Esteronzerai was the biggest town Raizel had been in yet, and it was where the carriage’s route diverged from Raizel’s, whether or not she had been stopping to lasso a wizard. She bowed to the driver and, her grandfather’s words in her mind, tipped him, although she had not been responsible for the payment for this trip.
He bowed a little back to her, and did not seem offended by the amount. “Good luck on your journeys, child.”
She had, at home, outgrown “child” when she was old enough to watch the next-youngest children. It was strange to put it back on for this trip.
She smiled at the carriage driver anyway, because she thought he meant to be kind, and then turned her attention to Nadya. “Where do I find your Diamond Raven?”
“He’s not mine, but he’ll be right down this road.” Nadya pointed down a long stone-paved road, wider than Raizel had seen before. “At the end of the road, there’s an old stone chapel on the left. Good luck, and I hope you succeed.”
“Don’t forget me if I do.” She had to be crazy. Why was she doing this with no hope of payment, when the wizard in question might want to just be … well, to have a relationship? Why was she messing with a wizard at all? That was one of those things you Did Not Do, like talking to pixies or upsetting fairies. You didn’t bother wizards or anyone else who might be able to turn you into a tree for a hundred years.
(The Ennizaba family had legends of an ancestor who’d had just that happen to them. How true the stories were, Raizel didn’t know, but, on the other hand, that wasn’t the sort of thing you really wanted to risk. The family probably would not be able to explain that their daughter had been turned into a tree on the way to the Census and had, while in tree form, still been holding on to the pack with the tax money and the census forms and thus, sorry to say, the family couldn’t pay their taxes. Raizel had no doubt that it had been tried, and even less doubt that the Empire would not accept one word of a story like that).
All that, and here she was, walking up to an old stone chapel. It had the look of one of the Ancient buildings, before the Tzar, before the Empire. The lintel and threshold were made out of red marble and the arch above the door was inscribed in runes that Raizel couldn’t read. Someone had scratched out a few of them, as sometimes happened in the oldest places.
This was a poor idea, and yet – to have her name carved in a city building, that was something, something more than money. That was the Ennizaba name, that was her name, here, where anyone could see it. That was saying to Amos and Emma, look, look what I managed.
Raizel pulled her lasso out of her bag and readied it. She walked through the doorway of red marble and shifted a little as she felt the power.
He wasn’t here because he was regretting a lost love, was he? He was here because the place had power.
She wondered if Nadya knew it. She wondered exactly how tricked she’d been.
She huffed silently. She could always release him. She caught sight of him, sitting in the central room cross-legged, staring at a flame.
Flames made everything trickier. She moved carefully, making sure the candle flame didn’t move with her passage, and then swirl, drop, tug, and he was hers.
He swore, cursed, and yanked against the rope. He was no match for an upset goat. Raizel set her feet and tugged. He grabbed out, reaching for something to stop his movement, but his worn shirt slid easily on the worn stone of the floor.
By the time he thought to raise his arms up to push the lasso off of him, Raizel had him at her feet. She let the lasso ride up until it settled around his throat and gave it a nice tug. “I do hope you’re the Diamond Raven.”
“And what it – urk, careful there! – what if I’m not?”
“Well, then, I’ve lassoed the wrong wizard, and I will be quite embarrassed. Come with me, Diamond or not, and let us talk about what’s happening here.”