Either the guards remembered him from earlier or they were simply accustomed to wizards coming and going. They didn’t question him. And Korin had no trouble finding his way back to the rooftop garden where Sheluna was holding court.

This time, he walked boldly forward, ignoring the other wizards, the familiars, and even the tiger that sat up at Korin’s approach.

Sheluna was talking to two other wizards—Samir and someone Korin didn’t know. She waved them away at Korin’s approach. Her strange red eyes began to glow softly. Korin didn’t know what to read from that, but he refused to be intimidated.

“Tell me it wasn’t you.”

Korin watched her face for every move, every twitch. As her brows pulled together in what seemed to be honest confusion. If she was feigning, she was doing it well. But then, Korin expected Archwizard Sheluna zhi Darkivel to be an expert at lying.

“Whatever accusation you’re here to make, I’m afraid I’m going to need more information.”

Korin noted that Samir had taken a step forward, and that the tiger’s attention on Korin had sharpened. Everyone was watching him. That was fine. Let them all listen.

“Someone is hurting people.” Korin kept his voice even and calm, although pitched loud enough to carry across the garden. “Someone—a wizard—has been undoing the healing that I have done. I’m here to tell you that it’s going to stop. Now.”

Again, he studied Sheluna’s face as he made his pronouncement, but saw no change in her expression. No ripple of anything that could be read as evasion or guilt. So either she was honestly surprised by his pronouncement or she was good enough to hide her deception from Korin.

Either answer was possible.

“Why come to me with this?” she asked. Her voice, the neutral expression on her face—neither gave any hint of what she might be thinking. “Why bring these accusations to my doorstep?”

“You said it last time I was here, that there were wizards of your order who were upset with the fact I’ve been helping people for free. And this magic, it isn’t something that’s going to be familiar to wizards in any order but yours.”

“Or yours.”

Obviously. But Korin knew this much, even if she didn’t. “There are no other wizards of my order in the city.”

“So certain?” Her eyes were pulsing brighter now. Korin wished he had any idea what that meant.

“I have good reason to believe it.” He wasn’t going to let himself get pulled into this discussion. She knew—or should know—that the Archwizard of the Balance kept a pretty close eye on Staff wizards coming in and out of the city. Reneé had told Korin as much when he’d been wondering if one of his own was responsible for the blight.

And that was the part he absolutely wasn’t going to talk about with Sheluna. Not just the blight, but his encounter with the cultists. When they’d all but confessed to killing others of his order because Staff wizards were a threat. It had only been a few weeks since Korin—with the help of Ádan and his friends—had dealt with the cultists. It wasn’t like there’d been a huge burst of Staff immigration in that time.

None of that was anything Sheluna needed to know. She could either take Korin at his word or she could do her own research.

Sheluna was studying Korin. He folded his arms, making it clear he wasn’t going to say any more.

“Very well.” She dropped a light hand on her tiger’s head, scratching absently at his forehead. “I can assure you that I have nothing to do with this business. And if any of my wizards are causing trouble in this fashion, they are doing it without my knowledge or my permission.” She looked out across the garden, her eyes sweeping the assembled wizards. “And it will stop.”

That had happened easier—and faster—than Korin expected. “Thank you,” he said reflexively.

She waved away his thanks. “If one of my wizards is involved with this, the behavior is an abomination and an abuse, and cannot be allowed to continue.”

Korin searched her face for any sign of deception. Not that he was any sort of expert at people, but she seemed to be absolutely sincere. This wasn’t what Korin had expected, given all the talk he’d heard of Sheluna being a monster.

“I don’t believe in wizards abusing their power,” she continued. “And as one of the nine, it’s my duty to make sure it doesn’t happen.” She paused, gave a shrug. “Not every archwizard agrees with me. Much as I would like them to. But that’s something to keep in mind as you track down whoever might be doing this to people. What I will do—Samir!”

He stepped forward and gave a graceful half-bow. “Master Sheluna?”

“Make certain my will in this matter is known to all the Wing wizards in Triome. Anyone who takes issue with it can come talk to me.” The little smile that crossed her face, the way her eyes pulsed—there, Korin could see the threat that Ádan was so focused on.

But it was a threat aimed, in this case, at wizards doing wrong.

And really, could Korin be so quick to judge her for turning that same power and authority against the knights? How much of Ádan’s judgement against her was simply because of the side she’d been on during the war?

Sheluna leaned back on her couch, her attention focused, once more, entirely on Korin. “When I told you I was looking for allies, Korin, this is what I was talking about. This is the sort of nonsense I want to track down and stop, whether it’s on a small scale or large. The fact that you’re here, worried about this, it tells me we have common ground. I believe we could work together.”

He couldn’t imagine what he might have to offer her. But after she’d been so quick to listen to him, it seemed rude to simply say no and walk away. “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t know what you’d want me for. I’m just a healer. Nothing more.”

“There is no “just” about being a healer. And from what I’ve heard, you are a healer with some skill. Who knows. You might even have something to teach me.”

Korin blushed at that, flustered. “I can’t imagine. You’re an Archwizard. What could I possibly know that you don’t?”

“No wizard knows everything.” She stroked a hand down Cír’s flank. “Think about it, at least.”

That, at least, seemed a harmless thing to agree to. But after that, Korin excused himself before she could ask any more of him. Because even if Sheluna wasn’t the monster Ádan believed, Korin still wanted to be as far away from wizard politics as he could be.


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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