The young Reidsweither must have sensed my sympathy. He did agree to train with me, and must have known it was for my benefit more than his. When we each had free time, I engaged him to duel with our staves. It had been ages since I had fought with the strength of my staff alone, and I would need to relearn my skills should our eventual adversary choose battle over all other options. Despite the boy’s seeming willowy frame, Reidsweither was more than a capable sparring partner, even a respectful one.
The weather soon reached its worst, blanketing the South Downlands in a howling white, and we found ourselves sequestered for a cycle in the Citadel at Dorian. The blizzards wailed beyond it’s stout stone walls unceasing day and night, while we remained protected within, warmed by roaring fires and heady northern spirits.
I found myself sharing the fire of a furnace with the Keith, who was the only one of the three lords who had accompanied the caravan himself, to, had become restless, having run out of sellers of river reed to attempt to become part of his marches trading network. Despite the warmth of the fire he would not shed his newly purchased furlined cloak. He certainly had more sense than young Reidsweither.
He turned to me, and asked a question that had likely been in his head for some time.
“What happens if none of the wizard’s you suspect have the stones,” he wanted to know.
I let a breath out. Looked back from the flickering heat into his flinty gaze.
“Then I will have to return to Council, and you and your men to your marches,” I told him. “And I will have to find another way to locate them.”
That was not the journey’s end I was hoping for. It would make so much of this a waste. Still, even though I was relearning my fighting skills, had improved much, I still found the effort of battling the young lord exhausting. Perhaps more time would be better.
“And should I find further clues, I will come back to you,” I added. “I am doing what can be done. None of this is certain, you know. We are all only me, we do what men can do.”
He made a noise of irritation, then replied:
“I would hope that the next time you choose the Season of the Hot Sun.”
We laughed. I certainly hoped I would.
But I knew there might not be another such journey. Council may very well not allow me further allowance. I could remain in some hope, beside the heat of one of the citadels great fire ovens. Their anger at my wayward journeying would have subsided at least a little by the time I returned. And we were not quite at the end of our journey. As well, and not very least, the glamour I’d recast on him was still in effect. He did not yet seem to remember what I had done at his keep. And that meant that I would avoid the fury of El Endande as well, for at least some time yet.
The Margrave shook his head a short while after our laughter subsided. His gaze turned serious.
“This has been sacrifice enough,” he told me. “And the other two, I am sure will agree. You understand the edicts we have bent, in secret no less, for your suspicions. This is as far as we will go. We have our own lands to care for.”
“There are still several more of the entowered for us to visit,” I reminded him. “My suspicions are grounded in all I know about my profession, my fellowship and those stones. I do know more about them than any other in the Kingdoms. You need not worry, our search will be done on this journey.”
He turned back to the furnace, held out his hands to the great warmth that billowed forth.
“At least those of Dorian understand a man needs such heat to endure the Cold Sun,” he said.
At least they do, I agreed silently. But my thoughts were, as always, elsewhere. Ahead, there were seven more towers to visit, only seven more wizards left to be faced. Each of whom were no more, no less likely to have stolen the stones than the nine we had already visited as far as I could tell. Meaning of course, my understanding of who those fellows had become, I needed to be very wrong in my overall assessment of at least one of the remaining six.