His decision did little to calm him. In fact, as the day wore on, marked by the tolling of first the prior’s bells and then the twilight bells, his apprehension only grew. Yes, he wielded deep magics. But if Evanthya had deceived him, even they might not be enough.
As night settled over the city of Dantrielle, darkening the narrow window of his chamber, he again heard footsteps in the hallway outside his door. A few moments later, one of the guards unlocked his door and stepped into the cell, bearing Pronjed’s evening meal. The man placed it on the floor near the archminister, and straightened, clearly intending to leave again.
Before he could, Pronjed reached out with his power and touched the man’s mind. Immediately the soldier’s face went slack.
“Where is the other soldier?” Pronjed whispered.
“There is no other,” the man said, his voice flat. “I’m here alone.”
Pronjed gaped at him. “What?”
“I’m here alone.”
“Earlier today. The duke says you’re not a threat anymore and we need only one man to guard you.”
He eyed the man closely, searching for some sign that he was lying, that he had found some way to resist Pronjed’s mind-bending magic. During the last days in Solkara, as Numar planned for his siege, Pronjed had found himself unable to turn the regent or Numar’s brother, Henthas, to his purposes. He had assumed at the time that the two men had learned of his abilities and were warding themselves. But what if his power was simply failing?
“Hit your head against the wall,” Pronjed said, pushing with his magic again.
The man stepped to the wall, and pounded his forehead against the stone. His powers were working just fine.
“What else has the duke done?”
“He’s moved men out of some of the corridors leading to the tower.”
“I don’t know.”
He pushed harder with his magic until the man winced and held a hand to his temple. “I don’t know,” he said again, whining slightly, like a hurt child.
It would have been useful information, but Pronjed could hardly complain. Evanthya had done more for him than he had dared hope. It was time for him to do his part.
“Come here and untie my wrists.”
The man complied instantly. In just a few moments his hands were free, and he had removed the bonds from his ankles.
“Now, tell me where I can find the nearest sally port.”
The man’s directions were a bit muddled, and Pronjed had to tell him to repeat several parts, but Castle Dantrielle was somewhat similar in design to Castle Solkara, where he had served for so many years. He’d have little trouble finding the hidden doorway.
“Give me your sword and dagger.”
The soldier appeared so docile as he handed Pronjed the weapons that the archminister nearly laughed aloud. “The mighty warriors of the Eandi,” he said, regarding the man with contempt. “Our Weaver has nothing to fear from any of you.”
The man simply stood there, slack-jawed and helpless. Pronjed would have liked to strike at him with the blade. Let Tebeo and his noble friends think on that. But he had struck a bargain of sorts with Evanthya, and she had kept up her end of it.
“Lie down and go to sleep,” he said.
And as the man stretched out on the stone floor, Pronjed slipped from the chamber to begin his long journey toward freedom and the triumph of his people.
Somehow his life had become a waking vision of terror. Somehow he had allowed himself to be drawn into matters that were far weightier, far more dangerous, than any with which he had the capacity or desire to cope. Once, as a much younger man, he had hoped to wield influence within the emperor’s court, to make himself high chancellor and act as the leader of the imperial Qirsi. Not anymore, not since Dusaan jal Kania’s arrival in the court nine years ago. Stavel was too old now. He had none of the high chancellor’s ambition. His