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The Tomlins carried Sol up several floors before taking him along a balcony and through an arched doorway. They entered an oddly shaped room with crooked walls and a warped floor filled with assorted tables, amongst which was a grand wooden chair padded with red leather.

The Tomlins placed Sol in the chair and abandoned him there, with many running back out the door they'd just come through while others clambered up ladders about the sides of the room. The walls were filled with small cupboards from which the Tomlins pulled several long bolts of thick black fabric before unrolling them over long tables.

The back of Sol's chair suddenly reclined so he was lying almost flat, and a little upside-down face appeared above his own.

"Tikasamboo!" said the upside-down Tomlin.

"I don't know what that means!" Sol said. The Tomlin held up a brush covered in white cream and promptly began dusting it over Sol's cheeks and chin and mouth.

"Hey, stop that!" he complained, but then another Tomlin jumped onto his chest wielding a silver razor. "Whoah, no no no!"

"Cheekanana!" the Tomlin with the razor shouted before diving at Sol's face, scraping the blade over his cheek with a soft crackle. Sol pressed his eyes shut and prayed Tomlins were as good at shaving as they were at building treehouses. While one Tomlin shaved him, Sol felt another place his feet into a stirrup before wrapping them with some kind of thick bandage.

After several minutes of this, a warm flannel wiped Sol's face clean and the blade-wielding Tomlin on his chest jumped away. Sol opened his eyes and rubbed his face, finding it perfectly smooth for the first time in years. His seat suddenly thrust him bolt upright.

While most of the Tomlins were huddled over a table just ahead of him, Sol felt a tapping on his shin and looked down to see a female Tomlin with thick spectacles peering up at him.

"Lematchatoota," said the Tomlin, pointing at Sol's feet, and Sol was amazed to see he was wearing a pair of shoes made from some kind of black leather. They looked as though they'd each been fashioned from a single piece of material that had been wrapped around his feet before being sewn into place.

The Tomlin beckoned Sol to stand. He did, finding the shoes to be more comfortable than any pair he'd ever worn. While the female Tomlin suddenly ran off, the huddle on the table jumped down and approached Sol holding a large piece of black material. They placed it at his feet and backed away. It took Sol a moment to realise it was a coat made from the same leather as his shoes.

"For me?" Sol said.

The Tomlins said nothing but watched him eagerly, rocking back and forth on their feet. Sol crouched and picked up the coat, finding it surprisingly light. He slid his arms into the sleeves, amazed to discover it was a perfect fit.

"Incredible..." he remarked.

"It's dragon skin," said a familiar voice. Sol turned to see Goone standing in the arched doorway.

"Dragon skin?" Sol said. "Like a fire-breathing lizard, dragon?"

"A coat like that would be worth a High Warlock's salary in the City. You're a lucky man."

"They just made it for me. I didn't ask them to."

"Tomlins live to make things, that's how they are. They act on impulse." As if to prove his point, the Tomlins suddenly scattered in all directions, some running past Goone out of the door while others dived through trapdoors in the walls.

"Thank you!" Sol called out as they departed, but none of them so much as glanced back at him.

"Strange creatures, Tomlins," said Goone.

"They seem very friendly."

"If they like you, they are. Believe me, you don't want to make an enemy of them."

"Did you ask them who Wendy is?"

"For all the good it did. Tomlins aren't so good with names. Still, it got me away from the Order for a little while. How do you like your new place so far?"

"So far I'm still trying to believe that this place belongs to me."

"This place and everything in it. Everything Pan Magal owned belongs to you now."

"But why? I never even met him."


"So I don't deserve all this."

"Pan Magal didn't have any family. The way I see it, you've got as much right to his legacy as any Elder or Mage or anyone else."

"Itchalama," said a voice from the doorway, and both men turned to see a lone female Tomlin standing in the entrance. "Mookabong honkapip."

"Manganata?" replied Goone.

"Gigado enfellizma."


The Tomlin ran off, leaving Goone staring gormlessly at the space where she'd been standing.

"What's going on?" Sol asked.

"You've been summoned," said Goone.

"Summoned? Where? By who?"

A shadow passed over Goone's face as he turned to Sol.

"The Emperor."

*   *   *

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