Twelve: Watch What You Say
The man who might or might not b the Diamond Raven struggled, but he couldn’t seem to do anything about the cord around his neck and, rather than have Raizel tug it tighter, he followed her. “I have things I should get-” he protested, but she didn’t listen, and then “I shouldn’t leave a candle burning-” and then “someone needs to watch the sacred spot.”
“Someone does,” she agrees. “But having it be you might be a bit silly.”
“And why would it be silly for it to be me?” He raised his eyebrows at her in challenge.
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Eleven: The Diamond Raven
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?”
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Ten: The Perils of One’s Past
She should have thought of it before she agreed, she supposed. She might be stepping into some long-held family feud — their mountain had several of those — or maybe into the sort of thing where the city wanted to move someone whose home had stood in the same place for three hundred years. Their town had dealt with that, too. She might be running into another conspiracy sort like Trinner Tralen, who thought, perhaps, that the city or the empire or this architect were out to get him.
And maybe they were. She thought about Trinner Traln and the spectre sliding into him. She didn’t even know if she’d done the right thing there.
The architect’s nervous cough interrupted Raizel’s train of thought.
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Nine: Yederya Wizard
The woman studied Raizel. “You have skills I don’t?”
“Well, I can’t design a building,” Raizel admitted, “or build one. But in the last two days I’ve been dusted by a pixie, blessed by a spectre, and kissed by what might have been a goddess.” Also by two whores, but she didn’t think that counted. “Also, I grew up on a mountain side, and I have on occasion bound wild goats, a catamount, and once a small wyvern that was getting into the garden. I might be able to help you.”
“If you could, I could start building on time. I can’t pay much – I’m not that rich of an architect yet – but I will put your name on the building. Do you think you can do it?”
“Tie up a wizard? I’m willing to try. The carriage stops in Esteronzerai anyway, doesn’t it?”
“That’s where it turns off to go north,” the woman nodded. “His name is – well, the thing that he calls himself is the Diamond Raven.”
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Eight: A Kiss
Raizel took breakfast in the inn’s bar the next morning, feeling well-rested, content, and ready to face the rest of her journey. Perhaps she’d even hire a coach.
The barmaid leaned over the table while she was refilling Raizel’s mug. “There are opportunities around here, you know, for someone as clever as Esterzon Gorenz says you might be. And if you really destroyed that Black Missive he’s been going on about for years-”
Something about the barmaid, or maybe something about the pixie dust still brushed across Raizel’s eyelashes, was a little strange. She looked closer – closer at the clever decolletage, that looked lower-cut and more dangerous than it was – and realized she could see a spark of divinity hiding in the woman’s chest.
Until then, she hadn’t know she could see such things. Perhaps it was just the dust.
“I destroyed the Missive and the, ah, the multi-hued falcon, ma’am.”
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Seven: Moving On
The black-and-blue light danced upwards like a geyser and then seemed to be sucked downwards, towards the books.
”No!” Trinner Traln shouted. Raizel glanced at him just in time to see him jerk away from Esterzon Gorenz and dart towards the idol.
The blue-black light seemed to suck him in. No, sucked in a portion of him, a light like that from the idol. It pulled out a Trinner-Traln-shaped shadow of strange mystical light and the whole thing was sucked into one of the tomes.
The specter was there in front of Raizel again. “Finally,” it croaked. It settled atop Trinner Traln – and was gone.
Among the tools in the chest was a flint and steel. Raizel lit a small fire and burnt all of the tomes, watching as the flames danced black and blue, stinking of evil.
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Six: The Evil Idol
Raizel was in a plane of white in front of a black spectre, without fifty sed and nowhere near the train station.
If she got out of here, she was going to curse Trinner Traln and that idiot Esterzon Gorenz with every trick and hex and lie all of her grandparents and great-grandparents had taught her.
That was looking to be the problem.
The spectre opened its maw. You will kill the idol.
Why did everyone want her to kill and destroy and get rid of things? What was she, the trash-picker? Was this more of the ridiculous nonsense about the “mountain people?”
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Five: Pixie Dust
Trinner Traln and the round man were, of course waiting for her.
“Pixies,” she swore at both of them. “Pixie dust. What were you thinking?”
“What?” The rotund man stared at her. “There are pixies in that cave? And you didn’t bring any out?”
“What do I look like to you, man, an insane woman? Of course I didn’t bring a pixie out.”
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Four: The Narrow Cave
The cave was, indeed, very tight, and if Raizel had been any better fed, she would not have fit. Trinner Traln and the round man shouted at her and each other as ehs slipped through the opening, moving more like a snake than even like crawling.
“How did you even get this in here?” she called.
“Ah…” Trinner seemed to have rolled into one of his jittery, quiet times. The large man guffawed.
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Three: The Black Missive
by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The walk to the strange man’s cave was only an hour because of the rolling limp that affected his walk, and, it seemed, his speech patterns. He would go up and down, up and down with his tales as they walked, telling Raizel all about the Empire’s plans to read everyone’s mind, only to turn around and whisper, so very quietly, that the birds were there to spy on him, and then be back to shouting again.
Three times, Raizel offered to go on ahead, and three times he turned her down, each time more angrily than before. The last time, he swept both hands in wide denial, as if clearing off a table. “You only want the falcon for yourself! I will get some other child to get it, someone who is less greedy!”
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