against you. He was trying to do good to you and to one particular child for the sake of goodness itself.”

“That sounds like pure motives to me,” I said slowly. “So what happens to his soul? He’s not going to make heaven after all, is he?”

Joachim shook his head again, and for a second the angles of his cheek bones gave the faintest approximation of a smile. “Religion is not like wizardry, reducible to formulae and protocols and spells learned from books. Only God can know a soul’s ultimate destination. I myself, Daimbert,” he hesitated briefly, “I think he might possibly be in purgatory.”

We slowly returned to the others. Theodora was squeezing our daughter tight and crying hard. Antonia waved me over. “Why is Mother sad, Wizard? She says she isn’t sad at all but she just keeps crying and crying. You can tell me what’s wrong. I’m a big girl.”

I put my arms around both of them, very close to crying myself. “Nothing’s wrong at all. In fact, everything’s right.”

“Grownups are very strange sometimes,” pronounced Antonia. I had to agree.

There was a cheerful shout outside, and the flying carpet sailed in again. “I think we can get the rest of you on here,” said Paul, his usual vigor apparently completely recovered. “Whoof, what’s that smell? Have you gotten the demon back to hell yet, Wizard?”

“Yes,” said Elerius, answering for me.

“It was scary again while you were gone,” said a little boy accusingly to the king.

Paul looked around in assessment, at the twins sitting by the window hugging each other, at the haggard looks on everyone’s faces, at me clutching my family. “You didn’t wait until I was gone to have adventures behind my back, did you, Wizard?” he asked suspiciously.

I shook my head. But the king, I knew, would feel that I had cheated him once again. This might be the last adventure I would ever be allowed to have where he himself wouldn’t run a serious chance of being killed. The only solution, I thought hopefully, was to have Yurt go back to being the peaceful kingdom it always used to be.

As we were getting everybody onto the carpet, suddenly I said, “Wait. I need to get Cyrus’s body. I’ll tell you about it later, sire.”

“We could always drop him into the old cess pit,” suggested Evrard, loud enough for me to hear but not quite loud enough that I had to respond.

“He should be buried with honor in the cemetery at Yurt,” I said firmly. “But I need something to wrap him in.”

Paul handed me his cloak without a word and Gwennie added her apron. They waited while the bishop and I returned a final time to the chapel. Cyrus’s head had rolled into a corner. We put it with the rest and wrapped him up carefully, making sure no bits were left exposed to terrify the children. When I lifted him with magic he hardly seemed to weigh anything at all.

“I’m sorry, my lady,” said Paul to Justinia as the carpet shot away from the castle at last, “that you weren’t in Yurt at a more propitious time. Usually it’s not nearly this dangerous! But it will be good to have a chance to meet the mage; I heard all about him when I was little. You’ll have to come back for a visit just to see us again, not to hide from your enemies. How about Christmas?”

“I fear,” said Justinia with a shudder, “that it would be quite cold at Christmas.”

“But I expect you’ve never seen snow,” said Paul, somewhat uncertainly. “You might like it.”

She shuddered again but did not answer. Gwennie, sitting on the other side of the king, gave a small smile intended for no one but herself.

Theodora squeezed my hand as we flew along. “I’ve been thinking, Daimbert,” she said, very softly. “You know you have- For six years now you-” She paused, apparently embarrassed to go on.

“Yes?” I prompted.

She put her face on my shoulder and laughed a little. “That’s it. You know what I mean. That’s what I’m saying. Yes.”

I pushed her away to look at her, feeling a great surge of hope. The dimple came and went in her cheek. This was not exactly the most private place to have this conversation, sitting on a flying carpet surrounded by thirty children and several of the chief dignitaries of two kingdoms, but I didn’t care. “Yes, you’ll marry me?”

Elerius glanced toward us then discreetly looked away. Theodora laughed and hid her face again. “We know we love each other,” she murmured, “and for a while we were competing for who would die for the other. Everybody knows about us now, or at least everyone in Yurt and Caelrhon. Your king,” dropping her voice even lower, “doesn’t seem to plan to dismiss you for having a liaison with a witch. And your school’s best graduate has been nothing but gracious to me. I said for six years that I didn’t want to marry you because marriage would destroy your career. Now that it’s clear that it won’t, it would be churlish of me to refuse.”

I held her tight, too happy to speak for a moment. Warm summer air whipped past us as we flew. “I don’t know where we’ll live or what we’ll do,” I said then, “but we’ll work out something. As soon as we get back to Caelrhon, or tomorrow for sure, after we’ve recovered, we’ll have Joachim marry us.”

Over her head I caught the bishop’s eye for a second. On his lips was a genuine smile.

“And maybe,” she added shyly, “we could think about a brother or sister for Antonia. Maybe not a dozen children like your king wants, but wouldn’t it be exciting to have two?”

I looked over towards our daughter. She had climbed into Hildegarde’s lap and was trying to cheer her up. “If you stop being sad,” she promised, “I’ll teach you how to turn somebody into a frog.”

“Exciting,” I said, “is not the word for it.”

Вы читаете Daughter of Magic
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату