If pressed, Jude could have named a dozen men—lovers, suitors, slaves—who’d offered her any prize she set her heart on in return for her affections. She’d taken several up on their largesse. But her requests, extravagant as some of them had been, were as nothing beside the gift she’d asked of Oscar Godolpnin. Show me Yzordderrex, she’d said, and watched his face fill with trepidation. He’d not refused her out of hand. To have done so would have crushed in a moment the affection growing between them, and he would never have forgiven himself that loss. He listened to her request, then made no further mention of it, hoping, no doubt, she’d let the subject lie.
She didn’t, however. The blossoming of a physical relationship between them had cured her of the strange passivity that had afflicted her when they’d first met. She had knowledge of his vulnerability now. She’d seen him wounded. She’d seen him ashamed of his lack of self-control. She’d seen him in the act of love, tender and sweetly perverse. Though her feelings for him remained strong, this new perspective removed the veil of unthinking acceptance from her eyes. Now, when she saw the desire he felt for her—and he several times displayed that desire in the days following their consummation—it was the old Judith, self-reh’ant and fearless, who watched from behind her smiles; watched and waited, knowing that his devotion empowered her more by the day. The tension between these two selves—the remnants of the compliant mistress his presence had first conjured and the willful, focused woman she’d been (and now was again)—scourged the last dregs of dreaminess from her system, and her appetite for Dominion-hopping returned with fresh intensity. She didn’t shrink from reminding him of his promise to her as the days went by, but on the first two occasions he made some polite but spurious excuse so as to avoid talking further about it.
On the third occasion her insistence won her a sigh, and eyes cast to heaven.
“Why is this so important to you?” he asked. “Yzordderrex is an overpopulated cesspit. I don’t know a decent man or woman there who wouldn’t prefer to be here in England.”
“A week ago you were talking about disappearing there forever. But you couldn’t you said, because you’d miss the cricket.”
“You’ve got a good memory.”
“I hang on your every word,” she said, not without a certain sourness.
“Well, the situation’s changed. There’s most likely going to be revolution. If we went now, we’d probably be executed on sight.”
“You’ve come and gone often enough in the past,” she
pointed out. “So have hundreds of others, haven’t they?
You’re not the only one. That’s what magic is for: passing
He didn’t reply.
“I want to see Yzordderrex, Oscar,” she said, “and if you won’t take me I’ll find a magician who will.”
“Don’t even joke about it.“L
“I mean it,” she said fiercely. “You can’t be the only one
who knows the way.”
“There are others. Til find them if I have to.”
“They’re all crazy,” he told her. “Or dead.”
“Murdered?” she said, the word out of her mouth before she’d fully grasped its implication.
The look on his face, however (or rather its absence: the willed blankness), was enough to confirm her suspicion. The bodies she’d seen on the news being carted away from their games were not those of burned-out hippies and sex- ? crazed satanists. They were possessors of true power, men and women who’d maybe walked where she longed to walk: in the Imajica.
“Who’s doing it, Oscar? It’s somebody you know, isn’t it?”
He got up and crossed to where she sat, his motion so : swift she thought for an instant he meant to strike her. But instead he dropped to his knees in front of her, holding her hands tight and staring up at her with almost hypnotic intensity.
“Listen to me carefully,” he said. “I have certain familial duties, which I wish to God I didn’t have. They make demands upon me I’d willingly shrug off if I could—”
“This is all to do with the tower, isn’t it?”