the armies of daylight (darwath #3) Page 14


"Gil?"

Rudy let the tent flap fall, shutting out the whining howl of the wind. He spoke softly, his voice barely audible over the rattle of the rain on the leather roof of the hospital-tent, so as not to wake the others lying there. He knew that Gil would not be sleeping.

He saw the gleam of her open eyes. She was regarding the tent ceiling dispassionately, as she had done all of yesterday, after she had wakened there and Brother Wend had told her as gently as he could that Ingold was dead.

Then the gray eyes shifted and met his. "Hi, punk," she said in a perfectly normal tone, as if she were meeting him by chance in a parking lot, and Rudy's heart sank within him.

"You okay?"

She shrugged. "Compared with about half the people who went down that hole, I'm fantastic." She folded her arms across her chest, and the little light that leaked from under the shade of the glowstone showed him the side of her face all streaked with rock-splinter cuts and a grimy black bandage torn from somebody's surcoat covering the abraded wound on her temple. By the look of her eyes, he could not see that she had shed any tears-which was more than could have been said of him.

After a moment she returned that flat, cool gaze to the ceiling. "They say Eldor will make it, too," she added conversationally. "Which is damn ironic, when you think of it."

Rudy shut his eyes against the burn of tears and looked away. The shattered chain of bodies across the floor of the gas trap seemed to be etched into the backside of his eyelids. "Gil, what are we gonna do?" he whispered.

"Depends on your priorities," she said, her light voice half-drowned by the torrential roar of the rain. "I'd say the smartest thing to do is send an expedition to the Nest in the Vale of the Dark for moss and make some kind of nitroglycerine-based defensive weapons against the White Raiders. You could probably also use the nitrogen base for fertilizer for the hydroponics gardens-"

"Goddam it, Gil!" he sobbed out of a blinding vortex of grief. "How can you just sit there and-and talk about defensive weapons and-and fertilizer…?" The light, sexless, reasonable voice sickened him. "I always knew you were the most heartless woman I'd ever met, but… He's dead, Gil! Can't you understand that?"

"Sure," Gil said cheerfully. "Just because I don't shove my pain off onto you doesn't mean I don't feel any."

He was silent, his face burning with shame.

She moved her head a little on the bundled cloak that served her for a pillow. In the reflection of the half-drowned torches outside the tent, her eyes looked as gray as weathered ice and about as feeling. "You asked me what we're gonna do," she pointed out in a milder voice. "I'd say, just offhand, what we better do is settle ourselves down for a nice, long stay."

It was the beginning of the most hideous time that Rudy had ever endured.

The weeks that followed the decimated army's return to the Keep of Dare ran together in his mind into a single, endless hell of misery, grief, and fear. Rudy kept for the most part to his own cell or to the desolate Corps commons, and the surviving mages knew enough to let him be. Gil occasionally brought him news of what passed in the rest of the Keep-of Eldor's slow recovery, of the Alketch troops that occupied most of the second level, of the bitter infighting between the King and the Church-but Rudy heard it all without caring.

Gil had changed. Rudy often wondered what had happened to her when Ingold died. The gawky shyness, the scholarliness, the sensitivity, were gone. Now and then he heard her refer to the old man's death in passing without so much as a change of inflection in her light, sarcastic voice. But there was a fey quality lurking in those frozen eyes that frightened him.

Aide he saw only once.

Gil said that she never left the Royal Sector, though whether by her own choice or Eldor's compulsion, Gil did not know. Kara, who helped Thoth and Brother Wend nurse the King in the days after his shrouded litter was brought back from Gae, said that Alde kept much to her room after her first interview with Eldor when he regained consciousness. Kara said that Alwir and Bektis-the only mage who did not participate in the invasion of the Nest-were much with the King.

Even had Alde been free to go about the Keep, Rudy would seldom have seen her, but the lethargy that had settled around his heart alternated with a longing for her of a desperate intensity that nothing would allay. It was a desire he fought against, knowing the depths of Eldor's jealousy. Even to be caught trying to see her might trigger retaliation upon them both. Yet the longing grew on him, like a junkie's cravings for a drug, to the point where he was toying with the notion of slipping past the Alketch troops by means of a cloaking-spell and chancing a meeting when Eldor, who Gil said was able to get about now, was gone.

That night he waited until the start of the deep-night watch and called her image in the crystal.

The filtered pink glow of the night light showed him the room they had shared so many nights, the tumbled shadows of the bed, with her dark braids lying like tasseled black ropes against the iridescent gleam of the starry quilt, the soft, waxy sheen of the table, and the thin edge of gilt on the strapwork of her jewel box. The spindle-carved foot of Tir's bed had its heavy curtains looped back to reveal the downy, dark head on the pillow within.

Rudy's mind traced the murky ways of the Keep and considered how he could reach that perfumed, sleeping sanctuary in peace.

Then a thin sliver of light stabbed into the image as the door of the room was pushed slowly ajar. A tall shape blotted the dim glow from the hall, a momentary shadow of a man who pushed the door quickly to behind him- soundlessly, Rudy thought, for on the bed Alde did not stir. I he intruder stepped carefully forward, a cautious movement marred by the man's horribly staggering gait, like that of a badly wielded marionette. The roseate light slithered across the soft black leather of the mask that covered his whole head and glinted on the gold eagle embroidered on his breast.

Rudy felt his breath stifle in his lungs.

Yet Eldor made no move toward his wife's bed. Instead, he stole, with that limping, awkward hobble, to the shadows that flanked Tir's cradle and stood for a time looking down at the child within. The silence of it, the clarity of those tiny images prisoned in the crystal, sent a prickle of horror down Rudy's back. The fact that this was occurring now, close to half a mile away at the far end of the Keep, and that he would be a helpless witness to whatever happened exerted a kind of terrifying fascination over him, so that he could not turn his eyes away.

At length, the King moved away; with that same stealthy limp, he returned to the door and was gone. As the door closed quietly behind him, Rudy saw the silken bedclothes stir, and Alde raised her head to look at the fading crack of light that marked where Eldor had gone. Her eyes were wide, plum-colored in the darkness -and wholly awake.

His hands shaking, Rudy laid the crystal aside. In time he tell into a fitful sleep, prey to other visions more terrible than that-and to one in particular, a recurring horror that he had begun already to pray was only a dream.

In all that wretchedness and despair, the one thing that he clung to was the music of the harp Tiannin. He had salvaged the instrument from the ruins of Quo, the city that he had felt instinctively should have been his home; Dakis the Minstrel and Minalde had both taught him the rudiments of Tiannin's art.

Now, through the dark winter days, it was his only company, the magic of its music the only outlet for his longing and grief. For hours on end he played, sometimes straight through the long nights, his hands clumsily shaping the songs he had learned, or following their own inclinations into long, melancholy improvisations. He sensed, as he had always sensed, the presence of a crystalline beauty within the harp that lay far beyond his striving. The notes seemed to rise toward it, as flocks of marsh birds rose toward the sun at dawn. But because Ingold had once teased him about how badly he played, he was not aware of how close to that beauty he came. The other mages, some of the Guards, and those in the Keep who had their own losses to mourn in that bleak dead of winter often came to sit in some room of that thin-walled, half-deserted complex to hear those clean and shining strains.

It was thus that Gil found him, the night that the Church finally struck.

So engrossed was he in the shimmering sounds that he did not hear her swift feet in the hall. The first he knew of her presence was when the door was flung open, and she strode with light and terrible urgency into the room.

She paused, blinking in the darkness, but she was moving toward the bed where he sat by the time he had called a feather of light to the air above his head.

"What the-" he began.

She removed the harp from his startled hands. In the pale glow of the witchlight, her brows were two black slashes above eyes that were coolly impersonal. "I just got word," she informed him briefly. "All the Alketch troops up on the second level are being sent down here. Their orders are to put all the wizards under arrest."

Rudy gasped. " What ?" And then, rather incoherently, he protested, "It's the middle of the goddam night!"

She paused on her way back out the door, the harp tucked under her arm, its strings glimmering like quicksilver against the darkness of her voluminous surcoat. With cool scorn, she asked, "You think they'd pull a bust like this if there were likely to be witnesses?"

"But…"

She was gone, her black clothes mingling with the shadows. Rudy was still standing in the doorway of the cell when torchlight flooded the corridors, followed by voices, curses, and the clatter of boots. A squad of Alketch troopers turned the corner and barged toward the cell door-flat-faced, mahogany-dark men in scaled armor that glittered like an oiled rainbow in the light.

Confusion had slowed Rudy's reflexes. He slammed the door instants before they reached it and made a dash across the room for the flame thrower that was holstered beside the bed. The door was kicked open and men poured in, surrounding him before he reached his weapon; it occurred to him, as heavy hands slammed him against the wall, that he could have used a cloaking-spell instead.

His arms were twisted behind him, and he was searched, not gently; it came to him for the first time how civil and pleasant the San Bernardino cops had been.

"Listen…" he gasped-and collected a slap from a mailed hand that took his breath away.

He was jerked away from the wall, stifling a cry as his arms were all but wrenched from their sockets. Something sharp pricked his ribs, and someone said, "You make a noise, mage, and it will be the last one you ever make." A hot thread of blood trickled down his side.

They dragged him into the corridor, past the door of the commons. Dark figures passed back and forth across the flaring light of the hearth, their shadows huge on the walls. Firelight glittered on armor; the soldiers were smashing glowstones and record crystals, ripping to pieces Thoth's mathematical notes, and dumping books and phials of medicinal powders into the fire. He heard a groaning crash as one of them stamped his boot through Dakis the Minstrel's lute and realized belatedly why Gil had taken his harp. Then he was shoved on into the darkness and cuffed when he stumbled, his arms aching and the knife point grating against his ribs. They passed the main stairway that led up to the second level and turned aside.

It was only then that he grasped fully what was happening. Gal had known it, when she said there would be no witnesses-her mind must have leaped to the truth in

NOTE:

Royal administrative and residential quarters occupy roughly 1/2 the area of Church Territory, directly above it on the 2nd level.

The Penambran refugees occupy most of the 4th, and all of the 5th,

levels.

The Keep of Dare

the first moment she had seen that the arresting troops were from Alketch. The wizards would not be tried by the High King; very likely. Elder was not even aware of their arrest.

They were to be tried by the Inquisition.

Torches gleamed redly on the breastplates of the soldiers around Rudy and threw huge shadows that stalked in lumbering procession at their heels down the shadowy passageway. From dark doors, he caught the scent of incense as the passage narrowed, winding its way into the territory of the Church. He was conscious of others joining them, though the troopers behind him and the angle at which his arms were twisted made it impossible for him to see. But he heard the weighted rustle of robes and the murmur of chanting. The flaring light touched darker corridors of the Church mazes-cells where the Red Monks bivouacked, aisles where the dust lay undisturbed but for a single threaded line of bare footprints, and guardrooms that defended locked doors watched by the red-robed warriors of the Faith. And all that shadowy domain, lighted by the dim flicker of grease lamps and candles and thick with layer after layer of incense-laden gloom, whispered with the soft chanting of nightlong prayers.

They passed through a long corridor without light. Footfalls echoed in the closing walls. Panic and terror seized him, but he could not struggle and he knew in his heart that, if he cried out, no one would come. He remembered Ingold, imprisoned in the doorless cell beneath the villa at Karst. There was a smell, a feel, to this place that was half-familiar. They were somewhere deep in the Church's maze, far from any inhabited section of the Keep at all. Dust rose about their feet, glimmering in the fitful glare of the torches. The smell of the place was vile, disused, and damp.

Someone pushed open a door in the dark wall. Rudy stumbled over something on the threshold and was thrust through, his cramped arms failing to break his fall. He landed hard and lay for a moment, breathless, aching, and terrified, listening to the inhabited silence in the room.

In the darkness, a bell rang. Rudy rolled painfully over, feeling the cold scratchiness of a floor long given over to dust and dirt beneath his palms. He half sat up, his wizard's sight showing him dim shapes: the weatherwitches Grey and Nila, holding hands, their voices soft and fearful; Dakis the Minstrel, unconscious, his bleeding head pillowed on Ilea's lap; Ungolard, his face bowed despairingly on his hands; and Kara, her black hair rumpled down her back, flushed with anger and working at untying and ungagging her mother.

He looked around him, frowning into the darkness. He had found that in certain times and places-in the Nest of the Dark or among the twisting Walls of Air that circled Quo-his dark-sight was less clear, and so it seemed here. He could make out the shape of a double cell, black-walled and cold, some twenty feet by forty. Its ceiling he could not see, hidden as it was in shadows. He could see only one door. The place had a fusty smell to it, sterile and somehow at once disgusting and frightening. He shivered at the half-forgotten memory that it stirred and called a sliver of witchlight…

… and nothing came. It was as if he had dropped his spell of summoning into a dark well and had seen the water swallow it.

This was a cell where no magic would work.

Dame Nan's shrill voice slashed into the terrible silence of that leaden room. "Filthy, rotten, fish-eating Southerners, to manhandle an old woman!"

"Mother!" Kara whispered, frightened, and the old witch-wife scrambled to a sitting position, rubbing her skinny wrists.

"Don't you 'mother' me, my girl! If they're listening, so much the better! Curses of itches on them, from that yellow-bellied lefty on down to the last drab's bastard of a foot soldier's catamite of 'em! May piles like the warts on a drunkard's nose decorate their-"

" Mother ?"

And in the darkness, someone gave a cracked, hysterical laugh.

Half- crouched, as if he feared to be seen by some unknown watcher, Rudy made his way to the scar-faced spellweaver's side. "Where's Thoth?" he whispered, and she shook her head.

Rudy looked around him. There was no sign of Brother Wend or of Kta. Knowing Kta, Rudy figured that the old guru had probably been in his usual seat by the common room fire when the Alketch troops had sacked the place, and they simply had not noticed him. That was two free… maybe three.

Free for what ? he wondered. To rescue us? From the middle of Church territory? And where the hell will we go if we are rescued? Away from the Keep? To the Dark ?

He buried his aching head in his hands. It became suddenly, terribly, clear to him what had happened to the wizard-engineers who had built the Keep. They had vanished without a trace… their labs had been sealed up… gradually the light had died out of the glowstones, and the memory of the building of the Keep had disappeared from the minds of all but those few, like Dare, who had volunteered to carry the knowledge on in their bloodlines. If they'd kept records, the Church had most likely destroyed them.

The Devil guards his own , Govannin had said. Only there was no Devil and no Archmage-no Ingold. Govannin would never have been able to touch us when he was alive .

Thoth , Rudy thought. Where's Thoth? And Wend? Or did Govannin have something special in mind for them? Thoth, as the most powerful of us left, and Wend, as the traitor to the Faith …

Despite everything he could do, Rudy's too-vivid imagination began to conjure all the things that could happen to those who simply vanished.

The bell rang again, clear and cold in the darkness. The door opened, an orange bar of light falling over the frightened faces of those within; more Alketch troopers entered, jeering and laughing at the tall, elegant old man whom they shoved, stuttering with rage, in their midst.

"This is an outrage!" Bektis was gasping. "Infamy! You dare to lay hands upon…"

He was greeted by obscene laughter and a flurry of brutal horseplay before he was flung among the other mages, choking with terror and indignation. He made a move to rise, trod on the flowing hem of his robe, and stumbled to his knees; the room shook with the soldiers' merriment.

"You're better on your knees praying, grandpa," the captain jeered.

"You might start by praying for all those you sent to their death with them exploding weapons," said another trooper, whose burned face still bore the livid marks of the battle in the Nest. "And finish praying for yourself when the Devil gets back his own!"

"I had nothing to do with…" the Court Mage began, attempting to get to his feet. With the sense of timing of a trained athlete, the captain reached out with his spear butt and hooked the old man's supporting hand out from beneath him, knocking him in a sprawl to the floor once more. The other soldiers howled with laughter.

Bcktis' white cheeks were stained red with anger, and his rumpled, silken beard was trembling with fury. "I demand that my lord Alwir be informed of this! He would never-"

"My lord Chancellor knows where you are, Bektis," a new voice said, a voice as soft and chilling as poison in the cold, sterile air of the black room. The troopers fell silent and bent their heads in reverence. Almost involuntarily, the mages moved back into the shadows, away from the lighted door.

Against the torchlight in the hall, two cowled forms stood framed, their faces hidden by the shadows of their hoods. But even if he had not guessed who was behind it, Rudy would have known the voice of the Bishop of Gae.

Red Monks filed into the room, their faces likewise hooded, the hands on their sword hilts white, brown, or black, strong or dainty. They moved along the walls until they surrounded those who huddled in the gloom of that long chamber. The last to enter bore candles; when the doors were shut, those two tiny slips of light were the only illumination in the pitlike darkness.

The steady, saffron glow showed Rudy the face of the left-hand man with the candle-the tortured, hagridden face of Brother Wend. As the two cowled inquisitors moved past the tiny flames. Inquisitor Pinard was seen to wear the expression of a man regretfully doing a distasteful duty; but Govannin's lips curled with a demon triumph.

They stood ranged before the doors with their light-bearers behind them, so that their faces were hidden in darkness. Only an occasional gleam of a shifting eye or the red-purple glint of the Bishop's ring as she moved those white, skeletal fingers betrayed them as living creatures, and not simply embodied voices from a nightmare of despair.

The Inquisitor spoke, his hands in their white sleeves folded, composed as those of a statue, his voice deep and rather low. "You stand convicted of heresy, of the willing sale of your souls to the Devil in trade for the Devil's powers of illusion. You stand convicted of causing the death of hundreds of good men, by weapons of evil and by the evil counsel that caused them to be used against the Dark. You stand convicted-"

"Convicted?" Rudy gasped indignantly. "Who in the hell convicted us? We haven't had a goddam trial!"

"Your life has been a trial," Govannin's dry, spiteful voice snarled, "and you convicted yourself the first day you went to the mage Ingold Inglorion and asked him to teach you the ways of power. Your trial began the day you were born, with the Devil's shadow upon your face."

"The hell it did!" Rudy surged to his feet, shaking off Kara's urgent, snatching fingers from his sleeve. "I no more had a choice about that than I did about the color of my eyes!"

The Bishop's thin voice bit across his. "Be silent."

"You know as well as I do that the invasion was doomed to failure from the beginning!" he stormed on heedlessly. "It was Alwir who wanted it, Alwir and Vair-"

"Be silent!"

"And you know yourself that it's no more against civil law to be a wizard than it is to be an actor…"

He barely saw the finger that Govannin lifted. But he heard the heavy stride of the Red Monk behind him and whirled to take the stunning blow from a leaded spear butt across the side of his jaw and neck instead of on the back of his skull.

He was only vaguely aware of falling through oceans of roaring blackness to the floor.

For a long moment, the uproar in the room seemed to come to his ears from some vast distance, blurred by the buzzing murk that appeared to surround him. Distantly, he saw Brother Wend's face behind Govannin's shoulder, rigid and white, as if he were going to be sick. Dame Nan's screeching voice rose, screaming accusations of perversions that he had never imagined possible. Then he heard the sound of booted feet scuffling, and blows, and Kara's voice crying, " Don't ! Please, she's only an old woman!" Bektis' whining and other sounds faded unidentifiably back along an endless corridor of muzzy pain.

Sometime later he heard Govannin's voice, spitefully triumphant, reading the formal sentence into a silence broken by Kara's muffled sobs. He felt the stickiness of blood all along the side of his face and tasted dust on his lips. As the Bishop droned on, he wondered why she bothered, unless it was to get back at someone who wasn't even there-someone who was perhaps long dead. Through the ache in his head and the growing nausea, he thought he heard the words "sentence of death" pronounced, but could not be sure. His consciousness was beginning to fade again.

Other footsteps approached from outside the door. Rudy heard the soft, measured tread of scores of feet and the muted clink of chain mail. The heightened senses of a wizard that operated to a degree even in the null spaces of that terrible room told him that there roust have been over twenty of them, and he wondered with a weary disinterest why they thought they would need so many. Then the door was thrown open, and the torchlight from outside was mingled with the white brightness of the glows tones carried by the Guards of

Gae.

Eldor Andarion, High King of Darwath and Lord of the Keep of Dare, stood silhouetted in the doorway.

A sudden, hideous silence fell upon the room. Though the movement brought the sour taste of sickness to his mouth, Rudy crawled to a sitting position, and his heart quickened with fear at the sight of the King.

"My lady." The King's voice was shrill, edged by the cracked suggestion of suppressed screams.

The white light pouring into the shadows of the Bishop's cowl outlined high, hard cheekbones and threw into prominence the sudden blackness of the grooves that bracketed the full, ungiving lips. "My lord King," she greeted him stiffly.

Eldor turned his head, scanning the room, taking in every detail of that chill, hushed tribunal. The light of the glow-stones caught the sheen of the black leather mask, puckered grotesquely with the draw of his breath. Behind the eye slits lay only a horrible, enigmatic darkness.

"My lady Queen tells me that you hold court."

Rudy bowed his head, weak with sudden relief. Trust Gil , he thought, to know to whom to go and what to say .

The rasping voice went on. "It seems that the invitation that you must surely have sent to do capital justice in my own Realm has miscarried, for I received none."

Govannin raised her head, her words bitter and harsh. "Since the days of your grandfather Dorilagos, it has been given to the Church to do its own justice."

Eldor linked his hands behind his back, the scarred mess of the left winding like some red, knobby growth around the strong, slender whiteness of the right. The mask rippled as his head turned, pulsing slightly as he spoke again. "Are these, then, the Church's own?"

"They are heretics," Pinard's deep voice replied, "as you know, my lord. They are seducers of innocence. To have truck with them is to share their crime."

Rudy guessed dizzily that the words probably referred to Ingold's metaphysical seduction of Brother Wend, but he could see the King's broad, flat shoulders stiffen and he felt the mad gaze brush him like the tip of a soldering iron.

Govannin went on slowly. "This is a new age, my lord King. The hope of salvation through wizardry has perished, and with it many good warriors of this Keep. The might of the Church shall work for the salvation of those who are left, whether they will it or no. We will not be stopped from this."

The shrill edge of Eldor's voice cut the air like a flint knife. "Nor will I have the Church passing sentence of death or of anything else without my knowledge, my lady Bishop. However many warriors you may have been lent by the Emperor of Alketch, however much he would like to establish his rule and his pet Inquisition in the North, I am still the Lord of the Keep of Dare, and justice and the power of life and death are mine and mine only. Whoso does not recognize that power in me is a traitor to me, to the Keep, and to humankind. Do you understand?"

Within her cowl, the Bishop's face was white and rigid with fury. She spat the words at him. "Do you, then, ally yourself with these-traitors? Traitors to God and to humankind, whose defenses they have murdered-and to you?"

"My lady," Eldor said softly, "to whom I ally myself and why I choose to do the justice that I do are none of your concern."

"They are my concern where they touch the Church!" she shrieked.

"But as these are all excommunicates, they are outside the realm of the Church entirely, are they not?"

He might be mad , Rudy thought, but you get him into the kind of Church-State hassle that Gil seems to understand so well, and he can handle himself better than a sane Alwir ever did .

"Don't chop logic with me, my lord!" She strode forward, and for all her small size, against the gold haze of the torches, she seemed suddenly taller, a dark, thin spider in an aura of flame, holding the center of a steel web of Faith that stretched throughout the Keep. "You are master of their bodies and their lives, but I am the master of their souls. I have said that these here are damned and have passed sentence of death upon them. Will you go against that and let them free to do what evil they will? It is because of their doing, my lord, that you wear a mask today."

The silence that followed these words was so long, so intense, that Rudy could have sworn that everyone in the room could hear the hammering of his heart. He sensed Eldor's gaze upon him again and his soul twisted, like a beetle trapped under the concentrated glare of a burning glass. He felt that his guilt stood out all over him, like the sweat that trickled down his face. The other mages watched them from the shadows as if frozen, knowing that whatever happened, their fate would be tangled with his.

The shifting of Eldor's eyes was like the removal of a heated needle from a nerve point.

"You have passed sentence upon them, my lady," the King said, and the jewels on his sword hilt and the gold embroidery on his breast glittered like fire in his sudden movement. "But because of their healing, which has enabled me to be upon my feet today, I commute that sentence to banishment. Let the Guards take them to the head of the Pass at sunset tomorrow; and after that, let them go where they will, as long as none return ever to the Keep of Dare, under penalty of death. I have spoken."

He turned to go.

Govannin's voice jeered at him. "You mean because your lady wife pleaded for the lives of-wizards?"

The faceless head swung back. The hard, white gleam of a glowstone caught an answering glint from within the eyeholes. "Even so." He strode from the room.

Rudy felt blackness closing over him again and groped for the solidness of the floor to lean on. Instead, someone took his arm and helped him to his feet, and he briefly felt hard, bony hands gripping his elbow like claws. Blinking through a thickening haze, he recognized Gil-that cold, impersonal, frightening Gil, her black hair braided back from a face as thin as bone and as closed and forbidding as a sealed door. He tried to get his feet under him and couldn't feel the floor; his head throbbed with every jolt of his body as she half-dragged, half-carried him toward the dark arch of the door. As they passed over the threshold, he stumbled, as he had done when the Alketch troops had shoved him in. This time he could look down and see what had tripped him.

It was a pile of bricks. There were enough there, stacked to one side of the doorway, to fill it in three or four layers thick. Beside them, mortar glittered fresh and wet in the white light of the glowstones carried by the Guards.