Chapter Seventy-Six

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Thesul strode through the front gates of his palace just as the final rays of sunset faded into evening. The entire city was shin-deep in salt water, and he was not pleased.

He grabbed the first soldier he came across. The man shrieked and cowered as Thesul slammed him against a wall and growled, "The fountain. Is it under guard?"

The man blubbered some incoherent excuse about the lower rooms in the west wing being submerged, and would no doubt have prattled further if Thesul had not broken his jaw.

Hissing obscenities under his breath, Thesul splashed across the courtyard and fought his way up the waterfall that had once been the front steps of his palace. If the west wing was under water, that meant the fountain was inaccessible. Whatever was eating away at the room's magic seal must either be reaching from afar, or somehow breathing in the flooded corridor.

A vision of the creature he had glimpse in the dungeon--enormous, pale, sinuous and golden-eyed--flashed through Thesul's memory. If that... that thing was picking away at the fountain, he had no time to lose. The cold tingle of dread he felt at the idea of facing that creature again paled in comparison to his indignant rage. No doubt Guin had ciced it on his most precious asset, knowing full well the destruction its contamination would wreak...

Treacherous little bitch.

He continued slogging his way through the flooded palace, kicking aside debris and bloating corpses as he went. A stye. The place was an utter stye! Added to this, Alavard itself was in chaos. The way his soldiers had looked at him when he demanded entrance to his own city had been ridiculous. Like frightened children. One would think they were under siege!

Thesul growled and fought his way through a doorway clogged with shattered furniture. Judging by the rising level, water was still pouring out of wherever it was Guin had opened a portal to. Would it run dry eventually? The water was salty, which led Thesul to conclude the devious whore was letting an ocean drain into his home. An ocean! And she had called him cruel and unreasonable.

As soon as the fountain a secured, he would find the little monster and make her close it again. Her magic would be easy to contain, with the right methods. Pain, numbing agents, hallucinogens. A mind was easy to control if you were creative enough. And once she was secured and disarmed, he would have the pleasure of punishing her. Repeatedly.

He found the short flight of steps leading down to the flooded corridor. After a brief pause, Thesul waded into the murky water until he was fully submerged. Moving slowly now, one laborious step after another, he made his way down the hall until he reached the fountain room.

He saw no sign of the golden-eyed creature, but the doors themselves were defaced. Something had carved an intricate pattern of looping scrawl across the wood. The marks pulsed with a faint blue glow.

Frowning, Thesul bent forward to take a closer look. He was on the verge of reaching out to touch the symbols when the doors exploded in a storm of razor-sharp splinters. 


The attack began under cover of darkness. The moon was veiled, allowing them to cross the swaying grass fields without detection. Terin was almost incredulous that they managed to reach the wall without being spotted.

The first wave of soldiers scaled the walls huge like black spiders--silent and swift. Orebright had devised a metal boot plate that, when combined with corresponding hand-picks attacked at the wrist, allowed the wearer to climb stone masonry without the use of a rope. They worked beautifully.

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