Cyneric sat in a soft, overstuffed old chair in the common room of the Messenger's Mosque in Woodland city, his attention fixed on the worn leather-bound book that rested on his knees. Despite the summer's heat that was scarcely allayed by the open window at his back, he had the hood of his carnelian-colored robe pulled tightly over his head. Whenever he turned a page, he would hastily rehide his hands in the loose sleeves, as though caught by a chill- or else trying to keep them out of sight.
He was so engrossed in trying to decipher the faded words of a long-ago scribe that he failed to notice when someone approached. It wasn't until the voice had said his name for a third time that he jumped, nearly knocking the book off his lap. He managed to catch this just before it hit the floor, but his page had been lost; he muttered a quiet curse under his breath. The book safe, he raised his head, moving slowly to keep his face hidden in the shadow of his hood. He had gotten quite tired of the curious stares his colleagues had given him all afternoon and had decided that feeling nearly suffocated by the heavy fabric was a better option.
When he saw the dark haired woman standing before him, a look of amusement on her face, he realized how immersed in his reading and thoughts he had been; he should have been able to recognize that voice! He rose and placed his book carefully on the seat cushion before catching the woman in a brief embrace.
″About time you noticed me, Cyn,″ she said as she hugged him back, ″I was afraid I'd have to send a herd of cattle into the room to get your attention.″ Her brown eyes showed the mischievous gleam that he knew so well. It had been a few months since their paths had last crossed, but she had been one of his closest friends for a very long time.
As he took her hand to pull her over to the row of chairs, he replied, ″I rather doubt that you could fit them through the door or squeeze them past the mail room. I cannot see that Armand would appreciate you damaging his mosque. That's what the acolytes are for.″
The woman laughed and agreed as she took the chair to his right. Liz was a few years older than he and, as another Messenger of the same rank, she was garbed in a red robe identical to his own- other than her hood worn down showing her dark brown hair in its usual long braid.
″When did you return?″ Cyneric asked, wondering if she had actually been here for days and he had been too preoccupied to notice. He supposed it would not be the first time for that; he tended to have a one track mind when it came to research or studying.
″Last night. I would have interrupted you sooner, but you were holed up behind a locked door and I was warned that going in there was probably a bad idea.″ She raised a questioning eyebrow and added, ″I was going to ignore that warning, of course, but then I remembered some of the projects you'd mentioned that you wanted to work on. Instead of knocking, I contemplated fleeing the city. Should I have run?″
″Of course not. You would have been perfectly safe in the work room. Well, probably. Most likely, anyway.″ Cyneric admitted, fidgeting with the inside cuff of his sleeves. ″Safe″ would have been correct, but quite possibly she would have left the room different than she had entered it. Not harmed in any way, but decidedly different.
Liz covered her eyes with her hand as though her friend was giving her a headache and let out a theatrical sigh. ″Cyn, what did you do now? Does this by any chance have to do with the fact that you're hiding?″
″Possibly. I could just be- hey!″ What he had been about to lie about was interrupted when she reached over to pull his hood back. She gaped for a moment, much as the few other clerics of Hermes had done earlier that day, then broke into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
Cyneric glared through eyes that were currently an odd shade of bright green, then reached with hands that had a definite yellow tinge to pull his hood back over his long hair. Hair that had once been midnight black but which now matched the lime shade of his eyes. The glare he shot was mostly just for show, however; as a priest of a mischief god, he and his friends had gotten into worse predicaments than this, although rarely ones that were so colorful. In a haughty tone of voice, he remarked, ″Green hair is all the rage in Rinos, I'll have you know. Not wanting to clash, I decided the rest of me should match.″
Gasping for breath and wiping tears from her eyes, Liz commented, ″Then remind me not to take any assignments for the capital city. I look terrible in green.″
Unable to keep a straight face any longer, Cyneric, too, fell into a fit of laughter. Perhaps if this was a permanent problem it would be cause for a serious reaction, but he knew- or at least hoped!- that it would wear off by the end of the day. When the two of them finally got themselves under control, Liz posed the question, ″What the heck were you actually trying to do? You look like you angered a colorblind wizard. It's very festive color on you, by the way, with your robe and all.″
″At least I got 'festive' out of this, so that's something.″ He shrugged sheepishly as he explained, ″I was trying for a spell that would aid disguises and undercover assignments.″
His friend stared at him, disbelief evident on her face. ″As what? A dryad? A holly bush? Are you sure you're not colorblind? What color's that wall over there?″
″White. They are all white, which wouldn't prove your theory,″ Cyneric pointed out. ″I would have thought it was obvious; the spell I was using backfired.″
Now a raised eyebrow was added to Liz's disbelieving expression. Cyneric had a feeling that he knew what she was thinking; he had wondered the same thing when he had caught sight of himself in a mirror. Sure enough, her next comment echoed what he had thought earlier that day. ″I thought divine spells fizzled out of existence when they didn't work. Since when do they backfire?″
″Since now, apparently.″ He tugged his sleeves back over his hands, which had come free again, then gave another shrug. He would certainly be glad when- and hopefully not if- this wore off! ″My hypothesis is that I'm experiencing spell backfire because I am not attempting to learn existing spells, which is what normally results in spells 'fizzling'. I'm trying to create them largely from scratch and the results have been somewhat... well, unexpected.″
″Or maybe Hermes just has a sense of humor,″ Liz pointed out. That was something that hadn't occurred to Cyneric, but it did seem likely, now that she mentioned it... ″And you said 'spells' with an 's'. What other mess have you been working on?"
Cyneric gave her his best vulpine grin, just visible under the hood of his robe, and asked, ″Would you like to be the first to learn magic worthy of our order? I guarantee it will be worth a slightly green hue.″
Without hesitation, just as he thought she might react, she mirrored his smile. ″Count me in.″
Already plotting about how the research might be faster and more accurate with two mischievous priests working on it, he gave Liz her first task. ″Great! Please dig me up some guinea pigs- I mean volunteers- and meet me back here in three hours.″
The woman gave a mock-salute and bounded off.