Serpent Mage by Weis, Margaret

Serpent Mage by Weis, Margaret



Few would believe me, but it grieved me to do what had to be done. It would have been easier, perhaps, if I did not feel in some part responsible.

When it became clear to me that we Patryns were nearing our time, when we were almost strong enough to be able to break out of this heinous prison into which the Sartan hurled us and move once again to take our rightful place as leaders in the universe, I chose one among us to go forth and learn about the new worlds.

I chose Haplo. I chose him for his quickness of mind his independence of thought, his courage, his adaptability to new surroundings. And those, alas, are the very qualities that have led him to rebel against me. Therefore, I reiterate—in this way I am responsible for what has befallen.

Independence of thought. Necessary, I deemed, when facing the unknown territories of worlds created by our ancient enemy, the Sartan, and populated with mensch. [2] It was vital that he be able to react to any situation with intelligence and skill, vital that he not reveal to anyone on any of these worlds that we Patryns have broken free of our bonds. He behaved quite splendidly on two of the three worlds he visited, with a few minor lapses. It was on the third that he failed not only me but himself.

I caught him just before he would have left to visit the fourth world, the world of water, Chelestra. He was on board his dragonship, the one he took from Arianus, preparing to set sail for Death’s Gate. He said nothing when he saw me. He did not appear surprised. It was as if he had been expecting me, perhaps even waiting for me, though it seemed, from the disorder on board the ship, that he had been preparing for a hasty departure. Certainly there is much turmoil within him.

Those who know me would call me a hard man, hard and cruel, but I was bred in a place far harder, far crueler. I have in my long life seen too much pain, too much suffering, to be touched by it. But I am not a monster. I am not sadistic. What I did to Haplo, I did out of necessity. I took no pleasure in the doing.

Spare the rod and spoil the child—an old mensch proverb.

Haplo, believe me when I say I grieve for you this night. But it was for your own good, my son.

Your own good.




The animal cringed, slunk away, and endeavored to lose itself in the shadows of the hold, hide until its master’s bad mood passed.

Haplo could see the sad eyes, however, watching him from the darkness. He felt guilty, remorseful, and that merely increased his irritation and anger. He glared at the animal, glared at the confusion in the hold. Chests and casks and boxes, coils of rope, and barrels had been tossed in hurriedly, to stand where they landed. It looked like a rat’s nest, but Haplo dared not take time to rearrange them, stack them neatly, stow them away securely, as he had always done before.

He was in haste, desperate to leave the Nexus before his lord caught him. Haplo stared at the mess, ill at ease, his hands itching to sort it out. Turning on his heel, he stalked off, heading back to the bridge. The dog rose silently, padded soft-footed after him.

“Alfred!” He flung the word at the dog. “It’s all Alfred’s fault. That blasted Sartan! I should never have let him go. I should have brought him here, to my lord, let him deal with the miserable wretch. But who’d have guessed the coward would actually have nerve enough to jump ship! I don’t suppose you have any idea how that happened?”

Haplo stopped, glowered suspiciously at the dog. The animal sat back, tilted its head, regarded him with bland innocence, though its tail wagged cheerfully at the sound of Alfred’s name. Grunting, Haplo continued on his way, casting cursory glances to the left and right. He saw — with relief — that his vessel had sustained no lasting damage. The magic of the runes covering the hull had done its job, kept the Dragon Wing safe from the fiery environment of Abarrach and the lethal spells cast by the lazar in their efforts to hijack it.

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Categories: Weis, Margaret