Richard Lee Byers,Tom Leupold,Paul B. Thompson,Loren L. Coleman,Vance Moore,J. Robert King,Jonathan Tweet,Kevin T. Stein

The Colors of Magic Anthology


White is the color of temptation and innocence, purity and civility. People characterized by this color love life and longevity but do so without excess or grandeur. Some see white as childish-a return to youth-but others know it to be filled with focus and a desire to live an uncluttered life. White is for the honest, the righteous and eager, the decent and civic-minded who will stand up to protect justice and honor. It is the color of the plains and temples, the color of the scholar and the virtuous knight alike. White is for those who believe in a cause and believe in themselves, for those unafraid to stand up in the face of adversity.

Angel of Vengeance

Richard Lee Byers

Shining like a star, Kotara was soaring among the constellations when she felt the summons. The call came as suddenly and forcefully as a hook lodged in the mouth of a fish. Yet it didn't hurt, because she didn't resist. Long ago, in the morning of the world, a benevolent order of wizards had aided she and her sisters in the first great war against the legions of the Pit. In gratitude the angels had sworn to serve the mages and their heirs whenever they called, and a daughter of the Divine Will didn't chafe at her obligations.

She furled her wings and hurtled toward the planet far below. The summons led her over an island-dotted expanse of ocean and on to the kingdom of Zhalfir.

Flying above the rolling dunes of the Desert of Bones, where a caravan with its grunting, tethered camels and scaly, hunchbacked Viashino guides huddled around its nighttime campfires, she surmised that the call was drawing her to the capital. That was no surprise. In her experience, wizards mighty enough to command an angel often dwelled in the seats of mortal power.

The royal city with its miles of stupendous walls and deep-water harbor, its minarets, bazaars, labyrinthine streets, and communal wells, was larger than when she'd last seen it seventy years ago. Yet the palace itself was no different. At one time the great marble pile had existed in an almost perpetual state of construction, as one proud monarch after another enlarged and improved it, but evidently those days were over.

Now Kotara could actually hear the baritone voice of the sorcerer who called her. Though measured and precise as a mage's diction must be, it nevertheless throbbed with grief, and her heart ached in sympathy. She followed the sound to the apex of the tallest tower of one of the mansions in the Nobles' Quarter.

Her summoner had left the shuttered window open for her entry. Inside was a candlelit chamber equipped with shelves bearing jars, bottles, scrolls, and grimoires, racks of ceremonial staves, wands, swords, and daggers, a silver chalice, a mortar and pestle, a scrying mirror, an orrery, and other appurtenances of the occult arts. The bitter scent of myrrh hung in the air.

The mage himself was young and slight of frame with the beginnings of a scholar's stoop. He wore the elaborate pearl- and ivory-colored vestments of the Civic Guild, the fraternity of wizards who served Zhalfir as jurists and lawmakers. A marble diamond amulet, a source of great power for sorcerers of his guild, hung around his neck. Gray ash streaked his haggard features. Evidently he'd attended a funeral that morning and had neglected to wash afterwards.

He gasped when the angel appeared to him, momentarily overwhelmed, perhaps, as many humans were on first meeting, by the unearthly splendor of her iridescent feathers, the fluid grace of her slender alabaster form, or the radiance of her crystal eyes.

'I am Kotara, ' she said gently, 'come in obedience to your summons. '

'I feared it wouldn't work, ' the mage replied. 'It's been a long time since I attempted such a spell. In recent years I've devoted myself to the law and politics, not-' he grimaced. 'Forgive me, I'm babbling. '

'There is nothing to forgive, ' Kotara said. 'May I know your name?'

'Sabul. Sabul Hajeen. '

'How may I serve you, Sabul Hajeen?'

'By bringing justice, ' the Guildmage said, a certain hardness returning to his expression. 'Five days ago, one of the Ilmieras murdered my young brother Axdan in an alley. '

Upon hearing the name, Kotara immediately knew, as was the way of angels, that the house of Ilmiera was another of the aristocratic families residing in the capital.

'Do you need my help to apprehend the culprit?' she asked. 'Has he fled the city or gone into hiding?'

Sabul laughed bitterly. 'By no means. The Ilmieras swagger about the streets as they always have, and why not? My idiot colleagues of the Civic Guild have already held an inquest and decided there's no evidence to link the wretches to their crime.'

Kotara frowned. 'If that's so, then how do you know they're guilty?'

'Because they've been bitter rivals of the Hajeen for years,' the wizard said. 'They hate us like Mishra hated Urza and have always striven to injure us by every underhanded means at their disposal. Multam Ilmiera, the vilest of the lot, actually had the insolence to attend Axdan's obsequies! When he approached me, ostensibly to offer his condolences, I saw the mockery in his eyes and knew that his was the hand that thrust the dagger into Axdan's throat.

'My uncle Tartesk, the head of our family, knows it too,' Sabul continued, 'but he will do nothing about it. He says ours is an honorable house. We don't stoop to blood feuds or flout the law to strike at our foes.

'Well, perhaps he doesn't, but I will. I'd challenge Multam to meet me blade to blade, except I'm no swordsman. Even if my uncle and the city guard permitted the duel, I couldn't avenge Axdan. But I can send you to do it for me.'

Sympathetic to his anguish and obliged to obey him in any case, Kotara nonetheless hesitated. At length she said, 'Sabul-master-no wizard has ever summoned me for quite such a mission as this.'

His eyes, red and puffy from lack of sleep, narrowed. 'What does that matter?'

She hesitated once more. 'I suppose it doesn't.'

'Then stand over here.' He gestured toward a spot in the center of the floor. 'I intend to equip you for your task, to make absolutely certain you succeed.'

An hour later, Kotara soared above the city once more. A helm, breastplate, vambraces, and greaves, light as mist, strong as steel, and lustrous as mother-of-pearl, sheathed her willowy form, while an augmented strength sang within her limbs. Both the armor and her newfound might were enchantments, manifestations of the magic of law and sanctity no less than she herself. Yet for some reason they felt strange and indeed almost noisome to her. Had it not been Sabul's will that she bear them, she would have dissolved them away.

She studied the twisting streets below her like an owl searching for its dinner. Though it was late enough that most mortals had long ago sought their beds, a city as huge as this still offered carnal diversions for a privileged and licentious few. Such a man was Multam Ilmiera, whose appetite for wine, dice, and harlots had made him almost as notorious as his prowess with a sword.

For all that she rarely needed them, the Divine Will in its inscrutable wisdom had given Kotara the instincts of a huntress, and they led her to Multam quickly enough. He and four companions were strolling away from a tavern, bawling a ribald song and waving earthen jugs in time to the beat. Even from the air, Kotara could smell the miasma of raw spirit that hung on their breath and oozed from their pores.

Should anyone learn that an angel had slain Multam, the Hajeen-three of whom belonged to the Civic Guild-

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