Edward Stasheff



            "Yes," Matt said with grave courtesy and exquisite boredom, "I'm sure that more grasshoppers than usual is a very serious problem for Gascony at this time of year."

            The peasant before him bobbed his head in a single, serious nod.  The farmer's face could have been carved out of wood, and had more wrinkles than a walnut—the price of a lifetime in the fields.  But, Matt reminded himself, that meant this peasant was much more experienced with farming the land than Matt was—and if this curmudgeon said grasshoppers we a danger to the wheat, well… who was Matt to argue?  So he agreed, as he had agreed to almost every other request for his wizardly services since the defeat of Malingo six months ago.  He'd just have to fit it into his schedule… somehow.

            "Okay…" Matt said with a sigh, looking over a calendar of his next month inked onto parchment, "I can swing by and cast a spell… a week from next Thursday." 

Then there was a tense but thankfully brief discussion with the outraged peasant.  The reason it would take so long, Matt explained, was because he first had help win a deadly border skirmish, heal a dozen dying patients at St. Anne’s Abbey, and bring rain to the dying crops of Marsielle… at which point, the peasant reluctantly agreed to Matt's schedule.  When it came to convincing someone their problem wasn’t really that serious, Matt had learned nothing was more effective than mentioning other people with bigger problems. 

Matt was also careful to use some grammatical variation of the word "death" as often as possible.  That helped put things in perspective, too.

The peasant sulked out the door while Matt sighed and rested his head in his arms on his desk (well, table really… the Merovencians had yet to comprehend the modern concept of a desk). 

“Grasshoppers,” Matt muttered.  He banged his forehead on the table for emphasis.  “Grasshoppers, for God’s sake!  What’s next?  Hiccups?  I don’t have time for this!”  Matt felt like he was being pulled in a million directions at once, being spread so thin that if he turned sideways, he’d disappear.

What Matt really needed was an assistant, someone to share the workload.  Unfortunately, weaving magic from poetry was a gift few possessed.  Oh, there was a handful born with it across the kingdom, sure, but the most possessed only a weak talent—too weak to help Matt, at least.  After all, people came to Matt only when the local wise woman or hedge wizard had tried and failed.  No, Matt needed more powerful wizards like himself—heck, he’d settle for mediocre wizards!  Just one!  Even that would cut his workload in half! 

But there were no more mediocre wizards left… not in Merovence, at least.  Malingo had seen to that.  The number of lesser sorcerers at Malingo’s command was a direct result of him tracking down any wizard with enough power to be a threat, recruiting them if he could, and killing them if he couldn’t.  It was a standard totalitarian policy, Matt reflected, and it had been annoyingly effective—he had yet to come across anyone gifted enough to be of any real help to him, and he was far too busy to conduct a search.

Matt hauled his head off the table and rubbed eyes stinging with exhaustion.  "Next!" he called, then grabbed a wax tablet and jotted down some notes about #@%&$ grasshoppers into it with a wooden stylus.  One of the castle scribes would ink the appointment onto his parchment calendar later.  Matt had yet to master the art of writing with ink and quill—his early attempts had resembled more of a Rorschach ink blot test than a written communication. 

Speaking of the castle scribes, one of them was walking up to Matt right now.  Scribes were easy to spot—they wore the black robes Matt associated with high school graduations.  The strange outfit turned out to be surprisingly functional.  The big baggy sleeves were really pockets for storing parchment, quill, and ink, the mortarboard hat was a portable desk, and the whole outfit was black to hide ink stains.  The scribe waited patiently for Matt to finish carving his notes in wax and look up.

"What can I do for you, uh… Ortho, is it?"

"Aye, milord," the scribe smiled, clearly pleased someone important remembered his name.  "These are the witness accounts you did request, your lordship," he said, holding out a sheaf of parchments to Matt. 

"Oh, yeah, thanks," Matt said, taking the sheaf and glancing at it.  No wonder he had remembered this scribe's name—he was the one with the perfectly precise handwriting that Matt has the easiest time reading.  He looked back up.  "Anything else?"

"Aye, milord, some letters for you to sign," the scribe answered holding out three parchments, fanned wide for quick signing.  They were merely routine messages to royal bureaucrats, written by castle calligraphers as Matt dictated.  He always requested a specific scribe for the transcriptions… was it this scribe?  Matt couldn't remember.

Matt scowled at the letters.  He took his quill, dipped it in ink… and hesitated, trying to decide how best to attack the Herculean task of signing his name.  He scratched it quickly across the parchment, producing scribbled, blotted smears that were vaguely recognizable as his name.

Matt handed the letters back to the scribe, who took them with a tiny bow and slipped them into the pouch of his baggy sleeve.  It took Matt a second to realize the scribe hadn’t turned to go.  Matt looked up.  The scribe suddenly glanced away, not meeting Matt's eye, and shuffled uncomfortably.

"Is there… something else?" Matt asked with a twinge of dread; here came yet another personal request for his wizardly abilities.

"Uh, well… aye, milord."  The scribe pulled off his motarboard cap and began toying with it absently.  "You see… well, I could not help but hear you lament this past fortnight that you hath no assistant to help share the burden of your duties," he began, twisting his cap with increasing viciousness.  "And… well, sir… I do have some small gift of my own, and.... well, perhaps I could be of some service. "

Matt stared at him in silence for a moment.  "So you want to be my apprentice then… right?"

"Well… I…" the scribe began, wringing his cap in a grip that would have put the Boston Strangler to shame.  "I doubt I have enough talent for an apprentice, but… well, I could help out sommat with your lesser tasks, milord."

Matt did his best not to roll his eyes.  Not another one! he thought.  As badly as he needed an assistant, the people who had come to him so far had been…. well, useless.

Being a wizard was the latest craze in Merovence.  Ever since word had spread that the new Lord High Wizard had been born a commoner, it seemed every wannabe and charlatan in the kingdom had shown up at Matt’s door, wanting to become his apprentice (and live a life of ease and luxury in the royal castle, of course).  If they knew what the lives of royal wizards really involved, Matt thought darkly, they wouldn't want the job.

Come to think of it, that wasn't a bad place to start.  Hopefully, a lecture on the constant travel and endless workload would scare this bureaucrat into dropping the idea completely. 

"Do you have any idea how much work a royal wizard has to do?" Matt asked as sternly as he could. 

"Oh, indeed I do, milord," the scribe said with tiny chuckle in his voice.  "Do I not write your calendar?"

Oh.  Matt blinked.  Do you?  He glanced at his calendar parchment and, sure enough, recognized the tight, precise printing.  Matt frowned.  Apparently, this scribe Ortho had been emerging as Matt's personal secretary for a while now… and in his exhaustion, Matt hadn't even noticed.

"So… uh, you know how demanding the job is, then?" Matt asked, looking back.

"Oh yes, milord," the scribe nodded.  "You’re abroad in the land for days upon end, scarcely arriving home for Sunday mass.  You doth rest the night, and come the morn are upon the road once more."

Matt frowned again, finding slightly disconcerted that a near-stranger knew his life so well.  “Okay, then,” Matt said, “If you know what a royal wizard’s life is really like, why do you even want the job?”

“Why, ‘tis even as I have said, milord,” the scribe replied, looking surprised and slightly confused.  “To help ease your burden, and serve the kingdom.”

Well, it was a good answer, Matt reflected, and possibly even true.  The scribe hadn’t needed a few silent seconds to figure out what Matt wanted to hear, as the better con men often did.

“It can be dangerous, you know,” Matt warned the scribe.  “You sure you want to take the risk?”

“Is it any greater a risk than soldiers take in service to their sovereign?” the scribe asked.  “Nay, we do what we must for God, king, and country.”

Matt shot him a curious glance.  “You were in the army?”

“Oh, aye, milord, though ‘twas many years agone, when I was but a lad,” the scribe nodded.  “And again at Grellig Plain this sixmonth past.”

Matt noticed he didn't say for which side.  “So why the long break in between?” he asked.

The scribe shrugged.  “I had not the stomach for it, milord.  Not the fighting nor killing, mind you,” he added quickly, “but what soldiers do when the battle is won.  I could not in good conscience be party to that.  ‘Twas morality, Sir, not cowardice,” the scribe clarified, a tad defensively.  “I am no stranger to danger, milord, from soldier or sorcerer.”  His mouth curled slightly in an ironic smile. “Indeed, believe me when I say, milord, that I know well the dangers and burdens that doth weigh upon those with the Gift."

Matt cocked an eyebrow.  That was interesting.  Referring to magic as a burden rather than a privilege was the kind of perspective only an actual wizard would have in this culture.  Certainly it a foreign concept to commoners, for whom power of any kind had always meant wealth and privilege. 

Could this scribe possibly be the real deal?  If so, he was (literally) the answer to Matt’s prayers.  He it was worth a few minutes to find out.

“Well, okay, then.  Go ahead and have a seat,” Matt said, pointing to a stool in front of his ‘desk’.  “Let’s see if you can cut the mustard, shall we?”

“Mustard, milord?” The scribe frowned.  “Wherefore should I cut mustard seeds?”

“It’s… a metaphor,” Matt said, waving the question away with his hand.  “It means, ‘Are you good enough for the job?’  Please, have a seat, Orlando.”

“Ortho, milord,” the scribe corrected him softly.

“Ortho, right.  Sorry.”  Matt said leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers, and studied the scribe as he sat down and continued to throttle his cap mercilessly.  His age could be anywhere from twenty to forty.  He was of average height, average build, average coloring, had a plain, average face, and wore the exact same outfit as every other scribe.  No wonder Matt had nearly forgotten him, despite having apparently worked with this scribe before—there was simply nothing remarkable about the man to stick in Matt’s memory.

The scribe did have clear, intelligent eyes though, and obviously worked hard at his job and performed well.  Matt’s overall impression of the scribe was as a perfect bureaucrat—highly productive, extremely efficient, and exceedingly dull.  The same qualities, Matt reflected, that might make for a good assistant.

But was he really a wizard?

“Alright,” Matt spoke at last, “if you’re a wizard, prove it.  Cast a spell for me.”

The scribe scowled.  “A spell for… mustard, milord?” 

“Forget the mustard!” Matt rolled his eyes in exasperation.  “It’s just an expression.  Cast any spell you like.  But nothing dangerous, though,” Matt added as a quick afterthought.

"Aye, milord," the scribe nodded.  He closed his eyes, bowed his head, and concentrated in silence for a moment.  He made a quick Sign of the Cross, then held out his hand, palm up.  He opened his eyes and stared intently at his hand as he curled it into a tight fist.


"When darkness falls upon the land

‘Tis heaven’s light that I desire.

Pray bless my soul and fill my hand

With God’s holy tongue of fire."


            His hand sprang open and a tongue of fire hovered over his palm, like the wick of an enormous candle.  It was painfully bright to look at, and cast shadows across the room.  Matt felt his eyes widening.  Then the scribe's hand clenched into a fist again, and the flame was gone.

Well, okay, then! Matt thought.  He's definitely not a sorcerer—that spell was practically a prayer!  At least one of Malingo’s sorcerers had already tried to trick his way into an apprenticeship.  It had been an easy arrest, at least.

            "I fear I can not keep it alit overlong, milord," the scribe said almost apologetically, shaking his hand in the air amid wisps of smoke, "but… well, the heat doth burn my hand."

            Matt did his best to look unimpressed, but it was an uphill battle.  He'd seen few sample spells that dramatic.  Wannbe wizards usually made exaggerated gestures and spoke in low, dramatic tones before casting a ‘spell’ with unobservable effects, like declaring Matt's office free from elves.  The charlatans usually went for entertainment and distraction, making jokes and flashy gestures to cover some sleight of hand trick, like pulling a coin from behind Matt’s ear.

The next test, however, tended to separate true wizards from the frauds, though.  No one yet had passed it.

            "Not bad, not bad," Matt nodded, and the scribe flushed with pride.  "Now, next I'd like you to cast one of my spells.”  Matt shuffled through the mess of parchments on his desk until he found a scribbled verse from Edna St. Vincent Millay—a poem he was fairly sure no one in this world had ever heard before.  "Here," he said, handing the parchment to the scribe, “try this one.”

            The scribe cocked his head and squinted at the parchment, trying to decipher Matt's blotchy handwriting.  Finally he nodded in understanding, looked around, plucked a candle from Matt’s desk, and held it up as he recited the verse.


            "My candle burns at both ends

            It will not last the night.

            But ah, my friends, and oh, my foes,

            It gives a lovely light."


            Both ends of the candle sputtered slowly into flame—and it did indeed give off a soft and warm (if somewhat small) glow.  Matt gave out a low whistle.  Sure, the scribe lit a candle instead of conjuring one up as Matt had intended, and sure, his spell was weak and barely working—but he also was the first applicant who ever got the spell to work. 

            "Good, good," Matt nodded, smiling as he moved on to the next test.  "Now, put out one of the flames."

            The scribe frowned at Matt, but then shrugged, licked his thumb and forefinger, and snuffed out one wick. 

Matt burst out laughing.  "Well, I guess that worked," Matt chuckled, "but that's not quite what I had in mind.  Try putting it out with magic."

"But… you did not give me a spell for that," the scribe said, frowning.

"Exactly," Matt nodded.  "I want you to make one up.  Improvise."

"Oh no, milord," the scribe said, shaking his head firmly.  "I dare not.  Magic is dangerous, not to be played with.  For my safety and yours, I cannot cast a spell I know not of—especially if it be yet untested!"

Matt frowned slight at that, not quite sure what to make of it.  He would prefer an apprentice who could compose spell verses to meet any situation… but, well, the scribe had a good point.  In this universe, spoken verse interacted with an energy field that, like electricity, could be lethal in the hands of an amateur.  Perhaps an overly-cautious apprentice would be better than an enthusiastic experimenter who blew himself up in the first week—and the castle along with it.

            One thing was clear: the scribe was a real wizard, alright, and powerful enough to actually handle some of Matt’s easier jobs.  But Matt knew true wizards were also dangerous—unpredictable at best, sinister at worst.  Either way, it was not something you wanted close to the Queen of a still-fragile kingdom.  He may be a wizard, but could this humble scribe be trusted?

            "Very impressive!” Matt said, and the scribe beamed.  “So tell me, that ball-of-flame spell,” Matt asked as casually as he could, "where did you learn it?"

            "The Flame Tongue?" the scribe asked.  "Oh, that one I learnt from a monk at the Sacred Heart monastery in Burgundy."

That one?  Matt's mind echoed.  "Exactly how many other spells do you know?"

            The scribe squinted into the middle distance and chewed his lip, thinking.  Finally he shrugged.  "Mayhap two dozen, milord," he said.  "I know not—but I could count them if you wish it."  The scribe reached into his baggy sleeve and pulled out a slim leather-bound volume. 

            Matt could feel his blood temperature dropping in regular degrees as the scribe spoke.  He knew so many spells he couldn't remember the exact number?  He had an honest-to-God spell book—and he had it with him?  Even if Matt chose not to apprentice this scribe, he'd have to keep a close eye on him from now on—that was an awful lot of power to be left wandering around the castle unattended.

            "Seven and twenty," the scribe declared with a nod, closing the small book.

            "Really?" Matt said.  "Mind if I look through that?"

            "Why, certes, milord!" the scribe said, holding it out.  There was no hesitation, Matt noticed, no fear of Matt either confiscating it or abusing its power.  On the contrary, the scribe almost seemed flattered that the Lord High Wizard found his modest spells interesting enough to examine.  The scribe was either very trusting or very foolish—possibly both.

Matt took the book and flipped through the worn, dog-eared volume.  It wasn't even a spell book, not really.  It was a Book of Hours, a daily prayer missal.  This one had several blank pages at the end, presumably to let the owner record additional daily devotions.  Instead, the scribe had filled his blank pages with line after line of magical verse in tiny but precise calligraphy. 

It was definitely not a Satanic Grimoire, which was what Matt was checking for. 

He ran a finger down the pages, scanning the verses and guessing at their purpose.  The first dozen or so read almost like prayers, and appeared to be mostly for healing and protection.

"You say you learned that flame tongue spell from a monk, right?"

"Aye, milord."

"Is that where you got this?" Matt asked, gesturing to the Book of Hours.

"Oh, aye, milord.  'Twas a gift from the abbot himself," the scribe said with a hint of pride, "when I could read and write well enough to work in the scriptorium."  His voice had that slight undertone of pride again—a humble man not quite able to keep himself from bragging. 

Matt glanced at the scribe and cocked an eyebrow.  "You were a monk, then?  Not just visiting the abbey?"

"Alas, not a monk, milord, only a novice.  I never took my final vows."

"Really?" Matt said, striving for casualness again.  "Why not?"

The scribe sighed and shrugged.  "'Twas not in God's plan for me, I suppose.  The abbot thought me too wild and worldly for a life of quiet work and contemplation, and did bid me leave the monastery."

"Too wild?" Matt pressed.  "How were you too wild?"  Personally, Matt couldn't imagine this mousey scribe being too wild for anything, except for possibly the Biannual Biggest Boring Bureaucrat competition. 

            The scribe grimaced and shifted on his stool. "Well… I suppose I may have asked too many question upon the topic of theology."

Ah.  Well, that explained it.  Personally, Matt was okay with critical thinking in an apprentice wizard.  Asking a lot of questions was vital to the scientific method—and in this universe, magic was a form of science, and magicians the scientists. 

Matt turned back to the scribe's spell book and continued scanning the poems.  They took an abrupt turn away from the ecclesiastical about midway through—presumably when he left the abbey.  The rest were far more secular—but, Matt was careful to note, but made no reference to demons or the devil.  The purpose of the spells, Matt guessed, covered everything from crop fertility to land navigation.  Overall, nothing terribly dangerous.  That was a good sign. 

"And where did you learn the rest of these spells?" Matt asked, flipping through the pages.

The scribe shrugged.  "Oh… hedge wizards, wise women, midwives, priests, books…" he answered.  "When and wherever I did find a spell I thought useful and safe."

Matt nodded silently, scanning the pages.  This spell appeared to be for driving away locusts.  That might come in handy…

"And the royal library, of course," the scribe continued.  "I've found many an ancient and potent spell in those dusty tomes," he added with a hint of pride.

Matt froze for an instant, then continued flipping pages casually.  He made a mental note to put a lock on the library door. 

Matt was about to close the Book of Hours and hand it back when he saw the last spell—and recognized it.

"Wait a minute!" Matt exclaimed, sitting straight up in his chair.  "Just where in the world did you get a Shakespeare verse from?  He won't even be born for another three centuries!"

The scribe merely blinked at him in utter confusion. “A… shake spear verse?” He shook his head.  “Nay, milord, I have no spells of war!”

“This poem here!” Matt clarified, jabbing a finger down on the page.  “’I go, I go, see how I go!  Faster than arrow from the Tartar’s…’” Matt stopped before he got to the rhyme, just in case.

“Oh, that spell!”  The scribe nodded in sudden recognition.  “Why, I did learn that from you, milord.”

“Oh really?”  Matt narrowed his eyes.  “Funny, I don’t remember teaching it to you.  How did you get this?”

“Why, ‘tis the spell I you cast every Monday morn upon your horse, to carry you fast across the land,” the scribe clarified.  “I heard you cast it once.  It seemed a useful spell and harmless enough, so I did write it down.  I… I meant no harm…”

Matt blinked at the scribe in dumbfounded amazement.  Could Matt really have been so careless?  He searched his memory.  Before leaving for the week, Matt always collected his freshly-inked calendar from a court scribe—probably this scribe.  Yes, it was certainly possible he had overheard Matt’s spell. 

Matt looked down at the page again.  Puck’s lines were word-for-word perfect.  Apparently, this scribe also had a memory like a steel trap.  That made sense; it was a useful trait for a bureaucrat.

Good Lord, this man was a sponge, absorbing every spell he came across!  Matt began to think he should take the scribe on as an apprentice, to keep him out of trouble if nothing else.

Matt closed the Book of Hours and handed it back to the scribe.  He had told the truth; the book contained mostly useful, harmless spells.

"So what did you do after you left the monastery?" Matt asked.

"Oh, I did wander some twelvemonth," the scribe answered.  "Then, as I could both read and write, I came unto Bordestrang and entered His Majesty's service as a royal scribe."

Matt looked up from the Book of Hours.  His majesty?  That meant this scribe had joined the royal bureaucracy under Alisande's father, King Kaprin, before she ascended to the throne.

"I see," Matt said.  "So… what did you do when the good king died?"

There was a sudden, awkward pause, as if a door had been slammed shut on the conversation.

"I grieved, good Sir," the scribe finally said, "as did every loyal subject of the King."

"And were you?" Matt asked.

"Was I what, milord?"

"Were you a loyal subject of the king?"

"Oh, of course, milord."

"King Kaprin,” Matt clarified, "not King Astaulf."

There was another uncomfortable break in the conversation.

"I… know not what you mean, milord."

Like hell he didn't.  "What I mean is," Matt said, leaning forward, "are you now or have you ever been a member of Astaulf and Malingo's usurper government?" Matt flinched internally at hearing himself echo McCarthy's words, but… well, the grammar of that particular question did cover the broadest scope in the fewest words.

            The scribe blinked.  Then he looked away.  His brow furrowed slightly.  With every passing nanosecond, Matt was more acutely aware of the thundering silence drawing out.  Matt waited.

Finally, the scribe let out a very long sigh and looked up.  "Well, I… I did… continue my duties as a royal scribe for some small while after Astaulf came to power, yes," the scribe admitted, almost too softly for Matt to hear.  "But I did leave thereafter, and sought out the Monastery of Saint Montcaire in the west.  There did I enlist as a foot soldier, and fought for Her Majesty at Grellig Plain," the scribe continued, eyes locked on the floor.  "The Abbot will vouchsafe me an you doubt it."

            Well, Matt would certainly double-check that fact later… but he wasn't sure if he needed to.  The scribe's voice had the ring of truth to it.  Why?  Matt couldn't say.  Perhaps it was the undertone of shame in it.

Matt mulled it over in silence.  Yes, this scribe had been in the usurper administration… but only as a very low-level bureaucrat.  Like bureaucrats the world over, Matt suspected the scribe's motives had more to do with security than politics or morality.  Why give up a comfortable government job just because the upper management had changed? 

So.  The scribe had most likely stayed on for a while, Matt guessed, waiting to see what Alstauf & Malingo's reign would bring, and if he could stomach the results.  Apparently, he hadn’t been able to.  Eventually he made the right moral decision and defected to Alisande's side.  Matt felt he could give the scribe the benefit of the doubt.  Certainly, he wasn't exactly a war criminal. 

Besides, Matt really, really needed an assistant.

“Well, thanks for your honesty,” Matt said, leaning back in his chair again.  The scribe studied Matt’s face, tense and nervous, perhaps expecting to be arrested and clamped in irons at any second.

The fellow seemed trustworthy enough, Matt decided.  He doubted he'd get another candidate for apprenticeship this qualified anytime soon.  It was an easy choice.

“Congratulations, Ortho.  You’re the new Lord High Wizard’s Apprentice.”

The scribe blinked and stared back at Matt with eyes wide in surprise and disbelief.

“T-truly, milord?” he asked incredulously.  “I can be of service to you?”

“Absolutely!” Matt nodded. “You have no idea how much.”
            The scribe let out a sigh of relief, and broke into an enormous grin.  “Well, then, milord,” he said, and Matt could hear the giddiness in his voice.  “Where shall I start?’

“Tell me, Ortho,” Matt said, learning forward, “how do you feel about grasshoppers?”


* * *


            Matt made sure he was back in Bordestrang a few days later to greet his new apprentice, returning from his first mission against the Great Gascony Grasshopper menace.  Ortho arrived slightly dazed, covered in the tiny brown flecks of a thousand angry grasshoppers spitting on him, but also covered in exhausted pride.

            "The grasshoppers hath left Merovence, milord," he reported with satisfaction.  "I imagine they head for greener pastures in Ibile."

            "Good work, Ortho!  I knew you were up to the task!" Matt nodded in approval, and the scribe beamed.  "Now go get cleaned up. We've got another sorcerer trial witness to interview at noon."  The scribe nodded with a sigh and trudged away.

            Unfortunately, and despite Matt's best efforts to convince them, the royal courts had yet to release Ortho from his duties as a scribe.  In the months since the Queen’s victory over Astaulf, a manhunt for Malingo’s former sorcerers has swept across the kingdom.  The Church wanted repentance, the crown wanted justice, the people wanted revenge… and the courts were overloaded, far too busy to spare even a single scribe until his replacement could be found.  For now, Ortho had to serve double duty.  It was a crash course in the life of a royal wizard, but Matt felt Ortho had held up admirably so far.

            Matt and Ortho met up again outside the room where the witness would be telling her story.  Her Majesty's Wizard and his spells would ensure she spoke the truth, while Ortho transcribed her testimony.  With luck, it wouldn't take long.

            "Which case is this, milord?"  Ortho asked as he jogged up.

            Matt checked his notes.  "Uh… the priest of Montville."

            "Oh," Ortho said, his brows knitting.

            "You know the case, then?"  Matt asked, cocking an eyebrow.

            "Er…no milord.  Not at all."

            Matt gave Ortho a sidelong glance, suspecting something less than totally honesty, but when Ortho remained silent Matt turned away.  That was strange, Matt thought.  Such minor details really shouldn't bother him… but they did.  A cautious voice at the back of Matt's mind had been nagging him for days that something was amiss.  This scribe seemed just a little too perfect for an apprentice, the timing too convenient.  Nothing in life was ever this easy.  There had to be a catch—there was always a catch—but what?

            And how did such a capable wizard escape Malingo’s purge?  While right under his nose in the royal castle, no less? 

            The doors opened, and Matt pushed the thought away as they strolled into the room.  Seated behind a table was the witness, a young peasant girl.  She glanced at them as they entered…and froze.  Her eyes went round.  She screamed and leapt to her feet, the chair clattering to the floor behind her.

            “That’s him!  That’s him!” she screamed, pointing a trembling finger at Ortho.  “That’s the sorcerer who murdered Father DuVois!”

Love it?  Hate it?  Comment in the Forum!

show counter Next Chapter