The twins and Antonia came back from their riding lesson in the early afternoon. When they left they had been on two rangy geldings and a shaggy little pony, but they returned with Antonia sitting in front of Hildegarde, half asleep, and the pony led behind. A wilted chain of daisies was around the girl’s neck.

“I want to tell Mother I can ride now,” she roused herself to tell me. “Can we go see her?”

“Not right now, but you can tell me,” I suggested, carrying her into the castle.

“I can make the pony stop and go forward and even gallop,” she murmured into my neck. “Hildegarde didn’t want me to gallop but I did anyway. I only fell off once.”

“She falls very well for a child,” said Celia, which I did not find nearly as reassuring as it was doubtless meant to be. I held Antonia close and stroked her fine hair.

Having left her asleep with the duchess’s daughters I returned to my chambers, feeling on edge and unable to concentrate on the spells I was trying to perfect for entertainment over dessert tonight. Instead I wrote Theodora a brief message to be sent on the carrier pigeons, telling her that Antonia’s first day in Yurt had gone well, leaving out all mention of cheating at cards or falls from ponies, and saying I sent love from both of us.

As I came down from the pigeon loft in the tower, Gwennie met me. “You have a telephone call, Wizard.”

For a second I imagined it was Theodora. But she had never wanted me to install a magical telephone in her house, saying she would have no use for it-and since it would have been hard to conceal my relationship with her if I was always talking to her on the phone, I had to agree she had a point.

The call was instead from my old friend the bishop of Caelrhon. “Joachim!” I said with pleasure. It had been ages since we’d talked. Even when I visited Theodora in the cathedral city he was usually too busy with his duties for me to want to bother him. “How good to hear from you!”

His face was a tiny image in the base of the glass telephone: black hair streaked with gray at the temples, enormous and compelling dark eyes, and an expression of great seriousness-except sometimes when he was talking to me. I had long ago decided that I should count it a personal virtue rather than a failing that the bishop of the twin kingdoms of Yurt and Caelrhon seemed to find me more amusing than he did anyone else.

“I would like your advice, Daimbert,” he said, not smiling now. “There is something, well, strange going on here.”

“How strange?”

He hesitated. “It’s hard to say. A miracle-worker has come to town.”

This didn’t sound like the sort of thing to concern a wizard. “But that’s good, isn’t it? Why do you need my advice?”

The bishop hesitated again, just long enough for me to start to wonder if it might be serious after all. Joachim didn’t frighten easily. “I’m not sure he is really working miracles,” he said at last. “He might be working magic. But he has started to acquire a following. I need to know if he is a fraud or has truly been touched by God.”

Wizards could easily tell the supernatural from the natural forces of magic, I thought somewhat smugly, even if priests could not. The situation did sound nearly as worrisome to me as it apparently did to the bishop, but it was always good to have an excuse to see him. And using my magic to help him would be much better than sitting around Yurt wondering who was going to marry whom. “Of course, Joachim. I can come right away.”

Even as I spoke it occurred to me that if I had just brought Antonia to Yurt in order to get to know her better, I could not very well abandon her for quick trips to Caelrhon, even if she did seem to be spending more time with the twins than with me. But perhaps now might not be a bad time after all. She was napping anyway, so if I went at once I would miss dinner with her but should be able to solve the cathedral’s problems for them, see Theodora this evening, and still be back first thing in the morning.

There had been a time, I thought as went to look for the twins to tell them I was leaving Antonia with them, when I could not, as wizard of Yurt, have had anything to do with magical occurrences in the kingdom of Caelrhon. But for the last few years the Royal Wizard of Caelrhon had been a good friend. He lived in the royal castle, not in the cathedral city itself, and he had told me with exasperated firmness that if the cathedral was overrun with nixies he would just as soon have me deal with it myself. I was probably one of the few wizards in the western kingdoms to get along well with a bishop.

I met Hildegarde in the middle of the courtyard, just coming back from the weapons shop where she told me she had left off a mail shirt for repairs. “Of course, Wizard,” she said casually. “Antonia will have so much fun with us she won’t even realize her uncle is gone.”

I peeked in a minute at my daughter: sleeping deeply, her cheeks flushed and her doll’s perky face next to hers. Celia sat reading her Bible nearby. A sweet scene, I thought, heading out of the castle for the flight to Caelrhon.

But Celia caught up with me. “You’re going to see the bishop?” she asked, low and intense. I was startled to see the change in her from the carefree young woman of just a short time earlier. Perhaps there were sides of her that did not come out when Hildegarde was there. “Take me with you, Wizard.”

It would mean going in the air cart rather than flying myself, which would have been faster, but I couldn’t very well refuse. Hildegarde could certainly watch over my daughter by herself-though I wondered if she might indeed have made her into a warrior by the time I came back. In ten minutes Celia and I were rising above the towers of the royal castle, and the air cart began the steady flapping of wings that would take us to Caelrhon.

I studied her as we flew. She sat in the skin of a purple flying beast, whipping along a quarter mile above the ground, the wind tugging her midnight hair free of its pins, with no more apparent wonder at the experience than if she had been taking a horse to the cathedral city. She wore a simple dark dress that accented her slimness and her ivory skin, and I thought that it didn’t seem right that someone so young and pretty should be so glum. Her eyes were focused inward, as though concentrating on something she needed to do or say.

When she spoke it was clear that whatever speech she was preparing was not intended for me. Instead she said, “I gather you and the bishop have always been friends, Wizard?”

“Most of the time for twenty-five years,” I agreed. “Institutionalized magic and institutionalized religion normally have no use for each other, but Joachim and I have managed to be friends in spite of each thinking that the other one is seriously misguided on certain important points.”

But Celia was not interested in the millennia-old tensions between wizardry and the church. “All I really need is an introduction,” she said, “a chance, maybe only for a quarter hour, to talk to him directly. I’ve tried reaching him before but have always been put off by one priest or another, who just tell me I’m being silly and shouldn’t bother His Holiness.”

“And are you being silly?” I asked lightly, trying to take some of the sharp intensity from her face.

She did not smile. “It’s not silly to know what you want-what you were meant to do. The only trouble is with others who think they can plan your life better than you can for yourself.”

I nodded, not sure what I was agreeing to but thinking of Paul.

Celia and I were shown after only a short wait into the bishop’s study. A shaft of late afternoon sunlight lay across the floor. Joachim stepped out of the shadows to meet us, tall and sober in his formal scarlet vestments. He lifted an eyebrow, mildly surprised to see a young woman with me.

I introduced her. “Forgive me, Celia, for not recognizing you at once,” said the bishop politely. “I am always happy to see any of my spiritual sons and daughters, but I fear I have not spoken with you properly since you were quite a bit younger.”

She knelt, overcome, to kiss his episcopal ring, something I myself had always been able to justify not doing. “Please, Holy Father,” she said in a low voice, “don’t send me away before hearing me. Don’t leave, Wizard!” as I stepped toward the door, as though frightened of being left alone with the bishop. “I know you have business of your own here, and this-this should only take a minute.”

Joachim blessed her, his hand resting lightly on her hair. “Rise, my daughter. Sit beside me and tell me what

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