Tales of Chance the Mage

Book One: From Here

Chapter One - A Stranded Mage

The mage thought it lucky to reach an inn so far up the trail to Slice Pass in the Barrier mountains. As he neared, he saw from the look of the stables and enclosure, that it appeared to be full.

Ahead, there were signs of the coming storm: blue-black sky, churning thunderheads and lightning dumps. Bright, silver-colored waves of rain marched towards him.

He never should have thought to get across before this storm hit the pass. The smell of rain in gusty wind that yanked at his cloak warned him he would be overtaken by it if he did not get inside the inn. He hurried to it.

Running the last distance, he dashed for the main building set beside stables. It looked solidly built; a central door was tucked under a low extension of the roof.

He reached that cover and entered. As he closed the door behind him, he saw it was an Open-class inn. A quick look took in four rooms set around a central hearth. He stopped just inside to clean his boots and glanced about.

On his left, he saw food and drink being served from a long bar. Behind it, there seemed to be a kitchen. Two large rooms appeared to be shared in common by guests.

A room opposite, beyond the central hearth, contained a sleeping platform around a separate, smaller fireplace. On his right, the inn's workers used a remaining room for themselves.

It smelled of nervous travelers, cooking and cider. The ceiling was browned from un-vented smoke, almost the color of honey. The mage stood in the doorway longer and looked closely at those inside. They in turn were examining him.

A woman, plainly the innkeeper, spotted his mage's vest and hurried over to stand in front of him. Her face showed her anxiety; he was accustomed to people being nervous around him and even encouraged it.

She squared her shoulders and spoke softly, bluntly: "Welcome Mage, welcome. We have no proper place for someone of your rank - is that a problem to you?"

With a polite smile, he answered to soothe her, saying in the same tone: "My name is Chance, and I only want food, drink and pallet space by the fire. Your other guests may do what they will but you'll have no trouble that I start."

She studied him in more detail: he was young, she guessed him a few years past his majority, and handsome with open, deep eyes. Outwardly, he appeared calm, but she suspected he was perhaps a little nervous under that.

She was suspicious of mages, wanted none in her inn, but could not turn him out into the storm: "I shall make a table for you by the hearth; food and drink will come."

The innkeeper left him and went to oversee setting up a place for him. He waited quietly; she was thinking he was here and guessed she could deal with one so young.

When it was ready, she took him to the cleared space and extended a small smile: "I'm already full, but you are welcome."

The storm broke over the inn soon after that. The noise of hard rain outside stopped any more conversation. He waited for a meal and noted other stranded people: a small group going by coach and one from a passenger carry-all wagon.

There were no others of his caste much less status, which was a relief. The people in the inn were scrutinizing this late-arriving man but gave him privacy and space.

They saw by his manner, appearance and treatment by the innkeeper that he was a mage, though he looked youthful. No matter, mages were known to have moods and to throw their magic around if they took offense.

His food and drink were brought by the innkeeper herself. He tried both with her standing beside the table. He pronounced the food tasty and the cider acceptable after which she left him alone.

The other guests kept themselves apart from him and remained drinking late into the night as the storm made sleep impossible. They had to shout to talk with each other.

Later, when the roaring finally turned to only steady rain, all went to the sleeping room and lay down on pallets. Chance noted no one chose to be near him which suited his preference.

* * *

The inn's guests woke the following day to only the sound of light rain, roused by the aroma of tea and baking bread. Soon after eating, the rain stopped, so some explored outside and discovered the bridge back down the trail was gone as if it had never been. Others related that the way ahead through Slice Pass seemed choked with ice-covered debris.

Everyone realized they would have to stay longer at the inn. Several days of boredom lay ahead which would be spent in the company of strangers and a mage.

That evening, the innkeeper wished to distract them from their circumstance. An idea came to her which she considered thoughtfully. With misgiving, she spoke over the serving bar directly to Chance: "Traveling Mage, the pass will not be open for a while - a day or two - will you help us pass this time of waiting?"

At first, Chance was surprised at being spoken to aloud before other guests and did not understand her meaning. She now gave him her best, most winning smile and continued pleasantly: "You appear a worldly man who has without doubt seen much - would you kindly tell us a tale of magic and magery? If it pleases you..."

At first, Chance was amused. He considered the idea but tell a story of mage adventure? His ready audience's faces were encouraging. He certainly lived an adventurous life recently.

Refusing a king's summons and barely surviving a Maur cult ambush qualified as adventure; but he was obsessed with escape.

Being stuck here chewed at him. Thus, because he was tense, he was tempted to tell a tale, if only to hold down his own fears. Chance picked among a number of Opal stories he heard while in school.

The mage in each story was long dead, and the innkeeper was definitely winsome. So, without thinking more, he nodded to her saying: "A reasonable request - I can tell of two men, an unlikely pair, off on a quest to find the Reading Opal - one a mage, the other a mad man."

A heavy-set man nearby, obviously the Coach Master, spoke up and asked eagerly: "High Mage, did they fight monsters on their quest?"

Chance was enjoying the attention and distraction from his problems, so kept his face exactly sincere as he replied: "Good Master, indeed they did - the terrible Nightbirds especially."

All were interested now, and the audience nodded wisely as if they knew what a Nightbird was. An older woman from the coach group asked: "High Mage, what is the Reading Opal and why were these two on a quest for it? Was it hidden - did it have great power?"

Chance turned his attention to her, noting she was sitting beside an attractive young girl. Beginning to enjoy this, he smiled at both and then explained enough to answer: "Fellow Guest, the Opal is transparent when looked through and reveals to a mage the core structure of magic spells."

That seemed explanation enough, but he added: "Otherwise, the gem - seen from any other direction - is depths in depths of greens, of blues, of reds, all set against a black curtain. Beautiful in and of itself."

The innkeeper smiled broadly and walked around refilling everyone's drink. Cheerfully, she said: "It sounds a worthy tale, High Mage."

She leaned over, displaying her figure as she refilled his cider, and asked: "What are the names of the unlikely questing partners?"

Chance recalled the name of the mage but had to think to remember the other. After a moment, he responded that the mage was Ens High Tower and the mad man was Retsa of Kiping.

It was already late in the day, and Chance was tired from little sleep the night before, and the ones before that. He decided a story could wait until he was rested. To himself, he swore if the pass was open in the morning, he would leave.

He told everyone that he would tell them tomorrow and that he was off to sleep. There was a small protest asking that he begin the tale then, even though it was late in the evening. He informed them pointedly that he was not a minstrel. This was also meant to warn against familiarity.

Later, as he lay on his pallet, he reviewed the tale's details for the next day. Chance fell asleep with the Reading Opal tucked safely in a pocket of his vest.

Too many people already knew he had the Reading Opal. Certainly, those who hunted him knew he possessed it. He was only the current one to have it, but he preferred no one at the inn know that.

He purposely left the Schools and traveled for five years to avoid sharing it when that was demanded of him. The pressure was less threatening then; it was of a scholastic bend.

Not sharing become much more serious when the High Ice, ruler of the Maurice, became interested. He must escape the West and its endless snares. Every moment that he remained in reach of his enemies was dangerous.

* * *

The next day, it was reported that the pass looked no more open than the day before. Chance resigned himself to waiting and promised to begin his tale after midday meal.

The other guests chatted with excitement, and he observed expectant faces, eager to be thrilled and entertained. When he was done eating, Chance settled by the hearth and prepared to tell a story which he titled Ens and the Mad Dancer.

The room became silent; Chance took a breath then said: "This is the tale of an ambitious High Mage in search of a legend. It is a dark story of greed, loathsome creatures and madness - of power and betrayal:"

Ens and the Mad Dancer

Ens High Tower, a mage living at the Magic Schools in Kehdy, knew the story of Misdan and her creation of an opal through which she read spells. That it actually existed did not occur to him until he came across references to it in books from the library. It was real but missing.

He asked about the legend and learned Misdan was eventually slain, but her opal was never found. Then it began to appear over time, in the hands of mages who always used it to gain power. Ens decided to go to Kiping county where it was last known to have been used.

He first obtained supplies from the mage house and borrowed a mule to carry them. At first, Ens and the mule did not get along, but the mule obeyed after a few strokes with a stick.

The road to Kiping was easy to travel. Ens walked along with several others going that way. Two days after leaving the Magic Schools, Ens walked through the southern gate at Kiping and headed into the Open quarter. It seemed a pleasant, busy port on the Miene sea.

He found an inn and paid to have the mule unloaded and stabled. Afterward, he wandered to a Day market where he noticed a small crowd on one side and strolled toward them.

People were standing around a man who was dancing very deliberately: making large gestures with arms and legs, bending first forward then backward and finally spinning slowly in place. On his head was a round hat.

From time to time, someone from the crowd would shout: "You have your hat on backward!"

That always caused the dancer to respond by turning his hat around and shouting back with pretended indignity: "No I do not!"

The people laughed at his antics and tossed coins into a cup set on the ground to receive them. Ready to move on, the dancer scooped up the coins and cup then danced off. Ens followed out of curiosity. The dancing man noticed him: "Why is a mage following me?"

Ens responded that he enjoyed watching the comedy. That seemed to satisfy the man who continued prancing down the street toward the cafes near the Black gate. Outside one, the dancing man paused and turned slowly to Ens: "You may join me in eating and pay for the privilege of course."

The mage felt caught but interested enough to pay for one meal. They entered and the owner welcomed the dancing man warmly. After being seated and ordering, the dancer removed his hat and placed it carefully on the table. Looking frankly at Ens, he asked: "Who are you, High Mage?"

Ens thought that too impudent to be funny and replied brusquely: "Just a traveling mage."

The dancer laughed outright and hooted: "Not true, not true!"

Ens then asked: "And who are you?"

"I am the Director!" replied the dancer.

"Of what?" asked Ens.

"Everything, but call me Retsa"

Ens responded to that sarcastically: "Call me Ens. Staying busy, Retsa?"

In a haughty manner, Retsa replied: "Never a moment to myself."

Dinner came then and they ate with little talking. Afterward, Retsa ordered wine and, beckoning Ens to follow, he strolled outside to a table under a tree. They sat and drank for a while without speaking. Then Retsa said: "Tell me, High Mage Ens, why you are here."

That question was presumptuous; Ens became irritated. However, perhaps this strange local man might know something. With a shrug, he began the story of the Reading Opal and Misdan. Retsa listened with increasing interest. Ens closed with: "And the Opal was never found."

Retsa smirked mysteriously and, after a pause, announced: "I know where the Opal hides. The Nightbirds protect it."

Ens was surprised and skeptical; he asked if it still existed somewhere round here.

"Oh yes," said Retsa, "but very well protected" and then ordered more wine for which Ens paid.

The dancer was becoming expensive, but Ens waited patiently while their cups were refilled. Then he asked: "Where is it and how is it so well protected that no one has recovered it?"

Retsa smiled at Ens and, leaning forward, asked like silk: "Do you want it, mage? Are you not powerful enough now? Do you yearn for yet more? Does your grasping palm itch for it?"

Ens sat back but was strangely not affronted. He thought before answering, then replied honestly: "I am powerful now - but I want more, to read the true core of magic. With the Opal, the raw power underneath spells can be known. Will you take me to it? I will pay for a guide."

Now it was Retsa's turn to sit back thoughtfully. With a shake of his head, he replied: "Not now - not in the dark. Nightbirds."

Ens never heard of Nightbirds and pressed for more information. Retsa repeated: "Not now, it is dark - Nightbirds. Tomorrow I will take you to where it is - meet me here at first light."

Retsa finished his wine, got up from the table and danced away into the dusk. As there were no other clues about the Opal, perhaps following the crazy dancer was worth the time. Ens thought the dancer more than a little mad.

The man might be delusional in claiming to know where the Opal was. But it could be that his delusions were about Nightbirds and the Reading Opal was actually nearby.

In the clear light of day, mused Ens, we shall see what the spice is hiding about the meat.

* * *

The next morning, Retsa waited outside the cafe as promised. Ens saw he was already merrily dancing. He followed as Retsa began to move toward the western gate and then inland across the coastal plain toward a ruin in the distance. More and more, Ens was convinced this was all a fool's errand. And the fool here was definitely Ens.

Retsa said nothing as he danced along a thin trail that wove through trees toward the ruin. Once there, he took Ens inside what must have been a surrounding wall and then to the edge of a deep hole in the center.

Looking down, Ens could see the mouth of a cave. Retsa pointed to the cave and said: "Nightbirds live there during the day."

Ens cast a Seeker spell that bounced round the entrance and asked: "Where is the Opal? Is it in that cave?"

Retsa nodded but said nothing. He turned and danced over to sit with his back against the surrounding wall, picking a place in the sun. He opened the lunch Ens bought for both of them before they left Kiping and poured some wine into two cups.

Ens sighed at the delay but sat with him. Retsa took out a sack of rune stones and began tossing and reading them. Ens glanced at this but had never considered the stones useful.

The dancer frowned more with each toss. He threw them back into their sack and made a disgusted noise.

Ens asked what Retsa saw in the stones. No comment came, and Ens asked pointedly what future showed in the toss. Retsa sneered at him and whispered: "Death, High Mage. I read only Death - every throw. The Nightbirds are waiting for you in the cave. Step carefully mage."

Now the dancer's face grinned and he explained: "Death is why the Opal is still in the cave, but perhaps you are more clever than the others?"

Ens was not comforted by his words: "Others? Others have been here for the stone and none survived? What happened to them?"

Retsa laughed coldly and said: "Go find out mage - come back and tell me."

Then he got up, climbed the wall and danced upon it. Ens looked back at the edge and decided he spent enough time with this idiot. Going over to stand close to the rim, Ens cast then stepped out.

Retsa stopped dancing long enough to see the mage float out over the open hole. He watched until Ens descended out of sight then continued his mindless dancing.

Ens dropped slowly until he was standing at the entrance to the cave. He peered into the darkness but saw nothing.

Probably full of bats, thought Ens. Suddenly, a large dark object hurled from the dark toward the mage at the entrance. Ens shot a powerful jolt of energy at it and backed away into full sunlight.

Indeed like a bat, Ens realized, but the size of the thing! It was huge. Other large shapes glared and threatened from the dark of the cave. Ens could see reflections of light from spikes on wing bones and pointed teeth bared at him.

The mage retreated more and saw that, like bats, the Nightbirds did not come out of the cave in daylight. Then the mage came up with an idea.

After floating back up to the ruin, Ens told Retsa that night would be better to enter the cave. He sat and added that the Nightbirds would be out then.

Retsa regarded that as insane and laughed so that he fell off the wall. Ens pulled a book from his pack and began to read, ignoring Retsa.

They waited during the day, and Retsa became more nervous as the daylight faded. When it was almost sunset, Ens put away his book and again walked out into the air over the hole. He hovered there briefly then descended rapidly.

As he went down, Nightbirds flew past, coming out the cave's mouth to fly up into the night. Their high-pitched squeals echoed round the hole; they sensed him.

Ens was prepared. When they were almost within reach, he closed his eyes and cast an exploding, brilliant light at the Nightbirds.

The creatures were startled but could only blindly seek the mage with slashing claws. Ens landed and cast another round before running into the cave, setting off light flashes as he went. The Nightbirds fled away for the dark of night, all the while screeching their frustration.

Once well inside, Ens cast more light bursts in the cave to drive out any Nightbirds lurking in the shadows. The cave was now illuminated, and he hurried along sending Seeker spells for where the prize might be.

And then it was clear where the Opal was. Ens stared at the cave wall embracing the gem, overwhelmed by the natural beauty of a stalactite setting. Ens set about obtaining the Opal.

Carefully he climbed up the cave wall, always mindful of protective spells. He reached an arch, and within that, the Opal sat glowing softly. Ens deftly snatched the Opal and dropped to the floor of the cave. Now to get out and remain alive.

Ens emerged carefully and slowly rose back to the ruin. Casting Light took energy. Once back at the rim, he could barely stand and staggered over to a fallen log by the wall. It would be enough protection from the Nightbirds, and he could summon some magic for light if he needed to fight them off.

Retsa suddenly stepped out from a hiding place in the wall and, a sword in his hand, walked rapidly towards him. He swung the sword, chopping wildly at Ens; he sneered as he called out: "Well done - such a clever mage - thank..."

As he came nearer, dark shapes dropped on him from the trees and sky above. He was blanketed; razor claws and sharp fangs ripped and tore him. Retsa hardly was given time to scream before being eaten.

Ens threw himself on to the ground and rolled under the fallen tree. He did not watch the Nightbirds render Retsa to gore and bone before flying away in the night.

Remaining still and watchful, Ens waited until full daylight before coming out from under the log. The sight of Retsa was sickening.

He reflected that even though Retsa planned theft and murder, the dancer's death was gruesome. He would have simply ordered the man hanged once back in Kiping.

Ens stayed where he was, close to the log, and did not move for a good while. He toyed with the Opal enjoying the feel of it in his hand.

Finally, there was no sign of Nightbirds for a while, so Ens left and all but ran back to the safety of Kiping. Once again in his private room at the inn, Ens took out a spell book and set the Opal upon an open page. After reading, he sighed saying: "Ah, so that is what it is about."

Ens returned to the Kehdy Magic Schools and received some teasing about a silly quest for something that was only a legend.

* * *

Without a word to anyone, Ens began to review the spells he had been taught. However it was increasingly difficult to hide that he appeared to have the Reading Opal.

After a year, he left the school and went to live in the hills outside Kiping. Visitors to his country estate always remarked on the tasty wild fowl dishes he served for dinner. Ens would tell them it was Nightbird, a local delicacy.

Thus ends the story of a mage on a quest for knowledge, magic power really, and a dancing madman who ended badly but not without earning it by his treachery.

When Chance finished, all sat spellbound. The innkeeper was the first to speak and she expressed what all were feeling: "Eloquent - nothing less than eloquent. You have certainly helped to pass our time. My thanks."

He had a healthy regard for himself but made a small effort to be modest; he returned her gaze and smiled in response to her words. She softened her eyes and dimpled her cheeks.

The Coach Master almost exploded: "You are gold-tongued! The Nightbirds are terrible indeed. I was flinching when you told of Retsa's end!"

The man was laughing happily and ordered more cider for all. An attractive lady with the coach group spoke, almost purring. She was a woman traveling alone, and reflexively Chance gave her his attention.

She said with a thrill in her voice: "I am moon-touched by your exciting tale. It was truly a terrible end for the dancing man, even if deserved."

She continued with a merry smile that got her a frown from the innkeeper: "Ens sounds dashing - so brave! But, how did Nightbirds go from flying death to tasty dinner?"

Chance answered seductively, he hoped, and explained that after the Opal shows the base magic, a Light spell can be cast with more precision and almost no effort.

She was looking at him in fascination, her interest in him plain by her eyes. He explained smoothly, in order to attract her: "Ens was able to capture Nightbirds easily now; often, he caught several at a time. They were a scourge around Kiping so no one protested their decline."

The innkeeper was refilling cider mugs and stepped between Chance and the lady. She neatly broke into their exchange and asked: "What of the Opal? Is it yet with the clever mage Ens?"

Chance turned to her and assumed a grave face: "Now the story takes a sad turn. The Opal still exists but Ens no longer does. It became known that the Opal was being used by a mage.

"There were many who would not permit this, and Ens would not give it up or share it."

The innkeeper nodded at that and moved on; suddenly the lady rose in a fluid motion, swiftly flinging three throwing stars at Chance.

Instantly, a thick line of colored light burst from his pocket, snared the three whirling stars and halted them. They reversed and slammed with a burst of light back into the lady's head. As she slumped to the floor, the band of light vanished.

Screams erupted from the older woman with the coach and her young charge. They and all the folk in the inn were staring at the dead body on the floor, at the stars in her forehead.

Before anyone could come out of their shock, the group with the carry-all broke into a commotion as two men fought. One of the fellows was being manhandled by a muscular youth.

The lad struggled to pin the other and called out: "High Mage, this one means you harm. He was about to throw a dagger."

Chance stood and moved over to them as the accused struggled in the young man's hold. When he was near them, the man skillfully broke free from the youth and flung his dagger at Chance.

Colors sprang forward a second time and engulfed the dagger, stopped it in mid air and then rammed it back into the would-be assassin. He slid to the floor, his own weapon deep in his chest. The light wavered a moment then vanished.

Finally, the room was absolutely still and remained silent until people began to feel a need to sit. Chance returned to his table and after taking a moment to calm himself asked the innkeeper if he might have a cider, when she found a moment.

She remarked that he might and that she might join him. Everyone in the room wanted something to drink and spoke up. Chance pointed over at the youth: "Good Keep - I am happy to pay for my brave friend's drink."

The innkeeper brought out a fresh keg of cider and asked the men with the carry-all to take the bodies outside. Once the dead were moved and the cider keg tapped, everyone seemed very tired.

They drank with only quiet talk among them: She seemed a real lady - stuck up but nice. He was quiet and helpful - never a cross word.

The keg went quickly so another was brought out. As she tapped it, the innkeeper asked what everyone wanted to know: "Mage of mystery, I feel there is more to this than a story. Am I wrong to think the Opal rests now in your pocket?"

She sighed as if that had been difficult, or perhaps dangerous, to say. The people in the room looked nervously at Chance but were obviously curious. There was a pause while cups were refilled.

* * *

Chance waited with resignation and thought he behaved stupidly to talk of the Reading Opal at all. However these people were common and their word would not be taken against his. He rarely spoke with anyone about the Opal, but he was disturbed enough now to talk rashly.

The other guests hurriedly grabbed the refilled cups and rushed back to their seats. They all were looking at him expectantly.

Chance wanted to explain, if only to say aloud what he kept in his mind until now. He took a deep drink and began: "The Opal was created by Misdan - a powerful mage from long ago. She defied the natural order of magery by seeking skill not permitted to women.

"After it existed, she lived in a world of power heretofore unknown to mages. With understanding from reading through the Opal, a spell could be cast - more accurately - and not drain energy. Spells require large amounts of energy, you see; normally, that is."

Chance continued, wanting to explain the danger of having the Opal: "Her surge of power brought Misdan in conflict with almost all other mages. They feared the Opal would corrupt her, and from her to them in turn. They feared she would eat their minds and souls if not stopped.

"But Misdan hid her Opal before the end. They searched, but it was as if the Opal was hiding itself. It was not found then anyway."

He now told how he could have something that vanished long before he was born. He said: However, the Opal began to allow some people to find it. Ens was such a one in his time, and I now have it. I found it or it found me, I do not know."

He thought about Ens who died because the Opal deserted him. There was no need to tell them more other than he found the Opal. Chance drank and remained silent.

The youth who tried to help him earlier was pushed forward by his teammates. He nervously came to Chance's table and asked if they might see the Opal itself.

That request startled Chance but, looking about at the faces in the room, he realized they all wanted the same. It was a magic object; might they see it, please? He did not think first and reached into the pocket which held only the Opal.

His pocket was empty. For the first few moments, he sat still with his hand at the place where he should have felt a round lump. He felt nothing; blasting away one moment and gone the next? He glanced around the table and floor near him but knew in his heart it was not there.

The images of the attacks were still vivid in his mind, and now he felt as Ens must have. But, he could still sense the presence of the stone. The Opal was in the room. It was near him.

Then he knew; it shocked him. He worked to keep himself calm and placed his hand back on the table. It was with the youth. He began to summon spells and asked quietly: "What is your name?"

The lad hesitated as if unsure. The carry-all driver spoke up: "That is Alsen - one of our wagon boys, High Mage; he is witless or close enough there's no difference."

The youth's eyes narrowed but he nodded his head; yes, his name was Alsen. Chance weighed what he could do, if the Opal let him, and said kindly: "Show us what is in your pocket, Alsen; just hold it out in your hand."

Alsen looked confused then slowly reached in, felt something that was not there before and pulled it out. He could only look in complete amazement at the Opal in his thick hand.

Chance was thinking fast, discarding actions until at last he chose one and spoke directly to Alsen: "I know you did not take it and don't know how it got there. It is mischievous tonight and seems to have the notion of riding in your pocket for a while. Do you mind?"

Alsen shook his head no, and the people in the inn moved away from him. Chance needed to get the boy aside where there were no witnesses, not even common ones.

The mage was honest about it to himself: if getting the Opal needed force, he would kill Alsen, take it back and bind it hard to him. He would risk much for the Opal since he was a dead man without it.

He addressed the driver with the carry-all and managed a tight smile: "As my Opal has taken a fancy to your lad Alsen, I shall buy him off you, as is only fair and my right. He can travel with me until it grows tired of this game."

The evening ended with Alsen's service properly transferred to Chance. He instructed the boy to remain by him, and both then went to the sleeping room. After all settled, the innkeeper came to his pallet and woke him gently.

She was concerned that he would rest well, and, since the lad protected the Opal, perhaps Chance would like to lay with her. He reflected that even a bad day could have a good ending, and, after telling Alsen where he would be, went with her. She curtained off a portion of the main room for privacy and then taught him sex beyond his experience so far.

Later back on his own pallet, rest did come. There was something in the back of his mind; it was in front now. To Chance's knowledge, the Opal never acted on its own before.

It was used to cast killing spells time and again but not on its own volition. Uncalled, it defended him; efficiently killed two people this day and with finesse. Now it resided with an ordinary wagon boy. Chance lay still on the pallet, scheming until he finally slept.

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