“How is it you have failed me for so long?” The question was presented calmly, but Euroin knew his answer could be the difference between life and death.
“My King,” he began, bowing low before the golden throne, “forgive your servant. I have failed you until now, it is true, yet soon the Healer will no longer be a problem. She cannot escape my powers any longer.”
Simann stared at the Wizard, his blue eyes cold and lifeless. “Perhaps not. Or perhaps it is as I have heard whispered around my castle as of late--there exists still a True Wizard with powers which greatly exceed your own.” Euroin tensed, but he did not speak. In King Simann’s court, one did not speak unless given permission. “It is only by my mercy that you and those other four fools were not executed the moment you let that mere boy escape.” Crossing his arms over his broad chest, the King leaned back in his ornate throne. “Your magic has proven worthless thus far. This Healer--from where does she hail?”
“The girl is from Lurn, my King,” the Wizard answered, still bowing, for Simann had not granted him permission to stand in his presence.
“Bring me the Master of the Guard,” the King called out. Standing, Simann walked across the throne room to look out over the courtyard. He was a handsome man, and when the sun touched his blond hair it shone like the purest gold. His muscular frame moved gracefully, almost like a dancer, as he walked across the room. Within minutes the tall guardsman, Erik, was entering the room.
“You called for me, my King?” he asked as he bowed, slightly breathless from running to the throne room.
Without turning from the window Simann spoke. “You will go to Lurn with my army. Find all the traitors and execute them. When the Healer shows herself in her hometown, bring her to me. Leave me now,” he said, not once looking at either man. “It is tiring to have to do everything on my own. Send the Healers to my chambers.”
“Yes, my King,” Euroin said, quickly leaving the throne room. Once in the hall he stood straight, his eyes burning with indignation at being forced to cower before Simann. After passing the King’s demands on to a servant standing outside the door, the angry Wizard stormed out of the main tower of the castle and back to his small cottage in one of the many courtyards. He threw the door open without touching it and sent chairs, tables, and dishes clattering against walls. His black cloak billowed around him as the Wizard stormed through the room, though there was no breeze. With only a glance from the irate Wizard, a fire roared to life in the hearth.
“You seem upset.”
Euroin spun at the words, for the first time seeing the Wizard seated in the corner. “Wizard Uylti, why are you here in my quarters?”
Uylti quickly walked across the room to stand in front of the older Wizard. “Please forgive me for intruding, Master Euroin. I have some urgent news, but I was told you had an audience with the King when I arrived back at the castle so I came to wait for you here. I’m sorry for not waiting outside, but I was weary from---”
“Stop blubbering, you fool,” Euroin interrupted. “I do not wish to hear how your jumps around the kingdom put a drain on your limited powers. Tell me your news.”
“Of course,” Uylti said quietly. “As you are well aware, I have been in Nelthien searching for the traitors.”
Once again the older Wizard interrupted. “Do not tell me what I already know, Uylti. What is so important that you did not simply send word?”
“I- I thought I should, well,” he stammered, his head slightly bowed, “I thought it best to come aid in the training of the lesser Wizards, so I decided to tell you in person. On the border of Finley, in Wykel, there are rumors of a rebellion forming.”
Euroin stared silently at the other Wizard, waiting for him to continue. When it became clear that he had no more to say, the Wizard Euroin asked, “Is that all? Your ‘urgent news’ is that a rebellion is forming? We have known that since Simann first took the throne.”
“But Master Euroin,” Uylti added quickly, “this is different. There have been wagon loads of swords intercepted in Wykel as they were being sent across the border into Finley. This uprising appears to be more than just a few unhappy farmers as in the past. I believe they are forming an army.”
Euroin’s laugh surprised Uylti. “Once again, is that all? King Simann commands the greatest, most highly trained force in Tundyel’s history. They wield the finest weapons in the kingdom, weapons forged in sorcerers’ fires. Do you truly fear field men with inferior blades?” He sat down before the fire, calmer now, before continuing. “And even now all the Wizards in Tundyel are within the castle walls, learning wards and spells as we speak. Since you did not ride back from Nelthien, I suppose you did not encounter the walls Ilcren has been teaching them to weave, walls no ordinary man will be able to breech. Despite their belief in themselves, these rebels will not be able to strike so much as a stone of Castle Tundyel. Our own soldiers would not even have to lift a finger were it not for King Simann’s insane order that they go to Lurn!” Uylti said nothing, unsure of how to react to Euroin’s sudden mood change. Instead he stood quietly as the old Wizard continued.
“I have taken care of the girl myself--soon she will not be giving aid to anyone. Yet Simann is so sure of his own plan that he will have all the people of Lurn killed off before admitting that his order was not needed. Once this… annoyance is taken care of, how does that man expect us to be able to cover his reckless deeds? It proves difficult enough to weave a web to cover the ruins of a swift defeat, yet he expects us to keep the people of his kingdom from knowing that he has wiped out a city one by one!”
“I suppose,” Uylti said, “it must be almost impossible for someone without our powers to understand the complexities of a web of secrecy. Sometimes it seems as if we could better serve a King who possesses the gift--at least to some degree.” Uylti’s eyes widened as he realized the danger of speaking such words aloud and he began rapidly trying to qualify what he said. “Though it would be easier, I would want no other King, even should an heir of Rilso be found. Not that I believe an heir of that family still exists---” A knock on the door saved Uylti from digging what was quickly becoming a deep hole, much to his relief. The younger Wizard knew Euroin would not hesitate to reveal his peer’s uncertainty to Simann, should doing so raise his own status in the King’s Court and give the Wizard more power.
Without even flinching, Euroin opened the door from where he sat across the room. Uylti’s brow furrowed slightly in confusion, for he had never seen the older Wizard move objects without so much as a hand gesture. However, he soon shrugged the thought aside when Alek entered the room, Ilcren close behind. While they were giving reports about the training of the lesser Wizards, Osidius appeared in the doorway. Unlike the younger Wizard Uylti, the other four Wizards had long ago mastered the art of shifting and could easily move around the Kingdom of Tundyel in an instant. Osidius was more precise than the other Wizards and could shift into buildings, something none of the others practiced for fear of shifting into a wall or some other stationary object.
“Master Euroin,” Osidius began, “the prisoner has been sighted moving south through the district of Meinsley. A farmer who arrived in Lurn for the spring market was heard speaking of a man who he spotted running across his land two, perhaps three, nights ago. I ordered the farmer brought to me and questioned him myself, and I believe this man is the traitor we seek.”
Euroin stood facing the other four Wizards of his order. “Perhaps the King’s plan will not prove so worthless. Though he will not be able to draw the Healer out, if this traitor is of any importance to the rebellion forming we may be able to wipe out their force sooner than expected,” he said, the strange light sparking up in his eyes once again.