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Old 2 Weeks Ago
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Leaning forward, Tully said, “The point is this: say what you will about the Ishapians, but when they put forth something as history, not lore, they can usually produce ancient tomes to support their claims.”


“No,” said Kulgan, waving aside Tully’s comments with a dismissive wave. “I do not make light of your beliefs, or any other man’s, but I cannot accept this nonsense about lost arts. I might be willing to believe Pug could be somehow more attuned to some aspect of magic I’m ignorant of, perhaps something involving spirit conjuration or illusion— areas I will happily admit I know little about—but I cannot accept that he will never learn to master his craft because the long-vanished god of magic died during the Chaos Wars! No, that there is unknown lore, I accept. There are too many shortcomings in our craft even to begin to think our understanding of magic is remotely complete. But if Pug can’t learn magic, it is only because I have failed as a teacher.”

Tully now glared at Kulgan, suddenly aware the magician was not pondering Pug’s possible shortcomings but his own. “Now you are being foolish. You are a gifted man, and were I to have been the one to discover Pug’s talent, I could not imagine a better teacher to place him with than yourself. But there can be no failing if you do not know what he needs to be taught.” Kulgan began to sputter an objection, but Tully cut him off. “No, let me continue. What we lack is understanding. You seem to forget there have been others like Pug, wild talents who could not master their gifts, others who failed as priests and magicians.”

Kulgan puffed on his pipe, his brow knitted in concentration. Suddenly he began to chuckle, then laugh. Tully looked sharply at the magician. Kulgan waved offhandedly with his pipe. “I was just struck by the thought that should a swineherd fail to teach his son the family calling, he could blame it upon the demise of the gods of pigs .”

Tully’s eyes went wide at the near-blasphemous thought, then he too laughed, a short bark. “That’s one for the moot gospel courts!” Both men laughed a long, tension-releasing laugh at that Tully sighed and stood up. “Still, do not close your mind entirely to what I’ve said, Kulgan. It may be Pug is one of those wild talents. And you may have to reconcile yourself for letting him go.”

Kulgan shook his head sadly at the thought. “I refuse to believe there is any simple explanation for those other failures, Tully. Or for Pug’s difficulties, as well. The fault was in each man or woman, not in the nature of the universe. I have often felt where we fail with Pug is in understanding how to reach him Perhaps I would be well advised to seek another master for him, place him with one better able to harness his abilities.”

Tully sighed. “I have spoken my mind of this question, Kulgan Other than what I’ve said, I cannot advise you Still, as they say, a poor master’s better than no master at all. How would the boy have fared if no one had chosen to teach him?”

Kulgan bolted upright from his seat. “What did you say?”

“I said, how would the boy have fared if no one had chosen to teach him?”

Kulgan’s eyes seemed to lose focus as he stared into space. He began puffing furiously upon his pipe. After watching for a moment, Tully said, “What is it, Kulgan?”

Kulgan said, “I’m not sure, Tully, but you may have given me an idea.”

“What sort of idea?”

Kulgan waved off the question. “I’m not entirely sure Give me time to ponder. But consider your question, and ask yourself this: how did the first magicians learn to use their power?”

Tully sat back down, and both men began to consider the question in silence. Through the window they could hear the sound of boys at play, filling the courtyard of the keep.





Every sixthday, the boys and girls who worked in the castle were allowed to spend the afternoon as they saw fit. The boys, apprentice age and younger, were a loud and boisterous lot. The girls worked in the service of the ladies of the castle, cleaning and sewing, as well as helping in the kitchen. They all gave a full week’s work, dawn to dusk and more, each day, but—on the sixth day of the week they gathered in the courtyard of the castle, near the Princess’s garden. Most of the boys played a rough game of tag, involving the capture of a ball of leather, stuffed hard with rags, by one side, amid shoves and shouts, kicks and occasional fistfights. All wore their oldest clothes, for rips, bloodstains, and mud-stains were common.
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Leaning forward, Tully said, “The point is this: say what you will about the Ishapians, but when they put forth something as history, not lore, they can usually produce ancient tomes to support their claims.”


“No,” said Kulgan, waving aside Tully’s comments with a dismissive wave. “I do not make light of your beliefs, or any other man’s, but I cannot accept this nonsense about lost arts. I might be willing to believe Pug could be somehow more attuned to some aspect of magic I’m ignorant of, perhaps something involving spirit conjuration or illusion— areas I will happily admit I know little about—but I cannot accept that he will never learn to master his craft because the long-vanished god of magic died during the Chaos Wars! No, that there is unknown lore, I accept. There are too many shortcomings in our craft even to begin to think our understanding of magic is remotely complete. But if Pug can’t learn magic, it is only because I have failed as a teacher.”

Tully now glared at Kulgan, suddenly aware the magician was not pondering Pug’s possible shortcomings but his own. “Now you are being foolish. You are a gifted man, and were I to have been the one to discover Pug’s talent, I could not imagine a better teacher to place him with than yourself. But there can be no failing if you do not know what he needs to be taught.” Kulgan began to sputter an objection, but Tully cut him off. “No, let me continue. What we lack is understanding. You seem to forget there have been others like Pug, wild talents who could not master their gifts, others who failed as priests and magicians.”

Kulgan puffed on his pipe, his brow knitted in concentration. Suddenly he began to chuckle, then laugh. Tully looked sharply at the magician. Kulgan waved offhandedly with his pipe. “I was just struck by the thought that should a swineherd fail to teach his son the family calling, he could blame it upon the demise of the gods of pigs .”

Tully’s eyes went wide at the near-blasphemous thought, then he too laughed, a short bark. “That’s one for the moot gospel courts!” Both men laughed a long, tension-releasing laugh at that Tully sighed and stood up. “Still, do not close your mind entirely to what I’ve said, Kulgan. It may be Pug is one of those wild talents. And you may have to reconcile yourself for letting him go.”

Kulgan shook his head sadly at the thought. “I refuse to believe there is any simple explanation for those other failures, Tully. Or for Pug’s difficulties, as well. The fault was in each man or woman, not in the nature of the universe. I have often felt where we fail with Pug is in understanding how to reach him Perhaps I would be well advised to seek another master for him, place him with one better able to harness his abilities.”

Tully sighed. “I have spoken my mind of this question, Kulgan Other than what I’ve said, I cannot advise you Still, as they say, a poor master’s better than no master at all. How would the boy have fared if no one had chosen to teach him?”

Kulgan bolted upright from his seat. “What did you say?”

“I said, how would the boy have fared if no one had chosen to teach him?”

Kulgan’s eyes seemed to lose focus as he stared into space. He began puffing furiously upon his pipe. After watching for a moment, Tully said, “What is it, Kulgan?”

Kulgan said, “I’m not sure, Tully, but you may have given me an idea.”

“What sort of idea?”

Kulgan waved off the question. “I’m not entirely sure Give me time to ponder. But consider your question, and ask yourself this: how did the first magicians learn to use their power?”

Tully sat back down, and both men began to consider the question in silence. Through the window they could hear the sound of boys at play, filling the courtyard of the keep.





Every sixthday, the boys and girls who worked in the castle were allowed to spend the afternoon as they saw fit. The boys, apprentice age and younger, were a loud and boisterous lot. The girls worked in the service of the ladies of the castle, cleaning and sewing, as well as helping in the kitchen. They all gave a full week’s work, dawn to dusk and more, each day, but—on the sixth day of the week they gathered in the courtyard of the castle, near the Princess’s garden. Most of the boys played a rough game of tag, involving the capture of a ball of leather, stuffed hard with rags, by one side, amid shoves and shouts, kicks and occasional fistfights. All wore their oldest clothes, for rips, bloodstains, and mud-stains were common.
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The girls would sit along the low wall by the Princess’s garden, occupying themselves with gossip about the ladies of the Duke’s court. They nearly always put on their best skirts and blouses, and their hair shone from washing and brushing. Both groups made a great display of ignoring each other, and both were equally unconvincing.

Pug ran to where the game was in progress. As was usual, Tomas was in the thick of the fray, sandy hair flying like a banner, shouting and laughing above the noise. Amid elbows and kicks he sounded savagely joyous, as if the incidental pain made the contest all the more worthwhile. He ran through the pack, kicking the ball high in the air, trying to avoid the feet of those who sought to trip him. No one was quite sure how the game had come into existence, or exactly what the rules were, but the boys played with battlefield intensity, as their fathers had years before.

Pug ran onto the field and placed a foot before Rulf just as he was about to hit Tomas from behind. Rulf went down in a tangle of bodies, and Tomas broke free. He ran toward the goal and, dropping the ball in front of himself, kicked it into a large overturned barrel, scoring for his side While other boys yelled in celebration, Rulf leaped to his feet and pushed aside another boy to place himself directly in front of Pug Glaring out from under thick brows, he spat at Pug, “Try that again and I’ll break your legs, sand squint!” The sand squint was a bird of notoriously foul habits—not the least of which was leaving eggs in other birds’ nests so that its offspring were raised by other birds. Pug was not about to let any insult of Rulf’s pass unchallenged. With the frustrations of the last few months only a little below the surface, Pug was feeling particularly thin-skinned this day.

With a leap he flew at Rulf’s head, throwing his left arm around the stockier boy’s neck. He drove his right fist into Rulf’s face and could feel Rulf’s nose squash under the first blow. Quickly both boys were rolling on the ground. Rulf’s greater weight began to tell, and soon he sat astride Pug’s chest, driving his fat fists into the smaller boy’s face.

Tomas stood by helpless, for as much as he wanted to aid his friend, the boys’ code of honor was as strict and inviolate as any noble’s. Should he intervene on his friend’s behalf, Pug would never live down the shame. Tomas jumped up and down, urging Pug on, grimacing each time Pug was struck, as if he felt the blows himself.

Pug tried to squirm out from under the larger boy, causing many of his blows to slip by, striking dirt instead of Pug’s face. Enough of them were hitting the mark, however, so that Pug soon began to feel a q e e r detachment from the whole procedure. He thought it strange that everybody sounded so far away, and that Rulf’s blows seemed not to hurt. His vision was beginning to fill with red and yellow colors, when he felt the weight lifted from his chest.

After a brief moment things came into focus, and Pug saw Prince Arutha standing over him, his hand firmly grasping Rulf’s collar. While not as powerful a figure as his brother or father, the Prince was still able to hold Rulf high enough so that the stableboy’s toes barely touched the ground. The Prince smiled, but without humor “I think the boy has had enough,” he said quietly, eyes glaring “Don’t you agree?” His cold tone made it clear he wasn’t asking for an opinion. Blood still ran down Rulf’s face from Pug’s initial blow as he choked out a sound the Prince took to mean agreement. Arutha let go of Rulf’s collar, and the stableboy fell backward, to the laughter of the onlookers. The Prince reached down and helped Pug to his feet.

Holding the wobbly boy steady, Arutha said, “I admire your courage, youngster, but we can’t have the wits beaten out of the Duchy’s finest young magician, can we?” His tone was only slightly mocking, and Pug was too numb to do more than stand and stare at the younger son of the Duke. The Prince gave him a slight smile and handed him over to Tomas, who had come up next to Pug, a wet cloth in hand.

Pug came out of his fog as Tomas scrubbed his face with the cloth, and felt even worse when he saw the Princess and Roland standing only a few feet away as Prince Arutha returned to their side. To take a beating before the girls of the keep was bad enough, to be punished by a lout like Rulf in front of the Princess was a catastrophe.

Emitting a groan that had little to do with his physical state, Pug tried to look as much like someone else as he could Tomas grabbed him roughly. “Try not to squirm around so much. You’re not all that bad off. Most of this blood is Rulf’s anyway. By tomorrow his nose will look like an angry red cabbage.”

“So will my head.”

“Nothing so bad. A black eye, perhaps two, with a swollen cheek thrown in to the bargain On the whole, you did rather well, but next time you want to tangle with Rulf, wait until you’ve put on a little more size, will you?” Pug watched as the Prince led his sister away from the site of battle Roland gave him a wide grin, and Pug wished himself dead.
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Pug and Tomas walked out of the kitchen, dinner plates in hand. It was a warm night, and they preferred the cooling ocean breeze to the heat of the scullery. They sat on the porch, and Pug moved his jaw from side to side, feeling it pop in and out. He experimented with a bite of lamb and put his plate to one side.

Tomas watched him. “Can’t eat?”

Pug nodded “Jaw hurts too much.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and chin on his fists. “I should have kept my temper. Then I would have done better.”

Tomas spoke from around a mouthful of food. “Master Fannon says a soldier must keep a cool head at all times or he’ll lose it.”

Pug sighed. “Kulgan said something like that I have some drills I can do that make me relax. I should have used them.”

Tomas gulped a heroic portion of his meal “Practicing in your room is one thing Putting that sort of business into use while someone is insulting you to your face is quite another. I would have done the same thing, I suppose.”

“But you would have won.”

“Probably. Which is why Rulf would never have come at me.” His manner showed he wasn’t being boastful, merely stating things as they were. “Still, you did all right. Old cabbage nose will think twice before picking on you again, I’m sure, and that’s what the whole thing is about, anyway.”

Pug said, “What do you mean?”

Tomas put down his plate and belched. With a satisfied look at the sound of it, he said, “With bullies it’s always the same: whether or not you can best them doesn’t matter. What is important is whether or not you’ll stand up to them Rulf may be big, but he’s a coward under all the bluster. He’ll turn his attention to the younger boys now and push them around a bit I don’t think he’ll want any part of you again. He doesn’t like the price.” Tomas gave Pug a broad and warm smile “That first punch you gave him was a beaut. Right square on the beak.”

Pug felt a little better. Tomas eyed Pug’s untouched dinner “You going to eat that?”

Pug looked at his plate. It was fully laden with hot lamb, greens, and potatoes. In spite of the rich smell, Pug felt no appetite. “No, you can have it.”

Tomas scooped up the platter and began shoving the food into his mouth Pug smiled. Tomas had never been known to stint on food.

Pug returned his gaze to the castle wall. “I felt like such a fool.”

Tomas stopped eating, with a handful of meat halfway to his mouth. He studied Pug for a moment. “You too?”

“Me too, what?”

Tomas laughed. “You’re embarrassed because the Princess saw Rulf give you a thrashing.”

Pug bridled. “It wasn’t a thrashing. I gave as well as I got!”

Tomas whooped. “There! I knew it. It’s the Princess.”

Pug sat back in resignation. “I suppose it is.”

Tomas said nothing, and Pug looked over at him. He was busy finishing off Pug’s dinner. Finally Pug said, “And I suppose you don’t like her?”

Tomas shrugged. Between bites he said, “Our Lady Carline is pretty enough, but I know my place. I have my eye on someone else, anyway.”

Pug sat up. “Who?” he asked, his curiosity piqued.

“I’m not saying,” Tomas said with a sly smile.

Pug laughed. “It’s Neala, right?”

Tomas’s jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

Pug tried to look mysterious. “We magicians have our ways.”

Tomas snorted. “Some magician. You’re no more a magician than I am a Knight-Captain of the King’s army. Tell me, how did you know?”

Pug laughed. “It’s no mystery. Every time you see her, you puff up in that tabard of yours and preen like a bantam rooster.”

Tomas looked troubled “You don’t think she’s on to me, do you?”

Pug smiled like a well-fed cat “She’s not on to you, I’m sure.” He paused. “If she’s blind, and all the other girls in the keep haven’t pointed it out to her a hundred times already.”

A woebegone look crossed Tomas’s face. “What must the girl think?”

Pug said, “Who knows what girls think? From everything I can tell, she probably likes it.”

Tomas looked thoughtfully at his plate “Do you ever think about taking a wife?”

Pug blinked like an owl caught in a bright light. “I . . . I never thought about it. I don’t know if magicians marry. I don’t think they do.”

“Nor soldiers, mostly. But Master Fannon says a soldier who thinks about his family is not thinking about his job.” Tomas was silent for a minute.

Pug said, “It doesn’t seem to hamper Sergeant Gardan or some of the other soldiers.”

Tomas snorted, as if those exceptions merely proved his point. “I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like to have a family.”

“You have a family, stupid. I’m the orphan here.”
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“I mean a wife, rock head.” Tomas gave Pug his best “you’re too stupid to live” look “And children someday, not a mother and father.”


Pug shrugged. The conversation was turning to provinces that disturbed him. He never thought about these things, being less anxious to grow up than Tomas. He said, “I expect we’ll get married and have children if it’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Tomas looked very seriously at Pug, so the younger boy didn’t make light of the subject. “I’ve imagined a small room somewhere in the castle, and .I can’t imagine who the girl would be.” He chewed his food. “There’s something wrong with it, I think.”

“Wrong?”

“As if there’s something else I’m not understanding . . . I don’t know.”

Pug said, “Well, if you don’t, how am I supposed to?”

Tomas suddenly changed the topic of conversation. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Pug was taken by surprise. “Of course we’re friends. You’re like a brother. Your parents have treated me like their own son. Why would you ask something like that?”

Tomas put down his plate, troubled. “I don’t know. It’s just that sometimes I think this will all somehow change. You’re going to be a magician, maybe travel over the world, seeing other magicians in faraway lands. I’m going to be a soldier, bound to follow my lord’s orders I’ll probably never see more than a little part of the Kingdom, and that only as an escort in the Duke’s personal guard, if I’m lucky.”

Pug became alarmed. He had never seen Tomas so serious about anything. The older boy was always the first to laugh and seemed never to have a worry. “I don’t care what you think, Tomas,” said Pug “Nothing will change. We will be friends no matter what.”

Tomas smiled at that. “I hope you’re right.” He sat back, and the two boys watched the stars over the sea and the lights from the town, framed like a picture by the castle gate.





Pug tried to wash his face the next morning, but found the task too arduous to complete. His left eye was swollen completely shut, his right only half-open Great bluish lumps decorated his visage, and his jaw popped when he moved it from side to side. Fantus lay on Pug’s pallet, red eyes gleaming as the morning sun poured in through the tower window.

The door to the boy’s room swung open, and Kulgan stepped through, his stout frame covered in a green robe. Pausing to regard the boy for a moment, he sat on the pallet and scratched the drake behind the eye ridges, bringing a pleased rumble from deep within Fantus’s throat. “I see you didn’t spend yesterday sitting about idly,” he said.

“I had a bit of trouble, sir.”

“Well, fighting is the province of boys as well as grown men, but I trust that the other boy looks at least as bad. It would be a shame to have had none of the pleasure of giving as well as receiving.”

“You’re making sport of me.”

“Only a little, Pug. The truth is that in my own youth I had my share of scraps, but the time for boyish fighting is past. You must put your energies to better use.”

“I know, Kulgan, but I have been so frustrated lately that when that clod Rulf said what he did about my being an orphan, all the anger came boiling up out of me.”

“Well, knowing your own part in this is a good sign that you’re becoming a man. Most boys would have tried to justify their actions, by shifting blame or by claiming some moral imperative to fight.”

Pug pulled over the stool and sat down, facing the magician Kulgan took out his pipe and started to fill it “Pug, I think in your case we may have been going about the matter of your education in the wrong way.” Searching for a taper to light in the small fire that burned in a night pot and finding none, Kulgan’s face clouded as he concentrated for a minute; then a small flame erupted from the index finger of his right hand. Applying it to the pipe, he soon had the room half-filled with great clouds of white smoke. The flame disappeared with a wave of his hand “A handy skill, if you like the pipe.”

“I would give anything to be able to do even that much,” Pug said in disgust.

“As I was saying, I think that we may have been going about this in the wrong way. Perhaps we should consider a different approach to your education.”

“What do you mean?”

“Pug, the first magicians long ago had no teachers in the arts of magic. They evolved the skills that we’ve learned today. Some of the old skills, such as smelling the changes in the weather, or the ability to find water with a stick, go back to our earliest beginnings I have been thinking that for a time I am going to leave you to your own devices. Study what you want in the books that I have. Keep up with your other work, learning the scribe’s arts from Tully, but I will not trouble you with any lessons for a while I will, of course, answer any question you have. But I think for the time being you need to sort yourself out.”
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Crestfallen, Pug asked, “Am I beyond help?”


Kulgan smiled reassuringly. “Not in the least. There have been cases of magicians having slow starts before. Your apprenticeship is for nine more years, remember. Don’t be put off by the failures of the last few months.

“By the way, would you care to learn to ride?”

Pug’s mood did a complete turnabout, and he cried, “Oh, yes! May I?”

“The Duke has decided that he would like a boy to ride with the Princess from time to time. His sons have many duties now that they are grown, and he feels you would be a good choice for when they are too busy to accompany her.”

Pug’s head was spinning. Not only was he to learn to ride, a skill limited to the nobility for the most part, but to be in the company of the Princess as well! “When do I start?”

“This very day. Morning chapel is almost done.” Being Firstday, those inclined went to devotions either in the Keep’s chapel, or in the small temple down in the town. The rest of the day was given to light work, only that needed to put food on the Duke’s table. The boys and girls might get an extra half day on Sixthday, but their elders rested only on Firstday “Go to Horsemaster Algon, he has been instructed by the Duke and will begin your lessons now.”

Without a further word, Pug leaped up and sped for the stables.
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Chapter Four: Assault


Pug rode in silence.

His horse ambled along the bluffs that overlooked the sea. The warm breeze earned the scent of flowers, and to the east the trees of the forest swayed slowly. The summer sun caused a heat shimmer over the ocean. Above the waves, gulls could be seen hanging in the air, then diving to the water as they sought food. Overhead, large white clouds drifted.

Pug remembered this morning, as he watched the back of the Princess on her fine white palfrey. He had been kept waiting in the stables for nearly two hours before the Princess appeared with her father. The Duke had lectured Pug at length on his responsibility toward the lady of the castle Pug had stood mute throughout as the Duke repeated all of Horsemaster Algon’s instructions of the night before. The master of the stables had been instructing him for a week and judged him ready to ride with the Princess—if barely.

Pug had followed her out of the gate, still marveling at his unexpected fortune. He was exuberant, in spite of having spent the night tossing and then skipping breakfast.

Now his mood was changing from boyish adulation to outright irritation. The Princess refused to respond to any of his polite attempts at conversation, except to order him about. Her tone was imperious and rude, and she insisted on calling him “boy,” ignoring several courteous reminders that his name was Pug. She acted little like the poised young woman of the court now, and resembled nothing as much as a spoiled, petulant child.

He had felt awkward at first as he sat atop the old grey dray horse that had been judged sufficient for one of his skills. The mare had a calm nature and showed no inclination to move faster than absolutely necessary.

Pug wore his bright red tunic, the one that Kulgan had given to him, but still looked poorly attired next to the Princess. She was dressed in a simple but exquisite yellow riding dress trimmed in black, and a matching hat. Even sitting sidesaddle, Carline looked like one born to ride, while Pug felt as if he should be walking behind his mare with a plow between. Pug’s horse had an irritating tendency to want to stop every dozen feet to crop grass or nibble at shrubbery, ignoring Pug’s frantic kicks to the side, while the Princess’s excellently trained horse responded instantly to the slightest touch of her crop. She rode along in silence, ignoring the grunts of exertion from the boy behind, who attempted by force of will as much as horsemanship to keep his recalcitrant mount moving.

Pug felt the first stirring of hunger, his dreams of romance surrendering to his normal, fifteen-year-old’s appetite. As they rode, his thoughts turned more and more to the basket of lunch that hung from his saddle horn. After what seemed like an eternity to Pug, the Princess turned to him. “Boy, what is your craft?”

Startled by the question after the long silence, Pug stammered his reply. “I . . . I’m apprenticed to Master Kulgan.”

She fixed him with a gaze that would have suited her had an insect been found crawling across a dinner plate. “Oh You’re that boy.” Whatever brief spark of interest there had been went out, and she turned away from him. They rode awhile longer, then the Princess said, “Boy, we stop here.”

Pug pulled up his mare, and before he could reach the Princess’s side, she was nimbly down, not waiting for his hand as Master Algon had instructed him she would. She handed him the reins of her horse and walked to the edge of -the cliffs.

She stared out to sea for a minute, then, without looking at Pug, said, “Do you think I am beautiful?”
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Pug stood in silence, not knowing what to say. She turned and looked at him. “Well?”


Pug said, “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Very beautiful?”

“Yes, Your Highness. Very beautiful.”

The Princess seemed to consider this for a moment, then returned her attention to the vista below. “It is important for me to be beautiful, boy. Lady Mama says that I must be the most beautiful lady in the Kingdom, for I must find a powerful husband someday, and only the most beautiful ladies in the Kingdom can choose. The homely ones must take whoever will ask for them. She says that I will have many suitors, for Father is very important.” She turned, and for a brief moment Pug thought he saw a look of apprehension pass over her lovely features. “Have you many friends, boy?”

Pug shrugged. “Some, Your Highness.”

She studied him for a moment, then said, “That must be nice,” absently brushing aside a wisp of hair that had come loose from under her broad-brimmed riding hat. Something in her seemed so wounded and alone that moment, that Pug found his heart in his throat again. Obviously his expression revealed something to the Princess, for suddenly her eyes narrowed and her mood shifted from thoughtful to regal In her most commanding voice she announced, “We will have lunch now.” Pug quickly staked the horses and unslung the basket. He placed it on the ground and opened it.

Carline stepped over and said, “I will prepare the meal, boy. I’ll not have clumsy hands overturning dishes and spilling wine.” Pug took a step back as she knelt and began unpacking the lunch. Rich odors of cheese and bread assailed Pug’s nostrils, and his mouth watered.

The Princess looked up at him “Walk the horses over the hill to the stream and water them. You may eat as we ride back. I’ll call you when I have eaten.” Suppressing a groan, Pug took the horses’ reins and started walking. He kicked at some loose stones, emotions conflicting within him as he led the horses along. He knew he wasn’t supposed to leave the girl, but he couldn’t very well disobey her either. There was no one else in sight, and trouble was unlikely this far from the forest. Additionally he was glad to be away from Carline for a little while.

He reached the stream and unsaddled the mounts, he brushed away the damp saddle and girth marks, then left their reins upon the ground. The palfrey was trained to ground-tie, and the draft horse showed no inclination to wander far. They cropped grass while Pug found a comfortable spot to sit. He considered the situation and found himself perplexed. Carline was still the loveliest girl he had ever seen, but her manner was quickly taking the sheen off his fascination. For the moment his stomach was of larger concern than the girl of his dreams. He thought perhaps there was more to this love business than he had imagined.

He amused himself for a while by speculation on that. When he grew bored, he went to look for stones in the water. He hadn’t had much opportunity to practice with his sling of late, and now was a good time. He found several smooth stones and took out his sling. He practiced by picking out targets among the small trees some distance off, startling the birds in residence there. He hit several clusters of bitter berries, missing only one target out of six. Satisfied his aim was still as good as always, he tucked his sling in his belt. He found several more stones that looked especially promising and put them in his pouch. He judged the girl must be nearly through, and he started toward the horses to saddle them so that when she called, he’d be ready.

As he reached the Princess’s horse, a scream sounded from the other side of the hill. He dropped the Princess’s saddle and raced to the crest and, when he cleared the ridge, stopped in shock. The hair on his neck and arms stood on end.
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The Princess was running, and close in pursuit were a pair of trolls Trolls usually didn’t venture this far from the forest, and Pug was unprepared for the sight of them. They were humanlike, but short and broad, with long, thick arms that hung nearly to the ground. They ran on all fours as often as not, looking like some comic parody of an ape, their bodies covered by thick grey hide and their lips drawn back, revealing long fangs. The ugly creatures rarely troubled a group of humans, but they would attack a lone traveler from time to time.

Pug hesitated for a moment, pulling his sling from his belt and loading a stone, then he charged down the hill, whirling his sling above his head. The creatures had nearly overtaken the Princess when he let fly with a stone It caught the foremost troll in the side of the head, knocking it for a full somersault. The second stumbled into it, and both went down in a tangle Pug stopped as they regained their feet, their attention diverted from Carline to their attacker. They roared at Pug, then charged. Pug ran back up the hill. He knew that if he could reach the horses, he could outrun them, circle around for the girl, and be safely away. He looked over his shoulder and saw them coming—huge canine teeth bared, long foreclaws tearing up the ground. Downwind, he could smell their rank, rotting-meat odor.

He cleared the top of the hill, his breath coming in ragged gasps. His heart skipped as he saw that the horses had wandered across the stream and were twenty yards farther away than before. Plunging down the hill, he hoped the difference would not prove fatal.

He could hear the trolls behind him as he entered the stream at a full run. The water was shallow here, but still it slowed him down.

Splashing through the stream, he caught his foot on a stone and fell. He threw his arms forward and broke his fall with his hands, keeping his head above water. Shock ran up through his arms as he tried to regain his feet. He stumbled again and turned as the trolls approached the water’s edge. They howled at the sight of their tormentor stumbling in the water and paused for a moment. Pug felt blind terror as he struggled with numb fingers to put a stone in his sling. He fumbled and dropped the sling, and the stream carried it away Pug felt a scream building in his throat.

As the trolls entered the water, a flash of light exploded behind Pug’s eyes. A searing pain ripped across his forehead as letters of grey seemed to appear in his mind. They were familiar to Pug, from a scroll that Kulgan had shown him several times. Without thinking, he mouthed the incantation, each word vanishing from his mind’s eye as he spoke it.

When he reached the last word, the pain stopped, and a loud roar sounded from before him. He opened his eyes and saw the two trolls writhing in the water, their eyes wide with agony as they thrashed about helplessly, screaming and groaning.

Dragging himself out of the water, Pug watched while the creatures struggled. They were making choking and sputtering noises now as they flopped about. After a moment one shook and stopped moving, lying facedown in the water. The second took a few minutes longer to die, but like its companion, it also drowned, unable to keep its head above the shallow water.

Feeling light-headed and weak, Pug recrossed the stream. His mind was numb, and everything seemed hazy and disjointed. He stopped after he had taken a few steps, remembering the horses. He looked about and could see nothing of the animals. They must have run off when they caught wind of the trolls and would be on the way to safe pasture.

Pug resumed his walk to where the Princess had been. He topped the hillock and looked around. She was nowhere in sight, so he headed for the overturned basket of food. He was having trouble thinking, and he was ravenous. He knew he should be doing or thinking about something, but all he could sort out of the kaleidoscope of his thoughts was food.
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Dropping to his knees, he picked up a wedge of cheese and stuffed it in his mouth. A half-spilled bottle of wine lay nearby, and he washed the cheese down with it. The rich cheese and piquant white wine revived him, and he felt his mind clearing. He ripped a large piece of bread from a loaf and chewed on it while trying to put his thoughts in order. As Pug recalled events, one thing stood out. Somehow he had managed to cast a magic spell. What’s more, he had done so without the aid of a book, scroll, or device. He was not sure, but that seemed somehow strange. His thoughts turned hazy again. More than anything he wanted to lie down nd sleep, but as he chewed his food, a thought pushed through the crazy quilt of his impressions. The Princess!

He jumped to his feet, and his head swam. Steadying himself, he grabbed up some bread and the wine and set off in the direction he had last seen her running. He pushed himself along, his feet scuffing as he tried to walk. After a few minutes he found his thinking improving and the exhaustion lifting. He started to call the Princess’s name, then heard muted sobbing coming from a clump of bushes. Pushing his way through, he found Carline huddled behind the shrubs, her balled fists pulled up into her stomach. Her eyes were wide with terror, and her gown was soiled and torn. Startled when Pug stepped into view, she jumped to her feet and flew into his arms, burying her head in his chest. Great racking sobs shook her body as she clutched the fabric of his shirt. Standing with his arms still outstretched, wine and bread occupying his hands, Pug was totally confused over what to do. He awkwardly placed his arm around the terrified girl and said, “It’s all right. They’re gone. You’re safe.”

She hung on to him for a moment, then, when her tears subsided, she stepped away. With a sniffle she said, “I thought they had killed you and were coming back for me.”

Pug found this situation more perplexing than any he had ever known Just when he had come through the most harrowing experience of his young life, he was faced with one that sent his mind reeling with a different sort of confusion. Without thinking, he held the Princess in his arms, and now he was suddenly aware of the contact, and her soft, warm appeal. A protective, masculine feeling welled up inside him, and he started to step toward her.

As if sensing his mood change, Carline retreated. For all her courtly ways and education, she was still a girl of fifteen and was disturbed by the rush of emotions she had experienced when he had held her. She took refuge in the one thing she knew well, her role as Princess of the castle. Trying to sound commanding, she said, “I am glad to see you are unhurt, boy.” Pug winced visibly at that. She struggled to regain her aristocratic bearing, but her red nose and tearstained face undermined her attempt. “Find my horse, and we shall return to the keep.”

Pug felt as if his nerves were raw. Keeping tight control over his voice, he said, “I’m sorry, Your Highness, but the horses have run off. I’m afraid we’ll have to walk.”

Carline felt abused and mistreated. It was not Pug’s fault any of the afternoon’s events had taken place, but her often-indulged temper seized on the handiest available object. “Walk! I can’t walk all the way to the keep,” she snapped, looking at Pug as if he were supposed to do something about this matter at once and without question.

Pug felt all the anger, confusion, hurt, and frustration of the day surge up within him. “Then you can bloody well sit here until they notice you’re missing and send someone to fetch you.” He was now shouting. “I figure that will be about two hours after sunset.”

Carline stepped back, her face ashen, looking as if she’d been slapped. Her lower Up trembled, and she seemed on the verge of tears again. “I will not be spoken to in that manner, boy!”

Pug’s eyes grew large, and he stepped toward her, gesturing with the wine bottle. “I nearly got myself killed trying to keep you alive,” he shouted. “Do I hear one word of thanks? No! All I hear is a whining complaint that you can’t walk back to the castle. We of the keep may be lowborn, but at least we have enough manners to thank someone when it’s deserved.” As he spoke, he could feel the anger flooding out of him. “You can stay here if you like, but I’m going . . . ” He suddenly realized that he was standing with the bottle raised high overhead, in a ridiculous pose. The Princess’s eyes were on the loaf of bread, and he realized that he was holding it at his belt, thumb hooked in a loop, which only added to the awkward appearance. He sputtered for a moment, then felt his anger evaporate and lowered the bottle. The Princess looked at him, her large eyes peeking over her fists, which she held before her face Pug started to say something, thinking she was afraid of him, when he saw she was laughing. It was a musical sound, warm and unmocking. “I’m sorry, Pug,” she said, “but you look so silly standing there like that. You look like one of those awful statues they erect in Krondor, with bottle held high instead of a sword.”

Pug shook his head. “I’m the one who’s sorry, Your Highness I had no right to yell at you that way Please forgive me.”
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Her expression abruptly changed to one of concern. “No, Pug. You had every right to say what you did I really do owe you my life, and I’ve acted horribly.” She stepped closer to him and placed a hand on his arm. “Thank you.”


Pug was overcome by the sight of her face. Any resolutions to rid himself of his boyhood fantasies about her were now carried away on the sea breeze. The marvelous fact of his using magic was replaced by more urgent and basic considerations. He started to reach for her; then the reality of her station intruded, and he presented the bottle to her. “Wine?”

She laughed, sensing his sudden shift in thought. They were both wrung out and a little giddy from the ordeal, but she still held on to her wits and understood the effect she was having on him. With a nod she took the bottle and sipped. Recovering a shred of poise, Pug said, “We’d better hurry. We might make the keep by nightfall.”

She nodded, keeping her eyes upon him, and smiled. Pug was feeling uncomfortable under her gaze and turned toward the way to the keep “Well, then. We’d best be off.”

She fell into step beside him. After a moment she asked, “May I have some bread too, Pug?”





Pug had run the distance between the bluffs and the keep many times before, but the Princess was unused to walking such distances, and her soft riding boots were ill suited to such an undertaking. When they came into view of the castle, she had one arm draped over Pug’s shoulder and was limping badly.

A shout went up from the gate tower, and guards came running toward them. After them came the Lady Marna, the girl’s governess, her red dress pulled up before her as she sprinted toward the Princess. Although twice the size of court ladies—and a few of the guards as well—she outdistanced them all. She was coming on like a she-bear whose cub was being attacked. Her great bosom heaved with the effort as she reached the slight girl and grasped her in a hug that threatened to engulf Carline completely. Soon the ladies of the court were gathered around the Princess, overwhelming her with questions. Before the din subsided, Lady Marna turned and fell on Pug like the sow bear she resembled. “How dare you allow the Princess to come to such a state! Limping in, dress all torn and dirty. I’ll see you whipped from one end of the keep to the other. Before I have done with you, you’ll wish you’d never seen the light of day.” Backing away before the onslaught, Pug was overwhelmed by confusion, unable to get a word in. Sensing that somehow Pug was responsible for the Princess’s condition, one of the guards stepped up and seized him by the arm.

“Leave him alone!”

Silence descended as Carline forced her way between the governess and Pug. Small fists struck at the guard as he let go of Pug and fell back with a look of astonishment on his face. “He saved my life! He almost got killed saving me.” Tears were running down her face. “He’s done nothing wrong. And I won’t have any of you bullying him.” The crowd closed in around them, regarding Pug with newfound respect. Hushed voices sounded from all sides, and one of the guards ran to carry the news to the castle. The Princess placed her arm around Pug’s shoulder once more and started toward the gate. The crowd parted, and the two weary travelers could see the torches and lanterns being lit on the wall.

By the time they had reached the courtyard gate, the Princess had consented to let two of her ladies help her, much to Pug’s relief. He could not have believed that such a slight girl could become such a burden. The Duke hurried out to her, having been told of Carline’s return. He embraced his daughter, then started to speak with her. Pug lost sight of them as curious, questioning onlookers surrounded him. He tried to push his way toward the magician’s tower, but the press of people held him back.

“Is there no work to be done?” a voice roared.

Heads turned to see Swordmaster Fannon, followed closely by Tomas. All the keep folk quickly retired, leaving Pug standing before Fannon, Tomas, and those of the Duke’s court with rank enough to ignore Fannon’s remark. Pug could see the Princess talking to her father, Lyam, Arutha, and Squire Roland. Fannon said, “What happened, boy?”
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Pug tried to speak, but stopped when he saw the Duke and his sons approaching. Kulgan came hurrying behind the Duke, having been alerted by the general commotion in the courtyard. All bowed to the Duke when he approached, and Pug saw Carline break free of Roland’s solicitations and follow her father, to stand at Pug’s side. Lady Marna threw a besieged look heavenward, and Roland followed the girl, an open expression of surprise upon his face. When the Princess took Pug’s hand in her own, Roland’s expression changed to one of black-humored jealousy.

The Duke said, “My daughter has said some very remarkable things about you, boy. I would like to hear your account.” Pug felt suddenly self-conscious and gently disengaged his hand from Carline’s. He recounted the events of the day, with Carline enthusiastically adding embellishments. Between the two of them, the Duke gained a nearly accurate account of things. When Pug finished, Lord Borric asked, “How is it the trolls drowned in the stream, Pug?”

Pug looked uncomfortable. “I cast a spell upon them, and they were unable to reach the shore,” he said softly. He was still confused by this accomplishment and had not given much thought to it, as the Princess had pushed all other thoughts aside. He could see surprise registered on Kulgan’s face. Pug began to say something, but was interrupted by the Duke’s next remark.

“Pug, I can’t begin to repay the service you’ve done my family. But I shall find a suitable reward for your courage.” In a burst of enthusiasm Carline threw her arms around Pug’s neck, hugging him fiercely. Pug stood in embarrassment, looking frantically about, as if trying to communicate that this familiarity was none of his doing.

Lady Mama looked ready to faint, and the Duke pointedly coughed, motioning with his head for his daughter to retire. As she left with the Lady Marna, Kulgan and Fannon simply let their amusement show, as did Lyam and Arutha. Roland shot Pug an angry, envious look, then turned and headed off toward his own quarters. Lord Borric said to Kulgan, “Take this boy to his room. He looks exhausted. I’ll order food sent to him. Have him come to the great hall after tomorrow’s morning meal.” He turned to Pug. “Again, I thank you.” The Duke motioned for his sons to follow and walked away. Fannon gripped Tomas by the elbow, for the sandy-haired boy had started to speak with his friend. The old Swordmaster motioned with his head that the boy should come with him, leaving Pug in peace. Tomas nodded, though he was burning with a thousand questions.

When they had all left, Kulgan placed his arm around the boy’s shoulder. “Come, Pug. You’re tired, and there is much to speak of.”





Pug lay back on his pallet, the remains of his meal lying on a platter next to him. He couldn’t remember ever having been this tired before Kulgan paced back and forth across the room. “It’s absolutely incredible.” He waved a hand in the air, his red robe surging over his heavy frame like water flowing over a boulder. “You close your eyes, and the image of a scroll you saw weeks before appears. You incant the spell, as if you were holding the scroll in your hand before you, and the trolls fall. Absolutely incredible.” Sitting down on the stool near the window, he continued. “Pug, nothing like this has ever been done before. Do you know what you’ve done?”

Pug started from the edge of a warm, soft sleep and looked at the magician. “Only what I said I did, Kulgan.”

“Yes, but do you have any idea what it means?”

“No.”

“Neither do I.” The magician seemed to collapse inside as his excitement left, replaced by complete uncertainty. “I don’t have the slightest idea what it all means. Magicians don’t toss spells off the top of their heads. Clerics can, but they have a different focus and different magic. Do you remember what I taught you about focuses, Pug?”

Pug winced, not being in the mood to recite a lesson, but forced himself to sit up. “Anyone who employs magic must have a focus for the power he uses. Priests have power to focus their magic through prayer; their incantations are a form of prayer Magicians use their bodies, or devices, or books and scrolls.”

“Correct,” said Kulgan, “but you have just violated that truism.” He took out his long pipe and absently stuffed tabac into the bowl. “The spell you incanted cannot use the caster’s body as a focus It has been developed to inflict great pain upon another. It can be a very terrible weapon. But it can be cast only by reading from a scroll that it is written upon, at the time it’s cast. Why is this?”

Pug forced leaden eyelids open. “The scroll itself is magic.”
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“True. Some magic is intrinsic to the magician, such as taking on the shape of an animal or smelling weather. But casting spells outside the body, upon something else, needs an external focus Trying to incant the spell you used from memory should have produced terrible pain in you, not the trolls, if it would have worked at all! That is why magicians developed scrolls, books, and other devices, to focus that sort of magic in a way that will not harm the caster. And until today, I would have sworn that no one alive could have made that spell work without the scroll in hand.”


Leaning against the windowsill, Kulgan puffed on his pipe for a moment, gazing out into space. “It’s as if you have discovered a completely new form of magic,” he said softly. Hearing no response, Kulgan looked down at the boy, who was deeply asleep. Shaking his head in wonder, the magician pulled a cover over the exhausted boy. He put out the lantern that hung on the wall and let himself out. As he walked up the stairs to his own room, he shook his head. “Absolutely incredible.”





Pug waited as the Duke held court in the great hall. Everyone in the keep and town who could contrive a way to gain entrance to the audience was there. Richly dressed Craftmasters, merchants, and minor nobles were in attendance. They stood regarding the boy with expressions ranging from wonder to disbelief. The rumor of his deed had spread through the town and had grown in the telling.

Pug wore new clothing, which had been in his room when he awoke In his newfound splendor he felt self-conscious and awkward. The tunic was a bright yellow affair of the costliest silk, and the hose were a soft pastel blue. Pug tried to wiggle his toes in the new boots, the first he had ever worn. Walking in them seemed strange and uncomfortable. At his side a jeweled dagger hung from a black leather belt with a golden buckle in the form of a gull in flight. Pug suspected the clothing had once belonged to one of the Duke’s sons, put aside when outgrown, but still looking new and beautiful.

The Duke was finishing the morning’s business: a request from one of the shipwrights for guards to accompany a lumber expedition to the great forest. Borric was dressed, as usual in black, but his sons and daughter wore their finest court regalia. Lyam was listening closely to the business before his father Roland stood behind him, as was the custom. Arutha was in rare good humor, laughing behind an upraised hand at some quip Father Tully had just made. Carline sat quietly, her face set in a warm smile, looking directly at Pug, which was adding to his discomfort—and Roland’s irritation.

The Duke gave his permission for a company of guards to accompany the craftsmen into the forest. The Craftmaster gave thanks and bowed, then returned to the crowd, leaving Pug alone before the Duke. The boy stepped forward as Kulgan had told him to do and bowed properly, albeit a little stiffly, before the Lord of Crydee. Borric smiled at the boy and motioned to Father Tully. The priest removed a document from the sleeve of his voluminous robe and handed it to a herald. The herald stepped forward and unrolled the scroll.

In a loud voice he read: “To all within our demesne: Whereas the youth Pug, of the castle of Crydee, has shown exemplary courage in the act of risking life and limb in defense of the royal person of the Princess Carline, and; Whereas the youth, Pug of Crydee, is considered to hold us forever in his debt; It is my wish that he be known to all in the realm as our beloved and loyal servant, and it is furthermore wished that he be given a place in the court of Crydee, with the rank of Squire, with all rights and privileges pertaining thereunto. Furthermore let it be known that the title for the estate of Forest Deep is conferred upon him and his progeny as long as they shall live, to have and to hold, with servants and properties thereupon. Title to this estate shall be held by the crown until the day of his majority. Set this day by my hand and seal. Borric conDoin, third Duke of Crydee; Prince of the Kingdom; Lord of Crydee, Carse, and Tulan; Warden of the West; Knight-General of the King’s Armies; heir presumptive to the throne of Rillanon.”

Pug felt his knees go slack but caught himself before he fell. The room erupted in cheers. People were pressing around him, offering their congratulations and slapping him on the back. He was a Squire and a landholder with franklins, a house, and stock. He was rich. Or at least he would be in three years when he reached his majority. While he was considered a man of the Kingdom at fourteen, grants of land and titles couldn’t be conferred until he reached eighteen. The crowd backed away as the Duke approached, his family and Roland behind. Both Princes smiled at Pug, and the Princess seemed positively aglow. Roland gave Pug a rueful smile, as if in disbelief.

“I’m honored, Your Grace,” Pug stammered. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Then say nothing, Pug. It makes you seem wise when everyone is babbling. Come, and we’ll have a talk.” The Duke motioned for a chair to be placed near his own, as he put an arm around the boy’s shoulders and walked him through the crowd. Sitting down, he said, “You may all leave us now. I would speak with the Squire.” The crowd pressing around muttered in disappointment, but began to drift out of the hall. “Except you two,” the Duke added, pointing toward Kulgan and Tully.
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Carline stood by her father’s chair, a hesitant Roland at her side. “You as well, my child,” said the Duke.

Carline began to protest, but was cut off by her father’s stern admonition: “You may pester him later, Carline.” The two Princes stood at the door, obviously amused at her outrage, Roland tried to offer his arm to the Princess, but she pulled away and swept by her grinning brothers. Lyam clapped Roland on the shoulder as the embarrassed Squire joined them. Roland glared at Pug, who felt the anger like a blow.

When the doors clanged closed and the hall was empty, the Duke said, “Pay no heed to Roland, Pug My daughter has him firmly under her spell, he counts himself in love with her and wishes someday to petition for her hand.” With a lingering look at the closed door, he added almost absently, “But he’ll have to show me he’s more than the rakehell he’s growing into now if he ever hopes for my consent.”

The Duke dismissed the topic with a wave of his hand. “Now, to other matters. Pug, I have an additional gift for you, but first I want to explain something to you.

“My family is among the oldest in the Kingdom. I myself am descended from a King, for my grandfather, the first Duke of Crydee, was third son to the King. Being of royal blood, we are much concerned with matters of duty and honor. You are now both a member of my court and apprentice of Kulgan. In matters of duty you are responsible to him. In matters of honor you are responsible to me. This room is hung with the trophies and banners of our triumphs. Whether we have been resisting the Dark Brotherhood in their ceaseless effort to destroy us, or fighting off pirates, we have ever fought bravely. Ours is a proud heritage that has never known the stain of dishonour. No member of our court has ever brought shame to this hall, and I will expect the same of you.”

Pug nodded, tales of glory and honor remembered from his youth spinning in his mind. The Duke smiled. “Now to the business of your other gift. Father Tully has a document that I asked him to draw up last night. I am going to ask him to keep it, until such time as he deems fit to give it to you. I will say no more on the subject, except that when he gives it to you, I hope you will remember this day and consider long what it says.”

“I will, Your Grace.” Pug was sure the Duke was saying something very important, but with all the events of the last half hour, it did not register very well.

“I will expect you for supper, Pug. As a member of the court, you will not be eating meals in the kitchen anymore.” The Duke smiled at him. “We’ll make a young gentleman out of you, boy. And someday when you travel to the King’s city of Rillanon, no one will fault the manners of those who come from the court of Crydee.”
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Chapter five: Shipwreck


The breeze was cool.

The last days of summer had passed, and soon the rams of autumn would come. A few weeks later the first snows of winter would follow. Pug sat in his room, studying a book of ancient exercises designed to ready the mind for spell casting. He had fallen back into his old routine once the excitement of his elevation to the Duke’s court had worn off.

His marvelous feat with the trolls continued to be the object of speculation by Kulgan and Father Tully. Pug found he still couldn’t do many of the things expected of an apprentice, but other feats were beginning to come to him. Certain scrolls were easier to use now, and once, in secret, he had tried to duplicate his feat.

He had memorized a spell from a book, one designed to levitate objects. He had felt the familiar blocks in his mind when he tried to incant it from memory. He had failed to move the object, a candleholder, but it trembled for a few seconds and he felt a brief sensation, as if he had touched the holder with a part of his mind. Satisfied that some sort of progress was being made, he lost much of his former gloom and renewed his studies with vigor.

Kulgan still let him find his own pace. They had had many long discussions on the nature of magic, but mostly Pug worked in solitude.

Shouting came from the courtyard below. Pug walked to his window. Seeing a familiar figure, he leaned out and cried, “Ho! Tomas! What is afoot?” Tomas looked up.

“Ho! Pug! A ship has foundered in the night. The wreck has beached beneath Sailor’s Grief. Come and see.”

“I’ll be right down.”

Pug ran to the door, pulling on a cloak, for while the day was clear, it would be cold near the water. Racing down the stairs, he cut through the kitchen, nearly knocking over Alfan, the pastry cook. As he bolted out the door, he heard the stout baker yell, “Squire or not, I’ll box your ears if you don’t watch where you’re going, boy!” The kitchen staff had not changed their attitude toward the boy, whom they considered one of their own, beyond feeling proud of his achievement.
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Pug shouted back with laughter in his voice, “My apologies, Mastercook!”


Alfan gave him a good-natured wave as Pug vanished through the outside door and around the corner to where Tomas was waiting. Tomas turned toward the gate as soon as he saw his friend.

Pug grabbed his arm. “Wait. Has anyone from the court been told?”

“I don’t know. Word just came from the fishing village a moment ago,” Tomas said impatiently. “Come on, or the villagers will pick the wreck clean.” It was commonly held that salvage could be legally carried away before any of the Duke’s court arrived. As a result, the villagers and townsfolk were less than timely in informing the authorities of such occurrences. There was also a risk of bloodshed, should the beached ship still be manned by sailors determined to keep their master’s cargo intact so that they would get their fair sailing bonus. Violent confrontation, and even death, had been the result of such dispute. Only the presence of men-at-arms could guarantee no commoner would come to harm from lingering mariners.

“Oh, no,” said Pug. “If there is any trouble down there and the Duke finds out I didn’t tell someone else, I’ll be in for it.”

“Look, Pug. Do you think with all these people rushing about, the Duke will be long in hearing of it?” Tomas ran his hand through his hair. “Someone is probably in the great hall right now, telling him the news. Master Fannon is away on patrol, and Kulgan won’t be back awhile yet.” Kulgan was due back later that day from his cottage in the forest, where he and Meecham had spent the last week. “It may be our only chance to see a shipwreck.” A look of sudden inspiration came over his face. “Pug, I have it! You’re a member of the court now. Come along, and when we get there, you declare for the Duke.” A calculating expression crossed his face. “And if we find a rich bauble or two, who’s to know?”

“I would know.” Pug thought a moment. “I can’t properly declare for the Duke, then take something for myself . . .” He fixed Tomas with a disapproving expression. “. . . or let one of his men-at-arms take something either.” As Tomas’s face showed his embarrassment, Pug said, “But we can still see the wreck! Come one!”

Pug was suddenly taken with the idea of using his new office, and if he could get there before too much was earned away or someone was hurt, the Duke would be pleased with him. “All right,” he said, “I’ll saddle a horse and we can ride down there before everything is stolen.” Pug turned and ran for the stable Tomas caught up with him as he opened the large wooden doors. “But, Pug, I have never been on a horse in my life. I don’t know how.”

“It’s simple,” Pug said, taking a bridle and saddle from the tack room. He spied the large grey he had ridden the day he and the Princess had their adventure. “I’ll ride and you sit behind me. Just keep your arms around my waist, and you won’t fall off.”

Tomas looked doubtful. “I’m to depend on you?” He shook his head “After all, who has looked after you all these years?”

Pug threw him a wicked smile. “Your mother. Now fetch a sword from the armory in case there’s trouble. You may get to play soldier yet.”

Tomas looked pleased at the prospect and ran out the door. A few minutes later the large grey with the two boys mounted on her back lumbered out the main gate, heading down the road toward Sailor’s Grief.





The surf was pounding as the boys came in sight of the wreckage. Only a few villagers were approaching the site, and they scattered as soon as a horse and rider appeared, for it could only be a noble from the court to declare the wreck’s salvage for the Duke. By the time Pug reined in, no one was about.

Pug said, “Come on. We’ve got a few minutes to look around before anyone else gets here.”

Dismounting, the boys left the mare to graze in a little stand of grass only fifty yards from the rocks Running through the sand, the boys laughed, with Tomas raising the sword aloft, trying to sound fierce as he yelled old war cries learned from the sagas. Not that he had any delusions about his ability to use it, but it might make someone think twice about attacking them—at least long enough for castle guards to arrive.

As they neared the wreck, Tomas whistled a low note. “This ship didn’t just run on the rocks, Pug. It looks like it was driven by a storm.”

Pug said, “There certainly isn’t much left, is there?”

Tomas scratched behind his right ear. “No, just a section of the bow. I don’t understand. There wasn’t any storm last night, just a strong wind. How could the ship be broken up so badly?”
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“I don’t know.” Suddenly something registered on Pug. “Look at the bow. See how it’s painted.”


The bow rested on the rocks, held there until the tide rose. From the deck line down, the hull was painted a bright green, and it shone with reflected sunlight, as if it had been glazed over Instead of a figurehead, intricate designs were painted in bright yellow, down to the waterline, which was a dull black. A large blue-and-white eye had been painted several feet behind the prow, and all the above-deck railing that they could see was painted white.

Pug grabbed Tomas’s arm. “Look!” He pointed to the water behind the prow, and Tomas could see a shattered white mast extending a few feet above the surging foam.

Tomas took a step closer. “It’s no Kingdom ship, for certain.” He turned to Pug. “Maybe they were from Queg?”

“No,” answered Pug. “You’ve seen as many Quegan ships as I have. This is nothing from Queg or the Free Cities. I don’t think a ship like this has ever passed these waters before. Let’s look around.”

Tomas seemed suddenly timid. “Careful, Pug. There is something strange here, and I have an ill feeling. Someone may still be about.”

Both boys looked around for a minute, before Pug concluded, “I think not, whatever snapped that mast and drove the ship ashore with enough force to wreck it this badly must have killed any who tried to ride her in.”

Venturing closer, the boys found small articles lying about, tossed among the rocks by the waves. They saw broken crockery and boards, pieces of torn red sailcloth, and lengths of rope Pug stopped and picked up a strange-looking dagger fashioned from some unfamiliar material. It was a dull grey and was lighter than steel, but still quite sharp.

Tomas tried to pull himself to the railing, but couldn’t find a proper footing on the slippery rocks. Pug moved along the hull until he found himself in danger of having his boots washed by the tide; they could board the hulk if they waded into the sea, but Pug was unwilling to ruin his good clothing. He walked back to where Tomas stood studying the wreck.

Tomas pointed behind Pug. “If we climb up to that ledge, we could lower ourselves down to the deck.”

Pug saw the ledge, a jutting single piece of stone that started twenty feet back on their left, extending upward and out to overhang the bow. It looked like an easy climb, and Pug agreed. They pulled themselves up and inched along the ledge, backs flat to the base of the bluffs. The path was narrow, but by stepping carefully, they ran little risk of falling. They reached a point above the hull; Tomas pointed. “Look. Bodies!”

Lying on the deck were two men, both dressed in bright blue armor of unfamiliar design. One had his head crushed by a fallen spar, but the other, lying facedown, didn’t show any injuries, beyond his stillness Strapped across that man’s back was an alien-looking broadsword, with strange serrated edges. His head was covered by an equally alien-looking blue helmet, potlike, with an outward flaring edge on the sides and back. Tomas shouted over the sound of the surf, “I’m going to let myself down. After I get on the deck, hand me the sword, and then lower yourself so I can grab you.”

Tomas handed Pug the sword, then turned around slowly. He knelt with his face against the cliff wall. Sliding backward, he let himself down until he was almost hanging free. With a shove he dropped the remaining four feet, landing safely Pug reversed the sword and handed it down to Tomas, then followed his friend’s lead, and in a moment they both stood on the deck. The foredeck slanted alarmingly down toward the water, and they could feel the ship move beneath their feet.

“The tide’s rising,” Tomas shouted “It’ll lift what’s left of the ship and smash it on the rocks. Everything will be lost.”

“Look around,” Pug shouted back “Anything that looks worth saving we can try to throw up on the ledge.”
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Tomas nodded, and the boys started to search the deck. Pug put as much space as he could between the bodies and himself when he passed them. All across the deck, debris created a confused spectacle for the eye. Trying to discern what might prove valuable and what might not was difficult. At the rear of the deck was a shattered rail, on either side of a ladder to what was left of the main deck below: about six feet of planking remaining above the water. Pug was sure that only a few feet more could be underwater, or else the ship would be higher on the rocks. The rear of the ship must have already been carried away on the tide.

Pug lay down on the deck and hung his head over the edge. He saw a door to the right of the ladder. Yelling for Tomas to join him, he made his way carefully down the ladder. The lower deck was sagging, the undersupports having been caved in. He grasped the handrail of the ladder for support. A moment later Tomas stood beside him, stepped around Pug, and moved to the door. It hung half-open, and he squeezed through with Pug a step behind. The cabin was dark, for there was only a single port on the bulkhead next to the door. In the gloom they could see many rich-looking pieces of fabric and the shattered remnants of a table. What looked like a cot or low bed lay upside down in a corner. Several small chests could be seen, with their contents spread around the room as if tossed about by some giant hand.

Tomas tried to search through the mess, but nothing was recognizable as important or valuable. He found one small bowl of unusual design glazed with bright colored figures on the sides, and he put it inside his tunic.

Pug stood quietly, for something in the cabin commanded his attention. A strange, urgent feeling had overtaken him as soon as he had stepped in.

The wreck lurched, throwing Tomas off balance. He caught himself on a chest, dropping the sword. “The ship’s lifting. We’d better go.”

Pug didn’t answer, his attention focused on the strange sensations Tomas grabbed his arm. “Come on. The ship’ll break up in a minute.”

Pug shook his hand off. “A moment. There is something.” His voice trailed off. Abruptly he crossed the disordered room and pulled open a drawer in a latched chest. It was empty. He yanked open another, then a third. In it was the object of his search. He drew out a rolled parchment with a black ribbon and black seal on it and thrust it into his shirt.

“Come on,” he shouted as he passed Tomas. They raced up the ladder and scrambled over the deck. The tide had raised the ship high enough for them to pull themselves up to the ledge with ease, and they turned to sit.

The ship was now floating on the tide, rocking forward and back, while the waves sent a wet spray into the boys’ faces. They watched as the bow slid off the rocks, timbers breaking with a loud and deep tearing sound, like a dying moan. The bow lifted high, and the boys were splashed by waves striking the cliffs below their ledge.

Out to sea the hulk floated, slowly leaning over to its port side, until the outward surging tide came to a halt.

Ponderously, it started back toward the rocks Tomas grabbed at Pug’s arm, signaling him to follow. They got up and made their way back to the beach. When they reached the place where the rock overhung the sand, they jumped down.

A loud grinding sound made them turn to see the hull driven onto the rocks Timbers shattered, and separated with a shriek. The hull heaved to starboard, and debris started sliding off the deck into the sea.

Suddenly Tomas reached over and caught Pug’s arm. “Look.” He pointed at the wreck sliding backward on the tide.

Pug couldn’t make out what he was pointing at. “What is it?”

“I thought for a moment there was only one body on deck.”

Pug looked at him. Tomas’s face was set in an expression of worry. Abruptly it changed to anger. “Damn!”

“What?”

“When I fell in the cabin, I dropped the sword. Fannon will have my ears.”

A sound like an explosion of thunder marked the final destruction of the wreck as the tide smashed it against the cliff face. Now the shards of the once fine, if alien, ship would be swept out to sea, to drift back in along the coast for miles to the south over the next few days.

A low groan ending in a sharp cry made the boys turn Standing behind them was the missing man from the ship, the strange broadsword held loosely in his left hand and dragging in the sand. His right arm was held tightly against his side; blood could be seen running from under his blue breastplate, and from under his helmet. He took a staggering step forward. His face was ashen, and his eyes wide with pain and confusion. He shouted something incomprehensible at the boys. They stepped back slowly, raising their hands to show they were unarmed.
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