Chapter 26

It was evening in Greenhill. Jowy hadn’t really considered how the hours would pass when he travelled such great distances. But the day and night came to Greenhill whether he was there or not - when he moved faster than they did, it was only natural for them to seem to change.

He entered his room through the window. He didn’t want to alarm the innkeeper or any of the patrons by his appearance. The blood on his clothing had not been washed away by the True Water Rune even if the wound that caused that blood had been healed.

Luc was still asleep on the bed.

Jowy frowned.

Had he chosen wrong in letting Leon live? Would the Espers simply grant him new powers?

It seemed unlikely.

But perhaps Jowy should have meted out punishment then and there. Avenged Leknaat’s death and countless others.

“Vengeance is a dangerous line to walk,” the Star Dragon Sword said. “For one with a duty as important as yours, you made the right choice.”

Jowy looked at the sword. “And for one without such a duty?”

It didn’t say anything for a moment. “Probably not.”

Jowy sheathed the sword. It was trying to help him, but he would face this question alone. It didn’t complain.

He would not wait any longer. He had all but five of the True Runes. He had not avenged Leknaat’s death, but he would obey her wishes. His business in Greenhill had come to an end.

It was time to say goodbye.

He took a sack of coins from his pocket and set it on the desk. A quickly written letter instructed Luc to pay in full for the room when he awakened. Hopefully, the young magician would do so. The inn had provided good service.

Jowy drew the Star Dragon Sword. “We must finish this,” he said.

“I agree,” it said. Its motionless face somehow gave the impression of a smile. “If it is any consolation, we may not be going anywhere once we’re done, anyway. I still don’t know what to do next.”

“When we’re done here, we’ll find where we need to go. I will not delay any longer.” Had he delayed less, would Leknaat have lived? He didn’t think so, from what Luc had said, but it remained a possibility. He could no longer remain in Greenhill. No longer remain at Jillia’s side.

“If you say so,” the sword said. It fell silent.

Jowy returned to the window. He should rest. Much of the power had only begun to return to the Runes he and Leon had used. But if he waited any longer, he feared for his resolve.

It was time to say goodbye.

He did not use the Rune of the Gate. One last time, he would look upon the city of Greenhill. The city whose people hated him. The city where his life was.

No more.

Jowy walked up to the entrance of the library. Saying goodbye was, in that way at least, easier. It no longer mattered if he was seen entering.

One last time.

He closed his eyes and pushed open the door.

He’d heard of some sort of damage to the library. But all seemed to be in order. No, not all. The five so-called True Runes were gone. Perhaps someone had tried to take one? If so, he pitied them. The wards on those false runes were meant to kill.

Jowy looked around. Jillia was not in her customary place at the desk. Had she had gone in back?

He started down the wide main aisle of the library.

Someone behind him said, “You are looking for your wife, I take it?”

Jowy spun, but, for a moment, he didn’t see the speaker.

Then, he did.

It was a winged, misshaped creature no longer than his arm, perched upon one of the shelves like a statue. “Jowy Atriedes,” it said, its smooth, cultured voice contrasting with its appearance, “I trust you can recognise my voice. Your lovely wife and your delightful little daughter are in the place you could not find. Seek them there, and perhaps we can come to some arrangement. Oh, and don’t be late. Come and see us all before midnight, if you value their lives.”

Jowy reached out and grabbed the creature. It crumbled to dust in his hands, leaving no trace that it had ever existed except for a thin layer of grey chalk.

A simulacrum, used by its creator to deliver a message. And, as he was meant to, Jowy recognised the voice of that creator.

The place he could not find...? Such a riddle seemed to defeat itself. If the message was a lure, which it had to be, why tell him that?

Jowy’s hand closed into a fist, sending the simulacrum’s remains into the air. Not a place he could not find now. A place he had been unable to find in the past. It seemed his enemy had been reading history.

“You know it’s a trap,” the Star Dragon Sword whispered.

“Yes,” Jowy said.

“And you still intend to go.”

“Yes,” he said.

“I am relieved to hear it.”

He had come to say goodbye before he faced the possessor of the last five True Runes.

Ghaleon Dyne had decided to reverse the timing of those actions.

He would regret that decision.