[This is another book in the “Fall of the Sorcerers” set — in fact, I think it comes before Mareet Saruis’ story, a.k.a. The Golden Wyvern. I’d originally thought Sorcerer’s Bane was the second book in the series, but now I think it’s first.]
The coachman called to his team, and the vehicle rolled to a stop on the wet cobbles, almost directly in front of a young man in a green frock coat. “Alzur!” the driver called as he set the brake. “This is Alzur!”
The door banged open, and a head thrust out. “Indeed it is,” the new arrival said, looking around the square. “It hasn’t changed a bit, has it?”
The man in the green coat hurried toward him. â€œAnrel!â€ he called. â€œYou’ve made it!â€
â€œHello, Fal,â€ the passenger said, clambering down. â€œYou haven’t changed, either, I see.â€
â€œAh, so it might appear to the casual glance,â€ Fal said, clapping his friend on the back, â€œbut I think that when we have a chance to talk a little you’ll see just how different I have become. When you left I was a child, Anrel, and I like to think I am rather more than that now.â€ He glanced around. â€œThis way, I think â€“ I believe the rain could start again any second, and I would rather not be halfway up the hill when that happens.â€
â€œI am entirely at your disposal,â€ Anrel said, â€œonce you let me retrieve my baggage.â€ He turned to the driver, who had untied the canvas and was heaving a leather-bound traveling case to the cobbles.
â€œOf course!â€ Fal said, hurrying to snatch up the first bag.
The coachman handed the next directly to Anrel, who nodded, and passed the man a coin in exchange.
â€œIs this everything?â€ Fal asked, hefting the traveling case.
â€œIndeed it is,â€ Anrel said. â€œI am, after all, only a poor student, not a mighty sorcerer like yourself.â€
Fal punched him lightly on the shoulder. â€œSorcerer, pfah! I am a man like yourself, Anrel. Are we not all the children of the Father and the Mother, and heirs of the Old Empire?â€ He began marching across the square, toward a pair of small tables set beneath a broad sky-blue awning.
â€œSome of us are the more favored heirs, Fal, while others are but despised cousins,â€ Anrel said, following his companion. â€œYour magic gives you a status most of us can never aspire to.â€
Fal glanced back over his shoulder. â€œI think you may misjudge the situation, my friend. What our fathers dared not dream of, our sons may take for granted.â€
â€œYou have certainly achieved what your father did not,â€ Anrel said.
â€œPfah!â€ Fal waved his free hand in dismissal.
A moment later the two of them had taken seats beneath the blue awning, setting Anrel’s luggage to one side. A woman in a white apron hurried from the door to their table side and said breathlessly, â€œLord Fal! How can I serve you?â€
Fal looked questioningly at his companion.
â€œI dined at the Kuriel way-station,â€ Anrel said. â€œJust a little wine to wash the road-dust from my throat would be fine.â€
â€œA bottle of Lithrayn red, then,â€ Fal said. â€œAnd a plate of sausages, and some of those lovely seed-cakes from…â€ He stopped, frowning. He had turned to point to a nearby shop, but now he broke off in mid-sentence and asked, â€œIs the bakery closed?â€
The woman followed his gaze and said, â€œHadn’t you heard? Lord Balutar caught the baker’s son stealing from his herb garden, and has sentenced him to death. The whole family is up there now, pleading for his life.â€