Dacsinj smacked the shovel against a tree, knocking loose some dirt that had stuck to it. He put the shovel back into his pack and started back to the camp. He had gone only a few feet when the sensiball started to emit a high pitch whine.
Dacsinj glanced around nervously, and quickly opened the pack and removed the sensiball. “This is Dacsinj,” he said carefully. “Who is this?”
“Dacsinj, are you alone?” said the voice from the sensiball, as the image of Kratia’s face appeared. Her hairstyle was different, but Dacsinj knew Kratia frequently changed appearances to suit her mood and whims. He wondered what crazy whim had possessed her to call back so soon. Surely she understood the risk of discovery!
“I’m alone, Kratia. But it’s dangerous to make unscheduled calls! What do you want?”
“Do not take that tone with me, Librarian. Or you shall find out what true danger is.”
The color drained from Dacsinj’s face as he stared at the sensiball. “I am sorry, Lord Kratia. How can I serve you?”
“Plans have changed. I have put the raiding party on hold, because I think I can turn the remaining Lords to my support.”
“Tanas and the others are not fools. They will not support you once they know the truth.”
“Tanas won’t be in any condition to resist me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to understand, Dacsinj. Just convince Tanas that you need to talk to him alone. Tell him that you need his help in breaking the seal on some library data stored in this sensiball.”
“But none of the data is sealed to me,” said Dacsinj. “Icon gave me full access last month.”
“He doesn’t know that!” spat back Kratia. “You will activate the sensiball, and point out a sealed data bank that I will place inside. But when Tanas reaches out his mind to break the seal, I will be there to engage him in a wizard’s duel.”
“Kratia! It’s too dangerous!”
“I didn’t ask your opinion, Dacsinj,” said Kratia coldly. “The danger is minimal. You will join minds with me just before Tanas concentrates on the sensiball. In essence, he will be facing a circle of two. At best, he was not my equal. With two of us, the struggle will be short and decisive. I will control his mind with minimal damage. Through him, I will control the remaining Lords.”
“Kratia, I don’t know; it’s too risky.”
“Just do it.” Kratia’s tone brooked no resistance.
“I will obey, Kratia. Give me a few minutes.”
Kratia smiled sweetly, then let her image fade as she broke contact. Dacsinj resumed his walk back to the camp.
The Lords were seated around a small fire, engaged in discussion about the best route to Minas Palanar. Dacsinj listened for a few minutes without offering any advice. At a lull, he asked Tanas if he might have a few words alone with him. Tanas looked briefly around at the others, but none of them showed any sign of wanting to continue their conversation. Tanas looked back at Dacsinj, shrugged, stood, and walked away from the camp with Dacsinj.
“Well, Dacsinj, what is it?”
Dacsinj licked his lips nervously. “I was accessing some of the library data that I downloaded to the sensiball,” he said. “And I found that some of the information is under seal by the Circle. Only a Lord can break the seal. I think the information may be useful to us; the topic is Rauder magic capabilities. I remember you discussing that as one possibility for some of the problems that Salmineria is going through.”
Tanas nodded. “Good thinking, Dacsinj.” Tanas looked deep into Dacsinj’s eyes. “You are a valuable asset to the Circle.”
Dacsinj smiled briefly, then dropped his eyes to his pack. He removed the sensiball and held it out before the Lord. “It will only take a moment to access the file, Lord. Then you can break the seal and we will discover if the secret within will benefit us.”
“We certainly shall, Librarian,” responded Tanas.
Dacsinj shivered at the Lord’s words, but quickly cast the spell and channeled the power to the sensiball from the energy wand at his belt. He searched for the sealed database. It was easy to find as it was the only new and unfamiliar region within the information space of the sensiball. He felt Kratia’s presence near it, brooding and powerful. Strange that she was not better hidden. He began backing out of the Sensiball, intending to turn it over to Tanas.
But the Kratia presence lunged suddenly, seizing his consciousness, sinking long mental talons deep into his mind. This was not sharing in the same way that a circle should; this was a forcible grappling, more like a duel.
Dacsinj panicked and tried to withdraw, without success. He tried to turn his head to Tanas, but was completely paralyzed. The Kratia entity began to shift into something else as Tanas spoke.
“You made our decision easier, Dacsinj. It’s clear now that we need to avoid Kratia and her traps. Perhaps we can convince the Esafs of the true state of affairs before it is too late for us. Perhaps not. In either case, it’s too late for you.”
Dacsinj cringed as the mental entity within the sensiball revealed itself to be a circle of the three Lords. They moved deeper into the librarian’s mind, gathering secrets and destroying forever his magical abilities. He tried to fight but the power of the circle was too great to resist. He felt the most valued part of himself shrivel and die. His hands moved of their own accord, dropping the sensiball to the ground then tossing his wands down beside it. The magic went away and the circle disengaged, immediately fading from his awareness.
“By edict of the Circle, this four hundred twenty-second day of the year 6949, Dacsinj is stripped of all magic, removed from the post of Director of the Guild Library, and barred from the Guild,” said Tanas. He looked at Dacsinj, who had collapsed to the ground, sobbing. “All secrets of the Guild that were held by you have been erased from your mind and you have surrendered all wands and devices to me.”
Dacsinj continued sobbing.
“I have spared your life, Dacsinj,” said Tanas. “But you are still despised. Leave this camp and do not return under pain of death.”
“You can’t do this to me!” screamed Dacsinj.
“We already have,” replied Tanas as he picked up the sensiball and the wands.
“Kratia will kill you for this!”
Tanas shook his head. “You are the one who failed her.”