Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Poisoner

I was, of course, still angry that Dragoneyes had kept his relationship with Cassinder secret. But I had begun to accept that they might genuinely be a match, and that they had the potential to bring each other happiness.
Speaking of matches, my own love live was rather less... lively. Areline continued to regard me the way one might regard a particularly crazed hermit who has taken up residence in the outskirts of a nearby village. In that she was willing to tolerate me so long as I kept my distance, and criticized my personal grooming. "Is it so unreasonable that I can't be bothered to shave. I have at this point slain no fewer than eighteen monsters in the past four days."
"If your beard grows any more tangled you'll be mistaken for the nineteenth," the retorted.
"That seems very unlikely!" Perhaps not the reply of a rhetorical master.
We bickered for a little longer, until her brother brokered a peace. Othin was good at that. He could make friends with everyone. He was interested in everything. He spoke to Neriel with authority when discussing history, and impressed me in his studies of the True Name of air. He was truly his father's son.
Othin got us all discussing the relative merits of the the various types of Etoran cuisine. The discussion was going very nicely when Koteph blasted his way into our room. At that point, the discussion ceased rather abruptly.

I was terrified. There was no Dragoneyes to save me. No Archmage who would hold Koteph off. The shade was effortlessly was more powerful than the four of us put together. I summoned a whirlwind, for all the good it would do. Koteph effortlessly dispersed it.
"You know why I'm here." It wasn't a question. It was a statement, uttered by an inhuman mouth on an inhuman face. The shriveled, corpselike man sent out a spell, and the four of us were immobilized.
"I know why you're here," I said. "And it is a waste of your time."
"Yes, I see that now." He ran his fingers against my face. The texture was off. "An intricate spell. You know I want the True Name of air, and you aren't the fools I had hoped you were." Koteph took in the details of the enchantment. "Impressive. And I came very close to triggering it. I suppose I had better not use my magic here any more. Otherwise it might prove... more fatal than intended."
He didn't want to kill me? Didn't he know that I was useless to him? "But there is another, here. Another who could be useful."
My heart pounded. This was my fault. All my fault. "Othin. Son of Taerin. You shall open the door of air, and help bring Ochekol'kan into the world."
He grabbed my paralyzed friend, lifting the full-grown man like I would lift and pen, and left us. It was some time before the people combing through the debris of Koteph's attack noticed the three sorcerers standing still at their posts. I wasn't halfway through reversing the shade's work.

"Your foolishness has cost me my son! My heir!" The Archmage wasn't pleased. Not in the least.
"I- I'm sorry." That didn't seem like enough. What could I say? It hadn't occurred to me that theoretical information I had been teaching his son might attract Koteph's attention. I had simply lectured away, eager to discuss sorcery with anyone, not stopping to consider the consequences of my actions.
"You ought to be far more than sorry. Even as I was directing the sorcerers to help heal your sister, you let my son be taken by that... creature!"
Something wasn't right. ''My sister?"
Taerin's expressing went from anger to something harder to place. Shock, perhaps? "I assumed you had been informed. You sister was ambushed by one of Koteph's flying creatures. A Sassile, of some sort. She is not well."

Me, Dragoneyes, Dran and Cassinder. All together again. Except that Cassinder was unconscious, on the verge of death. "I can slow the process," Dran said. "The right potion can stop the spread of the venom. My assistants are making it as we speak." Assistants?
"I ought to be able to do something," Dragoneyes said. "If I knew the True Name of the venom, I could save her. If I knew the True Name of blood, or flesh." He caressed my sister. My sister. "I called upon the those names to save her once before. Why can't I see them again?"
"Perhaps it is a sign that she will live without your interference," I suggested.
"I can see the True Nature of things, Amniel. Yes, she will live. She will be kept in this state for some time. She may be conscious, briefly. But she will deteriorate. Further and further. Her flesh will rot before she dies. Her skin will decay. We can preserve her life until her heart becomes a lump of dirt. But it won't mean anything to her." Dragoneyes burst into flames. Searing heat came off his body. I put up a spell to cool myself. Dran did the same. Neither Dragoneyes nor his lover needed to deal with such trivialities. "Leave us," he ordered. I left him to be with my sister.

"It is an irony," Dran said.
"What is."
"Oh, you wouldn't appreciate it. But earlier today, I received a new nickname. The Poisoner." Dran grinned the grin of someone who considered 'The Poisoner' to be a desirable nickname.
"Because of the noxious concoction you hurl at our enemies?"
"It certainly is not a reference to my cooking, Amniel. But that is not what I wished to speak with you about. I wanted to discuss why Koteph didn't kill you."
"I have given it some thought. It is because I know the True Name of air. I am his reserve. His replacement, in case Othin fails to learn."
"Yes. Which means that he is working on a way to counteract your safeguard. Since sentimental reasons prevent you from being killed, that means we simply have to act to keep you out of the shade's hands. You will spend your time in the Tower, now. I have some work I think will suit you."
"Have you talked to Taerin about this?"
"I'll speak with him when he is less distressed. He is in an unbalanced state at the moment."
"I see."
Taking orders from Dragoneyes, taking orders from Dran. Or the Poisoner, as he liked to be known.

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