Once, at Taipai’s death, Dymal had believed that Marquart and Tidac were of the lost lineage of the Shambler. That belief had only lasted a few days, before Dymal returned to the comforting conclusion that Taipai had only seen what he wanted to see on the eve of his death. Even his new realization of Tidac’s depth of ai had not convinced Dymal that something so unprecedented could happen in his own village.
Marquart’s face had closed up, so Dymal continued quickly, “I know that you will not give him to me for training. You don’t trust me, and I understand that. But he must be trained. There are other priests at other menhirs. Even a priest of Rem Ossilo if it has to be, but the boy will burn himself up if no one shows him how to harness his ai.”
Marquart was looking for Tidac. Bheren had not seen him. Hein was in the kitchens cadging food and a squeeze from the cooks. He had not seen him. One of the serving maids had seen him in the main hall.
He wasn’t in the main hall, either. With rising irritation, Marquart strode up the carved stairway, on his way toward Tidac’s bedroom. Half way there, he found the boy in the room Marquart and Dael had shared, sitting mehakan on the stone floor of the now empty space.
Marquart hesitated in the doorway, watching his strange son as he moved his hands in an odd, juggling motion. Marquart could not see the balls of force that leaped from hand to hand to the boy’s mild amusement. Before Marquart had time to speak, Tidac had wiped his hands on his thighs and risen fluidly to face him, saying, “Yes, Father?”
“You were supposed to be in the courtyard.”
“I’m sorry, Father.”
“Why were you here, sitting in an empty room?”
“It isn’t really empty, Father. Mother is here.”
Marquart looked around. “No, Father,” Tidac assured him, unsmiling, “not here that way. I just feel her here.”
Marquart stared at his son, wondering again about what Dymal had said. Dymal was his enemy, and not to be trusted, but a wise man listens when another wise man speaks.
“Why don’t you have the men put the doors back up?” the boy asked. “Mother has been gone four years.”
Marquart tensed, then forced calm on himself. “What do you know about that?”
The boy shrugged. “You said to listen, and people talk.”
After Dutta’s execution, Dael and Marquart had fought, with increasing frequency, and increasing violence, over everything small and large. After one particularly acrimonious argument, Dael had bolted the door to their bedroom to keep Marquart out. He had vowed to have no room in his manorhouse that he could not enter at will, and had had all the doors taken down.
“What a man vows to do, he does!” Marquart said.
Tidac stepped around his father and started down the hall toward the stairs. Marquart started to call him back, but since Tidac was merely doing what Marquart had come up to make him do, he said nothing. Tidac’s voice trailed back over his shoulder, calm, uninflected, as if he were simply making an observation, “Then a man would have to be very careful what he vows, or he would find himself holding himself hostage.”
Seven years old — what trick of ai made the boy talk that way. Marquart shook his head, feeling like a swan who had hatched a gryphon’s egg. more tomorrow