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Rated: E · Chapter · Fantasy · #2225031
The Lord of Deception retaliates.

CHAPTER EIGHT


JOY


Part I



Shun was on foot, trudging through some desolate, sky-forsaken wasteland. The ground beneath his boots was not so much dirt or rock or sand as it was dust. Or ash. There were few things that could make a necromancer of Shun's caliber and station nervous, but he had to admit (at least to himself) that this place made him uneasy. It had an air of intruded seclusion about it, as if it were aware of, and displeased by, its visitors, and intended to display the exact depth of that displeasure shortly. In fact, the last time Shun could remember feeling this nervous was when he had thought himself to be in danger of becoming ensnared in one of Teth's intricate schemes. He had also been having something of a feud with the Goblin King at the time. Being at odds with two powerful, lethal forces, he had been seeing enemies everywhere, and had at one point begun to fear for his own sanity. Later, he had learned from the Elfsage Vishesque that that had been the whole point. A passing fancy of the mystic's; a test to see just what it took to overwhelm a Player's psyche. The Goblin King's involvement had been a part of Teth's plan, though neither King nor Necromancer had been aware of it at the time.

To Shun's left walked a tall, slim figure, wrapped in black robes. In one bone-white hand, he held a staff topped by a greenish crystal.

They started climbing a very small hill. The clouds above started to swirl faintly; gray, wispy masses stirring restlessly. Angrily.

Shun shook his head irritably. There was nothing sinister about wind. Was Nex playing some sort of head game with him?

He looked sidelong at the black-robed sorcerer who walked in step with him.

And then he turned, and beheld a spectacular sight.

They were not, in fact, standing on the top of a hill. They were standing on the rim of a massive crater. The bottom of the pit into which Shun was staring was lost in shadow. He looked up. The clouds were still swirling, and from here he could see their focal point; they were drifting in a slow circle, gradually forming an inverted cone that was pointing directly at the center of the sizable depression in the ground.

His sense of foreboding increased. "So this is where Sinder died."

Nex did not say, "Well spotted," or "You are unendingly perceptive." To Shun's infinite astonishment, Nex made no sarcastic reply of any kind. Looking at the sorcerer's shade-shrouded face, Shun thought he looked worried.

"I need to talk to him."

"And you think I can arrange that?"

Thin shoulders shrugged and black robes rustled. "Ceravic says you're the best in the world. Possibly the best in history."

Shun closed his eyes, focusing his attention inward. "Ceravic's right." He raised his arms and fell silent. A halo of translucent violet light flickered about him eerily. "I am Shun, Lord of Despair." Crackling bolts of black occasionally marred the violet, which spun and grew, forming a cyclone of horrifying energy. "I order you to rise." His hollow, ghostly voice echoed over and over again in the ears of all present and of a few who weren't, until it was finally answered.

The sky screamed. A great outpouring of emotion crashed down upon him: fury and outrage and hate, commingled with contempt, and, underscoring it all, impotence. Shun understood perfectly. Small world, he thought. Behind him, Nex scoffed.

Then Shun's world became one of fire. The only colors that existed were red and orange and yellow, the only sounds the crackling of the very air being destroyed, consumed as fuel for the furious blaze that enveloped his world. The fire's roar deafened him, the light blinded him, the heat numbed him, and suffocated him. He felt as if he no longer really existed, as if this horrific world of flame were all that had ever existed, and was all that ever would exist. The sensation of eternity stripped him of all sense of self.

At first. But then it plateaued into a sort of monotony as it continued without any sign of stopping. Shun squinted uncertainly through the flames, trying to make out something of the world. After an indeterminable while, the flames began to diminish in intensity, gradually fading so as to permit visibility. Shun took advantage of his newly regained power of sight to observe Nex, twirling his staff hand over hand, head down, chanting incessantly.

There was a roar, reminiscent of flame, in which could be heard by a careful listener the words, "You again!"

"Me." Nex pronounced the pronoun with extreme enthusiasm. "Again."

The flames spoke again. "Considering your obvious fondness for yourself, I am surprised that you would return here."

Shun relaxed his stance, looking at Nex. "Do you spend a lot of time chatting with all-powerful spirits?"

Nex stared. "I'm not a spirit."

The next roar of flame sounded suspiciously like laughter. Streaks of red and yellow spun through the air, coalescing into a roughly humanoid shape. The newly formed fiery being approached the necromancer and mage, floating about a foot in the air as it walked. "Why do you still live?"

"It's a hobby of mine," the sorcerer returned carelessly. "Like collecting." He brandished a fan of rock slices.

"So you actually went and did it." Sinder's spirit leaned in to inspect the spell-slabs. The tattered frays of Shun's robes blackened further, falling away in tarnished crumbs. I'm really going to need a new set of clothes if I spend any more time around this man, he thought distantly. But though his attire's behavior bore witness to the intensity of the heat in which he was ensconced, he himself felt none of it. Their pyrogenic company offered the beginning of an explanation with his next statement, which he read off one of the slabs in Nex's hand. "Pro... Heat?"

"Protection from heat. My own spell. I created it by casting a protection spell simultaneously with a heat spell, which, by the way, I could never have done without these." He flourished the slabs. "I cast them into their own slabs, separately, and then activated each into a blank one." He sounded eminently pleased with himself.

"That's clever. You're clever. What do you want of me now?"

"Oh, I just wanted to talk."

"I'm not sure you appreciate just how agonizing it is to be forced back into this fade of life, knowing full well that the darkness awaits you again." Anger resounded in the crackling voice, and the air shimmered with unfelt heat. A claw of flame reached out toward Nex's chest, and, presumably, his heart. "Perhaps that is another lesson I could teach you, with the help of your necromantic friend here."

"Why, Sinder, I don't know if you realize it, but in order to teach me that lesson, I would have to die first," Nex said, sounding immensely tickled. "Which is an overwhelmingly nonsensical notion."

"Your day will come, Magus."

"When I'm good and ready for it. Not an instant sooner. Now," Nex's voice sharpened. "I need your help. I think something is wrong with the slabs."

"Why should I care if there is?"

"They're your invention. Surely you feel some sense of satisfaction in seeing them being put to use again? Some pseudopaternal fondness, interest in their well-being?"

"You presume, incorrectly, to know my thoughts, mage. Seeing them in your pallid hands is worse than death. I get much greater satisfaction knowing that they are, for whatever reason, not assisting you in whatever warped designs twist and writhe their way through your head."

"Casting spells, mostly. But you are hardly dead. You live on in memory, especially as long as this beatific scenery graces the landscape." Nex paused for effect. "If something were to happen to it, then you would truly be dead."

There was a long silence, save for the crackling of flames. The burning apparition of the dead war wizard was undergoing some intense internal struggle. Shun could feel it.

Finally, a scorching rasp of a voice asked, "What is wrong with them?"


- - - - - - -


Ceravic, Lord of Oblivion, was dreaming a dream of combat and betrayal. He woke up from it and made a discovery: he was in a room of four walls, each made from blue glass. There not being such a room anywhere in Oblivion, nor any such room in his own castle of Pinnacle, he therefore deemed it safe to assume that he was in neither place.

He sat up and made another discovery: he was wearing a peculiar sort of metallic fabric, slung diagonally over and under his right and left shoulders, respectively, and hanging down over his right thigh and left shin. Underneath the metallic shroud was a full-body suit of scaled blue leather. Not having such a get-up in his wardrobe, he therefore deemed it safe to assume it had been given to him. He also made what he felt was an excellent speculation as to the identity of the giver in question.

He stood up and made another discovery (would the wonders never cease?): the floor was at least two inches farther away than he was normally accustomed to it being. Not being six feet tall in his own body, he therefore deemed it safe to assume he was not in his own body. Considering his recent speculation regarding the identity of the giver of his garments, he formed a similar theory about his current identity. Corporally speaking, at least.

He examined his blue-gloved hands. He flexed the fingers and listened to the creak of the scaly leather. Truly remarkable. He was, somehow, in Teth's body, possibly in all the way out in the Deception Isles. Or some manner of prison the conniver had devised. He looked around and located a door. He approached the door and tried, without success, to open it. He bared his teeth, right hand twitching for Slayvyr, which was, of course, not at his side, because Teth did not have a four-foot long broadsword named Slayvyr.

A truly unsettling thought occurred to him then: Or did he? Teth was, obviously, not in his own body. Therefore...

Ceravic snarled again. Rage began flowing through this unfamiliar body, which did make it seem a little more familiar. He curled his fingers into claws and tried to focus that rage into a more tangible state. But instead of seeing bolts of flame arcing between the scaly material that covered his hands, he just saw glossy blue. And he was rapidly getting sick of the color.


- - - - - - -


"Hmm..." Nex looked thoughtfully at the slice of rock he was holding between two fingers. "It would seem, then, that I..." he paused. "Hmm..." he said again.

Shun thought the sorcerer looked embarrassed. He pushed it. "That you what, Nex?"

"That I..." Nex fidgeted with the slab, flipping it through his nimble fingers a few times. "That I... made a mistake..." Nex's tone was disbelieving.

Shun shrugged. "It happens."

"No it doesn't," Nex snapped. "Things don't just 'happen'. People do things. People make things happen." "It is merely an expression."

"A lousy expression. An expression used by short-sighted idiots who wish to abdicate responsibility for their choices."

"You're deflecting."

"Black-robe!" This was a roar of fire. Nex flicked his eyes once at the fiery apparition, and then looked back down at the slab. "Are you satisfied?"

"Eminently," Nex answered without inflection. He turned away, drawing his hood up over his dark, messy hair. "I hate to pain you with my absence, but I must be going. I have spells to correct."

"You know the problem, then?" Sinder began walking on air after the retreating black robes. Their occupant did not answer. Neither did they. "What is your name, magus?" Sinder called, stopping in his combustible tracks.

Nex paused. He turned his black-hooded head to regard the visage of flame over his shoulder. "I am Nex, the sorcerer of Oblivion."

"Nex," Sinder repeated. "I never want to hear the name again."

Nex held the gaze a moment more, shadows dancing across his face in the flickering illumination. He smirked. "Funny," he said, his murmur somehow carrying over the fire's roar. "I never tire of hearing it." And then he resumed his pace homeward, attention all for the slab of stone in his hand.

Shun stared after him, doubtful. Had the mage forgotten him? Ceravic's prize prisoner?

The spirit hadn't. "Necromancer!" it thundered, sparks spewing from its indefinite outline. Shun slowly turned his head to meet the general area of the eyes. "Release me now, or become cinders." "Well. Since you asked." Shun severed the link abruptly, having no particular desire for any further company. He watched Nex's departure uncertainly, wondering if he was indeed rattled enough by having made a mistake to have actually forgotten him. As he watched, the black-clad figure vanished, leaving Shun entirely alone and considerably confused. He believed that Nex was probably self-centered enough to allow his own problems to take precedence over all else. But he also believed that the sorcerer was too smart to make such a stupid mistake.

He stood there staring at the faint ripple in the air that Nex's disappearance had left behind, and the sun approached the horizon.


- - - - - - -


"So what?" Ceravic asked reasonably.

"So..." and with that erudite comment, the door was slammed shut in Ceravic's face. Ceravic took a moment to ponder the weighty sentiments with which he had just been impressed. Reasonably satisfied that no hidden meaning or subtle subtext had escaped him, he knocked again on the door. He banged his scale-gloved hand against the door for another few minutes, and the same man in simple blue robes opened it again.

"Do you know who I am?" Ceravic inquired in Teth's voice, as brittle as it was relaxed.

"You are Ceravic, Lord of Oblivion."

"Have you ever met Ceravic, Lord of Oblivion?" Ceravic queried.

The man in blue made to throw the door shut again. Ceravic blocked it with his--Teth's--boot, and then reached for the man's throat, not with his own unnatural, blurring speed, but with Teth's unhoned, human musculature, which was, as it turned out, still serviceable. His palm slammed into its intended target with a satisfying smack, and leather creaked as his fingers curled around the neck.

Ceravic was willing to bet that Teth's hand had never done this before. It felt unnatural. Physically, at least. Mentally, he felt right at home. Mentally, he smiled. The man (he probably had a name--perhaps it was Teron) gagged, his eyes bulged, and then closed as his body slumped. Ceravic retained his hold for a moment, trying to discern a pulse through Teth's gloves. He felt one and released poor Teron, letting him collapse to the ground, breathing shallowly. Were I in my own body, he would be dead, he mused, staring down at him a moment. He felt a sudden pang of wistfulness. It was followed promptly by anger. Anger that flowed and burned uncomfortably in this body in which it did not belong, this body that was calm, languid, steady. He hated it. And it was apparently incapable of magic, though Ceravic knew that was probably just some temporary safeguard that Teth had installed; the trickster was obviously capable of spellwork.

The corporally relocated Lord of Oblivion shouldered his way out of his holding cell, kicking Teron in the temple as he did so. He stepped into a long, large hall--blue, of course--and wondered how much time it had taken Teth to find and prepare this body-switching spell. He wondered why he, Ceravic, had been chosen as the target of it. The whole time that Teth had been bivouacking bird-people-things in the mountains had obviously been set up for the enactment of this very scheme. Which was, in turn, no doubt, set-up for some fresh convoluted havoc. He was a meticulous planner, Teth was, and Ceravic grimaced to think of what he was planning to do with the Goblin King's body.

Where was he? If Teth had switched their bodies, it stood to reason that he had also switched their positions. But that could not be, because Ceravic was not at the moment being rent in twain by his own sword. So... Teth must have put some sort of temporal dislocation clause on the spell, which would help explain how he had cast it with a single word. He obviously started it beforehand and waited for the opportune moment to finish it. That stunt would have necessitated the addition of a whole other spell, cast on the body-switching one. Ceravic wondered if Nex had ever tried to cast a spell on a spell. It was, he admitted with clinical admiration, rather innovative.

So. At what time had the spell been begun? Earlier this morning? Last night? The answer was of more than academic interest to Ceravic; he suspected that it would also supply him with his and Teth's current whereabouts. He stared aimlessly about the vast blue ceilings and then shook his head in irritation. How was he supposed to know what labyrinthine thoughts wound their way through Teth's head? Anyone venturing there would find themselves lost soon, and mad soon thereafter.

Suddenly, the image of someone fumbling hopelessly through such a scenario gave Ceravic an idea. Whirling around, awkward mail-cloak fluttering, he swooped down and clamped his hand over Teron's mouth and nose. He waited, and the body started to twitch. A hand spasmed here, a leg kicked there, and as Ceravic reflected upon how interesting it was that lack of oxygen could both induce and reverse unconsciousness, Teron's eyes snapped open. He removed his hand and, making a blade of his fingers, he jammed them under the man's jaw. He locked his eyes onto the gray irises that were frantically darting around in tight circles. Sometimes ovals.

Nex, he knew, had raised the art of arcane perception to unprecedented heights, and could simply have watched this man's memories in his eyes as if they were his own. Ceravic too had the ability to discern the workings of the mind by gazing into its windows, but his was a more rudimentary ability. He could detect lies and supplement truth with additional, unspoken truth. That which existed on the very edge of thought was to him apparent, but he did need something to work with.

"What is your name?" he asked, as politely as could have been expected under the circumstances. He would have been exceedingly surprised if his victim had managed to answer audibly with his vocal cords being speared, but he didn't need him to do so. He simply needed the question to bring the answer to the forefront of his mind, where Ceravic could see it easily. "Teron. The pleasure is all mine. If you would be so kind, what were Teth's last words to you?"

"--please make an effort to bear in mind that the next time you see me, or rather, my body, it will be occupied by Ceravic, Lord of Oblivion, unless I speak the password to you. If not, all has gone as planned, and you will do your very best to keep him in this room for as long as is entirely possible."

"Very good, sir. And... what is the password?"

"Hmm... I will be sure to give that some thought if it turns out we need one."

Ceravic reconfined himself to the limits of his own head. "My heartfelt thanks, my good man. Merely one more question, now; what time was it... at the time?" Ceravic frowned minutely at his own lapse in eloquence. The stress of the situation, no doubt. He could hardly be expected to functioning in top form, given the circumstances.

An image of the sun's position in the morning sky flickered in his victim's frightened little brain, and Ceravic, burning with a dark sort of joy, bounded away.


- - - - - - -


Shun's world spun around him, and somewhere during the revolution, its specifics were recontoured into depressingly familiar and overwhelmingly unwelcome surroundings; four blaze-orange walls, one of which was adorned with manacles, a crimson ceiling, and a grate for a floor. His right foot touched down to that grate, completing the step he had begun back in the mountains.

He smiled bitterly. What a fool he had been. Ceravic--or Nex--had him on a magic leash. He wouldn't be going anywhere without their permission.

Unless he could defuse the spell. He considered the caster of the spell in question and shook his head. Nex had forcefully demonstrated his arcane proficiency to Shun; the necromancer had no confidence in his ability to counter the power of the sorcerer who had spent his whole life pursuing and casting one impossibly advanced spell after another. Shun wondered how old the sorcerer was. The attainment of the type of power that Nex so offhandedly wielded should, by all rights, have taken him several decades to amass. Nex didn't look as if he had lived through more than two. Shun tested the door. It was unlocked, and why shouldn't it be, he couldn't escape Nex's spellwork. He was standing at the top of a flight of stairs, at the bottom of which was, he recalled, a hallway lined with doors much like his own. He descended the stairs, wondering how old Ceravic was as he did so. Or any of the other Players, for that matter. He had met them all face to face at the convention they had held four months ago to agree on a mutual reprieve. Of all of them, he knew he himself looked the oldest; an inevitable side effect of his work. He suspected his resemblance to a corpse was so complete that he could have passed for one if it so suited him.

But mentally, he was only twenty years of age.

He reached the bottom of the stairs. To his left was the door that constituted the back of Ceravic's throne, to his right, the unknown. Deciding to start with the familiar and work his way along from there, he grappled with the door for a moment (it didn't have a handle) before kicking at it in frustration. It did not move. A second kick, coupled with an explosion of violet light, sent the door flying clear across the room. "Oops," he said with a ghost of a smile.

He surveyed the throne and its conjoined table. "Looks a little like a drumstick," he murmured, stepping down onto Ceravic's throne. There was a small box on one arm of the throne. He remembered seeing it there that morning. He reached for it, and it wobbled violently when his gray fingers brushed it. He froze and slowly retracted his hand.

Eyeing the box warily, he stepped down from the throne. Looking across the room at the great double doors, he saw that his sword, Necris, was still embedded in the wood. He made to retrieve it when, with a flash of blinding, sky-blue light, and a rush of movement and noise, Ceravic, Lord of Oblivion appeared seated before him.

Ceravic was resting his head on his fingertips, staring amusedly at one of the empty chairs rimming the table. Then his eyes lost their focus. He looked around, tassel of hair swaying, and fixed Shun with a gaze that looked confused and surprised.

"Shun..." he said in absolute wonder.

"King." Shun watched Ceravic closely. "That was a neat trick," he said in reference to Ceravic's abrupt appearance.

Ceravic continued staring. "I'm full of them," he said slowly. He lowered the hand that had been supporting his head, gesturing absently. "Would you take something to be amiss if I asked you why you were here?"

"Where should I be?"

Ceravic's aquatic eyes did not leave Shun's. "Should you be here?" he asked lightly.

Shun sighed, bored with whatever game the Goblin King was playing. "If you want me back in my cell, then say so. Nex has me on a leash, you know. So I don't see what objection you can have to my admiring your castle." Shun assumed the Goblin King was as subject to flattery as all of the other players were, himself included.

Green-flecked blue eyes traveled down to the mark just below Shun's neck. They then widened, and promptly thereafter, narrowed. Ceravic drew in a breath. "You are my prisoner!"

"So you've told me."

Ceravic was silent for several seconds, his gaze abstracted. "Aren't... I... clever..."

"Arguably."

Ceravic seemed to suddenly snap back into reality. He rose from his throne, face twitching in a series of spastic smiles as he walked the length of the table. When he reached the end he spun, momentum carrying his ponytail over his right shoulder. "You have free rein of the grounds." He examined the tassel of hair dangling over his shoulder with a peculiar expression a moment before asking, "How do you know... about Nex's spell?"

"I had its existence rather forcibly demonstrated to me." Shun wondered if Nex had written something on his face, because Ceravic just kept staring at him.

"Where is Nex?"

"Honestly, Sire, if you can't keep track of him, it hardly seems fair to expect me to be able to do so. Maybe you should lock him up," he added as he turned away, not particularly enjoying Ceravic's newfound fascination for him. Perhaps he would go back to his cell. He could retrieve Necris later.

"Maybe I should..." Ceravic said quietly to himself as Shun hopped onto the throne, and from thence back into the passageway that had, quite recently, had a door in front of it.


- - - - - - -


"Slayvyr," the Lord of Deception murmured in something approaching awe as he drew forth the great chunk of steel that Ceravic kept hanging from his side at all times. "This thing's heavy," he muttered to himself, examining first the great ruby sparkling on one side of the hilt, then rotating the weapon to see the opal on the other. "Twin to Ryvyals." He smiled. Dropping the sheath, and laying the blade on the floor, he passed his hands up and down the weapon's length and chanted briefly in the language of magic. An electric blue flash coruscated up and down the steel. Then, his smile deepening, (that is to say, reappearing) he repeated the gesture, this time focusing solely on the hilt's gems. Another blue glow, this one soft and gentle, welled from the jewels. He lifted the weapon again, looking deeply satisfied as the two blue auras slowly faded. "There," he whispered. "That should cause some... upheaval." He laughed and waved it back and forth a few times, and was pleased when his--Ceravic's--arm handled the motion fluidly, and then went on to perform maneuvers with which he was not personally familiar. It felt extremely natural. "He must play with this thing from dawn till dusk," he marveled, undergoing what appeared to be some type of defensive sequence with virtually no mental effort. Ceravic's muscles seemed to have had the pattern burned into them through countless repetition; they handled the movement on their own.

Teth made his way out the massive front door, noting as he did so two abnormalities about it: one, there was a smaller door, shaped like the back of a very ornate chair, leaning against it at a most haphazard angle, and two, there was a sword-shaped piece of bone sticking out of it.

"Fascinating taste this man has."

One of the large double doors swung open silently at his lightest touch, and he continued from there into a courtyard toward a sort of hooded archway conjoined to the front outer wall of the central castle. Humanoids in dusky red robes snapped to attention as he entered the shadows of the arch, and the doors of the outer wall were already gliding toward him soundlessly. They closed behind him and he found himself staring at what appeared to be identical construction, on a much larger scale. Obliterating the horizon before him was another outer wall with another hooded archway, well over twice the size of the first. As he approached it, he wondered with a sinking feeling what he would find on the other side of this wall. If it was another, bigger wall, he decided right then and there that he was just going to turn around. Maybe start blowing holes in things. Ceravic's body was brimming with energy that roiled beneath the surface, pressing incessantly for release. Teth found it most disquieting.

The way to the great door was downhill, easy. It began opening by unseen means so as to allow his exit in perfect harmony with his reaching it. To his relief, there were no more doors. Before his eyes now was the remaining slope of the hill. Looking behind himself he saw that the magnificent city of Oblivion covered the top of the hill--it was more of a plateau, really--the massive front doors of the massive outer wall sealing themselves behind him. Looking ahead, he saw a great valley, surprisingly clean considering the great numbers of deaths that were rumored to take place here. Scanning the crevasse--Ceravic's eyes were frighteningly capable--he spotted an alcove on the eastern wall, and a thin, barely noticeable path that wound through and out of the mountains leading immediately to and through this alcove. He smiled to himself in utter, consummate satisfaction. Excellent.

The previous day, Teth knew, the Goblin King had been attacked twice by Rade's outlandish savages. During the first such occurrence, a small party of elves had been, regrettably, caught up in the unpleasantness.

The world could be such a lamentably distasteful place at times. Teth found it particularly distasteful when it was directly interfering with the various points of prevarication that he habitually wove around people, and they began to unravel as a result. When such exceptionally poignant distastefulness was thrust upon him, he entered one of his rare bad moods.

When he entered his bad moods, he made it a point to see that someone died.

The last time he had been in the grip of such negative emotions, he had, in a fit of perhaps irrational anger, snapped shut one of his metaphoric webs around the neck of the unfortunate Marin, who had long played their little game as Teth's ally, until Teth got wind of the rumor of treason. The rumor upset him greatly. Now Marin was dead, and Teth had taken the liberty of appropriating his forces, not wanting to be so cruel as to deprive them of purpose.

But, missing his companionship, Teth had endeavored to form a new alliance. Ceravic refused him, he viewed Rade with nothing but contempt, he considered Shun unendingly dull (and easily frightened). He had no real problems with Simble, but the Silver King was so intolerably self-righteous that he could never consider collaboration with one so "unscrupulous" as Teth. Also, Teth was fairly certain they were at war with each other.

So that had just left the Elfsage Vishesque. The elves were a clean, civilized, elegant people, and Vishesque was flexible enough to see the advantages of being on good terms with one of Teth's capabilities.

But.

It had come to Teth's attention--as most things eventually did--that Vishesque had had the temerity--and unbelievable stupidity--to tip Shun off about his last psychosocial experiment. Teth had no idea what had possessed Vishesque to commit such a foolhardy, arguably suicidal act, but he intended to find out. And very shortly afterward, in all likelihood, the Elfsage was going to have a disagreement with Ceravic's sword. And then, in all likelihood, Ceravic was going to have some very unconvincing explaining to do.

Teth chuckled happily to himself as he strode deliberately toward the alcove, Ceravic's elegant cape of red and purple fluttering about him.



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