Perhaps it was the sudden interruption of his thoughts, or perhaps it was the shy and awkward emphasis the young forest elf put on her words, but Lord Jeneyeru almost certainly misunderstood Winddancer’s meaning.
“Oh, my dear lady,” he said with raised eyebrow, “you want my lord brother for that sort of an expedition. Your pardon.” Returning her bow, he carried on his way. Having seen Lafitte’s first mate in action, he was anxious to compare notes and set his wards.
“What did Lafitte’s wizard want?” asked Peino when Jeneyeru caught up.
The magus shrugged. “Some sort of lady thing, I suspect.”
Peino puzzled over that a moment and then shook his head. “Jeney, don’t you ever think of anything else?”
“Such as?” his brother grinned.
But as soon as the cabin door was shut, the wizard settled down to business. Jeneyeru hung a lock ward on the cabin door to sound an alarm should any stranger try to open it. Thimble reported on what he’d seen in his exploration of the airship. His information merely confirmed the usual dodgy status of privateers.
Peino chuckled. “So Captain Lafitte hopes for a little fishing on this voyage, does he? Good. That may prove of use to us.”
“I doubt he’s the only one,” said Jeneyeru, “so I have taken precautions to safeguard that which we carry. Peino, Lotye, I have given you each a Box of Nothing to match the one I carry. Since we do not know what tricks these privateers may have up their sleeves, I will not say how the cards are divided among the boxes. Just remember, they are not to be opened. So long as the boxes are closed, we and all on this ship are safe from the influence of the cards. Out of the boxes, their spell will be cast upon any who are receptive to it.
“Now, I wish you all to be aware of what we have in our possession. So far we have seen only cards of the Blood Arcana. This is one suit of the Daemon Arcana, a deck of five suits. The Daemon deck is used to summon the spirits or forces pictured on the cards, and each suit defines the sacrifice required to do the summoning. Obviously, for the Blood Arcana, the sacrifice is blood. The higher the card, the stronger its daemon and the more blood it demands.”
The four of them sat on the bunks, around the central desk, and darkness seemed to close in around the hanging lantern above them as the Shadow Master spoke of the dangerous items.
“The purpose of the deck is for wizards to wage war by means of card games. Depending on the game, the demons may be summoned and directed singly or in combination. So while the instructions that Lotye acquired with her two cards were clearly devised by an enterprising wizard, they are not the true and proper way to use the deck. We may be grateful for that and for the greed of the thief, if as I suspect the deck was broken up to increase the profit by selling it off in pieces. It means we likely will not face the full potential these cards hold.”
“How certain of that are you, brother?” said Peino, and Jeneyeru had to admit he was not as certain as he wished.
“There are worse possibilities and better ones,” he said, “but I believe this is the most likely, based on what we have seen so far. Now to the cards themselves. Each suit contains fourteen cards. We have acquired six from the Arcana of Blood. Peino brought us the deuce, the Chained Hearts which summons chains of power to bind, twist, or crush a living heart in any number of ways, and the trey, the Blood Larvae which summons a species of parasitic worm from another dimension. Lotye provided us with the four, the Tearing Gibberers which summons demons that spread panic and madness by a touch, and the seven, the Mountain Ghost, which calls forth an automaton in the form of an animated suit of armor, an otherworldly machine of war. Finally, Mr. Ionas Farseer delivered to us the two cards he retrieved from the murdered trafficker — the five, the Flesh Revenants which calls demons that animate corpses or meat, and the ten, the Holy Screaming Automaton, another war machine which injects a ghostly power into any kind of machinery.”
“Two, three, four, five, seven and ten,” said Peino, “no hand there, but with a few more draws, it may come out to a straight.”
Jeneyeru gave him a warning look. “Beware, brother. At all costs we must avoid attempting to play the games the cards were made for. You remember why.”
“All too vividly,” Peino agreed.
“So then, that is the arsenal with which we are equipped but which we must not use. And a few other things as well, more friendly by far.” Jeneyeru produced a package from his traveling bag and laid it open on the table.
“First, you shall each have three Wards of Turn-to-Stone.” He handed out three trios of small padlocks made of glittering stone. “Clap one of these onto any item or person, and anyone who tries to touch it will be turned to stone until the next full moon. Be careful with them, for there is no key but the moon itself, so both the protected and the transformed must remain so until the moon comes about full.”
Next he handed out three sets of three glass vials bound in paper. The vials contained tiny odd objects and blurring hazes of different colors. “Vials of Shadow, Radiance and Poison. A standard kit of the Luminous Shadow Way. They come tied up with the spell to speak for those who don’t know Atul. It’s just the basic “In Caillech’s name and by my will.” Just say the words and uncork a vial — in that order, mind — and throw it to unleash the power against your target.”
Finally, he turned to Lotye, drawing a small box from his pocket. It contained two rings of silver, and the stones set in them looked at first like green agate — until they started blinking up at the group.
“I hope you will accept this in the spirit in which it is meant, Mistress O’Tulvar,” the magus said, watching the young woman closely. “My brother and I have our own ways of keeping track of each other, and I have already exchanged charms with Thimble, these many years. This is for you — the Eyes of the Dreamer. Wear one upon your right hand, touch it to your lips and say in Atul “sight of thine, sight be mine,” and you will see that which you wish to see from any distance, including the one who wears its partner. Wear it upon your left hand, you will be the one seen, by the wearer of the partner ring.”
He took one of the pair and slipped it onto his long, slender finger, adding it to the collection of magical and family rings he already wore. The other, he held out to Lotye.
“For now, I would like you to wear it on your left hand,” he said.
Thus the first night of the flight aboard La Danse Calinda passed — in fight, fire, dangerous commitments, and offered partnerships, all leading to what would be a short night, restful for some, less so for others.