‘That’s Lamorkand for you. Anything else happening?’
‘The whole countryside east of Motera is crawling with Zemochs.’
Sparhawk sat up quickly ‘Vanion did say that Otha was mobilizing.’
‘Otha mobilizes every ten years.’ Kalten handed his friend the wineskin. ‘I think he does it just to keep his people from getting restless.’
‘Are the Zemochs doing anything significant in Lamorkand?’
‘Not that I was able to tell. They’re asking a lot of questions – mostly about old folklore. You can find two or three of them in almost every village. They question old women and buy drinks for the loafers in the village taverns.’
‘Peculiar,’ Sparhawk murmured.
‘That’s a fairly accurate description of just about anybody from Zemoch,’ Kalten said. ‘Sanity has never been particularly prized there’ He stood up. ‘I’ll go find a bed someplace,’ he said. ‘I can drag it in here and we can talk old times until we both fall asleep.’
Kalten grinned. ‘Like the time your father caught us in that plum tree.’
Sparhawk winced. ‘I’ve been trying to forget about that for almost thirty years now’
‘Your father did have a very firm hand, as I recall. I lost track of most of the rest of that day – and the plums gave me a bellyache besides. I’ll be right back.’ He turned and went out the door of Sparhawk’s cell.
It was good to have Kalten back. The two of them had grown up together in the house of Sparhawk’s parents at Demos after Kalten’s family had been killed and before the pair of boys had entered their novitiate training at the Pandion motherhouse In many ways, they were closer than brothers. To be sure, Kalten had some rough edges to him, but their close friendship was one of the things Sparhawk valued more than anything.
After a short time, the big blond man returned, dragging a bed behind him, and then the two of them lay in the dim candlelight reminiscing until quite late. All in all, it was a very good night.
Early the following morning, they rose and dressed themselves, covering their mail coats with the hooded robes Pandions wore when they were inside their chapterhouses. They rather carefully avoided the morning procession to chapel and went in search of the woman who had trained whole generations of Pandion Knights in the intricacies of what were called the secrets.
They found her seated with her morning tea before the fire high up in the south tower.
‘Good morning, little mother,’ Sparhawk greeted her from the doorway ‘Do you mind if we join you?’
‘Not at all, Sir Knights.’
Kalten went to her, knelt, and kissed both her palms. ‘Will you bless me, little mother?’ he asked her
She smiled and put one hand on each side of his face. Then she spoke her benediction in Styric
‘That always makes me feel better for some reason,’ he said, rising to his feet again. ‘Even though I don’t understand all the words.’
She looked at them critically ‘I see that you chose not to attend chapel this morning.’
‘God won’t miss us all that much.’ Kalten shrugged. ‘Besides, I could recite all of Vanion’s sermons from memory’
‘What other mischief are you two planning for today?’ she asked.
‘Mischief, Sephrenia?’ Kalten asked innocently.
Sparhawk laughed. ‘Actually, we weren’t even contemplating any mischief. We just have a fairly simple errand in mind.’
‘Out in the city?’
He nodded. ‘The only problem is that we’re both fairly well known here in Cimmura. We thought you might be able to help us with some disguises.’
She looked at them, her expression cool. ‘I’m getting a strong sense of subterfuge in all this. Just exactly what is this errand of yours?’
‘We thought we’d look up an old friend,’ Sparhawk replied. ‘A fellow named Krager. He has some information he might want to share with us.’
‘He knows where Martel is.’
‘Krager won’t tell you that.’
Kalten cracked his big knuckles, the sound unpleasantly calling to mind the sharp noise of breaking bones. ‘Would you care to phrase that in the form of a wager, Sephrenia?’ he asked.
‘Won’t you two ever grow up? You’re a pair of eternal children.’
‘That’s why you love us so much, isn’t it, little mother?’ Kalten grinned.
‘What sort of disguise would you recommend?’ Sparhawk asked her
She pursed her lips and looked at them. ‘A courtier and his squire, I think.’
‘No one could ever mistake me for a courtier,’ he objected.
‘I was thinking of it the other way around. I can make you look almost like a good honest squire, and once we dress Kalten in a satin doublet and curl that long blond hair of his, he can pass for a courtier’
‘I do look good in satin,’ Kalten murmured modestly.
‘Why not just a couple of common workmen?’ Sparhawk asked.
She shook her head. ‘Common workmen cringe and fawn when they encounter a nobleman. Could either of you manage a cringe?’
‘She’s got a point,’ Kalten said.
‘Besides, workmen don’t carry swords, and I don’t imagine that either of you would care to go into Cimmura unarmed.’
‘She thinks of everything, doesn’t she?’ Sparhawk observed.
‘All right,’ she said. ‘Let’s see what we can do.’
Several acolytes were sent scurrying to various places in the chapterhouse for a number of articles. Sephrenia considered each one of them, selecting some and discarding others. What emerged after about an hour were two men who only faintly resembled the pair of Pandions who had first entered the room. Sparhawk now wore a plain livery not unlike Kurik’s, and he carried a short sword. A fierce black beard was glued to his face, and a purple scar ran across his broken nose and up under a black patch that covered his left eye
‘This thing itches,’ he complained, reaching up to scratch at the false beard.
‘Keep your fingers off of it until the glue dries,’ she told him, lightly slapping his knuckles. ‘And put on a glove to cover that ring.’
‘Do you actually expect me to carry this toy?’ Kalten demanded, flourishing a light rapier ‘I want a sword, not a knitting needle.’
‘Courtiers don’t carry broadswords, Kalten,’ she reminded him. She looked at him critically His doublet was bright blue, gored and inset with red satin. His hose matched the goring, and he wore soft half-boots, since no pair of the pointed shoes currently in fashion could be found to fit his huge feet. His cape was of pale pink, and his freshly curled blond hair spilled down over the collar. He also wore a broad-brimmed hat adorned with a white plume ‘You look beautiful, Kalten,’ she complimented him. ‘I think you might pass-once I rouge your cheeks.’