Flesh and Spirit

Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carol Berg
than I ought to be from another day of sleeping and eating and taking Robierre’s enforced exercise. Before I could settle, a draft from the door set the rushlights wickering. Another visitor. Boots, this time, curiously enough. Quiet, measured steps.
    “Yes, I’m awake,” I said over my shoulder, wishing I could lie facing the doorway at least. “And pleased for visitors.” The infirmary was beginning to feel more like a public marketplace than a house of healing.
    “Good. I’ve no wish to overtax you.”
    The quiet boots and low, pleasant voice belonged to a gaunt man soberly dressed in secular garb and a round-brimmed felt hat. As he came round the bed, he grabbed one of Robierre’s stools. Under his other arm, he carried my book of maps.
    My welcome froze on my lips, and I set myself ready to muster a host of ailments if the conversation grew dangerous. Jullian’s talk of magistrates and pureblood investigators still had me twitching.
    “My name is Gram Scriptor,” he said, inclining his back and extending his open palm in greeting as southerners do. “My employer is visiting Gillarine and got wind of this magnificent volume. He’s an educated man of wide-ranging interests and bids me learn what I can of it while we bide here that I might record the information in his journals. Abbot Luviar graciously permitted us to view the book and suggested I consult you with my questions, if you felt up to it.” Scriptor …a secretary, then, of unnotable family.
    “I don’t know that I could tell you aught you cannot read from the book itself,” I said as he settled himself on the stool.
    He was something near my own age, and not a bad-looking fellow, save for an unhealthy gray hue to his complexion. His close-trimmed black hair, beardless chin, and conservative attire—ash-gray cape over an unadorned knee-length tunic of dark gray—accentuated the hollows in his cheeks. His eyes sat deep, dark, I thought, though that could just be shadows from his hat.
    “If nothing comes of my questions, so be it.” A grave, modest smile softened his severe appearance. “At the least I can report to my master that I did as he asked, which is often quite enough to satisfy him once the…mmm…storm of displeasure…is past. Just tell me if I press too much or if you tire.”
    I had to be careful. To refuse this fellow might offend the abbot. And I’d not wish the abbot—or this man, whoever he was—to conclude I’d stolen the book after all. Likely I knew enough to satisfy a besieged secretary. “Ask what you will. I’ll do my best.”
    “I’m ever grateful.” He scooted his stool closer to the bed, so we could view the book together. He leafed through several pages. “Of course I’ve seen common maps—a few scratched lines and place names and perhaps a landmark or two. But I’ve no experience of such fine maps—a sorcerer’s maps—and so great a variety of them. The written explanations in the book itself are confusing. I thought perhaps that the lord who’d given it to you might have explained what kinds of maps these are and how their magic works.”
    Gram offered me the book, and I turned a few pages, opening to a leaf displaying four small maps of different kinds. I stared at the page—its lines and symbols evoking far too much of memory. On his random appearances at our house, my grandfather had forced me to sit with him and look at his book, whispering in my ear of its importance, of its perfection, of its cleverness and magic, and how I must learn to use it. His breath had smelled of cloves, onions, and black ale, his body of unwashed skin and horses despite his fine clothes. Disgust rippled through me alongside the recollection. Those sessions had lasted only as long as it took me to spit on his shirt and wriggle out of his grasp. But his lessons had always begun with this page.
    “My—Mardane Lavorile told me that every variety of map is represented in this book,” I began. “Most, like this

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