Banner of the Hawk 51

“Is there any reason why this one’s death should endanger my son’s survival?”

“No. Rather the opposite; he . . .”

Marquart dragged Weikata’s body half off the table and pinned his chest into the crook of his left arm. He gripped Weikata’s head with both hands and twisted. Veins stood out in Marquart’s forehead and his neck muscles bulged momentarily. Then they clearly heard the grinding crunch as Marquart shattered Weikata’s spine.

Marquart released him and the overbalanced body slid off the table into an untidy pile. Marquart motioned to Clevis and said, “He is not to be enreithed. Burn him!”

Then he turned back to Dymal as if their conversation had not been interrupted and asked, “What have you done for the boy and what more can you do?”

Dymal swallowed heavily and said, “I removed his memory of the incident. Tomorrow he will wake knowing nothing of today, or even the last several weeks. That is only a temporary expedient, however. This incident has to be faced. I have to bring him slowly through it, and help him place it in perspective.”

“Why you?”

“Because I am the only one in the Valley with the skill to do it, and it needs to be done quickly.”

“But if it were not done, would it not be as if the thing had never happened?”

Dymal shook his head. “No. He has to face it.”

“I will consider it,” Marquart said, but Dymal feared it would never be done.

# # #

Marquart carried Tidac to his room, undressed him, and placed him in his bed. He stood for a long time looking down at him. A strange child; so everyone thought. Marquart found him less strange than they. The impassive face and silences that made others wonder, did not seem odd to Marquart. He was only what Marquart had taught him to be.

He had not trusted Weikata, but he had needed someone who could train his son in the ways of ai. He had never fully trusted Baralia, but he had followed her advice when she said Melcer was his enemy.

He gritted his teeth. His stomach tightened and his fists clenched. Great spasms of anger moved uselessly through him, with no outlet.

He had never really trusted any man or woman, but he had always trusted himself. Now even that was shaken.

16.

Marquart had begun the Citadel as a refuge for himself and his son in a world he distrusted. Now that general distrust had come to focus on one face — Melcer’s — and Marquart drove his builders with redoubled ferocity. Nothing could be done well enough, or quickly enough. He fired his master builder twice, and rehired him twice. Nothing satisfied him.

Tidac did not remember the night of Weikata’s death, nor any of the things Weikata had taught him, nor even that the priest had ever existed. That was good enough for Marquart, but Branbourn and Clevis discussed it privately and worried. To the other servants, the boy seemed the same — withdrawn and just a little dull — but now he did not even show his inner life to Branbourn or to Clevis.

Winter passed into spring. The Citadel moved toward completion and the Valley moved through the normal routine of the passing year. Gradually, Melcer’s threat moved from immanence to a vague maybe-so. more tomorrow

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