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At the time King Arami I founded the 12 High Orders, he also established the Royal Advisori, a
Council of highblood Lords whose duty it was to advise him on matters of governance. Each
member was given authority over a parish and was answerable only to the king himself.
from: The Chronicles of Tanyrin: Volume II,
Year of Loth’s Dominion 1349
“Your Highness, pardon the interruption, but you’ve a visitor.”
Severyn, seated at his desk, looked up to see Timkins hovering in the doorway of his study.
“This late?” He glanced across the room at the clock. It was near midnight.
“It’s Marin, sir. He says he must speak to you at once.”
Alarm shot through Severyn. Marin should be in Shia, keeping a watch on the young earl.
He nodded and Timkins stepped aside to admit the tall h’nar.
Marin clearly had come straight from the road, hair and clothing damp. Timkins withdrew
discreetly, closing the door after him.
“We’ve trouble in Shia, Your Highness,” he said without preamble.
“Is it Eldering?”
Marin, startled, shook his head and gave the prince his report. When he was finished,
Severyn sat, alarmed. “Hunter spies?
Rising from his chair, Severyn paced to the window and stared out into the night. The
distant twinkling of Lothmont’s lights were reflected in the lake. It had finally stopped raining.
“Have you spoken to Michael?”
“No, Your Highness. I came straight here.”
Severyn heard that with relief. “Good man. The last thing we need is for Michael to go
haring off to Shia with the Church watching it. Damn! I should probably go there at once, just in
Severyn’s words were cut off by a muffled boom. Underfoot, the castle seemed to move, as
if the earth under it had been jerked by some giant hand. To the northeast, deep in Lothmont’s
slums, a bright flash of light split the dark.
The flash lasted only a moment. Severyn stared at the spot where it had been. As he did so,
flames appeared, just a small glow at first, then more, leaping high against the night sky. He
turned away from the window. As he did, the door to the study burst open to admit Corliss, the
captain much agitated. “Your Highness! Take cover! We’re under attack!”
“Has the island been secured?”
“Of course, Your Highness!”
“The king and queen’s quarters are secure.”
“Good. Timkins! My coat!”
“Is it possible someone has moved cannons, completely unnoticed, across the open
countryside and set up outside Lothmont?” Corliss wondered.
“I sincerely doubt it,” replied Severyn. He shrugged into the jacket Timkins held out for
him. “Whatever it is, I’m going to have a look myself.”
In the corridor, Several of Arami’s ministers and generals had gathered. Others were
hurrying toward them.
“Roust the army!” one cried.
“Rebels! It must be rebels!” worried another.
“You honestly believe Lothmont was fired upon?” demanded Severyn, striding away toward
the stair. They ran to keep up.
“I don’t know what else to think, Your Highness,” replied a frightened lord. “There are no
foundries in that part of town, no armories or distilleries, nothing we know of that could cause
such an explosion.”
“Perhaps they have been gathering weapons in stealth for months!” another minister
“Who?” Severyn found it all unbelievable.
“Who would attack us, Mackleby? And why the east side? There’s nothing of any value
there. It’s all slum.”
“Maybe ‘tis witchcraft.” A minister, one of his father’s holdovers, gave him a stern look.
“The Church has been warning for years of the cursed naragi’s return. What if it’s finally
“Absurd,” snapped Severyn, but he felt an uncomfortable flutter in his stomach.
“Superstition! The nara are gone!”
“There are stories… ”
“Most likely someone set up an unlawful distillery.” Severyn cut the man off, ignoring his
resentful scowl. “That is one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. If the destruction is as
widespread as it appears from here, the people there will require immediate assistance.”
“But what about the possibility that it is an attack… ”
“Send a few men to scour the countryside outside the city, but prepare most of your troops
for fighting fires and rescuing the wounded.”
At the bottom of the stairs, more of the Royal Guard had gathered, most of them officers.
Corliss went straight to them and began to issue orders.
“Shall I call for your carriage, Highness?” Timkins asked.
“No,” replied Severyn. “I’ll ride.”
“Highness! You will take guards?”
“Have them follow at once. In the meantime, find Mick and the others. They’ll do as
Timkins had to be content with that. Men were sent off to the Fairhands Club to find the two
lords. In the meantime, Severyn left the palace and rode straight to the mainland.
It was raining again, a thin, misty drizzle, when he was joined by Jeremy at the Thaelrick
“Where’s Mick and Auron?”
“Don’t know. I’m sure They’ll be along shortly.”
They galloped through near-deserted streets toward the city’s northeast end. As they
approached, the stench of smoke and wet ash grew stronger. People appeared, standing about in
confusion, looking this way and that. Severyn noted with displeasure a large number of Hunters
“Looks like the Cathedral is awfully concerned about your distillery,” Jeremy said. “Tell me
that ain’t a Dragon over there.”
Severyn glanced around. There was no mistaking the helmet or the crimson trim on the dark
green Hunter uniform. Jaw tightening, Severyn cantered over to the man whose impatient glance
quickly turned to consternation.
“Why are you here?” Severyn demanded. “This is a civil matter. The Cathedral oversteps its
“The people will see all these troops and panic! Who was the fool who sent you out here?”
The officer was surprised at his question and offended. “Your Highness! It was His
Excellency, Bishop Montaigne! He fears foul witchcraft, sir!”
“His Majesty’s Guard is responsible for keeping the peace in Lothmont,” returned Severyn,
getting hold of his temper. “I appreciate Montaigne’s desire to be of assistance, but supplies of
food and medicines for those affected would be more valuable than his personal army.”
“But, Highness! The bolt of fire that struck the city! What else but witchcraft could cause
such a thing?”
A crowd gathered. Muttering, both in agreement and incredulity, rose around them.
“You personally saw this bolt?”
“Well , no, your Highness, but…”
“A poorly constructed whisky still, more like,” Severyn retorted loudly, “and a distiller who
enjoyed too much of his own product, I’ll wager.”
That brought laughter and nods all about.
“Stand aside. I will have a look. Go back to the Cathedral immediately and tell Montaigne to
prepare to render assistance for the wounded.”
Without giving the Hunter a chance to respond, the prince wheeled his horse around and, to
sporadic cheers from the citizenry, waved Hunters out of his way and rode on.
It was as bad as he’d feared. Windows broken, scorched and blackened bricks: they made
their way carefully along the debris-covered street. Ahead, cries and screams echoed eerily in the
choking fog of smoke and misty rain.
The devastation worsened as they advanced. Cracked and blackened buildings gave way to
complete ruin, walls burned to charred skeletons, pavement fissured from the intensity of the
heat. Bits of glass carpeted the ground. Severyn dismounted and picked one up. It was irregularly
shaped and cloudy with tiny bubbles, but its surface was otherwise smooth as a river-polished
A clatter of hooves behind announced the arrival of the Royal Guard. Severyn and Jeremy
dismounted as the commander came forward.
“Keep people away,” Severyn instructed him. Then he and Jeremy strode toward an open
space completely hemmed in by the destruction.
The space was perfectly round and within it, not one thing remained standing. The only
evidence of what had been there before were foundation stones. There wasn’t even ash; the entire
circle was clean, the earth blasted smooth and shining as if overlaid with black glass.
Severyn swore under his breath. He met Iarhlaith’s grim look of inquiry with a brief nod.
“Stay here,” he said. With Jeremy staring at his back, he left the circle, crossing the street to the
Hunters gathering just beyond the wall of Royal Guard. He beckoned impatiently to their
commander who dismounted and hurried forward.
“Lieutenant? I thought I made a request of you.”
“If you would permit, Your Highness, we would also like to search the area. If it is demon
work, you have no right to deny us the opportunity to conduct our own investigation!”
“I say it’s nothing of the sort. Unless you’ve got the Archbishop himself nearby to say
otherwise, the House of Lothlain prevails. Frankly, Lieutenant, it annoys me that I’m forced to
remind you of this.”
Incredibly, the lieutenant persisted. “I was informed of the possibility that other Hunters
may have perished in the explosion. That fact alone gives us leave to pursue every avenue.”
“Whatever would they be doing here?” asked Severyn. “It’s not the usual neighborhood for
soldiers of the Church, is it?”
“I’m not at liberty… ”
“Is there, perhaps, some chance Hunters might have contributed to this disaster?”
Alarm appeared in the officer’s countenance. “O-Of course not, H-Highness!”
“Then you can wait until my investigation is complete. The Guard will secure the area and
allow no one inside except my agents. When they are finished, you may enter. Of course, should
a reason occur to you in the meantime, feel free to bring it to me. I can assure you of complete
“As you wish, Highness,” said the lieutenant, but Severyn knew the matter was not finished.
The man would likely take the matter straight to Montaigne, who would turn around and bring it
to Arami. Arami would not dare shuffle it aside. They had, at most, twenty-four hours to
investigate the area, unimpeded.
“I hate to say it,” muttered Iarhlaith, “but this doesn’t look like any earthly catastrophe.
Even a cannon strike would not do this.” Gingerly, he poked at the glassy paving with the toe of
Severyn didn’t reply. Instead, he said, “Go find Corliss for me. I want his best trackers on
this. If there’s any clues to be found, he’ll find them.”
Where the devil was Auron? And Michael? Where was Michael? The little melted glass
pebbles were like accusing eyes, blinking up at him from the edge of the circle.
Corliss appeared, saluting. “Stay here,” Severyn said. “Make sure our good Hunter
lieutenant doesn’t come back. I don’t want any of the Church dogs sniffing around yet.”
“Where are we going?” asked Jeremy, following Severyn back to their horses.
“To find Michael and Auron.”
Jeremy gave him a sharp look, but nodded.
At Michael’s hotel, the doorman, dozing just inside, woke up at Severyn’s loud knock,
quickly admitting them. Ignoring the man’s bewildered look, Severyn ran up the stairs to
Michael’s suite. He knocked, quietly at first, then louder. No answer. Severyn shook the
doorknob. Jeremy appeared behind him.
“Where the hell is he?” fretted Severyn.
“He said something earlier last night about returning to Shia,” Jeremy said. “And Auron was
thinking of going with him.”
“That would be damned inconvenient,” retorted Severyn. Even so, the idea that Michael had
left town last night brought a certain sense of relief. Just to make certain, however, he went
downstairs to the lobby.
“Has Lord Arranz checked out?”
The clerk quickly produced the guestbook at Severyn’s command. In bold handwriting,
‘Michael Arranz’ was scrawled across the ledger, signifying he had, indeed left. Except, bold as
it was, the signature wasn’t Michael’s!
“Where is the clerk who checked him out?”
“Why, gone home, Your Highness.” The clerk looked uneasy. “Is there something wrong?”
“I’d like to speak to him at once. Can you send… ” He broke off, hearing a shout from
across the lobby.
“There’s Auron!” Jeremy exclaimed.
Auron beckoned to them madly. Giving the wide-eyed clerk a terse order to wait, Severyn
crossed the lobby to join his friend.
“If you’re looking for Mick, he’s at my house,” said Auron, voice low, looking about for
eavesdroppers. “You need to come right away. We’re in one hell of a fix!”
Michael ached everywhere. Exhaustion dragged at his limbs and clouded his thinking, but he
didn’t dare sleep. Seated awkwardly and uncomfortably on the floor before him, Adrian Remy
glared stonily at a spot on the carpet between them.
He should have killed the bastard. What rank injustice: of all those who had died in that
flash of hellfire, Adrian Remy should be the one to survive with him.
And now, even singed and stinking of smoke, all Michael wanted was to throw Remy back
to the floor and have him again.
The need had every nerve in his body vibrating.
Where the hell was Auron? What was taking him so long? Would Severyn come with him?
Oh, Loth, I killed them all. How many? How many dead?
The smoldering ruins of the tenement were stark in his memory. Several buildings had been
consumed in that momentary, devastating fireball. His fireball. His spell.
Straightening, Michael poured himself another cup of t’cha. It was lukewarm by now, but he
gulped it down, willing it to give him enough energy to stay alert. His prisoner sat, every muscle
taut, ready to leap from the floor.
I should bind his ankles.
Voices! Shakily, Michael got to his feet. Auron burst in, closely followed by Jeremy and…
Sev! The prince came right to him, clasping his hand without hesitation and pulling him into a
quick, fierce embrace.
“Mick!” was all he said. Then, stepping back, he looked down at Remy. “What’s he doing
“The Council’s interest in my marital state was much more intense than I realized,” said
Michael and briefly described his abduction and bizarre events leading up to the disaster.
“But why?” demanded Severyn, turning his angry gaze to Remy. The captain stared back at
him sullenly. “The case has been making its way through the courts with the Council winning
each hearing. Of course Mick will wed eventually.”
“Why?” spat Remy. His glare encompassed both Michael and the prince. “To prevent what
he’s become! Did you not see the devastation he created? Don’t you recognize the work of a
There was a sudden, shocked silence. Then Auron laughed. “Damn if he doesn’t have a
sense of humor. Didn’t you pay attention at your history lectures, old man? The naragi have gone
the way of the pure-blood nara! They’ve been extinct for hundreds of years!”
Severyn went straight as a board and Michael, stunned by Remy’s revelation, could only
stare. Did they truly believe they could destroy his power by wedding him to a female?
“Fools! Go back to Allester Street — look at what’s left of the building. Then tell me that’s
not naragi magic!”
“Sev? Mick?” Jeremy’s voice wavered. He stared at Mick as if the h’nar had suddenly
sprouted leaves. “What’s he saying? It ain’t true, is it? I mean, I know you dabble a bit in
“He’s as close to pureblood as exists in Tanyrin,” Remy snarled from the floor. “Go! Look
at the ruin he’s made! And the dead? Ten Hunters, a mage and his h’naran bride!”
He paused, letting his words sink in to the minds of the men who were standing around
before saying, “Had he married as the Church demanded, had he bedded a woman, damn it, none
of this would have happened! He would have been as his father and his grandfather! Harmless
“Is it true?” Erich demanded fiercely. “Are you a naragi, Arranz? How long? How long have
you been deceiving us?”
“Don’t!” Severyn all but shouted. “At least hear us out!”
“Oh, my God,” whispered Iarhlaith, white and sick looking. “Oh, my dear God. It’s true.”
The atmosphere crawled with fear and suspicion. Michael, heartsick, turned and strode from
the room, cravenly leaving Severyn to deal with the others. Blindly, he made his way through
Auron’s empty townhouse to the small back garden. There, in the cool damp of the fading night,
he slumped onto a stone bench, his thoughts in turmoil.
He could go back to Blackmarsh. His grandfather would be furious and, with the word out, it
was unlikely even the Covenant would protect them. He could disappear into the delta. Soldiers
would still come to Blackmarsh, but he wouldn’t be found there.
Maybe that fact would soften the blow that was to come on his family.
Michael’s body had changed; he knew this with utter certainty. The Bond would not simply
go away because he wanted to abandon his naragi powers. The future could bring any situation,
including a time when, for whatever reason, he might be forced once again to breach the Dark
Stream. Then what would he do? Sleep forever?
A light rain began to fall, but Michael barely noticed. He sat, head down, weary brain going
in circles, presenting him with the same dreary future, not only for him, but for Annie and Chris
and all the other h’nara who found sanctuary within Blackmarsh’s borders.
But worse, what happened now to Severyn’s chances for the throne? Would the others find
this whole affair too much to countenance? Had he, in one ill-considered moment, destroyed
Severyn’s hopes and Tanyrin’s future?
Severyn knew at a glance this would not be an easy conversation. He confronted the grim,
worried faces of his friends as they stood, lined up against him before the fireplace. Remy stared
from his position on the floor, shoulders hunched over.
“Well ?” said Auron. “We’re listening.”
“Naragi?” Jerry, outraged, didn’t move. “You cannot be serious!”
“This is Michael!”
“That’s the only reason I’m not tossing you out on your ear this very moment,” retorted
Auron. “Who’s idea was this? Not his, I’ll reckon!”
“No,” admitted Severyn.
Auron snorted. “I sense the fine hand of the Demon Duke in this.”
“His Grace didn’t object.”
“It was my idea from the very beginning!” Severyn walked over to a chair and threw himself
into it. “And we never intended that it become common knowledge among the people.”
“Were you going to tell us?” Jerry’s expression had gone from indignation to
“Yes,” insisted Severyn. “Eventually.”
Auron said something under his breath.
“We weren’t sure it was possible. The naragi were pureblooded nara; Mick isn’t.” Severyn
had another brief, unwelcome memory of Eldering’s room and the ruin therein.
“Well, it apparently worked very well , indeed!” Jeremy shook his head.
“You couldn’t have told us earlier?” Auron asked. “Do you trust us so little, Your
“I trust you with my life and Tanyrin’s future,” replied Severyn honestly. “But when we set
out on this quest, you promised to trust me, as well. Were those empty words, my friends?”
“Of course not!” Jerry burst out. “But… The naragi! Were it not for them, the nara would
never have been able to rule Tanyrin! Were it not for them, the war for freedom would have been
over much sooner!”
“He speaks wisely!” interjected Remy. Severyn ignored him.
“Yet it was a naragi who turned the tide against the nara in the end!”
“Derek of Arranz,” agreed Auron.
“Aye,” Severyn said, voice careful, even. “The Demon of St. Aramis.”
Silence descended between them. Severyn watched anxiously as each man struggled with
the idea. Fear of the naragi ran deep, even after five centuries. The long-dead sorcerers were the
terrors of children’s dreams, the standard against which powerful evil was measured. Even so,
were they all not modern men, dedicated to the pursuit of reason? It was a sign of superstition’s
hold, thought Severyn, that even they would hesitate.
“Don’t listen to him! He’s a blasphemer! A heretic!” shouted Remy, struggling with his
“The Orders closest to the Church grow more powerful with each passing decade,” Severyn
said with a cool look at the Hunter captain. “Loth’s Dragons, the Sword of the Holy Warrior,
they jealously guard secret Holy spells as dangerous as those the naragi once commanded. Those
are the enemies we must ultimately face, the despots with the most to lose if Tanyrin’s kings
grow strong again.
“I believe there was a reason St. Aramis made the Covenant! I believe that in his wisdom, he
foresaw the day when the Church would seek to assume the king’s power for itself. He knew
what it would take to stop them! Tell me, Jeremy, how would you deal with the knightmages of
Jeremy had no answer to that, of course.
“And do you honestly believe Mick… MICK! Would ever turn against me?”
Jeremy’s frown changed subtly.
“The Church knows damn well what it will mean to have a Lothlain king and a loyal naragi
working together once more. Apparently, it has always known.” Severyn scowled down at
Remy. “Isn’t that true?”
Remy’s lips thinned into a stubborn white line and he didn’t answer.
“Naragi only bed other men,” said Auron slowly. “Is it possible they cannot bed women
without losing their power?”
Severyn shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense. There are male and female witches among
the h’nara. We had a witch at Messerling, a man with a wife and six children!”
“Witches,” snarled Remy, “are not naragi!”
“We’ll not be able to hide it forever,” Auron warned. “If you’re right, Michael’s rather
dramatic escape will tell Locke his forced wedding failed. He’s going to know Mick’s a naragi.
Severyn’s spirits lifted. “I hadn’t thought that far,” he confessed. “But I know between us,
we’ll think of something.”
Auron’s jaw dropped. Jerry said something profane, a look of awe on his square face. Auron
burst out laughing. “Damn it,” he chortled. “Why not? We’ve come this far! What’s a little
heresy between friends?”
“Jeremy?” Severyn fixed his gaze on the big knight.
“I don’t like it,” Jeremy admitted, “but I trust you and I trust Mick. I wish there was another
way, though. What if other h’nara decide to follow suit?”
“Unlikely,” replied Severyn. “It would have happened before now, don’t you think?”
Jeremy had to admit, however reluctantly, that Severyn had a point. He scowled at Remy
whose face advertised his bitter disappointment. “What about him?”
“I’m curious,” said Severyn. “What else does the church know about the naragi that we
“I’ll tell you nothing!” spat Remy, nearly beside himself. “Release me at once!”
Auron elbowed their big friend. His face was screwed up, a sure sign he was deep in
“What is it?” Severyn asked. “If you still have reservations, Iarhlaith, say so. I value your
Jerry lifted his head, brow furrowed. He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I was just
wondering,” he mused, “what it’s like to bed another man.”
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