I’m still raising money for Extra Life and still taking votes for which character I should play as. To help you decide, I’m posting short excerpts showing each character in action. They’ll post every Monday.
Mira pulled her haversack from the cart and from it took the book she’d pressed the page into, a relatively crisp and thin atlas of the Sword Coast. The creases had been largely flattened out, and the ink no longer pooled along them as it shifted lazily. She could hear the whispery madness of its speech—ashenath enjareen nether pendarthis. Through rock and flood I’ve come to this.
“We will bring you back,” she said in Loross. “Tell us where.”
The ink jumped, as if she’d startled it, but the page didn’t reveal anything new before continuing its regular pattern of scrawlings. The schema had come up briefly the first time she’d offered, but never again. It was time for new efforts. She closed the book and sought out Dahl, sitting alone beside the fire.
The trouble was she spoke Loross, but the modern sort. She did not speak the Loross of Tarchamus, five thousand years old. For all she knew she was offering a pronunciation the page didn’t understand. Or one that threatened or insulted it. For all she knew she might, Mira thought, sound like nothing so much as a madwoman screaming from the street corner.
A blessing she had access to the sorts of rituals that solved such problems.
“Well met,” she said, dropping down beside Dahl. He eyed her warily, but nodded and returned the greeting. “Am I right to understand you can cast a translation ritual? I hear you’re rather talented at it.”
That flustered him. “Yes, well. I can cast it. Yes.”
She opened the book to show the magical page. “I need this particular dialect of Loross.” He studied the page—a necessary sacrifice, she thought. As much as she’d like to keep a tight rein on what the Harpers knew about this mission, she couldn’t restrict everything. If he saw any of the page’s secrets, she’d deal with that later.
“It would be terribly helpful,” she said, after several long moments of his study of the page. “I can read it but I can’t be sure I’m speaking to it. And I’m no ritual caster.”
“I could show you,” he offered offhandedly, “so you don’t need others to cast it.”
Mira smiled and tucked that reaction away as well. “As lovely as that would be, I understand your services are already engaged.” She nodded at Farideh, who stood off at the edge of the grove, stretching a kink from her neck. Dahl’s expression closed.
“She’s not a very good pupil.”
“Really?” Mira asked. “She seems eager enough. Capable. What’s the matter?”
Dahl hesitated. “What she wants to learn . . . I can’t teach it.”
Planar magic, Mira thought. “Can’t or won’t?”
His whole demeanor had shifted, tensed. “Both.”
“I see,” Mira said before he pulled too far from her. “Shall we get to it?”
“You’ll have to wait until he sets the circle,” Brin interrupted. He was still standing on the other side of the campfire, his arms folded. “Won’t she?”
Dahl glowered at him. “I know what I’m meant to do.”
“Well, Farideh can handle that,” Mira said. “You already taught her to lay a protective circle.”
“No,” Dahl said, still glaring at Brin. “Not yet.”
Not yet, but Farideh had said he would teach her back before they left Everlund. Very interesting. Usable.
“Mira!” her father called. “No one’s seen to the horses.
Mira stood and dusted off her breeches, irritated but well aware she couldn’t do any more at the moment. “Sounds like we both ought to attend our tasks,” she said wanly. “But find me later. I could use your help.” She left without looking back, sure that they were both still glaring at each other. At least Brin had stopped watching her.
She was rubbing down the cart horse, contemplating the two younger men, when Maspero cornered her. “This isn’t what you sold me on.” Maspero’s voice was a sheet of lace, so fine and light, it was a shock to hear it coming from such a big man. But if Maspero was talking to you, you’d soon realize the lace was tatted of razor wire, and you would be lucky to live to repeat such comparisons.
“Well met, Maspero,” she said mildly.?“Half as many. Only two of them Harpers, and your father—” “This is better,” she assured him. “You’ll get your weapon.” Maspero grabbed hold of her wrist and jerked her around to face
him. “You said Harpers would be best,” he reminded her. “You said they’d know how to look and what to look for, that you could get ones who wouldn’t ask questions.”
“We’ll manage,” she said, ignoring the pain in her arm. “May I have my hand back? I’m sure you don’t want anyone asking questions about why my mercenary is manhandling me.” Maspero narrowed his eyes. “It’s not as if we’ve drafted a gaggle of idiots. It was they who recovered the page, remember.”
Maspero snorted and released her, and it took all of Mira’s focus not to rub her wrist. “I heard about that,” he said. “Tell me why it is that shitting Graesson knew about the revel and the treasures. I believe I told you to be discreet.”
Mira returned to brushing the horse’s coat. “He already knew. Sent two assassins to kill me and steal it. I just . . . made sure he had the means to continue his search. And keep Adolican Rhand and his guards distracted in Graesson’s normal, dramatic fashion.” She bent to attend the horse’s legs. “The chaos was extraordinary.”
“Godsbedamned Cyricists,” Maspero muttered. “And if he’d managed to gain my treasure?”
She straightened. Maspero was glaring over the cart horse at the rest of their party. “Pernika thinks the Cormyrean boy’s worth something,” he said.
“Tell her to keep it to herself until we’re done,” Mira replied. “The last thing you need is Pernika’s mad plans destroying your allies.”
“So now they’re allies?” Maspero said. “You told me ‘tools’ before. I don’t want Harpers as allies . . . A danger and a weakness. We deal with them as soon as they’re not necessary.”
Mira didn’t blink. “Best of luck with that.”
“Are you implying you aren’t with me, Mira?”
“I’m implying I don’t trust you not to kill me too,” she said simply. “Especially if you’re insisting I ‘deal with’ my own father because he wears the pin. He trusts me, so he trusts you too. Our goals are all in line, Maspero. What we want and what they want aren’t so far off. We get extra hands, extra eyes, and so do they, so why stir the pot? Especially when we all have a common enemy in Shade and Adolican Rhand.”
Maspero narrowed his eyes and muttered a curse for the Netherese gentleman. “If he beats us there, I’ll throttle your father myself for delaying us.”
“Oh, you’ll have to get in line in that case,” Mira said. She handed him the hoof pick. “It would do to look busy.”