RevolutionSF is proud to publish the re-release of Martha
Wells' The Element of Fire. Out of print despite its
publication in multiple countries, this kick-ass fantasy adventure
will be brought to you in serialized parts in the coming weeks.
And New Philosophy calls all in doubt,
The Element of fire is quite put out;
The Sun is lost, and th'earth, and no man's wit
Can well direct him where to looke for it.
—John Donne, "An Anatomie of the World"
THE GRAPPLING HOOK skittered across the rain-slick stone of
the ledge before dropping to catch in the grillwork below the
Berham leaned back on the rope to test it. "That's it, Captain
Sir. Tight as may be," the servant whispered.
"Well done," Thomas Boniface told him. He stepped back from
the wall and looked down the alley. "Now where in hell is Dr.
"He's coming," Gideon Townsend, Thomas's lieutenant, said as
he made his way toward them out of the heavy shadows. Reaching
them, he glanced up at the full moon, stark white against the
backdrop of wind-driven rain clouds, and muttered, "Not the
best night for this work." The three men stood in the muddy
alley, the dark brocades and soft wools of their doublets and
breeches blending into the grimy stones and shadow, moonlight
catching only the pale lace at the wrists or shirt collars of
Thomas and his lieutenant, the glint of an earring, or the cold
metal sheen on rapiers and wheellock pistol barrels. It was
a cool night and they were surrounded by failed counting houses
and the crumbling elegance of the decaying once-wealthy homes
of the River Quarter.
Thomas personally couldn't think of a good time to forcibly
invade a foreign sorcerer's house. "The point of it is to go
and be killed where you're told," he said. "Is everyone in position?"
"Martin and Castero are up on the tannery roof, watching the
street and the other alley. I put Gaspard and two others at
the back of the house and left the servants to watch the horses.
The rest are across the street, waiting for the signal," Gideon
answered, his blue eyes deceptively guileless. "We're all quite
ready to go and be killed where we're told."
"Good," Thomas said. He knew Gideon was still young enough to
see this as a challenge, to care nothing for the political reality
that sent them on a mission as deadly as this with so little
support. Glancing down the alley again, he saw Dr. Braun was
finally coming, creeping along the wall and uncomfortably holding
his velvet-trimmed scholar's robes out of the stinking mud.
"Well?" Thomas asked as the sorcerer came within earshot. "What
have you done?"
"I've countered the wards on the doors and windows, but the
inside... This person Grandier is either very strong or very
subtle. I can't divine what protections he's used." The young
sorcerer looked up at him, his watery eyes blinking fitfully.
His long sandy hair and drooping mustache made him look like
a sad-faced spaniel.
"You can't give us any hint of what we're to find in there?"
Thomas said, thinking, This would have been better done if
I hadn't been saddled with a sorcerer who has obviously escaped
from a market-day farce.
Braun's expression was both distressed and obstinate. "He is
too strong, or... He might have the help of some creature of
"God protect us," Berham muttered, and uneasily studied the
cloudy darkness above. The others ignored him. Berham was short,
rotund, and had been wounded three times manning barricades
in the last Bisran War. He claimed that the only reason he had
left the army was that servants' wages were better. Despite
the little man's vocal quavering, Thomas was not worried about
"What are you saying?" Gideon asked the sorcerer. "You mean
we could fall down dead or burst into flame the moment we cross
"The uninitiated so often have ill-conceived ideas about these
matters, like the fools who believe sorcerers change their shapes
or fly like the fay. It would be exceedingly dangerous to create
heat or cold out of nothing..."
"So you say, but..."
"That's enough," Thomas interrupted. He took the rope and tested
it again with his own weight. The first floor of the house would
be given over to stables, storage for coaches or wagons, and
servants' quarters. The second would hold salons and other rooms
for entertaining guests, and the third and fourth would be the
owner's private quarters. That would be where the sorcerer would
keep his laboratory, and very likely his prisoner. Thomas only
hoped the information from the King's Watch was correct and
that the Bisran bastard Grandier wasn't here. He told Gideon,
"You follow me. Unless, of course, you'd like to go first?"
The lieutenant swept off his feathered hat and bowed extravagantly.
"Oh, not at all, Sir, after you."
"So kind, Sir."
The brickwork was rough and Thomas found footholds easily. He
reached the window and pulled himself up on the rusted grating,
balancing cautiously. He felt the rope jerk and tighten as Gideon
started to climb.
The window was set with small panes of leaded glass and divided
into four tall panels. Thomas drew a thin dagger from the sheath
in his boot and slipped the point between the wooden frames
of the lower half. Working the dagger gently, he eased the inside
catch up. The panels opened inward with only a faint creak.
Moonlight touched the polished surface of a table set directly
in front of the window, but the darkness of the deeper interior
of the room was impenetrable. It was silent, but it was a peculiar
waiting silence that he disliked.
Then the window ledge cracked loudly under his boots and he
took a hasty step forward onto the table, thinking, Now we'll
know, at any rate.
Dust rose from the heavy draperies as he brushed against them,
but the room remained quiet.
"Was that wise?" Gideon asked softly from below the windowsill.
"Possibly not. Don't come up yet." Thomas slipped the dagger
back into his boot sheath and drew his rapier. If something
came at him out of that darkness, he preferred to keep it at
as great a distance as possible. "Tell Berham to hand up a light."
There was some soft cursing below as a dark lantern, its front
covered by a metal slide to keep the light dimmed, was lit and
passed upward. Thomas waited impatiently, feeling the darkness
press in on him like a solid wall. He would have preferred the
presence of another sorcerer besides Braun, the rest of the
Queen's Guard, and a conscripted city troop to quell any possibility
of riot when the restive River Quarter neighborhood discovered
it had a mad foreign sorcerer in its midst. But orders were
orders, and if Queen's guards or their captain were killed while
entering Grandier's house secretly, then at least civil unrest
was prevented. An inspired intrigue, Thomas had to admit, even
if he was the one it was meant to eliminate.
As he reached down to take the shuttered lamp from Gideon, something
moved in the corner of his eye. Thomas dropped the lamp onto
the table and studied the darkness, trying to decide if the
hesitant motion was actually there or in his imagination.
The flicker of light escaping from the edges of the lamp's iron
cover touched the room with moving shadows. With the toe of
his boot Thomas knocked the lantern slide up.
The wan candlelight was reflected from a dozen points around
the unoccupied room, from lacquered cabinets, the gilt leather
of a chair, the metallic threads in brocaded satin hangings.
Then the wooden cherub supporting the right-hand corner of the
table Thomas was standing on turned its head.
He took an involuntary step backward.
"Captain, what is it?" Gideon's whisper was harsh.
Thomas didn't answer. He was looking around the room as the
faces in the floral carving over the chimneypiece shifted their
blank white eyes, their tiny mouths working silently. The bronze
snake twined around the supporting pole of a candlestand stirred
sluggishly. In the woolen carpet the interwoven pattern of vines
Keeping hold of the rope, Gideon chinned himself on the window
ledge to see in. He cursed softly.
"Worse than I thought," Thomas agreed, not looking away from
the hideously animate room. Unblinking eyes of marbleized wood
stared sightlessly, limbs and mouths moved without sound. Can
they see? Or hear? he wondered grimly. Most likely they
can. He doubted they were here only to frighten intruders, however
effective they might be at it.
"We should bum this house to the ground," Gideon whispered.
"We want to get Dubell out alive, not scrape his ashes out of
Good question, Thomas thought. The vines in the carpet
were lifting themselves above the surface of the floor like
the tentacles of a sea beast. They were as thick around as a
man's wrist and looked strong, and metallic glints that had
been gilt threads in the weaving were growing into knife-edged
thorns. It was only going to get more difficult. Thomas caught
up the lantern and stepped down into a chair with arms shaped
into gilded lampreys. They were struggling viciously but were
unable to turn their heads back far enough to reach him. From
there he stepped down to the hardwood floor and backed toward
Gideon made a move to climb into the window but the viselike
tentacles were reaching up above waist-height and groping along
the edge of the table. Thomas said, "No, stay back."
At the sound of his voice the vines whipped around and stretched
out for him, growing prodigiously longer in a sudden bound,
and Thomas threw himself at the door.
The latch was weak and snapped as his weight struck it. He stumbled
through and caught himself, just as something thudded into the
dark paneled wall in front of him. He dropped the lantern and
dove sideways, scrambling for cover between two brocaded chairs
and the fireplace.
Embedded in the wall, still quivering, was a short metal arrow;
if he had come through the doorway cautiously it would have
struck his chest. The lion heads on the iron firedogs snapped
ineffectually at him as he pushed himself further behind the
chairs, thinking, Where the hell is he? The sputtering
candle sent shadows chasing across crowded furniture and everything
was moving. Then in the far comer he saw the life-sized statue
of a Parscen archer. Naked to the waist and balancing a candleholder
on his turbaned head, he was drawing a second arrow out of the
bronze quiver at his side and putting it to his short bow.
Rolling onto his back to make himself a smaller target, Thomas
dropped the rapier and drew one of his wheellocks. He'd loaded
both pistols down in the alley, and now as he wound up the mainspring,
an arrow thudded into the over-stuffed chair seat. The other
chair began to edge sideways using the clawed feet at the ends
of its splayed legs; without thinking Thomas muttered, "Stop
that." He set the spring, braced the pistol on his forearm and
The plaster statue shattered in the deafening impact. The shot
scarred the wall behind it and filled the room with the stink
Thomas got to his feet, tucking away the empty pistol and picking
up his rapier. Now the whole damned house knows I'm here.
He hadn't planned to do this alone either, but the vines filling
up the first room and curling round the doorway into this one
committed him to it.
Avoiding the animate furniture, he went to the door in the opposite
wall and tried the handle. It was unlocked, and he eased it
open carefully. The room within was dark, but the archway beyond
revealed a chamber lit by a dozen or so red glass candelabra.
Thomas pulled the door closed behind him and moved forward.
The dim light revealed stealthy movement in the carvings on
the fireplace mantel and along the bordered paneling. In the
more brightly lit chamber beyond the arch, he could see an open
door looking out onto the main stairwell.
He stopped just before the fall of light from the next room
would have revealed his presence. There was something... Then
he heard the creak of leather and a harsh rasp of breath. It
came from just beyond his range of sight, past the left side
of the arch. They knew Grandier had hired men to guard the house;
it was the only way the King's Watch had been able to trace
the sorcerer, since there was no one in the city who could identify
him. The man in the next room must have heard the shot; possibly
he was waiting for the protective spells to dispose of any intruders.
Thomas had planned on something to distract the sorcerer's human
watchdogs, to send them down to the lower part of the house,
if Gideon would just get on with it...
From somewhere below there was a muffled thump, and the floorboards
trembled under his feet. Thomas smiled to himself; shouts and
running footsteps sounded from the stairs as the hired swords
hastened for the front door. In theory, he wasn't disobeying
the King's orders to keep the raid on Grandier's house secret.
Placed correctly, a small charge of gunpowder could blow a wooden
door to pieces while making little noise, and the houses to
either side of Grandier's were empty anyway.
The waiting guard did not take the bait with the others, but
went forward to stand at the doorway into the stairwell, his
rapier drawn. He was big, with greasy blond hair tied back from
his face, and dressed in a dun-colored doublet. Thomas had already
decided to kill him and had started forward when the man turned
and saw him.
The hired sword's shout was muffled by the clatter of his comrades
on the stairs and he rushed forward without waiting for help.
Thomas parried two wild blows, then beat his opponent's sword
aside and lunged for the kill. The man jerked away and took
the point between the ribs instead of under the breastbone,
dropping his weapon and staggering back. Cursing his own sloppiness,
Thomas leapt after him, grappling with him and trying to drive
his main gauche up under the man's chin. In another moment Thomas
was easing the limp body to the floor. There was blood pooling
on the rug and on his boots, but hopefully the others were occupied
below and there was no one left to follow his trail.
He glanced quickly around the room and noted it was free of
the sorcerous animation. There was a closed door on the opposite
wall, and it bore examining before he ventured out onto the
As Thomas was reaching for the handle, he felt a sharp stab
of unease. He stepped back, his hand tightening on his sword-hilt,
baffled by his own reaction. It was only a door, as the others
had been. He reached out slowly and felt his heart pound faster
with anxiety as his hand neared the knob.
Either I've gone mad, he thought, or this door is
warded. Testing it with his own reactions, he found the
ward began about a foot from the door and stretched out to completely
cover the surface. It was a warning, with a relatively mild
effect, more than likely meant to keep the hired swords and
servants away from this portion of the house. It could also
explain why the dead man hadn't left his post to investigate
the pistol shot or to follow his comrades to the front entrance.
He had been guarding something of crucial importance.
Thomas stepped back and kicked the center panel, sending the
door crashing open. Beyond was a staircase leading upward, softly
lit by candlelight glowing down from the floor above.
Bracing himself, Thomas stepped through the ward and onto the
first step, and had to steady himself against the wall as the
effect faded. He shook his head and started up the stairs.
The banister was carved with roses which swayed under a sorcerous
breeze only they could sense. Thomas climbed slowly, looking
for the next trap. When he stopped at the first landing, he
could see that the top of the stairs opened into a long gallery,
lit by dozens of candles in mirror-backed sconces. Red draperies
framed mythological paintings and classical landscapes. At the
far end was a door, guarded on either side by a man-sized statuary
niche. One niche held an angel with flowing locks, wings, and
a beatific smile. The other niche was empty.
Thomas climbed almost to the head of the stairs, looking up
at the archway that was the entrance to the room. Something
suspiciously like plaster dust drifted down from the carved
A tactical error, Thomas thought. Whatever was hiding
up there wasn't doing it to be decorative. He took a quiet step
back down the stairs, drawing his empty pistol. The air felt
warm; beneath his doublet, sweat was sticking the thin fabric
of his shirt to his ribs. From the powder flask on his belt
he measured out a double charge and poured it into the barrel.
He pushed the bullet and wadding down with the short ramrod,
thinking that it would be quite ironic if the pistol exploded
and ended the matter here.
Thomas wound and set the spring, carefully aimed the pistol
at the top of the archway and fired. The fifty-caliber ball
tore through the light ornamental wood and into the body of
the plaster statue that had perched up on the opposite side
of the arch. Thomas shielded his face as splintered wood and
fragments of plaster rained down. A sculpted head, arm, and
pieces of a foot thudded to the floor in front of him.
He climbed the last few steps and stopped at the front of the
gallery, which was now wreathed in the heavy white smoke of
the pistol's discharge. This next trap wasn't bothering to conceal
Ponderously the angel statue turned its head toward him and
stepped out of its niche in the far wall. Thomas shoved the
empty pistol back into his sash and drew the second loaded one,
circling away from the angel. It was slow, its feet striking
the polished floor heavily, plaster wings flapping stiffly.
It stalked him like a stiff cat as he backed away. He wanted
to save the pistol for whatever was behind the next door, so
he was reluctant to fire.
Then his boot knocked against something that seized his ankle.
He fell heavily and dropped the wheellock, which spun across
the polished floor and somehow managed not to go off. Rolling
over, he saw that the hand and arm of the broken statue had
tripped him and was still holding onto his ankle. He drew his
main gauche and smashed at it with the hilt. The hand shattered
and fell away, but the angel was almost on top of him.
Scrambling desperately backward, he caught the base of a tall
bronze candlestand and pulled it down on the angel. The heavy
holder in the top struck the statue in the temple, knocking
loose a chunk of plaster. It reared back and Thomas got to his
feet, keeping hold of the candlestand. As it lurched toward
him again he swung the stand. A large piece of the wing cracked
and fell away as the blow connected, and the creature staggered,
Past the stumbling statue he saw movement on the stairs. There
were dark writhing shapes climbing the steps, dragging themselves
upward on the banisters. He backed away, realizing it was the
vines that had sprung out of the carpet in the first room. Are
they filling the entire house? The situation was horrible
enough, it hardly needed that. And he had known he couldn't
get out the way he had gotten in, but he had hoped to have the
front door as an option. Now that way was blocked. Thomas dropped
the candlestand and turned to the other door.
He pulled it open and one quick glance told him the room seemed
unoccupied by statues. He slammed the door closed as the angel
lumbered awkwardly toward him, bracing against it as he shoved
the bolt home. He stepped back as the thing battered against
the other side.
Moonlight from high undraped windows revealed shelf-lined walls
stacked with leatherbound books, most chained to the shelves.
It was a large room, crowded with the paraphernalia of both
library and alchemical laboratory, quiet except for the erratic
tick of several lantern docks. There was a writing desk untidily
crammed with paper, and workbenches cluttered with flasks and
long-necked bottles of colored glass. It smelled of tallow from
cheap candles, the musty odor of books, and an acrid scent from
residue left in the containers or staining floors and tabletops.
He drew his rapier again and moved around the overladen tables,
inbred caution making him avoid the stained patches left by
alchemical accidents on the floor. He knew he would have to
come back to this house at some point: the desks and cabinets
crammed with scribbled papers would undoubtedly hold some of
Grandier's secrets, but now he hadn't time to sort the vital
information from the trash.
Thomas circled the rotting bulk of a printing press and a cabinet
overflowing with ink-stained type, and stopped. At the far end
of the room, hidden by stacked furniture and shadows, was a
man seated in a plain chair. He faced the wall and seemed to
be lost in thought. Dressed in a black cope and a baggy scholar's
cap, his face was angular and lean in profile and his hair and
beard were gray. He didn't seem to be breathing.
Then Thomas saw the shimmer of reflected moonlight from the
window and realized the man was encased in an immense glass
ball. Wondering at it, he took a step forward. The enigmatic
figure didn't move. He went closer and lifted a hand to touch
the glass prison, but thought better of it.
As if the gesture was somehow perceptible to the man inside,
he turned his head slowly toward Thomas. For a moment his expression
was vacant, eyes fixed on nothing. Then the blue eyes focused
and the mouth smiled, and he said, "Captain Thomas Boniface.
We haven't formally met, but I have heard of you."
Thomas had not known Galen Dubell closely, the fifteen years
ago when the old sorcerer had been at court, but he had seen
the portraits. "Dr. Dubell, I presume." Thomas circled the glass
prison. "I hope you have some idea of how I'm to get you out
There was another heavy crash against the door. The statue,
the animate vines, or something else was intent on battering
its way in.
"The power in this bauble is directed inward, toward me. You
should be able to break it from the outside," Dubell said, his
composure undisturbed by the pounding from the door.
It would be dangerous for the old sorcerer but Thomas couldn't
see any other way. At least the heavy wool of his scholar's
robe would provide some protection. "Cover your head."
Using the hilt of his rapier, Thomas struck the glass sphere.
Lines of white fire radiated out along the cracks. The material
was considerably stronger than it looked, and cracked like eggshell
rather than glass. He hitit twice more, then it started to shatter.
A few of the larger shards broke loose, but none fell near the
Galen Dubell stood carefully and shook the smaller fragments
out of his robes. "That is a welcome relief, Captain." He looked
exhausted and bedraggled as he stepped free of his prison, glass
crackling under his boots.
Thomas had already sheathed his rapier and was overturning one
of the cabinets beneath the window. He stepped atop it and twisted
the window's catch. Cool night air entered the stuffy room as
he pushed it open. An ornamental sill just below formed a narrow
slanted ledge. Leaning out, he could see the edge of the roof
above. They would have to climb the rough brickwork.
He pulled his head back in and said, "I'm afraid we'll have
to take the footpad's way out, Doctor." He just hoped the old
man could make it, and speedily; the battering at the door was
Dubell scrambled up the cabinet easily enough. As if he'd read
Thomas's thought, he said, "It's quite all right, Captain. I
prefer the risk to more of Urbain Grandier's hospitality." He
might have the easier time of it; he was almost a head taller
As Dubell pulled himself carefully out onto the narrow sill,
the door gave way.
The sorcerer used the scrollwork around the window casement
as a ladder, drawing himself up toward the roof. Thomas swung
out onto the sill after him and stood, holding onto the window
frame. Broken fragments of brick sprinkled down as Dubell grasped
the edge of the roof above.
Thomas boosted him from below and the scholar scrambled over
the edge. Digging fingertips into the soft stone, Thomas started
to pull himself upward. Dubell had barely been able to grasp
the ledge from here; Thomas knew he would have to stand on top
of the cornice before he could reach safety.
There was a crash just inside. Straining to reach the edge of
the roof, Thomas bit his lip as something gave way beneath his
left boot. Fingers wedged between the soft brick, he groped
for another hold and felt the mortar under his hand crumble.
Then from above, Galen Dubell caught his arm in an iron grip,
supporting him as he found another foothold. For a man who must
do little with his hands besides write or do scholarly experiments,
Dubell was surprisingly strong. The man's gentle demeanor made
it easy to think of him as nothing more than an aged university
don and to forget that he was also a wizard.
Thomas scrambled over the edge, his muscles trembling with the
strain. "I thank you, Doctor," he said, sitting up, "but there
are those at court who won't appreciate it."
"I won't tell them about it, then." Dubell looked around, the
damp breeze tearing at his gray hair and his cap. "Are those
There was a shout. The two men he had stationed atop the tannery
were waving from the edge of the next roof.
"Stay there," Thomas shouted back. "We'll come to you."
Slowly they made their way up the crest of the pitched roof
to the edge where the others were throwing down some planks
to bridge the gap. The slate tiles were cracked and broken,
slipping under their feet. They had just crossed the makeshift
bridge to the tannery when Thomas turned to say something to
Dubell; in the next instant he was lying flat on the rough planks
with the others as the timber frame of the building was shaken
by a muffled explosion. Then they were all retreating hastily
across the tannery roof, choking on acrid smoke, as flames rose
from the Bisran sorcerer's house.
"So much for keeping this quiet," Thomas remarked to Gideon.
The two men sat their nervous horses, watching from a few lengths
down the street as Grandier's house burned. There was a crash
as the facade collapsed inward, sending up a fireworks display
of sparks and an intense wave of heat. The neighborhood had
turned out to throw buckets of water and mud on the surrounding
roofs and mill about in confusion and panicked excitement.The
real fear had subsided when the residents had realized the fire
was confining itself to the sorcerer's home, and that only a
few stray sparks had lit on the surrounding structures.
Three of the hired swords had been taken alive, though Thomas
doubted they would know much, if anything, about Grandier's
intentions. His own men had obeyed their orders and come no
further than the front hall, so they had been able to escape
the fire. There had been one casualty.
Gaspard, one of the men who had been posted in the court behind
the house, had been hit by a splintered piece of flaming wood
as he tried to escape from the explosion. His back and shoulder
had been badly burned and he'd only escaped worse by rolling
in the muddy street. Dubell had insisted on treating the injury
immediately, and Thomas had been only too glad to permit it.
Now Gaspard sat on a stone bench in the shelter of a hostler's
stall, his shirt and doublet cut away so Dubell could treat
the blistering wound. The servant Berham was handing the sorcerer
supplies from Dr. Braun's medical box and Dr. Braun himself
was hovering at Dubell's elbow. Thomas suspected that Berham
was providing more practical assistance than the younger sorcerer.
"The fire is hardly our fault" Gideon shrugged. "Blame Grandier
"Yes, he's a cunning bastard."
Gideon glanced at him, frowning. "How do you mean?"
Thomas didn't answer. Dubell had finished tying the bandage
and Martin helped Gaspard stand. As Castero led their horses
forward, Thomas nudged his mare close enough to be heard over
the shouting and the roar of the fire. "Gaspard, I want you
to ride with Martin."
"Sir, I do not need to be carried." The younger man's face was
flushed and sickly.
"That was not a request, Sir." Thomas was in no mood for a debate.
"You can ride behind him or you can hang head down over his
saddlebow; the choice is yours."
Gaspard looked less combative as he contemplated that thought,
and let Martin pull him unresisting to the horses.
Berham was packing the medical box under Braun's direction and
Dubell was staring at the fire. Thomas had been considering
the question of why Grandier had not killed Galen Dubell. The
answer could simply be that Grandier might have wanted to extract
information from the old scholar, and his plan had gone awry
when the King's Watch located the house. But somehow he didn't
think it was going to be simple. The fire should have started
when I broke the glass ball. Yes, it served the purpose of destroying
Grandier's papers, but why not kill all the birds with one stone?
Unless he wanted us to rescue Dubell. But why? To announce
his presence? To show them how powerful and frightening he was?
To make them distrust Dubell?
As Berham took the box away to pack on his horse, Thomas waved
Dr. Braun over and leaned down to ask him, "Is it possible for
Grandier to... tamper with another sorcerer, to put a geas on
Braun looked shocked. "A geas can be laid on an untrained mind,
yes, but not on a sorcerer like Dr. Dubell."
"Are you very sure about that?"
"Of course." After a moment, under Thomas's close scrutiny,
Braun coughed and said, "Well, I am quite sure. I had to put
gascoign powder in my eyes to see the wards around the house,
and a geas, or any kind of spell, would be visible on Dr. Dubell."
"Very well." That was as good as they were going to get without
taking the old scholar to Lodun to be examined by the sorcerer-philosophers
there, and there was no time for that.
Dubell came toward them. "An unfortunate fire," he said. "There
was much to learn there."
"I thought you said it was dangerous to create fire out of nothing?"
Thomas asked Braun.
"It is," Braun protested, flustered.
Dubell smiled. "It depends on one's appreciation of danger."
"So much does," Thomas agreed. "They'll have some questions
for you at the palace."
"Of course. I only hope my small knowledge can aid you."
"We'll find Grandier," Gideon said, coming up beside them.
Dubell's eyes were troubled. "If he continues his mischief on
such a grand scale, he will be hard to miss. He'll also be a
fool, of course, but he may not see it that way."
"Oh, I hardly think he's a fool," Thomas said. Castero and Berham
had gotten Gaspard mounted up behind Martin, and they began
to turn their horses away from the crowded street. As the others
went down the alley, Thomas took one last look at the burning
house. So far Grandier had shown an odd combination of ruthlessness
and restraint, and he was not sure which he found more daunting.
The sorcerer had snatched Galen Dubell out of his home in Lodun,
indiscriminately slaughtering the servants who had witnessed
it. For no practical reason, since Lodun University was full
of wizards and scholars of magic who had been able to divine
Grandier's identity within hours of examining the scene. Yet
the fire that could have been so devastating stuck to Grandier's
house like pitch and refused to spread to the ready tinder of
the other old buildings. As much as he might wish to, Thomas
couldn't see it as a gesture of defiance. He only wondered where,
in what corner of the crowded city, the word had passed to watch
for a sorcerous blaze in the night, and what to do then.