despair. “Even my best efforts have not been able to rid me of this
curse,” Necromancer continued as he hovered over the floor. “The
sicknesses he has contracted over the years did not prove fatal. The
wars he’s fought have yet to claim his life. Assassins I could have
warned him about always missed their target. Even Linvin
Grithinshield failed me. If I had been able to wait a few more
moments before checking the emperor’s body in the Valley of
Broken Soldiers, it could have been over two years ago.”
“I surely thought I had Mandrean when Grithinshield fought
him. That was my best opportunity yet. I would be free. But
Grithinshield did not finish his work. I was so close, but the child
failed me. It is hopeless, my apprentice. I am doomed to toil here
until old age takes the emperor or I wander into oblivion.”
Mordane moved closer and brought his master a drink.
“Perhaps Grithinshield could fight him again? He seems most able
and could easily defeat the emperor.”
“Do you not think I have considered that?” erupted
Necromancer. “I know how powerful Linvin is. Unfortunately, so
does Mandrean. He won’t lock horns with Grithinshield again in
person. Instead, he will continue to rely on his network of
assassins to try to eliminate the nuisance.
“Still, Grithinshield is the best chance I have. The problem is
finding a way to get him to fight Mandrean. Or perhaps I should
say, getting Mandrean to fight him. Clearly, Mandrean is the one
afraid and with good reason.”
“Well.” said Mordane. “From what you have said in the past,
Grithinshield won’t likely be leaving Sartan any time soon, and the
emperor certainly cannot go there. That would mean that
Grithinshield would have to be forced to come here again, and that
would be quite a challenge.”
There came a knock on the door. It was the imperial page again.
The terrified man was relieved to see Mordane answer the door.
He delivered his message so quickly that it was nearly
indistinguishable. “Please tell Lord Necromancer that General
Gramlick has died, and the emperor wishes to reconvene the
meeting in the throne room at once.” With that, the man turned
with all speed and ran back down the hall.
As the door closed, Necromancer’s sorrowful tone turned to
one of rejoicing. “It took time, but the creeping death enchantment
I placed on Gramlick finally overcame him. Now the emperor has
no one in his ear but me. Finally, something is going my way.”
“He still has Fendri,” Mordane noted.
“Mandrean gives no weight to his opinion. He is no threat to
Necromancer placed his hands behind his back and paced. He
sighed greatly and searched for an answer. Tenuous moments
passed as the two thought through scenario after scenario.
“The first thing I must do is convince Mandrean to fight Linvin
again. The problem therein is that the emperor is a coward at heart.
Mandrean would never be drawn into a battle with him again
because he knows he could not win even when he fought without
honor. His confidence must be raised. The only way to do that is
for him to possess the blue staff for his sapphire. Without it, he
cannot equal Linvin’s magic. That is the mental edge he needs for
“Would that make him too powerful?” Mordane inquired.
“Perhaps if he had the staff he would be able to beat Grithinshield.
Then we would be right back here again.”
It was at that moment that Necromancer stopped and said,
“Mandrean is more devious, but Linvin is simply brilliant. With
their magic being equal, the fight would once again come down to
the better warrior winning. If the fight is fair, Linvin will win
easily. If it is not fair, Mandrean has a reasonable chance. That is a
chance I must take. Linvin is still my best opportunity to rid
myself of my master. He could prevail only with suitable
motivation. Mandrean has many flaws, but he is vicious and
single-minded enough to be difficult to defeat. Linvin would need
to be enraged.”