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I find Alan shaking his head outside Mynar’s library. “I told them the swamp-wizard is dead. Mynar said ‘good’, Lej said ‘that’s nice’, and Emrinalda said ‘well, if he’s dead he can’t help’, and then they all went back to translating papers.”
“They are on a mission. And I will hit Mynar if he tries to turn it into a quest.” I tug Alan toward his workshop; I want to tell him about the girl.
“Where is Taver?” I had expected them to have gone back to playing with dangerous things.
“Some problem with the battalion. He went off muttering about idle hands and trouble.”
When we reach his workroom, we get our moment alone before one of my guards sidles in to play chaperone. I take firm grasp of my temper, kiss Alan again, and remind myself the wedding is in eleven days.
“Eleven days,” Alan whispers, clearly agreeing with my unspoken thoughts.
The workshop is large enough the guard won’t be able to hear what I say, if I keep my tone low. Oh yeah, more secrets. “The slender one is a deaf-mute young woman,” I whisper. “She was the swamp-wizard’s favorite slave because she couldn’t tell his secrets.”
“Which means she knows secrets.” Alan comes to the same conclusion I have, but even quicker. “And she is probably illiterate, too.”
I nod in agreement. “And she could be in danger.”
“She is most certainly in danger,” Alan agrees. “And any other deaf-mute young woman who could be mistaken for her.”
“Oh, damn.” I’m just looking at Alan wondering what we should do, what we can do, when one of the staff runs in, wide-eyed and terrified.
“The Sorcerer and the priests are arguing and Sister Mays is angry.”
I run back to the infirmary, Alan following me.
“You will not upset my patient,” Sister Mays lectures two of the priests. The other two priests are diligently helping with the rest of the party, leaving their brothers to their fate.
“You will not take my grimoire, unless you pry it from my dead hands.” Rage takes a breath and reaches the stillness precluding a spell.
“No.” Alans voice is calm. The only calm voice in the room. “You misunderstand.” He is focusing on Rage, ignoring even the very indignant Sister Mays. “You don’t want to attack the people who are trying to help you.” Alan sounds very certain.
“They want my grimoire.”
The entire room starts to breathe again when Rage decides to talk instead of attacking.
“There are certain spells that are too evil to allow. They want to remove and burn those. I doubt you have any spells involving human sacrifice, so they will only want to burn any spells involving demons.”
Rage looks shocked when Alan mentions human sacrifice, and winces in pain at the mention of demons.
“And,” Alan continues, “If you agree, you will be allowed to read my four grimoires.”
“Four?” I think. Then I realize Alan is including his own, as well as the three we brought from Blythe. Oh, I really love this man.
Rage looks stunned—past stunned. “You have four grimoires, and you would share them.”
“Yes. When you are well, we can calmly go through yours and see what the priests think they need to burn, and you can read through mine, to see what you can gain.”
The priests aren’t all that pleased at waiting, but a look from Sister Mays quells them. “And you,” she turns her attention to Rage, “will not be performing any magic until you are healthier. It would just blow up in your face.”
Rage nods his agreement, and I drag Alan out, before the priests remember they have only vetted three of his grimoires.
“You might want to consider that the priests haven’t seen your own grimoire yet,” I point out in a whisper as we go down the stairs toward the courtyard. “I’m sure you don’t want them to take your demon-summoning spells, too.” And I’m definitely sure I don’t know why I am warning him, instead of reminding the priests they have another unvetted grimoire to deal with.
“I don’t care if they burn that spell; I promised your mother.”
I think about this for a moment. Nope, not believing it. “Did you do a really good job of hiding your other copy?”
Alan looks at me for a moment, then grins. “Yes.”
Sister Mays finds me just before the evening meal. “We used the baths to be sure all remnants of the tattoos are gone.”
“Thank you.” I am more than grateful, not just for her actions, but for remembering when I hadn’t.
“I will be staying in the infirmary the next few days, to assure my patients aren’t bothered. Daver has organized everything, including our meals.” Of course Daver has arranged everything.
“Did they tell you anything about what happened?”
“No, and they won’t. They told me Rage and Dker are the heroes of the story, so it is Rage’s to tell. And it will be days before I will let him try. I am still amazed his leg didn’t turn gangrenous. Black Cats indeed.”
As I watch her leave, I move back into the shadows at the edge of the hall. “Did any of them, except Rage, smell of Sorcery?” I should have though of this earlier, but as things are now, the Sword would have warned me without my asking. Wouldn’t he?
“Rage mostly smells of Sorcery. The rest of them, nothing.”
“What do you mean mostly?”
“Rage smells, but not as foul as the others. It may be because he was weakened by the fight.”
My attention is caught by a stirring in the hall. Daver is arranging screens and braziers at the head table, signaling mother is coming down to the evening meal, so I go to make sure Mynar will be there. It turns out that Emrinalda is the hardest to get out of the library, but I manage to get all three of them seated before mother and father arrive.
“Where is Jes?”
“He went to tell the Shaman that the swamp-wizard is dead.”
Well, if he is dream-talking, we won’t see him until late tomorrow, at least everyone else will be here.
Mother is looking so much better it is startling, and father is really smiling instead of pretending. With the traitor dead and the swamp-wizard dead, they likely believe our worst problems are over. And the succession for the Sword ensured, I remember to add to my mental list. I guess we have had a good year for resolving problems.
Father doesn’t bother to keep his voice low as he questions me at supper. Too many people saw the arrival of the ragged little party and heard Rage’s pronouncement for us to be able to keep any of it secret. The main question is who to invite to the great hall to hear Rage’s story first hand once Sister Mays feels he is healed enough to tell it.
“We should invite the Master Bard,” father decides. “He may want to turn the story into an epic.”
“And the journeyman bard who sings in the lesser main square.” I have grown fond of our musical but historically inaccurate bard; I should probably find out his name. “And Dena should definitely not be there.” She hasn’t managed to make me jealous, but she has managed to really annoy me.
Mother’s look conveys we will talk about this later as clearly as if she spoke it aloud. I nod in answer. Father pretends he doesn’t hear me; he leaves problems like Dena to mother.
“I don’t suppose…Well, is Rage a Sorcerer?” Father is so clearly hoping he’s really a Mage, too.
“Yes.” Not going to share the mostly until we find out if the difference the Sword noticed is just fatigue. “But he is the Sorcerer who killed the swamp-wizard.”
“Then I guess we will have to let him stay. Unless,” father adds hopefully, “He doesn’t want to stay.”