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4.

Outside on the tower balcony, Lilah took a moment to lay another seven-word seal over the tower room. Annelise took the same moment to reinforce her time-space prevent spell. Rob admired the view, trees in their fall colors covering a hilly land under fleeting clouds. Only here and there did a farm field or a road interrupt the forest.

“I wonder if there are any dragons still,” he said to himself.

“What’s that, champ?” asked Lilah.

“Oh, sorry, nothing.”

“I expect a couple of hundred years ago, there were,” said Annelise. “It was the same in Valantoniu. There were dragons and wyverns in the mountains, there were orcs and giants in the hills, there were sea monsters in the lakes. I guess there are still sea monsters way out at sea, but the dragons and wyverns are all gone.”

“Yeah,” said Lilah. “It’s all wizards now. Just like everywhere. Which brings us back to the present.”

“As in,” said Annelise, “what are we going to do with these guys.”

“Oh, I know that. We’re going back to the office with them. In the city. We call on Marius, he should come running, if he’s not already there waiting for us.”

“So what happens to them?” asked Rob.

“I don’t know. I don’t have a read on that. I don’t know the Council well enough. I don’t know the Council at all. I presume I’m going to get to meet them at some point. I need to write up a report of some kind, I always love doing that. Maybe they’ll hold a trial.”

“I could see executing the younger Henry,” said Annelise. “Painfully.”

“What about the older one?” asked Rob.

“I don’t know, what do you think?” Lilah replied. “He didn’t actually strangle anyone personally, as far as we know—no, I don’t expect he actually could strangle anyone. But he took part in destroying all those histories. And as we already noted for the record, it wasn’t as if he flipped a switch and billions of people just didn’t exist. No, they died painfully.”

“At least Henry 2 also died painfully,” said Rob. “Did you see that—thing?”

“What thing?” asked Annelise.

Lilah and Rob looked at each other. Not looking away from Rob, Lilah said, “Well, there he was. In all his guts and glory, but mainly guts. Mainly bones, really. Some teeth.”

“I’m glad I missed that,” said Annelise. “Do you think they’ll sanction executions?”

“I don’t know,” said Lilah. “Lots of stuff we’re going to find out.” She rubbed her face with her hands. “This case. I keep thinking it’s done, I got it, we’re about done, and then something happens. I’m peeling an onion. A big rotten onion. There’s another layer under the layer I’m on, and another layer, and another.”

“Boss,” said Rob, “when you peel away all the layers of the onion, there’s nothing left.”

“Well, this isn’t an onion then, because there’s something more than onion in there.”

“What are you saying?” asked Annelise. “What more could there be? Someone put Henry up to it?”

“No, no,” said Lilah. “Okay. So I think we can transport them by throw, but how about we send, oh, Annelise ahead? What say, Annie babe? Security in front?”

“Oh, okay. George and Zinnia should be there, right?”

“Marius might even be there.”

“Lilah,” said Rob, “we have Henry 2 and Henry 1. But you and I both saw Henry 2 dead and decomposed. It had to be him. Have we stopped billions of people from dying, or not?”

Lilah wiped her face with her hands again. “I don’t bleeping know.” She smiled a flat glaring smile. “No,” she said. “Nope. I think he failed to keep Andre from living his life, and we failed to keep the Henrys from killing billions of people.”

They all stood there looking out at a beautiful evening in the hill country. Then Lilah whipped around, got through her own seal and into the tower room, and Annelise and Rob followed her, wands out. In a moment they were using them.

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