Thraxas and the Ice Dragon / Траксас и леденият дракон: Двадесет и втора глава

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Chapter Twenty-Two


On the way home we stop off at a tavern where Lisutaris eats a moderate lunch, I order three venison pies and a portion of stew with yams, and Makri nibbles at some bread. We arrive back at Arichdamis's house in probably our most genial mood since we washed up on these shores.


"Lasat Axe of Gold and Charius the Wise are in the garden," Arichdamis tells us. Our genial mood evaporates.


"This is it," mutters Lisutaris. "He's come to blackmail me about the missing plans. It was bound to happen. Makri, put your sword away, we can't just kill them."


"We could make it look like an accident."


"That might work," I say.


Lisutaris stares at us. "What's the matter with you? We're not murdering anyone. Have you lost your senses?"


Slightly abashed, we follow Lisutaris out into the garden.


"I think we could get away with it," whispers Makri.


It's not immediately apparent what Lasat and Charius are up to. They've arrived with a company of workmen who are busy some distance away, at the point where Arichdamis's grounds slope upwards towards the hills. As we watch, the workmen stretch rope between some of the larger trees.


"What's going on?" I ask Arichdamis.


"They're making a cage for the dragon before it can fly away."


"They're building a dragon cage out of a few ropes?"


"That's just the framework. Once they've cordoned off the area, Lasat and Charius are going to cast spells over it."


"I don't like this," says Makri. "It's not really very nice to keep a dragon in a cage."


"You hate the dragon."


"We've been getting on better."


Protocol demands that Lisutaris greet her fellow Sorcerers. Before approaching them, she instructs Makri and me to be tactful. "Don't start any arguments. I don't want them to suspect that we know they've been using sorcery against Makri. Be diplomatic."


"I'm always diplomatic," says Makri. "It's Thraxas you have to worry about."


"Makri is much less tactful than I am!"


"Also, try not to argue like a pair of schoolchildren," says Lisutaris, and sets off towards the edge of the garden. The encounter with the Samsarinan Sorcerers is tense, as always. The frozen politeness displayed on each side doesn't do anything to hide the mutual dislike. Lasat is as self-important as ever, talking grandly to Charius about the brilliance of his new magic which will, apparently, keep the dragon permanently in place, allowing them to learn the secrets of dragon control.


"That will be a great step forward for Samsarina," he says. "Imagine having our own dragons to combat the Orcs."


Makri looks highly sceptical, though she keeps her silence. I'm sceptical too, not really believing that any human will ever fly on a dragon. Lasat is so pleased with himself that he magnanimously thanks Makri for feeding the creature. "The King himself is grateful. You should be honoured."


"I am," says Makri, attempting to be diplomatic.


"Congratulations on defeating Basinos," continues Lasat. "Even Elupus praised your technique. Perhaps some people did under-estimate your prowess."


"Perhaps they did," says Lisutaris. "Perhaps they underestimate mine, too."


"I don't follow your meaning, Mistress of the Sky."


"I mean those people who are questioning my role as Head of the Sorcerers Guild, and position as War Leader."


Lasat Axe of Gold draws himself up and looks, for a moment at least, quite grand, with his rainbow cloak and his long grey hair fluttering in the breeze.


"No personal insult was intended," he declares. "But War Leader is too important a role to be given to someone who's claim to the position of Head of the Guild is dubious at best."


"Dubious?" cries Lisutaris. 'You dare to call my election dubious?"


"What else would I call it? The whole process was a charade. The authorities in Turai used every low, despicable trick imaginable to get you elected. I haven't forgotten your scandalous attempt to blackmail me, using quite untrue allegations."


"Untrue? You've been cheating your treasury for years!" shouts Lisutaris.


"I must ask you not to repeat these lies!" roars Lasat.


I don't like the way his hand is hovering around his waist. It looks like he's tempted to fire a spell. I find my own hand straying towards the spell-protection charm round my neck.


"If you do," Lasat continues. "There will be serious consequences!"


"Are you attempting to threaten me!" yells Lisutaris.


"And what if I am? You're not in Turai now, with your legion of spies, cheats and criminals to help you! Let's see how you fare without them by your side!"


"You'll see how I'll fare if you dare to challenge me!" shouts Lisutaris. "I'll send you out of Elath as a smoking pile of cinders. And while I'm on the subject of your despicable behaviour, stop trying to cheat in the tournament."


"Cheat? Me? How dare you!"


"You've been using sorcery against Makri!" Lisutaris strides right up to Lasat and stands with her face close to his. "It had better not happen again or I'll make you regret it."


Charius the Wise is surreptitiously raising his hand, unseen by Lisutaris. I swiftly unsheathe my sword and place the tip in his midriff. "Do you think you can utter that spell before I run you through?"


The garden is now sizzling with barely suppressed sorcery. Venomous looks are exchanged in all directions. Lasat Axe of Gold claps his hands, summoning his workers, then speaks to Charius. "Come, Charius. The King is not going to be pleased to learn our work has been interrupted by a foreign Sorcerer. We'll return under his protection."


"You'll need a lot of protection if you annoy me again!" yells Lisutaris, at his retreating figure.


I stare at Lisutaris. "What happened to tact and diplomacy?"


"That was never a very good plan. You should have given me better advice."


"I'd advise you to find out if smoking too much magically-enhanced thazis causes mood swings."


"Thazis," mutters Lisutaris. "Good idea." She starts rolling a thazis stick without bothering to check if anyone is watching. I shepherd her behind a large tree, just in case.


"I hate the Samsarinan Sorcerers," she says.


"Don't worry," says Makri. "I'll win the tournament. Then Lasat will have to pay you 10,000 gurans and he'll look like a fool for backing a loser."


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