Six - in which there are lies and offers of helpMature

Vanora let out a small sigh. "We know why it worked the way it did," she told Volker.

"The sacrifices?" he gave her a skeptical look. "No, I don't believe four sacrifices could power a spell of that magnitude. It should have taken far more than that. And it's not just me, you know. I've talked to the other mages. Elias, for all he makes it sound like a joke, is actually well versed in necromancy and death magic. Theoretically," he assured her quickly. "He's never actually done any of it, of course. But he agrees that it should have taken more than four. Even if Noman killed more than that and we just missed it..." he shook his head.

"There was also the stone," she reminded him.

"So Esme keeps reminding me," Volker frowned. "Unfortunately we haven't found it. We may never find it, and that doesn't help us in the least. Not that it would help even if we had it, not after seeing what it did to Olian. You're sure Noman doesn't have it?"

"I don't believe he as any reason to lie to me, and he didn't bother to keep it secret before. Trust me Volker, if we find it you'll know. The last thing we need is for it to fall into the wrong hands again. How is Esme?" she changed the subject.

"Hard at work in Parl and elsewhere, but planning on coming back here for a visit soon. I guess the Incursion really stirred up the Society. She says there's more activity now than there has been in years, and her people have been a great help in keeping an eye on Hammon."

Vanora nodded. She and the other Princes were grateful to have the Society as an asset. As a secret organization they were a ready made spy organization, even if that wasn't their original purpose. Originally, according to Esme, their purpose had simply been to continue to worship the Gods - they'd seen their deity's silence as a test instead of an abandonment, one they planned on passing. They'd kept their order a secret as belief in the Gods waned to avoid judgement and interference by those less faithful, and only admitted the most ardent believers. The Incursion, and Esme's tale of the Gods' involvement, had been a sign long awaited.

"But about Noman," Volker took control of the conversation again.


"Has he said anything more about why he's back? About this mission he's supposedly on?"

Volker didn't know the whole truth. Noman had reappeared just after the Incursion ended, naked and unconscious in the ruins of the Ivory Tower. She'd known he would be there, and sure enough... but it had taken him a long time to recover. Only once he was conscious and aware of his situation, no longer vulnerable, had she let the Captain know. The story was that he'd simply appeared at the gates of her estate one night, returned by the grace of Airea and on a mission. They'd largely kept it quiet, of course. Aside from her, Volker, and the Captain, only Esme knew he still lived.

"He's looking for something important," she told Volker. "Not the stone. Something bigger, something more powerful. It's all he'll say." She watched Volker, wondering if he'd see the lie in her eyes. Noman had told her everything. She'd decided nobody else needed to know. Not yet. But Volker didn't see it, or if he did he was better at covering his suspicion than most people.

"Well," he shrugged, "If he ever needs any help he's welcome to use the library. He did save our skins once. I'm willing to overlook the rest and help him if he needs it."

The End

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