this leg of mine. You do remember the lesson about that, don’t
“Yes, school master…Fight no battle you cannot win. It was the
second lesson you taught me. It followed the one about never
underestimating an opponent. I never forgot.”
“You may not have forgotten, Lad, but you have paid them no
Mandrean jerked his head over at Gramlick who knew he had
special privileges at that moment. The emperor’s teeth ground
together, and his face tightened.
“Tathbar knew the rule and deliberately broke it,” Mandrean
fumed. “And Grithinshield will pay for all the trouble he has
Gramlick’s vision was failing so he paid attention to the
direction of Mandrean’s voice to maintain the illusion of sight. “I
think you give the Sartanian too much credit. Our troubles are not
“How can you say that?” Mandrean erupted while coming to
the bedside. “You know what happened. That man humiliated me.
He destroyed my palace…annihilated my elite guard, crushed
entire legions, and left me for dead in a pool of my own blood. Oh,
I give him credit. I credit him with creating this foul climate
throughout the empire. He has wronged me in the worst possible
ways, and he will pay for it. All will see that no one betters Lord
Mandrean and lives.
“He must die, to be sure, and his death will renew the people’s
confidence in me. The army’s morale will improve, and the
impotent group I met with earlier will pour the glory upon me like
a shower of golden raindrops. Forget the grain. The death of
Linvin Grithinshield will bring me all I desire.”
Gramlick was completely blind by the end of the oration. His
time was short. Mandrean had finally voiced his opinion, and
Gramlick had little time to get his point across.
“Boy. Grithinshield did not make the crops fail or the
conquered territory rebellious or the roads crumble or the Goblin
Nations fight. You credit the man for too much. His death will not
solve these problems. Most have forgotten the incident in the
mountains. The only person keeping this issue alive is you. You
seek revenge. That is an expensive thing that a wise emperor
knows he cannot afford.”
Mandrean was so self-involved that he paid no heed to the
faltering voice of his mentor. “I will have that revenge no matter
“Child, you have tried for a year to kill him. How many
assassins have returned—how many soldiers?” Gramlick began to
shake and start convulsions.
“Stay with me, schoolmaster,” Mandrean pleaded as he clasped
the general’s hand. “I need you.”
Gramlick fought to speak as his body contorted.
“There…is...more you must know. Acreas, Betrimpia and
Necromancer…. Don’t trust them.… They all want you dead for
their own…” Gramlick’s body stopped fighting and collapsed on