TO ALL WHO COME AFTER----BEWARE: DANGER: WARNING. SEE WHAT WE
HAVE HAD TO DO TO THE GLORY THAT WAS OURS. WE HAVE DESTROYED
IT.----OBLITERATED UTTERLY. THE CAUSE WAS----. HEED THIS TALE.
IN THE HEIGHT OF OUR----THERE CAME ONE WHO----ALL
THE----POWER. HE CALLED HIMSELF OSSMINID AND WALKED THE MAZE RIGHT
HERE AHEAD OF WHERE YOU STAND NOW. HE EMERGED SUCCESSFUL, ACQUIRING
THE POWER TO PERSUADE ANY LIVING CREATURE TO HIS WILL.
BUT THIS WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR HIM. HE----THE CROWNS AS WELL.
USING HIS POWER, HE BENT THE CROWN COUNCIL TO HIS WILL AND WAS GIVEN
THE CROWN----AS WELL. HE IT WAS WHO SET OUT TO PROVE THERE WAS NO
REAL NEED TO----CROWN AND MAZEMASTER.
FOR A TIME, THE GLORY OF OUR----INCREASED. OSSMINID RULED AS
MAZEMASTER AND LEFT THE CROWNS TO THE CROWN COUNCIL. BUT AS HE
RULED, HE CHANGED.
----HE SOUGHT TO CHOOSE CANDIDATES TO WALK THE MAZE. FEW OF
HIS CHOICES SUCCEEDED. FEWER AND FEWER PERSUADERS EMERGED TO DO THE
WORK OF OUR----.
ONE DAY HE WRAPPED HIMSELF AS MAZEMASTER AND WALKED INTO THE
EMPEROR'S CROWN, AS WAS HIS RIGHT. HE HAD NO PERSUADER TO SEND TO
THE WARRING PLANET, AND SO HE SENT HIS OWN THOUGHTS THROUGH THE
THIS WAS NOT JUST A MESSAGE FROM THE EMPEROR OF CROWNS. THIS
WAS A FORCE FELT OVER THE WHOLE PLANET. NONE COULD RESIST. THE
WE SOUGHT TO REPLACE OSSMINID. HE WOULD NOT LOOSE THE----HE
HAD GATHERED. THERE WAS KILLIN. HE WOULD NOT YIELD. ON THE DAY HE
ENTERED THE CROWN FOR A SECOND TIME, HE----TO DESTROY US.
TO STOP HIM, WE DESTROYED OURSELVES, KNOWING THAT WITHOUT
CROWN AND MAZE, OUR----WOULD DISINTEGRATE.
WARNING. WARNING. WARNING.
THE MAZEHEART THAT----US THE POWER TO PERSUADE COULD NOT BE
DESTROYED. WE HAVE REMOVED IT AND CONCEALED IT.
WARNING. WARNING. WARNING.
THE----OF HOW THE MAZEHEART----DIES WITH US. KNOW ONLY THAT WE
DARED NOT----INTO A----FROM WHICH NOTHING EMERGES. ALL OUR----WOULD
NOT LET US PREDICT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.
IF THE MAZEHEART IS FOUND----DESTROY ITSELF.
THE LAST PERSUADER
Zref Ortenau MorZdersh'n lay supine on the fine white sand at the
edge of the spawning pond contentedly watching the surging waters
where the two kren mated. Zref was nude in the steamy air, though
outside the pond room he'd have worn several layers of clothing to
protect his human skin against the mountain chill.
Suddenly, all his contentedness vanished in a flush of protective
alertness such as he had not felt since his first bhirhir, his molt
brother Sudeen, had died.
He sat up, gathering his legs under him, scrutinizing the two kren
in the pond, Arshel and Khelin.
"What's the matter?" asked Ley, Khelin's bhirhir.
Zref shrugged, peering about the room, half expecting to see ghosts
lurking in the steamy air.
Ley brushed his hair back from his face and whispered, one human to
another, "Come on! You know Khelin's never attacked any female,
let alone Arshel! Relax."
Zref shivered, realizing he'd broken out in a cold sweat. He
searched for a logical cause for his alarm. Arshel was not yet truly
Zref's bhirhir; they couldn't pledge until the mating finished. But he
already felt as protective as he'd ever felt with Sudeen. And now it
seemed a presence invaded this most private room threatening
Arshel--his brothers Khelin and Ley--himself.
The heart-pounding surge of alarm was abating, the presence gone.
"I trust Khelin, too," he whispered to Ley.
But Zref remained sitting, inspecting the room.
The kren had salted the pond water and warmed the air simulating
Arshel's native tropical island, so she could suffer the rigors of
egg-laying in comfort. But the rest of the room was typical of all
freshwater spawning ponds. The water filled half the floor. The other
half, almost all the way to the door leading to the rest of the
immense MorZdersh'n family home, was a gently sloping sand hill. To
Zref's right hulked the free-standing arch, the "door to the room
without walls" of kren philosophy. To one side, pegs jutted from
the wall, holding street clothing. On a table set beneath the
clothing, Zref and Ley kept toiletries. Focusing on Ley. Zref noted
that his fellow human's tan was fading, and he seemed to have gained
some weight during the long mating, though he still had a muscular
Ley flipped his long, sand-colored hair back and whispered,
"They're going to want us in there soon."
"Maybe not," answered Zref. He focused on the kren pair
in the water. Iridescent scales flashed in the artificial light, but
it was easy to pick out Arshel's darker saltwater-spawn coloring. Two
earless heads surfaced and the sound of kren voices reached them over
the lap-rush-lap of the water. Soon, Arshel would be laying her egg.
An uprush of curiosity swept aside the soft murmuring of the water
as deep inside Zref's mind the comnet Interface signaled a message had
dropped into his private file, that part of the Interface Guild's
comlink set aside for Zref to use as his own memory. Years ago, his
brain had been surgically altered to give him access to the webwork of
connected computer banks located in all the far-flung centers of the
Hundred Planets civilization, so that now opening the Interface was
natural and peculiarly satisfying.
The Urgent Flag on the message had caused the high-intensity
curiosity. Mating or no, he had to read that message. "There's
someone waiting to see you in the reception room of your house.
Youta, an Interface of the Jernal species, had been on Camiat long
enough to know not to interrupt a kren mating. Zref opened and dropped
a return message into Youta's private file. "The person will
have to wait. Zref."
"This is a Hundred Planets security matter, and a Guild
Policy matter. Rodeen will not break her word and order you off Camiat
while you are still obligated to Arshel, but we all believe you both
should go. Youta."
No! But Zref didn't drop that reply, and before he could
frame something diplomatic, Ley was shaking him.
"Zref, pay attention. You can't open now!"
"I'm sorry, did they call us?" Zref searched the churning
waters while lowering his blood pressure to control his curiosity,
determined not to be seduced into opening when Arshel needed him.
Ley, restraining Zref with one hand, warned, "Not yet, but it
can't be long now; Khelin is frantic." Ley pulled his hand back,
glancing sideways at Zref. "Is something wrong? You've never
opened when your attention should be on them."
Zref arranged his face into a grateful smile. Ley was treating him
as if he were actually Arshel's bhirhir. "The Guild is dropping
me messages demanding my attention." He hadn't intended to say
that, but Zref had served the Hundred Planets as an Interface long
enough not to be surprised at what came out of his mouth in answer to
a direct question.
"During a mating?! You shouldn't let them do that!"
Zref was relieved that Ley hadn't phrased his advice, Why do you
. . . which would have compelled him to answer. As it was, he felt
Ley frowned. "Khelin hasn't raised a drop of venom in almost
five days. He must be in agony, but he's so involved he can't even
feel it. I never thought kren could behave like this . . . as
if he wants the mating to go on forever!"
Zref averted his gaze and opened briefly, then said,
"According to the literature, the three years they've gone, with
this being their fifth consecutive egg, already is a record. And no
such mating has occurred between a pair that had mated with each other
Ley looked at Zref in chagrin. "My brother the Interface. I'll
never get used to it." He shook his head, then wondered,
"Could it have something to do with Khelin's priesthood?" He
gestured at Zref not to answer.
The Mautri disciplines both Arshel and Khelin had mastered seemed
to have gentled their mating habits while intensifying their
concentration on the process. Zref squelched the bubbling question of
why this was, and why he, knowing Ley was human and not at all likely
to be inflamed by Khelin's condition and attack Arshel himself, still
felt a growing sense of threat. He decided the entire threat to Arshel
came from the messages still dropping insistently into his private
file--threatening to interrupt them.
Ley scrambled to his feet. "Look."
Khelin poked his head up above the rim of the pond, his skull
outlined by the soaked down fluff that normally haloed his head. His
hide gleamed, cascades of rainbows adorning his earless skull. He
raised one hand, webbing spread, to beckon. "She's ready."
Shoulder to shoulder, Zref and Ley walked down the sloping sand and
into the water, until they stood waist deep, facing one another with
the kren couple between them.
If they had been kren, the situation would have them squaring off
as potential combatants, venom flowing into their venom sacks, fangs
lowered to strike position. Since they both happened to be human, they
had worked out a symbolic gesture which helped to put the kren
subliminally at ease. Making fists, they touched knuckles across the
two kren who were floating nearly submerged, hyperventilating in
preparation for the long submergence.
Arshel floated on her back. The bulge of her abdomen which
contained the egg broke the surface, rippling as the powerful muscles
drove the egg into her fully extended ovipositor. She reached for
Zref's hand and squeezed, her eyes closed as she concentrated on the
Mautri disciplines to relax her sphincters and pass even such a large
egg as this easily. He returned her squeeze reassuringly.
Khelin urgently motioned Ley aside. Then, in one swoop, he flipped
Arshel over, submerging them both as he thrust his male organ deep,
both pushing the egg down its channel and lubricating it with his
Zref saw Ley's lips moving in a silent count as the kren
disappeared beneath the surface. "I'm timing them," Zref
Ley smiled. "Just don't get lost in the comnet."
"If I do, my watchdog function will alert me at four minutes.
If we have to bring them up, we will, but I don't think that's what
they wanted us here for." Over the last five matings, Zref had
built these routine monitoring functions into his private file so that
they would operate even around a sheaf of unread messages.
The movements below the surface churned Zref off balance, dragging
him into neck-high water. Ley followed, swimming. "That was
awfully strong," said Ley. "I'm worried." He
hyperventilated, and Zref followed suit.
"That's three minutes," said Zref. "Let's go
They submerged. Khelin's large webbed hands were spread around
Arshel's abdomen, encouraging the egg to descend into the ovipositor
as he gripped her from behind. Arshel's face was relaxed into a
sublime ecstasy, Khelin's into rapture. The two humans watched
critically and then surfaced. Ley puffed, "They're both getting
enough oxygen through their skins. They can stay down three or four
Zref sculled to keep his balance in the churning water.
"Arshel's color was good: I think she can make it--but I'm not
sure about Khelin. He's doing all the work."
"Ah, but he's having the time of his life! Did you see the
expression on his face? I think he'd strike at me if I tried to
make him stop now!"
They breathed together, and Zref said, "That's five
minutes." Together they jackknifed straight to the bottom, but by
the time they got there, the egg was a pearlescent blob against the
pale grains of sand. Khelin was happily scooping sand up around it,
beckoning Ley over to help him.
Arshel turned to Zref and, in self-conscious imitation of the human
gesture of acceptance, embraced him.
The flexible, kren scales were familiar. The venom sack at her
throat was still flaccid, empty from the long mating. Her ovipositor
had already tucked itself away and the pleated skin of her abdomen was
coming back into place. Her firm muscles were pliant, not tense. Her
overflowing vitality filled Zref with inexplicable joy, so rare for an
Khelin's exuberant egg burying had kicked up so much sand Zref
couldn't see. He signaled, and together they surfaced, Zref panting
while Arshel floated, breathing easily.
Moments later, Khelin and Ley surfaced, laughing. The image evoked
precious memories of Sudeen finishing a mating.
Khelin swept Arshel aside. "At last, Arshel! That was the
final time for us!"
Her wide, dark eyes bloomed with a new joy. "Truly?"
"Yes, my magnificent mothering-lady, I'll never have to do
that again." There was a deep, abiding affection in his voice
that Zref had never heard from Sudeen. Khelin moved Arshel toward
Zref, catching Zref's eye. "So now at last you can immunize Zref
to your venom, and Zref can offer you immunization to MorZdersh'n in
proper bhirhir pledge--making you truly MorZdersh'n!"
Bhirhir, not mating, bound kren into families, and Zref knew Khelin
appreciated their delaying their pledge to allow the mating.
Nevertheless, the kren placed Arshel's webbed hand in Zref's, his own
hand on Zref's shoulder. "I apologize for my disgraceful
behavior. I don't even understand my own feelings now; I can only try
to make amends. I owe you so much, Zref."
Had Zref demanded it even during the mating, Khelin, as brother to
Sudeen and thus Zref's nearest relative in MorZdersh'n, would have had
to provide venom for Zref to immunize Arshel in the sealing of their
bhirhir. Thus immunized, Arshel would be infertile to all MorZdersh'n,
and her odor couldn't trigger Khelin's mating. Zref put his own hand
on Khelin's shoulder. "Brothers don't owe each other."
Glancing to Arshel. he added, "Nor do bhirhirn."
"Tomorrow, then--we can go to Hengrave to pledge," said
Zref strangled back a surge of curiosity, remembering all the
unread messages bursting his private file. Sighing, he trudged up out
of the pond followed by Ley and the two kren. They all watched him as
they toweled off and dressed. But he didn't want to spoil this moment
by mentioning the summons to leave Camiat--but not for Hengrave.
Khelin brought Zref his shoes. Khelin's head fluff was already dry,
though the two humans were using hot air blowers on themselves. As
Zref turned his blower off, Khelin searched Zref's face with the look
Zref had once labeled his "blue priest's gaze," a look that
meant Khelin was using his peculiar psychic gift for probing
motivations. "Zref, I remember you with Sudeen. You feel for
Arshel as you did for Sudeen. Despite being an Interface, you feel."
Zref felt no impulse to answer. Ley said, "He may be the most
peculiar Interface in existence, but he's still an Interface and won't
answer you unless you ask." Zref was the only Interface made
using a combination of modern techniques and recovered First Lifewave
knowledge. As a result, he had access both to the comnet and to his
own unconscious, making him the only Interface who could feel anything
other than the Primary Emotions.
"It's not that I won't answer. It's that I--can't."
"Then answer this," said the kren. "The Guild has
granted you permission to exist as both Interface and person. Why
can't you grant yourself the same permission? Why did you walk away
from Arshel just now--knowing how it would hurt her? I can't be party
to establishing a bhirhir where such callousness is practiced."
"No!" Zref turned to Arshel. "You didn't think
I--Arshel, if you're ready, we will pledge bhirhir tomorrow.
The Guild can take their offworld job and--"
"Offworld job?" asked Arshel instantly, and Zref had to
tell them then about the message drop.
"In our reception room?" asked Khelin.
Without volition, Zref dropped to Youta. "Is that person
still waiting for me at MorZdersh'n? Zref."
"Yes, with less patience every moment. Why haven't you been
answering your mail? I was about to drop to Jimdiebold to say you'd
had a relapse and couldn't open at all! Youta."
In a fit of temper such as he'd not had since before becoming an
Interface, Zref dumped all the "mail" in his private file
back into Youta's private file, then he closed.
"Yes, the visitor is still waiting." Free of the
question, Zref added, "I must see him, Arshel. I'll turn him
down, though. Even Rodeen concedes that's my right."
Khelin's gaze seared Zref with the intensity characteristic of his
talent. Ley moved to Khelin's side, an alert bhirhir. Suddenly, the
three of them formed a solid front founded on a deep mutuality which
"Something threatens," pronounced Khelin. It wasn't the
usual Khelin utterance. Hardly recovered from mating, the Mautri blue
priest was raising venom.
Zref put one arm around Arshel's shoulders, almost in position to
express venom--an intimacy bhirhirn practiced only in total privacy.
But she didn't shrink away. "The four of us," said
Zref, "will stand before any threat." With his other arm, he
The exclusivity of their three-way bond held fast for a moment, and
then a coldness invaded the room. As if in response, something changed
in Khelin. He shyly touched Arshel. The three of them became four, and
the coldness vanished so quickly Zref reeled in an odd, euphoric
He looked down from a glittering tower upon a city served by
wide boulevards, dotted with parks and lakes.
Health, serenity and enthusiasm rose from the city like a heat
shimmer. He lived here among the gold and platinum roofs, the
balmy breezes and open shopping arcades where most goods were
free. All citizens shared the capacity to experience penetrating
Because of a single moment of faulty judgement, he had
destroyed this city . Neither he nor anyone else would be reborn
And in the pond room, he knew that the end of his exile was at
hand, if he could bear the cost.
The reception room was artificially lit, its windows buried
entirely under midwinter snow. After the tropical heat of the spawning
pond, it felt cold. But the room was done in the warm, welcoming
elegance of MorZdersh'n.
Before entering, Zref paused to flip his Interface Medallion out of
his breast pocket. He was wearing his oldest Guild uniform, with
kren-style house shoes, and his hair was wild from too many
immersions. But he fixed his most forbidding expression on his face,
and marched into the room as if it were his private office, Arshel at
his shoulder as bhirhir, Khelin and Ley flanking the two of them. The
man, a human, was pacing restlessly before the large polished stone
table in the center of the room. There were a number of small
conversation pits throughout the large room which was divided by rows
of columns into private areas. But Zref chose to keep the atmosphere
businesslike. He strode to the table and seated himself at one end.
"I am Master Interface Zref."
The human shoved his knee-length coat back behind his hips, and
braced his fists on his hipbones. He wore a fur brimmed hat tilted
onto the back of his head, and knee-high black boots. He was the image
of high-powered Business.
"I have been waiting a good while to see you, Master
"You will be billed only from this moment," said Zref.
"Are you going to introduce me to your friends?"
"I had not planned to," said Zref.
Amusement chased exasperation across the man's face until he gave a
courtly bow in the latest fashion and amended, "Will you please
introduce me to your friends?"
Zref did so, and the man repeated, "Arshel Holtethor Lakely.
I'd been told I would not be allowed to meet you."
Arshel began to answer, but Zref held up his hand. "State your
business, sir." He glanced aside and queried the comnet for the
"I've come to invite you--both you and your bhirhir Arshel--to
come on a Schoolcruise Pilgrimage Tour to the spiritual shrines of the
galaxy. Your duties would be exceptionally light. You would be free to
"I go where the Guild assigns me."
"And the lady?" he asked, looking to Arshel.
Arshel held her silence, but she obviously disliked this man. Zref
received the answer to his query, and said, "Mr. Onsham, we're
not interested in taking any tour sponsored by Lantern Enterprises. It
isn't the spiritual shrines of the galaxy that interest Lantern: it's
the remains of the civilization of the First Lifewave. Such remains no
longer interest us. I believe that completes our business."
"I believe that it does not," countered Onsham. "I'd
hoped to keep this friendly, but now I must ask you to check with your
Guild Dispatcher, Master Interface Rodeen. She avers that the Guild
has ceased its vendetta against Lantern Enterprises, and therefore the
remains of the First Lifewave are of interest to Interfaces."
Zref lowered his blood pressure to control a sudden, overwhelming
curiosity. Liking this man less and less, he opened with a deliberate
rudeness, looking directly into Onsham's eyes. "Checking as
per instructions of a Mr. Onsham. Zref." That was twice in
less than an hour he'd acted on a kind of angry impulse Interfaces
never had. It was as if his obligations to the Guild were threatening
something precious he almost had with Arshel.
"Check Guild File #9777. And, Zref, I expect you'll do this
for us. Ostensibly, we support education. Rodeen."
Rising and pacing around the table, Zref called up the file. A
query dropped into his private file from his physician, the human
Interface Jim Diebold, asking about the status of the mating. Zref
answered, and Diebold came back immediately.
"Listen, Zref, I'm privy to #9777, so if you can't get back
here to Hengrave to take immunization, at least do it at the Camiat
Guild hospital, not in that house. There's no telling what that venom
will do to your brain chemistry. I'd come if I could.
Zref acknowledged, then opened the high security file.
It was a datafile on the search for the City of a Million Legends
that had ended when he and Arshel met. He skimmed the part that he
knew. Ever since the first two nonhuman species had contacted each
other and begun the first interstellar alliance of the Second
Lifewave, they had found a common motif buried in their legends, a
city rumored to exist in some inaccessible spot or some far gone time.
Fabulous fantasies came true there; people lived together without
strife, every peasant lived in luxury, disease was unknown, knowledge
beyond all dreams allowed them to manipulate the fabric of the
Every planet had legends of travelers straying into the City for a
time and returning wealthy beyond imagining, or suddenly talented or
youthful. One legend even told of a traveler who came back from the
City of a Million Legends to find dead relatives returned to life.
Recently, archeologists had uncovered scattered traces of the First
Lifewave civilization--the first occupation of the galaxy--and
suddenly it was believed that the City of legend had been the capital
of that ancient civilization.
Ancient inscriptions were found indicating that in the heart of a
maze at the center of the City was an Object. Gazing upon this Object
conferred the ability to persuade anyone to do anything. Such
"Persuaders" had been an arm of the government of the First
Lifewave. Experts averred that the Mazeheart Object might still exist,
and the race was on.
Zref and Arshel had been swept up in that headlong search, until
three years ago, because of Arshel's ability as an
archeovisualizer--able to read the history of an artifact by touching
it--they had been the ones to find the actual maze in the City of a
Million Legends. But all they found was an inscription saying the
Object had been removed and hidden by the last of the Persuaders.
Zref had thought that chapter of his life closed. But new data had
been added to the Guild's file. In recent months, a new archeological
expedition funded by the Hundred Planets government, had disappeared.
Suddenly, books were being published purporting to instruct
individuals in how to search for the Mazeheart Object; swarms of ill
equipped explorers were camping out on inhospitable planets and having
to be rescued. An Interface's report indicated a probability that
organized criminals were still determined to find this legendary
treasure--before the forces of law and order did.
The final entry was an official HP document on their new expedition
to search for the Mazeheart Object, warning that the existence of the
expedition must not leak into the hands even of the member HP
governments lest the panic begin anew; with each special interest
group scrambling to get the Object before anyone else so it wouldn't
be used against themselves.
Within yet another internal security barrier, which melted as he
addressed it, Zref found the last entry. Guild research showed that
the HP statisticians had discovered the Guild's unwritten policy
against archeological research, and so in order to get an Interface,
this Official HP expedition to find the Mazeheart Object was disguised
as the Lantern Schoolcruise Pilgrimage Tour which he and Arshel were
being invited to join. The ruse was expected to fool whatever criminal
forces had destroyed the previous expedition, as well as the Guild.
When Zref came back to awareness of the room, he heard Khelin
saying, ". . . once worked for Lantern Enterprises. A
schoolcruise is something new for Lantern."
"Indeed. We expect the novelty to attract many students
interested in the strange fact that spiritual shrines seem to outlast
many civilizations. Already, dozens of acknowledged experts on such
eternal shrines are among the students. We expect more will sign up
when they discover an Interface will be aboard to help with their
"Research project?" probed Khelin, and Zref understood
that he was diverting Onsham's attention from Arshel while Zref was
unable to function as her bhirhir. She stood behind him, but some odd
sense told him she was raising venom.
"Each student who successfully completes an original project
on the shrines we visit will receive degree credit at Camiat
University, plus the right to submit his project to Lantern. If it's
selected as the basis of a Lantern novel, the author will be paid more
than the price of the Cruise!"
Zref rebelled at the idea of lending himself to such use. He'd
given his allegiance to the Guild only when they adopted the policy of
slowing archeology to prevent First Lifewave technology from wrecking
this civilization. Yet the Guild was right. With the gathered
brainpower of the Hundred Planets, the curious, enthusiastic students,
the Cruise might succeed. If so, he ought to be there. "Mr.
Onsham, when does this cruise depart Camiat?" asked Zref.
"In three days."
"Call your superiors and have departure postponed at least
three days. At that time, we will give you a definite answer--but I
don't guarantee it will be yes."
"Zref!" gasped Arshel. From her tone he knew she was
raising venom, feeling the threat of abandonment.
He held up one hand to silence her, and kept his gaze firmly on the
human before him, more Guild Interface than bhirhir now. "The
comtap is right outside that door." When Onsham had left the
room, Zref was assailed with irate objections. Only Khelin kept
All trace of the wild distraction of mating was gone from Khelin
now, and he seemed more than a blue priest. He seemed as deep and
still as any white priest as he breathed softly, "They're going
to find the Object." Then as if it were torn from him, he
verbalized what was buried alive in Zref's heart, "I can't
allow them to find it!"
Only Interface's detachment kept Zref's voice from shaking.
"If we don't go with them, how can we stop them?"
"Zref, no!" cried Arshel, and her voice was shaking. Her
venom sack pulsed as new venom spurted from her glands. "I
won't--I can't! You promised!"
The last time Arshel had become involved in the search for the
Mazeheart Object, she had ended by striking and killing her bhirhir
Dennis with her own venom.
"I promised to take you bhirhir," said Zref, "which
I very much want to do. I promised to enroll you in the Mautri
priesthood school, and stand by until you attain the white and no
longer need a bhirhir--and then to dissolve our bhirhir. I'll do all
those things. But neither you nor I know we'll be allowed to do them
now. Tomorrow, we will go to the Guild facility here in Camiat, and
complete our pledge. Then we'll go to Mautri and seek admittance for
you. If you're accepted, I'll tell Onsham the answer is no."
She sighed her relief, and her venom sack relaxed. But Khelin held
his grave withdrawal from them until Onsham came back with Lantern's
agreement to await Zref's answer.
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