The story so far: Their quest for the mysterious Chypa the Stranger has developed a slight hitch: Tollon has been thrown into prison by the Prince of Tanafisay! And who knows what’s happened to Inacha. Now read on . . .
I’ve been pummeled, shackled, and tossed into a prison cell. It’s a wonder they didn’t gag me, just for kicks. Speaking of which, I’m probably badly bruised by the guards’ kicks.
But I am a magician. I’ve slain dragons, I’ve conversed with gods. I am not going to lie here helpless.
Sarton’s Rule: a court magician must be prepared to deal with the loss of favor. I hope it’s stood him in good stead. It’s why he insisted I learn spells related to escaping from guards and prisons. And I have accumulated enough power on my own to handle this. Though one has to be careful. Summoning the strength of ten men to try to break shackles is more likely to break bones first. Displacement spells are much better. One spell displaces the shackles from my limbs, the other unlocks the cell door.
See? Imprisoning a magician is futile. Well, except I still have to evade armed guards, find Inacha, get us out of this castle, and avoid pursuit.
One of those problems I can address with another of Sarton’s hobby horses: a spell of observation. One guard outside my door, two at the entrance to the prison. And the one outside my door is quickly taken out by a sleeping spell. I step outside into the corridor and take the sword from his slumping body.
I hear a noise coming from the prison door, and rush down there to be in position to tackle whoever comes through. To my delight, it’s the Mistress of the Robes. Before she can react, I grab her and hold her in front of me, sword at her throat. “Tell your guards to drop their swords,” I order her.
The Mistress is cooperative. “Drop your swords,” she orders. Then, “Give me the keys, and all of you step inside.” She speaks in a lower voice to me, “I presume you’d feel safer with them locked up.” The guards step into the prison, we exit, and she locks the prison door. She then drops the keys to the floor.
“As you can see, Randuscon, or whatever your name really is, I’m being very cooperative,” she says in a calm voice. “So let me warn you that using me as a hostage won’t work. The prince is a sadist. He would enjoy watching you cut my throat.”
“Why should I believe you?” I ask. I’m not falling for this.
“Why do you think I’m here? To measure you for stylish prison attire?” And she laughs.
Good question, but also a delaying tactic. “You’ve got one shot at this, lady. Make it a good one, or the prince may yet get to watch you die.”
“Very well. I don’t need a rival for the prince’s bed. I’m here to help you both escape.”
Welcome news, if true. “You have a plan?”
“Who do you think gives the orders around here? The prince?” She laughs again. “He has good looks, good manners, and is good for nothing. He’s perfect.”
“Jig’s up,” I say. “If that were true, you wouldn’t need to help us escape. You could just order our release.” And I start to haul her along with me.
The Mistress of the Robes suddenly reaches up with both hands, grabs my right arm, squeezes it so hard I drop the sword, then pivots and twists my arm behind my back, forcing me to the floor.
(To be continued . . .)