My Tripod Page
Angel of Death, chpt 23

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Trial Continues

Athos woke late midday, to the gentle rocking of the boat. There was something vaguely comforting in the motion, and he lay still for a moment before sitting up.

There was a fair-sized porthole to his right, gilded in bronze, and he gazed through it. The shore was a haze on the very edge of the horizon, and all around sparkled the blue-green waters of the sea.

Was it the Shining Sea he was looking upon? No, they were probably into the Sea of Swords by now.

He smiled to himself. This was the first time he had been aboard a ship of any kind, yet he felt none of the sickness and dizziness he had heard some men describe. In truth, the fresh salt air was strangely invigorating.

He stirred from the captain's soft bunk, standing and going through a series of stretching exercises.

Afterwards, he turned to the small dresser and leafed through the captain's clothing, finding several articles which caught his fancy, and he found fit him well.

He dressed quickly, then went up on deck, leaving the true captain wriggling in his bonds.

The sailors of the ship were hard at work.

The first mate approached, a concerned expression on his face. He sees that something isn't quite right, thought Athos. "Rough night, captain?"

Athos leaned painfully on his left leg, the way the true captain did, and shook his head. "Nothin' a day to sea won't cure," he rasped. The accent and diction were flawless.

The first mate cracked a gap-toothed smile and moved away. "Heave to, dogs! Get that mizzen straightened, the captain's in a fine mood for flogging!"

Athos nodded, and shuffled off in search of the galley. The bright golden amulet which hung at his neck sparkled in the sunlight.

* * *

Where was LaValle?

It was the question that had plagued Grimwalde for days. The man had simply gone missing.

He'd asked Thenedain of course, but recieved no answer. "Am I to keep track of his comings and goings?" the older mage had asked in irritation. "He's a man grown, not a boy to be watched every moment. Likely enough he's off doing what young men his age do."

The suggestion was ludicrous - LaValle, the quiet one who never strayed from the library, deep in his cups and surrounded by women of the night!

But where then was he, and what was he doing?

Grimwalde would have given much to know the answers to those questions.

Obviously the old mage was playing his own game. LaValle was his man, loyal to a fault. LaValle went nowhere and did nothing with out Thenedain's express permission, so the older mage must know what he was doing.

Perhaps had departed on a mission on Thenedain's behalf. But then why keep it a secret?

Unless... unless it was a move against Grimwalde.

Curse him, the doddering, meddling old fool!

If Grimwalde thought he could have, he would have killed him. But Thenedain was a cautious man, and moving against him now could prove rash.

But Grimwalde had patience. Oh yes, I can be very patient...

* * *

"He's gone."

Childric paled. "We can't be certain-" he protested.

"Don't give me fairy tales. He's gone." Pook turned away. "He has escaped us, and we've lost our best chance at getting him."

Childric wet his lips. "Perhaps we could pursue him. We... I could give chase. After all, we know where he's going. There is a chance-"

"Don't be a fool, Childric. Do you really think I would entrust a job like that to a fool like you?"

Pook sighed, pacing away.

Now it was up to his people in Memnon. If the Viper got past them, or if he bypassed Memnon altogether, Pook would never get his chance.

"Lord Pook," stammered Childric. "I... I just want to express my sorrow... I mean, I apologize and take full responsibility..."

Suddenly he smiled. "There's no use crying over spilled milk, Childric."

He whirled, a dagger appearing as if by magic in his hand.

"Did I ever tell you about my ear collection, Childric? It's a special fascination of mine, taking the right ears of men who've failed me."

* * *

"So," mused guildmistress Tulmara, scanning the message, "the Viper has escaped Calimport."

She tossed it aside, smiling cruelly. "I expected no less. He'll be arriving in Memnon next. After that, he'll enter Tethyr - my city. My territory. And he won't be leaving. The arrogance of the man!" She forced herself to calm. "He will learn - to his detriment - that sending Arkail's head to me was not a wise decision. Prepare the men."

"Yes, guildmistress."