The Ships of Air
Book Two of The Fall of Ile-Rien
HarperCollins Eos, July 2004.
Cover by Donato Giancola.
Paperback: November 2005 from HarperCollins Eos.
To save the remnants of her country, former playwright Tremaine Valiarde undertakes an epic journey to stop the Gardier. Rescuing the proud ship Queen Ravenna from destruction, Tremaine and a resolute band of warriors and mages set sail across magical seas on a voyage of danger and discovery. For the secret to defeating the enemy and to rescuing the world from Gardier's inimitable hatred lies far beyond the walls of the world, and only the tenuous ties of friendship and honor will keep them together.
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Audiobook: Tantor Audio, narrated by Talmadge Ragan
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So we made ready to leave the shore of the Isle of Storms, in hope of never setting foot on it again.
"Ravenna's voyage to the Unknown Eastlands," V. Madrais Translation
Tremaine picked her way along
the ledge, green stinking canal on one hand, rocky outcrop sprouting
dense dark foliage on the other. She was exhausted and footsore
and at the moment profoundly irritated. She said in
exasperation, "All they have to do is get on the damn ship.
Is that really going to be so hard?"
"It's the eyes,"
Giliead told her obliquely. He and Ilias were just ahead of her
on the narrow shelf of rock, both men having a far easier time of
traversing it than she was. The mossy water a few feet below was
foul-smelling and stagnant, inhabited only by weeds and the occasional
brightly-colored snake. These canals cut through the rocky
island in several directions, leading to and from the stone buildings
that housed entrances to the deserted waterlogged city that wove
through the caves below. The builders, whoever they were, had
used black stones twenty or thirty feet long to line the watercourse,
stacking them like tree trunks in the same way they built their
underground walls and bridges.
"The ship doesn't have
eyes," Tremaine protested. The air was heavy with moisture
and the canal overhung by the twisted dark-leaved trees; the overcast
sky made it even more dim. For years the island had been a trap
for seagoing vessels and the crews who sailed them; the whole place
felt as if the corruption in the caves below had crept up through the
roots of the stunted jungle.
problem," Giliead said, glancing back at her as he brushed a
branch aside. "She just looks like--"
"A big blind giant," Ilias supplied,
balancing agilely on the slick stones. They were both Syprians,
natives of this world on the other side of the etheric gateway from
Ile-Rien. They were brothers, though only by adoption and they
looked nothing alike. Ilias had a stocky muscular build and a
wild mane of blond hair, some of it tied into a queue that hung down
his back. He wore battered dark pants and boots with a
sleeveless blue shirt trimmed with leather braid. Giliead was
built on a bigger scale, nearly a head taller than Ilias, with
chestnut braids and olive skin, dressed in a dark brown shirt under a
leather jerkin. Both wore more jewelry than had been fashionable
for men in Ile-Rien for many years; copper earrings, armbands with
copper disks. Ilias also had a silver mark on his cheek in the
shape of a half-moon, but that wasn't meant to be
Tremaine let out a frustrated breath as
she ducked under a heavy screen of pungent leaves. She was the
odd woman out, with short mousey brown hair and sunburned skin.
She was wearing Syprian clothing too, a loose blue tunic block-printed
with green and gold designs and breeches of a soft doeskin. Her
clothes were a little the worse for wear but in better shape than the
unlamented tweed outfits she had left behind in Ile-Rien.
At the moment all
three of them were covered with bruises, howler scratches and patches
of mud and slime from the walls of the underground passages. The
last few days had been nothing but fighting and running and swimming
and falling and Tremaine just wanted everyone to quietly get on the
ship so they could get the hell away from here. She had also
gone to a great deal of trouble to steal the Queen Ravenna for
just this purpose and she wanted her new friends to like it. So
far they had stubbornly refused to share her enthusiasm. Even
Ilias, who had actually sailed on the ship briefly.
"It won't matter how big the
ship is as long as she sails by curses," Giliead continued
frankly. "They're never going to get used to
Tremaine knew he was probably right,
though she wasn't ready to admit it aloud. Syprian civilization
was considerably more primitive than Ile-Rien's and they regarded any
mechanical object, from electric lights to clocks, as magical.
Worse, Syprians hated magic, since all their sorcerers were murdering
lunatics. It was a minor miracle that they had managed to get to
this point, where a woman from Ile-Rien who was a friend of sorcerers
could talk about this subject with Syprians at all. It helped
that they were a sea people and fairly cosmopolitan, despite their
prejudices. "But the Ravenna doesn't use magic,"
she pointed out. "The steam engines--" She
stopped when she realized the words were coming out in Rienish.
If there was a Syrnaic word for "steam engine" the
translation spell that had given Tremaine the knowledge of the
language hadn't seen fit to include it. "There's boilers,
and you put water in them, and burn coal or oil or something, and the
steam makes it go. It's not magic," she finished
Giliead and Ilias paused to exchange a look; Giliead's half of
it was dubious and Ilias' was ironic. "They always say
that," Ilias put in. He had spent nearly one whole day in
Tremaine's home of Ile-Rien and now qualified as the local expert.
"Wagons without horses, wizard lights, wizard weapons, there's an
explanation for everything."
Giliead shook his head as he started forward again.
"If that's our only way off the island, we're going to have
"It doesn't matter about me, I'm marked anyway," he said
matter-of-factly. The mark he spoke of was the little half-moon
of silver branded into his cheek. It was what Syprian law said
anyone who had ever fallen under a sorcerer's curse should wear.
"And Gil's exempt from the law because he's a Chosen Vessel, but
it's the others I'm worried about. If the people in Cineth
harbor see them come off that ship they could all end up ostracized or
worse. And some of the younger ones come from pretty good
families, they could still have a chance of getting
considered that, frowning. There were a lot of things she didn't
understand about the Syprians yet. In many ways their society
was a matriarchy; men seemed to hold the public offices like warleader
and lawgiver but weren't allowed to own property, and family status
was important. The Andrien, the family Giliead had been born
into and Ilias adopted by, had had its ups and downs, mostly due to
Giliead being the local god's Chosen Vessel. The three female
heirs to Andrien had all been killed by the sorcerer Ixion, leaving
the family in danger of losing their land when Giliead's mother Karima
"They could end up ostracized,"
Giliead agreed. "But that's if we can get them aboard her
in the first place." He didn't sound sanguine about the
It was the only way off the island at the
moment and Tremaine didn't want to contemplate leaving anyone here.
"So you're not even curious to see the inside?" she
prompted, trying a different tack. "Ilias did."
Giliead just looked back at
her, not the least bit impressed by this technique.
Ilias snorted, swinging sure-footedly over a gap in
the stone. "I didn't have a choice."
Tremaine knew what
he meant; the Ravenna had been the only way for him to return
with the rescue party, to get back to his own world. She had
been hoping the Syprians would like the Ravenna or at least get
used to her. The way they acted toward their own vessels seemed
to suggest ships were fairly important in their society. Ilias
had become somewhat accustomed to the Ravenna but he and
Giliead were much more used to strange sights and magic than most
Syprians. She said dryly, "I failed to notice your
Instead of retaliating verbally, Ilias
just grinned and deftly caught her when her foot slipped.
balance with his help, Tremaine was glad she hadn't gone headfirst
into the canal; once her clothes were soaked with water she didn't
think she would have had the strength to climb out again and that
would have been embarrassing. She said reluctantly, "Nobody
would necessarily have to see them get off the ship. We could
send all of you ashore in one of the launches some place nearby but
out of sight." Tremaine was a little reluctant to suggest
this idea, considering what she thought Ilias' feelings on the subject
were. She knew that when he had been cursed by Ixion, no one but
he and Giliead had known, and Ilias had still insisted on turning
himself in to receive the curse mark. "Then you could warn
the city that we were coming before we could sail into the
"That might be best."
Giliead had to crouch to duck under some dark trailing vines.
Pausing to hold them up for Tremaine, he threw Ilias a
thoughtful look, as if he had had the same qualm.
But Ilias just said, "There would be less trouble
under the vines, Tremaine absently watched the display of flexed
muscle as Ilias hauled himself up on a heavier branch to swing across
another gap in the stone. She wasn't sure "less trouble"
was a realistic expectation. But whatever happened, the
Ravenna would be leaving this area soon, steaming through the
unfamiliar waters of this world until it was safe to open the etheric
world-gate again and bring the ship to port in Capidara, one of
Ile-Rien's only surviving allies.
They still knew little about their enemies, except that they
came from somewhere in this world. The Gardier used the etheric
gate spell to reach their targets in Ile-Rien and Adera, something no
one had realized until Arisilde Damal and Tremaine's father Nicholas
Valiarde had somehow stolen the spell from them. After both men
had disappeared, it had taken the Viller Institute sorcerers years to
discover what the gate spell was and where the Gardier were coming
The spell needed
two things to create a gate to another world: a circle of arcane
symbols that no one properly understood and a sorcerer using one of
the Viller spheres. Carrying her circle with her gave the
Ravenna great mobility in travelling back and forth between
worlds. As far as they knew, the Gardier didn't have circles on
their ships or airships, and so could only create gates when they were
close enough to one of their bases where a circle was located.
They had destroyed the Gardier spell circle on this island; hopefully
that would keep the Gardier ships blockading the coast of Ile-Rien
from coming through the gate after them. It would not stop
attack by the Gardier already in this world.
A shout from above startled Tremaine.
"Now what?" They were so close to temporary safety and
she was so tired. The two men plunged ahead, splashing in the
stagnant water. They were closer than she thought; only a few
yards along was the break in the canal where a rough set of stairs led
up the steep overgrown hill.
Tremaine reached the
opening and scrambled up the steps after Giliead and Ilias, both
almost at the top by now. The short scrubby trees and thorny
thick-leaved vines clutched at her and she clawed at the muddy rock to
drag her weary body up. The stairs led into a dark flat-roofed
stone building that was now filled with milling refugees, some
whispering in anger or panic and some fearfully silent. She
shouldered into the path through the crowd that the two men had
already made, coming out of the wide square doorway into the
The little group of
stone structures stood on a bluff looking out over the misty sea, all
probably built about the same time as the underwater city; the stunted
trees and thick carpet of vegetation had had time to eat away sections
of the paving. Another flat-roofed building stood at a right
angle to this one, concealing a shaft leading down to the caves.
Most of the freed prisoners had drawn back
against the dark walls. They were all from Ile-Rien's world on
the other side of the etheric gateway, a mix of Maiutans and other
South Sea Islanders, Parscians, with a few Rienish. They had
been captured and brought to this world by the Gardier as slave labor
for their base in the island's caves.
Wrapped in a
canvas tarp and lying by itself on the pavement was the currently
inert body of the former owner of those caves, the sorcerer Ixion.
Tremaine stared warily at the bundle, wondering if Ixion had decided
to rejoin the living and that was what had upset everyone. But
Giliead and Ilias stood with Ander, Florian and the group of Rienish
soldiers and Syprian sailors who had led the attack on the base, all
looking out to sea. After a baffled moment Tremaine saw what had
caught their attention: About three hundred yards from shore the
low dark outline of a Gardier gunship moved silently through the
Oh, no, Tremaine thought, her
stomach clenching as she moved to join the others. It wasn't the
gunship from the Gardier's harbor on the far side of the island, even
she could tell that. This boat was longer than that one and had
a second gun on the stern. "How long--?"
glanced at her, her expression desperate. "We just saw it a
few moments ago." She was younger than Tremaine, a slight
girl with short red hair, dressed in stained khaki knickers and a dark
pullover sweater. It had been Tremaine, Gerard, Florian and
Ander who had first come through the etheric gateway, scouting the
approach to the Gardier base, and been shipwrecked here. Gerard
was back at the cove now where the Ravenna would be landing her
launches in preparation for taking them all aboard.
Giliead must have already informed Ander of the situation
because he turned impatiently to Tremaine, demanding, "It was the
Ravenna? You saw it?"
Ander Destan was a tall
dark-haired man, conventionally handsome. He was only a few
years older than Tremaine but was already a Captain in the Ile-Rien
Army Intelligence Corps, or what was left of it. He had never
quite trusted the Syprians the way she, Florian and Gerard had, but
Tremaine could tell this wasn't disbelief of Giliead's truthfulness.
It was pure relief; after seeing the gunship, a viable escape route
probably seemed like too much to ask for. She nodded hurriedly.
"Gerard's there with Niles now, the launches will be waiting for
us in that cove where we met the Swift." She waved her
arms. "We need to get moving!"
None of the
Syprians gathered around could understand Rienish and Tremaine heard
Ilias rapidly briefing Halian on the situation. Halian was
Giliead's stepfather and had been captain of the Swift; he was an
older man than any of the other Syprians except Gyan, with a weathered
face and graying dark hair. Halian turned to the other Syprian
crew members gathered worriedly around and said, "Break them up
into groups and start leading them down the canal. There's boats
waiting at Dead Tree Point."
Florian pressed forward, following
the men as they scattered. "I'll translate for them."
She and Ander were the only other Rienish besides Gerard and Tremaine
who spoke the Syprians' language Syrnaic. "Oh, here."
She dashed back to hand Tremaine the battered leather bag that held
took it absently, hanging it over her shoulder as she watched the
Syprians spread out to herd the freed slaves down the steps to the
canal. The Gardier's prisoners had had to be in fair health to
survive this long but some of them were disoriented and shocked by
their long captivity underground and the swiftness and violence of
their escape. Some didn't speak Rienish, so that made it even
more difficult. Getting them on the motor launches waiting in
the cove would be less of a problem; once they saw the boats they
would surely know it was their best escape. The Syprians were
going to be the problem then. I'm not leaving anybody behind,
Tremaine thought grimly. Not this time.
Ander's military team
were gathered around the eleven captured Gardier; Tremaine moved to
join them. The prisoners sat on the broken moss-stained stone of
the plaza in a sullen group, their hands bound with the same chains
they had used on their slaves. With pale skin and heads shaved
to stubble, they all looked alike to Tremaine. Their brown
coverall uniforms with heavy boots and close fitting caps had nothing
to distinguish one from the other. They were a different problem
altogether. Tremaine eyed them, deciding it looked like a
problem that could be solved by eleven bullets.
"The wireless?" Basimi, one of the
Rienish soldiers, turned to ask Ander.
Ander squinted at the wireless
that had brought them the Ravenna's signal. "Take the box,
leave the antennae." It was strung up across the two stone
buildings and would be too much trouble to remove. And the
Gardier knew they were here, there was no point in trying to remove
any trace of their presence.
Ander stepped toward the
Gardier prisoners, watching them thoughtfully. He grasped the
Gardier translator disk around his neck, saying carefully, "Get
up, follow us quietly and you won't be harmed." They had
captured several of the translators, small silver medallions with an
inset crystal that held the spell that converted the speaker's words
to the Gardier language. They translated only Rienish
unfortunately and didn't work for Syrnaic.
Most of the Gardier just stared at him but
one spoke rapidly in a high light voice, the disk translating his
words, "Free us and surrender. You will be
her eyes on the long black shape of the gunship plowing through the
gray sea, suddenly had enough. That a Gardier, sitting there in
chains surrounded by Rienish, would still have the gall to try to
dictate terms was too much. The slaves, the people fleeing
Vienne knowing they had no control over their lives, poor dead Rulan's
betrayal, what the Gardier had done to Arisilde, all came together in
perfect clarity for her.
Basimi had set his captured Gardier rifle aside so he could
pack the wireless box; Tremaine walked across the plaza to pick it
up. Distracted and thinking she was just relieving him of a
burden, he barely glanced at her.
Tremaine hefted it thoughtfully. The
weight and stock felt odd in her hands and there was no safety.
Crossing back to the Gardier, she pumped it to get a cartridge into
the chamber. She stopped beside Ander, lifting it to her
shoulder to aim at the Gardier spokesman. The man's expression
went from stoic contempt to fear, his dark eyes widening in alarm.
Good, she thought. I'd hate to take you by surprise. Then
before her finger could tighten on the trigger a long arm reached over
her shoulder and grabbed the barrel.
Giliead. Tremaine tried to hold on to the gun but had to give up
before her hand got caught in the trigger guard. Ander was
staring, startled. From across the plaza Ilias shouted,
"Tremaine, stop that!"
"They won't move!"
She gestured in frustration at the Gardier. She wondered if
anybody else was appreciating the irony of the barbarian Syprians
preventing the civilized woman of Ile-Rien from shooting the
prisoners. Some of the ex-slaves had stopped to watch, probably
hoping to see her do it. Ander and Basimi and the other Rienish
military men were staring in disbelief. Why do they all look
like this is such a bad idea? "We can't leave them, they
know too much about us! What else are we going to do?"
that." Giliead's expression was way too reasonable for her
current mood. "They're not wizards," he said
patiently. "And they're helpless." He held the
gun away from his body, his distaste for what he thought of as a curse
weapon evident, but there was no way she could get it away from
"Then let them loose and
I'll pick them off on the run." But the moment of cold
uncontrolled fury was fading. Tremaine knew she wasn't in touch
with her own emotions at the best of times but maybe this was a little
much. She pushed her hair back, looking away.
Ilias rolled his eyes and turned back to helping one
of the Parscian women to her feet, obviously leaving the situation to
Giliead, who just watched her calmly. If he had said aloud
"I've given you my position on this and I'm not going to argue
about it" it couldn't have been more clear.
would you mind if I handled this?" Ander said with sarcastic
emphasis. He was past astonishment and on to exasperated anger,
the usual emotional state he and Tremaine communicated in.
"Would that be all right with you?"
folded her arms and told him, "Somebody figure this out right now
or we do it my way." She couldn't back the threat up with
Giliead standing ready to wrestle another gun away from her but maybe
in the heat of the moment nobody would figure that out.
The conversation had been in
Syrnaic and with Florian down on the stairs urging along the first
group of prisoners, Ander and the Syprians were the only ones who had
understood it. He turned to the Gardier again, grasping the
translator, and shouted, "Get up! I won't ask it
Maybe his grim face convinced them,
though Tremaine thought it was probably her he wanted to throw off the
cliff. Two of the Gardier stumbled to their feet and the others
followed, the spokesman last and most reluctant, with the Rienish
soldier Deric giving him a poke with a rifle to hurry him along.
The other members of Ander's military team closed around them,
shepherding them toward the stairs after the last group of
Ander stopped beside
Tremaine. She expected another sarcastic comment but he said
reluctantly, "At least you got them moving. They really
thought you meant it."
As he moved away
Tremaine clapped a hand over her eyes. It would have been worth
it, just to show Ander. He had known her for years longer than
anyone else here except Gerard, and yet he didn't know her at all.
She lifted her head to find herself sharing a look with Giliead.
His mouth quirked and she had the sudden feeling he understood.
Basimi, the wireless box packed in its case and tucked
under his arm, pointed at the gun. "Uh, Ma'am, could you
ask him if I could have--"
"Yes, sorry." Tremaine rubbed her face, trying
to collect herself. She told Giliead in Syrnaic, "He wants
the weapon back."
Giliead handed it over as Ilias came up to
them. He gave Tremaine a pointed look and she snapped,
"Don't you start."
He ignored her, turning to Giliead.
"You ready to take Ixion?"
Giliead let out a breath, his expression darkening as
he looked at the canvas-wrapped bundle lying on the broken pavement.
Moving the sorcerer's body wouldn't disrupt the ward Gerard had placed
on it, but Tremaine wouldn't have had that job for anything, and Ilias
looked as if this was as close as he planned to get to it. They
both watched Giliead lift the body and heave it over his shoulder.
hurriedly picked her way along the edge of the canal after Ilias and
the others, the sphere's bag bumping her familiarly in the hip.
I feel like I just did this. Oh right, I did. The overcast
sky was darkening rapidly and the canal had become a dim gray-green
tunnel as the overhanging vegetation screened what little light
remained. Giliead, still carrying Ixion, had gone up ahead to
talk to Halian, jumping down into the canal and wading through the
waist-deep water past the line of refugees making their way along the
stone ledge. Ander and the other Rienish were herding the
Gardier prisoners through the canal up near the front of the line.
Basimi was just ahead of Ilias, burdened with the wireless box and the
rifle slung over his back. Tremaine had offered to carry the gun
for him but for some reason he had declined.
Most of the refugees were moving
quickly, carrying the injured, helping each other along, spurred by
fear of recapture. Occasional stragglers still fell behind,
dazed by the suddenness of events or too scarred by their long
captivity to really understand what was happening. Ilias plunged
into the water frequently to hand them back up to their companions or
to just get them pointed in the right direction. "It's not
the ones who are still trying to move you've got to worry about,"
he commented to Tremaine, hauling himself out onto the stone pathway
again, dripping with the stagnant water and with his arms and chest
stained with moss. "If they have to be carried there's more
chance they might go dead later."
Tremaine grabbed the shoulder of his shirt, more
to steady herself than him, since he was far more sure-footed on the
slippery stone. "What do you mean 'go dead?'"
Her knowledge of Syrnaic having come from a spell rather than studying
the language, she found she actually did know some of the local idiom,
but this one escaped her.
Ilias pushed to his feet, shoved the wet hair
out of his eyes and moved after the others. "It's when
someone's been caught or had their village cursed by a wizard, and
they just never get over it. They won't talk, won't recognize
their family, won't eat or drink unless you make them. You've
seen that before?"
"Yes, I know
what you mean." Tremaine digested that, not liking the
implications. If the other Syprians were really that affected by
exposure to magic, then that didn't bode well for a future contact
between the cities of the Syrnai and Ile-Rien's government-in-exile.
The Andrien family had accepted them, but then they had felt obligated
by all the mutual life-saving that had gone on between Tremaine,
Florian and Ander when they had been stranded in the underground city
searching for Gerard, and Ilias, who had been likewise searching for
Giliead. And Giliead's mother Karima had managed to reconcile
herself to having a son who was a Chosen Vessel, so getting used to
the idea of wizards as allies probably wasn't as hard for her as the
others. Tremaine had noted that Halian's son Nicanor, the
current lawgiver of Cineth, had barely deigned to look at them.
"Anything I should know?" Basimi
asked, glancing cautiously back at them. The conversation had
been in Syrnaic and he hadn't understood it.
He was a hard-faced wiry man who was one
of the few who had volunteered to follow Ander back to this world to
infiltrate the Gardier base. Tremaine knew nothing about him
except that he probably wasn't a traitor like Rulan. "Just
chatting," she told him.
The first of the refugees must have reached the cove long
before them. As they finally climbed up the canal's embankment
near the bluff, Tremaine foundered in the sudden high wind.
Following the last of the stragglers, Basimi staggered under the
burden of the wireless. Ilias stopped, looking worriedly up at
the cloud-heavy sky. "This isn't natural," he
muttered. Tremaine was uncomfortably reminded of the
spell-driven storm that had swamped the pilot boat when they had first
been stranded on the island.
around the rocks to see the little sandy cove and the even more
welcome sight of two motor launches moored in the shallows. They
were sturdy boats each almost forty feet long, painted gray to match
the Ravenna's war camouflage, with steel hulls, diesel engines and
canvas canopies to protect the occupants from the weather. The
surf rolled in around them, white and frothy, and the wind lifted the
sand in stinging sheets. Another boat already packed with people
steamed away between the tall rocks, fighting the waves, heading for
the safety of the larger ship anchored somewhere in the heavy mist
outside the cove. At least Tremaine hoped the Ravenna meant
safety. She couldn't see Niles but Gerard and a couple of men in
the short jackets and pants of the red-trimmed dark blue of undress
Rienish naval uniforms were helping the refugees onto the first
launch. Florian was at his side.
Tremaine trotted across the
sand, the wind tossing her hair, and got there in time to hear the
other girl say, "Gerard, is this an etheric storm?"
Florian squinted up at the streaming clouds overhead, her face white
and strained, having to nearly shout to be heard over the roar of the
"I'm afraid so."
Gerard winced away from the spray as the waves broke around the
launch's hull. He was a tall man in his early forties, with dark
hair just lightly touched with gray. He was currently wearing
Syprian clothing, battered dark pants and a loose mud-stained white
shirt with a green sash; he was a sorcerer and had been Tremaine's
guardian before she was old enough to assume control of the Valiarde
family fortunes. "It's nearly impossible for us to call up
weather magic so quickly but we've seen the Gardier do it
Florian gave Tremaine a concerned look as she
approached. "Is that all of them? Ander already took
the Gardier on another boat."
"We're the last,"
Tremaine told her, looking around for the Syprians. They were
gathered in a group over by the rocks and Giliead, hands planted on
his hips, was talking to them. Ilias had gone to stand at his
side. That doesn't look good, she thought grimly. She
noticed Giliead didn't have the canvas-wrapped bundle anymore.
"Where's Ixion? Did they put him in the
"On the other one."
Gerard nodded, indicating the launch wallowing in the surf a little
further down. "That's the boat you'll be taking. I
want the sphere to stay fairly near him."
"Are they coming?" Florian shielded
her eyes from the spray, looking at the Syprians worriedly.
"I know they think the engines are magic but it's their only
"I'll go see." Stumbling in the wet
sand, Tremaine went over to join the group.
young man with wild brown hair who was a Syprian poet, was standing
with Dyani, Gyan's young foster daughter. She was a slight girl
with dark brown hair tied back in a loose ponytail. Gyan himself
looked grave and Halian was fuming with frustration and anger.
Most of the others hovered between confused and rebellious.
"I won't do it," one of them was saying stubbornly. He
was big like Giliead, but with darker hair and a boxer's mashed nose.
"It was bad enough letting them curse the Swift and we saw what
happened to her--"
"It was Ixion's curseling that did that,"
Gyan objected. Tremaine was glad he was on their side. He
was an older man, with a heavy build and a good-humored face, balding
with a long fringe of gray hair. He was much respected by the
other crew. "And Gerard's curse got us out of that
you can't ask us to get on that wizard ship!"
"It's not magic," Tremaine protested helplessly.
"The lights, the engines, it's steam turbines and--"
She stopped in exasperation when she realized the words were coming
out in Rienish because there were no equivalents in Syrnaic.
"I've been on the wizard
ship," Ilias began patiently. "It's not--"
"You've got nothing to lose,"
the man snapped at him.
Ilias' expression went stony and he
stepped back, reflexively drawing away from the group.
That did it for Giliead.
He looked the men over with grim contempt. "I'm going.
Anyone who wants to stay, we'll send help back to you. If the
howlers or the Gardier wizards leave anything."
Halian fixed an eye on the objector and said, almost too quietly for
Tremaine to hear over the rising wind, "So you're Captain now,
"Maybe he ought to be," somebody
else piped up.
taking his eyes off Halian, Dannor back-handed the offender in the
mouth, saying, "When I want you to talk for me I'll tell
Gerard shouted from the launches. "We have to go!"
"Go on!" she turned to yell.
"We'll take the other boat." I hope. She could
feel the sphere shaking violently in its bag and wondered if it was
responding to the argument or the growing storm.
"The thing is, Dannor,"
Halian said, still softly, "Either you're making yourself
Captain, or you're not."
Dannor breathed hard,
something flat and desperate in his eyes. Halian had been
Cineth's warleader once, Tremaine remembered. Dannor looked like
he knew why Halian had been chosen for that job and didn't want to
find out all over again. He stared out toward where the Ravenna
lay, obscured by the heavy mist and the black rocks that sheltered the
cove. A scatter of raindrops pelted the sand around them and
thunder rumbled. "Halian, I--"
Halian's grim expression
didn't soften. "Do you really think I'd ask you to do this
if it wasn't the only choice?"
Gerard had splashed back out
of the surf and started across the beach toward them. The other
boat was leaving, she could see Florian standing in the stern watching
them, hanging on to a stanchion as it fought the waves. The last
one, empty but for two Rienish sailors, still waited. Tremaine
was turning to tell Gerard to go back when sand suddenly blew up in
her face and something shoved her hard from behind. She hit the
wet beach face first.
The next thing she
knew Gerard was dragging her upright, the sphere's bag knocking her in
the stomach as she got her feet under her. "Ow,"
Tremaine protested weakly. Her ears rang, her head pounded, her
teeth hurt. After everything else, it seemed especially unfair.
"What happened?" The Syprians were scattered around
her, sprawled in the sand or struggling to their feet.
Gerard spoke urgently
but his voice sounded far away over the ringing in her ears.
Giliead staggered upright, shaking his head, and Ilias rolled over,
Tremaine gave up on trying to hear Gerard and
looked around for the source of the explosion. She saw with
shock that the big rock they had been standing near was missing a
large chunk off the top. She could smell burning and the
aftermath of a lightning strike. She pointed at it, tugging on
Gerard's sleeve, trying to get him to look. "They're
imperatively at the boat, shouting something that sounded tinny and
far away. Ilias managed to struggle up and Giliead pulled Halian
to his feet. He started pushing the others toward the beach.
Tremaine reached to help Dyani but Gerard grabbed the other girl's arm
and hauled them both toward the water.
overhead, lighting up the gray sky, and Tremaine flinched.
"What was that?" she demanded again.
Gerard's voice still
sounded too far away but this time she understood his shout.
"It's lightning, etheric lightning. The Gardier generated
this storm and the lightning is aiming for us."
Damn. Tremaine stared up, stumbling
as another flash lit the sky. The men on the boat were waving
urgently for them to hurry. "Us specifically?"
She looked around and saw with relief all the Syprians were with them,
no one was staying behind. Dannor and Halian were half-carrying
"Anything human," Gerard clarified.
"Why aren't we dead?"
Dyani asked, looking up in terror at the flashes shooting across the
"The sphere is deflecting
Dyani probably didn't understand what that meant
but Tremaine was a little reassured. Arisilde, locked inside the
sphere, was fighting the Gardier spells for them.
They stumbled into the surf and the
cool water shocked Tremaine out of her daze. Staggering in the
waves they reached the boat. Tremaine grabbed the railing and
looked for Ilias. She found him when he caught her around the
waist and lifted her over the side.
The floorboards were already drenched with
spray. Others tumbled in and Tremaine helped Gerard and Dyani
steady Gyan as Halian boosted him up to climb the rail. The
older man's face was red and he was breathing hard; Tremaine hoped he
wasn't having a heart seizure. Then she saw the gray hair at
back of his head was matted with blood and realized he must have been
hit by a fragment of the shattered rock.
Giliead was the last to
scramble in. The engine coughed to life, making the Syprians
flinch in alarm, and the boat began to plow forward against the waves,
taking them away from the island.
The wall rose out of the sea and the fog, up and up, bigger than a
mountain, taking up all the horizon like another sky....
"Ravenna's voyage to the
Unknown Eastlands," Abignon Translation
thought the water in the cove was rough but as the launch left the
shelter of the rocks, the high waves flung it into a violent roll.
She slid from her seat to the deck, clutching the bench and trying
valiantly to keep her stomach down where it was supposed to be.
She hadn't ever been sea sick before but the waves tossed the boat
like a tin cup.
Gerard pushed his way up to the bow and held on to the
rail next to the sailor wrestling with the wheel. Everyone else
was clinging to the seats, trying to brace themselves. Ilias was
beside Tremaine, gripping a stanchion, and Giliead was braced next to
him. Even with the wind and the spray in their faces they were
watching something with awed expressions. Whatever it was
Tremaine didn't think she wanted to see it. The sudden onset of
nausea had sucked any interest in staying alive right out of her; it
was almost like being back home again. Then the wind died
suddenly and she realized the sea was less violent, the boat's wild
dips and sways less agonizing. She grabbed the rail and dragged
herself up a little to look.
At first all she saw was a giant gray wall.
She thought it was mist or a low cloud formation, then she realized it
was the Ravenna, looming over the little boat like an
avalanche. Ilias and Giliead must have been watching her advance
The pilot turned from the wheel to shout,
"We're all right now! She's come to our windward side so
we're in her lee."
Oh good, an optimist, Tremaine thought.
"She's shielding us from the wind," she translated it into
Syrnaic for the Syprians, though being sailors they probably didn't
need her to tell them what had happened.
chugged rapidly toward the Ravenna now, making good progress
over the still rough sea. Peering up at the ship, Tremaine could
see a few lights glowing along the upper decks and a searchlight
sweeping the water, fixing on the launch to guide it in. The
gray paint made the ship fade into the heavy overcast sky and her
upper decks were draped in mist. It fell over the ship like a
giant's shroud, catching in diaphanous streamers on the three enormous
smokestacks. In actual physical size she didn't dwarf the island
behind them but she gave the impression she wanted to try.
The Ravenna had been built to be a passenger liner, the largest
in the Lenaire Solar line, and she was far from home, just like
everyone else from Ile-Rien.
approaching the liner by sea was more daunting than just walking up to
her on the dock; the Ravenna was free now and all powerful in
her element. As they drew steadily closer to that great gray
wall, Tremaine suddenly remembered the smashed warehouse and the
sheared-off pier, victims of a miscalculation during the ship's
leave-taking from Port Rel. It had seemed funny at the time; it
brought the little boat alongside the wall between dangling cables,
then worked frantically with the other crewman's help to get them
locked in place at either end of the boat. With the others,
Tremaine stared nervously at the huge hull so dangerously close that
she could count rivets. Gerard stood at the wheel, holding it
steady as the two seamen worked. She saw Gyan on the other side,
up toward the bow with Arites and Dyani; he looked a little better
though his face was gray in the dim light. He was staring at
the Ravenna with nervous astonishment. Halian shouldered
his way back through the others, his face intent, leaning over to ask
Tremaine, "What are they doing?"
Giliead and Ilias both leaned in to
hear her answer. She swallowed to clear her throat and said,
"They hook those cables to the front and the back and then
there's an electric winch to haul the boat up to the deck where they
uh...keep boats." She knew about the procedure in principle
but had never gone through it herself.
Giliead and Halian exchanged a dubious look and Ilias leaned
back on the rail, craning his neck to look up at the height above
Halian nodded in resignation,
squeezed her arm and said, "Don't tell anyone else."
Finally one of the
seamen signalled to those waiting above and the lifeboat started to
lift, moving a little in the wind. Some men shifted and called
out in alarm but Halian snapped at them to be quiet. It seemed
to take forever and Tremaine tightened her grip on the bench,
reminding herself that if the Rienish woman who was supposed to be
blase about all this got hysterical everybody else was bound to do
it too. She saw portholes in the Ravenna's side, then
larger windows streaked with water from the spray, then suddenly the
boat swayed in toward an open deck, bumping against the ship's
Tremaine stumbled as she stood and Giliead caught her
arm to help her. A seaman held a gate in the ship's railing open
and she stepped up on a bench and climbed through it, finding herself
on the Ravenna's polished wooden deck in a milling confusion of
sailors, freed prisoners and people she vaguely recognized from the
Viller Institute. The deck was rolling but it was nothing after
being thrown around in the little launch. The wind was still
harsh but the other stowed lifeboats, their canopies flattened down,
hung overhead in their curved davits, forming a sheltering partial
roof for the deck.
A little dazed, Tremaine
noticed some of the sailors were women, their hair cropped short or
tightly bound back under their caps. Early losses at the
beginning of the war meant there were now more women serving in the
army and the fragments left of the navy than ever before in Rienish
history. It didn't surprise Tremaine that the Ravenna,
designated as a last-ditch evacuation transport when the pilot boat
had failed to return with the sphere, had ended up with a lot of
female crew. It also meant they would all have only a few years
experience at most and that none had ever worked on a ship like this
the others clamber off the boat and then Gerard appeared at her side,
guiding her to an open hatch. A seaman stood beside it,
motioning for them to hurry. Tremaine dragged her feet, looking
back to make sure the Syprians were following, then ducked inside.
Getting out of the wind was an
immediate relief; with everyone else Tremaine jostled down a narrow
wood-panelled stairwell that opened abruptly into a large area,
brightly lit and teeming with refugees from the Gardier base, more
Viller Institute staff and crew members trying to get them all to go
somewhere. Voices spoke urgently in Rienish, Maiutan, Parscian;
freed slaves who had held together throughout the battle and the trek
across the island were falling down on the tiled floor and weeping
with relief. Tremaine stumbled and leaned on a wall of finely
polished cherrywood. Over the heads of the crowd, she spotted
green marble pillars and the top of a glassed-in kiosk.
"Promenade deck," she said to herself, relieved. Now
she had her bearings; they had come down a full level from the boat
deck above and were in the ship's main hall and shopping arcade.
Past the people clustering around she could see that the glass
cabinets for the shops along the walls were dark and empty.
Someone forced his way through the crowd. "There you are,"
he said, as if Gerard had been deliberately concealing himself.
It was Breidan Niles, the sorcerer who had brought the Queen Ravenna
through the etheric world gate to this temporary safety. He had
narrow features, fair hair slicked back and wore an exquisitely
tailored country walking suit. Despite the appearance of a man
who should be lounging decoratively at one of the expensive and
fashionable cafes along the Boulevard of Flowers, Niles had been
working on the Viller Institute's defense project as long as Gerard.
As the other primary sorcerer on the project, his role had been to
stay in Ile-Rien to watch over things there; this evacuation had been
his first chance to travel through the gate.
Before Niles could continue, Gerard interrupted, "There's
a problem. We're holding an enemy sorcerer called Ixion."
Gerard gestured toward the damp canvas-wrapped bundle Giliead was just
depositing on the floor. "He isn't a Gardier; he's a native
collaborator. He's apparently perfected a consciousness
transference spell that can take effect at the moment of his death.
Now he seems to be in some sort of comatose state. Giliead here
is something of an expert on this subject and he believes it's very
possible that Ixion has another body waiting somewhere that he can
transfer into if we attempt to harm this one."
"I see." The crowd noise rose
and fell around them but Niles stroked his chin thoughtfully, eyeing
the quiescent bundle as if they were standing in a quiet library.
"No chance we could tempt him over to our side?"
Gerard's mouth twisted in distaste. "I
rather doubt it. From what our allies tell us the Syprian
sorcerers are all quite mad. My experience with Ixion certainly
bears that out."
Niles' frown deepened. He
pulled a booklet with a printed cover out of his coat pocket and began
to flip hurriedly through it. Tremaine stared. It looked
like a tourist brochure. "What is that?" she
"A map of the ship for
passengers," Niles explained. "There were bundles of
them in the Purser's office. They come in handy since so many of
the crew were assigned here just yesterday." He glanced at
Gerard. "Thorny problem. But this Ixion isn't
resistant to our spells like the Gardier?"
"No, not resistant at all,
fortunately." Gerard pushed damp hair out of his face.
"Does the ship have a brig?"
but there's a secure area meant for stowaways. That's where your
Gardier prisoners have been packed off to." Niles' brows
lifted as he studied the map. "The ship does have an
extensive cold storage capability."
Gerard smiled thinly.
"That's a thought."
Tremaine's arm, asking uneasily, "What are they saying about
Tremaine started. Standing
here listening to Gerard and Niles talk, she had almost drifted off.
"They've thought of a place to keep him," she explained,
switching back to Syrnaic with an effort and trying to look alert.
"A locked cold room somewhere."
He nodded, pressing his lips together.
"I'll take him there."
"No!" One of the Syprians protested.
Tremaine craned her neck and saw it was Dannor. Of course.
"You brought us here, you stay with us."
Tremaine saw Halian's face
suffuse with red. Ilias muttered something under his breath that
hadn't been included in the sphere's translation spell. But it
was obvious the others agreed, except maybe Arites who was staring
around in anxious curiosity. It's a good thing they don't know
Niles is a sorcerer, Tremaine realized. Ilias knew from his
brief visit to Ile-Rien, but he didn't look inclined to mention it.
The Syprians had gotten used to Gerard but there was no telling how
they would react to another Rienish sorcerer, especially as unsettled
as they were now.
Watching with concern, Gerard told
Giliead, "It's all right, we can take care of it ourselves.
I still have a ward of impermeability on Ixion."
threw a dark look at Dannor, then said reluctantly, "All
Gerard turned to Tremaine as Niles called over a couple of men to take
Ixion. "Will you let me have the sphere?"
She nodded, handing him the bag wordlessly. The
lights were too bright and everything was taking on a surreal tint,
probably a product of her exhaustion. As he pushed off after
Niles, Florian appeared, saying, "Were you the last, did everyone
Tremaine stared at her blankly. Florian,
with her red hair tied tightly back and her face pale, seemed oddly
normal against the chaotic background. Tremaine shook herself
and nodded a shade too rapidly. "Yes, we were the last.
Everyone made it."
Florian relaxed in relief. "I've got to go, I need to help
them get some people down to the hospital."
luck," Tremaine managed as the other girl slipped away through
the crowd. She looked at the Syprians gathered around her.
Dyani had fetched up next to Tremaine and she anxiously eyed the light
in the wall above their heads. It was encased in a smooth
crystal sheath mounted in a brass base. It took Tremaine a
moment to realize what was wrong, then she said hurriedly, "The
lights aren't magic, they just look that way." We need to
get out of here, she thought wearily. She stood on tiptoes to
see over the heads of the crowd; her legs felt like
"This way," she said in Syrnaic and turned to follow
the wall around. By this method she found the grand stairway at
the back of the large chamber. She led the way down the carpeted
steps, feeling the tension in her nerves ease as they left the noisy
crowd behind. She glanced back to make sure the Syprians were
following and saw Giliead and Halian both looking around, probably
doing headcounts. Gyan was walking by himself but holding on to
the wooden bannister with another man at his elbow watching him
worriedly. Dannor, who had started the mutiny, looked wary and
she was glad to see Ilias was right behind him.
The next deck was the First Class entrance hall she,
Florian and Ilias had passed through when they had boarded the Ravenna
in Port Rel. It was brightly lit now, the fine wood walls and
the marble-tiled floor gleaming, and nearly as crowded as the main
hall. Tremaine continued down to the next deck, finding a
smaller carpeted lounge, mercifully unoccupied, with one wall taken up
by the Steward's office. It was covered in sleek wood and had
etched glass windows; there was a light on inside and the door was
standing open. Tremaine hesitated and decided not to bother
them. If she did, it would just give someone the opportunity to
give her a lot of unnecessary instructions and orders.
Four large corridors led off from here, two
toward the bow and two toward the stern. She picked the nearest
and led the way down toward what should be the First Class
staterooms. The corridor seemed to run most of the length of the
ship, the patterned carpet making her a little dizzy as her eye
followed it. The doors were in little vestibules opening off the
corridor and she picked one at random. There was only one
doorway in this vestibule so she hoped that meant it was a big room.
"This is the place," she said over her shoulder, trying the
handle. It was locked. She stepped back and gestured.
"Can somebody open this?"
Halian stepped forward, took
the handle and applied his shoulder to the fine-grained but light
wooden door. Something cracked in the jamb and it swung
obligingly open. It was dark inside and smelled dusty, unused.
Tremaine stepped in, fumbling for the wall switches.
Behind her, Dyani whispered like a litany,
"The lights aren't curses, they just look like it."
"It's all right," Ilias told her,
managing to sound as if he believed it. "Really."
"Are there curses here?"
somebody asked Giliead.
an instant too long. "No."
found two call buttons for the stewards before finally pushing the
button for the lights. As the lamps flickered to life she saw
she had struck gold. The lights were milky crystal lozenges set
into cherrywood veneered walls and the floor had a deep tawny carpet.
If Giliead could sense spells it might be the concealment wards
protecting the ship from the Gardier; or the staterooms in this
section might have been warded against thieves at the commercial
liner's commission. If they had, nothing had happened when the
door was forced open. She walked through a small foyer to a
sitting room with gold upholstered chairs and two couches. The
built-in writing desk, the silk pillows and the rich red drapes
concealing the portholes in the far wall were all meant to make it
look like the best hotel in Vienne rather than a ship's
The Syprians followed her with
subdued murmurs of admiration at the furnishings. Gyan dropped
down on one of the couches, clutching his head and groaning.
Halian turned and in a grim tone that reminded Tremaine that he had
raised at least two children, said, "None of you better break
anything, I'm saying that right now."
Breathing space immediately formed
around a delicate little marquetry table.
Muttering, "There's got to be beds
somewhere," Tremaine shouldered her way through and fumbled at
the latch of a sliding door in the other wall. She pushed it
open to reveal a dining room with a fine wood table, more upholstered
chairs, another built-in desk and chest of drawers, and another
"Is it all like this?"
Dyani asked in an awed whisper. Tremaine glanced back at her and
saw the girl seemed to be over her fright. She looked more
intrigued than afraid now. Ilias hadn't liked the ship much
either, until he had seen some of the more richly decorated public
rooms. The Syprians used a lot of color in the painted walls and
floor mosaics of their own homes and the rich fabric and decoration
must seem comfortable and familiar to them, unlike the starkness of
the Gardier base.
"Normally they charge a lot of money to stay here,"
Tremaine told her, stepping into the dining room. She knew there
were even better suites available, forward on the deck above the
Promenade, just below where the Captain and the Chief Engineer had
their quarters. Those were the ones meant for members of the
Pressing the switches for the lights as she
went, Tremaine found two more unobtrusive panel doors that led into
equally lavish bedrooms, with two double beds each and accompanying
vanities and chests of drawers in the same cherrywood. There was
also a smaller plainer bedroom that might be the maid's quarters
though it was probably better than any of the Third Class rooms, and a
large bathroom with gleaming taps and walls that looked like alabaster
but probably weren't. She was momentarily stymied by the fact
that all the beds had been stripped to the mattress covers; going off
in search of the laundry, wherever it was in the bowels of the ship,
was not high on her list of what to do next. But by opening all
the doors and drawers she discovered a cabinet in the maid's room with
neatly folded linens, towels, and silk bedcovers, all in red or gold
to match the curtains and carpets. They weren't musty because
the seals on the cabinet doors were nearly air tight and as she piled
them into Dyani's arms the faint faded scent of lavender laundry soap
puffed up from the folds. It was odd; the people who had
carefully cleaned up after this suite's occupants on the ship's last
voyage had probably never imagined that the next time she left port
would be to carry refugees away from a devastated Ile-Rien.
In the sitting room everyone was finally
starting to settle down. Ilias had shown the others how to get
hot water out of the bathroom taps and Giliead was in there tending
Gyan's head wound; Arites, deprived of paper and writing implements by
the Gardier, was walking around muttering to himself, probably trying
to memorize details; some of the men had just curled up in corners and
gone to sleep. Tremaine found herself standing in front of the
mural on the dining room wall, a surrealist mix of curves and angles.
One of the men whose name she thought was Kias -- big, olive-skinned,
with frizzy dark hair falling past his shoulders -- asked, "What
is that supposed to be?"
"I don't know," Tremaine replied honestly.
Her last dose of strong coffee had worn off far too long ago and the
world felt distant and strange. The surrealist mural didn't help
There was a knock at the
door and several people flinched. "What now," Tremaine
muttered and went to answer it.
followed her into the foyer, saying under his breath, "Did you
steal this room too?"
Ilias had maintained
that Tremaine's method of getting the Ravenna diverted to the
Institute's use was stealing; that he was technically correct just
made it worse. "How very helpful." Tremaine
glared at him, then opened the door.
It was an
older woman, slender, her graying dark hair neatly arranged and her
face bare of cosmetics. She wore a plain but well-tailored
blue-gray wool suit. Tremaine thought she might be one of the
Institute's secretaries or administrators but didn't recognize her.
The woman lifted her brows and said calmly, "Oh, it must be Miss
Valiarde from the Viller Institute. They said you'd be somewhere
with all these young men." She smiled admiringly at Ilias,
who was leaning against the other wall, displaying more bare chest and
arms than one usually got to see in Ile-Rien since the ballet, the
opera and the more interesting demimonde theaters and dining
establishments had shut down for the duration. He smiled
engagingly back at her. Tremaine suspected the Syprians were
going to prove popular, at least among the Rienish onboard.
"We're just trying to keep track of everyone," the woman
explained, "So we can get all these poor people into rooms.
I'll note down that you're in charge of this suite...." She
wrote rapidly on the clipboard she carried.
Gratified as she was to actually be recognized,
Tremaine had a sudden qualm at being "in charge" of anything
at the moment. "What do I need to do?" she asked,
shifting to lean casually against the door and cover the broken lock
with her body.
"Just make sure the dead-lights -- the metal covers over
the portholes -- stay fixed in place. There's plenty of fresh
water for drinking but do have everyone use the saltwater taps for
bathing. And here," She pulled one of the ship's map
booklets from her pocket and showed Tremaine two areas marked in pen,
"If anyone needs medical attention, Doctor Divies is set up in
the ship's hospital with the army surgeon, and some volunteers are
going to try to serve a hot meal in the First Class Dining Lounge in a
Tremaine took the booklet, finding
herself smiling. "They're ambitious."
The woman caught
her meaning and smiled back. "Yes, if there's any delay,
it'll be because they've mislaid themselves in those huge
kitchens." She checked her notes again. "Also,
try to conserve the linens as much as possible. Getting the
laundry operational is rather low priority at the moment. Oh,"
the woman tucked her clipboard under her arm and extended a hand,
"I've forgotten to introduce myself. I'm Lady
Tremaine automatically shook the extended
hand. The expensive but tastefully plain
just-what-one-should-wear-to-an evacuation clothing, the confident
beau monde manner combined with the polite leer at Ilias all made
sense; she was a member of Ile Rien's nobility. The Aviler
family had been highly placed in the Ministry as long as the
Fontainons had been on the throne. She couldn't remember if it
was Lady Aviler's son or husband or brother who had been Minster in
charge of the War Appropriations Committee. How had the woman
ended up on the ship? Had she been in the group picked up at
Chaire? And more importantly, did she know the orders Tremaine
had brought to transfer the Ravenna to Colonel Averi and the Institute
were forged? "This is Ilias," she managed, hoping to
Lady Aviler gave him a pleasant nod and a
warm smile. "How very nice."
As Lady Aviler continued briskly up the corridor,
Ilias leaned out to watch her. "Get back in here,"
Tremaine snapped, anxious to shut the door again. She was
paranoid about her trick with the orders being uncovered. Not
that it had been terribly well covered in the first place, but she
hadn't had any time. And really, she told herself, at this point
there isn't much they could do about it. Except, of course,
throw her in the brig with Ixion and the Gardier. But the main
thing was that it would be embarrassing and she knew it would tell too
many people more about how her mind worked than was good for anybody,
Ilias stepped back in, giving her a wry look.
"She was nice."
Tremaine grimly shut the door, heading back into
the sitting room. "Sure she was."
Gyan was back out in the main room
again, his head wound tended, resisting Halian's attempts to make him
sit down. He demanded, "Do we know where we're headed, if
the Gardier are still out there?"
Gardier. Oh, damn. Tremaine rubbed
her forehead, trying to massage away the pounding headache. She
needed to know what was going on out there too. "I'll go up
and find out." She started for the door again.
Giliead stopped her,
taking her by the shoulders and steering her back into the room.
"No, you've done enough. You're about to fall
"I am not," Tremaine
"Yes, you are."
Ilias took over, taking her arm and hauling back through the dining
room. Kias was still staring at the mural. "When's
the last time you slept?"
"Don't ask hard
questions." Tremaine rubbed her eyes. She wanted to
say that she had to get back up to where the decisions were being
made. Here where the Viller Institute's money and authority
meant nothing she had only a toehold with the people who were running
things. If she didn't hold onto it she would lose even
Ilias steered her
into the maid's room and Tremaine gave in and collapsed on one of the
narrow beds. The mattress was still bare but it was wonderfully
comfortable. She was asleep in moments.
around for a blanket and Dyani handed him one out of the cupboard.
She paused to run her hand over the dark red fabric, saying, "All
the dyes match. And the weaving is so tight. How do they
"You should have seen their city," Ilias told her,
covering up Tremaine with the blanket. Her tousled hair and the
shadows under her eyes made her look vulnerable and soft. When
awake she was anything but, no matter what she seemed to think of
herself. "And that was after the war with the
Dyani took a deep breath, looking down at
Tremaine worriedly. "These people are so powerful. If
they can't fight the Gardier with ships like these, how can
Good question, Ilias
thought grimly, but he squeezed her arm and said, "We'll think of
Arites ducked his head
in to whisper, "Halian wants to talk to you."
Ilias grunted an acknowledgement,
having an idea of what Halian wanted. He stepped out past him.
"How's your shoulder?"
see." Arites pulled the charred torn fabric of his shirt
apart so Ilias could see the little round wound. "The
wizard weapon sent a bolt right through me -- there's a hole just like
this on my back where it came out, but Gerard made the bleeding stop
and a little later I saw the hole had closed up, like this."
sounded rather pleased and enthusiastic about the whole thing, but
then as far as Ilias could tell he had been born open-minded.
Ilias absently flexed the arm he had broken in the wreck of the
Swift. "Yes, they're good at that." The problem
was, if everyone didn't keep quiet about it when they got back to
Cineth, Arites might end up sentenced to a curse mark.
Ilias returned to the main
room, seeing everyone was settled in the beds or collapsed in the
padded chairs that looked almost as comfortable. Thunder rolled
outside, distant and ominous; he could hear the wind trying to bore
into the heavy metal hull but not a hint of a draft came through.
There was only the familiar sway of the deck underfoot to tell him he
was on a ship.
He looked for Giliead
and Halian and after a moment heard their voices out in the hall.
He found them just outside the door, leaning against the dark wood
walls of the little vestibule. The wizards lights out here, like
those inside, were set back into the ceiling behind mist-colored glass
ovals so they weren't harsh and bright. There was a carpet on
this floor too, a gold and brown one with a pattern that dazzled the
eye as it stretched the length of the corridor as far as Ilias could
see, which was a pretty damn long way. By ducking his head a
little he could tell it curved upward as it grew smaller with
distance, until it vanished into shadow. He could hear voices
speaking Rienish somewhere down there and saw a few men come out of a
door, look around in confusion, then retreat back.
Giliead saw he was
looking at the curve in the floor and said ruefully, "It's hard
Ilias nodded, knowing what he meant. A building
this large, especially constructed of metal, would have been enough of
an amazement; that this was a living ship was almost
Leaning against the opposite wall, Halian said
in a low voice, "So? Can we trust these people? And I
don't mean our friends, I mean the ones who give them their
So Ilias was right and it was
time for this conversation. He glanced at Giliead, who just
looked thoughtful. Ilias leaned in the doorframe next to him and
said slowly, "Everything's as they said. I saw their city.
There were places that had been torn apart and burned to the ground by
the Gardier. The man who took Ixion away with Gerard is another
wizard." Ilias held out his arm, showing them the faded
bruises. "When the Swift sank I broke this and he healed
Giliead took his
arm, looking it over carefully. Ilias continued, "But they
have traitors, people who have sworn themselves to the Gardier like
the one who betrayed us on the island. Some captured Ander and
Florian and nearly killed them before we came back here."
impatient. "That's to be expected in a wizard's war like
this." He stepped closer, his face serious. "I
know you weren't there long but did they seem the kind of people we
could ally with?"
Ilias stared at the floor for a moment. He
didn't like this all being on his head; he didn't want to mix what he
wanted with what Cineth, let alone the whole Syrnai, should do.
In his gut he thought the Rienish would make good allies; better than
the Hisians who made treaties only for the pleasure of breaking them
and thought everybody who looked odd was a wizard. He told
himself it wasn't just because the Rienish, like the woman who had
come to the door, never saw his curse mark for what it was, and that
he liked being looked at like a man again. "All I can tell
you is that they treated me well." Glancing up at Giliead,
he added, "And it wasn't like the places here that fall under
wizard's rule." They had both seen what could happen to a
village or town taken over by a wizard: the people cursed into
obedience and treated like slaves. There were towns past the
Bone Mountains in the dry plains where wizards had held sway for
generations and the inhabitants were little better than
Giliead eyed Halian. "You're thinking of what to
advise Nicanor and Visolela." Nicanor was Halian's son by
his last marriage and now lawgiver of Cineth with his wife Visolela.
It would be their decision whether to recommend the alliance to
Cineth's council or not and whichever way it decided the rest of the
city-states in the Syrnai were likely to follow.
need an alliance." Halian pressed his lips
together. "What they're doing now is just
helping ship-wrecked travellers, no more than any other civilized
people would do. But when the Gardier return for vengeance we'll
truly need their help."
his head regretfully. "They haven't been able to help
themselves. When we left, their cities were falling," he
said, trying to be honest. "But their god-thing can fight
the Gardier in ways we can't. We'd be better off with their help
than without it."
Halian looked at Giliead.
When the cities of the Syrnai sent a representative to foreign lands,
it was usually a Chosen Vessel, but they all knew this was different.
Giliead nodded, as if he had already
made the decision some time ago. "Yes."
Ilias took a deep breath. He had gone with
Giliead to the Chaeans and to other lands, but he had the feeling that
going with the Rienish would take them even further.
Halian leaned back against the wall, his face grave.
He knew what this decision could mean. "Then we need
someone to speak for us with them. Would Tremaine be a good
for us." Ilias snorted. "And I don't think she
knows how not to fight dirty."
Giliead's mouth quirked.
right." Halian stepped back, nodding to himself. This
wasn't his first wizard war by a long stretch; Ilias just hoped it
wasn't the last one for all of them. Halian already looked worn
down and older than Ilias was used to thinking of him.
Giliead must have had the same thought.
"Get some rest," he suggested.
nodded wearily, clapping Ilias on the shoulder as he went back into
the room. Ilias and Giliead looked at each other, then Giliead
jerked his head down the hall, back toward the stairs. "I
want to see what they did with Ixion."
Ilias nodded. He was tired,
his head hurt from the storm and his scars ached but he was too keyed
up to sleep. Besides, it was their job to make sure there were
no curses lying in wait so the place was safe for ungrateful
bastards. As they started down the corridor, he said, "I'm
going to kick the shit out of Dannor."
"He's an idiot,"
Giliead agreed grimly.
wasn't really an idiot and they both knew it but Ilias was tired of
his word being disregarded as worthless because of the curse mark.
All his other years of experience at finding and killing wizards
aside, a sane person might think that someone who had actually been
cursed and survived would be the best judge of what was safe and what
wasn't. It's not as if you didn't ask for it, he reminded
himself. He took a breath, trying to look at it in perspective.
"He was right."
Giliead gave him a sour look. "If you
say that again I'm going to kick the shit out of you."
Caught by surprise, Ilias glowered back at
him. "You think?" he said dangerously. They
stopped, facing each other, but just then two Rienish women came into
the corridor and they had to step apart to give them room to get by.
By the time the women had passed, glancing at them with nervous
curiosity, the mutual urge to relieve their feelings by pummelling
each other had faded. Still glaring at one another, they reached
the room with the big staircase again and started up.
At the first
landing Ilias stopped to get a better look at the Rienish style
painting mounted on the wall, forgetting his pique entirely. It
showed a woman in a midnight black gown slashed with blood-red silk, a
glitter of icy gems on her breast. She was sharp-featured but
beautiful, with red hair coiled elaborately around her head. She
was seated surrounded by a group of young men all in dark rich
clothes, with long hair and beards. He had come across this kind
of art when he had gone to Ile-Rien with Tremaine, Florian and Ander,
and it was different from any type of painting he had ever seen
before. "Look how they do this. It makes the people
seem so real." He stepped closer to look at the
Giliead put a hand on his shoulder and drew him back, adding
matter-of-factly, "There's curses in that."
"Really?" Ilias fell back a wary step,
startled. "Tremaine said the paintings didn't use
"The ones in those rooms
she took us to didn't. This one is different."
Giliead held his hand over it, not quite touching it, frowning in
concentration. "It doesn't feel dangerous. I don't
think it was meant to be a trap. It's very old. Maybe it
was painted by a wizard and his curses just...leaked into
Relieved, Ilias stepped close again to examine the woman's image.
"Maybe that's the woman the ship is named after." She
looked like someone that would make Visolela feel threatened and
defensive, so Ilias immediately wanted to like her. He jerked
his chin toward the men gathered around her. "She had a lot
of husbands." Warrior-husbands. They all wore swords,
strange looking ones with long narrow blades and rounded guards to
deflect the sharp points. No one had worn swords when he had
been to Ile Rien but he knew all the warriors must have been away
fighting the Gardier.
Giliead nodded, studying the woman
They went on
up, finding the big room where they had first boarded less packed with
people but still crowded, everyone babbling in unfamiliar languages.
Ilias recognized some of the freed slaves by their ragged brown
Gardier clothes. From here he could see there were round columns
of polished green stone flanking colorfully patterned carpets and more
of the cushioned furniture. There were glass-walled rooms along
the sides, though they seemed to be empty.
"I don't see Gerard." Giliead
let out his breath, sounding both resigned and annoyed.
"This is going to be like looking for a pebble in a quarry.
"No.... Wait, there's somebody." Craning
his neck, Ilias saw a familiar sleek blond head bobbing through the
crowd and started forward, shouldering his way through. It was
the other wizard, Niles.
"Hey," he called when he was in earshot.
The man turned, a little
startled, and eyed them dubiously.
"We need to find Gerard,"
Ilias said. He was annoyed to find himself speaking slowly, as
if that would help. The only word the man would recognize was
the other wizard's name.
Niles lifted his
brows, enlightened, and motioned for them to follow, turning to head
for the opposite end of the big chamber. It was easier this time
because people had noticed them and were moving aside, mostly so they
could stare. It didn't bother Ilias since he had done his share
of that in the Rienish city. And it wasn't unfriendly staring,
like the Gardier or when he and Giliead had travelled to an enemy city
or port; it was just honest curiosity.
Niles led them to the back of the
big chamber, down a short corridor where the tile floor turned to rich
green carpet. It opened into another stairwell, this one gently
lit by cloudy glass panels in the walls, each etched with graceful
water birds and plants. They went up a couple of decks, through
an empty carpeted chamber and then a metal door that led to another
stairway, this one narrow and without the colorful appointments of the
others. The walls here were just the bare metal bones of the
ship and as they went up Ilias caught the scent of damp outdoor air,
as if a hatch was open somewhere. He wondered how far they were
above the water. "How do you steer something like this,"
he said softly. It must be like trying to steer a floating
shook his head slightly. "The steering platform has to be
in the bow."
"But how does that work?" Ilias
protested. They came up into a short passage with four doors and
Niles chose one, stepping inside. Ilias looked cautiously past
him, seeing a room with wooden walls unadorned except for two small
windows looking out into a cloudy gray sky. In the corner, there
was a long cabinet with narrow drawers, very like the one where they
had found the maps inside the Gardier's flying whale. The men in
the room were leaning over a big table spread with maps and papers,
studying them intently. Permeating the air was the strong odor
of that awful drink the Rienish seemed unable to live without.
The Rienish sailors had identical clothing the way the Gardier did,
but instead of dull brown they wore short dark blue jackets with bands
of red on the upper arms, the front decorated with small round
ornaments of bright metal. The color of their clothes can't be
the only difference between them and the Gardier, Ilias thought,
feeling a little uncertain in spite of himself. He glanced up at
Giliead, whose brow quirked, as if he was thinking the
Then past the other men he saw Gerard, leaning over the table
and looking reassuringly ordinary in his Syprian clothes.
"Gerard," Ilias said in relief.
you are." Gerard straightened up. He spoke to Niles
for a moment in Rienish, then adjusted the pieces of glass he wore
over his eyes and switched back to Syrnaic to ask them,
"Everything all right? Oh, this is the shipmaster, Captain
One of the other men glanced up,
studied them with sharp attention, nodding as Gerard repeated their
names. Ilias was surprised to see how young he looked, though
his face was reddened and weathered from long experience at
Giliead nodded to the man, then asked
Gerard, "Where's Ixion?"
"Ah, yes." Gerard's expression
hardened as it always did at any mention of Ixion. It was one of
the reasons Ilias trusted him. "We've got him stowed away
in a specially warded chamber. Would you like to see it --
Giliead let out a breath and glanced at Ilias.
"Not really but I should anyway."
"How do they
steer this ship?" Ilias asked, only partly wanting to delay the
visit to Ixion. He was really curious.
looked around absently. "I can show you the wheelhouse,
it's right up here."
In Rienish he spoke to the Captain again, who
nodded and waved them on. Gerard stepped to the half-open hatch
in the far wall.
They followed him into the next room and Giliead
stopped so abruptly in the doorway that Ilias stepped on him. A
little wary, he peered past him to see a big room, the opposite wall
lined with large square windows.
Green-gray sea stretched out in all directions and
they were so high in the air the heavy clouds seemed almost within
reach. Ilias had seen the view from the bow before but they were
higher up this time; in daylight, even the half-light of the storm, it
was far more breath-taking. "A floating mountain,"
Giliead said softly.
The two men in the room turned to look curiously at
them but didn't object to their presence. One stood before the
center window, holding onto a wooden wheel mounted on a post.
Gerard exchanged a few words with the other who nodded and made an
expansive welcoming gesture.
Giliead moved further
inside, still caught by the view, and Ilias followed him, looking
around. There wasn't much there he understood the use for except
the windows. The other sailor stepped to one of the waist-high
white pillars that studded the floor, taking hold of the lever that
sprouted out of the top and pushing it forward. Baffled, Ilias
glanced at Giliead, who shrugged slightly to show he had no idea
Gerard noticed and explained, "Those are
the engine telegraphs. They're used to communicate the
helmsman's instructions to the engineers in each of the four main
engines." He indicated the squiggles on the pillar's side
that might be writing. "Slow, full, stop, and so
Ilias exchanged a look with Giliead.
Some of those words hadn't meant anything, but he thought he had
caught the gist of it. It was more evidence that what all the
Rienish were saying was true and that the ship didn't really use
curses to sail. Wizards -- the wizards they knew anyway -- would
have just cursed these men below to do whatever they wanted. Not
require them to read their orders from signal flags or whatever these
Gerard nodded to the man holding the
wheel. "The helmsman steers from there. At the moment
we're on a sort of zig-zag course to avoid any Gardier airships that
might be accompanying the gunship. Our advantage is that we're
much faster in the open sea." He pointed to two glass boxes
set above the center window. "That indicator shows the
course heading, the other one shows the angle the rudder is making
with the ship."
with that?" Giliead's expression was doubtful.
Gerard smiled wryly.
"Yes, it's a little daunting to know that a ship of....
Well, of however many tons is being guided by that. Supposedly
it can be moved with one finger."
sheared off the end of the dock when she left port," Ilias told
Giliead. "And smashed a house."
Giliead looked impressed. So did
Gerard, for that matter. The wizard said, "Did she? I
suppose accidents will-- Anyway, let me take you to see
They went down
this time, past endless metal corridors and places where heavy pipes
covered the ceilings. Except for the steady movement underfoot
you could forget you were on a ship. The air had a slightly
bitter metallic taint to it but it wasn't hot and moved as if there
was a strong draft somewhere. But the passages were as complex as
the caves under the Isle of Storms. Ilias groaned under his
breath, wishing they could leave trail signs. He kept telling
himself if this ship was inhabited by anything other than people the
Rienish surely would have mentioned it.
There were trail signs of a kind;
down here they were painted on the slick gray metal walls or doors and
on the decks above they were embossed in what looked like copper or
brass. If they stayed here any length of time learning to read
the markings would become imperative but right now Ilias couldn't see
any pattern to them at all.
"How many wizards are aboard?" Giliead asked
"Niles and myself are the only Lodun-trained sorcerers on
the ship that I know of." Gerard glanced over his shoulder as
they left a stairwell for a narrow corridor. Before they had
left the room at the top of the ship, he had picked up a familiar
battered leather bag and now carried it slung over his shoulder; it
held the sphere, the Rienish god-thing. "There are a few
others assigned to the Institute whose training was interrupted by the
war, like Florian. The ship did stop to pick up more passengers
at Chaire before creating the etheric world-gate; there may be some
among them as well." He hesitated. "I was told
that when the border fell, the Queen released all sorcerers from army
service to flee to Parscia or Capidara. I'm...not certain how
many would have made it."
Ilias glanced back
at Giliead, who was unhelpfully wearing his stony expression.
The thought of unknown wizards aboard made his nerves jump but he
reminded himself again it was different for the Rienish.
Gerard added more briskly, "I
meant to tell you, I've spoken to Colonel Averi and Captain Marais and
as soon as the storm passes and we're certain we've evaded the Gardier
gunboat, we'll head back toward the mainland and put you all ashore
somewhere near Cineth." He added hastily, "But not
near enough to alarm anyone in the city. You'll have to let us
know what would be a suitable spot."
hesitated, not sure if they should say anything about the idea of an
alliance yet or wait for Halian. He felt out of his depth.
Brow furrowed, Giliead said, "We were hoping you would stay to
talk to Nicanor and Visolela."
"Really?" Gerard turned to
regard them, his face serious. "We had assumed that would
be impossible because of your beliefs."
Giliead shrugged slightly. "It's
Gerard gave him a thoughtful nod.
"I see. I'll speak to the military commander about
As they moved on, Ilias
exchanged a guarded look with Giliead. At least it had been
suggested and Ilias supposed that was all he and Giliead could do
without stepping on Nicanor's sensitive toes. Halian's idea
seemed only common sense, but considering how much trouble the council
had had with the very idea of wizards as allies, they had a steep hill
More sailors, men and women
both, came and went down here, either dressed in the now familiar blue
or stripped to brief white shirts stained with sweat and some dark
foul-smelling stuff. They passed through a room where three men
stood guard, all armed with the weapons that shot metal pellets to
kill at a distance. The Gardier used these too but the Rienish
insisted they didn't need curses to work, but a black powder made from
various metals. As deadly as the weapons were, they might as
well have used curses.
"Here we are." Gerard stopped in front of a
heavy door with a round glass window in the center. "The
wards I placed around Ixion should keep him inside. Considering
I used the sphere and that Niles has augmented my efforts with his own
wards, it should be secure." Gerard rubbed his forehead,
letting out his breath. "Of course, we also have the armed
Giliead held out his hand to the door.
"I can feel the curses -- spells." He added the
Rienish word a little self consciously. From what he had told
Ilias, Giliead and the others owed their lives to Gerard; if he hadn't
given them a curse to immobilize Ixion they would never have gotten
out of the Gardier cells. Not without making a demon's bargain
with Ixion himself.
Giliead stepped up to look through the glass and
Gerard told him, "Niles and I believe your first instinct was
entirely correct. Attempting to kill him would have been a
mistake; I think if this body is still viable the spell to transfer
his consciousness won't initiate. Such a spell couldn't be cast
in the usual way; it would have to be triggered by the sorcerer's
death or severe injury." He hesitated, then gestured
absently. "If he can somehow trigger it on his own, we
won't know until he does it."
Giliead nodded thoughtfully. He held
his hand close to the door without quite touching it. "It's
cold. Is that part of what's keeping him inside?"
"No, that's actually not magic.
This room is connected to one of the ship's refrigeration units.
They create the cold." Gerard eyed the door. "We
thought if we made it somewhat uncomfortable for him he might be
encouraged to break cover."
Giliead's mouth twisted
ruefully and Ilias thought, Won't that be fun. He would have
preferred it if Ixion never broke cover.
Giliead stood back so Ilias could look. Wary of
what he might see, he stepped up to peer through the glass, feeling
the cold radiating from the door. He saw a small metal-walled
room, brightly lit. Ixion's new body, still clad in the brown
Gardier clothing, lay on the bare floor. The skin on his face
had a white waxy look and his features were blunt, like melted clay.
From what they could tell, Ixion had grown this body in his vats, much
the same way he had made the howlers, the grend, and the other
creatures he had created to populate the island. It still looked
uncannily like his real body, the one Giliead had decapitated last
Ilias stepped back,
ignoring the cold knot in his stomach. It was just a body,
locked in a room and held helpless by Rienish curses, but thinking
that didn't seem to help. "So when can we kill him?
When we're far from the island?" He looked at Gerard.
Gerard glanced at Giliead and let out his breath.
Ilias sensed he wasn't going to like the answer; Gerard looked exactly
like a healer who was about to tell you that your leg had to come
off. Giliead folded his arms and stared at the floor, as if he
suspected what was coming. Gerard said slowly, "The problem
is that this kind of spell is outside our experience. The books
-- and the people -- who would be able to help are back in Ile-Rien,
in the city of Lodun, trapped behind a Gardier blockade. And I
suppose Ile-Rien itself has been overrun by now." He shook
his head, as if just remembering, as if the idea was still
unreal. He cleared his throat and his gaze turned
thoughtful. "One solution might be for us to take Ixion
back to our world."
Ilias ran a hand through his hair, looking
away. And if he escapes and finds his way back? He knew
Gerard was trying to help but the thought of Ixion off alive
somewhere, still plotting, with them helpless to do anything about it,
was the last thing he needed.
Expressionless, Giliead said, "We'll think
about it." After a moment, he added belatedly, "Thank
Ilias heard quick footsteps out in the corridor and
Niles, the other wizard, leaned into the room, his face flushed.
In Rienish he spoke hurriedly to Gerard, who answered in the same
language, sounding exasperated. Niles replied and they argued
back and forth for a moment.
Finally Gerard turned to them,
looking both harassed and enthusiastic. "Niles believes he
has an idea for protecting the ship against the Gardier's disruption
spell. It sounds unconventional, but-- We can't afford to
be choosy at the moment. Can you find your own way
Giliead nodded, saying, "Good luck," as Gerard
hurried away. Then he turned to Ilias, his face drawn in
concern, taking breath to speak. Ilias interrupted him briskly
with, "One of us should stay here. They don't know what
he's like." He didn't want to talk about Ixion, not
anymore, not right now. "I'll take the first turn, you go
get some sleep."
Giliead hesitated, then
obviously decided to accept the change of subject. He nodded,
absently looking around for the door to the corridor.
"You know the way back, right?"
Ilias asked, suddenly not sure if he did himself.
and gave him a farewell clap on the shoulder. "No, but I
wanted a better look around, anyway."
Gerard asked Gyan what the god was. He asks everyone that. Gyan
said that didn't the Rien have gods of their own? Gerard said yes
but that they didn't choose Vessels or give advice, and Gyan asked
what they did with their time? Apparently no one knows.
"Ravenna's voyage to the Unknown Eastlands," V. Madrais
Tremaine woke from a dream about being on the train to
Parscia with Florian's mother to find herself staring at an
unfamiliar metal ceiling painted a cheery yellow. Through the bed
she could feel the rolling movement and remembered she was on the
Ravenna. The distant howl of the wind, muffled and rendered
impotent by so much metal and wood, told her the Gardier's storm
still pursued them.
She sat up in the narrow maid's bed, recognizing the warm
lump next to her as Dyani. The girl was curled up around a
pillow, sound asleep. Gyan was in the bed against the opposite
wall, buried under a blanket and snoring faintly. There was a
clock built into the paneled wall but it was electric, powered by
the ship's system. It would have started up with the generators
and she doubted anyone had bothered to go around setting the
clocks in the passenger cabins. Tremaine scratched her head
vigorously and tried to get her brain to focus. She needed to
find out what time it was, where they were, what the hell was
She carefully climbed out over the other girl and stood,
stretching carefully. Oh, God, I hurt. She had been relatively
fit and used to hard work after her stint with the Siege Aid, but
after the past few days her muscles ached down to the bone. She
felt bleary and incompetent as she opened the door and stumbled
Everyone seemed to be asleep, piled in the beds with those
who couldn't fit stretched out on the floor. Some of them had
decided to shed their clothes and Tremaine, used to spending time
backstage at theaters, regarded all the bare skin with bemusement.
The lights she had turned on earlier still burned; she realized
the Syprians wouldn't have wanted to touch the switches. It
didn't matter as the electric glow, softened by frosted glass,
didn't seem to be keeping anyone awake. The air was warm but not
too musty or close, despite all the people in the suite. She
stopped in the dining area, reaching up to adjust the small vent
near the ceiling. It was a round bakelite orifice spewing air,
with a metal lever to turn the inner ring to cool or warm, or to
close it off entirely. The draft from it was strong; it might be
outside air, funneled through the ventilation system by the ship's
own movement. There were fans mounted on some of the walls as
She continued on, pausing at the raised threshold of the
bathroom. It was the only room nobody was sleeping in. You could
have a bath, she thought, tempted. With hot water and soap. She
didn't think she was awake enough yet to make that serious a
decision. She stepped in to get a drink of water from the tap,
finding one of the small china tumblers still there though someone
had carried off the matching carafe. Several pairs of boots were
drying on the black and white tiles, the patched leather dyed in
soft colors or stamped with fanciful designs. She leaned on the
sink, looking into the mirror. Her mousey brown hair was getting
shaggy and she pulled it back for an unobstructed view of her
face. No, still don't recognize that person, she thought,
resigned. Especially now, when she should be pale from the Vienne
winter. Whoever that was in the mirror, her cheeks had a sprinkle
of freckles and red patches from riding and sailing under this
world's bright summer sun, as well as a nice patchwork of
greenish-yellow bruises. Giving up the unproductive self
scrutiny, she went back out into the main room.
In the sitting area Halian was stretched out on the couch,
his face buried in a pillow. Giliead was still awake, sitting on
the floor with his back propped against one of the chairs. His
face drawn and thoughtful, he was staring absently into the foyer
where the door to the corridor stood open. As he glanced up at
her Tremaine asked, "This is going to seem like an odd question,
but is it day or night?"
"It's night," he told her, his voice low to keep from waking
the others. "The storm is starting to die down."
She settled on the floor, cross-legged, and yawned. She
wasn't sure how he knew that about the storm, unless he could tell
it from the sound of the wind. She propped her chin on her hand,
watching him. His long braided hair, the soft sun-faded colors of
his worn clothes, made an interesting contrast with the smooth
yellow upholstery and elegant lines of the armchair behind him.
"Couldn't you sleep?"
"I did for a while. Too much to think about." He looked at
the door again as two Rienish sailors passed in agitated
conversation. "I was wondering what your people are like."
That was too abstract a concept to be discussing at this
hour. But Tremaine found herself saying, "I don't know what my
people are like anymore. I used to know, before the war. When it
started, it seemed like the cities, the country just...stopped."
Like Lodun, trapped inside its defenses by the Gardier's spells,
perhaps not even realizing yet that Ile-Rien had fallen. "Things
that were important to us just stopped."
Giliead accepted that with a nod, without demanding further
explanation. This was probably the longest private conversation
she had had with him so far. From his expression he was turning
her words over thoughtfully. Did all Syprians accept people at
face value or was it just the Andrien family, she wondered. They
all acted as if not understanding you was their problem, not
yours. She looked around, distracted. "Where's Ilias?"
"He's with the others guarding Ixion. He's worried about
what we're going to do about him." Giliead shook his head
uneasily and it was obvious Ilias wasn't the only one who was
worried. "Even if we take Ixion far from the island before we
kill him, we won't know if it's worked or not. Not until he comes
"I hadn't thought of that." Tremaine felt a little chill
settle in her stomach. It was the kind of problem Arisilde had
been excellent at solving. But all they had left of Arisilde was
what remained in the sphere. The other powerful sorcerers who
might have helped were trapped or dead at Lodun, trapped or dead
at the overrun Aderassi front, and if the Gardier had reached
Vienne by now, trapped or dead there too. "Couldn't Gerard think
Giliead's expression grew a little less distant. He shrugged
slightly and said, "He's offered to take Ixion along when you go
back to your land. And we appreciate the offer, but it would be
better if we could get rid of him ourselves. If Ilias could see
it was done and over." He hesitated, then added a touch stiffly,
"He has nightmares."
And again, Ilias isn't the only one who'd like to see it done
and over, Tremaine thought, watching his face. Under the worry,
Giliead looked guilty. That had never been something her father
had suffered from. If you don't care for the consequences then
don't commit the crime, Nicholas had said once, years ago when she
was too young to understand that he meant it literally. But not
everybody understood what the consequences were likely to be. And
not everybody had a choice. And you don't know how he felt after
your mother was killed, some traitor voice said. She shook
herself, pushing the uncomfortable thoughts away. "I have
nightmares too, sometimes," she said, though her dream of the
Ravenna sinking seemed far away now.
Giliead shook his head, ready to change the subject. "Gerard
also said as soon as the storm clears and the Gardier leave the
area, the ship will turn inland and they'll put us ashore where we
can reach Cineth easily. Then you'll leave."
Tremaine frowned, rubbing her eyes. I was afraid of that.
"Without stopping at Cineth?"
"Maybe." He looked at her, his face serious. "We told him
we want an alliance, your people with ours."
Tremaine nodded slowly. As the Gardier had used the island
as a staging area for raids on the Ile-Rien coast, it would make
an excellent spot for Rienish troops to prepare to retake the
country. They could use both spheres, Arisilde's and the one
Niles had built, to open gateways to the coast or further inland,
slipping spies, ships, armies through the etheric world gates. If
any Rienish armies had survived. They could still do it without
Cineth's cooperation, but Tremaine didn't want to break that
tenuous tie. "You think Nicanor and the others would go for this?
An alliance with a world of wizards?"
Giliead looked away with a resigned expression. "I've given
up trying to guess what Nicanor and Visolela will or won't do.
But Halian seems to think so."
Tremaine frowned, trying to read his expression. "But we
think Halian's an optimist."
At first the Rienish guards tried to talk to Ilias but
realizing that was impossible, they fell to talking among
themselves. He suspected they would like to ask about what they
were guarding; he was just as glad they couldn't.
He had taken a seat on a wooden bench bolted to the wall and
leaned back, stretching his legs out. He was beginning to get
used to the feel of being underground, the metal walls, the
strange noises and acrid scents in the air, though combined with
the roll of a ship at sea it was passing strange. But as tired as
he was, he didn't feel like dosing off. Not with that thing only
one wall away, he thought, eyeing the door to Ixion's prison. One
of the guards, studying him thoughtfully and perhaps too
accurately reading his expression, went to the glass window to
check on the wizard's sprawled body.
For years Ilias and Giliead had never known what Ixion looked
like. The wizard had been too canny to ever face Giliead
directly, sending creatures or laying subtle curse-traps for him
instead. Then the search had led them to a mountain village
stalked by a curseling; the instant the survivors had described it
they had known it was something Ixion was responsible for. It had
fur and claws like an animal, but metal and wooden parts had been
meshed with its flesh. It had killed the family of a man named
Licias, one of the few who had been trying to hunt it. With his
help they had destroyed the creature but Licias had been wounded.
He was still suffering the loss of his family, alone in the
village and not seeming to have many friends there. So they had
taken him back to Cineth and Andrien House.
And he had been Ixion in disguise.
We should have asked more questions, Ilias thought, not for
the first time, as he stared at the floor. We should have found
out he was new to the village, that no one saw the family he said
the curseling killed. But even if they had, would it have really
made them suspicious of Licias? He had lived at Andrien in
apparent friendship for months before he had finally revealed what
and who he was.
Thinking about it, Ilias was beginning to wonder if the
things the Rienish did, the way they used curses to build and cure
and protect, was the way it was supposed to be. If Syprian
wizards like Ixion had somehow looked at those things through a
distorted glass, twisting them out of their original purpose into
something terrible. It wasn't an idea he wanted to share with
anybody but Giliead. Even Halian might think it was too extreme.
He glanced up as Gerard and Niles turned into the room,
arguing animatedly in Rienish. Niles carried a square
leatherbound case over to the metal door that sealed Ixion's
prison. Sitting on his heels to open the case, he took out
several little glass pots and jars. Ilias sat up, feeling uneasy,
but the containers seemed to hold various colored powders rather
than anything disgusting. "What's he doing?" he asked Gerard.
Gerard sat next to him, holding the sphere in his lap and
watching the other wizard critically. "If Niles is right -- and
of course he insists that he is -- the chamber we've warded for
Ixion will need to be excluded from this spell. Channelling the
sphere's protective ability throughout the ship may interfere with
the wards already in place. Those that shield the ship from view
from overhead won't matter at a moment like that but I'd rather
not have the containment wards tampered with."
"Me neither." Ilias still didn't understand all the
different Rienish words for curses, but he thought he had the
idea. Niles took a sheaf of papers from his jacket and began
drawing lines and circles at the base of the door, using the
colored powders from the jars. As he added something from another
container that looked like gold filings, Gerard made a critical
comment in Rienish and got a sharp reply back.
Ilias eyed the sphere a little warily. "Is it really true
there's somebody in there? Somebody you knew--know."
Gerard regarded the copper-colored ball with a kind of rueful
resignation. "It seems so, unfortunately." He adjusted the glass
pieces he wore over his eyes. "Arisilde was a very powerful
sorcerer in Ile-Rien. He and Tremaine's father had been friends
since they both attended the University of Lodun -- that's a place
for education, in history, law and medicine and many other things
as well as for sorcery. He built this sphere after the design
invented by Tremaine's foster grandfather, Edouard Viller." He
took a deep breath, turning the tarnished metal ball over
thoughtfully. Inside it something clunked. "Viller wasn't a
sorcerer himself. He intended the spheres to allow a person with
no magical ability to perform simple spells. But each sphere had
to be charged by a sorcerer before it would work properly. The
metal even seems to retain something of that sorcerer's essence.
But in the end Viller was never able to construct a sphere that
would work unless the wielder had some small magical talent, no
matter how slight." He shook his head, preoccupied. "Arisilde
was the only one who could successfully duplicate the design,
until Niles managed it with the sphere he constructed."
Ilias wet his lips. He was still trying to cope with the
idea of wizards having friends, and presumably families, like
normal people. "So he built it. How did he get inside it?"
Gerard let his breath out and absently rubbed at the tarnish
with his sleeve. There was pain etched on his face as he
contemplated the fate of the man he had known. "Arisilde might
have been attempting to return from here to our world. Perhaps
something happened during the transition, such as an attack by the
Gardier, and the sphere he was using was destroyed. In an attempt
to save himself, Arisilde somehow sent his soul and his
consciousness into this sphere, which was stored at the Valiarde
family home. This is Tremaine's theory, based on the sphere's
responses toward her and its increasing abilities. It is just a
theory." He glanced up, shaking his head grimly. "But after
Gervas' revelation that the Gardier's crystal devices actually
contain the souls of imprisoned sorcerers, it seems all too
Tremaine decided to take that bath, then realized once she
had wrestled her boots off that she hadn't yet retrieved her bag
of belongings from the Steward's office. The lure of clean
underwear was too seductive to ignore, so she padded barefoot down
the quiet corridor and up the stairs to the office. There she
found it under the control of several women, some Institute
personnel and some from the Chaire group of refugees, all
apparently having signed on as Lady Aviler's minions. They
offered to take the bag of Gerard's belongings to his cabin and
Tremaine accepted, thinking that it would be interesting to see if
Lady Aviler ended up leading a faction and or being the power
behind one. And Tremaine was certain there would be factions.
Walking back to the suite, listening to the quiet thrum of
the ship, she decided grandly not to declare allegiance with any
of them; it would be far more instructive to play them all against
each other. She grinned to herself, giving up the fantasy.
Attempting it in practice rather than theory sounded like a good
way to get thrown off the boat.
As she passed one of the narrow cross corridors that
connected the larger bow-to-stern passages, movement out of the
corner of her eye startled her. Midway down the cross corridor
stood two men, one in a civilian suit and the other in dark blue
naval fatigues. Reflexes common to anyone who walked the less
reputable parts of Vienne kept Tremaine moving with only a slight
jerk of her head to betray she had noticed them; the set of their
shoulders and the way they stood conveyed furtive activity, and
she was fairly sure she had seen some object changing hands. It
might be nothing, and it was none of her business. War
profiteering, the opium trade and other criminal pursuits had
flourished in Ile-Rien since so many Prefecture officers and the
sorcerers who had once assisted in investigations had been either
killed in the bombings or gone into the military. It would be the
same on this ship, which was going to be near impossible for
anyone to police. She kept an ear cocked in case either man was
foolish enough to pursue a potential witness, but neither came
Back in the bathroom she started the water, then realized she
had also forgotten to get soap. It didn't matter; the hot
saltwater bath in the enamelled tub felt incredibly luxurious.
Her various cuts, scrapes and blisters stung a bit but it was
worth it. By the time she got out and dressed again, Giliead had
gone down to take his turn at watching Ixion and Ilias was back.
"How did it go?" she asked him, using one of their few
precious towels to dry her hair.
"He didn't come back to life and kill us all," Ilias replied
Tremaine decided not to prod that sore point any further.
The others were stirring and food was suddenly a priority.
In search of it, she and Ilias followed the map booklet back
to the grand stair and down one deck, then through an elegant
foyer to the giant First Class dining area. Dyani, who had loudly
declared, "I'm not afraid. I want to see it," trailed along after
The room was huge with mellow-gold wood broken along the base
and top of the walls by silver and bronze bands. Silvered glass
panels were set above the columns that separated the main area
from the private dining salons along the sides. The light from
the overheads was warm and the people sitting or wandering about
were far more calm than the chaotic crowd in the main hall
earlier. What must be about half the room's original chairs and
tables remained and about a third of those were in use. The only
reminder of the danger was the blackout cloth tightly tacked over
the outside windows.
Lady Aviler was right and the volunteers had managed to
produce food; trolleys were lined up near the baize serving doors
and several women and a few older children were dispensing bread,
soup, tea and coffee. Tremaine turned to Ilias to comment only to
find he wasn't there. He and Dyani were absorbed in the set of
embossed wall panels at the side of the big chamber. Going to
join them, she saw the theme was "A History of Shipbuilding from
Classical to Modern Times" and understood the attraction. She
nudged Ilias with an elbow. "You think we can get the others down
here to eat?"
"If they don't they can go hungry." Engrossed in the images,
Ilias didn't sound sympathetic to their plight.
"Did Dannor make any more trouble?" Tremaine started to ask
when someone shouted, "It's you!"
She looked wildly around, thinking oh no but the woman who
had jumped up from one of the tables and now hurried toward her
didn't look hostile. She had dark hair tied back and wore men's
pants and an oversized Rienish army fatigue shirt. As the woman
reached her she caught Tremaine's hands and said in a Lowlands
accent, "I thought it was you! You're the Ile-Rien spy."
"Oh, no, not really--" Tremaine managed. She did know this
woman; she was a Lowlands missionary who had been taken by the
Gardier on Maiuta. Tremaine and Florian had spoken to her briefly
when they had been captured on the island with Ilias. She hadn't
recognized the woman at first because the brilliant smile she wore
now transformed her face and made her look years younger.
"I want to thank you." She wrung Tremaine's hands
gratefully. "I thought we would never see the sun again. And
you." She looked at Ilias. "I saw his people fight for us. Who
are they?" she asked Tremaine, "I don't recognize their language."
"They're Syprians. The Gardier base was in their territory,"
Tremaine explained vaguely. "But I'm not really--"
The group at the woman's table was standing up to leave and
one of the other women called to her. The missionary glanced over
her shoulder. "I must go back, but thank you." She kissed
Tremaine's cheek quickly and darted away.
Most of the Syprians who weren't still asleep ended up
trailing reluctantly along to the dining room. Some of them eyed
the food suspiciously, but when Halian, Gyan and Arites ate, they
followed suit. The biggest problem seemed to be that since
Syprian dining tables were only a foot or so off the floor, they
found the waist-high Rienish ones awkward. Arites had found some
old pages of ship's stationary and a pencil in the suite somewhere
and sat on the floor, happily taking notes. Tremaine noticed he
was writing with his good arm, a trace awkwardly.
Having got everyone else settled and approaching the food
herself, Tremaine found her stomach in mild revolt, but a mug of
tea settled it and she was able to eat one of the thick slices of
bread moistened with rich brown onion soup. She had been
expecting military metal plates and cups but it was served on the
ship's china, gleaming white with a band of antique gold.
Then one of the volunteers emerged out of the back somewhere
to call out, "Is Tremaine Valiarde here?"
Tremaine set her bowl aside and stood hastily. "Yes?"
"There's someone on the line for you; it sounds important."
"On the line?" Tremaine frowned.
"The ship's telephone," the woman clarified as she led her
back to the discreet baize doors. Just inside the first was a
narrow little corridor that led to a sort of staging area of steel
cabinets and wooden counters. Through another door Tremaine could
hear pots banging and someone yelling in Aderassi. She started to
make a jaunty remark about it being no different than any other
hotel kitchen in Ile-Rien, then recalled uncomfortably that that
was a way of life none of them might find their way back to again.
Adera barely existed anymore and the fine hotels and Great Houses
of Vienne were probably even now being turned into Gardier
barracks. There was a telephone set tucked into a small cubby and
the woman handed her the receiver.
Tremaine put it to her ear in time to hear, "Miss Valiarde?
You've been asked to report to the ship's hospital--"
The thought that they had discovered she was crazy and were
planning to lock her up crossed her mind. She brushed that aside
in annoyance; it was an old defensive reflex from the time right
after she had been kidnapped into a mental asylum by her father's
enemies. Still, she demanded, "Why? Who wants me there?"
A little taken aback, the voice replied, "It's on Captain
Ander Destan's request. I think it's something to do with the
"Oh, Ander. I'll be right there." She hung up.
The hospital was down on D Deck, where according to the
booklet the crew messrooms and workshops, one of the swimming
pools, some of the Second Class cabins and much of the food
storage areas were located. The corridor in this section was
still decorated with wood panelling and carpet since passengers
were meant to use it. As they approached the hospital they met
Institute personnel coming and going, some leading small groups of
the ex-prisoners from the Gardier base. This caused a delay as
many of them recognized Tremaine and Ilias as members of the group
that had rescued them and they stopped to thank them in a variety
of languages. Ilias seemed caught between gratification and
bewildered embarrassment. Tremaine was embarrassed too, mostly
because she had no idea how to respond, but she was surprised at
Ilias' reaction. He and Giliead's daily life included risking
death to defend their people from crazed wizards; didn't anyone
ever thank them for it?
Then outside the door to the hospital area she saw two men,
dressed in dark suits of an old-fashioned cut and archaic ruffled
black neckcloths. Tremaine rolled her eyes. God, Bisrans.
That's all we need. From their dress these two were members of
the dominant religious sect which completely controlled the Bisran
government. Bisra had come down in the world since it had near
successfully invaded Ile-Rien more than two hundred years ago; it
had spent itself in pointless wars and was a minor player in the
game of nations now. Easy meat for the Gardier, once they had
finished with Ile-Rien.
The two Bisrans watched them approach, neither man losing the
cold aloof expression worn like a uniform. "Who are they?" the
younger one asked. He spoke Bisran, but that was one of the
languages Tremaine's father had insisted she learn. One of
Nicholas' many false identities had been a Bisran importer of
glass and objets d'art.
The older man replied in the same language, "Some sort of
native partisans, I heard one of the sailors speak of them.
They're barbarians, worse than the Maiutans." He turned his head
to hide a thin smile. "Perfect allies for Ile-Rien."
"At least the women aren't half-naked too."
Tremaine realized she was the Syprian woman in question; she
was still wearing the shirt and pants Giliead's mother Karima had
given her two days ago. An astute observer would have noted her
boots, scuffed and stained but with brass buckles and rubber
heels, but then neither of these men had the perspicacity of the
fabled Inspector Ronsarde.
Reaching the hospital door, she paused and said earnestly in
accented Bisran, "I was naked but it's so cold up on deck." The
older man stared and the younger flushed an unbecoming shade of
red. "Pardon me, you're in my way," she added in Rienish,
stepping past them through the door.
Ilias eyed the men suspiciously as he followed her and then
asked, "What's wrong with them?"
"They're Bisrans," she replied in Syrnaic, raising her voice
a little, knowing the two men would hear the word "Bisran" and
know she was talking about them. "They're idiots. Now laugh like
I said something really witty."
Ilias laughed obligingly and then added, "I'm not doing this
A narrow corridor with green-painted walls led back into the
hospital, which was a warren of wardrooms with a dispensary,
operating theater and tiny cabin-offices for the doctor and
nurses. It smelled like every hospital Tremaine had ever been
inside, with the odor of carbolic that was an unpleasant reminder
of the asylum. They passed an open door and she saw the room was
lined with beds, all occupied. A pile of stained brown coveralls,
the garments the Gardier had given their slave labor, lay on the
floor. Voices murmured, a woman whimpered in panic and a harassed
nurse she recognized from the Institute's Infirmary passed,
readying a hypodermic.
Tremaine felt her stomach clench and moved on past. Just
around the corner was an office area, with desks and cabinets.
Sitting perched on the edge of a table, Florian glanced up as they
came in. "There you are," the other girl said in relief. She
looked like she had had a bath as well and had changed into a
clean sweater. She smiled a greeting at Ilias then looked at
Tremaine with concern. In Syrnaic she said, "Everyone says you
tried to shoot somebody."
Oh, good. My reputation precedes me. "It was just a
Gardier," she said, adding randomly, "Why are there Bisrans
Dropping the subject with a reluctant frown, the other girl
answered, "They were picked up at Chaire. There's a fairly big
group of them. They'd escaped from Adera and had been stuck in
Ile-Rien for the past month."
Tremaine lifted her brows, skeptical. "From Adera? From
Florian nodded grimly. "Ander said just the same thing."
"So you think they're spies?" Ilias asked worriedly. "You
people have a lot of spies."
"I think that's why they wouldn't let them out of Ile-Rien."
Florian turned to him, elaborating, "When the Gardier first
invaded Adera, tons of people escaped into Ile-Rien and they sent
most of them on through to Parscia or wherever else they wanted to
go. My mother used to work with the Refugee Assistance group,
finding clothes and things for them. Then the fighting along the
border got very intense and the refugees stopped coming. But last
month these Bisrans just found their way across."
"Found their way across when lots of desperate Aderassi who
were native to the area couldn't?" Tremaine snorted.
Florian nodded agreement, her mouth twisting in annoyance.
"I'm not sure why they were still in Chaire. I think the
government must have been watching them."
"That's all we needed," Tremaine said, thinking of Rulan and
Dommen and the other men the Gardier had suborned or bribed to
work for them. They had had enough trouble with the spies they
already had without taking on more.
Then Colonel Averi, Doctor Divies and Niles stepped in from
the other passage. Niles was saying, "Individual Gardier aren't
resistant to our magic, it's those devices they wear. We suspect
they derive their power from disembodied sorcerers imprisoned
within large crystals, but if the small crystal fragments contain
individual spells -- or if they're shards of the larger crystals,
of--" He seemed to realize where that thought was leading and
halted, his face hardening.
Doctor Divies was the physician assigned to the Viller
Institute. He was about Gerard's age though his hair had turned
gray early and he had Parscian ancestry showing in his coffee
colored skin. His face deeply troubled, he said what the others
were thinking, "Shards of the imprisoned sorcerers. Broken off
bits of soul."
Niles took a deep breath. "It explains the siege of Lodun.
We thought the Gardier must have teams of sorcerers working
constantly to maintain pressure on the barrier, but with these
crystals...it would be simple."
"Obviously their plan was to overrun Vienne, then destroy the
Lodun barrier and collect the sorcerers at their leisure."
Colonel Averi shook his head slightly, his lips thinning with
disgust. He was older than most of the military personnel
assigned to the Institute, with a habitually grim face and
thinning dark hair. Startled, Tremaine thought he had aged at
least ten years from the last time she had seen him; the skin of
his face was pale and paper-thin, stretched over his skull like
aging parchment. He and Tremaine had never gotten along and she
hadn't thought much of him except as an obstacle to be worked
around. Now for the first time she wondered if he had been sent
to head the Institute's military detachment because he had been
judged too ill for frontline service; he certainly looked it now.
"Don't count Lodun out," Niles said thoughtfully, hands in
his pockets. "They've had a great deal of time to make plans, and
they have access to some of the oldest and most extensive
philosophical and sorcerous text collections in the world."
Averi looked away a moment, then said shortly, "My wife is in
Tremaine lifted her brows. It made sense, but it was more
than she wanted to know about Averi. Niles nodded, unperturbed.
"I have a younger brother there. Not a sorcerer; he's in the
It was as if they were both admitting to sharing the same
kind of chronic illness. Florian and Divies were watching them
sympathetically, but Tremaine wanted to change the subject. "Have
you seen the barrier?" she asked Niles somewhat desperately. She
had only read newspaper stories about it herself, and seen a few
grainy pictures which didn't really show anything.
"I have," Averi answered. "It looks rather like a wall of
water." He turned to her. She wondered if the white around his
blue eyes had always had that yellow tint. His expression
enigmatic, he said, "Gerard is getting some rest, but he suggested
you might help us. One of the Gardier is a woman--"
"Really?" Tremaine lifted her brows. She supposed there had
to be female Gardier but she couldn't recall seeing any on the
base at all, much less in the group Ander and his men had rounded
up. "One of the ones we caught? How did--"
Averi cut her off. "We want you to try to question her."
"Me?" Tremaine stared at him, startled that he seemed to be
voluntarily asking her to do something.
"You and Florian have had the most experience with the
Gardier," he continued, glancing at Niles. "We're not having much
luck with the others yet."
"We have time," Niles said with a calm that had a hint of an
edge to it. "There are some spells that may help."
Tremaine hesitated, biting her lip. She didn't want to do
this. She didn't want to have a conversation with a Gardier, like
he -- or she -- was a person. She turned to Florian, who was
giving Ilias a low-voiced translation. "What about Florian? She
knows as much as I do."
"I tried already with one of the men," Florian broke off the
translation to explain. She didn't sound as if she had enjoyed
the experience. She added in frustration, "He wouldn't talk to me
Averi, Niles and Divies were all watching Tremaine
expectantly. She pushed her hair back. She wasn't sure what was
wrong with her; she could hardly give them a reason for her
reluctance when she couldn't articulate it to herself. "This is
hard," she said under her breath.
Ilias was watching her, his face concerned. "You want me to
go with you?" he asked her. "You don't have one of those curse
weapons, do you?"
Tremaine looked blankly at him and realized he thought she
was afraid of losing control, of trying to kill the Gardier
prisoner. And he's right, she thought, surprised to realize it.
She nodded. "Yes. No. No, I don't have a pistol. Yes, I do
want you to come with me."
The Gardier were being held in a part of the ship called the
Isolation Ward. It was in the far end of the stern and walled off
from the inside corridors, requiring you to go along the covered
Promenade deck, leave its shelter for the open deck area off the
stern, go down a set of steps to a lower open deck, then down a
stairway and into a warren of small secure rooms with white-washed
walls. It was technically part of the ship's hospital system, a
place for patients who came down with infectious diseases. In
reality, it was a brig for stowaways.
To question the prisoners they were using a small treatment
room that had a metal ventilation grille in one wall, allowing
observers in the outer room to hear the conversation inside.
Standing in that anteroom with the guard, Averi gave Tremaine
a Gardier translator disk. After what Niles had said about
fragments of souls, Tremaine accepted it reluctantly. She hadn't
noticed before, but the surface of the crystal set into the metal
disk felt greasy, like a decomposing bone; she told herself that
was just her imagination. Averi already wore one around his neck
so he could follow the conversation behind the grille. He said
roughly, "There's a guard in with her. I'm not expecting you to
get their invasion plans for Parscia and Capidara out of her, just
to get her talking."
"Right." She couldn't tell what Averi thought; he hadn't
objected to Ilias accompanying her. As the Colonel turned to open
the door, Ilias' mouth quirked in an encouraging smile.
The treatment room had been stripped to bare whitewashed
walls. A young man in gray Rienish army fatigues stood in the
corner, one hand on his holstered pistol. His eyes went to
Tremaine and Ilias as they entered, acknowledging them with a
Tremaine's eyes went immediately to the other occupant; she
had resolved not to make the mistake of showing shyness or
diffidence even unintentionally. The Gardier prisoner was seated
on a wooden chair, her hands bound with the manacles the Gardier
had used for their slaves.
It was the one who had opened his -- her -- mouth, the one
Tremaine had decided to shoot first. The Gardier was tall, lean
and small-breasted, her face dirty from the battle, the skin on
her cheeks reddened and raw. This didn't stir any sympathy in
Tremaine's heart; the secure rooms for stowaways would have bunks
with mattresses and bedding, sinks with hot running water and
toilets. Compared to the conditions the Gardier had kept their
prisoners and slaves in, it was practically the Hotel Galvaz.
While Tremaine was still looking her over thoughtfully, the
prisoner spoke first. "You were the one who wanted to kill us. I
thought it was an act."
Tremaine felt her face move in a smile. "I'm not much of an
actress." The Gardier's voice was husky but high in pitch.
Tremaine had noted that on the island but not the other details;
the smoothness of her throat and the shape of her hairline,
visible now that her cap had been removed.
"Then why are we not dead?" The woman sounded bored and
"You are. You're walking, talking dead." The words came out
before Tremaine had a chance to think, but as she watched the
Gardier's eyes narrowed, a faint trace of unease crinkling the
smooth brow, and she knew it had been an apt impulse. She spoke
first because she wanted control of the conversation, she thought
she could get information out of me. She held her expression,
keeping her smile from widening. You could do a lot with someone
who thought that much of herself.
The silence stretched and the Gardier finally said brusquely,
"Then why are you here?"
"They made me come in to ask you questions." Tremaine
shrugged, shaking her head, still with the faint smile. "I
personally couldn't care less whether you answer or not, but I've
already had lunch and I haven't anything else to do right now."
She levelled her eyes at the woman. "I just want to get to the
part where we throw you over the side." Tremaine let her gaze
turn abstract and thoughtful. "If you survive the fall, you'll
probably get trapped in the bow wake. It'll carry you right into
The Gardier tried to stare her down, then looked away.
Sincerity helps, Tremaine thought. She hadn't a shred of sympathy
for the Gardier, even where she could find some compassion for the
Rienish who spied for them. Greed, desperation, good intentions
twisted out of shape she could have some empathy for; she could
too easily see how she could have fallen into the same trap. The
people who set that trap were just so much garbage to be disposed
Ilias nudged her with an elbow and asked softly, "Did she
tell you anything?"
"We're not at that point yet," she told him. It was handy
that the Gardier had never bothered to add Syrnaic to their
translator crystals, or at least none of the ones they had found
"Oh." He leaned back against wall, folding his arms. "It
looked like it was going well."
The Gardier woman watched this exchange with a kind of wary
incredulity. She said, "You behave as if they are people."
Tremaine lifted her brows. Though Ilias' boots and clothes
had mud-stained patches from their recent adventures, he had had a
bath more recently than the Gardier. He had also rebraided his
queue so his hair wasn't quite such a wild mane; he didn't look
that savage. "No, I behave as if you are people. I wish I didn't
have to but it upsets the others. What makes the Syprians not
people to something like you?"
The Gardier stared, insulted. "They are primitives. They
don't-- It is obvious," she finished stiffly.
Tremaine's eyes narrowed. Destroyed coastal villages and
ships going missing were what had drawn Ilias and Giliead to
investigate the island in the first place. "If it's obvious, why
can't you explain it coherently?"
"They can't be used for labor. They don't use civilized
speech. They won't stop fighting." She sneered. "If they do,
they're afraid of the tools."
The welders, the lights. The Syprians would think it was
magic and would find it terrifying, would consider themselves
soiled by the contact. They tried them out as slave labor and
when it didn't work they killed them. Tremaine couldn't say she
was surprised. "And sometimes they blow up airships. How do you
make the avatars?" That was the closest the Gardier's translation
spells could get to a Rienish word for the crystals and their
The woman shook her head, caught off guard. "I don't know.
That is for Command and the Scientists. I am in Service."
"Then you're even more useless than I thought."
Tremaine let go of the translator crystal and headed for the
door. Following her lead, Ilias pushed off the wall and trailed
She expected to have to argue with Averi but as the guard
shut the door behind them the Colonel nodded sharply, motioning
for them to go on through to the outer room. Once there she saw
the usually grim cast to his face lightened by satisfaction. He
said, "It's a start. We'll isolate her from the others, give it a
few hours and then see if she's more receptive."
Florian had been waiting in the outer area too. There were
only two small rooms for the staff, with a small desk for the
lieutenant in charge and some comfortless wooden chairs for the
other guardsmen on duty, two of whom were women. "Did she tell
you anything?" Florian asked, curious.
"A little." Tremaine shrugged. "A very little." She was
relieved that Averi seemed confident. It occurred to her that she
also had Averi in a receptive mood and maybe even inclined to
discuss things with her. She said quickly, "Where do you think
the Gardier come from? The Syprians sail all over this area, they
travel fairly far inland, and have contact with a lot of other
people. But they had never seen the Gardier or even heard any
rumor of them before."
Averi nodded, leaning against the desk and saying
thoughtfully, "Those maps your friends recovered from the base
show a Gardier stronghold close to where Kathbad is in our world.
I think it's possible--"
"Colonel--" One of the women soldiers leaned into the room
to interrupt them urgently. "There's a call for you on the ship's
Averi went to the other room, taking the receiver from the
instrument mounted on the wall. Watching his sallow face redden
as he listened, Tremaine exchanged an uneasy look with Florian.
The guards in the room watched him too, caught by the growing air
Averi finally said, "Yes," and replaced the receiver, turning
back to the them. "Florian, can you find Ander? Tell him it's
Ixion had killed two Chosen Vessels that the poets know of, Lyta
of Hisiae and Kerenias of the Barren's Edge. But Vessels often
disappear without trace, their companions with them, no one
knowing of their deaths until their god Chooses again, so Ixion
could have accounted for many.
Fragment of Incomplete Work, titled "Journal for the Chosen
Vessel of Cineth, under Nicanor Lawgiver," Abignon Translation
"The wireless officer has picked up coded signals from the
Gardier gunship. When they were translated it was apparent they
were instructions to a landing party." Averi glanced back at
Gerard, his face grim. "A landing party in a native city."
They were on the forward stairs climbing toward the
wheelhouse, Averi in the lead with Gerard, Tremaine and Ilias
following. "Are we sure it's Cineth?" Tremaine asked, her stomach
twisting with guilt. "I thought the Ravenna could hear wireless
traffic all the way to Capidara." The ship had the most powerful
transmitters and receivers on the ocean, or at least that was what
the advertisements on the map brochure said.
"From the heading they gave, it has to be." Averi was out of
breath from taking the stairs at such a rapid pace. "They're
searching for Rienish refugees -- they seem to believe you all
left the island on native transport, which means they haven't
sighted the Ravenna yet."
The ship hummed around them like a kicked anthill; Tremaine
could hear someone shouting orders as they passed an open
corridor. The ship's telephone had found Gerard in his cabin and
Florian had hurried off to fetch Ander, Ilias asking her to bring
Giliead too. Then Tremaine realized what Averi had said. "Wait,
I thought we couldn't break the Gardier codes." It was common
knowledge that wireless operators on the Aderassi front and along
the coasts had always been able to listen in on Gardier traffic,
but there had never been any progress in deciphering it.
"Ander recovered some Gardier codebooks from the island,"
Gerard explained hurriedly, glancing back down at her. "One of
the books had transcriptions of our older codes. There was a
direct translation into a Gardier code, and that's allowing our
wireless officers to understand their traffic."
"He didn't tell me," Tremaine muttered as she climbed after
him. Ander being a good Intelligence officer again, she supposed.
She hoped it was just that. He had at one point decided she might
be either a Gardier spy herself or just stupid enough to be
passing information along to one. Since she and Ilias had caught
the spies in Port Rel, she had thought he was over that by now.
As they reached the wheelhouse level metal creaked alarmingly
and the stairs swayed under Tremaine's feet, sending her careening
into the wall. She fell back against Ilias, clinging to the
handrail, suddenly aware how high up they were. "What the
hell...?" she gasped. It was like being at the top of a tall and
unsteady tower in a hurricane.
"The ship's heeling over," Ilias told her, bracing his feet
on the steps to keep them both upright.
She looked over her shoulder at him, trying to keep up a
pretense of calm. "Is that another word for sinking?"
"Turning," Gerard explained, grimacing as he hauled himself
up the railing. "Without slowing down." Recovering his balance,
Averi reached the top, wrenching the hatch open.
With Ilias urging her, Tremaine managed to pry her hands off
the rail and drag herself up. As they reached the hatch, the deck
began to sway back to a more level plain. Following Averi and
Gerard, Tremaine bounced off the opposite wall of the short
corridor and stumbled into the officers' chartroom.
The room held a polished wooden chart cabinet in the corner
and there was a large table bolted to the floor, covered with maps
and papers. The place was full of dishevelled uniformed officers
and worried civilians. Tremaine recognized the Captain even
though he was in his shirtsleeves and a younger man than she had
expected to see; he was standing in the center of the room, hands
planted on his hips, anger written in the tense way he held
himself and the grim resolve on his wind-burned face.
He confronted an older man in a brown walking suit nearly as
well-tailored as the ones Niles wore. Captain Marais was saying,
"And I'm telling you we're not going to run again. We were forced
to abandon Ile-Rien--"
"Your orders were to take this ship to Capidara," the man
interrupted briskly. He was tall, sharp-featured, with carefully
cut gray-white hair. "The civilians, the women and children on
"I know what my orders say, I don't need you to repeat them,"
It's happening, Tremaine thought, not realizing she had been
unconsciously expecting this until now. The reality of Ile-Rien's
fall was starting to sink in and the chain of command was breaking
down. From her family background Tremaine might have been
expected to be an anarchist at heart and she was a little shocked
to discover this was simply not true; Captain Marais' defiance
worried her, even though she wanted to save Cineth more than he
did. The other men in the room looked angry, determined, tense.
She saw Niles standing back against the wall, arms folded, his
lips thin with annoyance.
"Apparently you do need your orders repeated," the other man
shot back. "No one wants to see an undefended city attacked and I
admit an alliance of some sort with the native people is
imperative. But this isn't a warship." He threw a glance at
Ilias, who stood near the door with Tremaine. Ilias' eyes moved
from one man to the other, wary at the air of tension in the room.
Tremaine knew he couldn't understand the conversation but she
didn't want to chance interrupting it with a translation.
"We're at war with an enemy that doesn't recognize the
concept of noncombatants, Count Delphane," one of the other
civilians pointed out, his voice acerbic. He was an older man,
balding and somewhat stout, dressed in a battered dark suit and
fanning himself in the warm room with a folder of papers. "And we
carry weapons, so of course we're a warship. The conventions of
international law simply do not apply."
A solicitor, Tremaine thought, pegging him instantly. A
solicitor on our side, more's the better. And the opposition is
Count Minister Delphane. And she had been unnerved by Lady
Aviler's presence. Delphane gestured in exasperation. "Taking us
into battle with the Gardier is as good as murdering everyone on
Marais' eyes narrowed. "I've lost three ships in this war,
and watched countless others go down. I don't intend to lose this
one. But I'm in command here. If you don't like it, my lord,
you're welcome to get off at the next port."
Nobles in Ile-Rien, including the Queen, could be familiarly
addressed as "my lord" whatever their title, but Marais made the
honorific sound like a threat. The problem is, Delphane has a
valid point. But Tremaine looked at Ilias standing next to her,
his face tight with anxiety, and knew it couldn't matter. Cineth
was helpless against an attack like this. Delphane regarded the
Captain with narrowed eyes, saying, "At this time the Gardier do
not even know of this ship's existence--"
Niles cleared his throat. "But they do. Colonel Averi?"
Averi stepped forward, facing the Count. "Unfortunately
Gardier-controlled spies were present in the Viller Institute's
organization. We took some of them but we couldn't possibly have
found them all." He glanced thoughtfully at Marais. If he's
smart, Tremaine thought, clinically interested, Averi won't
directly challenge Marais. Pitting the crew, under Marais'
command, and the remnants of the army detachment under Averi,
against each other with Niles and Gerard and the other Institute
personnel as wild cards was the worst mistake they could all make.
But Averi only said thoughtfully, "And I can't believe the Ravenna
wasn't spotted at Chaire."
Delphane looked at him, his lips pressed together. "I was
aware of that. But we're in an entirely different world. Are the
Gardier communications between wherever we are and Ile-Rien likely
to be that swift?"
"As swift as our passage here," Gerard put in.
"We aren't facing a fleet, just a single gunship," Marais
said deliberately. "And we have every chance of taking that
gunship by surprise."
Delphane watched him. "As long as they can destroy our
engines, Captain, size doesn't matter."
Captain Marais consulted Niles and Gerard with a look.
"Well?" he demanded. "Is that true? Or can your new ward protect
us from their offensive spell?"
Niles glanced at Gerard, lifting a brow. Gerard took a deep
breath and said, "We can't know for certain until we test the
ward. But I think it will work. I've seen the Damal sphere," he
stumbled a little over the name, perhaps recalling that the sphere
wasn't just named for its creator anymore, "the sphere's affect on
Gardier airships firsthand. It stripped heretofore impenetrable
wards away effortlessly."
Delphane turned to Colonel Averi, saying quietly, "So you are
going to allow this?"
Ander arrived in the doorway, breathing hard, halting when he
saw the grim tableau as the ship's Captain, the military
commander, and the highest ranking civilians confronted each
Averi let out a slow breath and met Delphane's eyes. "Count
Delphane, as the Solicitor General pointed out, we know the
Gardier consider civilian transports, hospital ships and anything
else that moves as a military target. This is a warship, whether
we like it or not." His gaze went to Captain Marais. "You've
already changed course for the native port?"
"Yes. At full speed." Marais' words were clipped. His eyes
fixed suddenly on Tremaine. "Ask him to describe the harbor."
Startled, Tremaine managed to realize he meant Ilias and
turned to him, repeating the question in Syrnaic. Throwing a
narrow look at Marais, Ilias asked, "They're going to help?"
Tremaine felt all eyes on her but she wasn't going to push
him. "They're still arguing about it, but we've changed course
Ilias regarded Marais for a long moment. Tremaine saw a
great deal of suspicion in that look, as well as pent-up fear and
guilt. If he and Giliead hadn't brought us to Andrien, this might
not be happening, she thought, sick with nerves. Her part in
bringing them to this point wasn't exactly small either. Then
Ilias took a sharp breath. "There are cliffs to the west, and a
stone breakwater...." Tremaine translated his description
Averi listened, the creases across his forehead deepening.
"You want to attempt an attack with our forward gun?" he asked
Marais, not bothering to keep the incredulity out of his tone.
The weapon mounted on the Ravenna's bow deck was an anti
airship artillery piece. Tremaine tried unsuccessfully to
visualize it, wondering if it could even be used to shoot at
something in the water.
Marais' face set in an even grimmer expression, though it
seemed he was getting his way. "If we can lure the Gardier out
into open water, we won't need the gun." He glanced at Delphane,
saying with pronounced irony, "You may find, Count, that size --
and speed -- do matter a great deal."
Delphane shook his head slowly. He seemed weary now that he
had lost the argument. "I don't want to leave a potential ally's
city to a Gardier attack anymore than you do, gentlemen. But I
hope your decision doesn't kill all of us."
Gerard and Niles hurried away to get their supplies for the
sorcery, Ander and Averi to organize a small military force to
land and search for any Gardier left trapped on shore. Marais had
more questions for Tremaine to translate for Ilias, then let them
Out in the corridor, officers and crew hurried past them,
dashing in and out of doorways, yelling commands and questions at
each other. Tremaine was impressed with Captain Marais; he was
obviously an intelligent man and the pressure and his nerves had
wound him up like a top. She headed for the stairs just to get
out of the way but Ilias caught her arm. "But how soon can we get
there?" he asked her, throwing a worried glance back into the
chartroom. He looked just short of frantic. "I know we left the
island heading east but where are we now?"
The Captain had said full speed and Tremaine knew that as a
passenger liner the Ravenna had been criticized for barreling
along at 20 knots in the dark and fog, and 30 knots in and out of
crowded ports. But there was no way to translate that into
Syrnaic. She met his eyes and said deliberately, "This ship is
He nodded, though he didn't seem much reassured.
"We need to see what's happening," Tremaine said to herself.
An officer, fresh-faced and surely younger than Florian, bolted
past them. Tremaine managed to snag his sleeve. "Excuse me! Do
you know where Gerard is, or Niles? The Viller Institute
Startled, he halted, looking from her to Ilias. But she
could see he was thinking that if they were up here in the
wheelhouse, they must be Somebody. "They're on the cable deck.
You can follow me, I'm going there now."
Following the man down the forward stairs, Tremaine found
herself wondering how Count Delphane, Lady Aviler and other
important personages like the Solicitor General had ended up on
the Ravenna. Delphane in particular was a High Cabinet minister;
he should have gone to Parscia with the government-in-exile and
the royal family. There was only one reason she could think of to
account for the presence of such high government officials.
They left the forward stairs to thread back through a Third
Class area and reach a passenger stairwell, taking it to the
landing that opened into the forward end of the now uninhabited
main hall. The officer left the stairs, saying, "This way, it's
quicker." He led them down a passage toward a set of double doors
of padded leather with bronze fittings. He fumbled in his pocket
for a set of keys and unlocked them, revealing a room like a big
dark cavern. As the man hooked one door so it would stay open,
Tremaine fumbled for the light switches on the wall.
As she pressed the first button, small indirect incandescents
over a long ebony bar sprung to life, casting light down on
leaping dancers in a wall mural above the empty bottle racks. The
young officer said sharply, "Just the bar lights, Madam. Leave
the overheads off. It's still light out but we don't want to take
It was the Observation Lounge. There was just enough light
to make out the dark wooden walls and the chrome pillars
supporting the ceiling. Tables, chairs and curved couches of red
leather were scattered around the lower half of the room; a few
steps in the marble floor led to the upper half, set apart by an
ornate metal balustrade with enamelled pylons. The curved back
wall was covered by floor to ceiling curtains of dark red brocade
and it was all windows behind them. Looking out with all those
curtains open the view would be incredible; or looking in at night
with all the soft lights lit.
Ilias took one look around, then plunged across the room
after the officer. The man fumbled under the curtains, then
managed to open a glass panel door. Ilias pushed out after him
and Tremaine fought her way through the heavy drapes to find they
were on a curved open balcony, looking down on the bow, the sea
stretching out in all directions. The sky was a heavy gray
streaked with clouds, the remnants of the Gardier storm, and the
cool wind tore at her hair. At the far end of the balcony a
narrow set of stairs led down to a small deck area where the base
of the mast was anchored. The mast itself was circled by a cargo
derrick that looked like a giant metal spider with its legs tucked
in and surrounded by an impressive array of waist-high electric
Ilias threw himself against the railing so enthusiastically
she grabbed wildly for his shirt, thinking he was about to plunge
over onto the deck below. But he was pointing at a distant line
of cliffs. "Look, we're nearly there!" He tore down the stairs
and Tremaine hurried after him.
There was a gap between this area and the forwardmost section
of the deck where Gerard, Niles, Giliead, Florian and several
crewmembers stood. Tremaine followed Ilias across the short
railed ramp that bridged it and through a minefield of giant
cables, giant chains, and giant spindles to wind them up on.
In the shelter of the forepeak, a small raised platform in
the very tip of the bow, Niles and Gerard were crouched on the
deck, drawing symbols on the planking in white chalk. Niles
clutched a sheaf of notes, referring to them as he took pinches of
different powders and concoctions from the small jars and boxes
scattered around him.
Ilias stopped at Giliead's side, asking him in confusion,
"What is this?"
"They're making a curse so the Gardier can't see us," Giliead
told him, keeping his voice low.
Ilias threw a cautious glance at Gerard and Niles. "Like the
Swift? That didn't work so well."
Florian, trying to look over Gerard's shoulder without
getting in his way, explained, "This isn't just a ward, it's an
illusion. All the Gardier will see is a distortion in the air.
Like when it's a very hot day and the air seems to ripple.
They'll hear us, but that won't matter. We just need them
confused about exactly where the ship is."
Tremaine had been looking for the sphere and spotted it,
sitting on the deck near Gerard's knee. "What about the Gardier's
mechanical disruption spell?"
Glancing up, Gerard explained, "The sphere should still
deflect it, and the new ward Niles has been working on should
transmit the sphere's influence throughout the ship." He added,
not quite under his breath, "We hope." He turned to tell one of
the sailors, "Signal the bridge that we're ready."
The man hurried back across the deck and Tremaine stood on
tiptoes to see past the solid metal railing around the forepeak.
The ship was still moving at full speed and she could see the
opening of Cineth's harbor now. It was sheltered by a high
promontory with golden cliffs falling down to the water, a
pyramidal lighthouse of gray stone on the far end. Those cliffs
cut off any view of the gunship but part of the little city was
visible, sprawled across a series of low hills. The buildings
were mostly white stone with red tile roofs, none taller than two
stories, and a few round fortress-like structures crowned the
hills. The whole was dotted with shade trees, standing in the
gardens and market plazas.
Tremaine had liked the place the moment she had first seen
it. The trees reminded her of those that lined the Boulevard of
Flowers, though these streets were dirt instead of ancient
cobblestones patched with modern pavement. If the trees, if the
Boulevard itself, was still there. The Gardier are in Vienne now,
she reminded herself coldly. Jerking herself back to the present,
she wondered aloud, "So how do we get the gunship to come out--"
A sound assaulted her ears, a deep boom that set her teeth on
edge and made her bones shake. She clapped her hands over her
ears along with everyone else, wincing away from it. Both Giliead
and Ilias recoiled as if they were in real pain. As it died away
she demanded, "What was that?"
"The ship's whistle." The officer who had guided them here
pointed up above the forecastle. Tremaine could just make out two
trumpet-like projections mounted on the first smokestack. "To
lure the Gardier out of the shallow water." He looked back toward
Cineth, shading his eyes. "They have to come out sometime."
Ilias was at her elbow, impatient to know what the giant boom
had been. Tremaine explained in Syrnaic, then they waited,
staring at the mouth of the harbor. Tremaine felt her nerves jump
with impatience. Giliead moved away from the spell circle to pace
and Ilias boosted himself up on the rails to get a better view
past the forepeak.
"There!" Someone pointed and Tremaine saw the black shape of
the gunship emerge from behind the promontory. She stepped closer
to the rail. The illusion masking the Ravenna's exact location
made the Gardier craft seem hazy, as if she were viewing it
through a mist. When they had seen it from the island, she had
thought the long low shape, the guns mounted in the bow and stern,
looked predatory and sinister. From this high vantage point it
suddenly looked like prey.
"Here it comes!" Niles shouted suddenly, anxiously studying
his spell diagrams. Tremaine tensed and Giliead reached to pull
Ilias back from the rail. She could see nothing. Without etheric
lenses the spell that was travelling toward them was invisible, a
deadly wave of power.
She saw the glamour haze and weaken, the view of the gunship
still steaming across their bow momentarily crystal clear. Then a
bright light flared. She threw up an arm to shield her eyes,
stumbling back on someone's foot. It didn't work, that was the
mechanical disruption spell, she thought frantically, we're going
to sink. An image of the dream she had almost forgotten flashed
vividly behind her eyes: The Ravenna sinking beneath still black
water, her lifeboats still in place.
In the next heartbeat she was out of the dream and back to
reality. Giliead held onto her arm and Ilias was braced against
the rail next to her. Her eyes were watering and dazzled by the
light and she could barely see Gerard, Niles and the others. "It
worked," she breathed. "Hah." That wall of light hadn't been the
Gardier's spell, it had been the sphere, deflecting the Gardier's
attempt to destroy the ship.
Tremaine blinked hard as the dazzle faded and she leaned
forward, gripping the railing. The Ravenna was still bearing down
on the Gardier craft and though she knew the gunship must be
travelling at full steam now it looked as if it was standing
still. Tremaine saw the puffs of smoke above the barrel as it
fired its bow gun; the blast reverberated over the water a moment
later. She grinned, pounding her fist on the railing. The gun
pointed several degrees off their bow; fooled by the illusion
still concealing the Ravenna's exact position. "We can turn the
spell back on them; Arisilde knows it too. We can--"
"We don't need curses," Giliead interrupted quietly, his
mouth set in a tight line. "We're going to ram her."
"Can we do that?" Tremaine eyed the fast approaching gunship.
"Without sinking, or anything...?"
The Gardier seemed to realize their error; the gun swiveled
but too late. The Ravenna's drive forward didn't falter as the
smaller craft disappeared from view; Tremaine grabbed the rail but
instead of a huge crash there was only a thump that shuddered up
through the deck. Stunned by the ease of it, she peered down the
side to see half the gunship flip up and vanish under the surface
as shattered wood and bodies tumbled past in the Ravenna's bow
"And you said metal ships wouldn't float." Giliead turned
to keep the wreckage in sight, leaning out to look down the side.
"I never did," Ilias protested.
Despite their attempt to sound totally unaffected, or maybe
because of it, Tremaine knew they were both a little shocked by
the Ravenna's power. She knew she sure as hell was.
The ship's drive forward slowed and Tremaine saw from the way
the water churned below that it was moving into one of those
insane turns. Oh joy, she thought with a sick sensation,
contemplating the indignity of dropping flat to the deck to cling
to one of the big cables. She grabbed Ilias instead, wrapping an
arm around his waist. Still watching the pieces of Gardier ship
bobbing in the waves, he absently put an arm around her shoulders,
bracing them both against the rail. The fact that Giliead, though
he didn't look particularly worried, still felt the need to hook
one arm through the rail and grab Ilias' belt with the other, was
The ship started that frightening lean toward the waves and
one of the officers from the group around Gerard and Niles
shouted, "Hold on!" Everyone scrambled to grab something, Florian
huddling down near Gerard. Niles grabbed for the loose jars of
powder, hastily dropping them back into his case.
"No kidding," Tremaine muttered, watching in fascination as
the green churning surface below drew closer. But this turn was
less dramatic and the ship began to sway back upright long before
she felt the urge to scream. They were heading back toward the
wreckage, still slowing.
As the deck rolled to become more or less level Ilias let go
of Tremaine and she lurched away toward Gerard. Before she
reached him a seaman pounded across the bridge from the other
deck, shot past her to one of the officers standing with the
sorcerer, pulling both men aside to speak urgently.
Tremaine threaded her way around the cables, demanding, "What
Niles turned away from the discussion abruptly, his face
ashen. "We have a problem." He was staring down at the spell
circle, at the iron filings in the center. "The inner core didn't
Giliead, Ilias and the other seamen were all watching,
puzzled, and in the Syprians' cases, wary. "Niles, nobody knows
what you're talking about," Tremaine said, a sudden qualm making
her snap impatiently. "The spell worked."
"It worked, but the other wards were supposed to be excluded
from the effect," he said tightly. "They weren't."
Gerard turned to them, his face hard and grim. "It's Ixion,
the wards around his cell failed and he escaped."
"What about Ixion?" Ilias demanded. Gerard had spoken in
Rienish and he had recognized only the name.
Tremaine grimaced. That's all we needed. She turned to
Ilias, saying in Syrnaic, "He escaped."
The moment was one of those long heartbeats that never end as
she watched their faces. Giliead's expression went absolutely
blank, concealing any emotion and somehow worse than if he had
actually showed his feelings. Ilias looked horrified for an
instant before his face set and then both men were running across
the deck, jumping over the cables.
Tremaine started after them. "I'll go with them, they'll
need a translator--"
"Tremaine, wait!" Gerard snapped.
She thought he was going to tell her it was too dangerous,
she would just be in the way, but he said hurriedly, "Give me
something you're wearing. Niles and I can track your progress
with it. We may be able to locate Ixion with the sphere and that
Items carried or worn for long periods of time took on the
same etheric signature as the body of the owner; Arisilde and
Gerard had often used this spell for her father, sometimes
tracking individuals all over Vienne. Tremaine was already doing
a rapid inventory of her possessions. She wasn't wearing jewelry,
her outer clothes were too new for the spell to work, she was
reluctant to give up her underthings.... "Here." She hopped on
one foot, hauling off her boot. "This is all I've got!"
Gerard accepted it with a grimace but didn't argue. She ran
after Ilias and Giliead, charging up the stairs and tearing open
the door to the Observation Lounge. The awkwardness of trying to
run like this was too much and she stopped to haul off the other
boot and her stockings, dumping them on a table. Barefoot she was
much faster and caught them on the passenger's forward stair.
They barely noticed her appearance, intent on reaching the
place where Ixion had been held prisoner. They made a transition
to a crew stairway down in Third Class then turned off down a
metal-walled corridor on one of the decks below the passenger
areas, threading rapidly through a series of turns until Tremaine
saw a group of worried crewmen and crewwomen gathered at a
doorway. The group parted for the two Syprians and Tremaine
hurriedly shouldered her way through in their wake.
The door to the refrigerated compartment hung off its hinges,
the lock wrenched from the distended metal. The whole side where
it had met the wall was scorched and melted. Three of the guards
lay sprawled unconscious on the floor and another was sitting up,
a bleeding cut on his temple being tended by a medical corpsman.
A red-faced older man in chief petty officer's uniform stood by
the doorway, snapping orders about search parties into the ship's
telephone. Giliead surveyed the scene grimly, then turned away,
pushing back out. Ilias snarled, "I knew this would happen," and
Tremaine turned to go after them but the officer stopped her
with a hand on her arm. "Where are they going?" he asked
"We're going after him." Tremaine pointed at his sidearm.
"Can I have one of those?"
He stared at her, then unclipped the holster from his belt
and handed it over.
The trail led upward through a small stairwell near the
center of the ship. There were only a few lights set back into
walls lined with smoky dark wood, and with the dark green
patterned carpet underfoot they might have been making their way
through a dim woodland glade. Keeping his voice low, Ilias said,
"This makes sense. He's making for open air."
Giliead nodded. "He may be confused. He'll know we're at
sea, but--" His slight shrug took in their strange surroundings,
so unlike a ship except for the movement underfoot.
A distant hollow voice spoke suddenly, shattering the
stillness. Ilias flinched violently and Giliead swore under his
"It's the same as before," Tremaine whispered from behind
Ilias. "He's telling everyone to stay at their posts or in their
quarters, and to call the bridge if they see anyone suspicious."
Ilias nodded. She had explained it was one of the crew,
speaking into a talking box that let his voice be heard through
other boxes all over the ship. It had had a more authoritative
ring when they thought it was the ship herself speaking.
"Here," Giliead said suddenly, frowning. "There's something
here." He stepped off the stairs into a small foyer.
"What?" Tremaine demanded. She had a small curse-weapon
tucked into the back of her pants under her shirt, which she
thought they didn't know about.
"Ixion must have cast a curse up here," Ilias told her as
Giliead cautiously pushed open the door.
It opened into a long room where the wizard lights weren't
lit but it hardly mattered; the whole outside wall was windows,
nearly floor to ceiling, looking out onto an expanse of roofed
deck that ran along this side of the ship, allowing in enough
cloudy gray daylight to illuminate the room. It was filled with
cushioned chairs and couches, patterned carpets in soft warm
colors covering a floor of green-veined marble. There were drapes
over portions of the inner wall and a set of double doors near the
middle. As they moved further in Ilias saw there was a large
arched entranceway at the opposite end, next to a giant example of
one of the Rienish paintings. It was a river winding through a
green valley, so real it looked as if you could get your feet wet
standing near it.
An ear-splitting shriek rent the air and he and Giliead both
jumped violently, looking frantically around for the source. But
Tremaine waved hurriedly for them to relax and moved to a little
table near a chair. On it sat a small box; she lifted the curved
part on top and held it to her ear. Ilias let his breath out and
exchanged a harassed look with Giliead; another one of the Rienish
talking curse boxes. "You'd think," Giliead said deliberately,
rubbing the bridge of his nose, "They could make those things a
Tremaine listened for a moment, her face getting that
concentrated look he had learned meant trouble. Ilias could just
hear the tinny voice issuing from the box but it spoke Rienish.
She put the piece down, setting it carefully on the table instead
of replacing it on top of the talking box. "Ah, that was Niles,"
she said in Syrnaic, turning to them. "He says hello." Then she
jerked her head toward the double doors in the inside wall.
Ilias stared at the doors, feeling the skin on the back of
his neck prickle. They were heavily padded with a deep red
leather. Giliead stepped to them, lifting his hand but not quite
touching, then shook his head. No curses. He came back to
Tremaine and asked in an almost voiceless whisper, "What's in
She had already pulled out the little map of the ship,
studying it frantically. "There's a small ballroom, a lounge and
a theater, a movie theater."
"A what?" Ilias asked quietly. Most of the sentence had been
"It's a room where they show movies, moving pictures." She
waved the map, as if trying to use it to illustrate what she was
saying. "It's not a spell, it's like the engines."
"Great," Ilias said under his breath. He didn't know what
the engines were either, except that the Rienish said they made
the ship cleave the water without sails or oars. He hoped she
didn't mean "like the engines" as in powerful enough to move a
metal ship the size of an island at incredible speeds.
"Is there another way in?" Giliead asked softly.
Tremaine traced the path on the map. "Yes, just through here,
there should be another entrance through the lounge." She looked
up at them, eyes thoughtful. "Gerard and Niles are on their way
"We can't wait." Giliead consulted Ilias, brows lifted. His
mouth set in a grim line, Ilias nodded. Doing this made his
insides go cold, but he knew they didn't have a choice.
Giliead took Tremaine's arm, drawing her with him through the
open archway. She went without comment, stuffing the map back
through her belt, with one enigmatic glance back at Ilias. He
stepped to the leather-padded door, waited until he was sure they
had had time to find the other entrance, then pushed it open.
It was a long room, filled with soft shadows. The walls were
the same polished wood as the rooms outside, but broken by giant
glass panels etched with a garden of colorful flowers and strange
birds that glowed with wizard light. The entire space appeared
empty, but that meant nothing. Ixion had curses that allowed him
to hide in shadows not much bigger than a bird's wing.
Ilias stepped inside, moving cautiously but trying not to
look as if he expected to find anything, his boots making soft
sounds on the fine wood floor. He was certain the lights in the
glass panels shouldn't be lit; the Rienish kept all the bigger
rooms dark unless someone was inside, but Ilias pretended not to
know that either. Ixion wouldn't have had time to notice and he
would tamper with the Rienish wizard lights and anything else he
There was a raised platform at each end of the room, the
steps up to them bands of silver and bronze, and another wizard
light overhead was a mass of prisms in colors Ilias didn't know
the names of. Padded chairs in rich blue fabric were stacked atop
small tables, obscuring the view and creating more pockets of
shadow. He could hear a low metallic clicking that he thought
might be coming from the set of double doors near the platform on
the right. On the left an open archway showed another room more
deeply shadowed, filled with couches and chairs shapeless under
big white cloths; that must be the lounge on Tremaine's map.
Giliead would be there now, slipping softly in while Ixion's
attention was on Ilias, as it was bound to be. Ilias went toward
that darker portion of the room, as if to investigate it. The
cool air that came through the little grilles in the walls stirred
the dust more than it should and he knew there was something else
moving in here with him. Then something brushed past him.
Ilias glanced down, saw the dust swirl up around his feet,
saw it start to opaque and solidify. He tried to leap away and
half-fell as his feet remained rooted to the floor.
He saw sudden movement out of the corner of his eye and kept
trying to wrench free, forcing himself not to look; Giliead would
need every moment he could buy for him. The thickening dust crept
up to his knees when he heard a gasp and a thump behind him. The
dust vanished abruptly and he staggered free.
He caught himself against the side of the archway, twisting
around to see Giliead wrestling with a struggling form wrapped in
one of the white drapes from the furniture in the other room.
Ilias lunged to help, skidding to a halt when the floor around the
two figures turned molten green.
Ilias hopped back before the stuff touched his boots. It
could be an apparition or a flesh-melting curse; he saw it wasn't
affecting Gil, but that didn't tell him anything. Then he saw the
green ooze was shredding the drape. The thrashing figures
separated as Ixion managed to toss Giliead off. Both came to
their feet, Ixion tearing the remains of the drape away.
The man crouched at bay, still dressed in the brown Gardier
garments, was like a shadow of his former self, his features still
faintly blunted and distorted. But the way he held himself, the
wild hate in his eyes was all Ixion.
Then the green mist dispersed, swept away in a silent wind.
Ilias glanced back and saw Gerard and Niles standing in the
open doors, both wearing grim expressions. Niles had the sphere
tucked under his arm.
Ixion stared at them for a long heartbeat, then smiled. He
turned and pushed through the doors behind him.
Giliead plunged after him and Ilias reached the doors only a
few steps behind.
Directly inside was a blood red curtain, looped back to
reveal a dark room filled with chairs that all faced the back
wall. Giliead had halted abruptly just inside and Ilias smacked
into his back.
There were moving images flickering on that far wall, the
source of the metallic clicking he had heard. Moving pictures,
Ilias thought in awe. She meant that literally. Cast in shades
of gray and somehow flat, they didn't look as real as the
paintings in the other rooms, but they moved, jerking and
stuttering across the wall in imitation of life. People walking
beside stone buildings, on horseback, riding in wagons that moved
by themselves like the ones in the Rienish city.
Then Giliead took a step to the side and Ilias realized one
of the gray forms on the wall wasn't moving. Ixion stood in the
front of the first row of chairs, outlined against the flicker of
Ilias looked at Giliead, his friend's face hard to read in
the fractured light. Giliead caught his eye and jerked his head
faintly toward the figure. Ilias nodded and started down the
aisle on his side as Giliead moved down the opposite wall. He's
strong, Giliead had warned him earlier, stronger than he looks.
He had just drawn even with the still figure, was just able
to see the man in profile, when Ixion spoke above the click-clack
noise. "The Gardier had so much contempt for their enemies I
never expected them capable of something like this." His gesture
took in the room around them, the whole ship. "A floating
mountain, with so many wonders inside it."
"I wouldn't describe you as a wonder." Giliead's voice was
cool and level, but he had encountered Ixion on the island. Ilias
realized he was breathing hard, his heart pounding. It was the
voice. It really is him. The last time he had heard that voice
was right before Giliead had cut Ixion's head off. He wanted to
leap over the chairs and rip Ixion's throat out. He wanted to run
out of the room. He managed to do neither, waiting for a signal
from Giliead as sweat ran down his back.
The image on the wall changed to a view of a storm-tossed sea
from the deck of a ship and in the suddenly brighter light Ilias
saw the corner of Ixion's mouth lift in a smile. "And Ilias is
here. I'll say 'It's been a long time' and you can say 'Not long
"Shut up." The words were out before Ilias realized it.
Ixion hesitated, then said more softly, "I know exactly what
"I really doubt that," Ilias grated. He heard a soft sound
behind him and realized Gerard and Niles now stood in the doorway.
"Well." Ixion turned to eye the Rienish wizards. "How did
they do it?" He looked at Giliead, head tilted inquiringly. "You
fought for them. You used the curse they gave you against me.
You haven't been cursed. You're acting for them of your own will.
How did they do it?"
He was trying to sound merely curious but Ilias heard the
strain in his voice. He really wanted to know. Giliead must have
sensed that too because he didn't answer.
"Is it just because they destroyed my curse on Andrien
House?" Ixion must have realized he was betraying himself and
looked away, smiling at the flickering images on the wall. "I'm
still searching for allies. Perhaps I can offer my services to
them as well."
"I'm afraid we aren't in the market," Gerard said in Syrnaic,
his voice cool.
Giliead spoke, "You're nothing new to them. They have
wizards like you in their land and they destroy them like sick
Ixion watched the flicker of movement on the screen. Then he
shrugged. "Surely you realize you can't kill me. I'll just come
For a moment no one spoke. Then Ilias heard another metallic
sound, weaving in and out of the clicking of the moving images.
It was the noise the god-thing in the sphere made, he realized,
when it thought something was dangerous.
"If that's such a great plan, why haven't you just killed
yourself?" Tremaine's voice was so unexpected, Ilias flinched.
He hadn't even realized she was in the room. "You've had all the
time in the world to jump off the boat. Hell, if you do it from
the stern you'll drown in moments. Instead you wander around,
sightseeing, playing with the switches on the projector. Even if
you've got this other body to jump back to, which I'm still
willing to believe, I don't think you want to go there."
Ixion turned, staring at her incredulously. "Who in the
netherworld's name are you?"
"You didn't answer her question," Ilias said tightly. It
was, now that he thought about it, a damn good one.
Ixion looked at him for a long moment, then at Giliead. He
finally said, "Very well, I'm not eager to go to my new body. It
will take months for me to grow into it and by the time I do, the
Gardier will have retaken the island and destroyed Cineth." He
turned to Gerard and Niles again. "I spoke to one of their men of
learning at length. He taught me their language so we could
converse. I know much about them and have no particular loyalty
to cause me to dissemble."
"You would trade your life for information." Gerard sounded
They can't, Ilias thought. We can't. But was there any
other way out of this stand-off?
Gerard spoke to Niles briefly in their language. Niles
answered in a dry tone and Gerard shook his head. He said to
Ixion in Syrnaic, "And if caught, you would trade similar
information about us to the Gardier."
Ixion smiled. "Then don't get me caught."
Waiting in the lounge outside, Ilias paced, his jaw set so
tightly it was beginning to hurt. There were Rienish guards
waiting by the doors, but he hardly noticed them. "I should be in
there," he told Tremaine. He wasn't exactly sure why he had
followed her out here, except that she had grabbed his wrist and
tugged and he had been too distracted to resist.
"No, you shouldn't." She was sitting in one of the cushioned
chairs, her bare feet propped up on a little wooden table.
He stopped, planting his hands on his hips, snarling, "He'll
think I'm afraid to face him."
Tremaine was unimpressed. "No, he'll wonder where you are."
Ilias took a breath to reply and then stopped, staring at
her. That wasn't the argument he had expected. "What?"
Tremaine studied her fingernails calmly. "He wants your
attention, he wants you to be in there glaring at him and hanging
on every word." She paused to pick at a broken nail. "Let him
wonder what you're doing. Let him wonder what you're thinking."
She looked up at him finally, her face serious despite her
preoccupation with her hands. "Let him scramble to get a handle
on you, instead of the other way around."
He thought that over, hoping to find a hole in it, but it was
too patently evident to argue with. And her confidence told him
she knew she was right. He dropped down into the next chair
instead, demanding in irritation, "Why do you know things like
She shrugged, and nibbled at her broken fingernail.
"Annoying people is something of a talent of mine. I gave it up
for a while, but lately it's started to come back to me."
They had the parley at a table just outside the moving
picture room. Giliead wouldn't sit but paced behind Ixion's
chair, hoping his presence made the wizard as uncomfortable as
Ixion made him. But he probably enjoys it, Giliead thought with
sour resignation. Thankfully, Tremaine had somehow gotten Ilias
to leave with her.
Gerard took a place across from Ixion, grim-faced and somehow
managing to convey that he felt Ixion was contaminating the air he
breathed. There were men and women armed with Rienish curse
weapons at the back of the room. The other wizard Niles was
waiting with them, his face utterly cool and emotionless; Giliead
had no feel for what the man was thinking, but he knew Ixion
wouldn't be able to read him either, and that Ixion wouldn't like
Gerard said with cold contempt, "Our position is simple. If
you attempt to leave the room where you have been confined again,
we'll kill you and you can go on to your next body and be damned.
If you give us the information you have about the Gardier and
cooperate fully, you'll be confined, but you won't be harmed, and
we'll keep you from the Gardier to the best of our ability."
The god-thing's sphere sat on the table near Gerard and
Giliead could tell it was anything but disinterested. Its clicks
and whirs sounded displeased. For the first time, Giliead could
also feel little spurts of curses coming from it.
Ixion folded his too-smooth hands and said, "You could
provide refreshments for this discussion."
Gerard lifted a brow. "Your needs are immaterial until you
give us reason to think otherwise."
Ixion sighed. "You could also tell whatever it is you keep
in that metal cage to stop trying to annoy me."
Intrigued by the sphere's activity despite the situation,
Giliead concentrated on it, focussing as hard as he could. After
a moment he saw a dim wisp of white light drifting from the
tarnished metal surface. Fascinated, he watched the translucent
wisp arch over the table toward Ixion. There was something about
it that made him think of a scout trying to creep past an enemy
Ixion was saying, "I realize now it was the other presence I
detected on the Swift, that I assumed was another foreign wizard.
It's a clever trick, but--" The wisp became a talon and dove in
for a strike. He halted, frowning. Through gritted teeth, he
said, "I told you, make it stop."
Still concentrating on the sphere, Giliead suddenly saw lines
of faded blue light stretching out from it, connecting to threads
of different colors stretching all through the ship. He started,
blinking, and it was gone, as if someone had dropped a cloth over
a lamp to conceal it. Gerard's talk of channeling the sphere's
power throughout the ship for protection suddenly made sense.
Giliead realized he had been deliberately allowed to see the
tendril that had touched Ixion, that the personality in the sphere
had shared it with him like a private joke. He was just as sure
that the sphere deliberately shielded itself from him. He didn't
mind; seeing that light constantly would have been unbelievably
distracting. So the Rienish do have gods, he thought, lifting a
brow. They just didn't know it.
Without looking away from Ixion, Gerard said, "Arisilde,
Giliead said calmly, "Ixion, the man in the metal cage is a
god, and has bigger stones than both your bodies put together."
Ixion flicked a glance up at him. "Crude," he commented
idly, but Giliead could sense the wariness in him. He turned to
Gerard again. "If I give you the information, you will release
Gerard evinced surprise. "Are the innocent people you killed
still dead? As long as they are, we won't release you." His
expression hardened. "You are bargaining for your life, not your
Ixion regarded him for a long moment, then laughed softly.
"The Gardier said their enemies were soft. You may be soft, but
you don't lie when you deal, do you?" He sighed, making a gentle
gesture with his pale hands. "Very well, I agree."
Giliead met Gerard's eyes. They both knew this was a
They put Ixion back into another warded storage room, not far
from the first one. Tremaine noted that as a concession to
Ixion's apparent surrender, it had been made more comfortable with
a cot and chair and some bedding. They had chosen a compartment
with an ordinary wooden door, locked but less likely to hurt
anyone if Ixion decided to blow it up. With Gerard's assistance,
Niles had also warded the door, the walls, deck, and ceiling
against ether, light, sound, scent and liquid, which should cover
just about anything Ixion could attempt to use to harm them.
These were wards that hadn't been used in years since they were no
use against the Gardier. She wasn't sure if the sphere had helped
them or not; it sat on a desk in the outer room of Ixion's prison,
clicking ominously to itself.
Giliead and Ilias had stayed to grimly watch most of the
process, then went to join the other Syprians preparing to go
ashore with Ander's men. It was an expedition Tremaine hadn't
managed to join, something she blamed Ander for. She also knew
lifeboats had been dropped to search for Gardier survivors among
the floating debris of the gunship wreck, but the rumor was that
none had been found.
The chances were good that some of the Gardier had stayed
behind in the city. The Ravenna was making a slow approach to the
mouth of Cineth harbor, though she wouldn't try to go inside. One
of the sailors had commented that she probably couldn't, since it
was unlikely a harbor meant for galleys had been dredged to
accommodate a liner.
Niles was finishing the last symbols on the deck in front of
the closed door, the chalkmarks fizzing and vanishing into the
metal as he wrote. Gerard stepped over to join them, his
notebooks under his arm. "This should hold him," he said,
sounding grimly determined. "Until we have to channel the wards
through the ship again. I'm afraid it will still cause this set
Colonel Averi just nodded tiredly. He had been out in the
corridor discussing the situation with the army sergeant in charge
of the guard detail. He eyed the door, "Some of the men were
injured, but nothing permanent. It's almost as if he didn't want
to burn any bridges, as if he planned this as soon as he regained
Tremaine knew he was right about that. "He's like a rat. Or
something else that always comes out on top."
"Can he provide any real information, do you think?" Averi
asked Gerard, as if Tremaine hadn't spoken.
Gerard frowned. "Possibly. I doubt we dare trust it."
"There is one thing we need him for." Tremaine folded her
arms, studying the door. "Ixion grew a body, an empty one. At
least we hope it was empty--" Now everyone was staring at her.
She finished hurriedly, "Arisilde needs a body."
That got Averi's attention. He stared at her, saying, "Good
God, Tremaine." Gerard just rubbed his forehead as if he had a
"I didn't mean the one he has." Not if they were going to be
that way about it. "But the spell to make one."
"But could we force him to give us the spell he used?" Niles
said calmly, getting to his feet and dusting off his hands. "He
seems rather obstinate."
Tremaine kept her eyes on the door. I bet I could think of
Some of those who saw the Ravenna from the cliffs said they
thought the Gardier wizards had caused a great black island to
rise up from the sea, until she called the wizard's ship out to do
battle and ate it. Some of them didn't believe our telling that
she was a ship until the Ravenna's Captain followed our custom and
gave her eyes.
"Ravenna's voyage to the Unknown Eastlands," Abignon
Ilias stood as close to the bow of the Ravenna's launch as he
could get, holding to the rail as the wizard boat plowed across
the harbor toward the stone piers below the trading Arcade. He
had thought these boats fast but now impatience and fear of what
they might find made this one seem to travel at a crawl. The
lingering bitter taste of the confrontation with Ixion didn't
The boat was packed with the rest of the Swift's crew as well
as Ander and a dozen Rienish warriors. "I can't see any fires,"
Giliead said in a low voice, standing next to him and anxiously
surveying the shore ahead. "Not up in the town."
Ilias just shook his head. He couldn't bear to speculate.
The boat sheds that housed the city's war galleys looked
undisturbed, but many of the fishing boats tied up to the piers
were sunk, the tangle of broken masts still visible above the
waterline. Above the dock area was the long stone trading Arcade,
six open arched entrances leading into stalls for merchants and
for factors to sell or trade cargos. Some of the wooden market
stalls built against the far wall had collapsed, but as Giliead
had said, there was no fire rising above the red roofs of the
greater part of the town.
Halian, standing beside the Rienish sailor who held the
wheel, pointed toward the pier nearest the end of the Arcade.
"Bring us in there," he said, his voice tense. The man might not
know the words but he understood the pointing; he nodded sharply
and adjusted the boat's course by turning the wheel slightly. The
Syprians were silent, apprehensive, but behind them Ander was
speaking to his men in their own language, giving curt
instructions, replying to questions.
The Rienish all carried the long black shooting weapons,
though the Gardier had curses which could damage them. The
Syprians had lost all their weapons when the Swift had sunk but
the Rienish had given them small wooden crossbows the Gardier
couldn't harm. Using both weapons was the most effective way of
attacking the Gardier the Rienish had found so far but none of the
Syprians were willing to touch the shooting sticks, effective or
not. Even if they didn't work by curses, they looked like it.
Ilias had one of the crossbows slung over his back and the knife
that he had managed to hold onto through the trip to Ile-Rien and
back. Swords would have been helpful but the Rienish had none on
board. Or at least that was what Ander had said.
Ilias wasn't sure he entirely trusted Ander yet; for a young
man he was cagey about revealing too much of himself. It was
still hard for Ilias to believe that he trusted the motives of
Gerard, a wizard, and Florian, an apprentice wizard, better than
that of Ander, a fighter and warleader. Maybe it was because
Ander still seemed wary of the Syprians' motives.
Ilias saw figures running along the front of the Arcade,
vanishing into one of the arched entrances. He could see they
wore light brown clothing from head to toe -- Gardier. He nudged
Giliead with an elbow and his friend nodded. One of the Rienish
spoke urgently, pointing them out to Ander.
The boat slowed as it neared the dock, the low thrum of
whatever powered it sputtering to silence. With the others Ilias
climbed out as soon as the side bumped the stone, Arites helping
the Rienish sailor tie off to the piling. Ilias scanned the docks
but couldn't see any movement. Halian paused, then stopped at a
small fishing boat. Leaning over to see down into it, he
demanded, "How many are there? Which way did they go?"
Ilias stepped up beside him and saw there was a young woman
in the boat, huddled next to the mast. She stood, pointing
shakily to the road that started at the end of the boatsheds and
curved up into the main part of town. "I didn't see how many.
Most of them went up there." She looked up at Halian, her face
pale. "But in the Arcade, there's a wizard! I saw him run
Giliead's expression hardened. He flicked a glance at Ilias,
then told Halian and Ander, "You go after the others, we'll take
care of it."
Halian nodded sharply, clapping Ilias on the shoulder as he
turned away. But Ander hesitated, eyeing them watchfully. "Are
you certain? You don't want--"
"We're certain." Giliead pushed past him, breaking into a
run. Ilias raced after him as the Rienish pelted down the dock,
following Halian and the others.
As they neared the Arcade, Ilias saw four or five people
crouched at the first arched entrance. Giliead waved them back
urgently. Recognizing him, they faded back into cover behind the
casks and large pottery jars stacked on the dock. One of the
women was Feredas, the portmaster. As Giliead mouthed the words,
"How many?" Feredas held up two fingers.
Giliead nodded and stepped to the side of the entrance,
crouching beside the body sprawled there.
Ilias stepped back against the patched wall, pausing to cock
his crossbow and take a cautious look ahead down the wide corridor
that led through the building. Large square doorways along each
side led into shops and storage areas for cargos. The place
looked like a small army had bashed its way through. Copper
cooking pots, baskets and broken pottery were scattered over the
dusty stone. Three other bodies lay in the passage: two women
sprawled in the middle, one with the bright fabric of her skirt
tumbled around her, and one man slumped against the wall. A
fallen bushel of pomegranates, crushed under the boots of those
fleeing or fighting, made the floor look as if it was awash with
blood and gore.
Giliead nudged his leg to get his attention and Ilias looked
down at the dead man. Tersias, Calensa's cousin, Ilias identified
him with a sick sensation. Damn. He had worked for Tersias'
family as a youth, unloading cargo. Calensa had been his first
love. Giliead twitched aside Tersias' shirt, showing Ilias the
blackened skin around the mortal wound in the man's chest; it
stunk of charred flesh. He looked up grimly and Ilias nodded to
show he understood the warning. This Gardier had a wizard crystal
that could throw fire.
Giliead eased to his feet, cocking his own crossbow, and they
stepped inside the Arcade.
Slowly and carefully, Giliead moved down the corridor. Ilias
stayed at his side, keeping several paces between them. The
stalls were open across the front, deserted. They passed a
coppersmith's shop with its wares tumbled into the passage and a
place that sold bolts of cloth and dyes, mostly undisturbed.
Ilias adjusted his grip on the unfamiliar weapon, feeling his
palms start to sweat on the smooth wooden stock. This was the
worst way to root out wizards; he much preferred sneaking up on
them from behind.
A scatter of distant pops, like stones cracking under heat,
sounded from somewhere outside; Ilias flinched, recognizing the
noise the shooting weapons made. The Rienish must have
encountered the other Gardier. Then he froze, poised on one foot,
as a rustling came from the next stall. He heard a footstep and a
worried mutter in the Gardier's harsh language. From the items
spilled into the passage, the stall sold bronze lamps and
Ilias threw a questioning glance at Giliead, who nodded, his
mouth set in a grim line. Ilias stepped soundlessly to the wall,
stopping just before the edge of the opening.
Giliead dived forward suddenly, landing and rolling past the
open entrance. Ilias heard a shout from the stall as he whipped
around the corner. The space was crammed with metal goods, lamps,
stands and bowl-shaped containers for coal stacked unsteadily or
piled atop wooden chests. He aimed and fired the crossbow by
instinct, almost before his eyes found the Gardier crouched back
against the inside wall. It was a young one with soot stains on
his face, just aiming a long black shooting weapon at Giliead.
The bolt slammed into the base of the Gardier's throat. His
weapon went off with an ear-shattering report as the man
staggered, collapsing against the wall.
Movement towards the center of the stall caught Ilias' eye;
he ducked sideways, realizing the other Gardier was concealed
behind a stack of wooden crates. Giliead was on his feet now at
the front of the stall, aiming his crossbow. Blocked from getting
further in by the tumbled metalwares, he shifted impatiently,
trying to get a clear shot. Ilias saw the crystal flash as the
Gardier moved and shoved forward with a yell, slinging himself
over a pile of braziers. He swung the crossbow, clipping the
wizard in the head just before his foot came down on something
that slid away with a metallic screech; he crashed to the floor.
Landing on his hands and knees, Ilias scrambled to get his
feet under him, to get hold of a pot to throw. Suddenly he felt a
burning heat erupt in his chest and looked up to see the wizard,
the man's face a rictus of pain and fear, holding the crystal over
Ilias didn't have breath to yell in horror. He saw Giliead
loom up behind the wizard just as the Gardier suddenly jolted
forward. Ilias ducked his head as the wizard fell over him, then
shoved himself free, slamming a kick into the man's side. Rolling
over, trying to sit up despite the haze of fiery pain in his
chest, he saw a crossbow bolt sticking out of the wizard's back.
Blood soaked the dun-colored jacket but the Gardier was still
trying to push himself upright, to reach for the fallen crystal.
It was a broken shard, colored a yellow-tinged white, much smaller
than the one Gervas had threatened Ilias and Tremaine with.
Giliead desperately shoved the crates aside but the wizard
stretched, his fingers brushing the crystal. Pain shooting
through his body, Ilias grabbed a heavy copper pot and lunged
forward, smashing it down on the shard. It broke in fragments,
light spraying from the pieces like droplets of water, vanishing
into the cracks in the paving stones. The wizard shouted in
despair and Ilias slumped over the pot, relieved, feeling the heat
in his chest fade.
Giliead pushed his way through the debris to grab the wizard
by the back of his jacket, awkwardly straddling him. The Gardier
struggled silently, clawing at Giliead's arm. His face set in
grim distaste, Giliead whipped his knife across the wizard's
After a moment to make sure the man was dead, Giliead dropped
the body, looking at Ilias. "You all right?" he demanded,
Ilias nodded slowly, pushing himself upright and away from
the spreading pool of blood, rubbing the reddened spot on his
chest. The sudden heat was fading rapidly, barely a phantom pain
left behind. He took a deep breath and sat up on his knees,
looking worriedly at his friend. "Did he get you too?"
Giliead shook his head, plucking at his shirt. Ilias
realized the brown cloth now had a singed black patch right below
the leather lacing on his chest. "He tried. It didn't work on
Some curses worked on Giliead, some didn't. It was just luck
this Gardier wizard didn't know the right ones to use. Ilias
pushed to his feet, staring down at the wizard who was just a dead
man now. It had been a messy kill and he knew Giliead hated that.
"Did you stab him with that bolt?"
Giliead winced as he stood, absently wiping his bloody hands
on his pants. "The damn bow misfired." He kicked the copper pot
off the remnants of the crystal, using his bootheel to grind the
last few solid fragments into powder.
Ilias watched this, noting the fragments didn't burst into
water-light and trickle away. He wondered if that only happened
when the wizard imprisoned inside the crystal was released into
death. If there really was a wizard inside the smaller shards,
the way the Rienish said there was in the larger crystals.
Giliead's face was still grim, his mouth set in a hard line.
Trying to lighten the mood, Ilias stooped to pick up his crossbow,
saying earnestly, "You want to cut his head off to make sure he's
Giliead gave him a forbidding glare. "That," he said
deliberately, "Was not funny."
Popping sounds from shooting weapons led them up the road
from the Arcade and through the lower part of the town. The trail
of corpses -- Syprian, Gardier and one Rienish -- told them they
were headed the right way. It also encouraged them to stay close
to cover to avoid making themselves even better targets than they
Houses with white clay walls and red tile roofs rose on
either side of the wide dirt track, wooden doors tightly closed.
Ilias heard dogs barking behind the garden walls and a few stray
chickens skittered out of their path but other than that the town
might have been deserted.
As they reached the corner of a larger house Giliead suddenly
stepped back against the wall, motioning urgently for Ilias to do
the same. He flattened himself against the cool clay surface,
taking a cautious look around Giliead.
Around the corner was a small plaza with a square fountain
house in the center, the edge of the roof carved with sea-snakes.
Leaning out, Ilias could just see two Gardier and three Syprians
sprawled on the dark-stained dirt near the little pavilion.
Giliead elbowed him back with the low-voiced warning,
"There's a wizard up on the roof, just to the right of the
Ilias crouched and leaned out again more cautiously, studying
the square. There was a good vantage point in the goat pen in the
corner opposite theirs, where the slant-roofed shed provided cover
from the rooftops. He saw a head with Syprian braids bob just
above the gate. He glanced up at Giliead, jerking his head
inquiringly toward the goat pen.
His friend nodded approval of the plan. "Signal me when
Ilias faded back along the side of the house, leapt to catch
the top of the garden wall and scrambled over. He landed on the
flagstones of a courtyard shaded by berry trees. The back portico
of the house was empty, a shattered bowl of cooked grains on the
blue tiled floor the only sign of the sudden disturbance.
Crossing the court swiftly, he climbed the vine-covered wall
opposite. It was shielded from the plaza by the second floor of
the house and he was able to walk back along it to the open pen.
Six piebald goats clustered in confused alarm at the back of
the hay-strewn pen. Ilias couldn't see under the roof of the shed
where the defenders had taken cover, but he could hear a quiet
murmur of voices. He hunched low on the top of the wall and
hissed a warning that he was about to appear. After a moment of
fraught silence there was a soft reply and he jumped lightly down
into the pen.
There was still a flurry of startled movement under the low
shed. Two Rienish men, Halian, Kias and a few townies all
crouched behind the gate. "Where's Giliead?" Halian demanded,
keeping his voice low.
He didn't bother to ask if they had gotten the wizard in the
Arcade, knowing that if they hadn't, Ilias wouldn't be here.
"He's around the side of the next house," Ilias told him, ducking
under the low roof and kneeling near the gate as Kias shifted to
give him room. "How many here?"
"Just one left on the roof, up there." Halian pointed,
confirming Giliead's instinctive knowledge of the wizard's
position, though Ilias didn't need it confirmed. "He's got a
shooting weapon and those curse crystals."
Ilias nodded, noticing one of the Rienish had lost his weapon
and had burned hands, a sure sign of the curse the Rienish feared
most. One of the townies was bleeding from a wound in the
shoulder and was unarmed, but the other had a goathorn bow. "Hey,
let me use that."
The man shifted it off his shoulder, then hesitated. Curse
mark, Ilias thought. At the moment it was more an annoyance than
a kick in the gut. Halian twisted around to eye the man with grim
intent and he flushed and passed the bow and quiver to Ilias.
One of the Rienish asked an impatient question and Ilias
shook his head to show he didn't understand, motioning him to
wait. He leaned out a little to whistle a sharp signal. At
Giliead's answer, Ilias eased to his feet, readying himself to
Giliead leapt out of cover, shouting, firing the little
crossbow at the pitch of the roof just above the Gardier's
position. Ilias saw a flash of brown clothing and slammed through
the gate, darting across the open court to put his back against
one of the fountain house's pillars. He notched the arrow as
Giliead loaded another quarrel and cocked the crossbow. Then he
saw something dark grow in the air just in front of Giliead, an
amorphous shadow that abruptly went solid and slammed his friend
to the ground.
Ilias whipped around the pillar, raising the bow and firing
up at the wizard in one motion. He knew immediately he had missed
the chest shot but as the Gardier swung around he realized he must
have gotten him low in the belly. The man scrabbled wildly at the
roof tiles, then went over backward. He struck the packed dirt of
the street with a thump, lying in a crumpled heap. Ilias reached
him as Rienish and Syprians appeared from doorways all over the
plaza. He hurriedly kicked the crystal free of the man's hand and
crushed it under his bootheel.
Giliead was already sitting up, wiping black sticky strands
off his face and chest as Ilias reached him. Relieved, he sat on
his heels to watch, saying critically, "That's a little like the
curse the Barrens wizard used. Did it try to go down your
"Not that I could tell." With a sour expression Giliead
scrubbed black goo off his mouth and spat into the dirt. "And I
didn't need to be reminded of that."
Ander slid to an abrupt halt in the dirt beside them, staring
incredulously down at Giliead. "You're alive."
Giliead, always in a bad mood when even a mild aspect of a
curse worked on him, just cocked a brow at the young man and said
Ander shook his head, still confused. "I've seen the Gardier
use that spell before, in Adera. It's...brutal."
"We told you he's a Chosen Vessel," Ilias said pointedly,
beginning to take offense. He knew Ander didn't trust them fully
but he hadn't thought it extended to thinking them liars.
"Yes, but I didn't think--" Ander cut himself off, pressing
his lips together.
Giliead got to his feet, wiping his hands off on his pants.
Ignoring Ander, he said thoughtfully, "The god's here."
Knowing the god's penchant for dark cool places, Ilias looked
at the fountain house first. Sparks of light hovered above the
surface of the well, glittering like fireflies.
Tremaine sat on the bench of the accident boat as it chugged
across Cineth harbor toward the stone docks. The heavy cloudcover
was breaking up, letting the afternoon sun show through in shafts
She shaded her eyes, impatiently scanning the damage. She
could see the sunken boats still tied to the dock and the
collapsed stalls on the side of the trading building. It had been
three hours since Ander had used an electric signal from the dock
to tell them that the last of the Gardier had been dealt with and
that there had been one man killed, plus some injuries among the
landing party. They didn't know the extent of the Syprian
For Tremaine at least the wait had been excruciating, but she
had known it would take some negotiating for the other Syprians to
let more of the Ravenna's crew land. She didn't know how
convincing Ilias and Giliead and the others had been, but at least
nobody was pushing catapults out onto the docks. The god's visit
to the Ravenna might have had something to do with that.
It had appeared first on the Sun deck, badly startling the
refugees and crew who had gathered there for a view of Cineth.
Niles and Gerard had arrived immediately and with them Tremaine
had followed the god on its brief tour of the ship. It had
visited the ballroom with the spell circle that allowed the ship
to pass through etheric gateways; ignoring the strange symbols of
the circle painted onto the marble tile, it had seemed more
interested in the crystal light fixtures. It had finally ended up
in the room outside Ixion's cell, sparkling around the door as if
it knew what was inside but either couldn't, or chose not to,
cross the wards.
Captain Marais had come down to look at it in consternation.
"What does it want?" he had demanded. "And what is it, for that
"It's just curious," Tremaine had told him, aware she wasn't
quite answering the question. They knew Arisilde had some kind of
connection with the god, either before or after he had been
trapped in the sphere. When the sphere had been stored at
Coldcourt, it had influenced her writing without her conscious
knowledge, sending her images of Ilias and Giliead's experiences
from this world. Arisilde could only have gotten that information
from the Syprian god, though they still had no idea where or how
he had come into contact with it.
"Fascinating," Niles murmured. He glanced down at the
sphere. "Arisilde doesn't seem to find it a threat."
"It might be some sort of elemental," Gerard explained,
frowning thoughtfully as he watched the play of light around the
door. "Whatever these 'gods' are, the entities provide some
protection for the Syprians against sorcerers like Ixion."
Marais lifted his brows. "Well, I wonder what it would do if
we let it in to him."
Tremaine stepped up to the door and lifted her hand, her skin
tingling as the god's humming energy briefly touched her. "Oh, I
bet it could get in if it really tried." She raised her voice,
"Hey, Ixion, the god's here. It wants to say hello."
Ixion hadn't replied, and after a time the god sparked more
faintly, then gradually vanished.
Ander's message to come ashore had arrived not long after.
Gerard must have also told Captain Marais about the eyes painted
on Syprian galleys, because when the accident boat had been
lowered and they were moving away from the Ravenna, Tremaine saw a
small scaffold had been hung off the bow and a couple of crewmen
in safety harnesses were putting the finishing touches on the
white paint outline of a stylized eye. It couldn't hurt, she
thought. And from what she could see, ramming the Gardier ship
hadn't even left a dent in the bow.
"There doesn't seem to be much activity," Gerard said in a
low voice. He was standing at the rail next to her, surveying the
line of docks with a worried frown. "Wait, there's Ander."
"What's he doing?" Tremaine came to her feet, grabbing the
rail. Ander's message had asked for her specifically and she had
no idea why, though she supposed he might need her for a spare
"Watching us with field glasses," Gerard told her dryly.
Finally they reached the dock, the motor coughing as the boat
slowed to awkwardly bump against the pilings. The seamen
scrambled out to tie it off and Tremaine was right behind them,
Gerard grabbing her elbow when her foot slipped on the wet wood.
Ander met them at the end of the dock. His shirt was sweat
stained and he had a rifle slung back over his shoulder. "You
were right," he said without preamble. "They are willing to
discuss an alliance with us." For some reason his expression was
Gerard nodded, holding up a leather file case he had brought
with him. "Colonel Averi had a document prepared, a letter of
intent. It's not binding until the government in exile ratifies
it, of course, but it'll be a start."
Considering it was probably prepared by Count Minister
Delphane and the Solicitor General, it will be more than a start,
Tremaine thought. But Ander was eyeing her as if she had done
something. "What's wrong with you?" she demanded.
He stared at her for at least a full minute, as if expecting
her to break down and confess. Tremaine folded her arms and
stared back. He finally said, "They want you to negotiate."
Tremaine frowned, not understanding. "Negotiate with them?"
"Negotiate for them," Ander clarified, still watching her.
"Tremaine?" Gerard echoed, startled.
Ander looked at him, exasperated. "I can't talk them out of
it. These people are so stubborn -- it's like talking to stone
Tremaine's mouth was open to protest; the very idea of that
much responsibility curdled her stomach. But Ander's tone stopped
her in mid-breath. He doesn't think I can do it. Well, she knew
she couldn't. But she could fake her way along until she found
someone else who could. She told Ander, "Then you can take that
letter back to Count Delphane. The Syprians are not going to sign
anything without the advice of an independent solicitor who is an
expert in international affairs." A dimly remembered phrase from
an old newspaper article surfaced and she added, "And I want an
arbitrator from a non-aligned nation."
Ander stared at her, pressing his lips together. Then he
said, "Perhaps we can get you a Gardier arbitrator." He turned on
his heel and strode away up the dock.
Good exit line, Tremaine thought, eyes narrowed as she
watched him go. Yelling a comeback after him would be highly
unsatisfactory. And she didn't have a comeback.
She looked at Gerard, expecting another grim expression, but
he was smiling faintly. "Your father would be proud," he said
softly. "He couldn't have done a better job himself."
It struck her to the core and her eyes stung. No, he
wouldn't be proud, she thought, looking away. But Gerard was, and
that was good too. She forced the emotion down, putting it away
where she could examine it later. "If my father was doing this,"
she muttered, "the Syprians would end up with a long lease on
Chaire and most of the west coast."
Ander led them up the dirt path through the town and Tremaine
saw people were beginning to stir, coming out to check the damage
in the harbor or gathering around the little fountain houses in
the communal squares to talk. Some of them were standing on top
of their roofs, using primitive spyglasses to look at the Ravenna.
They got many curious glances, or at least Ander did; Tremaine and
Gerard were still dressed in Syprian clothing.
From what Tremaine understood, Syprians had come from two
different peoples who had blended together along the coast, one
tall like Giliead, with brown or reddish hair and olive skin, the
other smaller and blond like Ilias. Most of the young men wore
their hair in long braids or queues like Ilias and the others from
the Swift, though many of the older men seemed to cut it off at
the shoulders or crop it short. Their clothes were in soft
colors, with leather and cloth dyed or blockprinted with designs.
The women wore long skirts or dresses or the same cotton pants and
sleeveless shirts as the men. Many of the people who worked on
the boats or near the water wore little more than a cloth wrap
around their waists.
They reached Cineth's central plaza, a large area of open
ground where spreading trees shaded little markets of awnings and
small tents, still deserted after the attack. The plaza was
bordered by several long two-story buildings with columns and
brightly painted pediments that formed a ribbon of color just
under their rooflines. The large one with the pillared portico
was the town Assembly, the smaller round one with a domed roof was
a mint and the one with a forbidding square façade was the
lawgiver's house. The city fountain house was next to it, a low
square structure with what Tremaine now knew were anatomically
correct sea serpents winding sinuously over its pediment. There
were a number of men armed with swords or long spears on
horseback, making a loose perimeter around the plaza. The horses
were distinctly Syprian, with rough, dun-colored coats and
patterns of small spots along their backs and down their
Heading toward the lawgiver's house, Ander gestured warily
toward the largest tree, an old oak with heavy spreading branches
that had sunk to the ground under their own weight. "The god came
into town during the attack. It's settled in that tree now."
Tremaine stopped to look, squinting to see past the shadows
under the branches. She couldn't spot any light or movement that
couldn't be accounted for by the gentle breeze. But near the base
of the tree, someone had stuck up a post with a goat skull as a
warning, a few colored ribbons tied to the horns to catch the eye.
"It visited us on the ship, too."
Ander glanced at her as if he thought she was insane but
Gerard nodded, asking him, "Did it appear to take part in the
Ander let out a breath. "Not that I could tell. Except
Giliead caught a spell that should have slowly strangled him from
the inside out." He shook his head, incredulous. "The Gardier
could have done more damage hitting him with a mud clot."
Tremaine nodded. "He's a Chosen Vessel." Gerard just looked
thoughtful but Ander stared at her again. "What?" she demanded.
"We knew that. Did you think they were making it up?"
Ander snorted in annoyance and stamped away. Tremaine
followed, feeling like she had somehow gotten her revenge for that
comment of his on the docks but not quite sure how.
Ilias met them at the door to the lawgiver's house, where he
had been pacing with his arms folded. He looked like he had
rolled in the dirt a few times but otherwise wasn't the worse for
wear. "How is it going?" Ander asked him, keeping his voice low.
"I think they've convinced Nicanor," Ilias replied, with a
glance back over his shoulder at the open door to make sure he
wasn't overheard. "Now they have to convince Visolela."
"Oh, lovely," Tremaine commented under her breath. Visolela
was Nicanor's wife, the head of his household and a major power in
the city. On their last visit she hadn't even wanted Nicanor to
speak to his scandalous relatives and their wizard guests where
anybody could see him.
Ilias gave her a rueful glance in acknowledgement as he led
the way inside.
A rather dark stone-walled foyer opened into a broad portico
around an atrium, which Tremaine realized must be standard for
large Syprian houses. It was bigger than the one at Andrien House
and had less of the kitchen garden look about it. The trees were
cyprus, their roots poking up into the formal flower beds, and
there was a square reflecting pool down the center.
In a room opening onto the portico, Giliead, Halian, Nicanor
and Visolela sat on low chairs and couches with brightly woven
cushions. Halian nodded in greeting as Gerard and Ander stepped
in. Giliead looked up with a slight smile. Nicanor, broody and
thoughtful, glanced at them but said nothing. Visolela, stone
faced, didn't glance.
Ilias stopped at the entrance to the room, standing back
against a stone column painted with red and black bands. Tremaine
stopped with him, a reflexive habit she had picked up from
following him through the caves and the underground city on the
island. He gave her a gentle push on into the room.
The floor was all mosaic, with stylized waves along the
border and flowers and vines entwining through the center panel.
Winecups and a carafe of some delicate white pottery stood on a
low table, but no one was drinking.
Nicanor was Halian's son from his first marriage. He had
long dark hair and the family resemblance showed in the shape of
his face and his eyes, though Nicanor wasn't quite as tall as his
father. Visolela was a beautiful dark-haired woman with a heart
shaped face and, Tremaine saw now, ice-cold eyes. She wore a
light sleeveless dress of dark red, a silk stole with black and
gray block-shaped designs looped over one arm.
Looking at Visolela, Ander cleared his throat and said, "This
is Gerard, and Tremaine."
Nicanor actually looked at her this time, with an appraising
expression. Visolela's jaw hardened, but she still didn't look.
Nicanor asked, "You agree to speak for us to your people?"
It took Tremaine a moment to realize he was speaking to her.
"Uh, yes." She started to add Until you find someone better but
realized in time that it wouldn't exactly engender confidence.
Nicanor accepted that with a glance at Visolela for
confirmation. "It won't be easy to convince the council," he
said, "And if we do, it will still have to go to the Matriarch's
council in Syrneth."
Halian nodded. "Karima could speak for us there. Her cousin
Ilyandra is still influential on it."
Her voice hard, Visolela said, "When she tells them that
Ixion still lives, I doubt any amount of influence will matter."
Tremaine saw Ilias' gaze go to Giliead. Giliead,
fortunately, pressed his lips together and said nothing.
Nicanor flicked a thoughtful glance at Giliead as well, but
said, "They will have to be made to understand that the alliance
Visolela grimaced and for an instant the hard lines in her
face were visible, the ones that would become permanent evidence
of bad temper as she grew older. "If Karima fails to convince
them of that, then all of Cineth could end up ostracized. And
even if she does, when the Hisians and the Menelai learn we have
made a treaty with wizards, they will stop sending their trading
ships. The trade with the Chaeans isn't enough to make up the
difference. It might not matter to us at first, but people will
starve in the smaller towns along the coast."
Halian let out his breath and rubbed his eyes. Tremaine
sympathized. It would have been easier to argue with Visolela if
she was wrong, but Tremaine suspected that wasn't the case and
they all knew it.
"If the Gardier invade, there will be no trade, no cities or
towns to starve." Gerard spoke quietly and they all looked up,
startled. "You saw what they did in your city today. They can't
be appeased, because they don't ask for anything. All they seem
to want is territory, and people to turn into slaves so they can
build more weapons to take more territory. We've found out from
Gardier prisoners that they won't make Syprians into slaves
because they can't or won't learn your language and they know you
consider their tools cursed, and will die before you use them. So
they'll destroy this coast just to get you out of the way."
Visolela didn't look at him but her mouth set and a flush
crept up the olive skin of her cheeks. She stood abruptly,
gathered her stole with a sharp gesture. "I must speak to the
portmaster and the trading guilds."
As she strode out of the room, Nicanor looked after her with
a frown. He said, "She'll agree. She just...doesn't like the
necessity of it."
Tremaine saw Giliead flick a dry look at Ilias. She strongly
suspected it represented a repressed sardonic comment that would
have undone all Halian and Ander's careful work. With that out of
his system, Giliead sat forward, telling Nicanor, "I'll have to go
with them, to make sure of Ixion."
Nicanor nodded slowly, tapping his fingers on the table.
"They agree to this?"
Giliead looked at Gerard, who cleared his throat and said,
"We were hoping you would send some representatives with us. If
all goes well, we'll be rejoining the government of Ile-Rien in
exile and they will want to establish formal relations. It will
be an exceedingly dangerous journey." He shook his head with a
slight rueful smile. "But I know you're all very aware of that."
Later, Tremaine paced out in the plaza. It was early
afternoon and the last remnants of the storm streaked the sky with
strips of clouds. Ander and Gerard were waiting here too, though
most of Ander's men had gone back to the Ravenna.
Nicanor had gotten Visolela to agree to Giliead going with
the Ravenna to keep an eye on Ixion, and also that she would
receive representatives from Ile-Rien's government as soon as they
could be brought here. Now they just had to convince the rest of
the Syprians at their council meeting, where Tremaine would have
to be present to answer questions. At least she wouldn't be stuck
in the large town assembly, but in the much smaller council
chamber that was part of the lawgiver's house.
Coming up to pace next to her, Ander said, "You have to make
it clear, we can't sign a formal treaty with them. Only the
government in exile in Parscia has that authority."
Parscia, their ally to the south of Ile-Rien. It had been
under attack as well and now that the Gardier had overrun Ile
Rien, it was sure to be next. Maybe they'll stop to destroy Bisra
and buy us some time. "Yes, I know," Tremaine said. "As long as
we don't promise anything stupid the government in exile will
probably ratify our agreement. If we make it back there before
they're all dead too." She grimaced and glanced up at Ander's
exasperated face. "I'm sorry, that part wasn't supposed to be out
He swore under his breath. "Tremaine, you have to take this
seriously. Don't you understand--"
"I am serious! God, what does it take?" she shouted. She
saw Giliead beckoning to her from the portico. "I'm going now.
If you're so convinced I'm going to wreck this then you can always
Leaving him glaring after her in frustration, she stamped
across to the lawgiver's house, stepping up onto the portico.
"Are you ready?" Giliead asked, managing to sound more
encouraging than concerned. Ilias was looking past her at Ander,
frowning slightly, and she knew the argument hadn't escaped either
She nodded, feeling the tension start to gather in her chest.
"Karima told me all the rules. And she said Halian would help."
From what she understood it wasn't necessary to get the council to
vote, as it would be in the Ministry of Ile-Rien; all they had to
do was answer the objections of any council members, and hope that
any objections they couldn't answer were shouted down by the
Giliead frowned slightly. "Well, Halian isn't good at
speaking to the council." At Tremaine's inquiring look he added,
"He gets angry."
"He was better as the warleader," Ilias put in.
"Oh." Tremaine rubbed her brow, wondering if it was too late
to run screaming. "That's good to know."
Giliead led the way along the portico to a large double
doorway. Tremaine darted a look past him to see a short hallway
leading into a round high-ceilinged room that seemed to be
completely crammed with people. Tiers of benches circled the room
all the way up to the mosaiced ceiling, where little square
windows let in light and air. From her earlier briefing, Tremaine
knew the lower levels were occupied by the male heads of household
and the younger sons and daughters. The female heads of the
household sat up on the top tier. Men, even the male heads of
household, couldn't speak without the female head of household's
presence. Giliead, as Chosen Vessel, was the only one exempt from
As they entered the room everyone stopped talking and stared
at Tremaine. Somehow she hadn't quite expected that. Ilias
nudged her with his arm, not trying to get her attention, but in a
Syprian way of showing support. She saw Karima, seated on the top
tier and wrapped in an azure stole, wave at them.
Tremaine followed them to the only empty space left, a couple
of tiers up where Halian was already seated. She shuffled into a
spot next to him as Giliead elbowed room for himself and Ilias on
the bench just above. People started to talk among themselves
again, but more softly. Then across the room Nicanor got to his
He spoke well, making the events of the past two days into a
story for his rapt listeners. Listening to him describe Vienne
and Port Rel through Ilias' eyes almost distracted Tremaine from
the nervous clenching in her stomach. But hearing herself
depicted as some sort of hero made her deeply uncomfortable.
The moment when he revealed the fact that Ixion was still
alive distracted her from her own concerns. The room went deadly
still, the horrified silence seeming to stretch forever. Wincing
in sympathy, Tremaine snuck a look over her shoulder. Giliead's
expression was as revealing as a brick wall, but Ilias looked
angry and defensive enough for both of them.
When Nicanor finished, Tremaine tensed, her stomach cramping
with stage-fright, knowing she would be called on next. Then at
least ten people leapt to their feet, each clamoring to express an
"This is impossible. They are wizards."
"They're like the Chaeans, their wizards aren't mad."
"That's no recommendation, we've fought with the Chaeans for
"The light-keepers saw that giant thing, run by curses!"
"They saw it destroy our enemies!"
Repeat until blind with boredom, Tremaine thought some time
later. Visolela and Karima had both answered some serious
questions posed by a few of the female heads of household, all the
while warily eyeing each other. Nicanor only occasionally
interrupted the confusion on the lower floor, to correct a point
of fact or to slap down a particularly outrageous statement, but
mostly he kept his seat with a politely interested expression.
Tremaine's respect for him as a politician increased; this was
taking forever but nobody would be able to claim afterward that
they hadn't gotten a chance to have their say. Halian, on the
other hand, looked bored and annoyed and made an irritated huffing
noise whenever anyone said anything too stupid. Giliead had his
closed, impossible-to-read face on; it would have looked more
daunting if Ilias hadn't nodded off and slumped over against his
arm. The air in the room was warm and Tremaine was starting to
drift a little herself.
Then across the room a tall spare man with the lean face of
an ascetic stood up. Several of the others standing and waiting
to speak immediately sat down.
Halian sat up, suddenly alert, and leaned over to whisper,
"That's Pella." Giliead didn't react as far as she could tell but
he must have tensed, because Ilias sat up abruptly, blearily
The real opposition, Tremaine thought, eyeing Pella.
He surveyed the room thoughtfully, waiting until he had
everyone's attention. Finally he said, "What guarantee do we have
that these wizards will deal with us as equals?"
"We don't." Nicanor got to his feet, unhurriedly but without
implying that he was stalling for time. "There are no guarantees
in any alliance, any agreement, between strangers."
Pella lifted a brow, managing to give the impression that he
was reluctant to correct the lawgiver. "Between strangers, yes."
His expression hardened. "But all here know that those who make
themselves wizards don't think of us as strangers, but as cattle."
Tremaine was on her feet, saying, "Excuse me," before her
wits caught up to her. The room was deathly quiet and everyone
stared at her expectantly. She realized she had inadvertently
taken the floor from Pella, something only a woman could do in
this council. Having the entire room's suddenly riveted attention
was not a pleasant experience, but instinct told her she should
field this question. Nicanor couldn't argue in abstracts forever,
no matter how good a rhetorical speaker he was, Visolela was
disinclined to argue at all, and Karima knew nothing about Ile
Rien except the little she had been told.
Tremaine cleared her throat. "Most of our people aren't
wizards. I'm not. The Captain of the giant ship is not. Our
Queen--" She realized she had used the Rienish word; there was no
Syrnaic equivalent. She substituted hurriedly, "--Matriarch and
her heirs and the members of her council are not. There is
nothing in our law anywhere that says a sorcerer's interest takes
precedence over that of any other person." Finding herself unable
to sustain the formal tone, she added with a shrug and a wry
smile, "We're more likely to cheat you because we have politicians
than because we have wizards."
A faint murmur rose as everyone talked that over. Pella eyed
her for a moment, something she was beginning to recognize as a
rhetorical device. He said, "If you truly mean to accept us as
equals, then prove it. Prove it with a marriage alliance. Let
her align herself with--" he hesitated, but it was a calculated
pause, a tactical moment to sweep the room with a glance and make
sure he had his audience's attention. "With the Andrien house.
Tremaine blinked. Did he just say what I think he said? She
looked at the others for help. They were staring at Pella. Ilias
was struggling to keep his expression blank, but the flush of red
under his tanned skin laid bare his feelings. Giliead's face had
suffused with anger, Halian's lip curled with contempt. A glance
up at the top tier of seats showed her Karima, sitting up
straight, lips pressed together, her hands knotted in her stole.
Baffled, Tremaine turned back to Pella, who waited with
lifted brows, inviting her opinion. Then realization hit. Oh, I
get it. She smiled at him through gritted teeth. Ilias' curse
mark made him almost a non-person in the cities of the Syrnai; a
Syprian woman would never have accepted this offer. The fact that
it meant humiliating Ilias in front of the council and his family
was obviously just an added bonus. The only thing that made it
bearable was the enormous satisfaction she was about to derive
from knocking Pella right off his self-congratulatory little
pedestal. "Is that a serious offer?"
Pella's expression of calm confidence hardened just a little.
Before he could reply she continued, "It sounds like that would be
the Andrien family's business. But if they made the offer...."
She hesitated for effect, mockingly copying Pella's rhetorical
pause. "I would be happy to accept it." Oh. Wait. Suddenly
uncertain, she leaned down to Ilias, asking in a whisper, "Is that
all right with you?"
He looked startled. "What?"
Nicanor was on his feet now. "Is that your condition, Pella?
A marriage alliance between Andrien and--" he looked inquiringly
at Tremaine, who supplied automatically, "Valiarde."
Pella's lips thinned but he obviously recognized that it was
too late for anybody to back out, especially him. "Yes, that is
Nicanor turned back to them. "Is it agreeable to Andrien?"
Giliead and Halian stared blankly at each other as if nobody
had ever wanted to marry anyone in their family before and they
had no more idea how to handle it than Tremaine did. She knew
Halian had been married at least twice; surely he remembered
something of the details. Then she saw with relief that Karima
had left her place on the top tier of benches and was determinedly
making her way down, stepping on the people who weren't fast
enough to get out of her way. She stepped over the last bench,
catching Halian's hand to steady herself, and leaned over to
Tremaine, asking softly, "You said Gerard can speak for your
"He's not my guardian anymore, but he's a trustee of the
estate, so, sure." Stop babbling, she told herself urgently.
Some of those words had no equivalent in Syrnaic but Karima
must have gotten the drift of it. She nodded sharply. "Let's go
talk to him." She took Tremaine's hand, firmly leading her down
the steps and away without a glance at anyone else.
Once they were out of the council chamber and into the
corridor between the buildings, Karima released Tremaine so she
could unwrap her stole and shake out her hair. Without looking at
her, Karima said, "Is this just for an alliance?"
Tremaine felt sweat break out all over her body though it was
cooler out here than in the council chamber. "No," she found
Karima stopped to face her, her expression intent, guarded
but hopeful. "You would want to take him back to your land?"
"I don't have a land anymore. Even if we drive the Gardier
away--" Tremaine took a deep breath. She had the distinctly
contrary sensation of her mind being blank but her thoughts
racing. It was uncomfortable. "I'll have to stay with the
Ravenna until we find out one way or another if there's a chance
to go back. Unless they throw me off the ship which is always a
possibility." You're babbling again. "But one way or another--
I wouldn't ask him to go back," she finished awkwardly.
Karima nodded seriously. She started toward the steps out
into the plaza, saying, "If you decide to go back to your land,
then he will still be better off. Men who have been married once
aren't subject to the family laws."
Following her, Tremaine nodded, not sure she was taking it
Gerard and Ander, sitting on the steps of the Lawgiver's
House, stood up as they saw Tremaine. Gerard frowned in
consternation and Ander demanded, "It's over? What's happened?"
Tremaine stopped in front of them, looking expectantly at
Karima, who lifted her brows slightly. Tremaine realized she
needed to do the talking. She braced herself, giving them both
what she hoped was a confident expression. First things first:
get rid of Ander. "Karima and I need to speak to Gerard alone."
Ander's frown deepened and he threw a sharp look at Gerard,
but he retreated back out of earshot without further protest.
Gerard lifted his brows, puzzled. "Tremaine?"
She cleared her throat. Her teeth wanted to chatter from
nerves and she had to clamp her jaw to stop it, which made it
difficult to talk. "It's going well, well, there's a lot of
arguing, but-- They want a marriage alliance, so I'm going to
Gerard blinked. "You...you what?"
"You have to give us something. A boat, land, cattle,
something of value," Karima put in, her voice a little concerned.
"It doesn't matter to me but if it's too little than it seems as
if you don't value him."
"I see." Tremaine nodded, not sure she did see but willing
to work with Karima. She did have land, a house and a lot of
property not leased to the Viller Institute but it was all on
currently Gardier-occupied war-torn territory. She also had an
art collection if the Gardier didn't find or destroy the hidden
vaults. Then she remembered the gold coins she had taken out of
the family deposit box at the bank to pay the forger. "I've got
gold, Rienish gold Reals. They're each four ounces of solid gold,
or really about ninety percent gold with trace metals. You can
melt them down, or you might like them just as they are. They
have the royal seal on them and they won't be made anymore so--"
Stop it. She should tell Gerard she was hysterical and ask him to
slap her. "I don't have them with me, but they're on the boat.
Karima was nodding, smiling in relief. She drew her stole
around her. "That will be perfect. We don't use gold but the
merchants from Argot will trade a lot of grain for it." She threw
Gerard a look, obviously noting that he had something to say on
the subject. "Come back when you're ready."
Tremaine watched Karima walk back to the council house, then
turned reluctantly to Gerard. At least he looked more grim than
incredulous. He said, "Are you actually seriously contemplating
Tremaine gestured erratically. Maybe I am out of my mind.
But then didn't I know that already? "Yes. It's perfect. It's
what they want. Actually they don't want it, but they've
suggested it and now they can't get out of it. I'm in there too.
I mean, I think it's a good idea."
Gerard rubbed his forehead, possibly trying to calm himself.
"Tremaine, you can't."
She nodded rapidly. "I can, actually."
He said tightly, "Your father entrusted me--"
She gestured, impatient. "Gerard, we both know if my father
was alive, he wouldn't give a damn--"
"I'm afraid we both do not know that--"
"And if he did, we wouldn't know until it was too late. And
by the way, I'm doing it anyway."
Gerard let out a frustrated breath and looked away.
Tremaine waited uncomfortably. If it was a tactic, it was
working. Unable to help herself, she said, "What are you
Gerard regarded her. "I'm thinking it's typical of you that
you can't explain how a steam engine works but you can give the
weight and metallurgic contents of a gold Real."
While she was trying to decide how to respond to that, Ander
returned, his face dark with impatience. "Will you tell me what
the hell the problem is?"
"I'll explain," Gerard said sharply.
"I'm getting married," Tremaine told him, suddenly enjoying
The incredulous expression on Ander's face was classic.
"Tremaine--" Gerard began warningly.
"Wait, wait. Can I borrow your notebook?" As Gerard
reluctantly handed it over, Tremaine told him, "We need to send
for the coins." She thought for a moment about who she trusted to
go through her things, then wrote a note to Florian, asking her to
take the leather document case out of her bag and send it to her.
"What is this?" Ander demanded, looking at Gerard. "What is
she talking about?"
"I don't know, why don't you ask her?" Tremaine said. She
tore the page out, folded it, and handed it to an unwilling
Gerard. "I'm going back in." She made her escape before either
man could object.
Halian and Nicanor had moved to the far side of the chamber,
talking intently amid the babble of other conversations. Pella
had not been invited to join them and he stood watching, his face
tight with tension and thwarted anger. To Ilias, he looked like a
man who had realized he had made a fool of himself and was all the
more determined to make somebody pay for it. He also noticed a
lot of people were staring at him, and not for the usual reasons.
Giliead had gone off with Halian, but now came back to sit
down on the step next to Ilias, asking quietly, "How do you feel
Good question, Ilias thought. He wished he had the answer.
"We want an alliance," he said to avoid it. He shrugged. "Even
if it's Pella's idea, it's the best way."
Giliead pressed his lips together in irritation. "That
wasn't what I asked."
Ilias rubbed his eyes. Everyone was still watching them, or
at least it felt like everyone. Giliead, of course, wouldn't
care. The laws didn't give the Chosen Vessel any special
authority in marriage matters, but if Giliead decided to argue
against it, there would be few who would oppose him.
Silk brushed his arm and he looked up to see Visolela
standing over them. She was trembling with anger, her lovely face
flushed as she demanded, "Are you going to allow him to do this?"
Ilias stared at her. "Me?"
Giliead just looked at her. It was a badly timed question,
since Giliead must be in the middle of deciding just that. He
said, coldly, "Go away."
She stared down at them, the flush deepening, then gathered
her skirts and walked back down the tiers.
Giliead watched her go. "This could turn out badly."
He wasn't talking about Visolela; they already knew that was
going to turn out badly. Ilias snapped, "And I just wouldn't know
what to do, since nothing bad's ever happened to me before."
Giliead's jaw set, but his expression said he knew exactly
how conflicted Ilias was. Ilias looked away.
Halian returned, taking the seat just below them. He looked
up at Ilias seriously. "Well? Do you want to do this?"
People keep asking me that. "Will they really agree to the
alliance if I do?"
Halian persisted, "If you're just doing this for the
alliance, tell Karima now."
"If I'm not just doing it for the alliance, when do you want
me to tell her?"
Halian swore in frustration. Giliead muttered something
inaudible but obviously not complimentary. Ilias told him
sharply, "You can stay out of this now."
Karima returned, the muttered babble of conversations
quieting as she crossed the room. They stood up as she reached
them. Karima lowered her voice, reporting, "She said she wouldn't
expect you to go back to their land."
Giliead let out his breath and Ilias couldn't help feeling
gratified at the relief on his face. He was aware of the knot in
his chest easing. He told them, "Yes, I'll do it."
end chapter 5
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