Tana looked down at
the man lying on the Ground and gave him a prod with her toe. “This
is a Great Mage?” she asked with disbelief.
Hider brushed a stray
lock of his red hair off of his forehead, unperturbed by the condition
the man was in. He replied with a grin on his small face, “So I’ve
been told. I sorta thought that if we had any chance to get a Great
Mage, this is the type of condition he'd be in.”
Hider squatted down
beside the man, and took a small vial out of his belt pouch. He told
her, “I asked the Healer for this before I left. She was reluctant
at first to give it to me, but when I told it would probably be for
a Great Mage she was much more willing, and even enhanced it a bit.”
He pulled the stopper with his teeth.
Hider took a hold of
the man's nose so he would have to breathe through his mouth, and poured
the contents of the vial into his mouth. Taking hold of his chin, Hider
pushed the man's mouth closed, and the man had no choice but to swallow.
Hider stood up and
stoppered the vial, and moved backwards. Calmly he said, “I'd give
him plenty of room, Tana, if you think he's a mess now, it's nothing
to what he's going to be like once that stuff starts to work.”
He had two armed guards
with him. One of them said dryly, “He may only be a boy, but I think
he's going to be an interesting person to work for. If that stuff is
what I think it is, he has some unusual knowledge for a youngun'. I
learned about it only after I'd been soldiering for a while.”
The Great Mage suddenly
jerked to a sitting position, for a brief second, then rolled on his
side vomiting his guts out on the dirt of the alleyway.
Hider and Tana watched
with interest for several minutes until he seemingly was empty. Tana
asked, with curiosity, “What was in that stuff?”
Hider admitted, “I
don't know, but the Healer knew what I was talking about when I described
it to her,” he smiled wickedly, his small face lit up with glee, “She
said, 'It will interact with the alcohol in his system, and cause him
to regurgitate it, and anything else he has in his stomach at the time.'
When she found I was going to use it on an alcoholic Great Mage, she
enhanced it somewhat. Normally it only lasts for a couple of days, but
she put enough of her magic into it so that it'll last for about a week.”
One of the guards nudged
the other, as Tana said, “Oh my, he's going to be unhappy with you,
Hider, when he sobers up. My mama raised me to be daring, but not suicidal.
You won't mind facing him alone will you?” she asked, only half in
Hider spoke over his
shoulder, “I think he's as empty as he's going to get, you can pick
him up and follow us.”
The two soldiers looked wryly at each other, then did as they were told and followed the other two. Hider told her, “It'll be best if he wakes up in the bathhouse and all he sees is a naked servant boy. He's probably less likely to start throwing around Mind-Blasts, assuming he's able to with the type of headache he's going to have.”
When Vanro woke up,
he was sitting up to his waist in a bathhouse tub full of hot water.
He looked around, having a little trouble focusing his eyes, and he
was feeling mean. The only person in sight was a small naked boy, obviously
one of the bathhouse servants.
Van yelled, “Boy,
go get me a drink!”
Instead, the boy came
over and knelt by the tub, hands on his thighs, looking at the man with
bright green eyes. He said a little smile on his face, “I wouldn't
advise it. You've been given a concentrated and enhanced dose of Ferone.”
Van winced, and started
swearing under his breath. When Hider cocked his head in interest, the
man asked, “How long?”
“About a week,”
the boy answered and Van could hear the suppressed laughter in his voice.
for this?” Van snarled out angrily.
“Well, I tell lots
of lies, but in this case, I'll tell you the truth. That would be me,”
Hider said looking straight at Van, merriment dancing in his large green
Van raised his right
hand, but the boy didn't even flinch, saying, “You don't have the
reputation of a child beater, even when you're at your worst.”
Van dropped his hand
back into the tub, “Yeah, but I'm sure thinking about spanking one
Hider bowed his head,
“My bum is at your disposal,” he said wickedly and with very evident
Feeling he could talk
to this boy for hours and still come out the loser, Van asked plaintively,
Hider told him, “You're
still half drunk, right now, I'll tell you when you're completely sober,
and you can turn me down then.”
Hider stood up and
Van couldn't resist. He gave the boy a swat on the bum, and just got
a grin back. “I'll get the real servants, now that you're completely
Hider stopped at the door and looked back at Van, “The girl is about fifteen, the boy is about my age. They're both prostitutes; if you want either or both, just put it on my tab.”
Van woke up in the
morning feeling pretty good. He knew it wouldn't last very long. Looking
around he saw Hider curled up in a chair, wearing a pair of sky blue
short trousers and barefooted.
Van coughed and Hider
was awake instantly, sitting up in the chair and crossing his legs under
him. He looked at Van with those disconcerting green eyes, brushing
a lock of red hair out of his eyes. The boy began to speak immediately,
in a conversational tone, “I've lived in Scart, actually the capital
Tenve, for all of my life except for the last two months. I intend to
go back and topple the Prince. I have six mercenaries, eight high Magic
Users, one of whom is a Scrambler, all of whose ancestors, like yours,
came from Scart and who want to go back, and one King's Messenger on
leave. For the last three weeks, I've been looking for a Mage to go
with us. I've been turned down eight times.”
Uncrossing his legs,
Hider stood up and came over to the washstand, which was close to the
bed. He dropped three gold pieces on the top. “For your time; also,
the room is paid up until the Ferone wears off in about a week. There
are some new clothes in the wardrobe. When you sensibly decide to say
no, there's no need to tell me, just leave. I'm an Empath, and while
I can't read you very well I can tell you're here, so I'll know when
you leave, and I'll go on looking. I'll go now before your aches and
pains start. I'm right next door.”
Hider went to the door,
Van gaping at his back. Furious,, the man yelled, “What if I decide
to go with you?”
The young boy turned
and smiled at him, “Oh, I'm sure you won't, the people I've talked
to have said you were many things, but stupid wasn't one of them.”
and he went out the door and closed it gently behind him.
Van was furious, he
realized the little bastard was manipulating him, but he was furious
anyway. “Must have been talking to my sister,” he muttered. He forgot
the boy as the aches and pains came, as he began to dry out. At least
he was spared the delirium that would have affected someone trying to
go cold turkey; the Ferone would allow him to avoid that.
There was food and
water delivered, periodically. He drank the water and ignored the food,
and it was removed. On the fourth day, he began to get hungry and ate
some of the fruit provided. By the sixth day, he was eating meat and
The longer Hider stayed
away the madder Van got. Finally, he got so furious, that he stalked
to his door and to the next room. Pushing open the door he half yelled
at Hider who was sitting on the bed, “All right, I'll go!!”
“Yes, your sister
figured you'd decide that.” then Hider smiled coldly, “Just to give
you a little incentive to stay sober.” he nodded behind Van and the
man turned and gaped at his sister, Denna. He heard Hider say from behind
him, “Denna is our Scrambler. She told me that she would rather see
you dead than the way you've been. So, I've given her the job of watching
you. If you get drunk and endanger the rest, I told her to slip a knife
between your ribs.” For a little boy, his voice was chilling and absolutely
Without a word, Van
slipped back out of the room, returning to his own. Hider grimaced.
Denna said with respect, “You're a very good liar, since you didn't
tell me anything of the sort.”
Hider shrugged, saying, “It'll take us a while to get to Scart. Here in Pinchon we're almost fifty miles from the border, then it's another five hundred miles to Scart. Since we'll be going by ship, and there will be plenty to drink, I intend in fact to make sure it's easily available to him. I figure that if he's going to fall, it'll be during that trip; if so, we just leave him on board.”
Hider was glad that
Van hadn't fallen. He couldn't help but like the man. He was naked,
as he had been for all of the life he could remember, except for the
last two months. Even during that period, he had spent a lot of the
time naked, so that he wouldn't develop any tan lines. In his hand,
he was carrying a cloth with fifty coppers; each in their individual
pockets and rolled up so that they wouldn't clink. It was well after
dark, and he was heading for his band's former hideout.
Hider didn't really
expect it to be unoccupied, it was too good a place to hide, and, in
fact, he wanted it to be occupied. It would be by a younger band of
children, the older ones would have considered it beneath them.
Hider was close enough
that he could feel them now. He was somewhat disappointed. None of them
were awake. They were careless and had posted no lookouts. Well he intended
to give them one shocking wakeup; maybe that would teach them to set
guards in the future.
Hider slipped into
the dilapidated building, and saw the log that many of his band had
used for a seat still in the same position. He put down the cloth, and,
picking up a piece of wood, he began to pound on the log so it resounded
throughout the building, though he knew from experience that it didn't
make much noise outside. At least some of their survival instincts existed,
by the time he had hit the log the third time, all of the naked boys
and girls were awake and on their feet.
Hider had good night
vision, and in the bright moonlight, he could see all of them quite
well. Most of them he knew. This band was both younger and at the same
time older than his band had been. None of the faces peering at him
was older than ten, and none was younger than six years old.
Hider dropped the piece
of wood on the ground, and stood hands on hips looking at them. He shook
his, head, and said with disgust in his voice, “You're dumb, and careless.
You should have at least two lookouts out. Don't think you'd be safe
from the Hunters just because you don't have any Magic Users. If they
found this hideout, they'd go through it, using their swords. There's
half a dozen ways out of this place. With lookouts most of you could
escape, without and all of you could have died.”
Hider told them, “Raf,
you go to the east, Tarvan you go west; if either of you sees trouble
coming, give a warning using the song of the Nightwitch bird. I've heard
you both use it in the past,”
Neither of the boys
chosen protested. In his age group, Hider was top dog in Tenve. Most
of these children would have liked to join his band, but he had reluctantly
held the number at twenty, knowing that he simply couldn't care for
more, though his advice was always available. On the rare occasions
that his band had more than they could eat and the food would spoil,
he had shared with as many as he could.
Hider looked at the
ones remaining, counting them. All told, there was seventeen with the
two detached as sentries, twelve boys and five girls, not an unusual
ratio. Girls in the slums were more likely to be killed outright when
they were born, so there were fewer of them to be abandoned.
Hider looked at one
of the boy's, who at ten and a half was probably the oldest. “Do you
have any real leaders, Jer?”
“No.” the boy said
ruefully, “us older ones try to decide what to do, but it's hard.”
Hider asked, “Do
you mind, if I take over? It could be dangerous to have me around.”
Jer gave a sigh, before
saying, “You're welcome to it Hider. As for danger, we all know that
we could be walking on a street and someone could run us through with
a knife or sword for the fun of it, and nothing would be done.”
“Oh, I might not
be able to stop you from being run through, but I assure you that something
would be done about it.” Hider said, in a cold, silksoft and very
scary voice. “The man who killed Shena thought he could get away with
it. It took me a night and a half, but I proved that he couldn't.”
They all knew what
had happened to Shena and the nobleman who had killed her. This was
the first time that Hider had admitted that he had killed the nobleman;
though many of the slum children who knew him had thought it was him.
Those who didn't know him scoffed at such a preposterous idea.
Hider told them with
satisfaction in his voice, “I got my band out, they're all in Camron
now, and they've all got families. I vowed when I left that when I came
back Scart would need a new Prince, and that's what I'm here for.”
He took the coin holder
and untied the bow holding it closed, and kneeling down, he rolled it
open. He told them, “There are fifty copper pieces here. I could just
as easily have brought fifty golds, or five hundred golds. I intend
to raise a fighting force, and I plan to start with the street children
who have been hurt so much by the Prince and his greed.”
Hider snarled in anger,
“To start with I have to get rid of the Hunters and some of the Underworld
leaders. I need kids to find and watch them. You'll be the start, but
I'll need a lot more. I have access to hair dye, so I can go out with
you during daylight hours to locate the ones I want, without being recognized.
I doubt if anyone would expect to see Hider with brown hair, so they'll
just assume that I look like Hider.”
Hider told them, “I'll
be back tomorrow night, with some adults, one of whom is a Great Mage.
He'll be able to put protection on your minds so that the Hunters can't
feel you watching them. Don't go looking for them till then; and don't
do any stealing. Take eight coppers, no more, and divide it among three
or more of you and go out for some food. Having a few coppers won't
surprise anyone; they'll just think you've stolen it. If someone from
one of the older bands tries to take the money, give it to them, I'll
deal with that later as well.”
Hider looked up at the sky, “Replace Raf and Tarvan in about three hours that should be fine for tonight. When I get back tomorrow night, have lookouts out. Any time during the day that there are a lot of you here, have lookouts out then as well. All of the adults have belts and I swear if I catch you without lookouts, I'll have them use them on the half dozen oldest.” He looked at each of the older ones and they could tell he meant it.
Hider had been organizing
the street children for the last month. For the first two weeks, he
gathered those he felt he could trust, and for the last two weeks, they
had been watching the Hunters and others.
Now Hider was ready
to take the first step, by taking out some of the Hunters. Most of them
were basically cowards, using the advantage of numbers to overawe those
they were after. Hider intended to hit them hard; in one of the places,
they considered theirs. The Roaring Lion Inn was not of the best class
of inns in the city, but it was in the second tier. The Hunters had
pretty well made it their own. Oh, there were the half a dozen foreign
mercenaries in the corner who apparently had no idea who the Hunters
were, and showed no fear. There were the usual servants, but for a change,
there were no prostitutes present, not that it worried the Hunters,
they were easy to find.
It was hard to tell
how many Hunters there were in the tavern at any given moment, but it
varied between twenty-five and thirty, and they were about to become
guests in a slaughterhouse.
Hider dropped the Concealment
covering him and Van, nodding to Denna, and she used her talent for
the first time in Tenve. A Scrambler was exactly what the name suggested.
For those with certain talents, mainly Mind-Speech and Empathy, not
expecting it, the blast that she let loose would literally scramble
their brains for a few seconds and leave them disorientated for a longer
period of time.
Hider and Van stood
up, as did the four Magic Users who had checked into the inn earlier.
Calmly and with absolutely no pity, knowing what these men were and
what they had done in the past, the boy picked one of the lurching figures
and fired the small crossbow. Six crossbow bolts downed six of the Hunters,
and then the mercenaries were among them.
The four men and two
women were good people, trapped in a bad situation by the Guildmaster
of the Thieves Guild in Sothra, and they also were merciless. They cut
down the helpless Hunters like wheat in a harvest. Within minutes, there
wasn't a Hunter left alive.
Hider, a new crossbow
bolt loaded, came down the stairs calmly, though he was feeling sick
inside. Van, who had helped him maintain the Concealment by using Compulsion,
followed him. Unlike Hider, he felt nothing for those they had just
slaughtered. Like the mercenaries, he and the other Magic Users had
heard horror stories about the Hunters from children they had come to
know and like.
Other than Hider's
people, the only ones left standing were the bartender and five serving
maids. Hider directed his speech at them, telling them, “If I were
you I'd be long gone before the other Hunters find out what happened.
Some of them are going to want revenge, and this place is the most convenient
place to start. If it's not a pile of ashes by the morning, I'd be very
Hider looked at the
bartender/owner who was wringing his hands in apparent distress and
grinned with amusement despite the situation. He told the man, “Oh,
please, Swane, the rumors are that you've been piling up the loot for
years. You've just been waiting for the right moment to leave. Well,
this is the right moment.”
Hider looked at the
serving maids, feeling more pity for them; they really had little choice
in where they worked. He waved at the dead Hunters, his voice more serious
this time, “Take what you can carry and don't get greedy, a purse
filled with silvers will last you a long time. Showing up with a large
one filled with golds would be just begging for someone to take it away
They were all sensible
women and could see what he meant, a purse with silvers could last them
for months. If they took one with a dozen golds, the only way they could
spend it would be to go to a moneychanger. None of them were to be trusted,
since they all worked for the Underworld and directly for Marrko, and,
though they didn't know it, indirectly for the Prince.
Hider looked at the
mercenary assigned to count the bodies, a question in his eyes. “Twenty-seven,
Hider,” the man told him.
Hider grinned, his
brief bout of pity for the Hunters gone, saying, “They're going to
be seriously pissed tomorrow, and then they're going to get very frightened.”
Hider turned and walked toward the door, stopping briefly, when he reached it. Getting no warning of danger from the lookouts, he went out, followed by his people.
Two weeks and several
ambushes later, Hunters were very scarce in Tenve. The only ones remaining
were those who served as Prince Diam's personal guards. Hider was waiting
to receive a guest, and here he was, escorted by Van and Tana. He was
a big man starting to run to fat, and he had his hands tied behind his
back, a hood over his head.
Van helped him sit
down on the log and then pulled the hood off his head. Hider was sitting
on one of the rocks they have brought in to use as seats. Hider grinned
and waved his hand around, “Welcome, to our humble home.” he said
eyes crinkling with humor. The man didn't speak, just looked around;
there were more than thirty children in sight and ten others acting
as lookouts, though he wasn't aware of that. They were in small groups,
usually surrounding one of the adults who were teaching them how to
read and write.
Andal Vental began
blustering, “Who the hell are you? Don't think you can get away with
kidnapping the Commander of the City Guard and get away with it, you
little slum rat.”
Hider cocked his head,
and smiled broadly. There was no bluster in that shrewd mind; Hider
could feel the alertness and sharpness. He was fishing for information,
and Hider intended to give him some.
He explained to the
man, “My name is Hider and we've got away with several things."
Hider's large green eyes crinkled with amusement, in pretense that he
was trying to remember something. Then he said, with seeming astonishment,
"Let's see. Oh, yes, there was the slaughter at the Roaring Lion
Inn. We really thought the Hunters would burn down the inn, when they
didn't, we realized that Swane must have had an important silent partner.
Then there was that incident on Bow Street, where the wagon lost its
casks of wine. Crushed several Hunters I hear, and then someone actually
had the gall to shoot the Hunters that went to the rescue. And then…"
Hider smiled confidently, before saying, "Ah, well you get the
Andal smiled with genuine
humor, and asked, “How old are you? Ten?”
Hider admitted, “I
think so, but I'm not totally sure, I might be a year older or younger,
but ten's a nice number.”
The man speculated
out loud, “Are you speaking for someone?” He looked at the small
naked boy closely, but Hider just smiled. “No, you're the leader.
When you started talking everybody looked to you, to see if what you
were saying concerned them. Once they knew it didn't, they went back
to doing what they had been doing.”
Hider's smile widened
and looked at Van, telling him, “Untie him, will you, Van?”
The Mage asked, “Are
“Yes, he's too interested
to try to get away.” Hider giggled, “I'm sorry Commander, but I
can't really see you trying to run. You simply have too much bulk to
try.” He said a little louder, “Denna,” and she lifted up the
cocked crossbow that she held in her hands. Hider said more seriously,
“Not that I intend to underestimate you, I saw you the day you took
on Marrko's man Bull. He outweighed you by what, fifty, sixty pounds?
I assure you I cheered just as much as everyone else when you broke
The Commander said,
“Marrko didn't smile!” and he grinned, showing yellowing teeth.
Hider nodded, and said
to him, “Yes, I noticed, that. For some reason I thought, SOMEDAY…
I had no reason why that word ever came into my head, but now it's SOMEDAY,
“SOMEDAY? What exactly
do you have in mind?” the Commander asked.
Hider smiled, “Marrko's
coming back to town tomorrow, and the first thing he does after he settles
in at his home is to go to see the Prince. I assume that's to bring
him his cut.”
“His cut?” asked
the Commander, and he was no longer grinning, his face had gone hard.
Hider nodded with satisfaction.
“Oh, didn't you know,
Commander? The Prince is the head of the underworld in Scart; he gets
a cut of everything.” Hider answered seriously.
“Don't be ridiculous!!!”
Commander Andal snapped, though Hider could tell that he was denying
something he already suspected. The man simply wasn't ready to admit
it to himself.
Hider didn't answer,
he just disappeared into Concealment, then he moved over behind the
Commander and then reappeared. “I assure you that I heard it from
a very reliable source,” he said solemnly.
Commander Andal snapped
his head around to stare at the boy. Hider moved around in front of
him, and stood with his hands clasped behind his back. Hider said with
a serious look on his face, “That's how I got my name, Commander,
and I'm very good at it. I heard about the Prince from a man who had
no reason to make it up. He didn't know I was there. He was simply talking
to a client about a murder the man had paid to commit. This man hired
a man and his two sons to do the actual murder, but they decided to
double cross him, and they brought the boy here, and he was sold to
Hider continued an
earnest look on his small face, "The man told his client that it
had been necessary to get permission to kill the kidnapper and his sons
from the Prince, who was the head of the Underworld here, and also permission
to get the boy back."
The Commander looked
at the boy intently, staring into those bright green eyes. They did
not flinch away from his and he could see the truth in them. He admitted
it out loud, “Truth!” he said heavily. “What do you have in mind?”
Hider told him, “I think Scart needs a new, more honest Prince, don't you, one who doesn't object to Magic Users.” He thought about that for a moment, and then grinned, "Or perhaps a Princess. From what I've heard, his mistress, Rashin, already does most of the work.
The man driving Marrko's
carriage around front felt it was acting a little sluggish. Perhaps
the journey in from the country had done some damage. After he brought
Marrko home from the Palace, he'd take it to the carriage maker, so
he could have a look at it. He didn't care that it would be late in
the evening and he would have to get him up. He relished the power that
being Marrko's driver occasionally gave him.
Hider and Van, hanging
onto the back, hidden by the boy's ability, were just glad that the
journey to the Palace wasn't a long one. They dropped off as it slowed
down just in front of the gate, and Van began to use Compulsion on anyone
close to the gate, as a quarter of a mile away, a double file of the
City Guard were escorting a dozen prisoners toward the Palace Gates.
Not an unusual sight, but the fact that the prisoners were fully armed,
was, but Van was Compelling the guards not to see the weapons.
Both Hider and Van
had been astonished when they examined the Palace right after they arrived,
and found it had no Ward. Despite the feelings of the Prince and his
father had about Magic Users, they had expected them to be smart enough
to have Wards installed. They had been astonished, but Hider was quite
happy to take advantage of the mistake. A Ward would have prevented
Hider from using his gift of Concealment to get Van close enough to
Once the attack started, they weren't as ruthless as they had been with the Hunters. These were simply guards doing their jobs, and as long as there was no danger of them warning anyone, they were quite happy to give them quarter. Hider's people were totally in control of the walls within twenty minutes, the guards either dead or put to sleep using a Healer's potion.
Getting into the Great
Hall had been as easy as taking the walls. Using the City Guard, they
had just marched up to the door, saying they were summoned, and a few
judicious smacks on the head had taken care of the guards. They opened
the door and found themselves in the antechamber, with the second door
leading into the Great Hall itself and the stairs on either side leading
up to the balconies overlooking the Great Hall, and the private rooms
off the balconies.
half of the thirty City Guards went up each stairway. Those downstairs
waited with some trepidation for several minutes, but no outcries came
from either side. Hider nodded and the Guard Commander flung open the
doors and they began to walk toward the head table, which was the only
one occupied. Except for ten Hunters, there were no other guards. There
were very few people at all, the only servants were mutes, the Prince
not wanting to advertise the fact that he was the head of the underworld.
The Hunters began to
move forward, and crossbow bolts from the balconies cut four of them
down. The rest halted. Hider out in front of the others said calmly,
“You have three seconds to put down your weapons or the rest of you
will also be shot. One, two,” The boy didn't have to complete his
count, the Hunters throwing down their weapons hastily.
The mercenaries moved
forward to tie them up and take their weapons. The others approached
the High Table. They were intent on the two men sitting there, Marrko
and Prince Diam, and they were startled when the woman sitting beside
Diam said in a musical voice, “Hello, Hider, I've been waiting for
All heads snapped to
look at her, into those bright green eyes, so much like Hider's eyes.
Diam looked at Hider then at the woman, and almost screamed, “I told
you to get rid of the little bastard, Rashin!!!”
“Now, Diam, if you
were a little brighter you would have realized that I wouldn't harm
my own son.” Rashin said reprovingly. “But then again I did count
on your stupidity, and I was so glad that in that one thing, you were
Prince Diam stared
at Hider, and for a moment, it looked like he was going to launch himself
across the table at the boy. A couple of Hider's mercenaries drew their
swords and moved in front of him, drawing back again when the Prince
settled back in his chair. Tana, beside Hider, asked, “What was that
Rashin turned slightly
to look at her and gave a smile, saying, “Tana, my dear, when Hyden
was born there was a prophesy." She explained, "That was Hider's
birth name, which is very similar to the one he holds now. But he's
earned the name he has, and it's a good name. But I got off the track
about the prophecy. I don't know the exact wording, but it said that
a green-eyed son would be his downfall. I thought it was nonsense, obviously
I underestimated the Gods in this case.”
Rashin frowned, saying,
“When Hider was five, Diam really started to take notice of him. One
of my abilities is that of Mind-Speech. It, like Hider's ability at
Concealment, is much more powerful than would be expected from our other
abilities. I was able to put the suggestion in Diam's mind that he should
tell me to get rid of the boy. When he did, I used my gift to remove
Hider's memories of the Palace and sent him onto the streets."
Rashin continued the
tale a little sadly, "I had a sailboat, which I took out quite
often, taking Hider with me. On the last occasion, I removed his memories,
and I landed Hider on a deserted stretch of beach and sent him into
the city. When I returned to the Palace, I acted distraught saying that
Hider had fallen overboard and was swept away. Diam knew that I was
faking my grief but he assumed that I killed the boy, as he had ordered.
I haven't been out on the sailboat since then." she sighed with
regret and Hider had the clear impression that she missed the sailboat
more than she missed him.
Rashin looked directly
at Hider saying, "It was dangerous for Hider, but it was far less
dangerous than letting Diam know he was still alive. I also can See
at a distance, so I've been able to watch Hider since he's been on the
streets.” she admitted, "When he left I really didn't expect
him to come back. After all, there was nothing for him here. I didn't
even realize he was back, until a couple of days ago."
Hider said dryly, “I
don't get the feeling that you're very maternal, but even if you had
been, you couldn't have fled with me. Diam, as Master of the Underworld
here, would have a long reach.”
Rashin nodded approvingly,
“That is the case, but I'm glad, Hider, that you realize that I'm
not made to be a mother. I thought that might hurt you, and I didn't
want to do that.”
Hider shook his head, “No, I didn't come here looking for a mother. I came to replace a rotten Prince. I'm afraid the first thing the new Prince should do is shorten his predecessor by a head, and certainly Marrko by the same amount.”
The next week was a
busy time. Van and Hider dismissed the Prince's old Council and created
a new one. The boy, with his extensive knowledge of his society, knew
the reputations of almost every man of importance in Tenve.
Using their powers,
they were able to confirm that the Council members lived up to their
reputations. There were some objections of course, but no one but a
fool would defy a Great Mage determined on restoring honor and honesty
to the ruling family.
Both Van and Hider
felt that Rashin was the ideal candidate to replace the Prince. They
suspected however that any candidate of theirs would be very unlikely
to be confirmed.
However, they didn't
have to worry. Rashin had been virtually running the country for the
last several years anyway, and the prosperity of Scart was due to her
efforts. Deciding to choose her was as logical to the new Councilors
as it was to Van and Hider.
The first thing Rashin
did after they confirmed her was to bring Prince Diam and Marrko to
trial. Once the first dozen people testified against the two men, Rashin
firmly stated that she would call no more witnesses. There was overwhelming
evidence of their guilt, by that point half a dozen murders the two
men were responsible for had already been uncovered.
Rashin, and the Council
quickly found the two men guilty and her eyes were hard as she sentenced
them to death. She watched the execution, fully aware that the love
she had once felt for the Prince had long since turned into contempt
Hider looked warily
at Princess Rashin sitting behind her desk. The boy could feel a liking
for him in her emotions, but there was nothing more. Nothing a mother
would normally feel. She smiled ruefully, knowing what he felt.
Rashin shook her head,
"I'm sorry Hider. I have nothing to give you. The love a mother
would normally feel for her son is not there and will never be there.
As I said last week, my ability to affect the mind is much greater than
normal. After you were born, I needed to show coolness towards you,
otherwise both of us could have been in danger. But I found myself unable
to do so."
She shook her head
with a frown on her face, with regret, "After your birth, thinking
about what must happen, I knew I was faced with years of anguish waiting
to give you up. I couldn't face that. My ability is such that I can
even affect my own mind. I removed most of the love that I had for you.
I did so permanently, because I didn't expect something like this to
happen, and I didn't ever expect to see you again, except from a distance."
Rashin drew a deep
breath, "Perhaps in time I can come to love you again, as I once
did. But I can make no guarantees." Then she asked in a soft voice,
"What am I my going do with you, Hider? Most of the new Councilors
have made it very plain that they won't accept you as my heir. In fact,
they don't even want you near the Palace. The fact that you're a illegitimate
doesn't help." she admitted honestly.
Hider grinned, "I
made a few enemies when I chose the Councilors." He thought for
a few seconds, before saying, "They knew someone had to do it,
but they were resentful to start with that a kid who had lived in the
slums for five years was doing it. I'm your son, but I'm illegitimate,
and that is the second thing they resent about me."
Hider giggled, "Then
I started telling them what I knew about their lives. The fact that
the lower classes, even the slum kids, knew so much about them destroyed
their illusion that their lives were actually private; that shocked
them. Then they got angry, and since I was the one who revealed their
secrets, they got angry with me."
Rashin tried to keep
her face straight, but she found it impossible, and was unable to repress
a giggle of her own, which sounded very much like Hider's. After a few
seconds she wiped a tear of laughter from her eye and said, "Not
very politically astute little Hider, but I'm not surprised at what
Rashin shook her head
and said seriously, "You're a good leader Hider, but I don't think
you'd make a good Prince. Your personality is too straightforward. I
think you would find it impossible to make the compromises that a prince
or king must do." Hider felt that his mother had expressed his
personality perfectly and nodded in agreement.
Rashin said briskly,
"But we still have to decide what to do with you for the moment.
I think after a while the Councilors would probably accept your presence
in the Palace. For the moment, I'll give you an allowance so that you
can live somewhere in the city."
Hider thought about
that for a moment, and then shook his head. He said, "I am your
son, and I am Diam's son, so I don't mind taking the allowance, because
I need to live; but I don't think I'll stay in Scart. Tana was saying,
before she found out I was your son, that Prince Tamen of Camron might
be able to use my talents, on occasion."
Hider rubbed his hand
over his red hair, staring at her with candid honesty in his large green
eyes. He told her, "I like you, mother, and I think I could come
to love you. Perhaps, if I had not met Tana before meeting you, I would
stay just to get to know you."
He shook his head,
"Tana has come to love me, and I love her. When I saw Tana with
her brother Baron Stark, I felt the love they had for each other. Our
love is like they have between them, the love of a brother and sister.
"But I have one
request, from both Kinon and I. We would like to see that Considus'
rights as a citizen of Scart be fully restored, and that all his property
is returned to him, or replaced. He's a good man, and we owe him that."
Rashin gave a smile,
picking up a sheet of paper, "I anticipated your request Hider."
She had a rueful look on her face as she continued, "He's a good
man, a brave man and a good friend. He offered to marry me when my parents
She frowned shaking
her head, a little, "It would have been a good marriage. We would
never have shared the same bed, but that's not that unusual for the
nobility in Scart."
She paused for a moment
before continuing, "I was only sixteen and I thought that that
the bed should be part of a marriage. Diam swept me away to the Palace.
I don't regret what happened, but I regret that he would never marry
me. My love for him, quickly eroded, leaving nothing but contempt."
Rashin gave a brilliant
smile, "But we were talking about Considus. Since you will be going
to Camron, and you are my son I would like you to deliver it to him
personally. That will affirm, my regard for him!"
Hider nodded, knowing that she accepted his decision. He could feel a bit of regret, but nothing stronger, and it was with some relief that he knew he had made the right decision.
Tana was looking back
at the port of Tenve, falling behind the ship that had originally taken
them to Scart, feeling very satisfied, though a little lonely. Hider's
mother had assigned the Commander of the Guard as the new Minister of
Justice and with the information that Hider and his informants could
give him, the underworld in Tenve and Scart was going to take a long
time to recover.
Already the lot of
the street children in Scart had improved. While still poor, they had
a place to go every day to get food, and schools had been set up. The
teenage bands weren't quite as happy. The authorities apprenticed those
with abilities; most of them had however ended up in the army, where
they would start off as cadets.
All of the Magic Users,
including Van, had stayed behind, and as Tana looked around, she speculated,
wondering how soon the Princess would have a consort. She and Van had
seemed to hit it off right from the beginning. She could see two of
Hider's mercenaries close to the bow of the ship. She turned to look
behind her and then realized what she had seen.
She turned, and began
yelling, “All right, Hider, I know you're here!! Come on out!! Now!!”
She jumped when the
boy spoke from just behind her, “You don't have to yell, Tana, I'm
She whirled around
and stared down at him. “Why didn't you tell me you were coming with
“Mother and I agreed
to disagree. She and I both thought we'd get along better if we had
a few hundred miles between us.” He gave a grin, before saying, “Since
my mother wasn’t married to my father, I’m a bastard, and the new
Councilors were quite glad to get rid of me. In fact, they didn't want
me near the Palace. Now, how did you know I was here?” Hider asked.
She gathered him into
a bear hug and gave him a good squeeze. He squealed a little at her
tight grip, but it still felt good. She set him down, then waved at
the mercenaries, “They've come to adore you. Where you go, they go.
As soon as I realized they were aboard, I knew you were, as well.”
“Ah, I didn't come
alone,” Hider, said sheepishly.
She rolled her eyes,
“Same as last time,
twenty, but these want to get an education and then come back. The schools
that mother has started up will help, but just in case she gets bored
with the idea, I wanted to have a backup plan ready.”
Hider licked his lips,
and then asked uncertainly, "My mother is giving me an allowance.
I know you're not always in Camara, but when you are, will you live
She scooped him up again and twirled him around and around, and said in his ear, "I would be delighted my little friend." And feeling her love, Hider was content.