Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(18)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(18)
Jeff Wheeler

“Even you cannot tally the odds of that happening,” the Rike replied with disdain. “This is Prince Aransetis’s manor still? I promise you, whatever resources this prince of Silvandom has, it will be paltry compared with what the Arch-Rike brings to bear against you. For my life, I will give you the information you seek. But may I attempt to persuade you to surrender yourselves to my custody? If you return with me to Kenatos, I swear to you that I’ll plead your cause with the Arch-Rike personally. He may be lenient.”

“How comforting,” Khiara said, her expression void of compassion.

“What’s your name?” Annon asked.

“I am Lukias, a Provost-Rike of Kenatos.” He closed his eyes, squinting against pain, and started to move his legs. He grunted as they began to twitch and buck. “Amazing powers the Shaliah have. I have seen someone dead a few hours brought back to life through our arcane methods, but I have never…” He paused, overwhelmed by pain, and straightened his legs until they dangled off the table edge. “I need camphor leaves. The pain is excruciating. I see why, after three days, one cannot be revived. This knowledge would be useful to have in the city. There are no Shaliah there.”

“Nor will there be,” Khiara responded. He nodded for the old man who had revived Lukias to leave. His expression was quizzical and Annon believed he could not understand the nature of the conversation, but that he was disturbed by what he had seen.

“Before we agree to terms, we must ask you a few questions to judge the risk,” Annon said.

Lukias smiled brazenly. “The risk? You have no chance of success. The Arch-Rike is aware of you, he is aware of your quest, and he managed to subvert one of your group beneath your notice. You have no chance. None.”

“Then you risk nothing giving us the information we need. Is the oracle inside the city of Kenatos?”

Erasmus held up his hand. “We must be more precise, Annon. Words are too slippery. Is Basilides in the city of Kenatos?”

“No,” Lukias answered. “Its location is a carefully guarded secret. But it is not in the city.”

“Why would you bring us there then? What motive do you have?”

Again, Erasmus held up his hand. “Let me ask the questions, Annon. A man has many motives. Any of which would not break the ring’s prohibitions for lying.” He studied the Rike for a moment. “Tell us what you can of Basilides.”

Lukias’s mouth twitched into a frown. “A good question.”

Erasmus smiled at the compliment.

“Basilides is often referred to as an oracle. Do you know the concept of the mastermind?”

Annon nodded. “My uncle spoke of it, yes. He learned it from the Arch-Rike himself.”

Lukias smiled shrewdly. “Good. It is a group of individuals united together in a common purpose. They embrace a common goal. Basilides is the Arch-Rike’s mastermind. You approach it at your peril.”

“My uncle said it’s a pool or a grove,” Annon said.

“He was well informed, but never given the full information. It’s located near a pool. You must understand that the Arch-Rike’s mastermind are the dead. They are the rulers of the past. His predecessors in rank. Centuries of wisdom preserved from destruction. It is considered the highest of honors to be granted permission to visit Basilides. It is a mark of the Arch-Rike’s favor. That is why I know of it. As you can already discern, he trusts me.”

“And yet you tell us these things?”

“Only in a sincere effort to persuade you that it is madness trying to go against him. Tyrus of Kenatos is a brilliant and calculating man. He is a Paracelsus without peer and wiser than most. He was once the Arch-Rike’s ally. But he turned against him and provoked the Arch-Rike’s wrath. I have seen what happens to those who incur such displeasure. I can only imagine what lies you have been told.”

Erasmus held up his hand subtly to forestall Annon. “What have you been told about Tyrus’s intentions?”

“His stated intentions or his true goals?” Lukias sneered.

“Both, if you please.”

“Overtly, Tyrus of Kenatos has pursued a single-minded goal. His research into the Archives has been monitored and evaluated. His accomplishments are legendary. He says that he seeks to end the Plague. This is probably how he persuaded you to join him.”

“It is so,” Erasmus replied. “But you say that he has another agenda?”

“It is equally obvious. He seeks to hide and control the learning of the Paracelsus order. He has deliberately falsified Archive records and obscured references, even forging addendums in the texts to mislead his peers. He destroyed his own tower in order to prevent his knowledge from being studied by others. It was not the Arch-Rike that destroyed the tower, it was Tyrus’s own doing! A heap of rubble. Millions of ducats worth of magic shattered and devalued. He is on a quest to abolish his own order!”

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