The Remnant: Part Ten
Lisha had passed a sleepless night, but she was not astonished to find Lockwood, the following afternoon, reading a book with the utmost composure. Though she was aware that he had been asleep not half an hour ago, he was as exquisitely dressed as usual in her favorite grey waistcoat and pale gold cravat. It was a rather breathtaking ensemble, but she had had many months of learning to ignore Lockwood’s appearance.
“While we were waiting for you to awaken,” she told him somewhat sarcastically, “Jeran and I discussed what we should do. We have decided... that it is time to tell the other sorcerers and King Skarl.”
“Very well,” he replied, not bothering to pause in his reading. All things being equal he would perhaps have preferred to conceal what they knew; however, he did not perceive it as worth arguing about. “If you will perhaps do me the kindness of allowing me to finish my page?”
“If you must,” she said ungraciously. After a moment her gaze strayed to the cover of his book, and she exclaimed in surprise and disapproval. “Lockwood! Why in the world are you reading about immortality?”
“For a very practical purpose, I assure you.”
“And what purpose might that be?”
“Ah yes,” he said. “Tell me, how old do I look?”
Lisha stared, taken aback. “Well – I suppose about thirty or thereabouts. Twenty-seven, perhaps.”
“And how old am I?”
She grinned; it was a fact that never failed to provide her with amusement. “Twenty-three.” She paused. “Oh!”
He yawned and turned back to his book. “Perhaps you begin to realize the implications. I must hurry, you know, if I ever wish to attain eternal youth and beauty.”
To this Lisha could think of no very good reply; she thought he was only joking, as she had long since come to understand that he generally did not say anything which he seriously believed. On the other hand – there was just that shadow of a doubt, which made her distinctly uncomfortable. While she could not imagine that his code of morality was really so different from her own (she rather thought that he affected more apathy than he actually felt), she also realized that he did not entertain quite the same scruples that she did.
“Sometimes I honestly think you are more interested in reading than in other people,” she remarked after a moment of silence. “You are nowhere near as sociable as your reputation.”
“On the contrary, I am uncommonly sociable. I derive great pleasure and amusement from company; and whether that company should be one thoroughly agreeable personage or a hundred idiots, is a matter of perfect indifference to me.”
“And Lady Winters qualifies as one thoroughly agreeable personage, I suppose?” Lisha retorted scathingly.
To this Lockwood did not reply.
“Well in any case you are very strange.”
“I am not.”
“You are at the very least eccentric.”
“I most humbly beg to disagree.”
“You are very eccentric,” she repeated, “and you have a number of peculiar habits.”
“Do I?” he exclaimed. “I am sure I had no notion of it.”
Lisha, considering this a challenge for evidence, hastened to produce it. “For one, you are the only person I have ever known who sleeps in a cravat...”
“I do not sleep in a cravat; I occasionally sleep in my shirtsleeves, but that –”
“...and a waistcoat,” she continued, choosing to ignore his rather half-hearted protest. “In anybody else, it might surprise me, but sadly, in this case... Do you even own nightclothes, by the way? – no, on second thoughts don’t answer that question. You also practically wince at the sound of your first name...”
“This is very charming,” he interjected hastily, closing his book and standing up with sudden alacrity, “but I believe we have a great deal to do.”
Lisha smiled to herself, feeling that for once in a way she had scored a total victory in verbal battle with Lockwood.
Mr. Fox was the lucky Royal Sorcerer to whom they had chosen to tell their story, being the most easily found, and he did not appear pleased. Though his demeanor could not have been called genuinely angry (indeed any genuine emotion seemed more or less beyond him) the grey Kyrii radiated disgust and disapproval. Jeran looked rather sheepish; – Lisha felt positively ashamed; – and only Lockwood remained evidently unbothered by Mr. Fox’s reaction while Lisha stumblingly narrated the events of the past week. She found herself grateful for the fact that Lockwood sat beside her: she felt disturbingly like an ill-behaved child being scolded, and his presence, though hardly comforting, was somehow legitimizing.
For a long several moments after being told, Fox was simply silent. Then he said, coldly, “And it never occurred to you to inform us of these developments until now?”
In hindsight, Lisha could think of no good reason at all why they had not. Jeran similarly failed to produce an answer; it was Lockwood who came to their rescue with one which, though characteristically unpleasant and somewhat ironic, seemed at least acceptable. “I suppose we did not wish to disturb the Royal Sorcerers with our own petty concerns until absolutely necessary.”
“Perhaps, Mr. Lockwood,” Mr. Fox suggested expressionlessly, “you are under the impression that this is a joking matter.”
“Certainly not,” he sneered. “A better knowledge of my character would convince you that I view nothing so seriously.”
The Kyrii chose not to give a direct answer. “We have, of course, been keeping an eye on the fugitive Mr. Lester – alias Mr. Duplicity – for quite some time. I am sure you could not think we were so remiss in our duties as to let him escape our notice.”
“And do you think the danger immediate?” inquired Lisha, recovering her power of speech.
Mr. Fox surveyed her with his oddly colorless grey eyes. “That is a matter of the kingdom’s security. I do not have the authority to disclose that information.”
Unexpectedly, Lockwood spoke again. “Then – if I may ask – who does?”
“That information is classified.”
Lisha had long suspected that there was something about the hierarchy of the Royal Sorcerers she was missing, but never had she encountered such tangible evidence of it as this. If not Fox – then who?
“There is another matter requiring attention, Mr. Lockwood, while you are here,” he continued. “It has come to our knowledge that you recently placed a spell upon a Royal sword.”
Jeran looked rather conscious, which led Lisha to the correct conclusion – though she had known nothing of it – that the sword involved had belonged to her brother.
Lockwood only returned his cold stare with growing dislike. “Yes?”
“Only Royal Sorcerers are permitted to place spells upon Royal swords. And you, Mr. Lockwood, are not a Royal Sorcerer.”
It was an omission that Lisha had occasionally noticed, and dismissed as nothing more than sheer oversight or negligence. Now, however, she began to wonder if there had been another reason for Lockwood’s continued status as merely her student. He had been her student in name only for a good while, and yet nobody had entered him officially into the ranks of Royal Sorcerers – however and by whomever that was done. Yet what their reason could possibly be, she was puzzled to determine. Of one thing only she was certain: she was growing more and more uncomfortable with this unspoken confrontation between Fox and Lockwood.
When Lockwood answered, however, his tone was perfectly collected. “I suppose I can plead nothing more compelling than ignorance.”
“If you don’t mind my interruption,” put in Jeran, who was well established as the King’s Champion and in no way under the command of the Royal Sorcerers, “I asked him to do it and as far as I can tell, it’s better than it was before.”
“Nevertheless, Sir Jeran, with all due respect, that sword belongs to the Royal Treasury.”
“Perhaps,” suggested Lockwood, “we should ask its opinion.”
Fox did not react to this remark. “In fact, Sir Jeran, I would personally advise great caution in the use of that sword until it has been properly tested.”
“But I’ve been using it!” the knight said indignantly. “And I certainly don’t remember all this bother about protocol the last time I needed a spell replaced. I just gave the sword to Lisha and she got it done in no time.”
“Lady Borodere,” Fox replied softly, though his eyes were fixed on Lockwood’s, “unlike her colleague, is a Royal Sorcerer. I am afraid it will be necessary to examine the blade in question.”
“And you really think King Skarl will find it necessary?” Here Jeran, the king’s acknowledged favorite, felt himself to be on firmer ground.
“Your loyalty is admirable. But there are those to whom even His Majesty will defer.”
Jeran and Lisha exchanged dumbfounded glances.
“In case you are disposed to think ill of me, Mr. Lockwood,” continued Mr. Fox, “know that I am only the messenger. But on to more serious matters. I am afraid my direct superior will have to be informed of this. Sir Jeran, you answer only to His Majesty; but Lady Borodere and Mr. Lockwood are not authorized to keep such secrets as they have apparently seen fit to keep.”
Vainly Lisha searched for any chance to explain, reason or plead her case. She could see none. How did one argue with Fox? He was mild-mannered enough, but he was utterly inflexible.
Lockwood, meanwhile, felt an unusual amount of contempt and resentment building within him. Who did he have to answer to? He had no doubt, now, that he was the stronger sorcerer; and this type of allegiance did not suit him.
He sensed the faint presence of the icy faerie beside him as she leaned over to whisper in his ear, confirming everything that he felt himself. The flaw in Mr. Fox’s logic seemed obvious to him, and so he decided to point it out. “Tell me,” he said slowly, “if I am not a Royal Sorcerer, then to whom am I answerable?”
The Kyrii regarded him with his cold colorless eyes. “Are you sure you want to ask that question, Mr. Lockwood?”
Lisha bit her lip, wishing to interfere but finding not the nerve. Jeran shifted in his seat as though he were about to speak on Lockwood’s behalf. At that moment, however, a white Draik herald entered the room with a bow.
“The terrorist known as Mr. Sly is at the castle gates. He says he wishes to make a bargain.”
To be continued...