Saberhagen, Fred – Lost Swords 05 – Coinspinners Story

Exercising some more subtle powers of his own, Trimbak Rao soon managed to locate several items of great interest, including some of his apprentices’ discarded clothing, packs, and weapons.

While he stood with an abandoned pack in his hands, considering, there came a minor landslide in one of the tall piles of raw earth nearby, and a sympathetic quivering of the ground beneath. One of the new mud holes was beginning to fill in. The fabric of the City was already starting to restore itself after the violent disruptions.

The Teacher persisted in his efforts to find Adrian and Trilby, but at first he was unable to find a trace of either one.

In the middle of a certain incantation, the wizard came to a pause. An idea had just struck him. Where, he thought to himself, is the canoe? He remembered full well that that vessel had been here on his last visit to the park. Well, it was hardly strange that it should be gone now, with the entire course of the river blasted. Whether it had gone with either of his apprentices was more than he could tell, but at least he could have hopes.

Two flying messengers had accompanied him from his studio, and now he dispatched them both to Tasavalta, by separate routes. It was his bitter but necessary duty to let Princess Kristin know that some kind of disaster had befallen, and the heir to the throne was missing.

With all the speed that could be managed, still more than a full day had passed before high-ranking aides of the Princess had reached the studio of Trimbak Rao, but now the Teacher and these representatives were holding an urgent conversation.

The eminent magician and teacher of magic Trimbak Rao did his best to explain to them just what had happened to Prince Adrian.

Kristin’s counselors now assured Trimbak Rao that of course the Tasavaltan hunt for both Woundhealer and Coinspinner was going to be pressed firmly. Though right now it looked as if both Swords might be gone permanently out of reach.

Adrian, as all who knew him had come to agree, had the potential to someday become a true magician-king, the like of which had not been seen for a long time.

For the sake of the realm, as well as for the youngster himself, it was necessary that this potential be properly developed.

Trimbak Rao was still optimistic that Adrian was safe and could be found-though perhaps not really as optimistic as he sounded.

Trilby’s fate was just as uncertain. Trimbak Rao still nursed hopes that the girl would make her own way back to her Teacher’s headquarters in one piece, bringing news of what had happened.

“Your powers are still searching for her in the City?”

“Of course. Even as they search for Prince Adrian.”

“And where do you place the responsibility for what has happened, wizard?”

The Teacher bowed his head. “Much of it is my own. I do not seek to evade that fact. I believe there is no doubt that the hand of Wood was behind the attack.”

No one disputed that. But no one assured the magician that he himself was free of fault.

He tried to answer accusations that had not been voiced. “Apprentices who have reached the level of the Prince and this girl regularly accomplish what I was asking them to do. I saw no reason to think they would be unable to do so!”


ADRIAN, standing ankle-deep in mud on the bank of an unknown river, felt certain that in the course of his downstream passage in the canoe he must have passed out of the plane of existence containing the City of Wizards. But he had no idea where he was, only that the magical aura, the feel of the world around him, was blessedly familiar. He was back in the world in which he had grown up.

Trimbak Rao had warned his students of a great many of the complications involved in the several routes leading into the City and out of it, and of the danger of their getting lost if they should deviate from the course he had planned for them to the small park and back. But, thought Adrian, the Teacher had utterly failed to warn them of anything like what had actually happened.

But then he had to admit it probably wasn’t the Teacher’s fault. Adrian, in his new state of shocked alertness, now understood clearly that he and Trilby on entering the City must have fallen under the spell of some extremely subtle and most powerful enchantment. Whatever that enchantment’s source, it had caused them to put aside all normal caution, and to forget or disregard all but one of their Teacher’s warnings, the minor and routine admonition not to be too much in haste. And they had allowed themselves to be distracted from their goal by trivialities until it was almost too late for Adrian to escape the forces gathering against them there.

He wondered now whether awareness had come entirely too late for Trilby-or whether it had never come to her at all.

The naked Princeling shivered, though both the air and the mud in which he stood were quite warm. He found no reassurance in trying to take stock of his situation. Not only had he lost his clothing, but his pack and canteen and hunting knife as well.

Probing the darkness around him as best he could, with a mind now free-as far as he could tell-of enemy influences, Adrian decided that he was safe for the moment.

Of course he and Trilby had thought themselves safe in the park beside the Red Temple, too.

Once the conflict had openly erupted there, events had moved so fast that Adrian had had no opportunity to be much frightened. But fear was overtaking him now.

“Trilby? Trilby!” he called, softly at first, then louder. But he received no answer. And he had no sense, either magical or mundane, of where the girl might be.

The little river, mysterious and nameless, into whose muddy bank his feet were slowly sinking, revealed no secrets as it went murmuring on toward its unknown destination.

At least there was no sign that the threatening forces the Prince had just escaped were going to pursue him here outside the City. No immediate threats were apparent, though the magical portents for the future here were ominous, now that he looked at them carefully. He decided that he had better not stay where he was if he could help it. Certainly the physical environment afforded by this river-bank was not attractive-besides the treacherous footing, he stood confronted by a wall of growth, a great part of it thorny, dense to the point of impenetrability. Nor did anything the boy could make out upon the river’s opposite when he needed it? He was still unable to detect anything in the way of any magical aura left about the boat by its previous usage or users. Well, that was not strictly true, perhaps; there were a few traces, the psychic analogues of smears and smudges, but nothing meaningful.

The question and its corollaries worried him. Had the boat’s availability, just when he needed it, been sheer accident? Or had it been purposefully arranged? If there had been no boat to carry him away, how might he have fared?

The howling came again, the distance at which it originated impossible to gauge. Still the Prince thought it might be following him, though he could not be sure on which bank of the narrow river it had its source.

Now Adrian remembered a brief mention by Trimbak Rao of certain carnivorous apes that infested a forest growing along one of the City’s edges. Those apes were known to be dangerous to humans, and were claimed by some to be fully as intelligent as messenger birds. In darkness and loneliness it was all too easy for the boy to imagine such a creature producing just such a howling sound.

Now, as he steered and propelled the canoe downstream, Adrian tried his best to achieve some mental or magical contact with Trimbak Rao. But that proved to be impossible. The magical glow of the City behind him still dominated the air and sky, partially dazzling his extra senses. Also, he was beginning to suspect that another kind of blockage had been imposed, as if by the same deadly enemy who had tried to trap him in the City.

Trying now to reconstruct the disaster that had almost overtaken him there, Adrian found that the cause of those events was still unclear. The one thing of which he could be absolutely sure was that the near disaster had been no accident. Some enemy of enormous power and subtle, murderous cunning had set out to kill or capture him- and Trilby, possibly. And in Trilby’s case the attempt might have succeeded.

Fighting down a brief renewed attack of panic, Adrian concentrated again on his progress downstream. The current was now bearing him swiftly through the darkness, and his occasional strokes of the paddle, meant to steer, added speed. But now, even as he began to take comfort in his rapid progress, the river broadened and the current accordingly slowed somewhat.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred