The Remnant: Part Twelve
“Speak now, Mr. Lockwood, and you can save your sister,” the faerie said, her unwavering gaze fixed on his.
But he could not speak.
She leaned over, sliding her arms around him in a gentle, icy embrace. “In that case,” she whispered, “I am so sorry for the loss you are about to sustain. Goodbye, Harlan.”
With that she was gone, and Cecilia with her.
The spell seemed lifted; Lisha, Jeran and Skarl had returned to life. Lockwood could not find it in himself to care. He simply sat there, turning disinterestedly toward Lisha. He saw to his surprise that tears were running down her cheeks.
“How could...” She turned away as her voice failed her, and Lockwood saw the look of disgust even on Jeran’s face. That did not greatly bother him either.
“Jeran,” the king said slowly, “arrest that traitor.”
The knight stood frozen.
“Jeran!” he barked. “Lisha! Go on!”
Lisha’s fingers tightened around her wand, and Jeran unsheathed his sword.
Lockwood became suddenly aware that he had no strength left to fight them off, and his self-interest slowly reasserted itself as he realized that whatever else he might wish for, he did not wish to be hanged. Standing up, he looked around for a means of escape, and found none.
Jeran’s sword, however, did not seem disposed to obey him. As he walked toward Lockwood, it began to writhe in his hand like a live thing, its shadowy blade turning back toward him. He dropped it in surprise and fear as it lashed out at him, and as it left his grip it returned to its ordinary inert form.
“I suppose,” Lockwood said rather ironically, “that is why you should allow only a Royal Sorcerer to spell your swords.”
“How can you laugh!” cried Lisha. “How can you make jokes!” A stream of angry golden light shot out from her wand, and Lockwood ducked uselessly to avoid it. It found him anyway, excruciatingly so, pinning him back to the chair he had just left.
“How could you,” she said through gritted teeth, treating him to another blast of magic.
“Lisha, stop!” exclaimed Jeran, pulling at her arm. “You’re killing him!”
“As he would gladly kill any of us,” Lisha muttered in contempt and revulsion, but her wand dropped to her side.
Lockwood could feel the presence of the other sorcerers closing in; Fox, at least, would certainly be here soon. Once they had him he knew that he would not escape. Even now, some spirit rose in him – a refusal to be caught like a common criminal, reviled despite all he had done for Meridell and the Crown. He had done it for himself above all, perhaps, but what of it? Who ever did anything for anybody but themselves?
He lifted a hand to loosen his cravat, although even that slight motion cost him an inconceivable amount of effort; and as he did so, he felt something in his breast pocket, and with a thrill of excitement he realized what it must be. Lisha and Jeran did not appear to be watching him very closely. It was now or never.
He clasped his fingers around the amulet of stealth, and wished himself invisible.
To his utter relief, it worked. He knew all too well how effective the amulet’s magic was, that he would disappear without a trace. They had already noticed that he was gone, and there was nothing they could do about it. Gasping with the exertion, he half-fell, half-stood from the chair, stumbling forward toward the door. His pace, he reminded himself, was unimportant. They would not be able to perceive him no matter what he did or how slow he was.
“But how?” Lisha’s voice rose above the rest. “How did he do it? I know he didn’t have enough magic left, nowhere near.”
Just as Lockwood reached the door, he heard Jeran mention the word “amulet.” The sorcerer, however, was already gone.
Lisha had turned slightly away, and Digory could see her only in profile. Her expression, however, from what he could see, was painful, and he hesitated to respond. He felt that it was a grief so far removed from him that he was hardly qualified to discuss it with one who had been so intimately affected.
He thought she had finished, but after a moment she spoke again. “There is... one last remnant of him, one last unbearable reminder of... everything.”
“What is that, my lady?” he asked hesitatingly, wishing to express his interest and sympathy without appearing overbearing or overly inquisitive.
“The sword,” she replied dully. “That sword he spelled. Of course Jeran does not use it anymore, but the thing is indestructible. There it sits in the Castle treasury – mocking me. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to destroy it, how many methods I have used. Lockwood’s horrible magic conquers me every time.” Lisha laughed without any humor at all. “I should have known. Always, always, from the very beginning, I should have known what would happen – it was so obvious.”
“But, my lady, nobody else knew. How could you be expected to?”
“Because I knew his magic so well. The very first time I ever saw it, you know, it unnerved me; it never stopped. I think I was always a little afraid of him, in some part of me.”
Digory was silent. He did not wish to contradict her, although he was certain that what had happened was not Lady Borodere’s fault.
“If you could have known Cecilia Lockwood, Digory... The kindest creature in the world. She had every good quality of her brother’s, with none of the bad – oh, she had the patience of an angel! And to –” She broke off, shaking her head sadly. “But what does it matter now? I was so deceived...”
“Perhaps,” he suggested tentatively, “there might have been some extenuating circumstances, something which Mr. Lockwood knew that nobody else did?”
“There was nothing, Digory. He murdered his sister in cold blood – worse than murdered her. Any fate is better than the clutches of The Three.”
The young white Blumaroo bit his lip, looking past her through the window, out into the courtyard. It had continued to rain all throughout her narrative and showed no sign of any intention to stop. Soon, he reflected absently, the gardens would flood.
It was such a horrible story – such a pointless waste in every way. Digory could hardly conceive of anybody acting as Lockwood had done. What could possibly motivate a person to act so, to give up every dear family tie and every claim to honor, simply for some magic? To bargain away the life of a dear sister for the sheer love of power? He could not fathom it.
“I don’t understand,” he said, unconsciously slipping into the tone which he generally used when desiring instruction from Lady Borodere. “What was Mr. Lockwood’s motivation? What did he hope to achieve by any of this?”
Lisha paused, her face still turned away. “I only wish I knew. Sometimes I think that, perhaps, some of his intentions were good – in the beginning – that he was simply swept away by the power of The Three. But then how did it start? Why would he ever agree to a bargain of such uncertain terms? I have come to realize the simple truth: that he was utterly selfish and that he valued power above anything else.”
Digory was silent.
“I have spent hours upon hours trying to think of other reasons, explanations, excuses... There are none. However I might wish that he had another reason for what he did, I can only conclude that he had none. I can’t believe I ever –” She shook her head in wordless, humiliated disgust.
The squire still did not fully understand; but the point was clearly a distressing one and he decided to let it lie. Instead he asked, “So everybody was told that Lockwood was dead? But why?”
Lisha looked at him as though she were considering something about his countenance, but she gave no hint as to what. “Well, nobody was ever told anything, so I suppose it has been widely assumed. Word got out, one way or another, that he was a traitor, but I don’t believe that the specifics are generally known.”
She paused, remembering the visit from Nicole Colton, and the painful explanation which had followed. She remembered, too, the desperately sad confession of Miss Colton – the confession of all her former plans and wishes for the future.
Lockwood, for all his worthlessness, had caused so many people so much pain. It was selfish of her, perhaps, but Lisha could not help feeling that she was not least among that number. She would be glad when he was completely forgotten at last. It was better for everyone.
Digory, for his part, could understand why it might suit King Skarl and his advisers to have Lockwood declared dead. However unpleasant the rumors were, the truth was still more so; it was terrible publicity to have a sorcerer accused of such a crime, and more terrible still that he had never officially been caught.
“Do you think he is dead?” Digory asked suddenly.
“I don’t know,” she whispered viciously, and in the dying light a single angry tear rolled down her cheek. “But I hope so.”