My guards are still in a snit the next morning, despite knowing for a fact that I spent the night in my own room and Alan spent the night wrapped in a blanket on the floor of the main hall, just like almost everyone else. (He would use Destroyer’s room as a workroom, but even Alan didn’t want to sleep there.)
I have no sympathy for Bevin, he is old enough to know pounding hard on a wooden door is not going to be good for his hand. He is lucky he only has one broken finger. And I’m almost certain Alan removing his strengthening spell at just the moment two other guards attacked the door with maces was just a coincidence. My belief is almost certain, because Alan maneuvered us to the side, protecting us from flying door shards and stumbling guards not braced for the door yielding so easily. (They only have bruises, and are limping just a little.)
So the guards are in a snit, the battalion seems to be vaguely amused and Taver is completely ignoring it all.
“I should hit him.” I am talking to Alan, eating breakfast beside me at my favorite out of the way table, but the Sword answers.
“It will be very bad for your men if you and Taver are seen to be at odds with each other.”
“He didn’t lie to me,” Alan offers, unknowingly siding with my Sword. “You told me he believed what he was saying.”
“I am not in the mood to be rational.” I look at Alan, but mean the answer for both of them. Shouldn’t have looked at Alan. It’s very hard to stay angry when a gorgeous man—my gorgeous man—is looking at me as if I’m the answer to his prayers.
So instead of thumping on Taver (I was only going to use my fist, no weapons) I back Conners up in his meeting with all of the various people who are going to fix the aqueduct system. Not because of any doubt he can run the meeting, but because he still isn’t fully over his stint in the dungeons. I want to be there if he needs to rest.
Taver is working on a master list of what needs to be done before we can leave and go home. If it is a short list, I might forgive him. And Alan is going back to his workroom to, guess what…
I almost feel relieved when the stonemasons and the blacksmiths start arguing about who should run the aqueduct project. All of the sweetness and agreeability from the city has been making me paranoid, as if we need any more of that. Conners doesn’t look too tired; I lean back and wait for him to decide to stop it. He seems content to just listen to their mostly irrational arguments, so I just continue to play audience—as if I am really listening. Even my guards seem slightly bored, now that Alan is safely somewhere else.
“You do know the decision is mine, don’t you?” Apparently Conners has gotten bored too. Both of the guild masters look at him warily, suspecting they aren’t going to like the rest of what he is going to say. (I do hope so.) “Sire Jansen has consented to overseeing this project, since most of the aqueduct passes through his fief.” I haven’t met Sire Jansen, but I have heard of him; he had been knighted by my grandfather and promptly ran away from court to grow potatoes. I think he showed remarkedly good sense.
The two combatants settle down with only a few more grumbles, and the planning finally starts. I keep an eye on Conners, contributing nothing other than seeing he doesn’t get too tired. I needn’t had worried, once they actually start talking about the project, things go quickly.
“You really need,” I tell Conners as we watch the backs of the aqueduct workforce walk out the main door, “to move into the keep.’
“Eventually,” he agrees without enthusiasm.
“Destroyer’s room has been stripped and cleansed; you can do the same with Orsin’s.”
He looks interested, and I see another bonfire in our future. “Meanwhile, there are several smaller empty rooms.”
My attention is diverted when I see a very serious looking Alan heading across the room to the nearest priest, a book in his hand—a familiar book.
I walk over, Conners following me. I move faster when the look on the priest’s face turns to utter horror. Instead of asking what the problem is, I herd the two of them into the wall chamber Taver has been using as a semi-private office, unceremoniously interrupting his discussion with Gregor.
Gregor takes one look at the priest and jumps up to settle him into his chair.
“What is wrong?” Taver takes charge, assuming this is a fighting matter.
“Abomination?” the priest answers, but doesn’t seem able to explain.
Gregor drags in more chairs, overcrowding the room while I summon a handful of my guards and give them orders to ensure that no one, not even them, can overhear our discussion. And to get us wine; I know the priest needs it, and I’m sure the rest of us will too, once we know the problem.
It falls to Alan to explain. “This spell,” he waves the book at us, “Is supposed to product divination.” He stops for a moment, and I hand him a goblet of wine. He looks at it as if he doesn’t know what it is, and then drains it before continuing. “It requires human sacrifice.”
The room is silent. Shocked. Such things are dark fables, not reality.
“And I think it would work,” Alan adds, his tone bleak.
“This must be destroyed,” the priest is adamant, ready to fight.
“Of course,” Alan agrees, shocking him, shocking everyone. “But first, some of the spells need to be copied into a clean book.” I don’t think he means just a book that has blank pages. “The first part of the book has useful spells, helpful spells. We should not just throw them away.”
“But how can you be sure they are clean,” the priest is skeptical, and not unreasonably so.
“The first part of the book is in a different handwriting. I think Destroyer stole or captured the original grimoire, and added his own perversions. In fact, I think that is true of all three books; Destroyer didn’t create spells, he stole them and corrupted them.”
“The mercenary Captain may be telling the truth then,” Gregor interrupts. “Hulk keeps swearing they didn’t kill anyone, they just took people prisoners and put them in the dungeons. And sometimes they would vanish.”
“I need to read the rest of this,” Alan didn’t seem pleased at the prospect. “We need to know what we could be facing.”
The priest looks as if he wants to argue, but what he really says is, “I will keep watch as you do.” Alan looks at him gratefully.
Yeah, definitely more bonfires.