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The High LordThe Black Magician Trilogy Book 3
By Canavan, Trudi
In ancient Kyralian poetry the moon is known as the Eye. When the Eye is wide open, its watchful presence deters evil -- or encourages madness in those who do wrong under its gaze. Closed, with only a sliver of white to mark its sleeping presence, the Eye allows hidden deeds of both good or ill to remain unnoticed.
Looking up at the moon, Cery smiled wryly. This phase of the Eye, a narrow slit, was the one preferred by secret lovers, but he was not hurrying through the shadows of the city to such a rendezvous. His purpose was of a darker kind.
Whether his deeds were good or ill, however, was difficult for him to know. The men he hunted deserved their fate, but Cery suspected there was a deeper purpose to the work he'd been commissioned to do than just reducing the murders that had plagued the city for the last few years. He did not know everything about the whole nasty business -- of that he was sure -- but he probably knew more than anyone else in the city.
As he walked, he considered what he did know. He had learned that these murders were not carried out by one man, but by a succession of them. He had also noted that these men were of the same race: Sachakan. Most importantly, however, he knew they were magicians.
As far as Cery knew, there were no Sachakans in the Guild.
If the Thieves were aware of any of this, they were keeping their knowledge well hidden. He thought back to a meeting of Thieves he had attended two years ago. The leaders of the loosely allied underworld groups had been amused by Cery's offer to find and stop the killer. Those who asked slyly why Cery hadn't succeeded after so long might be assuming there was only one murderer, or they might want him to think that was all they knew.
Each time Cery dealt with one of the murderers, another began his grisly work. Unfortunately, this made it appear to the Thieves that Cery was failing at his task. All he could do was shrug off their questions, and hope his success in other underworld activities made up for it.
From the dark square of a doorway the shape of a large man emerged. Distant lamplight revealed a grim, familiar face. Gol nodded once, then fell into step beside Cery.
Reaching an intersection of five roads, they approached a wedge-shaped building. As they stepped through the open doors, Cery savored the heavy odor of sweat, bol and cooking. It was early evening and the bolhouse was full. He moved to a seat at the counter, where Gol ordered two mugs of bol and a dish of salted crots.
Gol munched his way through half of the beans before he spoke.
"At the back. Flash ring. What you say, son?"
Cery and Gol often pretended to be father and son when they did not want their true identities known -- which was most of the time they spent in public these days. Cery was only a few years younger than Gol but, with his small stature and boyish face, he was often mistaken for a youth. He waited a few minutes, then let his gaze shift to the back of the bolhouse.
Though the room was crowded, it was easy to locate the man Gol had pointed out. His distinctive wide, brown Sachakan face stood out among the pale Kyralian ones and he was watching the crowd carefully. Glancing at the man's fingers, Cery noted a glint of red in the dull silver of a ring. He looked away.
"What you think?" Gol murmured.
Cery picked up his mug and pretended to gulp a mouthful of bol. "Too much rub for us, da. Leave him for another."
Grunting in answer, Gol drained his mug and set it down. Cery followed him outside. A few streets from the bolhouse, he reached into his coat, pulled out three copper coins and pressed them into Gol's large hand. The big man sighed and walked away.
Cery smiled wryly, then stooped and opened a grille set into a nearby wall. To any stranger, Gol appeared to be completely unperturbed by any situation. Yet Cery knew that sigh. Gol was scared -- and he had good reason to be. Every man, woman and child in the slums was in danger while these murderers were about.
Cery slipped behind the grille into the passage below. The three coins he'd given Gol would pay three street urchins to deliver a message -- three urchins in case the message was lost or delayed. The recipients were crafters of one kind or another, who would pass on the message via city guard or delivery boy or trained animal. Each man or woman along the path of the message knew nothing of the meaning behind the objects or passwords they were given. Only the man at the final destination would understand their significance.
When he did, the hunt would begin again.
Leaving the classroom, Sonea slowly made her way down the crowded, noisy main corridor of the University. She usually paid little attention to the antics of the other novices, but today was different.
A year today since the Challenge, she thought. A whole year since I fought Regin in the Arena, and so much has changed.
Most novices had gathered into groups of two or more and were walking toward the rear staircase and the Foodhall. A few girls lingered by a classroom door, talking in conspiratorial murmurs. At the far end of the corridor a teacher emerged from a classroom, followed by two novices carrying large boxes.
Sonea watched the faces of the few novices who noticed her. None glared or looked down their noses...Continues...
Excerpted from The High Lord by Canavan, Trudi Excerpted by permission.
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