“Nexus, I’ve known you for most of your life. I’ve come to trust you; a very difficult accomplishment for a man with my prejudices against wizards, not to mention the official policy my office must maintain. Yet you presume upon my trust and my friendship by not telling me what this loan will be used for.”
“Esaf Condeu,” replied Nexus softly. “There are some things that cannot be spoken when there is a chance that the words will be repeated to the wrong ears.”
The ruler of Condeu rose up from his throne with his brows knitted together in rage. He had the body of a man in his twenties, though he had ruled Condeu for over two thousand years.
“How dare you speak of me thus! The Esaf speaks to whom he cares and it is right by definition!”
Nexus quickly interjected, “No, no, you misunderstand, my friend! I speak of your guards; and, any others that may be present…” He turned his blind eyes towards the Esaf’s current wife, Bessia.
The Esaf, still standing, scanned the meeting parlor, and confirmed that there were only two guards and his wife in addition to Nexus and himself. Nexus had more to tell, that was certain, and he had to find out what it was.
“Bessia, leave us.” Condeu spoke gruffly and without looking at his beautiful young wife.
“My husband! Will you send me off like some lowly servant? I would stay and hear the rest of this tale with you.” The hurt and anger in her voice was not disguised; this to her detriment, for Esaf Condeu booked no insubordination from anyone in his kingdom, even his wife.
“The Esafi will leave the room and go to her quarters to await my summons.” He turned to her. “If you like, I will ask one of the guards to accompany you.”
The Esafi rose and left, face flushed red. The Esaf turned back to Nexus. “I will not be alone with a wizard; not even you, Nexus. I’m not as blessed as the Esaf Mileu. But I will allow you to cast a spell of silence over my guards, as I you did in our war councils years ago.”
Nexus nodded and turned his back to the king and faced the guards, who stared impassively back. He bent his head low, and fondled an amulet around his neck. He breathed words into it, so low even he could scarce hear the words.
“By the Desolation! What am I to do now?” A tiny voice whispered back, not in his ears but in his mind, and he listened. He dropped the amulet and waved his arms in a series of widening circles at the guards who stood impassively at the door. A yellow radiance seemed to surround them for a moment, then faded.
Nexus turned back to the Esaf. “It is done, Esaf.”
“Yes, and with more flourish than I remember. You used to do that without even facing them, let alone making gestures.”
“Age brings on some concessions, I’m afraid. I need the gestures to help me focus the spell. But let me come to the point: in a few days, this world will be in very grave danger. I have learned that there are some members of the Guild – even within the Circle itself – that are plotting an insurrection that could lead to full civil war.”
Esaf Condeu sat down heavily. “You speak of rekindling the Wizards War of forty years ago!”
“I do,” replied Nexus solemnly.
“But such a thing is not possible! Murgorath is dead, his Elf zombies are gone, and the Strictures and supplemental tenth level spells prohibit magic from doing harm.”
Nexus shrugged. “Don’t discount the power of magic to do ill. Magic can take many forms. And in so doing, traps can be laid. Traps of normal matter, yet cleverly disguised and formed in the twinkling of an eye through the power of magic. Wizards merely replace the direct spells of death with indirect ones.”
Esaf Condeu pounded his first on the arm of his chair. “Who are the traitors! Tell me and let them face my wrath!”
Nexus shook his head. “I do not know all of them. Only by letting them play their hand will we discover who they are. But I plan a few surprises of my own, which will thwart theirs and leave them open to you.”
The Esaf nodded. “And for this you need a million megs?”
Nexus smiled. “Yes, Esaf. I cannot use the reserves of the Guild itself without raising the suspicions of the traitors. And I cannot catch master wizards, perhaps even rogue Lords, with any less energy.”
The Esaf was quiet for several minutes, staring off into the flames of the corner hearth. “A million megs could build a city, Nexus. It could send a person to the moon. It could open a portal to another universe. So much energy.” He shook his head. “How will you use it?”
“Not for ill, Esaf. For one thing, any blatant display of energy would be readily noticeable to everyone; I don’t plan to build any cities or send men to the moon. As for portals: even if I wanted to, it takes a tenth level spell to open it. I need to work on this alone.”
“Then what will you use it for? I must know.”
“Bait. Traps. Information research. The enemy is clever, but I am more clever. But skill, cleverness, knowledge are not enough without the energy to actuate the spells and make it all happen.”
“The traitors. They too will be using a great deal of power?”
“And Icon; would you say that he is not one of the traitors?”
“Icon knows nothing of this plot, of that I am sure. But I have not dared to speak to him of my fears least we be overheard by the wrong ears. The traitors are sure to be watching him much more closely than they would me.”
“What harm can an old blind wizard be, eh Nexus? But I will not take the chance of lending you the energy; there are too many ways that such a loan can be found out and misconstrued.” The Esaf held up a hand as Nexus began to protest. “But I have in my mind a plan that may yet help us both. Icon and I go back as far as you and I; and he owes me a favor from the battle at Bors Pass. I have been wanting a summer palace at the mouth of the Mauser. The Guild could build it for me tomorrow if Icon approved. The cost would be a pretty penny. 500 Gs. Half a million Megs. Initially shelled out by the Guild, with payments to be made by me to them over the next several months.
“That should put a damper on whatever loose funds your insurgents were planning on. Then your own needs should be correspondingly smaller.”
Nexus hesitated, as if listening to an inner voice. “It may work, Esaf. At least it will delay them and give me time to discover more about them and their plans.”
“And to find a way to safely tell Icon. He is a valuable ally.”
Nexus nodded and smiled. “Indeed, my friend. Your plan has so much more to offer than my own that I am surprised that I did not think of it first.”
Esaf Condeu smiled back. “One more thing, Nexus. I have been asked to send troops to Hornblower. The Palatine there thinks the troops could help stave off a Rep attack.”
“There is evidence that indicates that a large armed force does tend to deter the Reps.” “Perhaps. I am not convinced, but I will send two platoons of troops from Lepton down to Hornblower and another platoon up from Tolan. They may be able to help put down the Rep attacks there. But I will divert them to raze the wizard’s Guild at Minas Nimgul if that becomes necessary to bring the traitors to justice.”
“The Esaf Mileu may not take kindly to that sortie, let alone Icon.”
“Do not concern yourself with the politics. Ruffled feathers is a small price to pay for averting a major war.”
“I’m glad you see the bigger picture, Esaf,” Nexus said.