“But isn’t that what happened?” Grace scooted closer, peering over the book. “A single form of magic rising to power.”
“In a manner of speaking. But the Conduits are servants of the people they are sworn to protect. And while I may lead the Conduits, there is a governing body above me.”
“Magister, I don’t understand why you’re telling us this.” Fin pulled his coat around himself. “What does this have to do with what’s happening?”
Rochester bowed his head, hiding his face in his hood. “I’m afraid this has everything to do with what’s happening.” He looked up and locked eyes with Fin. “I read the section about the Soulless. What do you make about the notes in the margin?”
Fin shook his head. “I don’t know. The information there has been true so far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lies mixed in with the truth. We’re desperate. Maybe whomever wrote that was counting on that.”
“It almost makes it sound like the Conduit program was made for the swords to fail.” Grace was still, her head down. “To create more Soulless.”
“While you are wise to cast doubt on what you’ve read, Fin, Grace is far closer to the mark.”
Grace gasped, and Fin sat up straight.
“The origin of the Soulless has kind of been passed off as an accident. The man that wrote those notes, Brandon Jacobus, is right. The creators of the Conduits wanted our souls to burn.” Rochester was quiet. He stood and turned away from them. “Why do you think our magic is so ineffective at destroying the Soulless? Our magic created them.”
Fin grabbed the book, flipping through the pages. “But sir, even if that was true, how would you know that?”
Rochester turned and faced Fin. “Think about it. Your magic didn’t hurt them. How did you kill them?”
“I used my magic!”
Grace placed a hand on Fin’s arm. “You killed the Thief with ash. You killed the first Soulless with meteorites. Stone. You killed the other Soulless at Times Square by dropping a building on them.”
“Stone.” Fin stared at the table.
“When you successfully killed the Soulless, Fin, it wasn’t a direct result of soul magic. It had elements of elemental magic. You used the earth to kill them.” Rochester slid the book back over to Fin. He had turned it back to the page on the Elementalist. “The Elementalist that saved you used fire drawn from the elements. Think harder, Fin.”
“Brandon wrote that using the soul for magic was unnatural. And the Soulless are the most unnatural thing I’ve ever seen.”
“So, natural magic can kill them, because it’s the opposite.”
Rochester smiled. “That’s right. Which is why it’s so important to find that Elementalist. We’re going to need all the help we can get. The Soulless won’t be content with a broken city for long. They’ll keep going, burning everything they can.”
“There’s one thing I don’t understand, sir. How are the Soulless so powerful? If we draw our power from our soul, where do they draw their power from?”
Rochester leaned in, shadows covering his face. “Where do you think the soul goes when it’s ripped from the body?”
There was a loud knock at the door. Rochester quickly tucked the book back into his robes as a Conduit entered.
“Sorry to interrupt you, Magister. They’re here. They want to know our next move.”
Rochester waived the Conduit away. “Thank you, Jill. I’ll be there shortly.” Rochester waited until she left. “Travel quick and light. That’ll be your best bet out there. Watch each other’s backs. Find that Elementalist, and tell no one. If you have to, leave the city before us. Leave New Brooklyn and prepare the outside world.”