‘Does it really show that much?’ the abbot asked, looking a little abashed.
‘Yes, my Lord. If you know what you’re looking for, it does.’
The abbot made a wry face. ‘Fortunately, the local people aren’t very familiar with that sort of thing. You’ll be discreet about this discovery, won’t you, Sparhawk?’
‘Of course, my Lord. I was fairly sure about the nature of your order when I left here ten years ago, and I haven’t told anyone yet.’
‘I should have guessed, I suppose. You Pandions tend to have very sharp eyes.’ He rose to his feet. ‘I’ll have some supper sent up. There’s a fairly large partridge that grows hereabouts, and I have an absolutely splendid falcon.’ He laughed. ‘That’s what I do instead of making out the reports I’m supposed to send to Chyrellos. What do you say to a bit of roast fowl?’
‘I think we could manage that,’ Sparhawk replied.
‘And in the meantime, could I offer you and your friends some wine? It’s not Arcian red, but it’s not too bad. We make it here on the grounds. The soil hereabouts isn’t much good for anything but raising grapes.’
‘Thank you, my Lord Abbot,’ Sephrenia replied, ‘but might the child and I have milk instead?’
‘I’m afraid that all we have is goat’s milk, Lady Sephrenia,’ he apologized.
Her eyes brightened. ‘Goat’s milk would be just fine, my Lord. Cow’s milk is so bland, and we Styrics prefer something a bit more robust.’
The abbot sent the other young monk to the kitchen for milk and supper, then poured red wine for Sparhawk, Kurik, and himself. He leaned back in his chair then, idly toying with the stem of his goblet. ‘Can we be frank with each other, Sparhawk?’ he asked.
‘Did any word get to you in Jiroch about what happened here in Cippria after you left?’
‘Not really,’ Sparhawk replied. ‘I was a bit submerged at that time.’
‘You know how Rendors feel about the use of magic?’
Sparhawk nodded. ‘They call it witchcraft, as I recall.’
‘They do indeed, and they look on it as a worse crime than murder. Anyway, just after you left, we had an outbreak of that sort of thing. I got involved in the investigation since I’m the ranking churchman in the area.’ He smiled ironically. ‘Most of the time Rendors spit as I go by, but the minute somebody whispers “witch-craft”, they come running to me with their faces white and their eyes bulging out. Usually the accusations are completely false. The average Rendor couldn’t remember the Styric words of the simplest spell if his life depended on it, but charges crop up from time to time – usually based on spite, jealousy, and petty hatreds. This time, though, the affair was quite different. There was actual evidence that somebody in Cippria was using magic of a fair degree of sophistication.’ He looked at Sparhawk. ‘Were any of the men who attacked you that night at all adept in the secrets?’
‘One of them is, yes.’
‘Perhaps that answers the question then. The magic seems to have been a part of an attempt to locate something – or someone. Maybe you were the object of that search.’
‘You mentioned sophistication, my Lord Abbot,’ Sephrenia said intently ‘Could you be a bit more specific?’
‘There was a glowing apparition stalking the streets of Cippria,’ he replied. ‘It seemed to be sheathed in lightning of some kind.’
She drew in her breath sharply ‘And what exactly did this apparition do?’
‘It questioned people. None of them could remember the questions afterwards, but the questioning appears to have been quite severe. I saw a number of the burns with my own eyes.’
‘The apparition would seize whomever it wanted to question. Wherever it touched them, it left a burned place. One poor woman had a burn that encircled her entire forearm. I’d almost say that it was in the shape of a hand – except that it had far too many fingers.’
‘How many fingers?’
‘Nine, and two thumbs.’
She hissed. ‘A Damork,’ she said.
‘I thought you said that the Younger Gods had stripped Martel of the power to summon those things,’ Sparhawk said to her.
‘Martel didn’t summon it,’ she replied. ‘It was sent to do his bidding by someone else.’
‘It amounts to almost the same thing then, doesn’t it?’
‘Not exactly. The Damork is only marginally under Martel’s control.’
‘But all this happened ten years ago,’ Kurik shrugged. ‘What difference does it make now?’
‘You’re missing the point. Kurik,’ she replied gravely. ‘We thought that the Damork had appeared only recently, but it was here in Cippria ten years ago, before anything we’re involved with now even began.’
‘I don’t quite follow you,’ he admitted.
Sephrenia looked at Sparhawk. ‘It’s you, dear one,’ she said in a deadly quiet voice ‘It’s not me or Kurik or Ehlana or even Flute. The Damork attacks have all been directed at you. Be very, very careful, Sparhawk. Azash is trying to kill you.’
Doctor Voldi was a fussy little man in his sixties. His hair was thinning on top, and he had carefully combed it forward to conceal the fact. It was quite obvious that he dyed it to hide the encroaching grey. He removed his dark cloak, and Sparhawk saw that he wore a white linen smock. He smelled of chemicals, and he had an enormous opinion of himself.
It was quite late when the little physician was ushered into the abbot’s littered study, and he was struggling without much success to cover his irritation at having been called out at that hour. ‘My Lord Abbot,’ he stiffly greeted the black-bearded churchman with a jerky little bow.
‘Ah, Voldi,’ the abbot said, rising to his feet, ‘so good of you to come.’
‘Your monk said that the matter was urgent, my Lord. May I see the patient?’
‘Not unless you’re prepared to make a very long journey, Doctor Voldi,’ Sephrenia murmured.
Voldi gave her a long, appraising look. ‘You appear not to be a Rendor, madame,’ he noted. ‘Styric, I should say, judging from your features.’
‘Your eyes are keen, Doctor.’
‘I’m sure you remember this fellow,’ the abbot said, pointing at Sparhawk.