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There was pain.  Fierce and red and bright.  But there was the wolf, and it burned in the pain as the trolls talked, the fires burned and the magic continued. He refused to be other than the wolf and his emotions combined hate and disdain with an awful contempt ...

I'd been tortured by better. I could feel them read me and that was all they would get until the sun went out if this was all they could do.   

The Bitter King walked down the line.  It was the Spring Festival and a time for the giving of gifts.

To Ariel he gave the fountain heart of frost (though the entire court knew she had been given it by the Queen of the South long ago), then, at his side, the Lightwalker gave the prince of the Elachi a sept of lumen elementals in the King's name, appearing from nowhere.  Amber received a starstone word, adding to the word she wore around her neck, and Parakyle a blade of solid flame for his Bardiche, the Rukh suddenly at the King's side, giving gifts in his name.

Tindalasse and Amara (Thalia/Lyra/Arilindalle/many named) received blood gems from their fathers and strands of starfire from their mothers. Jean and Marie received a matched pair of heartstone rings and Indigo a battered glyph, a blue lodge token that brought tears to her eyes. The wolf received a word.  Then the Court noticed the Kings, the Lightwalker and Rukh and the Hetari and others, in the grand procession, blessing the Spring.  

As the mage probed again, the scene repeated itself and he spat "anyone can see these pictures, scribes and artists and the like spread this a hundred-fold, this magic is worthless" and then he used his own magic to probe beyond what the wardstone would show.  As he pushed, he slipped and the only thing that was displayed was the jaws of the wolf, then he fell dead.

The dire looked at the rest.  "Enough, we've waited enough, my hunger grows and whatever knowledge he can yield, I'll have after I've eaten him." As their master went to seize the wolf, magic folded and he was gone.

"Guess I'm glad he didn't ask me to try that" said one of the troll mages.  "Let's stoke up the fires, at least the pain will give the wolf something to think about while we leave this place.  We can come back later, when the next master arrives. Perhaps that will break this wolf's silence." Then they left ...

I'd been tortured by better, and probed by stronger.  If he wanted to scry my mind and memories with magic, he could have a picture anyone knew of and everyone had seen.  If he wanted to push his luck, I'd give him quick death and mindlessness the moment he came in reach of the wolf spirit within.  But with the safeguard spell triggered, I needed to do something more than endure.

The next time one of the masters came after me, I wouldn't be so lucky, the next dire could well eat me, though this one would find a sharp, hot welcome at the hands of those who left this magic on me.  Too bad it would not lead them back here, and I did not expect the dire to survive long enough to discuss what it had done, even if it could.

But the word built, swallowing the pain and the pressure and the fears.  I would break silence soon enough.

But oh, how I longed to be back with Indigo in triumph instead of here in pain.

Copyright 2005 Stephen R. Marsh and Heather N. Marsh
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