Saberhagen, Fred – Lost Swords 05 – Coinspinners Story

“Trapping spells?”

“Yes. Charms to keep a person or people in one place, usually by annulling their desire to leave, or indeed to do anything but kill time. Making them forgetful of their own affairs. Such spells can be very effective when done properly-as these would certainly have been.”

Rostov looked around in all directions. “No demons.”

Karel agreed. “I think not. Wood may have learned not to send such creatures against the royal house of Tasavalta. But it would seem that he’s adopted other methods that may work.”

Returning to his survey of the site, he soon began to provide some details concerning the elemental-or, possibly, more than one-that had recently been raised here.

“That, I’m almost sure, was the lad’s own work. And as soon as the elemental or elementals were raised, they came into violent conflict with the powers embodying the spells, or representing them . . . with the result that you see around you.”

“And the young Prince?” asked Rostov, sticking to the point. “What happened to him?”

“As I read matters, the result of the fight was that Wood’s spells were shattered, and therefore Adrian probably managed to escape with his life, somehow-we know that Trimbak Rao was here, shortly after the clash, looking the place over. I don’t know if he came back later, and managed to find out something new.”

“How can we be sure,” Kebbi put in, “that the Prince wasn’t caught after all, or killed?”

“We can’t be absolutely sure.”

“If he survived, if he escaped, where is he?”

“I believe he went downstream.”

“Then we can follow.” The renegade pointed with a brisk gesture. “That’s straightforward enough.”

“Not quite.” Karel went on to explain that only a little way downstream the little river before them approached an exit from the City, where it split into several little rivers, each of them with as much water in it as the original, and each assuming a different course across the mundane countryside. It would be difficult for any magician, even himself or Wood, to be sure which one of those branchings Adrian had taken, assuming the boy did go downstream.

“But what gives me the most hope is, that if he had been caught, his captors would be gloating now, and I suppose demanding ransom of one kind or another.” Karel paused. “Of course, as I said before, I cannot be absolutely sure that the Prince is still alive.”

“Well, given all that you say, sir, how do we conduct our search?” Kebbi kept trying to promote himself out of the status of prisoner.

Before the wizard could reply, a brief disturbance interrupted the searchers’ conversation. Two of the troopers were shouting for help, trying to get one of their fellows out of the hedge bordering the grounds of the Red Temple. The man refused to move, they reported, he wouldn’t speak, and he looked strange.

Karel, on the spot in a moment, soon had the victim free. Some remnant, it appeared, of Wood’s trapping magic was still effective, but by his art the Tasavaltan wizard had been able to push the obstacle away.

Another trooper spoke a warning: “Sir, someone’s coming.” The hooves of two riding-beasts were crunching through the ruins of a nearby building.

Trimbak Rao now made his appearance, a young girl riding at his side. The Tasavaltans, and Murat at least, rejoiced to hear from him that this was Trilby. Quickly Trimbak Rao reported that he had managed to locate the girl only yesterday, quite near here. She was essentially unharmed, though she had been lost for several days, wandering and hiding in the City in a state of shock and terror. She had agreed to come back to this place today, under escort, to tell Adrian’s great-uncle and his loyal friends whatever she could about his disappearance and her own difficult escape.

When the girl had been introduced to everyone, she looked around, and said in a low voice: “It was-it was just very bad. I thought I was starting to know something about magic, but then-this was happening to us, and I never knew it.”

Karel was grandfatherly, and very soothing. “Stronger magicians than you would have fallen under those spells in the same way, daughter. Be calm, now, and tell us what you can.”

Trilby did her best.

“Once the Prince and I got this far,” she said, indicating the place where they were standing, “it was like we just-stopped. We did everything but finish our business and get out. We talked about how strange things were here. We sat around talking about nothing.

“We even swam in the pool-or at least I swam, while Adrian went out exploring on his own. And then he came back, and I started out to have a look around-but I can’t remember any more.” She bowed her head helplessly.

“Try again, daughter. Maybe I can help you.” And Karel took the girl’s hands in his. He was probably capable of giving real help in this matter when even the powerful Trimbak Rao had not yet had much success.

A few moments later, the girl said: “Yes . . . wait. It’s starting to come back to me now.”

And now Trilby was able to remember the presence of a single canoe, drifting in the small pool above the dam, or rather tied up at the end of the little pier.

Karel appeared to find this very interesting. “What kind of a canoe was it?”

“A dugout. I remember thinking that was strange . . . and then … I remember thinking how odd it was, there was no magical aura about that canoe at all.”

Again the old wizard nodded, as if he found this of significance.

Then Trilby went on to describe where she’d gone on her solo scouting trip. At first with Adrian, when they’d just arrived here, and later on her own, she’d examined some of the strange architectural and decorative features of the Red Temple yonder. She talked a little about those strange things now.

But right now the most important thing in her own mind was that she, who had been in command of the expedition, had failed to see it through. Trilby felt very guilty about her failure. Especially about leaving Adrian alone at pool-side-

“Not your fault, daughter, not your fault. No one had any reason to suspect the kind of attack you both endured. Come now, tell us all you can remember about what happened.”

The discussion continued. Meanwhile four troopers had been posted as sentries nearby, while two waited in reserve. And some of Karel’s and Trimbak Rao’s powers were serving in the same capacity.

Haltingly, still struggling with her emotions, the girl told the listening men how things had gone for her on that terrible day, what she’d experienced when overtaken by Wood’s overwhelming assault.

“And then-then while all this foulness still held me in, it seemed like the earth was buckling up under my feet- that was Adrian’s elemental, I know now-and all the while, even then, the crazy voices kept soothing me, telling me I needn’t worry about any of it.

“I wanted to get away, and I couldn’t. I wanted to yell, to scream for help, and then I realized that I couldn’t even do that…”

Trilby, having finished telling the essentials, began to cry.

Karel kept after her, gently. “And you have no idea, no clue, what happened to Adrian?”

“No, no idea at all. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” He patted her gently. Karel could be very convincing, and his assurance seemed to be at least partially accepted.

And shortly thereafter, Trimbak Rao departed with the girl. He was taking her back to his headquarters, where some of her relatives were waiting. He and Karel had made a tentative arrangement to confer later on what magical measures ought to be taken to locate Adrian.

Murat and Kebbi had been listening to all this with Rostov and some of the troopers. Murat, having given his word of honor, was not seriously considering an escape attempt at this time.

Kebbi was a different case.

Rostov spoke, “Well, wizard? I have effectively yielded command to you, but I must persist, it seems, in prodding you to action. Where and how do we commence our search?”

“No satisfactory answer has presented itself so far. I will do my best to find out; stronger measures are going to be required.”

The wizard brought out some of the impedimenta of his craft, and got down to business.

He appeared to be surprised at the first results of his divinations. “I had thought we would be directed downstream,” he muttered.

“And we are not?”


“Then where?”

Karel turned his face back toward the Red Temple whose twisted bulk loomed over the little park like area.


“There.” Karel sounded rather surprised himself.

Murat had a definite impression that the Twisted Temple, as seen from the perspective of the Emperor’s Park, was growing larger and more ominous as time went by. No one else commented on any change, so he supposed that it was only in his imagination.

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Categories: Saberhagen, Fred