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5.

They had a reasonable night’s sleep in the middle years of Olvar. In the morning, Lilah and George were enjoying tea and cinnamon rolls in the common room of the inn when Annelise came down. She got a mug, joined them and filled it with tea.

“You got up,” said Lilah.

“I got up the moment you left,” said Annelise, “and had a look at the future.”

“Oh,” said Lilah. Then she said, “Oh. And?”

“And there’s no sign of Andre’s life line, his trace, anywhere in this history, this one where he’s dead.” She took a sip and then shook her head and added, “Think about his parents, waking up this morning and he’s gone.”

“Think about how he actually died,” said Lilah. “Who vanishes and dies? I don’t even get it. There wasn’t a perpetrator, just a victim. Actually, there wasn’t a victim either.”

“I got this,” said George. “Listen. There’s a spell. I don’t know why anyone—no, actually I do know why anyone would want a spell like this.”

“Like what, George?”

“I don’t know what they call it exactly, and I don’t know the spell itself because I would never want that one on my list, but there’s a spell that allows you to project the death spell across time and space. And why would you want that? Because you want to kill someone without you being there for them to kill you back when they come back in time, or something.”

“Or,” said Lilah, “because of situations just like this one.”

“That’s vile,” said Annelise. “You wouldn’t be able to fight back. You could maybe resist, but what if you failed your resistance? It wouldn’t matter if the biggest wizard in the universe was with you.”

“So,” said George, “that is what we go after, right? Lilah?”

“There’s no Andre in this lifetime,” said Lilah.

“None,” Annelise agreed.

“But there’s a Lucy. Is that worth pursuing?”

“I don’t know,” said George. “Are you curious where she ends up?”

“At Whistler,” said Annelise. “I checked that with timesight.”

“Well, that was easy,” said Lilah. “So. Endweith is where she almost hooks up with Andre. When he grows up and gets to be in her class, somehow that makes her live at Endweith. When he’s not in the picture, she’s at Whistler. Why would that be?”

“More to the point,” said George, “is there an Andre at Whistler this time? Apparently not.”

“Definitely not,” said Annelise. “No way he’s there. He’s not there. I checked.”

“You’re sure?” asked Lilah. “His trace was sort of vague before.”

“He’s not there. I really made sure.”

Lilah looked at George. “Well,” said the sea captain, the technician of time, “I could run it on my instruments, but I’m pretty sure she’s right. You don’t want to go check?”

“We have better things to do,” said Lilah.

Boots on the stairs preceded Rob coming down. He pivoted at the bottom of the stairs and came marching into the common room. He grabbed a mug off the bar and came to the table. “They don’t have coffee?” he asked.

“Apparently they have this,” said Lilah with disdain. “Later, coffee comes to Olvar. Now, it’s green tea of some kind. It tastes like butt.”

“Oh, it does not,” said Annelise.

“Drink it hot,” George advised, “and eat more cinnamon roll.”

Rob sat down. Lilah poured him a mug of tea. “Does it have caffeine?” he asked.

“Oh yeah,” said Lilah.

An hour later, the four got up, made sure they had what little they needed—Lilah, George and Annelise all had small bags with the tools of their trades—and headed out. They walked down to the campus of the Institute, which had about tripled in size between Salagon’s time and Andre’s childhood (or lack thereof).

There was a faculty directory in a big magic tome spread out on a plinth inside the administration hall. It listed no one named Lucy among its forty or fifty professors and masters, about half of whom were female. There were two Henrys, neither of them associated either with Whistler or with Endweith.

“That makes sense, though,” said Rob. “If Andre was three, then Lucy would be what, sixteen? She might already be a student here, but she can’t really be a prof.”

“And we don’t get anything out of trying to ask her questions,” said Lilah, “other than screw up the timestream some more. It’s pretty beat up already.”

“Okay,” said Annelise, looking around at the empty hall. “We should get moving, and this seems like a good spot for a departure. Where do we meet up again?”

“At some point, Zinnia Rose pulls the declaration out from under us, and we zap back to the office.”

“Okay. See you guys there. You ready, champ?”

“Oh, man,” said Rob. “Yes, I’m ready.”

Annelise smiled. She took his hand, they closed their eyes, and they twisted their rings together. They were gone. George raised an eyebrow at Lilah.

“We should go back to the bedroom,” said Lilah. “Moment of death.”

“Great,” said George. “Love that thought so much.”

“I don’t love it either,” said Lilah. “But I love catching the person who murders a three-year-old and doesn’t even show up in the same point in time and space to do it.”

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