Dragon Magic(10)

By: Megan Derr

Mahzan turned and looked around, then caught his eyes. Sule expected some smirking remark, and was startled when he only said, "I thought things would be better in the morning. Is that Claw burning?"

Sule looked over his shoulder, even though he knew it was. His mouth pinched. "Yes. From the look of it, the fearmonger attacked Claw first. I hope the other cities are unharmed."

Pursing his lips in thought, Mahzan nodded toward Claw. "If the fearmonger razed Claw before it attacked the Heart, then it likely came from the Red Forest Mountains. There are caves of sufficient size to keep a fearmonger, and they'd be warm enough with all the hidden hot springs. There'd also be food aplenty to feed it."

"It is also," Binhadi interjected, "not far from where Prince Seda is imprisoned."

Sule swore. "Do you really think Prince Seda is behind this?"

Binhadi shook his head. "I do not know, but who else could it be? His Highness and the Grand Dukes are the only ones who stand to gain anything by such destruction. That being said, I don't know how they would do it. Lord Metin is an acclaimed beast mage, but such magic does not extend to fearmongers."

Sule's frown deepened as he turned to stare out at the water and smoke. When King Kanth had died ten years ago, he had thrown the court into turmoil by bequeathing the throne to his younger son, Yavuz. Prince Seda, his eldest son, had not accepted the news gracefully. He had attempted to take the throne by force, and the four most powerful men in the country had stood with him—the Grand Dukes of the North, East, South, and West.

When they had lost, all five men had been stripped of everything they possessed and imprisoned across the country.

"They could control a fearmonger under Oath," Mahzan said.

The priest shook his head. "Absurd. Oaths are a myth. I have never once come across a tale of Oathbound mages that was true."

"Ah, yes, because books are never written with bias or filled with lies and errors," Mahzan said scathingly. "I am telling you, Prince Seda and the Grand Dukes could have captured and controlled that fearmonger if they were Oathbound. It's the only way controlling a fearmonger would be possible."

The priest said, "Even assuming that is true, how could they be under Oath? They are hundreds of miles from each other. If they were bound before the uprising, surely the Oath has long since been broken by distance, if not something else."

Sule scowled. "What in the name of the Great Dragon is an Oath?"

"An old, forgotten magic," Binhadi said. "Under Oath, mages are bound together, unable to part, for a set length of time or until a certain requirement is met. I have never known it to be done. They're considered myth, and even if they are true, they're so rare and knowledge of them so non-existent that they're little better than myth."

Mahzan added, "Oaths were used back in bloodier days, when such bonds were necessary to achieve the levels and versatility of magic required. There are definite, reliable recordings of Oaths in the last Blood War, and in earlier wars. The Feelia bloodline was destroyed by an Oath formed under that very stricture. Prince Seda was a capable shadow mage, and the Grand Dukes were fiercely loyal to him and equally competent in magic. I see no reason they could not have sworn an Oath, and if it's an Oath of Heart, then even distance would not break it."

Sule's brow rose. "Why should I believe a royal fool over His Majesty's warlock?"

Sneering, Mahzan replied, "Interesting opinion from a man who doesn't even know what an Oath is. I may be King's Jester, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid. I can hold my own in knowledge and power with anyone in the Heart, even Warlock Morlock. I don't remember your sword and flames doing much to stop—"

He broke off as Sule leapt over the railing and down to the lower deck, landing neatly in front of him and reaching for his sword—only to be stopped by shadows closing over his hands. Sule glared furiously at Binhadi. "Release me."

"The Heart is destroyed, Claw is destroyed. We are very much the worse for wear. We need food, proper rest, and information. We will obtain none of that by acting like children." Binhadi's dark eyes flashed. "Behave like the North Captain you are supposed to be." He turned to Mahzan. "If you can hold your own with me, act like it." He gave them a last admonishing look and withdrew his shadows.