Untrue Names

Told you there were more than a dozen novels in progress. Here’s another, and I’m not done yet. Funny thing, though — I’d forgotten I’d actually started writing this one. I thought I just had an outline, but then I looked at the file and here we are. This is another from the Fall of the Sorcerers series.

The bell above the kitchen door jingled, and the butler looked up.

The only person in sight was Miura the cook, whose arms were white to the elbow with flour as she kneaded a mass of dough. She could not be interrupted, which meant there was no one else he could send to answer their master’s call.

Some of the other staff members would hear a few choice words about this later, he thought as he straightened his coat and trotted out the door and along the passage.

He emerged into the dining hall and found it empty; he hurried across to the great hall, but that, too, was uninhabited. He sighed, and almost ran to the curving stair that led to the master’s study.

The door was closed. The butler hesitated, then knocked.

“Come in,” came the master’s voice.

He took a deep breath, then lifted the latch and swung the door open.

“You called, my lord?” he said, before allowing himself to take in the interior of the room.

“Ah, there you are, Erevar,” the master said. “Good. Give me a hand with these two, would you?”

The butler stared, and swallowed.

His master, Lord Querien, was standing in the center of the room, between two chairs. In one chair was the slumped body of little Dara the kitchen maid – Erevar’s niece. In the other was the equally lifeless form of Lurrent, one of the footmen. Both were bare-headed; Lurrent’s tunic was open, revealing his bare chest, and Dara’s blouse had been partially unbuttoned and pulled down to the very limit of decency. The apron and cap she ordinarily wore were nowhere to be seen.

“My lord, are they…”

“Oh, they’ll be fine,” Querien said. “I performed a simple binding, nothing more. When they wake they’ll have nothing worse than a headache, I assure you.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Now, help me carry this wench to her quarters, will you? I think she’d be happier waking up in her own bed, and I don’t know which one it is.”

“Of course, my lord.” Erevar hurried to Dara’s side, and began buttoning her blouse.

“Ever mindful of the proprieties, aren’t you?” Querien said. “Never mind that, just take her arms, and I’ll get her legs, and we’ll see her safely to sleep.”

“I can carry her, my lord,” Erevar said. He suited his actions to his words, slipping one arm behind Dara’s back and another under her thighs and lifting her from the chair.

He struggled to not let any trace of the fury he felt show. It wasn’t right that Lord Querien should carry out his magical experiments on innocent servants – but it was legal; in fact, as Landgrave of Mellinise, Lord Querien could legally do anything he wanted, so long as it did not violate an imperial edict.

The Emperor had not issued any edicts on the subject of how sorcerers treated their commoners.

“Good,” Lord Querien said. “Then get her into bed and come back here immediately.”

“Yes, my lord.” Erevar turned and carried the unconscious girl out of the study and down the stair to the great hall. Protocol said that from there he should take her up the narrow servants’ stair to reach her quarters in the attic, but Erevar ignored that and used the grand staircase; he did not want to risk bumping the child’s head or feet against the stone walls.

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