Prologue: Sheluna

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Sheluna sipped her wine and looked out across the city, nodding idly along with what Alicio was saying, although she wasn't, in truth, paying close attention.

"I simply find it odd. Loukanos would never be so accommodating as to simply die. Someone killed him, which means someone wanted to be Archwizard, and yet no one has come forward to claim the title."

The wine was a light, crisp white, well chilled, and lovely. Alicio would have opened it just for her. The Archwizard of the Balance was a thoughtful man. He'd even set out water for Cír, who was now sprawled in a ridiculous pose in the wide band of sunlight at the far end of Alicio's balcony. Sheluna and Alicio were comfortable under the colorful canopy, an import from Alicio's homeland.

The top two stories of the Tower of the Balance were the residence of the Archwizard. Alicio had been here for years, now, and had completely transformed it to his taste. He'd grown up in the arid mountains east of Ter Luniel, and his home was a tiny pocket of that in the middle of Triome.

Sheluna had been in Triome for months, now, and sitting in Alicio's space only reminded her how much she missed her own home. She was more than ready to return. But she'd come to Triome for a purpose, and that purpose wasn't yet accomplished.

"What about that boy you've been spending time with? What's his name—Korin?"

Sheluna's mind snapped back to attention, but she responded with no more than a casual, "What of him?"

"He's a staff wizard."

Alicio wasn't a fool. It was hard to become an Archwizard if you were. It didn't surprise Sheluna that he knew about Korin. Plenty of people in the palace saw him come and go, and Alicio wasn't the only person in Triome who employed spies there. The question was, how much did he know? "And?"

"And? What has he said? What does the order of the Staff know?"

Sheluna rolled her eyes theatrically. "Oh come now. You know what that order's like. No organization. No communication. It isn't as if Korin has been attending meetings. If he's spoken with any other Staff wizards, he certainly hasn't talked to me about it."

In fact, in the weeks since Loukanos's death, Korin hadn't said a word. Which made Sheluna more certain with every passing day that Korin knew exactly what had happened to Loukanos.

What she didn't want was for Alicio to start sniffing down this trail. "Have you considered—" A sharp tingle ran through her, interrupting her train of thought. An alarm—her magic telling her someone was in her workshop. "Excuse me one moment."

Sheluna focused her attention on her wine glass, holding it perfectly still. The wine wasn't the perfect scrying surface, but it would do. She blurred her eyes, letting her focus sink through the liquid, into the far-away, until an image resolved before her.

Samir. He was there, in her workshop, and someone was with him. Someone she couldn't bring into focus through her magic.

Sheluna set the glass down and stood. "I must apologize, Alicio, but something has come up."

"So I see. Is everything all right?"

"I don't know," she answered honestly.

"Well. Do be careful. I'd hate to have to be wondering about your replacement as well."

Sheluna gave him a tight smile. "Cír," she called. The tiger got reluctantly to his feet and padded over to her. With a final nod to Alicio, Sheluna swept her hand through the air in a series of quick, confident gestures, and then stepped through the resulting gate.

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