The Case of the Short, Short Prince

by Geron Kees

Chapter 29

"I was unaware that my desires had changed," Rier told them, after they had liberated him from control by Porvus. He was tall, sandy haired, and cheerful-looking, and even Jamie thought him a perfect match for Seeri. "I recall being suddenly possessed of a need to act, and to follow the designs that Porvus and Urvan had laid out for me." He turned to Seeri then, and tightened his arm around her. "But it seemed completely natural to me, as if I had been born with that mission." His face fell. "I never stopped loving you. But you had been forced into a place of lesser importance within my mind. For that I will be eternally sorry."

"It wasn't your fault," the woman said, smiling at him. "Kaunavah betrayed you."

"I think he had no choice, just as I had none. It's an evil magick that Porvus has in his hands. With this control, no man's mind can be free, if that dark mage so wishes it."

"That's actually not true," Jamie said. They were once again in the small alcove in the Crescent, from where they had started. Everyone had managed to find a bale of hay to sit upon. Seeri and Rier sat together upon one, both looking almost blissfully happy. Lautan, sitting alone upon another, looked quite morose. "There is a protection for this magick, one that works," Jamie finished.

"I have it, myself," Seeri explained to Rier. "As well as some new magicks, taught to me by Jamie and his friends."

Rier's eyes widened at that. "Mage magicks?"

"It is simply magick," Jamie inserted, perhaps more gruffly than he had intended. "Men and women perform the same sorts of magick, just by different methods. It is time to realize that both are of equal capabilities."

Seeri smiled and nodded at that. Rier's eyes moved from her to Jamie and back again, until a slow smile spread across his face. "Who am I to argue, when I was taken prisoner by Porvus, and my beloved had to come to free me?" He nodded at the woman. "I have always thought you to be capable, my love. This only proves that my thinking was correct." He turned then to face Jamie again. "So what happens from here?"

Jamie shrugged. "You're free. I trust our Snave's intuition. If he senses your intentions are honorable, that's good enough for me. Take your betrothed and go home."

Seeri put a hand on Rier's wrist before he could answer, and looked questioningly at Jamie. "The task is not done. Porvus and Urvan still roam free."

Garvin emitted a not quite silent sigh, and leaned up against Jamie. "I think you have a new problem just now," he whispered.

"You have your love back," Jamie said patiently. "It's what you wanted. Now the two of you can go home, and enjoy that love again."

But the woman shook her head. "I disagree. It is the duty of all to fight this"-- she suddenly looked surprised, and then slightly amused-- "whatever it is that is happening here."

Rier frowned at that. "But even I don't know what plans Porvus and Urvan have between them. I may have been compelled to do their bidding, but I was almost never told as to why."

"But someone does know, at least some of what is happening." Jamie replied, and turned to Lautan then. "You look unhappy," he said gently.

The man nodded. "I have my will back, but not the innocence that once went with it. The memories of all I have done at the beckon of Urvan are still with me."

Sir Dorf shook his head. "No man can be held accountable for what was done under another's will. Any ghosts that haunt you belong to Porvus."

"Easy to say," Lautan returned dejectedly. "Much harder to bear. Now I know what the sword feels like, when used to strike down the defenseless."

"But in this case the sword carries no blame," Snave put forth. "It is the one that wields it that bears the guilt."

"He's right," Jamie added. "You could not help yourself. You're a victim. The law would see you as one."

Lautan nodded. "Good arguments. And yet, I am still miserable."

Jamie sighed, not unsympathetically. "You fool yourself that you might have fought this compulsion," he said firmly. "You could not. I have felt it, myself, so know."

That surprised the man. "You? You were once under the compulsion of Porvus?"

"Yes. Not as you were, but the effect was the same. I did things against my will, and nearly brought about my own destruction."

That seemed to give Lautan food for thought. "So now you are here, to carry the fight back to them?"

"Yes. And never again can Porvus take my mind, or any of those with me."

The breath sighed out of the gray mage. "I will assist you, in any way I can."

"You know their plans," Snave put in, sounding hopeful. "That would be a start."

Lautan closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead, simply looking tired. "No one knows all their plans, save Porvus and Urvan. But I do know some of what is happening just now, as it was my duty to oversee those involved."

"That sounds like a start," Sir Dorf said, grinning. "Proceed."

Lautan gave a startled laugh at that, and then smiled tiredly. "Yes, but where to begin?"

"Perhaps some questions first?" Snave asked.

"I'll do my best to answer them."

Snave turned to Jamie. "I think it wise to start at the beginning."

Garvin smiled, and pressed gently against Jaime, a move that transferred a very warm sense of humor. His friend knew that Snave could be trusted to get to the bottom of everything!

"Go," Jamie approved. "We will add to your questions, if curious."

Snave turned to face Lautan again. "For us, this begins with Urvan, and a crime he had committed against Prince Sedwick of Lyrix."

Lautan shook his head. "I don't know about that. I was recruited by Urvan in Fenistree. I was there on a job for the Duke Jobert, just completed, and chanced to meet Urvan in the Duke's circle there."

Snave's voice sounded almost amused. "I'm surprised his very appearance did not put you off him."

Lautan frowned. "I am embarrassed to admit that it was Urvan's appearance that intrigued me from the start. His eyes are like none I have seen before. They are gifted with an intriguing potency."

"I have seen them," Snave returned, the disapproval plain in his voice. "Urvan has the eyes of a devil. Surely you saw that."

The gray mage gave an almost helpless shrug. "No. His manner was bold and powerful. There was an air about him that suggested exotic magicks - magicks that were totally unknown to me." The man made an unhappy face, not quite a frown. "I was taken in by my own imagination, I think, and the lure of what might be learned from him."

The gargoyle seemed surprised at that. "What of the man's unpleasant disposition? That surely should have been a warning."

But Lautan shook his head. "He was not unpleasant, not then. He was quite cheerful and charming, in fact. It was enough to beguile me, and blind my eyes to the truth."

"What did he wish from you?" Jamie asked, feeling a need to give Snave a slight push.

"He said he was on a quest, a search, for a traveler named Carin. This man had in his possession a book that Urvan very much wanted. Urvan said that if I helped him to find this man, I would be rewarded with work that would expand my knowledge of magicks tenfold." Lautan spread his hands. "There was no suggestion at all of misdeeds. I thought the offer a genuine opportunity to expand my knowledge."

Snave's reply now held a very certain note of suspicion. "A book? What kind of book?"

"It was a book of maps."

Geert sucked in his breath, but did not interrupt.

Lautan noted the boy's reaction, but it only seemed to confuse him. "A book of the ancients, Urvan said. He told me he had already recruited two dozen others, all of whom were out looking for this Carin. He didn't tell me more, but my assumption was that he intended to buy this book, when he found the man possessing it."

"Ah. And did you find this Carin?"

"No. It was one of the others. In Basthalt, up the coast, I think." Lautan frowned. "I didn't think it odd then, but I do now. This Carin no longer had the book with him, and apparently would not say what had been done with it. From what I heard then, my feeling now is that several of Urvan's mages worked in concert to beat this Carin down, to wrest the location of the book from him. And that...that Carin died in the process, without revealing its location."

"So the book was lost?"

"No. The route Carin had taken to Basthalt was clear. He could have only passed through the half dozen plains towns on his way to the sea, and so the men were told to redirect their searches to these towns."

"This Carin could have simply dropped the book into any convenient hole," Jamie said. "Urvan assumed much."

"No." Lautan shook his head. "Urvan possessed many gifts, one of which was the foretelling. He had had the vision of the book in his hands, just not the when or where of it. So he was certain the book had not simply been discarded somewhere it would never be found."

"What happened after that?" Garvin asked, his voice expressing the same sense of fascination that had overcome Jamie. Here was the tale, finally unwinding!

Lautan shrugged. "Urvan decided to set up base in Lyrix, which was at the center of the search area. He took a position of some sort there, so that he could search without suspicion. It was at that point that I met Porvus for the first time." Lautan's face clouded. "Unlike Urvan, who had captured my interest, I did not like Porvus at all upon meeting him."

Sir Dorf grunted. "Just shows your instincts were not totally dulled."

"You were taken to Methuwan?" Snave asked of Lautan.

"No. Not then. Porvus was operating from an inn in Tyrali, which as you must know, is just southeast of Lyrix."

"Yes. At what point did Porvus take your will?"

Lautan squeezed his eyes shut, his every fiber of being expressing distaste. "I had decided that this Porvus negated my interest in working for Urvan. I told Urvan that, and he said I should at least talk to Porvus before leaving. He said Porvus seemed stiff and unfriendly, but that knowing him better eased that impression. Despite my doubts, I agreed to do that, and went to the inn with Urvan to meet with Porvus. It must have happened then."

Jamie frowned at that. "You don't know for certain?"

"No. I just remember that after speaking with Porvus at the inn, I was energized to be a part of the project they were working upon. It had to have been then."

"What next?" Snave asked.

"Well...I was momentarily at loose ends. I wanted to work with Urvan, but he was off in Lyrix, guiding the search for the book. So I stayed at the inn with Porvus for some time."

"I'll bet that was fun," Sir Dorf put in drily.

Lautan squinted at that. "My memory of that time is suspiciously vague. But it was during that period that I visited Methuwan with Porvus."

Jamie leaned forward, fully caught up in the story now. "And what was that fabled city like?"

Lautan looked around the alcove, and then waved a hand to indicate the space. "Like this. Like the Crescent. On the inside, anyway. Without, it is tall and quite splendid, composed of towers and domes with gardens between them. A high wall circles the city, and many of the buildings grow directly from this encompassing wall. The view from the towers is the most amazing I have ever seen."

"It sounds wonderful," Garvin said, exchanging a curious glance with Jamie. "Hardly the evil city of the legends."

Lautan frowned at that. "And yet, there are present there the monsters of legend. The city is built perched atop an amazing walled valley, and many buildings hang over the side and halfway down the wall. There are places there with miraculous windows, where a view can be had of the valley floor below. In the near distance is a truly amazing forest, and there are all manner of strange beasts that must live within it. They occasionally come out into the open end of the valley, and may be witnessed in all their horror." The man shuddered then.

"Horror?" Snave asked. "You mean you didn't know where you were?"

"Not then. Just that the city was hung above demons and devils, it seemed."

Jamie nodded. "You were at the edge of The Forest of Night, in case you didn't know."

Lautan continued to look unnerved. "I didn't know. Not on that first visit. I didn't know I was in Methuwan. Porvus was very closed mouth about many things. He simply bade me to go with him one time, and I did."

Snave turned to face Jamie. "You realize what this means? Lautan has been to Methuwan."

Jamie nodded. "I can take the images from his mind, and we can translocate ourselves."

Lautan stared hard at Jamie. "You jest!"

"Not at all. It's how we came here, to the Crescent. I have never been here. But one of our group had." Jamie decided not to mention the lens. Already, too many people knew about it. "I am able to see the places others have visited, and use them to teleport."

The gray mage stared at him a moment, and then nodded. "I see why Urvan was so wary of you. Even while he directed the hunt for you, I sometimes had the feeling he was actually afraid at what might happen should he find you."

"We have come to blows before," Jamie said vaguely. "And yet he still lives."

"Something else," Snave said then. "There were stories of wagons going missing along the bluffs at the edge of the forest. We witnessed such an attack ourselves, by the gliftok. Those creatures tie the deed to Porvus and Urvan."

Lautan nodded. "I know of them. Those terrible creatures are under the control of Porvus. And they are not strictly beasts, having some part of the smarts of men in their heads. They follow Porvus with great loyalty, and are responsible for watching over that distant city."

The gargoyle drifted closer to the gray mage. "Porvus used them to attack caravans along the bluffs. They stole whole wagons away from the road there."

"Yes. Porvus was in need of a supply of metals and ores for his dark purpose, and at that time had no other source for them. The wagons targeted always carried ores, or metals in the form of worked goods, or some other element that was needed." Lautan gave a helpless shrug. "But sometimes the gliftok were overeager. Some of the additional destruction was simply those devils giving in to their evil natures. They are rampant things, left unfettered."

"What did Porvus need these metals and ores for?" Jamie asked.

"I don't know in detail, save to say they were needed as a part of the project. But those attacks along the bluff road have ceased, even now. Once the book of maps was found and Cotrin finally reached, the need for such thefts ended."

"So the book was found?" Snave questioned. "Where?"

"In Lyrix itself, right where Urvan held his station. Word was sent of its whereabouts by one of the searchers, and Porvus went off one day and returned with it. I don't know from where it came."

"Stolen!" Geert grated then, leaning forward angrily. "From my master's shop!"

Sir Dorf dropped a hand on the boy's shoulder and squeezed it, a silent request for Geert to remain quiet and listen. Jamie could see his friend's anger, but Geert simply nodded, and settled back on his feet.

Lautan raised an eyebrow at Geert's outburst. "I don't know where it came from, I promise you."

"He needed the maps to locate this Cotrin?" Snave went on.

"Yes. That city seemed to be the only one of the ancient places left besides Methuwan. The oracle in Methuwan knew of its existence, but could not tell Porvus where it was located."

Jamie felt a sense of disquiet creep over him. "What is this oracle?"

"That's what Urvan called it. I have no idea what the ancients referred to it as. It's a machine. It speaks, and shows pictures, diagrams, texts - many things."

"Incredible," Snave breathed. "And this device speaks in a language you understand?"

Lautan shook his head. "Not I. It's a language of the ancients. But Porvus has the knack for languages, and he does understand the oracle. Urvan, too, I believe, though to a lesser extent."

Sir Dorf grunted. "If it could speak of this Cotrin, and show pictures, then why not a map?"

Lautan turned to him. "The oracle is...damaged, may be the word. Old and in poor condition now. Something is off with its operation, anyway. When asked some questions, it simply does not respond, or says that the information is not available."

"Why this Cotrin?" Garvin asked. Jamie smiled at him, and his friend shrugged. "The question begs to be asked."

Jamie nodded at Lautan. "What is so special about this other ancient place?"

The gray mage looked patient now. "There is a skylift there."

Jamie and Garvin exchanged glances.

"And what is this skylift?" Snave asked first.

Lautan looked to choose his words carefully. "This is well beyond my expertise. But from what I have come to understand, a skylift is a device of the ancients used for lifting things to the heavens."

Jamie gasped at that. "To the heavens! What is the purpose of that?"

The gray mage shrugged. "I don't exactly know. Something is there that is of intense interest to Porvus and Urvan. And Lodda."

For a moment silence reigned.

"Lodda?" Snave asked then, his voice sounding tight. "So he is here? From what we have heard, there was some doubt about that."

"According to Urvan, Lodda is the master mage in charge of everything," Lautan confirmed.

"Strange that we have not seen him, then," Snave continued. "Porvus and Urvan have done the dirty work thus far."

Lautan nodded. "Because Lodda is not here." The man pointed at the ceiling. "He is up there, in the sky."

Jamie leaned forward. "How did he get there?"

"There is a skylift at Methuwan, also. From what I gather, Lodda used it to travel to whatever lies above. But once there, the skylift in Methuwan failed and could not be made to operate again. Lodda was able to translocate himself back to Methuwan, but as the only one to have gone above, he was the only one who could go back. Something about the distance made the translocation very hard, and he found he could not even take one other with him. But their plans required that many go, and so a search was started to find a way to repair the skylift."

"I thought there were machines of the ancients whose sole duty it was to maintain other machines of the ancients?" Jamie asked.

"That is true of many devices. But a skylift is large, and, from what I have been told, exceedingly complex. It is something like the portal Urvan used to escape you, but on a far grander scale."

"That device was tiny," Geert pointed out. "I saw it, just a small metal ball hung from a chain."

Lautan shook his head. "What you saw was simply the key. The device that does the work of teleportation is in Cotrin, and is quite large itself." He shrugged at Jamie. "The skylift is even larger. Once there were some fabulous devices in these cities of the ancients. But now much of that science has failed, or is failing. The larger machines seem to have failed first, while many of the smaller devices continue to function. But that the machines will continue to fail if something is not done seems clear."

"I still don't know why Porvus has men at Cotrin," Snave reminded then, sounding impatient.

Lautan nodded at the gargoyle's tone. "The oracle finally informed Lodda that another skylift existed at Cotrin, and that they could repair the skylift at Methuwan by taking parts from that one."

Sir Dorf waved a hand at the gray mage to get his attention. "Does this skylift machine fire rockets into the heavens? If so, we have already seen one."

Lautan looked surprised by that. "You know about them? No. Those are not skylifts. There are apparently a number of these rocket facilities left in existence. Their purpose was to maintain whatever it is that lies up in the heavens. Most of these places had failed over time. One in the forest, and one other in the far mountains, were still in operation. What they delivered above was apparently only a small part of what was needed for the project, however. Lodda has found the means in Cotrin to repair those that still exist that have failed, and all the ones that could be made to work are in operation again, ferrying mined and refined metals into the sky."

"There are a number of these rocket...facilities?" Jamie asked, almost stumbling over the unusual use of the word.

"Yes. Apparently, they once existed in large numbers. Something destroyed many of them, and others simply failed over time. But Porvus has nine of them back to work now. They are supplying the needed raw materials for whatever Lodda is doing above. Slowly, it seems, but surely."

"This must be a project of some scale," Jamie put in, recalling the size of the operation beneath the strange rocket house in the forest. "What could they be doing?"

Garvin turned to Jamie. "They're repairing something, maybe? Something grand in scale, it would seem."

Lautan nodded. "Yes. I thought you understood."

Jamie could not conceive of any project so large that it could need the sort of materials that even one rocket facility of the ancients lofted into the sky each day. And over years of time? And now nine such places back in operation? "But you don't know what it is in the sky they are trying to repair?" Jamie asked.

Lautan sighed. "No. I have not been given that information. But my guess is that it is more of the ancient's technology. And something truly large, by all the clues."

Snave turned to face Jamie. "I think I have the way of this now."

Jamie couldn't help smiling at the gargoyle's sure tone, and offered him a small bow. "Please proceed."

Snave drifted in a slow circle a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. "Apparently, Lodda and Porvus - and possibly Urvan - arrived at Methuwan sometime in the past. Perhaps several centuries past, since someone was there to deploy the gliftok in the defeat of the Tramodil when those hordes attacked the city. Lodda and his group have spent a long time exploring what they found there, and learning the secrets of the ancients, and whatever they learned there has led them into some sort of plan, as yet unexplained, which they have just engaged in in force in the last year. Apparently, the breakdown of the skylift at Methuwan is what started this entire thing for us. The oracle told Lodda he could repair his machine with parts from a similar machine at a place called Cotrin, but was unable to tell Lodda how to get there. I'm not sure how the book of maps was known to them, but at some point they went searching for this Carin, expecting to take it from him. I am wondering now if Carin was aware of the hunt. Whether by accident or by design, he effectively hid the book from Porvus and his cohort by selling it to Master Crillis as a curiosity. The search for Carin and the book proceeded for some time, with Urvan in charge. He set up his base of operations in Lyrix, and took the position as King's Mage to cover his activities."

"That seems rather much, don't you think?" Garvin asked. "He could have run the search without becoming a mage to the king."

Snave chuckled. "Not at all. As at some point he became aware of - and enamored of - Prince Sedwick. Holding the position of King's Mage allowed him to be inside the castle and close to the object of his affection, while also giving him access to information that might aid in his search for the book of maps."

"But this Carin was finally located in Basthalt then," Geert pointed out.

"Yes. And did not divulge what he had done with the book. But knowing his route then, Urvan figured it was left somewhere along Carin's path, and redirected the search to the towns the mage had passed through." Snave chuckled again. "To then discover the book was right there under his nose all along must have infuriated him. Porvus was informed of the book's whereabouts, and came to take it from Crillis. But before then, a very much frustrated Urvan, failing to win a drop of affection from Sedwick, had cursed him, and so drew us into this tale to seek him out."

For a moment no one said anything as they digested the story.

Sir Dorf finally grinned. "Oh. Is that all?"

Garvin and Jamie both laughed. "Isn't it enough?" Garvin asked.

"So what do we do next, I ask?" Geert wondered aloud.

Jamie eyed Seeri and Rier, and then turned to Lautan. "Is there more to be told?"

"Not that I am aware of. My chief duty for some time now has been running the search for you and your friends, and assisting Urvan in overseeing the removal of items from Cotrin. Once it became known you were in the tunnels beneath the forest, Porvus made it a priority you be located. I was based at the tower, and thus removed from much of what was happening at Methuwan, and so with their plans. So, I have no more to add."

Jamie nodded. "You have been to this Cotrin, as well?"

"Yes. Once."

"This portal you mentioned. The small metallic orb that Urvan used to escape. How does this figure into things?"

The gray mage shrugged. "After the book of maps was found, the oracle was able to give Porvus a direction in which to go to find Cotrin. He flew off and found the ancient city, on the other side of the world, it is said. He was gone for some weeks of time. But then he simply translocated back to Methuwan."

"The portal?" Jamie reminded gently.

"Oh, yes. The keys were found at Cotrin, along with the machine they activated. A key will only allow for the teleportation of people and goods to that city from anywhere else. So many of the men were allowed to go there, and learned the way so that they could teleport on their own. Porvus is certain the keys can be made to operate for any of the ancient's places that still have a working portal center, but thus far the secret of changing the destination has eluded him. The keys found at Cotrin will only take one to that place, and no other."

"Are there other places even left?" Geert asked.

Lautan waved a hand uncertainly. "The oracle was unable to locate any others." He frowned. "Porvus did say that did not mean that other cities did not exist. Just that the oracle could no longer detect them."

Geert rubbed his hands together in delight and smiled at Jamie. "More treasure out there, waiting to be found!"

"So, this key cannot be used to teleport to Methuwan?" Snave asked, sounding slightly impatient.

"No. It seems that each city of the ancients had one of these portals. Keys were in some way told where the bearer wished to go. The knowledge of that magick has since been lost. All keys go to Cotrin now, and nowhere else."

Garvin pointed a finger at the man. "Methuwan doesn't have a portal?"

"It does, but it is apparently no longer operational."

Jamie nodded. That meant that Urvan could not escape them again. "I heard you mention to Urvan that there were men at this city still securing equipment. You mean the things needed to repair the skylift?"


"And how close are they to bringing to Methuwan what is needed?"

Lautan squinted in thought. "My last discussion of the matter with Urvan suggested that they were nearly completed in their mission."

"One more thing," Snave said then. "Why are the gray mages intent on reclaiming the places beneath the Forest, at the expense of the peoples that live there? From what we have heard so far, there seems no reason to bother with this at all."

Lautan licked his lips, his eyes briefly going to Bastyin and Gorge. "Not all the gray mages share the prejudices of Urvan and Porvus. I bear no ill-will towards any that live in the Forest."

"We met a rather nasty fellow named named Artagon there," Jamie said then, a wash of old anger coming back to him at the memory. "He pronounced the Three Nations vermin, and expressed a desire to eliminate them."

Lautan nodded. "It was suspected you were the cause of his disappearance. Porvus sent one of the newly resurrected battle tanks to look for him." He gazed questioningly at Jamie then. "Urvan said that you destroyed it.The idea seemed to unnerve him, if it's any consolation."

"Why does Urvan want to reclaim all the places beneath the Forest?" Snave pressed.

Lautan placed a hand against his forehead. "I don't know the whole plan. But--" He looked up at them. "Porvus and Urvan have apparently envisioned recruiting many mages in the future, and restoring the places in the Forest to operation. They have said that Methuwan was once the city of mages, and the Forest its domain. They intend to restore these places to their former glory."

"If glory is how it can be described," Snave said gruffly. "And I am not certain of that, not at all."

"And the Three nations?" Sir Dorf reminded.

Lautan nodded, and squeezed his eyes shut a moment. "They - Porvus and Urvan - feel that the ones inhabiting the places beneath the forest the way."

Silence reigned for a long moment as everyone considered both, the incredible audacity, and the absolute unfeeling horror, of the dark mage's plans.

"They will not be allowed to war against the peoples of the forest," Jamie said then. "They will be stopped."

"All of us are of the same mind," Garvin agreed. "We will not allow this evil plan to come to fulfillment."

"What of us?" Seeri asked then. "We wish to help." Rier nodded, his honest interest plain.

"I don't know," Jamie returned. "I'm not sure we have time to train you well enough to defend yourselves. Let me think on it." But then an idea occurred to him, and he smiled at them. "On second thought, I do have something the two of you can do to help. Providing you are willing, that is."

Seeri flashed a smile at him. "Just say it."

"Very well. Give me a moment." He turned back to Lautan. "I want the images of Cotrin from your mind, as well as the images of Methuwan. And we may think of more questions to ask you." He smiled. "But I guess after that, we will not have further need of you."

Lautan could not hide his relief.

"What will you do now?" Geert asked of the man. He turned to Jamie. "Is it wise to release him just yet?"

The gray mage grunted. "I will cause you no further pain, I swear. I plan to consider in some depth my own poor judgment in this affair." He closed his eyes then. "Not that that will undo what I have done. But I do need to have a reckoning with myself of some sort."

"Don't treat yourself too badly," Sir Dorf advised gently. "A mistake in judgment is a long way from a deliberate stray from the path. And that you have learned from your error seems clear."

Jamie watched Lautan a moment in silence, and then turned to Snave. "What do you think, my friend?"

The gargoyle turned slowly to face Lautan. "Have a safe journey home."

Lautan nodded, his relief deepening. But then he winced, opened his eyes, and leaned closer to Jamie. "Um...this taking of images from my mind? Will it hurt much?"

Jamie could only smile. "Not even a little."

The desert spread to the far horizon, baking beneath an unforgiving sun. The heat was unexpected, none of them having been to any place like this before. They had materialized next to a tall spire, one made of the smooth white stone the ancients had seemed to use for all their constructs. The spire shaded them, a relief Jamie was grateful for, as the air temperature suggested that being out in the sun would not be good for one's health.

Other spires emerged from the sand all around them, some towering upwards like the one at their backs, but many others appearing much shorter, and some barely piercing the sand at all. Jamie examined the wall at his back, and noted that the doorway there was at knee height, with a wide step or platform before it, which was completely surrounded by a railing of some sort. With a start he realized that this must have once been a balcony, suspended much higher above the ground, and that the sand had over time filled the spaces between the spires to a considerable depth, so much so that some buildings only showed their uppermost floors to the eye.

"Lautan said he stepped out here once from his room in this building, but found the heat disagreeable," Garvin reminded, sounding uncomfortable. "I can see the why of his judgment on the heat even now. Or, feel it,"

They were invisible and, hopefully, undetectable, though by now Jamie felt that any mage of genuine ability might still sense their presence. Urvan had done so, not because he had seen them, but because he had sensed the power that coursed among them. By any normal standards, Jamie and the others were now very powerful mages, indeed. Jamie suspected that what had revealed their presence to Urvan was a resonance of that power within his own knack. At some point Jamie would need to focus on a counter to this tiny flaw in their defenses, but not until time permitted.

Certainly not now.

Jamie raised himself up and over the encircling railing, and lowered himself onto the platform before the door. The others quickly followed, seeing his knack and aura in their enhanced sight. Beside the door was the by now familiar hand lock plate, and Jamie wondered if a touch would give them access as so many of these types of doors had in the past. Surely there was a way to lock these doors against all but an individual hand; but neither Urvan nor any of his band had apparently figured it out yet.

"If you will block, I will open, Sir Dorf."

Jamie had selected this place to translocate to after reviewing the many images he had found inside Lautan's mind. This spot had the advantage of being outside the complex in which Urvan's gray mages were working, and away from any probable encounter with someone before they were ready. As Sir Dorf had said, reconnaissance was the best prelude to any battle. Jamie wanted a good look around first, if possible.

They opened the door, and found an empty room beyond. It contained a bed and several chairs, a desk, and some cabinets. Lautan had told them that the hallway outside the room's door was home to accommodations for other gray mages, but at this time of the day, most would be away working within the depths of the buried city.

They all entered the room, and the outer door whispered closed behind them.

"Much cooler in here," Geert whispered.

It was. The ancient's knowledge extended even to keeping the temperatures inside their places comfortable, as they had yet to find any that were too cold or too hot. Despite its mass, a tower like this, exposed to the desert sun, would certainly get hot within if not kept somehow from doing so.

"I would take the secret of this comfort back to Lyrix," Geert continued. "Many's the summer night I have found my bed far too warm to sleep."

Garvin gave a whispered chuckle. "You just need the right partner to fan you, my friend."

"Shh!" Jamie cautioned, though unable not to smile himself at the thought of fanning Garvin on a hot summer night. But...too much confidence was the last thing they needed now!

"There's the door into the hallway," Snave said, though of course he could not be seen.

Jamie nodded, went to the door, and listened closely. Either the corridor beyond was presently empty, or the sound-deadening qualities of the panel were excellent. "Nothing comes to me. My watcher also says no one is about. Sir Dorf? Block while I open?"

The door whispered to one side, revealing an empty hallway. Lautan had given them directions so that they could find the area where the gray mages were working. Turn left, go to the end of the corridor, and down the stairs to be found there for five flights. That would leave them in a large chamber that had once been the ground floor entry to the building. From there, by what Lautan had told them, it would be obvious what to do next.

Jamie led the group to the end of the hallway, and there they found several of the doors they thought to be lifts, as well as a wide staircase that dropped a dozen steps before turning to the left and proceeding downward.

"I suggest we raise ourselves and float down," Sir Dorf whispered. "Even invisible, so many of us descending will certainly raise a ruckus."

They did that, Jamie leading, and the knight falling in beside him for the descent. The five flights were taken quickly, and as they neared the bottom, they began to hear the sounds of labor, and voices.

Many voices.

Jamie sensed movement nearby, and then Sir Dorf's whisper came to his ear. "You must be prepared to act with resolve this time, Jamie. Urvan, if he is here, must not be allowed to escape again."

"I know. It will not happen, I promise."

"Everyone must act similarly," the knight cautioned the invisible group. "Speed, accuracy, and force. I am aware that some of the enemy here may not be operating under their own wills. If you can safely disable them, do so. But do not let your compassion solely dictate your actions. It could endanger all of us."

Jamie was sorting the voices he could hear, and thought he heard Urvan, somewhere in the distance, calling out instructions. He focused on that direction, made it his goal.

"If things go similarly as last time, they will not detect us immediately," he said to the others. "We must use that moment to our advantage to move forward. We do not have to stay in a tight group, but stay as close together as you can. No one is to go off alone. The more our defenses overlap, the safer we will be. Understood?"

He counted the whispered responses, and nodded to himself. "Then let's go."

The stairs were broad, and Jamie sensed Sir Dorf falling in beside him to one side, and Garvin to the other, as they floated down the last staircase. At the base was a large arched doorway, beyond which a vast room extended, a room filled with the machines of the ancients. Gray mages moved everywhere, an easy three dozen of them, some pushing low, flat carts upon which rested what could only be the parts of machines, while others were unloading stopped carts into small, neat piles. Even as he watched, a gray mage stepped up to one of the small piles of parts, there was a brief flash of green light, and both mage and the pile of parts vanished.

"They're moving out the parts," Garvin whispered. "Should we stop them?"

"Wait." Jamie turned to follow the voice he knew to be Urvan's, and finally spied the red mage standing atop a small dais with another man, this one robed as Skoda had been, but with a face sporting only a small, neat beard and mustache. Jamie quickly appraised the man, sensing the power and control within him. This was not just another gray mage, yet nor was he of the same ilk as Skoda. Where that mage had been possessed of a barely controlled sense of fury that had simply blazed from within, this mage looked every bit as cool and calm as Jamie would expect a master mage to be.

Whatever they were discussing, the matter apparently ended, and the robed mage nodded to Urvan and turned to walk back among the men on the floor.

"Beware the mage that just quit Urvan," Jamie directed. "I don't sense he is as dangerous as Urvan, but I do feel he is not to be despised."

Even as he spoke, several more of the gray mages vanished with their piles of goods, leaving only seven piles left on the floor. The other gray mages finished unloading their carts and pushed them away, and Jamie sensed that these piles would soon be on their way as well. He reached out then, and englobed Urvan again within a mirror field that would stop him from teleporting away. At the same time, he circled the man with every defense he could muster, trapping him upon the dais.

"Garvin!" Jamie whispered. "Geert! Stop these last gray mages from leaving with their cargos! Everyone else, join in!"

He turned back towards Urvan, only to see the man even then looking shocked, an expression that could only mean he had detected the forces marshaling against him. The red mage took a swift step forward, cupped his hands before his face, and bellowed out across the floor, "Lasque! Intruders!"

Jamie surged forward then, flying across the floor even as a torrent of magicks reached out from Urvan to attack him. But Jamie knew every one of the red mage's tricks now, and simply turned them aside, threw them back, or negated them completely as soon as they were born. He arrived at the edge of the dais and hovered near the edge as he and Urvan once again traded forces with lightning speed. But even quicker than the last time was the red mage beaten down to his knees, and just at the moment where Urvan's defenses were about to crack, Jamie ceased his attack, landed on the other side of the dais from the man, and allowed himself to become visible to face him.

The recognition in the red mage's eyes was immediate.

"How?" Urvan asked, his amber eyes ablaze with fear and fury. "No one has been here but my own men! How could you find this place?"

"I followed you," Jamie said, smiling. "It was the smell, I think. Hard to miss, you know."

Urvan hissed at him. "A devil you are! What manner of teacher has brought you to such ability? And how could such forces be taught, and yet not be known in the world?"

Jamie shrugged. "It matters not. This time you are defeated, and there will be no portal to allow you to escape."

Green light flashed around the red mage as he tried to teleport away. The man's image blinked, and returned to the same place. Again the green light flashed, and again Urvan was immediately returned to his own tracks.

"You cannot leave," Jamie said, feeling the sense of grim finality come over him at what he had to do. "This time, I will have the magick you used to injure Prince Sedwick, and your life will be forfeit as payment for your misdeeds."

Urvan sneered. "I am not done until I am done!"

"Then be ready to be done. I am coming for you, Urvan. And this will be the final time."

Jamie started walking towards the red mage, his every sense attentive. His eyes remained on Urvan's, knowing that any next move would be revealed there first. The amazement that this could be happening to him a second time was abundantly clear in Urvan's expression. A string of magickal ties danced frantically in the visible knack above the red mage's head, magicks of every sort meant to attack or to flee, and all died almost as quickly as they were born. Jamie felt a warm comfort upon his chest, sensed the small life within the lens as it paced about his thoughts with resolute steps, this time ensuring that nothing would stop what needed to occur from occurring. This time, there would be no reprieve for Urvan. The man watched him approach, still with disbelief, and Jamie's gaze remained locked with those amazing and fascinating amber eyes as an almost cold detachment settled over him at what he must do next.

And so when Urvan's gaze deflected slightly to one side and his eyes widened almost imperceptibly, Jamie stopped in his tracks and spun around.

Something impacted his shields with stunning force, nearly knocking Jamie off his feet. His electrum shields rang like a bell at the blow, yet reacted so swiftly to counter the force of the impact and spread its energy around the surface that Jamie merely staggered, and quickly regained his balance.

Across the vast room, having entered through another of the large archways on the other side, stood one of the spider-like battle machines, twin to the one that had attacked them down in the tunnels beneath the Forest of Night. The robed mage stood off to one side, also wearing an amazed expression now, and Jamie realized that the machine had just taken a shot at him with its main battle weapon. The blue lance!

Jamie's defenses against that weapon, until now untested, had performed exactly as he had hoped, his shields resisting the force of the blow just long enough to gather and dissipate its massive energy load to every single point on the shield. The ringing sound was a solid chord, one of strength, not near failure. The actual amount of force transmitted to Jamie himself had been more than acceptable, only causing him to miss his step because of the unexpected strike while he was turning about.

The robed mage shook his head in disbelief, and stabbed a finger at Jamie. "Hit him again! Destroy him!"

The battle machine took a frighteningly quick step towards Jamie, and again the blue lance flashed. This time Jamie leaned into it, and the explosion of force around him caused the blue lance to fracture into dozens of lightning bolts, which ricocheted in every direction.

"No, you fool!" Urvan bellowed at the robed mage. "You'll kill us all!"

The battle machine coughed out a string of nearly invisible projectiles, which burst with blinding force against Jamie's shields. Jamie blinked, only briefly dazzled as the shields cut off all light above a certain value to protect his vision. The tremendous energy of the impacts was shrugged off into the room, and Jamie saw the gray mages scattered violently as the concussion reached their shields. Jamie could only hope that his friend's protections were working as well as his own! He looked quickly around him, spied their knacks in his extended sight, and all seemed sparklingly active and healthy. And moving!

This seemed confirmed when, a moment later Jamie caught the barest glimpse of nearly invisible motion as a large, long, and very massive looking steel beam was ripped from its root within the stone floor and swung, complete with enormous ball of fractured stone still clinging to the end, with tremendous speed at the battle machine. The motion was a blur, the impact was thunderous, and caused the shields around the machine to flash into the violet range, while more lightning skittered away to every corner of the large room. The battle machine was driven backwards the height of a man as the steel beam vaporized into metallic steam, the superheated gases expanding with enough force to flatten any of the gray mages still on their feet. The sound of the impact echoed throughout the room as the battle machine turned and loosened a blue lance at its invisible tormentor.

Garvin, surely!

But his friend's knack was a blur now as it raced across the room, and the robed mage's shields suddenly flared and collapsed inwards, tossing the man backwards to land flat on his back.

"Stop your machine now!" Garvin's voice roared. "Or I will stop you!"

To accent his words, the invisible Garvin continued to kick the robed mage about within his shields, so overloading them with each strike that the man inside was battered relentlessly.

In concert with Garvin's actions, all the knacks that Jamie recognized as belonging to his friends spun furiously with new and varied ties, and the battle machine was besieged by energies of every sort. Its shields flared and wavered and faltered, but could not be breached, though while under such a siege, neither could the machine seem to use its own offensive armaments. The knacks moved closer to the machine, formed a half-circle before it, and slowly began to push it backwards, away from Jamie. Yet the amazing reserves of energy the machine evidently produced seemed able to keep it from being destroyed entirely.

Jamie considered once again teleporting away as much of the battle machine as he could, but vividly remembered the explosive response to that action the previous time. Such a move might certainly end all life within the room not protected by his own group's fierce shielding. He turned then, spied Urvan down on his belly, keeping his head covered with his hands, but watching events around him as they transpired with a keen interest that could not be missed. Jamie moved himself then, to stand between the battle machine and the red mage. He could not allow Urvan within his own shields to protect the mage, but neither could he let the man be killed before he took the magick that was needed to restore Prince Sedwick to full health.

He turned back to the battle machine then, even as it managed to loose another blue lance his way. Again his shields handled the load easily, and again they rang in harmony with the force of the strike. But the energy scatter wreaked havoc with the contents of the room, blowing the piles of parts away to the far walls, and causing several of the gray mages prone on the floor to wink into nothingness as their shields failed.

This could not go on. The robed mage - was this the Lasque that Urvan had called to earlier? - seemed to be doing all he could to maintain his own shields now. The room itself was filled with smoke, and new thunder burst forward as the battle machine called forth heroic reserves of energy and targeted another of Jamie's group with a blue lance. The machine seemed to be able to detect them, even hidden behind their many shields. Surely the constant streams of electrums Jamie felt flying around the room were some part of this...

For a moment he froze then, his eyes darting around in amazement. Yes, the room was full of electrum patterns of all kinds. But loose too in the room were other patterns he did not recognize, some made of electrums, and others made of...what? Some other force like electrums, but subtly different. These patterns swirled most energetically around the twisting vortexes that Jamie knew were the knacks of his fellows. Even as he watched, he saw one of his friends tie a new magick, which caused the cloud of these strange particles around him to elongate in the direction of the battle machine...

There was a flash of intense light, a tremendous concussion, and Jamie was tossed backwards within his shield to sit down hard. He threw his hands out behind him to help with the landing, and shook his head briefly to help clear the turmoil within his thoughts. What had just happened?

The room had gone silent. Jamie forced his gaze back to the battle machine, and was amazed at what he saw. It was collapsed to the floor, the legs of energy that had once supported it now gone. The round shell was cracked, and fire and smoke billowed through the fissure from inside. That the machine had been destroyed was clear, but who...?

Someone appeared near to him, and Jamie looked up at the face. A face like a human face, but unlined, hairless, a face that looked young and amazingly innocent.


The Lachess bent closer to Jamie, but was careful not to touch his shields. "Are you well, Jamie?"

Jamie shook his head a further time and climbed to his feet. "Yes. What just happened?"

A worried expression flitted across the other's face, and then Bastyin turned to look at Urvan. "That one needs your attention first."

They hurried together to Urvan, who had been blown away from his former position by the fearful explosion, and now lay upon his back, his amber eyes staring upwards. Jamie was able to tell by the red mage's knack that he still lived. But his clothing was tattered, and his face blackened with soot, and the amber fire within his eyes seemed weak now somehow. For the very first time, those eyes looked up at Jamie without the hate and fury they had always held before.

Instead, they seemed almost confused. "I cannot believe such power."

Jamie had no real answer for that. "In a way, you helped to create it, Urvan. By your own evil deeds, you set all of us upon the path to your downfall."

The man emitted a sigh. "It looks as if you have defeated me, after all."

Jamie squatted next to him. "I'm sorry. I really did not wish to kill anyone. But I am learning that sometimes death is the price one pays for life."

Urvan nodded slowly. "I had a feeling about you, from our first meeting in the Prince's great room. A terrible, terrible feeling." His eyes briefly closed, and then reopened. "I have but one question of you."

"Speak it."

Urvan looked tired now, but managed the hint of a smile. "Are you...are you really as young as you look?"

Jamie nodded. "Every day of it."

Urvan closed his eyes a moment, and sighed again. "Such a beautiful man you will be, in a few short years."

Jamie frowned, at once weirdly pleased at the compliment, but wary and worried over its origin. For Urvan to suddenly be so agreeable signaled something dire in the offing. "You are hurt."

The red mage's eyes opened. "I am fatally wounded, actually. By the test of my own magicks, I know it to be true." He gave a short, bitter laugh. "Killed by that damnable machine and its reckless antics." He took a sudden, painful seeming breath, and nodded again. Some of the old animosity returned to his gaze. "So, I am defeated, but I have not lost. For I will not give you the magick I used on Prince Sedwick. Taking that secret with me is all I have left."

Jamie felt a sadness come over him then. "Then I must take even that small victory from you."

He formed the mental hand in his mind, reached forth with it, and closed it upon Urvan's knack. The red mage gasped, and his eyes widened. "You can't!"

Jamie tightened the grip of the hand, and snatched Urvan's knack from him.

The man groaned terribly, and the horrified expression in those amber eyes was one that Jamie would never forget.

"You are a monster," Urvan whispered. "Here, then, is the terrible vision I saw upon our first meeting, finally come true. That one day you would do what you have just...done."

The man's face slackened then, and began to age right before Jamie's eyes. In only a moment, gone was the striking youth and sharp features, the sinister beauty that had been Urvan's own unique stamp. His face sagged further, wrinkled beneath its coating of soot, and quickly reflected his true age...and then beyond. The man took a deep breath, and then it sighed slowly from him, his last one.

An unaccountable sense of loss stole over Jamie then. He knew he should be elated at Urvan's defeat...but he was not. The sadness of the red mage's passing could not be denied. Even those that followed the paths of evil must have hopes and dreams, and a love for life. To see those things taken away from anyone seemed tragic.


Jamie looked up to find Garvin standing beside him. The look of compassion in his friend's eyes ran deeply, carrying a full understanding of what Jamie must be feeling. What he was feeling.

Jamie nodded, stood, and let Garvin inside his shields. The love of his life held him close, and nuzzled his face, and whispered how much he loved Jamie. For a moment they simply stood together as one, while the knot of stress inside Jamie slowly relaxed.

"It had to be done," Garvin finally said, pulling back and smiling at him.

"I know." Jamie sighed, and wiped the moisture from his eyes. "Yet the feeling of letdown is enormous. This was not the end I envisioned for Urvan. There is no sense of triumph here."

Snave and the others had gathered around them. "I sense no life left here at all now," the gargoyle said. "The remaining gray mages were lost in the battle. So, too, the robed one, Lasque." The gargoyle made a slow turn, and then again faced Jamie. "I sense no life anywhere, and I mean for some leagues around us. Truly, this is a dead city now."

Jamie looked around the room, shook his head at the terrible mess. "I fear the parts we intended to capture were destroyed in the melee."

"The effect is the same," Sir Dorf said. "Captured or destroyed, they are now of no use to Porvus."

"Do you think that will stop their plan?" Geert asked.

"We have no way of knowing from here," Jamie replied. "I guess we have to go to Methuwan next and see for ourselves."

"No more delay?" Geert asked then. "No more waiting for the right time to come?"

Jamie shook his head. "How could the time be more right than now? Kundun was right, when he said the time to act would simply be upon us without notice." He nodded. "The moment has come to end this thing." Jamie looked around until he found Bastyin again. "It was you that destroyed the battle machine."

The Lachess looked worried again. "Yes. I actually did not know my magick would work well."

"Certainly woke me up!" Sir Dorf said, smiling. But that he approved of the machine's demise was clear.

Jamie nodded, and reviewed the ties that Bastyin had used in the final assault against the machine. He had learned them as they were tied, but had had no time to review them in the aftermath of the destruction.

He was stunned at what he found. "This...this is the lightning magick that Porvus used against us in the first red tower? The magick that summons the lightning of all the world to attack a single place?"

The Lachess held up his hands. "I have no way of knowing if it is the same magick. I had only your description of it to work from. I have been trying to imagine how such a magick would work for some time, testing out ideas as we have journeyed along. The final part of the puzzle only came to me as we faced the evil machine."

"Good timing," Geert said, smiling. "I was wondering myself how we were going to take that mechanical beast apart."

"This is not exactly the same magick that Porvus used, I suspect," Jamie said then. "For his lightning came from the sky. You struck the battle machine without the bolt penetrating the building at all."

The Lachess gave a small shrug. "I constructed the magick to terminate the strike at a certain point. I did not wish the building to be affected at all."

Jamie grinned and turned to Snave. "Our Bastyin has quite a future, don't you think?'

The gargoyle chuckled. "His perspective is most unique. I expect good things from him."

Bastyin looked embarrassed and pleased, all at a time. "Thank you." He patted his chest twice and returned his gaze to Jamie. "But I was fearful that I had inadvertently done in Urvan before you could get the spell from him to cure Prince Sedwick."

Garvin clapped a hand on Jamie's shoulder. "He got it, though."

"Yes. I have the magick that will return Seddy to his former self." Jamie sighed. "I only wish that here was the end of this venture."

"Discovering what Porvus and Lodda are up to is now our main goal," Snave said. "That, and stopping them."

Jamie nodded, and then remembered something. "Snave, during the battle I spied a new pattern of forces, similar to electrums, yet not exactly the same. They were most notable around all of you, and especially when Bastyin loosed his lightning."

The gargoyle moved closer, obviously interested. "And what do you think these new patterns of force represent?"

Jamie scratched an earlobe absently a moment, and then nodded to himself. "Snave, I suspect I was witness to the propagation of magick itself."

"Whoa!" Geert whispered, looking amazed.

"Yes," Bastyin put in. "This may be important."

"Very important," Snave agreed.

"Why important?" Gorge said, speaking up for the first time. The little man had been so quiet that Jamie sometimes forgot he was around.

Irik, standing nearby, turned to the Pertwee. "To see magick being born is to understand its nature."

"Exactly," Jamie replied. "This needs exploring, before we go marching into Methuwan. Understanding how magick does what it does may lead to a better control of its use."

Sir Dorf gave a small grunt. "Is this the weapon you say Kundun suggested you find?"

Jamie frowned at the idea. "A weapon? Not in the strictest sense of the word. But...knowing how magick operates may allow us to better control it." He smiled at that. "Not only our own magick, but the magick of others."

The knight mirrored Jamie's smile. "Ah. I see. Then perhaps lead on, young Jamie, and I will follow."

"Where do we go from here, then, if not Methuwan?" Geert asked. He sighed. "Every time we are bound there, a new side trip occurs."

"Just a short pause," Jamie promised. "Consider it a group study, for all of us will be engaged."

"It could make the difference between victory and defeat," Irik said, with a wolf smile. "Everything new we have learned can make the difference between victory and defeat!"

Jamie laughed. "There you go. I find the circle coming to a close now, though. We are almost there, I think."

"So where to?" Geert asked. "Someplace quiet will be needed, I'd wager."

Sir Dorf laughed. "Of course!"

Garvin moved back to Jamie's side and smiled at him, and Jamie returned the smile. "Any ideas, my love?" Garvin asked.

Jamie nodded. "Well...that little alcove from which we started sort of appeals just now. I think a nap upon a bale of hay is just what I need at this point." But then a new thought came to him, and he turned to look again at the body of Urvan upon the floor. "But first...I don't wish to leave this one here, laying in such a lonely place far across the world from all others." He looked up at Garvin. "Will you help me take him?"

"Seriously?" Geert asked, also turning to view the body. "After all he has done?"

Jamie bit at his lip and nodded. "Even after all that. What I will remember of him most now are the fear and loneliness of his last moments. Despite his ills, Urvan was a man who wished for love, and, it seems, never quite found it." He smiled at Garvin. "Help me?"

His friend nodded.

"I will also assist," Sir Dorf said quietly. "Where do you wish to take him?"

Jamie thought a moment, and then smiled. "The place by the bluffs, where we first saw the gliftok steal away the wagons from the road? That little clearing in which we stood was quiet, within hearing of the forest, and in sight of the roadway. It seems a place that will never be lonely, yet will allow this one to rest in peace."

The knight shook his head, but his eyes held a smile. "Then let us go there, and be done with Urvan. And hope that the gesture is not wasted, and that Porvus, perhaps, can soon lie beside him."

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