Queen Risalla gathered the boys to her, kissing them. Do you still cough and sniffle? She rose to her feet. No strawberries for you tonight. That will be your punishment. Now bid your father goodnight. Conrig lifted and embraced each boy gravely, looking deeply into their eyes before kissing them. That blessing and curse was present in all three of his offspring. But Risalla was once again with child, and if God pleased, Conrig would know tonight if the unborn was a normal-minded heir and the Sovereignty secure.
The draperies were drawn against the still-bright sky, but open casements admitted both cool air and the sounds of laughter and dance-music rising from the gardens. Risalla had changed into a summer nightrobe of fine primrose-colored lawn and reclined on a cushioned couch. The hypnagogic draught prepared by Vra-Stergos, which she had swallowed only a few minutes earlier, was already making her drowsy.
I hate the notion of her casting a spell on us! I hate her, God forgive me, though I truly know not why. Her vehemence startled Conrig. In contrast to his mercurial first wife Maudrayne Northkeep, whom Conrig had adored until he came to believe that she could not give him children, Risalla Mallburn kept close custody of her emotions. All Didion knows that she invoked the Beaconfolk as well as the spunkies to ensure your victory.
And so do many of your own nobles, here in Cathra.
They believe you are in league with the Lights. Yet he had no doubt that Risalla spoke now from deep conviction, freed by the alchymical potion from the constraint of prudence that usually governed her tongue. It was no surprise to Conrig that the barbarous Didionites should believe him to be in thrall to Beaconfolk magic. But if it were true that his own people gave serious credence to the notion….
But she only turned away and seemed to sleep. There came a sound of hesitant knocking.
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The corridor was empty except for his elder brother Stergos, the Royal Alchymist, attired in splendid crimson vestments in honor of the festival. Tonight he was obviously ill at ease and his brow was dewed with perspiration. Conrig nodded and the alchymist came quickly into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind him.
She can ascertain nothing through her ordinary scrying, but if the unborn possesses talent, she will be able to Send to it as she does to you and me. First, let me make certain that your lady sleeps.
The iris with its dilated pupil had rolled upward. Now we must distance ourselves from Risalla if the experiment is to work. The king took the other one. Bold as a hawk and sharp as a varg sword! You should have seen the little rogue get the better of that bloody pet monkey this evening. He must learn self-discipline if we ever hope to have the talent restriction lifted.
The Lords of the South will never yield if they envision a wizard with overt powers sitting one day on the throne. The conjoined minds of the Brotherhood searched the entire island, virtually inch by inch, and failed to scry any trace of the Princess Dowager. But her close scrutiny took place four years ago, shortly after Maude was thought to have drowned. At the time, Ulla admitted that her search might have been thwarted by Red Ansel Pikan.
The magical capabilities of the Grand Shaman of Tarn are unknown to her. He might have been able to block the action of the Great Stone. The painful search effort so debilitated Ullanoth that she was forced to avoid using Loophole for many months. Since then, as far as I know, she has made no further attempt to look for Maude. She knows your secret and could divulge it at any time, with Ansel to testify to the truth of it. And if she tells what she knows and produces the normal-minded male child.
Here is where I require your advice, Gossy. Would it be wise for me to once again enlist the Conjure-Queen in the search for Maude? But even the most powerful sorcery has limitations. For instance, Maudrayne and her child could not live permanently inside a spell of invisibility woven by Ansel.
Such an existence would be insupportable to the healthy human temperament. Furthermore, a high-spirited woman such as Maude would never consent to be immured within some impregnable magical fortress for years upon end. Conrig gave a short mirthless laugh. And if she does these things, there are bound to be local people who know about it. In my opinion, she might be sought and found by a clever and talented spy — such as my Royal Intelligencer, Snudge.
What do you think, Gossy? Stergos hesitated. Ansel would hardly spend all of his time shielding her. He has other responsibilities.
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Deveron Austrey would have a special advantage over the lesser northern adepts, since his talent is imperceptible to all but the most powerful. But what will you do if Deveron does discover that your former wife is alive, and has a son? This rumor may prove to be entirely false.
We will not discuss the fate of the Princess Dowager now. You must bespeak him, ordering his return. The Royal Alchymist let his head sink into his hands and called out silently on the wind. They waited, straining their ears, fearing the sound of approaching steps from the room where Risalla lay, but hearing only the distant sounds of music and revelry outside in the gardens. At length Conrig leapt to his feet. The sweet woodsy scent of vetiver wafted into the room.
A silhouette was standing in front of the tall undraped window, completely enveloped in a deep-green cloak. A hand, pale as milk and wearing a ring of carved moonstone on one long, graceful finger, emerged from the folds of cloth and extended itself toward Conrig.
Series: Boreal Moon Tale
He hastened to take the hand, brushing the back of it with his lips. He carefully avoided any contact with the ring, which was a powerful sigil named Weathermaker. Ullanoth of Moss unfastened her cloak and handed it to the High King as though he were a simple lackey. Except for the purplish shadows about her eyes, her face was as lovely as ever, framed by shimmering long hair that mimicked the pearly interior of certain seashells. Her gown was the same unadorned green samite as her cape, and her belt was gold, with a hanging purse.
Around her neck hung a golden chain with a curiously carved small translucent pendant that glowed in the dim room like wan foxfire — the Great Stone named Sender, the third major sigil that she owned. Its power, invoked only at the cost of terrible pain now that her debt to the Lights was so heavy, enabled Ullanoth to inhabit a magical simulacrum of her natural body, in which her soul might travel anywhere in the world while her true flesh lay senseless.
The Sending was no vaporous ghost, but rather a warm and solid replica with a full palette of physical sensation, able to carry from its point of origin all clothing and other accoutrements worn or held by the original. It could not, however, draw sustenance from food or drink at its destination, nor could it carry back any foreign object.
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Conqueror's Moon (Boreal Moon, #1) by Julian May
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