Lotye’s welcome into the palace apartment of Lord Jeneyeru Nightwise was as precipitous as her release from prison and transportation across the city. It was often that way when those with money or connections got involved in things — a person’s life would go from being hopelessly mired in some official mess to being rushed and changed and shifted about all at once, and both equally without explanation.
The aristocratic wizard greeted the lawyer and her charge with a broad wave of his hands. Except for being a room in a building, the salon could not have been more different from the prison cell in which Lotye had lived for the past several days. She and Aeto were invited to a gilt-edged, well-cushioned couch awash in sunshine, before which tea, crumpets, honey and oranges waited on a low tray table.
“I myself have already breakfasted,” said Jeneyeru, gathering up the morning papers, “but do help yourselves to some refreshment.”
“Thank you, my lord,” said Aeto Arrowwise, “I have brought the cards and the instructions that Mistress O’Tulvar says was sold with them.” She presented the sheet and the Box of Nothing to the wizard, and then sat, tucking up the long sleeves of her lawyer’s robe to pour a cup of fragrant black tea.
“Excellent.” Jeneyeru sat down on the couch opposite with the box on his lap while he examined the printed sheet of parchment.
“This is very interesting,” he said. “You see, there are games to be played with these cards, if one can call them games considering the stakes are quite disturbingly high, but this –” he waggled the paper in the air “– seems unrelated to any of them. My immediate thought is that someone, having at least partial knowledge of how to use the cards, made up these summoning instructions so they could sell off individual cards rather than the whole deck — seeking, no doubt, to increase their profit.”
“But what are they, milord?” said Aeto, taking a sip from a delicate cup. “I’ve never seen anything like them before, and I gather neither have the prosecutor or any of the guardian wizards.”
“Neither you nor they would have. They are from another world. They were among the treasures brought back by my brothers and I.”
“Through the vortices?”
“In a manner, yes. It’s all in the published account.” Jeneyeru laid the sheet and box on the cushion next to him, and reclined, one long leg crossed over the other, his hand resting over the significant objects.
“The point is,” he said, “the deck was supposed to have been secured in the vaults of the Wizards Guild where it could be studied safely, but I have had suspicions that something was wrong for several months. The Guild has been remarkably silent about them, ignoring or deflecting all inquiries. Of course, they’ve always been that way to an extent, but not this extent. I am here because of a possible incident related to the one which Mistress O’Tulvar is involved in. I cannot say more about that at this time, but regardless of those details, I know that these two cards are from the deck I gave to the Guild. It is vital that I learn how they came to be sold on a street in Sesus when they were supposed to be at the Guild Hall at the summit of Mount Isolla. It may seem a small matter for one of my position to worry about, but this magic does not belong in Aeldreth, and it must not be allowed to propagate here. I speak not as a State Magus but as a Paladin of Caillech, Keeper of the Gateways. My investigation shall begin by tracing the one who sold the cards Mistress O’Tulvar stole — oh.” His eyes fell for the first time fully upon Lotye. “My dear lady, what a sight you are. Is that the same dress I saw you in yesterday? Where are your things?”
“Her effects are still being held as evidence, my lord. Even her horse,” said Aeto Arrowwise.
“Oh, what nonsense. Thimble, draw a bath for this lady, will you? And find her something to wear.”
“Yes, my lord,” said the small boy.
“And age yourself appropriately,” the wizard called after his departing servant. “‘Pon my word, I tell him again and again, do not make ridiculous faces, lest you get stuck that way. Now, while we compose ourselves, have either of you any questions for me?”
Leaning back on the sofa in his flowing silks, the enchanted braids of his hair falling over his shoulders, the wizard smiled at the attorney and the thief.