Black Gate Online Fiction: The Death of the Necromancer, Chapter Two

Black Gate Online Fiction: The Death of the Necromancer, Chapter Two

By Martha Wells

This is a complete novel presented by Black Gate magazine. It appears with the permission of Martha Wells, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part. All rights reserved. Copyright 2013 by Martha Wells.

This is Chapter Two. Read Chapter One here.

Chapter Two

When they were sheltered from the wind inside the well-upholstered coach, Nicholas had Madeline tell her part of the incident and gave the others his description of the unexpected encounter in the Duchess’s vaults.

Reynard swore softly. “Do you suppose someone sent it after you, Nic? You know we have old acquaintances that wouldn’t mind seeing you dead.”

“I thought of that.” Nicholas shook his head. The coach jolted along the uneven stones of the street, making the tassels on the patent leather window shades dance. “But I’m certain it took something out of that room Crack found. A room which isn’t on any of the house plans that we were able to obtain, either. I think that was why the creature was there. It was only as an afterthought that it tried to kill me.”

Madeline tucked the woolen lap rug more firmly around her. “And the key for the house ward had already been destroyed. I think it was that awful little man who wanted a lock of the late Duke’s hair. What sort of spiritualist asks for something like that? It’s too much like necromancy.”

What sort of spiritualist indeed? Nicholas thought. “I wonder why the creature was still there? It was already in the wine vault; it didn’t have to attack me to escape. If it successfully removed something from that room, why was it coming back?”

“For the gold?” Madeline suggested thoughtfully. “Though that isn’t exactly common knowledge.”

Nicholas had deduced the gold’s existence from investigation of the Duchess’s trading concerns. Someone else might have done so as well, but…. “Possibly,” he said. Possible, but perhaps not probable.

Reynard leaned forward. “What’s that muck on your arm?”

Nicholas had given his greatcoat to Madeline and was making do with one of the lap rugs. In the musty darkness of the coach, the sleeves of his workman’s coat bore a green-tinged stain that faintly glowed. Nicholas frowned. At first glance it looked like ghost-lichen, but he couldn’t remember brushing against the walls of the room where it had grown so profusely. He remembered the ghoul’s fingers, strong as iron bands, gripping him there, and the way it had shone with a dim unhealthy radiance in the dark cellar. “I believe it’s a memento from the ghoul.” It made him want to return to Mondollot House to make an examination of the corpses of the three watchmen in darkness, to see if their clothing had the same residue. He didn’t imagine Madeline and Reynard would be amenable to that suggestion.

When the coach stopped outside the fashionable Hotel Biamonte where Reynard kept rooms, Nicholas said, “I suppose you’re going out to celebrate.”

“I would be mad not to,” Reynard replied, standing on the snow-dusted promenade and adjusting his gloves. Behind him the doors and fogged windows of the hotel spilled light and warmth, music and the laughter of the demi monde.

Worried, Madeline added, “Take care.”

He leaned back into the coach to take her hand and drop a kiss on the palm. “My dear, if I was careful I would not have been cashiered out of the Guard and we would never have met. Which would have been unfortunate.” He tipped his hat to them and Nicholas smiled and pulled the coach door closed.

He tapped his stick against the ceiling to signal the driver, and Madeline said, “I worry about him. Those bucks at Mondollot House were holding grudges.”

“They may talk, but they won’t act. If they were in his regiment they know what Reynard is like with sword and pistol. He can take care of himself.”

“I wish I could say the same of you,” she said, her voice dry.

Nicholas drew her close, inside the circle of his arms. “Why my dear, I’m the most dangerous man in Ile-Rien, its provinces, and all the Parscian Empire combined.”

“So they say.” But she said no more on the subject, and their thoughts quickly turned to other things.

It was a relatively short ride to Coldcourt, which stood in one of the less fashionable quarters just outside the old city wall. They drew up in the carriage way and Nicholas helped Madeline out as Crack jumped down from the box.

This was the house that had been Nicholas’s first real home. The walls were thick natural stone, built to withstand the Vienne winter. It was only three stories at its tallest, sprawling and asymmetrical, and boasted three towers, one square and two round, all with useless ornamental crenelations and embellishments in the style known as the Grotesque. It was ugly and unfashionable, and not terribly comfortable, but it was home and Nicholas would never give it up.

Sarasate the butler opened the door for them as the coachman drove the horses around to the stables in the back. They gratefully entered the house.

Coldcourt was also as drafty as its name implied, but the spacious hall felt warm and welcoming after the chilly night. The straight-backed chairs along the walls and the sideboard were well-used, though still in fine condition, relics of the time when Nicholas’s foster father had lived here. The carpets and hangings were new, though in a restrained style in keeping with the rest of the house. They had only had gas lighting laid on in the main rooms on the first two floors and the kitchen. Nicholas didn’t like vulgar display and Madeline’s taste was even more particular than his. Still, the plaster above the dark wainscotting was looking a little dingy and he supposed they might afford to have it redone now.

Madeline headed immediately toward the stairs; Nicholas supposed her patience with delicate and cumbersome evening dress had reached its limit and she was going to change. His own progress was more leisurely. His ribs ached from the encounter with the ghoul, or whatever it had been, and he felt singed and three times his age. He shed coat and makeshift bandages as he crossed the hall and told Sarasate, “Warm brandy. Hot coffee. And Mr. Crack will be staying the night, so if his usual room could be prepared, and a meal…. If Andrea hasn’t gone to bed?”

“He thought you might want something after such a late night, sir, so he prepared a bit of veal in aspic and a chestnut soufflé.”

“Perfect.” Sarasate and the coachman Devis were the only Coldcourt servants who knew anything about Nicholas’s activities as Donatien. Sarasate had been at Coldcourt for at least thirty years; Devis was Cusard’s oldest son and almost as reliable as Crack. Nicholas saw the butler collecting the ghoul-stained coat with an expression of distaste, and added, “That coat’s ruined, but don’t dispose of it. I may need it later.” That was Sarasate’s one fault as a butler — he understood nothing about the sometimes vital information that could be gleaned from objects that otherwise appeared to be rubbish.

Nicholas went to the last door at the end of the hall and unlocked it with the key attached to his watch chain. The room was chill and dark and he spent a moment lighting the branch of candles on the table. There were gas sconces on the yellowed plaster walls, but gas fumes could damage oil paint, and it was very important that the work of art in this room not be altered in the slightest degree.

The flickering light of the candles gradually revealed the painting on the far wall. It was a large canvas, almost six feet long and four feet wide, set in a narrow gilt frame. It was a copy of a work by Emile Avenne called The Scribe, which purported to be a depiction of harem life in an eastern land. It showed two robed women lounging on a couch while an aged scholar turned the pages of a book for them. Nicholas knew the scene came from nowhere but the artist’s imagination. Experts had long maintained that the styles and colors of the tiles on the floor and walls, the detail of the fretted screens and the textiles draping the couches were not common designs known in Parscia, Bukar, or even far Akandu. But it was a subtle, masterful work and the colors were rich and wonderful.

The original hung on the wall of the library at Pompiene, Count Rive Montesq’s Great House. Nicholas had sold the painting to the Count, who had affected to believe that he was doing a favor for the foster son of the man whose work he had once sponsored. Nicholas’s public persona was that of an art importer and he used his inheritance from Edouard to act as a patron to several young artists of notable talent. He was more of a patron than most people realized, having once anonymously retrieved some paintings stolen from the public gallery at the old Bishop’s Palace and punished the offending thieves severely. He didn’t believe in stealing art.

Nicholas dropped into the velvet upholstered armchair which had been carefully placed at the best point for viewing the work and propped his feet on the footstool. In the long dead language of Old Rienish, he said carefully, “Beauty is truth.”

The colors in the painting brightened, slowly enough at first that it might have been a trick of the eye. They took on a soft glow, obvious enough for the watcher to tell this was no trick, or at least not a natural one. The painting then became transparent, as if it had turned into a window opening onto the next room. Except the room that it revealed was half the city away, though it appeared just as solid as if one could reach out and touch it.

That room was dark now, just a little faint light from an open door revealing bookcases, the edge of a framed watercolor, and a marble bust of Count Montesq sculpted by Bargentere. Nicholas glanced at the clock on his own mantel. It was late and he hadn’t expected anyone to be about. Again in Old Rienish, he said, “Memory is a dream.”

That scene faded, became washed in darkness, then formed another image.

The artist who had painted this work had known only that he was copying an Avenne for Nicholas’s own home. He had believed that the paints he was using were special only in that they were the same mixtures Avenne had used, necessary to duplicate the marvelous soft colors of the original. This was true, but the paints had been personally mixed by Arisilde Damal, the greatest sorcerer in Ile-Rien, and there was even more sorcery woven into the frame and canvas.

The library appeared again, this time in daylight, the curtains drawn back at the windows and a parlormaid cleaning out the grate. That image ran its course, followed by views of other servants coming into the room on various errands, and once a man Nicholas recognized as Batherat, one of Montesq’s Vienne solicitors, evidently coming to pick up a letter left for him on the desk.

The beauty of the painting as a magical device was that if Montesq had a sorcerer in to search his home for evidence of magical spying, as he had twice done in the past, the painting on his library wall would be revealed as what it was — only so much canvas, paint, and wood. The magic was all contained in the copy of it.

Montesq had believed the purchase of the original painting a cruel, private joke, an amusing favor for the family of a man he had caused to be killed. But cruel, private jokes were the ones most apt to turn on the joker.

Nicholas sat up suddenly as he heard a voice he would have known anywhere.

The painting now revealed the library at night, lit by only one gas sconce. Nicholas cursed under his breath. It was too dim to read the clock on the library wall, so he couldn’t tell what time this had taken place, except that it must be earlier this evening. Count Montesq sat at the desk, his face half shadowed. Nicholas’s memory filled in the details. The Count was an older man, old enough to be Nicholas’s father, with graying dark hair and a handsome face that was fast becoming fleshy due to too much high living.

The solicitor Batherat was standing in front of the desk, a nervous crease between his brows. Any other man of consequence in Ile-Rien would have invited his solicitor to sit down, but though Montesq was charming to his equals and betters, and in public showed admirable condescension to those beneath him, in private his servants and employees were terrified of him. In a tone completely devoid of threat, Montesq said, “I’m glad you finally succeeded. I was becoming impatient.”

Nicholas frowned in annoyance. They must be continuing a conversation begun out in the hall and he didn’t anticipate gleaning much information from this exchange. If Montesq killed Batherat, of course, it would certainly be worth watching. The solicitor held his calm admirably and replied, “I assure you, my lord, nothing has been left to chance.”

“I hope you are correct.” Montesq’s soft voice was almost diffident, something that Nicholas had learned from long observation meant that a dangerous anger was building.

When Nicholas had first put together his organization, it had been necessary to free Cusard and Lamane and several others whose assistance he desired from their prior obligations to the man who considered himself the uncrowned king of criminal activity in the Riverside slums. This individual had been reluctant to give up their services, so it had ended with Nicholas putting a bullet in his head. The man had been a murderer several times over, an extortionist, a panderer, and addicted to various sexual perversions that would have startled even Reynard, but he was the rankest amateur at villainy compared to Rive Montesq.

The Count stood and circled around the desk to stop within a pace of Batherat. He didn’t speak, but the solicitor blinked sudden sweat from his eyes and said, “I’m certain, my lord.”

Montesq smiled and clapped Batherat on the shoulder in a fashion that might be taken for amiable comradeship by a less informed observer. He said only, “I hope your certainty is not misplaced.”

Montesq walked out, leaving the door open behind him. Batherat closed his eyes a moment in relief, then followed.

That was the last image the painting had absorbed and now the scene faded as it returned to its quiescent state, becoming merely a static window on some foreign household. Nicholas sighed and ran his hands through his hair wearily. Nothing of note. Well, we can’t expect miracles every day. Twice the painting had revealed pertinent details of the Count’s plans. Montesq moved among the financial worlds of Vienne and the other prominent capitals, bribing and blackmailing or using more violent means to take what he wanted, but he was careful enough to preserve his reputation so he was still received at court and in all the best homes.

But not for much longer, Nicholas thought, his smile thin and ice cold. Not for much longer.

He got to his feet and stretched, then blew out the candles and locked the door carefully behind him.

As Nicholas crossed the central foyer to the stairs there was a tap on the front door. He stopped with one hand on the bannister. It was too late for respectable callers, and the not-so-respectable callers on legitimate business wouldn’t come here at all. Sarasate hesitated, looking to him for instruction. Crack reappeared in the archway to the other wing, so Nicholas leaned against the newel post, folded his arms, and said, “See who that is, would you?”

The butler swung the heavy portal open and a man stepped into the foyer without waiting for an invitation. He was lean and gaunt and over his formal evening dress he was wearing a cape and opera hat. The gaslight above the door gave his long features and slightly protuberant eyes a sinister cast, but Nicholas knew it did that to everyone. The man ignored Sarasate and looked around the hall as if he was at a public amusement. Piqued, Nicholas said, “It’s late for casual callers, especially those I’m unacquainted with. Would you mind turning around and going back the way you came?”

The man focused on him and instead moved further into the hall. “Are you the owner of this house?”

One would assume it, since I’m standing here in my shirtsleeves, Nicholas thought. His first inclination was that this was some curiosity seeker; it had been years since his foster father’s death, but the notoriety of the trial still drew those with morbid hobbies. People with a more conventional interest in the old man’s work also came, but they were usually more polite and presented themselves during the day, often with letters of introduction from Parscian universities. This visitor’s appearance — his cravat was a dirty gray and the pale skin above it unwashed, his dark beard was unkempt and his cape was so ostentatious it would have looked out of place on anyone but a March Baron at a royal opera performance for the Queen’s Birthday — suggested the former. “I’m the owner,” Nicholas admitted tiredly. “Why? Is it interfering with your progress through the neighborhood?”

“I have business with you, if you are Nicholas Valiarde.”

“Ah. It can’t wait until tomorrow?” Nicholas twisted the crystal ornament on top of the newel post, a signal to Sarasate to summon the servants more experienced at dealing with unwelcome guests. The butler shut the door, turned the key and pocketed it, and glided away. Crack knew the signal too and came noiselessly into the room

“It is urgent to both of us.”

The man’s eyes jerked upward suddenly, to the top of the stairs, and Nicholas saw Madeline stood there now. A gold-brocaded dressing gown billowed around her and she had taken the dark length of her hair down. She came down the stairs slowly, deliberately, as elegant and outré as a dark nymph in a romantic painting. Nicholas smiled to himself. An actress born, Madeline could never resist an audience.

The man brought his gaze back down to Nicholas and said, “I would like to speak to you in private.”

“I never speak to anyone in private,” Nicholas countered. The butler reappeared and Nicholas gestured casually to him. “Sarasate, show our guest into the front salon. Don’t bother having a fire laid, he won’t be staying long.”

Sarasate led their unwelcome visitor away and Madeline stopped Nicholas with a hand on his sleeve. In a low whisper, she said, “That’s the man who spoke to the Duchess tonight.”

“I thought it likely from your description.” Nicholas nodded. “He may have recognized you. Did he know you were listening?”

“He couldn’t have. Not without everyone knowing.” She hesitated, added, “At least that’s what I thought.”

He offered her his arm and together they followed their guest into the front salon, a small reception room off the hall.

The walls were lined with bookcases as the room served as an adjunct to the library, housing the volumes that Nicholas found less use for. The carpet had been fine once, but it was old now and the edges were threadbare. There were a few upholstered chairs scattered about and one armchair at the round table that served as a desk. The stone hearth was cold and Nicholas waited for Sarasate to finish lighting the candlelamps and withdraw. Crack had followed them in and as the butler left he drew the door closed.

Their visitor stood in the center of the room. Nicholas dropped into the armchair and propped his boots on the table. Madeline leaned gracefully on the back of his chair. He said, “What was it you wanted to discuss?”

The man drew off his gloves. His hands were pale but work-roughened. He said, “Earlier tonight you entered the lower cellars of Mondollot House and sought to remove something. I was curious as to your reason for this.”

Nicholas allowed himself no outward reaction, though the shock of that statement made the back of his neck prickle. He felt Madeline’s hands tense on his chair, but she said nothing. Crack’s eyes were on him, intent and waiting with perfect calm for a signal. Nicholas didn’t give it; he wanted to know who else knew this man was here and more importantly, who had sent him. He said, “Really, sir, you astound me. I’ve been at the theater this evening and can produce half a dozen witnesses to that effect.”

“I’m not from the authorities and I care nothing for witnesses.” The man took a slow step forward and the candlelight revealed more of his gaunt features. The shadows hollowed his cheeks and made his strange eyes sink back into their deep sockets.

How appropriate for a spiritualist, Nicholas thought, he looks half dead himself. “Then who are you?”

“I am called Doctor Octave, but perhaps it is more important who you are.” The man laid his hat and stick on the polished surface of the table. Nicholas wondered if he had refused Sarasate’s attempt to relieve him of them or if the butler had simply not bothered, assuming that the unwelcome visitor was not going to survive long enough to appreciate the discourtesy. Octave smiled, revealing very bad teeth, and said, “You are Nicholas Valiarde, at one time the ward of the late Doctor Edouard Viller, the renowned metaphysician.”

“He was not a metaphysician, he was a natural philosopher,” Nicholas corrected gently, keeping any hint of impatience from his voice. It had occurred to him that this might very well be Sebastion Ronsarde in one of his famous or infamous disguises, but now he dismissed the thought. Ronsarde and the rest of the Prefecture knew him only as Donatien, a name without a face, responsible for some of the most daring crimes in Ile-Rien and probably for a good deal more. If Ronsarde had known enough to ask Donatien if he was Nicholas Valiarde, he would have asked it in one of the tiny interrogation cells under the Vienne Prefecture and not in Nicholas’s own salon. Besides, Ronsarde’s disguises were exaggerated by rumors spread by penny sheet writers who were unable to fathom the notion that the most effective Prefecture investigator in the city solved his cases by mental acuity rather than sorcery or other flashy tricks. Nicholas exchanged a thoughtful look with Madeline before saying, “And Doctor Viller was also a criminal, according to the Crown’s investigators who executed him. Is that your reason for accusing me of –”

Octave interrupted, “A criminal whose name was later cleared –”

“Posthumously. He may have appreciated the distinction from the afterworld but those he left behind did not.” Edouard had been executed for necromancy, even though he had not been a sorcerer. The court had found his experiments to be a dangerous mix of natural philosophy and magic, but that wasn’t what had condemned him. Was this a clumsy blackmail attempt or was the man trying the same game he had played with the Duchess, and suggesting Nicholas pay him some exorbitant sum to speak to Edouard Viller? Ridiculous. If Edouard wanted to communicate from the grave he was quite capable of finding some method for accomplishing it himself. Nicholas couldn’t decide how much he thought the man knew about him, his plans. Did he know about Reynard or the others? Was he an amateur or a professional?

Octave’s lips twisted, almost petulantly. He looked away, as if examining the contents of the room — the leatherbound books, the milky glass torcheres, a landscape by Caderan that badly needed to be cleaned, and Crack, unmoving, barely seeming to breathe, like a watchful statue.

Nicholas spread his hands. “What is this about, Doctor? Are you accusing me of something?” Behind him he sensed Madeline shift impatiently. He knew she didn’t think he should give Octave this chance to escape. I want answers first. Such as what he wanted in Mondollot House, what that creature was and if he was the one who sent it. Finding things out was the second driving force of Nicholas’s life. “There are criminal penalties for making false accusations.”

Octave was growing impatient. He said, “I submit that it is you who are the criminal, Valiarde, and that you entered the Mondollot House cellars tonight –”

Nicholas had slipped off his scarf to give himself a prop to fiddle with and now pretended to be more interested in its woolen folds than in his visitor. “I submit that you, Doctor Octave, are mad, and furthermore, if I did enter someone’s cellar it is none of your business.” He lifted his gaze to Octave’s dark, slightly demented eyes and thought with resigned disgust, an amateur. “I also submit that the only way you can know this is if you, or your agent, were also there. I suggest you think carefully before you make any further accusations.”

Octave merely asked, “You still own Doctor Viller’s apparatus? Is any of it here?”

Nicholas felt another chill. He does know too much. “Again, you show too much curiosity for your own good, Doctor. I suggest you go, while you still can. If you have some complaint to make against me, or some suspicion of criminal activity on my part, you may take yourself to the Prefecture and bore them with it.”

Octave smiled. “Then it is here.”

Nicholas stood. “Doctor, you have gone too far –”

Crack, catching the change in tone, took a step forward. Octave reached for the walking stick still lying on the table, as if he meant to go. The gesture was entirely casual; if Nicholas hadn’t already been on the alert he would never have seen the spark of blue spell light that flickered from Octave’s hand as he touched the cane.

Nicholas was already gripping the edge of the heavy round table; with one swift effort he lifted and shoved it over. It crashed into Octave and sent the man staggering back.

Light flickered in the room, jagged blue light bouncing from wall to wall like ball lightning. Octave staggered to his feet, his stick swinging back to point toward Nicholas. He felt a wave of heat and saw spellfire crackle along the length of polished wood, preparing itself for another explosive burst. Crack moved toward Octave, but Madeline shouted, “Get back!”

Nicholas ducked as a shot exploded behind him. Octave fell backward on the carpet and the blue lightning flared once and vanished with a sharp crackle.

Nicholas looked at Madeline. She stepped forward, holding a small double-action revolver carefully and frowning down at the corpse. He said, “I wondered what you were waiting for.”

“You were in my line of fire, dear,” she said, preoccupied. “But look.”

Nicholas turned. Octave’s body was melting, dissolving into a gray powdery substance that flowed like fine hourglass sand. His clothes were collapsing into it, the substance flowing out sleeves and collar and pants legs to pool on the faded carpet.

The door wrenched open, causing Crack to jump and reach for his pistol again, but it was Sarasate and the two footmen, Devis the coachman, and the others who guarded Coldcourt gathered there. Their exclamations and questions died as they saw the body and everyone watched the spectacle in silence.

Finally there was nothing left but the clothing and the gray sand. Nicholas and Crack stepped forward but Madeline cautioned, “Don’t touch it.”

“Do you know what it is?” Nicholas asked her. Madeline had some knowledge of sorcery and witchcraft, but she usually didn’t like to display it.

“Not exactly.” She drew the skirts of her robe off the floor carefully and came to stand next to him. “My studies were a long time ago. But I know the principle. It’s a golem, a simulacrum, constructed for a certain task and animated by some token…probably that walking stick.”

The stick lay near the body. Crack nudged it thoughtfully with the toe of his boot but there was no reaction.

“We should fold the whole mess up in the carpet, take it out to the back garden and burn it,” Madeline continued.

“We will,” Nicholas assured her. “After we take a sample and go through its pockets. Sarasate, send someone for my work gloves, please. The thick leather ones.”

“Nicholas, dear,” Madeline said, her brows drawing together in annoyance, “I didn’t say it was dangerous for the pleasure of hearing myself speak.”

“I’ll take great care, I promise, but since we can’t ask our visitor any more questions, this is the only way we can find out who sent him.”

Madeline seemed unconvinced. She added, “Besides, if whoever sent it had any sense at all, there won’t be anything in its pockets.”

She was right but Nicholas never ignored the possibility that his opponent had overlooked something. Even the best went wrong; the trick was to be ready when it happened. Sarasate brought the gloves and Nicholas searched the clothing methodically, but found nothing other than a battered and much folded invitation to the Duchess of Mondollot’s ball, tucked into the inside pocket of the frock coat. More to himself than to the others, Nicholas muttered, “It could be a forgery, but spiritualism is popular enough now that he may have been invited as a curiosity.” A close comparison to Madeline’s invitation note should decide it.

Madeline had taken a seat in the armchair, her legs curled up under her dressing gown. The other servants had gone to check the grounds for more intruders and to prepare a pyre for the carpet and their late visitor. Only Crack had stayed behind, watching worriedly.

“It didn’t come in a coach, did it?” Madeline asked suddenly. “How did it follow us?”

“It didn’t, apparently.” Nicholas nodded to Crack, who shifted uneasily and explained, “Devis saw it walk up the road to the drive when he was coming back from the stables.”

“So someone dropped it off earlier and it waited until it saw us arrive,” she said thoughtfully. “I wonder, was that Octave at the ball tonight or was it this thing? No, that can’t be right. The ward would have detected it, or the familiar above the doorway. It has the invitation, but the real Octave must have given the creature his outer clothes, and forgotten to take the invitation away.”

“True.” Nicholas was taking a sample of the gray powder, scooping it carefully into a glass vial. Crack came over to help secure the stopper with a bit of wire. “We’ll take this when we visit Arisilde tomorrow and see what he makes of it.”

“If he’s of any help.” Madeline rubbed her face tiredly. “There’s no telling what state he’s in.”

Nicholas rested his arms on his knees. His back was aching and it had been a long night. “He’s got to be of some help. Someone is taking an alarming sort of interest in us.” He took the vial of powder back from Crack and set it on the table. It caught the candlelight as if it were more diamond dust than sand, but the reflection it gave off was the blue of Octave’s spell light. “A very alarming sort of interest, indeed.”


Continued in Chapter Three

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