ZIHAEN, The Shadow of the Revenaunt, Book 2

CHAPTER 10 - BAVOLT (Part 1)

Uwella did not, to say the least, wake up happy. The moment she heard what had happened after she fainted, a storm broke loose.

‘Did you have to drag me as a helpless novice to the high temple? Did nobody think about how you destroyed my reputation? If you’d just put me to bed, all would be well. Now I look ridiculous in the eyes of all those bigots of the White Temple. I, a wikke of the Gray Order.’

Bo wanted to say something, but she silenced him with a gesture. ‘No excuses, Bernabo Lusindral. You made a spectacle of me. Of me, the Valvodjara of Vavaun!’

Ghyll spread his hands. ‘Pipe down for a minute. None of us knew what was in that black bottle. It could have been a poison that caused the death of my parents and the entire crew of the Yanthe Star.‘ He shrugged. ‘I’m sorry, but I thought your health more important than your reputation.’

‘Besides,’ Bo said slyly. ‘Nobody knew who you were and we didn’t think to mention it. They were all much more impressed by Ghyll and the proclamation, than by your little swoon.’

Uwella pressed her lips together and wrapped herself in an icy silence, while the others turned their attention to the morning meal.

Sometime later, while the servants came to clear the table, the senior of them bowed to Ghyll.

‘Excuse me, my lord Baron. There is a… person below who wants to see you.’

Ghyll lowered his cup of cawah. Torril was right, he thought suddenly. These footmen do look like Zino’s camel. ‘A person?’

The man bowed again. ‘Yes, my lord. He wears a hooded cloak and I could not see his face.’ His voice sounded faintly reproving, as if mysterious strangers had no place in an establishment like the Crown.

Ghyll put down his cup. ‘I’ll be down in a minute.’

‘You want me to come?’ Olle made as if to rise, but Ghyll shook his head.

‘In the Crown? I can’t imagine anything happening here.’

When he walked into the taproom, the host pointed to a hunched figure in one of the shadowy alcoves along the right wall. Ghyll limped over and sat down opposite the unknown visitor.

‘I’m glad you came,’ the man said, and Ghyll recognized his voice immediately.

‘Why don’t you come up, Major?’

Tibaun’s hands trembled on the tabletop. ‘I cannot, Sire. My son is there. I failed him – and you – so terribly I can’t face him. Rabogst, Derivall, the Dar’khamorth, all that happened and I didn’t know. Even your real identity… I realized it only when the heralds cried their news in the streets.’

He put his hands with their strong, slender fingers flat on the table. ‘I bring you two things, Sire.’ From his sleeve, he pulled a pair of sealed envelopes. ‘The address of Squire Thu Bavolt. Lammer Kilman, the fat man, is indeed his servant. And this is my letter of resignation, Sire.’

Ghyll stared for a moment at the two envelopes. Then he picked up the envelope with the resignation, tore it in half and gave it back. ‘Rejected, Major. I need you too much. The things you reproach yourself with were almost inevitable. Rabogst was a failure of Domains, not of your Heralds. You couldn’t predict the activities of the Dar’khamorth since nobody knew for sure that something like an order of falmages existed.’

‘Sire, I should have known something was wrong. I should have warned you of danger. Instead, I offered my son directly to the mouth of the lion. He’s young; inexperienced. He…’

Ghyll interrupted him. ‘Major, that’s as much my fault. If I had known there was a sorcerer involved, I wouldn’t have sent Zethir. Only none of us did.’ He stood up. ‘Come with me, Major. Your son needs you.’

Wordlessly, the spymaster followed him upstairs. They stepped into the dining room, where everybody was still at the table. Tibaun lowered his hood and looked at his son.

Zethir froze. ‘Sir,’ he said softly.

‘Tosias.’ They met halfway around the table and put their arms around each other. It was not immediately clear who comforted whom. With a nod to the door, Ghyll gathered the rest of his company and went downstairs.

Damion’s face was tight and Ghyll thought he knew why.

‘I took your advice,’ he said. ‘Your father will be the sergeant-major-instructor for our new Military Academy.’

‘You don’t think we’d have a meeting like that?’ Damion sounded bitter.

Ghyll shrugged. ‘You never know. But should you get the chance, grab him.’

They sat down in the same alcove as Tibaun had chosen, and Ghyll threw the envelope on the table. ‘The fat man’s address.’

Olle looked at him and pulled his dagger. Pieces of wax scattered like blood when he broke the seal. He wiped the red bits off the table and unfolded the paper.

‘Subject: Lammer Kilman, servant.

Since the year 528, Lammer Kilman has been a retainer of Squire Lucard thu Bavolt, a former Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber. Previously, he worked as an assistant to various dubious pharmacists, where he learned something of herbalism. He is on record as a suspect of prohibited practices, including body theft, but nothing could be proven. His time in the service of the squire was not free of rumors either, but they remained rumors. Witnesses described him as a jolly, fat man. He currently resides with his master on the latter’s estate, Bavolt, Southwest Halendaun.’

‘The Margautainen again,’ Damion said. ‘It seems that whole area is contaminated.’

Olle ran his hands through his hair. ‘How do we go there? Bo?’

The firemage shook his head. ‘I can take you to any place I have been before, but not yet anywhere else. Borrow a skyboat.’

Arm in arm, Zethir and his father entered the taproom. Ghyll recognized the new calm surrounding both of them and he smiled. ‘Problem solved?’

The major leaned over to Ghyll. ‘Thank you, Sire, for the push we both needed.’ He threw a handful of scraps of paper on the table. ‘I am entirely at your service.’

‘Excellent. Let’s start immediately. How quickly can you get me a skyboat for Bavolt?’

‘What time would you have it, Sire?’

‘Two hours past noon, if possible.’

‘There’s always a boat available, Sire. Tosias has authorization to reserve it for you.’ He leaned over and whispered in Ghyll’s ear, ‘Pursuivant, that’s too much honor, Sire. He is far too young for that.’

‘We are all too young for it, Major.’

Tibaun smiled. ‘I am sure many men of authority in the country wholeheartedly agree with you, Sire.’

‘Then we’ll have to try to convince them, won’t we? Anyway, like my grandfather, I want to have people on key posts that I know and trust. I just don’t want to make the same mistake he did, and keep them there for fifty years because they are friends.’

‘Appoint everyone for a limited period, Sire, and have them choose successors.’

‘Sounds good, Major. I’ll see what Kyssander thinks about it.’

‘There! Over there!’ Torril stopped in midstride and pointed excitedly to the street they’d just passed.

‘What is it?’ Olle said. Torril’s agitation surprised him; usually, during their daily running, both were too focused to see anything.

‘Vasthul! He crossed the street right there, opposite that bakery.’

‘What!’ Olle’s hand went for the sword he didn’t carry. ‘Impossible; we lost that bastard long ago. You must be mistaken; there are more small people in brown cloaks around.’

‘Not with a scar like his,’ Torril said stubbornly. ‘He looked at me and I saw his face clearly.’

‘Well, he’s gone now.’ Olle wiped the sweat from his forehead. ‘We’d better go back. Ghyll must be warned.’

‘Did he see you, too?’ Ghyll asked, when they had returned to the Crown.

Torril nodded. ‘I saw him at the same moment he saw me, and I knew he recognized me.’

‘Would he have followed you to the inn?’

Torril nodded. ‘It wasn’t far from here, so even if he runs slower than us, he’ll have seen us going in. Stupid, I didn’t think of that.’

Olle said nothing, but the neither did I was clear on his face.

Damion put his book away and walked to the open window. He closed his eyes and a few seconds later a crow flew away.

Ten minutes later, he was back. When he had taken his normal form again, his face was serious. ‘He’s out there indeed, hiding in a portico watching the front door. Looks awful, too; full of red spots that seem very painful, probably from Bo’s burns of our last meeting.’

‘Good,’ the firemage said. ‘He’s welcome to them.’

Olle got up and walked over to the weapon rack. ‘I’ll handle this.’

‘Wait!’ Damion put his hand on Olle’s arm. ‘Not so impulsive, my friend. I hadn’t finished.’ He looked around the circle mysteriously. ‘I wasn’t the only one who had seen Vasthul. The Guard was onto him as well. Zino might well be right that the inn is being watched.’

He was still speaking when they heard shouting in the street. Looking out of the window, they saw six guards dragging a struggling figure from his hiding place. Above it all, they heard the creaking voice of Vasthul screaming an incantation. One of the guards lashed out with a bludgeon and the voice broke off in mid-sentence. Then came the unmistakable rattle of silver chains and soon the guards carried the unconscious sorcerer away.

‘That’s one worry less,’ Ghyll said.

Bo dropped into a chair. He placed his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands. ‘I hope they can keep him,’ he said. ‘Imprisoning a sorcerer is always risky.’

Ghyll didn’t listen. He was torn. On the one hand, he wanted to see Vasthul, to question him and then hang him immediately. On the other hand, there was the confrontation with his family’s murderers. Only when that was done, would he have his hands free. That last argument decided him. Bavolt first; Vasthul would keep until tomorrow. He rose. ‘I’m going to change; the jolly fat man is waiting.’

‘Fullarmor,’ Olle said grimly. ‘I’ll come and help you.’

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