Lawrence Watt-Evans

Ithanalin’s Restoration

In memory of Jenna Felice

Chapter One

The room was quietly comfortable, and not at all like the popular image of a wizard’s workshop. There were no cluttered shelves, no steaming cauldrons, no mysterious books, just a few pieces of fairly ordinary furniture, most of it in need of a little dusting. It did not smell of strange herbs or exotic incense, but only of wood and cloth and sunlight.

But then, Lady Nuvielle told herself, this probably wasn’t a workshop. This was the parlor where the wizard dealt with his customers; undoubtedly he had a workshop elsewhere in the house, and it might well be jammed with dusty books and mummified animals. The parlor furnishings were more mundane.

Still, some of the pieces appeared as if they might be rather valuable, she thought as she looked around with interest. The mirror above the mantel, for example, had no visible flaws at all, in either the glass or the silvering. Glass that fine must have come from Ethshar of the Sands, more than fifty leagues away, or perhaps from somewhere even more distant-possibly even Shan on the Desert, halfway across the World.

Or perhaps it had been created by magic; after all, Ithanalin was a wizard.

Wherever it came from, Nuvielle was sure it must have cost a goodly sum.

And beneath the mirror there was the smallish velvet-upholstered couch, with its ornately carved wooden arms curling elegantly at either end. This was not ordinary furniture, but a unique item-Nuvielle had never seen anything quite like it. The velvet was an unusual and striking color, a vivid crimson, and was perfectly smooth, perfectly fitted. Whoever had decorated the arms and legs had been exceptionally talented with a woodworker’s knife, and perhaps slightly insane. The very dark wood made it hard to see details, but she could make out some rather disturbing designs. If anything here had been made by magic, the couch was a likely candidate.

The little table beside the couch was of the same wood, and had apparently been meant to match, but the craftsman who made it had not had the same eccentric flair as the artist-or magic- that had carved the couch frame.

The mirror was very nice, in any case.

Lady Nuvielle knew that many people wouldn’t dare leave the front door unlocked if they had such things on display, but wizards did not need to worry about ordinary thieves; only the worst sort of fool would steal from a wizard.

Other items, like the oval braided-rag rug just inside the front door, were nothing special at all-at least, not to her relatively untrained eye. She smoothed out a large hump in the rug with the toe of her velvet slipper and wondered idly if any of the furnishings might have unseen magical attributes.

It didn’t seem very likely-though she wouldn’t rule out the possibility in the case of the couch or mirror. The wizard’s front room was a pleasant little parlor that could have belonged to anyone.

When she had spoken with Ithanalin before, she had summoned him to the Fortress rather than trouble herself to venture a mile across the city, but today she had been bored, and had come out to the shop on Wizard Street in person in hopes of seeing some entertaining magic while she was here. So far she had been disappointed. She hadn’t seen much of anything, in fact. She hadn’t yet seen the wizard, or the apprentice her messenger had reported lived here. All she had seen was this uninhabited room. She had knocked, found the door open, and walked in-and now she had resorted to studying the furniture, for lack of anything better to do. The room was small, with a single door and a single broad window opening on the street, and a single door at the rear; there were no books, no paintings, no statues to keep her attention.

She waited for a few moments, expecting some response to her entry-surely, the wizard must have known she was here! Didn’t magicians all have mysterious sources of knowledge to keep them informed of such things?

Eventually she got sufficiently bored to call out, “Hai!. Is anyone here?”

Almost immediately, a young woman’s head popped through the doorway at the back. Her face was unfamiliar, but Nuvielle assumed this was the wizard’s apprentice-though she was not wearing the formal gray apprentice robes.

“You must be Lady Nuvielle!” the supposed apprentice said. “Please forgive us; we hadn’t expected you quite so soon. I’ll be right out.”

“That’s quite all right,” she said in reply, but the girl had vanished before the visitor had completed her sentence.

She smiled wryly, then settled cautiously onto one end of the well-made couch, only to discover that its upholstery of fine, oddly hued crimson clashed horribly with her own forest green velvet gloves, skirt, and slippers. Always aware of her appearance, Lady Nuvielle spread her black cloak over the cushions to provide a neutral buffer between the two colors.

This was a major reason she wore the cloak despite the late-summer weather-a vast expanse of black cloth could be very handy for adjusting appearances, even in the lingering heat of Harvest.

She was still straightening her skirt when the young woman reappeared. This time she entered gracefully, stopped a few feet away at the far end of the couch, and curtsied politely.

“Hello, my lady,” she said. “I am Kilisha of Eastgate, apprentice to the master wizard, Ithanalin the Wise.”

Lady Nuvielle smiled with a polite pretense of warmth. “And I am Nuvielle, Lady Treasurer of Ethshar of the Rocks.” She nodded an acknowledgment of the formalities. “Where’s your master?”

“In his workshop, my lady, finishing up the spell you ordered. He should be out in a moment.”

Then there was indeed a workshop, as she had suspected. “And the spell succeeded?” she asked.

Kilisha hesitated. “Well, to be honest,” she said, “I’m not really sure. My master has not informed me of the details. You wanted an animation of some sort?”

“A pet,” Nuvielle agreed. “Just a pet, to ride on my shoulder and keep me company. Something out of the ordinary, to amuse me.”

Kilisha smiled with relief. “Then I think it’s succeeded,” she said, “and I think you’ll be pleased.”

“Good!” For a moment the two women stared silently at each other; before the silence could grow awkward, Nuvielle asked, “How is it I didn’t meet you before, when I summoned Ithanalin to the Fortress to take my order? Shouldn’t you have accompanied your master?”

“That was a sixnight ago? Oh, I was running some errands for Ithanalin-for my master,” Kilisha explained, with assumed and unconvincing nonchalance. She glanced about nervously, and tried to unobtrusively use her skirt to wipe the worst of the dust from the square table that stood beside the little sofa.

The truth was that Kilisha had been left to baby-sit her master’s three children that night, as their mother Yara had been visiting a friend in the countryside somewhere. Kilisha suspected the timing of that visit had been deliberate, to keep her at home where she would not risk embarrassing her master in front of the city’s elite.

Sometimes she thought her master didn’t need her to embarrass him. Kilisha hoped that Lady Nuvielle hadn’t noticed the dust on the furniture-and in particular, that she hadn’t noticed the footprints visible in it. Kilisha recognized them as spriggan tracks, and some people thought spriggans were disgusting, unclean creatures. Kilisha thought those people were probably right-but spriggans were attracted by wizardry, and keeping them out of the shop was almost impossible. They seemed to be able to get inside no matter how carefully doors and windows were closed and locked- Ithanalin’s children thought they came down the chimney, and Kilisha was not ready to rule that possibility out.

Warning spells could announce their arrival, but none of the wards and barriers Ithanalin knew-which was admittedly not many, as that sort of magic was not his area of expertise-could keep them out, any more than locked doors could. Spriggans ran hither and yon almost unhindered, and one of them had clearly run across the end

Вы читаете Ithanalin’s Restoration
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату