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Authors: Brian Thomsen

The Mage in the Iron Mask (23 page)

BOOK: The Mage in the Iron Mask
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“It would be just my luck for it to turn out to be my brother, back from the grave.” The High Blade allowed himself a cruel laugh at his own absurd conjecture.

“Would you like to suggest a course of action, sire?” Rickman inquired.

“I want this Geddarm and Passepout brought into custody, but I don’t want them killed until I know their whole plan. Understood?”

“Of course, sire.”

“I need to know what they know about your men’s visit to the Retreat, my brother, my wife, and anything else that might endanger the security of Mulmaster.”

“Of course, sire.”

The High Blade shifted in his throne and readjusted the sash of the silken robe that covered his dressing gown and protected him from the draughts of the Tower of the Wyvern. It was getting late and his bride awaited. As with all of the nights they shared together, it was an occasion that he looked upon in mixed proportions comprised of lust, self-loathing, fiendish delight, and suicidal bedevilment.

Readjusting his sash one more time, and without looking up at the captain of the Hawks, whom he regarded as the only person in the entire city that he fully
trusted, he said, “You may go. The she-devil awaits.”

“Permission to speak frankly, once again, sire,” Rickman asked, adding, “just for a moment?”

The High Blade answered without looking up.

“Yes?”

“I sincerely wish that I could remove the threat that exists for as long as you are married to that witch.”

Selfaril looked up at his right-hand man, and said, “I appreciate your concern. She will no doubt try another ploy to subjugate me, but it will take time. At the present time we have the theoretical upper hand. In spite of the bungling of those below you, we are no worse off than we were before. At the very least we have foiled their plan, and removed a rival to my throne. For the present time, they are forced to accept the failure of their plans. Our stalemate is their defeat, at least temporarily. I intend to enjoy the respite that exists between plots in hopes of formulating one of my own that will give me Eltabbar, and from there, all Toril.”

“Agreed, sire,” the captain of the Hawks conceded, “it’s just that I fear the danger that you place yourself in whenever you lay with her.”

“I know, Rickman,” the High Blade agreed, “but it excites me, and there is very little else that does anymore.”

In the Apartment in the Tower of the Wyvern
that the High Blade shared with his Wife:

In the spare hours since dinner, the First Princess once again sought the counsel of her half sister and Mischa was more than willing to lend her assistance and advice.

“Dear sister,” Mischa cooed, the formality of titles ignored in favor of disarming familiarity, “what can I do for you?”

“It’s not for me, Mischa,” the First Princess corrected, “it is for our cause, and the will of Szass Tam.”

“Of course, First Princess,” the half sister replied.

“I will need your help in procuring the necessary means to enchant my husband. As always we must be discreet. He is very suspicious and not easily distracted.”

“I will enlist the greatest of our wizards to the cause,” Mischa replied, adding “Discreetly, of course.”

“Everything must be prepared so that the spell may be consummated within these walls or else the Cloaks will surely detect it, and we will be doomed to failure.”

“Might I recommend a distraction,” Mischa suggested, “to occupy them elsewhere?”

“Fabulous idea,” the Tharchioness replied, licking her lips and stroking her forehead tattoos with her exotically lacquered nails. “I know the perfect dupe. How about my roly-poly ambassador.”

“A marvelous idea, sister.”

“Once my husband’s guard has been lowered, I will be able to conceive his child. If the High Blade is still willing to do my bidding afterward, so much the better. If not, he can be disposed of.”

“And like his father before him, he can be replaced on the throne of Mulmaster by his own son,” Mischa extrapolated.

“My son,” the Tharchioness repeated, “the first of a long line of Thayan High Blades.”

“Long may Szass Tam rule.”

“Yes,” the Tharchioness agreed, adding silently, “and myself as well.”

In the office of the Thayan ambassador to Mulmaster:

The Thayan Ambassador wept at his desk.

“Why me?” he cried out loud. “I entered the foreign service to stay out of danger. I even picked Mulmaster because, through the First Princess’s marriage, I was sure we would never be at war.”

The note from the First Princess had been vague:

Worm
,

The inefficiencies of yourself and your predecessor have caused us great discomfort
.

Fear not. I have a plan by which you may redeem yourself either through its success, or your martyrdom
.

Long may Szass Tam rule.

This is your last chance
.

—The Tharchioness

The wormlike civil servant picked up the official note from the Tharchioness and read it one more time. As he did, it burst into flames, singing his fingers.

The worm licked his burnt fingertips like a monkey who had tried to catch a flame.

Whatever the Tharchioness wanted him to do, he knew it wouldn’t be easy, and he didn’t like the mention of martyrdom. The sinking pit in his stomach soon sent chills throughout his body. Save for the trembling, he stayed petrified in place, waiting for further instructions from his princess.

In the Bed Chamber of the High Blade
and First Princess of Mulmaster and Thay, respectively:

The High Blade had begun to snore, signaling that he had entered a deep sleep.

Quietly and carefully, so as not to disturb her heinous husband, the Tharchioness stole from their luxurious bed, pausing only momentarily to wrap herself in a silken quilted robe to protect her body, still moist with perspiration, from the late night Mulmaster chill.

Listening for any change in the rhythmic rumbles of her husband’s exhalations that would signal his awakening, she quietly tiptoed to her boudoir vanity and softly sat on its stool, careful to keep all noise to a minimum. Silently she picked up a silver cuticle file from its hiding place, and began to carefully remove the small flakes of her husband’s skin from under her fingernails. With the precision of a surgeon or a gemstone craftsman, she placed the flakes in a small ivory pin box whose appearance innocently blended with the other decorative containers that lined the base of the mirror.

The snores of the High Blade grew louder as he sunk into an even deeper sleep.

Shall I chance it? she thought. Why not?

The Tharchioness reached under the vanity table and carefully extracted a crystal dagger from its hiding place. Running her finger gently and gingerly across the blade to ascertain that it was razor sharp, she crept back to the bed where her husband soundly slept, blissfully unaware of his helplessness, and the danger that hovered over him.

I never thought it would be this easy, she said almost silently under her breath as she raised the blade in preparation for its intended mission.

The High Blade’s eyes fluttered for a moment and his lips curved into a sly smile.

He’s dreaming, she thought, probably of the subjugation of myself and all of Eltabbar.

With all in readiness, she maneuvered the blade down, slicing at her spouse with care and accuracy.

The High Blade snored again, and turned over in his slumbers.

How fortunate, she thought. You’ve never been this accommodating before.

With two fingers of the hand that did not hold the crystal dagger, she carefully picked up the lock of her husband’s hair that she had just snipped off with the blade.

Sure that she had not left any telltale hairs behind, she stole back to her vanity table, placed the hairs in the small box with the flakes of skin, then returned the box to its hiding place among the other knickknacks.

Her mission for the evening successfully completed, she returned to her place in the marriage bed, and gleefully went to sleep, dreaming of the successful fruition of her plans.

In the Villa of Sir Honor Fullstaff,
Swordmaster, retired:

The blind swordmaster was in the midst of his lethal swing when an invisible force came between him and the masked Rassendyll.

“Honor,” the senior Cloak cautioned, “this is your
home, and in it we must follow your rules, but I will not stand idly by while you behead this fellow until you explain to us what is going on.”

The enraged Honor tried to swing and strike again only to find the same invisible barrier. This only added further to his rage. Quickly he turned around to face Passepout.

“And you must be one of his Hawks, ready to watch his back, and follow his murderous orders. Well, at least I can rid the world of
you!”
the swordmaster yelled as he took a running start to strike and cleave the petrified and portly thespian in two. When he was a half-step’s distance from the thespian, his blade was at the top of its arc and just about to start its deadly descent, when the dull thud of metal hitting skull was heard, followed by the thump and thud of Honor Fullstaff hitting the ground.

Volo thought he saw an oblong blur pass through the air as the long sword flew hilt over blade through the air on its intended course.

The swordmaster’s former student replaced the long sword in its appointed spot on the mantle. Her expert aim, incredible ability, and indelible accuracy had guided the long sword as if it were a simple dagger as she threw it through the air. Her split second calculations had also enabled her to judge its path and orbit so that its heavy hilt would make contact with the blind man’s head, knocking him out but leaving him relatively unharmed by the deadly blade.

Volo turned to the female Harper and whispered, “I heard you were an expert at heaving long swords but I never dreamed that you could pull off an incredible maneuver like that.”

“Remember,” she answered in an equivalent and hasty whisper, “don’t believe everything you read. From what I understand, most writers are born liars.”

BOOK: The Mage in the Iron Mask
7.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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