Rosemary Jones: Cold Steel and Secrets Part 3

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Rosemary Jones Cold Steel and Secrets Part 3
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    Cold Steel and Secrets Part 3
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Rosemary Jones

Cold Steel and Secrets Part 3

The whole art of the sword can be summed up so: to hit and to not be hit. The art of the spy: to discover and to not be discovered.

— Rucas Sarfael, sometimes of Neverwinter

1478 DR

Crawling Claws scrabbled across Montimort’s body as the boy rolled across the room, trying to dislodge them. Rucas Sarfael used his sword to pry one disembodied hand from Montimort’s throat, neatly severing the fingers, but barely missing Montimort’s jugular.

Elyne’s mad relative, Karion, screamed: “Pull him apart, my pets, pull him apart.”

The swordswoman swore, abandoning her entreaties to the aged seer to let the boy go, and rushed to Montimort’s aid. Like Sarfael, she hacked and slashed at the disembodied hands. But there were more than a dozen.

“This is too slow,” Elyne panted between thrusts at the claws, struggling to keep them off Montimort’s face and throat. “He’ll die before we can cut them all.”

Karion cried out again. The claws crawled between their feet and flowed over Montimort. With ungentle kicks and slashes of her sword, Elyne drove them back.

Sarfael shouted to Elyne: “Keep at it. I have an idea.”

Sarfael whirled on his heel. He lunged across the room, placing the point of his sword over Karion’s heart. “The boy dies, you die,” he snarled.

Behind him, Elyne shouted in protest, but there was no time to show pity. Karion’s tricks would kill the boy. He made his face hard and blank, and stared into the old man’s face.

“Can you truly see the future?” Sarfael said. “Do you see your own?”

Karion cringed back, collapsing into easy old man’s tears of frustration and fear. “Go away, go away,” he cried. But his cries seemed to be aimed at his grisly pets and not at Sarfael.

The dead hands scrabbled back from Montimort, retreating into the shadows.

“All the way out of the room,” said Sarfael, keeping the relief from his tone. He had to play the villain or the boy would be dead. “Send them far away.”

Karion flapped his own hands and the undead creatures skittered out of the room.

When the sound of the claws faded away, Sarfael stepped back, dropping the point of the sword.

Elyne helped the battered and bruised Montimort rise to his feet. Despite the beating he’d taken, Montimort still cradled Karion’s magic box safely in his arms. If everything that the old man had told them was true, speaking the spell etched into the box would recall the lost crown of Neverwinter from wherever it was hidden. Except they had to know where the spell started and stopped.

Karion pounded his hands on the arms of his chair and drummed his feet in rage against the floor. “You cut them and shattered them. It took me days and days to lead them out of the dark. Now they’ll leave me.”

“Cousin, Cousin,” Elyne said, dropping to her knees beside the old man. “Why attack Montimort? He meant you no harm. He’s a friend.”

“He is from Luskan.” Karion pouted. “They’re thieves and pirates. Why should he take my box? Why should they have the crown?”

“I am not a thief,” raged Montimort. “I live here. Whatever I do, I do for Elyne and the Nashers. I care for Neverwinter more than you!”

“But you don’t know its secrets!” Karion crowed. “Not like me. Up into the high places, down into the low. Round the wall and along the river. I go to places that others have forgotten. I find the words that others no longer speak. The art is lost, but not my memory. I remember all the enchantments, twisting end on end, from emerald to crown.”

Montimort turned the box around and around in his hands. The emerald centered on the lid winked in the dimly lit room.

“You should have let it go,” Sarfael said.

Montimort’s mouth thinned and he shook his head. “The Nashers need this.”

“Do you think those rebels would take such risks for you?” Sarfael knew the answer before Montimort spoke.

“Elyne,” the boy started, and then he stopped, the stubborn blush warring with the bruises on his face.

Sarfael sighed. A man could die for such foolishness. He waited for the memory of Mavreen to make some sharp disagreement or jesting remark. But there was silence in his heart. For how could he chide another for his own very special brand of idiocy?

“Get out, get out!” Karion waved his arms at them. He huddled down in his chair, mumbling into his chest. “Go on, I’m tired. Get out of my house.”

Elyne patted her aged, mad, and malodorous relative with a sigh. “I am sorry, Cousin,” she said, “that we caused you such distress. But this box will be safer with us and may help rebuild the city that we all love.”

Karion covered his face with his hand like a sleepy child. “Good-bye,” the old seer murmured. “I won’t see you again, but I thank you for the cheese.”

Sarfael herded Montimort toward the door, but rather than being glad to leave, the boy hung back. “No, wait, I want to ask him more.”

“Enough,” said Elyne. “We need to leave now. It will be twilight soon, and the Dead Rats will be out in force. We’ve saved you once from them today. Don’t risk my life and Sarfael’s again.”

“I didn’t! I wouldn’t!” Montimort squealed as Sarfael pushed him out the door.

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Sarfael said to the indignant young man.

“Good-bye, pirate!” yelled Karion behind them. “You’ll regret everything you steal.”

“I am not a thief!” screamed Montimort back at him as Elyne and Sarfael hustled him out of the house.

On the street, Montimort stomped silently away, the box still clutched tightly to his chest.

Sarfael reached out to stop him but Elyne held him back.

“Let him go home,” she said. “I’ll follow and make sure that he reaches his rooms safely.”

“And the box?” Sarfael knew he probably should wrest it away from Montimort and take it to Dhafiyand. But such an action would end his time with the Nashers. As he stared down at the slender, red-haired swordswoman, he wasn’t ready yet to end his deception.

Elyne looked after Montimort with troubled eyes. “I’m hoping that the box turns out to be another of Karion’s mistakes. If it can truly call forth the crown, then it is a danger to us all. But it is for Arlon to decide how the Nashers will use it.”

“Do you think that wise?” he asked, remembering Arlon’s many calls for violent revolution at the last meeting of the Nashers.

“No,” Elyne admitted, “I do not think it wise at all. But I don’t know what else to do.”

Dhafiyand actually sounded pleased when Sarfael told him that the box was still in the possession of the Nashers.

“I thought you would want it here,” Sarfael admitted with a wary look at the spymaster. Dhafiyand purring over some unexpected twist meant trouble for someone, most likely himself.

“Not yet,” Dhafiyand said. “You think the young wizard from Luskan might know how to use it?”

“He says he has some knowledge of such things,” Sarfael said. “He’s locked himself away in his rooms for the past two days to study it. Elyne pounds on his door and forces him to come out and eat.”

“He sounds like an ambitious boy,” Dhafiyand said. “This Montimort might be useful to cultivate. The pursuit of the arcane arts creates such passions in the soul that temptations are easy to construct.”

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