Magics promise vlhm 2, p.17

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2, page 17

 part  #2 of  Valdemar (02): Last Herald Mage Series

 

Magic's Promise v(lhm-2
 



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  "Herald-Mage Vanyel Ashkevron," Vanyel cut him off. "Called Demonsbane, called Shadowstalker, First Herald-Mage in Valdemar. I outrank you, Herald, and your damn fool actions tonight called me out of my bed and across the Border. You've exceeded your authority, and I'm ordering you to let this boy be. Who in hell are you?”

  Vanyel could feel the older man's resentment and smoldering anger, heavy and hot, a ponderous weight of molten emotional metal. "Herald Lores," he said sullenly, rubbing his hand. "King Randale's envoy to the court of Lineas."

  Over his shoulder, Vanyel watched Yfandes backing away from the armsmen. She cautiously nudged the downed Companion's shoulder-still keeping one eye on them. After a couple of false tries, the other mare managed to get back to her feet, but stood with her head down and her legs splayed and shaking.

  :'Fandes?:

  :She 's Hearing again, and Speaking, a little; when you got her Chosen to stop, it resolved the conflict inside her -

  but she is not well. She is still in turmoil, and her heart bleeds :

  :Take care of her.: He turned his attention back to Lores. "Tell me – slowly - just what you thought you were doing, taking a whip to a Companion, trying to drive him away from his Chosen."

  Lores snarled. "That boy is a bloody-handed murderer, and that thing you call a Companion is his demon shape - changed! He called it up and was trying to escape on it."

  "What?" Vanyel backed up a step, inadvertently bumping into the young stallion, who snorted in alarm but stood rock - steady, ready to protect his Chosen against anything, be it man, beast, or creature of magic. Vanyel reached out, still keeping his eyes on Lores, and laid his hand along the stallion's neck. If anyone in the wide world would know what a demon "felt" like, he did, after having them close enough to score his chest with their claws, and after turning them back against Karse! He extended his mind toward the young stallion's, and touched again, gently. No demonic aura met his mind, only the pure, bright, blue - white pulsing that was the signature of a Companion, an aura that only a Companion, of all the creatures he had ever Mindtouched, possessed.

  Anger rose in him, as his hand came away bloody, and the young stallion shivered in fear and pain. He clenched his fist and stared at the older Herald. "You -" he groped for words. "If I didn't know Randale, and know that neither he nor Shavri would send anyone at all unbalanced out here as an envoy, I'd say you were insane." The man gaped at him, taken completely aback. "As it is, I'm forced to say I've never encountered anyone so incredibly stupid in my life!" He relaxed his clenched fist and patted the stallion's neck without looking around, then advanced on Lores with such anger filling him that he was having trouble keeping his voice controlled. "What in hell makes you think this youngster is a demon?"

  "You could be fooled, spell-touched-"

  "Not bloody likely! And a demon could never fool my Companion, nor yours. Gods, man, if they wouldn't know. After she Chose, and after - her Chosen - was pressed past all sanity. It has no bearing on what happened here. You would not listen to your own Companion try to tell you the truth."

  He took a step toward the other, bloody finger pointed in accusation. "You blocked her out with your anger and your fear. You allowed your emotions to interfere with your ability to see the truth. You blocked her so you couldn't hear what you didn't want to hear."

  Lores' resentment smoldered in his eyes, but he could not deny Vanyel's accusations.

  :Van - the boy -:

  Vanyel spun, just in time to see the young man losing his death grip on his Companion's mane, sliding to the ground. He sprinted to the boy's side, startling the young stallion so that he threw up his head and rolled his eyes, and caught the boy in mid - collapse, draping the boy's arm over his own neck and shoulder, supporting him, and looked around for an open door - any door-

  :Your left,: Yfandes prompted: one of the double doors into the main entranceway was cracked open. He half-carried, half-dragged the boy there, with Lores following sullenly behind, and kicked the door open enough to squeeze through.

  It was pitchy dark in the palace - which was damned odd for the throne-seat, even at a few hours till dawn. Even odder, all that commotion in the main courtyard had brought no one out to see what the ruckus was about. Van couldn't see a thing past the little light coming in the doorway. The building might just as well have been deserted.

  First things first; they needed light. So - Be damned to local prejudice, he thought, and set a globe of blue mage-light to spinning above his head. Behind him, he heard a stifled gasp as Lores watched it appear out of nowhere.

  They were in a bare entryway; that was all he had time to notice in his brief glance. Someplace to put this boy - A seat was what he was looking for, and he spotted one: a highly-polished wooden bench, bare of cushions and bolted to the floor, over against the wall just clear of the door. Presumably it was for the use of low-rank servants waiting for something or someone at the main entrance. Whatever, it was a seat. He supported the boy over to it, and got him seated, shoved his head down between his legs, and worked the little Healing he knew to clear the shock out and get him conscious again.

  The boy was aware enough to interpret that as some kind of coercion or confinement; he tried to fight, and raised his head into the light.

  And Vanyel saw his face for the first time.

  It was Tylendel's face, dazed with shock and vacant-eyed, that looked up at him in confusion beneath the blue mage-light.

  Vanyel choked, and the floor seemed to heave beneath him. Only one hand on the wall saved him. For a moment he thought that his heart had stopped, or that his mind had snapped.

  His eyes cleared again, and he took a closer look, reached out to tip the boy's face into the light, and almost Mindtouched -

  But he stopped himself, as he began to see the little differences. The boy couldn't be more than sixteen, and looked it; 'Lendel had always looked older than he really was. The boy's nose was snubbed, or more than 'Lendel's had been; the eyes were farther apart and larger, the chin rounded and not squared, the hair wavy, not curly, and darker than the golden-brown of Tylendel's. Subtle differences, but enough to let him shake off his ghosts, enough to tell him that this was not Tylendel.

  Whatever the boy in turn saw or sensed in his eyes, it reassured him enough that he stopped fighting, and obeyed Vanyel's half-audible order to keep his head down.

  Not now, he told himself. Deal with your ghosts later, not now.

  For the first time since entering the gilded door, he looked around to see if there was finally anyone coming. He looked past the barren entryway - and froze at the sight of the wreckage in the mage-light.

  He'd seen less destruction after the sacking of a keep.

  No wonder no one came, he thought, dumbly. Nobody human could have survived this.

  Vanyel stood at the edge of the staircase and stared. This entry was hardly more than twenty feet long, and made of the same black stone as the exterior, but polished to a reflective shine; it led to a short stone stair that in turn led down into the wood-paneled Great Hall. This Hall had been a reception area - lit by chandeliers and wall sconces, hung with tapestries, lined with dark wood tables and chairs polished to mirror-brightness. It was demolished.

  The chandeliers had been torn from the beams, tapestries ripped from the walls. The walls, the floor, the ceiling beams themselves were scored and gouged as though with the marks of terrible claws. The tapestries had been shredded, the furniture reduced to splinters, the wreckage scattered across the floor as though a whirlwind had played here.

  Vanyel remembered his dream, and felt his hair rise and a chill creep up his backbone.

  "What -" His voice cracked, and he tried again. "What happened?”

  Lores' lip lifted a little, but he answered civilly enough. "That boy - that's Tashir. You know who he is?"

  Vanyel nodded. "Tashir Remoerdis. Deveran of Lineas' oldest child."

  "You know Deveran figured him for a bastard, the worst kind, fathered on Ylyna
by her own brother, so they say."

  "Is that really germane?" Van looked back at the wreckage.

  "Damn right it's germane.” Lores lifted his lip scornfully. "It's why the brat did all this."

  "Lores, you'd better tell me everything you know." Vanyel requested simply, still trying to take in the implications of the wrecked palace.

  Lores snorted and rambled on. "Ylyna was no virgin, though in honesty the Mavelans never claimed she was. Still, fourteen's a bit young to have been as - let's say - experienced as she was. Tashir was born eight months after the wedding. That's suspicious enough. Boy looks like his uncle Vedric and nothing like Ylyna or Deveran did. That's the second reason; another is that he's known to have Gifts; Fetching, for one-things have been flying around when he got upset ever since he was thirteen. No Gifts manifested in Ylyna, and there's never been any in Deveran's line. The locals called it wizardry and pressured Deveran to disinherit Tashir.''

  "I'd heard about the Gift," Vanyel said, looking back at the boy to see if he'd overheard them. They were only twenty paces away, and Lores was making no effort to keep his voice down. Tashir was still sitting where they'd left him, head and hands dangling between his knees. "How did the boy take being disinherited?"

  "The boy?" For a moment Lores seemed puzzled. "That was the odd part; boy seemed relieved. It was Vedric Mavelan that made all the fuss. But tonight - something happened at dinner, and I'm not sure exactly what." Lores wrapped his arms around his chest, and his expression turned introspective, and a little fearful.

  "Were you there?" Vanyel asked.

  Lores nodded. "Always, as the Valdemar envoy. Tonight..." He looked into the distance, frowning. "I remember I was chatting with Deveran's armsmaster and the boy came up to the high table to say something to Deveran. Next thing I knew, they're at it hammer and tongs, screaming at each other, the boy going white and Deveran going red. Then Deveran backhanded the boy, knocked him to the floor.''

  Vanyel chewed his lip. "Was that unusual?"

  Lores shrugged. "Well, it had never happened in public before. Deveran asked us all to leave in the kind of voice that makes an order out of a request. We left - don't look at me like that, what else could we do?"

  "I don't know," Vanyel replied soberly. "I wasn't there. But I don't think I would have left a situation that volatile."

  "Well I left; it's not Valdemar and it wasn't my business. I went out to the stable and Jenna, was outside with her for a while." He shook his head. "They'd moved the fight up to Deveran's study, toward the back of the palace; I could hear 'em both shouting at each other through the window. Then it got real quiet for a bit - and then all hell broke loose." He gestured at the wreckage in the Great Hall, and his expression became strained. "You can figure what that sounded like; enough screaming for a war. Nobody wanted to break in on that, and anyway we found out that the doors were all like they were welded shut."

  His voice was casual, but he was trembling and sweating, and his skin was dead white.

  "It didn't last long. Then it was quiet again, sudden, like everything had been cut off. Me, the outside servants, and Deveran's armsmen from the palace, and the town guard and a couple of the town council with some courage in them, we all broke the doors open."

  "And you found?"

  “That's what we found. The boy knocked out under that bench, and when we went to look for bodies - gods. Everyone inside these walls... was dead. The boy's sibs, the servants, everybody. Torn to pieces, just like . . . that stuff. Nothing bigger than palm-sized pieces of everybody else." He was shaking now, his teeth chattering, and his pupils dilated. “Nothing,“ he repeated.

  "You're not saying Tashir did all that?" Vanyel said incredulously. "That's impossible - it's insane!" The mage-light flared a little, setting shadows shrinking and growing again, flickering as he whirled to look at the boy, and his attention wavered.

  Lores turned away from the wreckage, clutching his arms against his chest, and gradually stopped trembling. His eyes fell on Tashir again; just the sight of the boy seemed to reawaken his anger. "What's insane about it?" he demanded. "Fetching can wreck, or even kill. I should know that better than you, it's my Gift."

  "It's one of my Gifts, too, you damned fool!" Vanyel growled. "And at one point I almost got out of control, but my Gift was blasted open and I was in pain enough to drive a strong man mad. Nothing like that happened here! This boy never showed a hint of anything on this scale! And he was untrained? Not bloody likely!"

  "How do we know he was untrained?" Lores demanded, his eyes reflecting blue glints from the mage - light over Vanyel's head. "He was the only one left alive! He had to have done it!''

  Vanyel had a dozen retorts on the tip of his tongue, but none of them seemed wise.

  So how did you come to be such an expert on Gifts and magic, you idiot? And did you search to find someone who might have hidden himself - or herself - until you 'd found and dealt with Tashir? Or did you identify everyone, or at least count all the bodies and come up with the same number as those known to be in the palace ?

  He kept his teeth shut on all those questions. It was obvious that this had been bungled from the start, and dressing down this fool wasn't going to undo the bungling.

  "We couldn't really believe it, not at first," Lores admitted reluctantly. "We thought it must have been - oh, something out of the Pelagir wilderlands, or even something cooked up by the Mavelans. We really didn't know what it could have been, especially not the Lineans, but there wasn't anyone or anything else, and when we tried to question Tashir, the boy wouldn't answer. At first he was - dazed-like. Then he just refused to speak except to say he didn't remember." Lores shook his head. "Not remember? How could he not remember something that did that? Unless he was lying, or he'd done it in anger and had blanked it out of his mind." Lores clasped his folded arms still tighter against his chest, as if he was trying to protect himself. "What could we do? The guards were spooked, nobody wanted something like that on their hands. In the end, we just threw him in the guardhouse at the front gate there, since the townsfolk didn't want him in their jail and nobody wanted to have to go down to the cells under the palace. We sent off a messenger for Vedric, since he was the one making all the fuss about the boy in the first place. He may be a Mavelan, but he's not going to be able to talk the boy out of this mess. He'll have to deal with him, and he is a mage. We reckoned it was better for one mage to deal with another. Especially a murderer."

  "That's not proved."

  Lores glared at him. Vanyel repeated his words stubbornly. "That's not proved. Nothing is proved. And furthermore, I'd like to know how the hell a Herald could come to attack a Companion."

  Lores began pacing, four steps away from Vanyel, four steps back. "We shoved him in there, picked up the bodies - what was left of them. Things quieted down. Then, less than a candlemark ago, that demon showed up."

  “Companion.''

  Lores wheeled to glare again, but the look in Vanyel's eyes cowed him. "That Companion showed up; he began breaking down the door. The guard got me, I sent for reinforcements - I thought it was a demon - more men showed up about the time the de- Companion got the door smashed in and started to run off with the boy. That whip was in the guardhouse and I grabbed it - figuring demon or not, it was horse-shaped." He shrugged. "You know the rest."

  "Didn't you even try the boy under Truth Spell?" Vanyel snarled, out of patience with the lack of thought, the complete bullheaded stupidity of the man.

  Lores looked baffled. " 'Truth Spell'? Why? What's that got to do with me?"

  "Goddess Incarnate! Any Herald can work first-stage Truth Spell! Didn't your mentor ever -" Vanyel paused at the dumbfounded look on Lores' face. "Your mentor never told you?"

  Lores shook his head.

  “Gods,” Vanyel strode over to the adolescent, who was still slumped over his own knees. "Tashir?" he said, gently, kneeling beside him. He braced himself when the young man looked up, it still made his heart lurch to see thos
e eyes, that face - and that dazed, lost, and pleading expression. "Tashir, do you remember anything that happened tonight? Anything at all?''

  Tashir's eyes were still not focusing well; he shook his head dumbly.

  Vanyel shook him gently. "Think. Dinner. Do you remember your father calling you up at dinner?"

  "I..." The boy's voice was quite low, almost a match for Vanyel's baritone. "I think so. Yes. He ... wanted me to go somewhere."

  "Where, Tashir?" Vanyel prompted.

  "I ... don't remember."

  "Do you remember arguing with him?"

  A hesitant nod. There were shadows under Tashir's eyes that had nothing to do with the way the light was falling on him. "I didn't want to go. He wanted to send me somewhere. I don't remember where, I just remember that I didn't want to go. I told him I wouldn't. He hit me."

  "Did he hit you very often?"

 
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