After a pause, Caith called out, “Brennan! There’s a rat here who says you’re expecting a messenger. He says a rising light marks the dawn of a new world.”

Brennan said sharply, “Get him in fast and shut the door!”

We all spilled into the hallway, me with my hand on my cane. If the others were armed, I could not see their weapons. I nodded to Rory, and he went partway up the stairs to get the advantage of height. Three armed men surged through the open door and into the entryway like soldiers clearing a path for their captain. I recognized them, for I had met them on the road not ten days earlier. All three were foreigners, and one was actually a woman dressed as a man. She stepped back outside, and a moment later a middle-aged man walked up the steps and came in.

He was tall and imposing, with brawny shoulders, black hair streaked with silver, and the features of a person born of mixed Iberian, West African Mande, and Roman ancestry. In other words, he had a prominent hook nose and a face long and broad and bold enough to carry it off. He wore a shabby wool greatcoat and a faded tricornered hat rather the worse for wear. Although he had the bearing of a man accustomed to wielding weapons, he wore none except the expectation that he was in command.

His gaze fastened immediately on the petite, bespectacled woman even though, of all of us standing in the entryway, she certainly looked the least physically imposing. “Professora Kehinde Nayo Kuti, I presume,” he said.

They eyed each other like dogs trying to decide whether they’ll have to fight over a bone.

“I expected you would send an ambassador to open talks between our organizations,” she said.

“I am my own ambassador. As I must be, in these troubled times.”

Blessed Tanit! I had first met this man on the road, where he had been traveling in the guise of a working man named Big Leon. I could not imagine how I had ever thought him merely a retired soldier no different from any other man who has survived an old war.

“You walked into Adurnam alone except for three soldiers?” Brennan was saying. “With all the mage Houses and every prince in northwestern Europa hunting for you? That seems rash!”

“And irrational,” added Kehinde in a calmer voice. “We could turn you over to the prince of Tarrant for a significant reward.”

In disguise as Big Leon the humble carter’s cousin, he had hidden the crackling strength of his gaze and the coiled power of his presence. No longer. “But you won’t. For you see, I am never alone. The hopes and ambitions of too many people are carried on my back.”

“You’re Camjiata,” I said.

The man born Leonnorios Aemilius Keita had earned the name Camjiata, lion of war, by leading armies to victory. Everyone knew the Iberian Monster believed it was his destiny to unite the fractious principalities, dukedoms, city-states, and backward tribes of Europa into one glorious empire. He had tried once, and he had almost succeeded.

“Of course I am Camjiata. Who else would I be? At last, after the patient work of many years and many hands, I am free.”

Chartji stepped forward, offering the bowl of water.

He doffed his hat and drank it all in one gulp. “And now we have business to do and no time to wait.”

“Did you come looking for me?” asked Bee. I could not tell if she was terrified, or exhilarated, or making ready to punch him in the face, but she had her sketchbook open to a page where she had at some point in the last few months drawn a picture of him standing exactly where he was now, in front of the closed door in the entryway of these law offices. “Did she tell you how to find me? Your wife, I mean? The one who walked the dreams of dragons?”

“Yes. It was the final thing Helene said to me before they killed her. She told me that the eldest daughter of the Hassi Barahal clan would learn to walk the dreams of dragons. Find her, she said, because you will need her, as you have needed me.” He lifted a hand in the classic orator’s gesture used by the Romans in their ancient empire. It was simply impossible not to stare at him if he wanted you to do so, as he did now. “Helene said that the eldest Hassi Barahal daughter would lead me to Tara Bell’s child.”

“B-but I’m Tara Bell’s child,” I choked out, for I felt my heart had lodged in my throat.

“Of course you are. You could be no one else but who you are. So must we all be, even Helene, who knew that the gift of dreaming would be the curse that brought death to her.”

I alone heard Bee whisper, “ Death??” as she went pale.

He had gone on. “Even at the end, the gift compelled her to speak. Those were the very last words I ever heard her say. She said, ‘Where the hand of fortune branches, Tara Bell’s child must choose, and the road of war will be washed by the tide.’”

I was not too stunned by these portentous words to miss the way Kehinde glanced at Brennan, or the way he gave a shrug in reply as his gaze flicked toward Bee.

“A fanciful turn of phrase,” said Kehinde to the general, “but as I have a pragmatical turn of mind, can you tell me what you think it means?”

A longcase clock standing beside the coat rack ticked with each swing of its pendulum. A carriage rattled past outside. Camjiata watched until we were all looking at him and waiting for him to speak. He smiled softly, as if our compliance amused him.

“Why, the depths of the words are easily sounded. She meant that Tara Bell’s child will choose a path that will change the course of the war.”

The gazes of seven humans and three trolls left his face and fixed on me.

“Which means you, Catherine Bell Barahal. Because that child is you.”


I am not a young woman who craves attention. Unlike my beloved cousin Beatrice, who is my dearest and most trusted friend in all the world, I make no effort to bring myself to the notice of all and sundry in the most forceful and spectacular way imaginable. I have the sort of character that prefers the shadows where it can bide quietly or, as Bee might say, sneak about without being caught.

So I did not at all like to find myself with every pair of eyes-?except of course for my own since that would have been impossible-staring at me. Words usually come easily to me. But I had seen carnage on the streets. I had been awake all night. I really just wanted to close my eyes and sleep.

Instead, I stood for a moment as mute and seared as if I had been struck by lightning. Then I got angry.

“You may believe that because I am Tara Bell’s child that I mean something to you and your schemes and plans. But I came with my cousin to these law offices to get help with our own private legal matters. Not to aid an escaped criminal!”

The door rattled softly at his back. He stepped away as it opened a crack. The woman dressed as a man squeezed in. As everyone relaxed, the general chuckled. His amusement made the air change quality as if holding its breath before the sun-or a storm-breaks through.

“Some call me a criminal, while others call me the Liberator,” he said in the rich Iberian lilt he had not lost despite thirteen years confined on an island prison. “Like you, I came to these law offices on an entirely different matter. I truly did not expect to meet you here, Catherine.” He nodded to acknowledge Bee. “Nor did I expect to meet your cousin, the young woman who walks the path of dreams. Not so soon, and not in Adurnam. And yet, why not here? Why not now? That we meet here and now merely reminds me that destiny directs our paths. We cannot escape what we are.”

“That may be, but we can escape those who try to imprison us.”

“Have I said anything that makes you think I am trying to make you my prisoner?”

“You must forgive me if I don’t seem very trusting right now. For the last two months, I’ve been running from people who want to kill me. My cousin and I just escaped from house arrest. So I don’t see how I can really trust you.”

“If we are both being hunted, doesn’t it make sense for us to become allies?”

“Allies in what?” I demanded. “Isn’t your war over? Didn’t you lose? Weren’t your armies dispersed, and your

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