the first time she recalled such stares—stares that told her she was peculiar, out of place, a curiosity. Not like everyone else. She had been a child, yet they had looked at her with open suspicion. Not because of who she was, but because of what she was.

All that flashed through her mind now as Prince Conor, his curling black hair held back by a winged golden circlet, came to the top of the steps to

face the crowd. Lin had not seen him since all those years ago, when he had been a child, as she had. He had the same arrogant tilt to his chin even now, the same hard mouth. His frown was narrow as a razor.

Mariam sighed. “He is awfully good looking.”

Lin knew that, objectively, this was true. Girls sighed over the portraits of the sons of the nobility sold at the weekly market in Windtower Square.

And Prince Conor, she knew, was more popular than any other. Sketches of him, with his raven-dark hair and sharp cheekbones, sold for more than similar portraits of graceful Joss Falconet or scowling Charlon Roverge.

Although it was more than just looks, Lin thought cynically; Falconet was handsome, but Conor was nearer to the throne, to power.

But she could not force herself to agree with Mariam. There was something about the harshness of the Prince’s looks she did not find appealing. He had not spoken yet but was looking over the crowd with a keen consideration. Lin thought she felt his gaze brush over her, though she knew it was only her imagination. She knew there was little point in hating Conor Aurelian. She was like an ant to him. He could step on her and never notice.

But she thought of her grandfather and hated him nonetheless.

“I cannot like him, Mariam,” she said. “My—Mayesh chose him, chose all the Aurelians, over his own family. Over Josit and me.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s true.” Mariam looked troubled. And, in the open sunlight, paler than ever. Lin fretted silently to herself. “You know it wasn’t so simple.”

But it was. Lin still remembered sitting with her brother in their small bedroom, listening to Mayesh arguing with Chana Dorin in the kitchen. Chana, you must understand. I cannot take them. My duty is to the Palace.

“And his clothes are ridiculous,” Lin said. “The Prince’s, I mean.” She hoped this would distract Mariam, who loved fashion more than anything. Lin and Mariam had been schooled together as children, but Mariam had been deemed too fragile in constitution to continue her education. Without much reluctance, Mariam had stepped away from intensive studies, turning her considerable skill with needles into her trade.

In a short time, she had learned all there was to know about sewing and fabrics, about the differences between altabasso and soprariccio, between raw silk and mockado. She set up a stall in the market square, and soon

enough rich women (and men) all over the city were cooing over her

chemises with fine blackwork embroidery at the necklines and cuffs; over bodices of velvet and silk damask, and silk kirtles as fine and sheer as fishing nets. She made visits to the Hill to dress Demoselle Antonetta Alleyne, whose frothy, lace-covered dresses took weeks to complete. Her loom and needle were rarely still, and she often mourned that Lin was usually in her physician’s uniform and had little use for fine gowns.

Mariam eyed the Prince thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t say ridiculous,” she said. “They are of a certain style. It is called sontoso in Sarthian. It means an intensity of richness.”

Richness, indeed. The Prince’s fingers gleamed with a dozen jeweled rings, sparking light when he moved. His boots and jerkin were of rich incised leather, his shirt of crimson silk, bright as blood. The royal sword, Firefly, was buckled at his waist with a strap of gold and ivory brocade.

“It means . . .” Mariam took a deep breath and shook her head, as if to clear a fog. “It means that everything must be of the finest work. Look at his jacket. It is pomegranate velvet from Sarthe, woven with real gold

thread so thin and fine it makes all the fabric shimmer like metal. The work is so delicate that a Law was passed forbidding the making of it, for it often made the workers mad or blind.”

“If it’s illegal, how does he have a whole jacket of it?” Lin demanded. Mariam smiled faintly. “He is the Prince,” she said, just as Conor

Aurelian stretched out his hands to the crowd and began to speak.

“I greet you, my people, in the name of the Gods,” he said, and though Lin knew better, though she hated him, it seemed that when he spoke the sun shone out slightly brighter. His voice was rich and deep and soft as the pomegranate velvet he wore.

The crowd began to surge forward, pressing Lin and Mariam tightly toward the steps of the Convocat. Adoration shone on their faces.

That is power, Lin thought. The love of the people. He holds them in his hands, and they love him for it. It was almost strange, though she had grown up in the shadow of Marivent and House Aurelian. But there was nothing

close to a king or queen in the Sault. Power in the Sault was split between Mayesh himself—who acted as a bridge between the Ashkar and the

outside world, protecting those inside the walls from the forces outside them—and Davit Benezar, the Maharam. Half priest, half lawmaker, the

Maharam ruled over the community of the Sault, presiding over every birth and death, every wedding, and every punishment.

Neither position was inherited: The Maharam was appointed by the Exilarch, the closest thing the Ashkar had to royalty. The Exilarch, who traveled the Gold Roads from Sault to Sault, traced his lineage in a direct

line from Judah Makabi. Makabi had been chosen by the Goddess herself to lead her people: The Book of Makabi was one of their holiest texts.

Mayesh’s power was far more secular. It was tradition for the Court to

have an Ashkari Counselor, who was chosen by the Palace, and had been so since the time of the Empire.

Prince Conor was still speaking, his words rising and falling, strumming the chords of independence, of freedom, of Castellane. The crowd surged

like a wave intent on crashing at the Convocat steps; some gazed at the

Prince with tears in their eyes. He could change the Law with a word, Lin thought. He has the power to decide what is and is not forbidden. And

somewhere, in the shadows of the Convocat, my grandfather is standing. If he were another man, he could take up my cause with the Palace.

Mariam cried out softly, stumbling as the crowd shoved them. “Lin!

There is something wrong—”

Lin swung toward her friend in alarm. Mariam had her hand pressed to her throat, her eyes wide and frightened. Her cheeks were flaming red, and the blood at the corner of her mouth was as red as the Prince’s silk.

Mariam,” Lin breathed; leaping forward, she was just in time to catch her friend around the waist. “Hold on to me,” she said as Mariam slumped against her. “Hold on to me, Mari—”

But Mariam had become deadweight; she bore Lin to the ground with her, and Lin crouched over her, terrified, as the crowd around them murmured and backed away.

Lin tore the scarf from her hair and folded it, sliding it under Mariam’s head. Mari was breathing hard, her lips tinged faintly with blue. Lin’s chest tightened with panic; she did not have her physician’s satchel with her, or any of the tools of her doctor’s trade. She was surrounded by malbushim— some were staring, but most were ignoring her and Mari. They would

believe it was not imperative upon them to help Ashkar. The Ashkar were meant to help themselves, but Lin had no idea how she could get Mari back to the Sault like this—

The crowd parted. Lin heard shouts and the scrape of carriage wheels on stone. She looked up and saw, ringed in a haze of bright sunlight, a carriage the color of flames, red and gold. The blazon of Castellane, the golden lion, snarled from its painted place on the door.

A Palace carriage.

She blinked up at it, dazed. Felt Mari’s hand on her wrist, heard her murmur a question, and then the driver clambered down from his seat perched at the front of the carriage. He had gray hair and wore the livery of the Arrow Squadron; he bent down to lift Mari, who cried out weakly.

Lin sprang to her feet. “You’re hurting her—”

“Mayesh Bensimon’s orders,” the man said crisply. “To take you both back to the Sault. Or would you rather I left you to walk?”

Mayesh. Lin knew she ought not be surprised—who else would have sent a Palace carriage for her? She said nothing as the man brought Mari into the carriage, laying her down across a velvet-upholstered seat.

She glanced up toward the top of the Grieving Stairs. She half expected to see Mayesh there, lurking in the shadows behind the Prince, but there

was nothing: only Conor Aurelian, his hands outstretched to the crowd. She thought he glanced at her for a moment as she climbed into the carriage after Mariam, but there was too much of a distance between them. Surely

she was imagining things.

The man slammed the door after her as Lin sat down and drew Mari’s head into her lap. Mari’s eyes were closed, blood crusted at the corners of her mouth. Lin stroked her hair as the carriage began to move, and only then realized she had forgotten something in the square.

Glancing out the window, she saw her bloodstained scarf, fluttering like a broken bird’s wing on the pavement. Something about the sight of it seemed unlucky. She shuddered and looked away.



Many ask now whether there was a time when everyone performed magic, but the answer is that there was no such time. It is true that there was once no body that controlled magic, no great authority that ruled how people could use it. But that does not mean everyone is born with the talent for it.

The great scholar Jibar has said that it is best to think of magic like music. Some have aptitude for it, while some have the ability to learn it note by note. The greatest users of magic, those who rise to become sorcerers, have both.

Tales of the Sorcerer-Kings, Laocantus Aurus Iovit III

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