Report
Please switch to other image servers if images don't load. If still doesn't work, report error to us to fix it.
Server 1 Server 2 Server 3

Tobas said. "In fact, they'll probably be very annoyed with Telurinon for making it necessary by using the Seething Death."

"Are there higher-ups in the Wizards' Guild?" Lord Tbrrut asked, startled.

"Oh, yes," Tobas said. "But I don't know much about them-and I shouldn't even say as much as I have." He smiled crookedly. "Fortunately, they can't see or hear me here."

The overlord nodded thoughtfully. "That's going to make rebuilding difficult,"

he said. "This place was all built by magic originally, you know-my ancestor Anaran managed to get the largest share of the wizards when the war ended and the army disbanded, and the Guild was a good bit less troublesome about these things back then." He sighed. "Of course, Azrad lured most of them away later."



"I'm sure that there are good stonemasons around," Lord Tbrrut said.

"Besides," Tbbas pointed out, "h's only wizardry that won't work here; youcould have warlocks, or witches, or even de-monologists do the repair work, if you wanted to."

"I might just leave most of it open," the overlord said, looking up into the dome. "As a sort of memorial." Then he turned to Lady Sarai and said, "It's going to make your job as Minister of Justice more difficult, too."

"My father usually relied on theurgy, my lord," Sarai replied. "That won't have changed." She thought, but did not mention, that just now she wasn't particularly inclined to trust wizards- or any other magicians, really.

Ederd nodded. "I suppose," he said. "And if I haven't said so before, let me say now that I share your loss; your father was a good man and a faithful servant. I truly regret that my own health would not permit me to attend the funeral." He coughed, as if to demonstrate that he was not yet fully recovered from the indisposition that had kept him in seclusion for a sixnight after Tabaea's death. Then he turned to Tobas. "You know, I used to have protective spells around this place," he said. "Wards and alarms and so forth. Not that they did much good against that poor girl and her magic dagger. Do you think you could put them back? They were on the outside of the building, I believe."

"No, my lord," Tobas said. "While I kept it as confined as I could, even to the point of risking failure, the dead area extends over the entire palace and the surrounding plaza and out onto Circle Street to the northwest-I wasn't at the center of the building when I performed the spell, of course, since the Seething Death was in the way. I'm afraid that the wards can never be restored."

"All the way to Circle Street? That will make the parades at Festival a bit difficult."

"It might be, my lord," Lord Torrut ventured, not looking at Ederd, "that we have, perhaps, used more wizardry around here than is entirely good for us."

Ederd snorted. "We often haven't used as much as I would like," he said. "The Wizards' Guild hasn't always been very cooperative. And they always seem to know what's going on- when I want something done, they'll insist I yield on some other point."

"That should change," Lady Sarai pointed out. "They can't see what happens in the palace anymore."

"Which might mean that they'll assume the worst," Ederd said. Then he shrugged. "Well, there's nothing to be done about it now." He turned away, forcing Lord Torrut to turn, as well.

"At least they can maintain their reputation for implacable vengeance," Lady Sarai pointed out. "It was Telurinon's spell that killed Tabaea."

"And don't doubt for a minute that they'll take every advantage of that," Lord Torrut said. "They'll boast of having saved Ethshar."

"But on the other hand," Tobas replied, addressing himself to Ederd, "it's going to be hard to hide the feet that we made some very bad mistakes, especially if your lordship does leave the interior of the palace open, as you suggested. I doubt that even the Guild will be able to stop the rumors of how Tabaea came by her abilities, or to hide how badly we bungled the use of the Seething Death."

"And that will probably turn most of them foul-tempered and reluctant to serveme," Ederd pointed out. "It's been my experience that most wizards are not so reasonable as yourself, Tobas."

Tobas acknowledged this praise with a nod of his head.

"It may be, my lord," Lady Sarai said, "that there will be gains elsewhere, to offset any loss of cooperation from the Wizards'Guild."

The overlord glanced at her as he started down the corridor. "Oh?" he said.

Sarai nodded. She looked quickly at Tobas, the only magician present, and decided that he could be trusted. Besides, it could hardly stay secret for long. "It would seem," she said, "that the Council of Warlocks is interested in leasing s.p.a.ce here in the palace that would be used for their meetings and, perhaps, other activities. I was approached on the matter this morning."

Ederd looked at her thoughtfully. "Go on," he said.

"Well, naturally, I said that I would need to consult with you about it, but that I thought it might be done-and that perhaps arrangements could be made to pay part of the rent in services, rather than gold." She smiled. "Of course, we all know that they want to be sure their meetings can't be observed by wizards; despite their cooperation against Tabaea, they do see the Wizards'

Guild as a rival."

"You think allowing these warlocks in the palace would be wise?"

"I think that if they meet here, wizards won't be able to observe them, but we will. And I think that having the Council of Warlocks in your debt can't hurt."

Ederd nodded.

Sarai cleared her throat, and added, "If you wish, my lord, I could send messages to the two witches' organizations, the Sisterhood and the Brotherhood ...".

"It bears thinking about," the overlord agreed. He glanced at Sarai again. "It interests me, Lady Sarai, that the warlocks came toyow."

"Well, my lord," Sarai said, "I've dealt with them before, in my duties as your investigator."

"My investigator," Ederd echoed. "And my Minister of Justice, at least until your brother is old enough, and well enough, for the job-if he ever is. And it seems that your recent actions have made you my liaison to every magician in Ethshar, as well. You'll be a very busy young woman."

"In your service, my lord." She bowed.

"While we were in port, the rumors among the sailors aboard my ship mentioned you, you know," the overlord said.

"Really, my lord?"

He nodded. "They scarcely mentioned the Wizards' Guild. It seems they credit you, Lady Sarai, with forcing Tabaea back into the palace and trapping her with the Seething Death while this counterspell of young Tobas's was performed. That you offered Tabaea her life, but without magic, and that she chose to perish instead. The tone of the accounts was frankly admiring."Hesmiled. "It's a good beginning for a Minister of Justice to have such a reputation."

"Itisn't. . ."

The overlord held up a hand, silencing her. "The truth of the matter really isn't as important, you know, as what people believe."

"But. . ."

"There are also stories," Ederd continued, "about the meetings you held before Tabaea's identity was known. They say you have sorcerers who would do anything to please you, that a cult of assassins fears you. And it's said you can vanish and reappear at will, that you're a master of disguise."

Sarai was too astonished to protest further.

"You will understand, I am sure," the overlord said, "that at my age, I am no longer looked upon with awe or fear; that my son, while a good man, has utterly failed to distinguish himself in a lifetime of being my heir and nothing else, and furthermore managed to do nothing but flee when Tabaea threatened his inheritance; and that it's therefore very useful for me to have someone in my service who is looked upon as a hero, who is believed to have performed superhuman deeds in the interest of keeping me on my throne, or restoring me to it-and who had a chance to take that throne herself, as you are presumed to have had when Tabaea was dead and I not returned, yet who turned that chance down. The existence of such a hero will, I am sure, discourage attempts to emulate poor little Tabaea. I therefore order you, Lady Sarai, as your overlord, not to deny any rumors about your abilities, or about secret knowledge you may possess, no matter how absurd."

Sarai's mouth opened, then closed. She stared at Ederd, then finally managed, "Yes, my lord."

"Good. Then I believe we part here; I'm using Lord Tbrrut's quarters until my own apartments are repaired." He turned, supported by the guard commander, and hobbled down a side corridor.

For a moment, Lady Sarai watched him go. Then she walked on, not toward her own apartments, but toward an exit from the palace. She wanted to walk in sunlight and fresh air, to think. She did not feel ready to talk to her brother and his nurse.

Besides, she had not yet decided which quarters were hers; should she return to her own old room, or take her lather's?

It was a trivial matter, really, but right now, after sixnights of worrying about usurpers and murderers, World-shaking magic and matters of life and death, she preferred to think about trivia.

She emerged onto the plaza and looked out at the city of Ethshar of the Sands, the streets and houses stretching away in all directions. Directly ahead of her a wisp of smoke from a kitchen fire was spiraling slowly upward.

It reminded her of the smoke from her father's pyre. He was really gone, now-his soul was free, risen to the Gods on that smoke.

She wondered whether Tabaea's soul had been freed when her body was destroyed, or whether the Seething Death had consumed that, as well. And what of the various people killed by the Black Dagger? No necromancer, of any school, hadever been able to find any trace of their ghosts, either in the World or elsewhere.

She supposed she would never know. There were a great many things she supposed she would never know.

But that would never stop her from learning what she could.

end.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION