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The Gate of Gods
This isn't a good idea," Tremaine said under her breath. She was aware she had said it before but she hadn't been counting.
"Do you really think so?" Radiating annoyance, Gerard was cleaning his spectacles with his handkerchief in a way that could only be described as aggressive. "I'm afraid that wasn't made clear to me the first seven times you said it."
Gerard, evidently, had been counting. "All right, fine." Tremaine folded her arms, looking around the meeting room foyer. She resented being here. This building, part of the Capidaran Senate, was prized for its age and historical significance rather than its comfort or utility. Cold and not well lit, the foyer was lined with dark wood and the high coffered ceiling had yellow patches from old water damage. Colonel Averi and several dignitaries, including the Rienish and Parscian ambassadors to Capidara and members of their staffs, were waiting too, standing about in small groups, pretending to chat amiably. Gerard was the only Rienish sorcerer present; safety decreed that the Queen Ravenna remain crewed and ready to leave Capistown harbor at any time. At the moment Niles was on board with one of the spheres he had constructed, so the ship could defend itself from Gardier spells and be taken through the etheric world-gate at will.
They were all here in the Capidaran Senate to discuss the plan to liberate Lodun, the Rienish city where dozens of sorcerers, plus hundreds of other townspeople and students, had been trapped behind the town's defenses in a magical Gardier blockade since the beginning of the war. And with all their past and ongoing problems withGardier spies, Tremaine felt any discussion in a virtually public forum was an incredibly bad idea. But while the Capidarans had lost some of their merchant ships, they hadn't yet come under direct attack, and it was hard to convince them of the immediate danger.
Tremaine could almost understand why. Up until a few weeks ago they had all believed the Gardier had come from a hidden city somewhere in the empty ocean between Ile-Rien and Capidara. Discovering that the Gardier came from another world entirely, that they used an etheric world-gate spell to transport their military vessels to a place they called the staging world, inhabited mostly by primitive peoples with no sorcery or modern weapons to protect them, and from there to Ile-Rien and Adera, had been hard enough to swallow, let alone explain.
And when it came down to it, Tremaine felt her presence here was useless. Not that her presence anywhere else would have been particularly helpful. There was plenty of work for sorcerers; the Capidaran and the expatriate Rienish and Aderassi sorcerers who had been trapped in Capidara when the war started had all been conscripted to build Viller spheres, the only real defense against the Gardier. The Viller Institute researchers were busy examining the prototype airship brought back from the Gardier world, but Tremaine really didn't know enough about mechanics and engines to help with that.
She grimaced and looked around again, impatient. Everyone wore sober wool or broadcloth suits, except for Averi and the other military men present, who had on their dark blue dress uniforms. She noticed Averi's uniform hung on his thin frame, making it obvious he had lost weight since it had first been issued. Tremaine wore a new outfit of dark wool serge, and the narrow skirt and long-waisted jacket might be fashionable, but she found it constricting and drafty. She didn't think the cloche hat did anything for her either, but Capidaran polite society insisted women wear something on their heads. On her bad days, she felt as if a dead albatross might be more appropriate headgear for her, suiting her mood and her apparent role in life. Since they had arrived in Capistown, nothing seemed to be going right, or if it did go right, it moved at a snail's pace.
"Where the hell is your father?" Gerard muttered, pulling out his pocket watch to check the time. Again. The watch had been one of the first things he had purchased in Capistown, a replacement for the one broken during an attack by the Gardier's mechanical disruption spell. The same spell that Rienish sorcerers couldn't defend against without the help of the spheres. The spell that had devastated Rienish and Aderassi military forces.
"Oh, come now, Gerard. Considering what you sent him out to do, does either one of us really want to know the answer to that?" Tremaine said dryly, and considered him paid back for the "seven times" comment.
Gerard gave her a brief glare, putting his watch away. "If we can just get this nonsense over and done with so we can get on with the experiment—"He stopped, relieved. "There he is."
Tremaine looked at the double doors standing open to the dark marble-floored hall. Nicholas Valiarde was just stepping into the room, nodding cordially to Colonel Averi, who nodded back with a closed and somehow wary expression.
Tremaine regarded her father with as much suspicion as Colonel Averi did. Nicholas wore a black suit and overcoat, managing to make the impeccably expensive cut look rakish, despite the gray in his hair and the beard he had recently grown. He didn't look as if he had been robbing a bank; but then, he wouldn't.
Then the door to the inner chamber opened and Tremaine followed Gerard inside.
No weapons were allowed in the meeting and had to be handed over before anyone entered. This produced quite a collection. Everyone expected Colonel Averi and the other military men to be armed. A few eyebrows were raised when Tremaine produced the pistol she had been carrying for the past two weeks, and Gerard surprised everyone by emptying his pockets of a flick knife and a revolver. Nicholas was the only one unarmed. Tremaine snorted to herself in derisive amusement, knowing weapons or lack thereof was no measure of who was dangerous and who wasn't; if the Capidarans had any inkling, they would never have allowed Nicholas inside the building.The Gate of Gods. Copyright © by Martha Wells. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.