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XIV. The long letter of the law

1.

There were five shapes in the room, outside of the seal around the two Henrys. Three of them were people, and the other two were a large rat and some sort of imp. They had somehow passed Lilah’s outer seal, and yet they seemed baffled by her seal around the two men. The three humans, two women and a man, spent the next five seconds milling and dithering, while the imp fluttered about high up, apparently looking to loot the tops of shelves. The rat spotted Lilah as soon as she led Rob and Annelise through her seal, and began squeaking a seven-word hold on her. She resisted, then dropped four words of her own and froze the rat into stone.

Behind her, Lilah heard more spells. Rob threw nyr aev soth vil ta, thrusting his wand at the wand of the male opponent, trying to break the thing. The wand cracked audibly but held together. The dread tone of trt kar ho nin goth sounded in Annelise’s voice: the death spell, but not aimed at any of the wizards, or not directly. The imp croaked out an objection and then, well, croaked, plummeting to the floor. One of the women clutched her chest and doubled over in pain.

“Get through,” the woman urged the man. He tried to place a crystal against the inner seal, dropped it, threw down his cracked wand, picked the crystal up again, with the help of the woman, and got it to stick to the invisible seal. The woman whipped around and threw a five-word hold to Lilah’s left, and Annelise was out of the picture.

The crystal blew with an angry little pop. The male aggressor grabbed Henry 2 and pulled; Henry 1 stood up but seemed leery of actually moving. Rob threw his override item spell at the woman’s wand, but this time the stick survived. She threw her five-word hold on him, and he too failed.

“So done with this,” Lilah muttered. “Ag sek an nyk il goth!

The woman, the one who seemed to be in charge, grimaced, staggered, and began to fall. She was asleep when she hit the ground.

But the other woman, the one whose imp had met an untimely end, was recovering. She grabbed Henry 2’s hand, and the man with the cracked wand grabbed her other hand, and she bodily pulled them both away from the middle of the room. She was tweaking her own ring, which must have been some sort of analog of Lilah’s violet-gem ring. They just began to disappear.

Kar trt fos mng ku goth zin,” cried Lilah, aiming a wicked wrist twist—at Henry 2. He gasped and fell sideways, and remained in the room as the other two evaporated.

Lilah looked at Henry 1. “So,” she said, “I wouldn’t try anything.”

“Uh, I wasn’t going to,” said Henry.

Lilah half-turned to look at Rob, who was standing where he had been held, a pathetic look on his face. “Vas eur,” she said. While he was shaking his arms out and muttering apologetically, she was turning the other way and saying the same to Annelise.

“What just happened,” were the first three words from her mouth, followed by: “What do we do? Why did you—did you kill him? Oh, Lilah.”

“Really sorry, boss,” said Rob. “So this one?”

They looked at Henry 1. “I don’t know,” said Lilah.

“I am ready to face justice,” said Henry. “I won’t try to escape.”

Lilah turned and glared at him. After a moment, she said, “All right. Why not?”

He shrugged. “Why run,” he said.

“I have a question,” said Annelise. “Your Lucy. She came to us to figure out what happened. And then she disappeared. Where did she go?”

“Bear in mind,” said Henry, “that you know things that haven’t happened to me yet. And now they won’t. But I have to assume that our plan went forward more or less the way we planned. That would mean that we were supposed to redirect Lucy to a small universe where we could seal ourselves off from, you know, everything, and—!”

“After she came to us?” asked Lilah.

Henry clouded. “No,” he said. “We of course had no idea about you.”

“Lilah,” said Rob, “what about Sleeping Beauty there?”

“Oh, she’s definitely going into custody,” said Lilah.

The four of them looked around. “Well, I’m ready,” said Henry.

“You know,” said Lilah, “you may never see your Lucy again.”

“Ah, but you created two versions of me, when you burst in and stopped us from doing something that you’d already seen happen.”

“So you figure that other Henry gets to live the rest of his days with Lucy. What if we bust him too?”

“Tough luck, Henry,” said Henry. “He’s not me.”

Lilah gave him another long glare, then smiled, looked at Annelise and Rob and said, “All right, I guess I’m ready.”

“Can we all go at once now?” asked Annelise. “After all, Sleeping Beauty is sleeping. And Henry seems cooperative.”

“One more thing.” Lilah walked over to the body of Henry 2. Pointing her left index finger at his torso, she muttered, “Trt gaz min kar ang vil goth.” She turned to the others. “That bastard isn’t going to come back at us.” She looked at Henry. “Ready, big guy?”

Henry 1 was looking down at Henry 2. Then he raised his bushy eyebrows, looked around and said, “Endweith. Goodbye, Endweith. I’ve finally had enough of you.”

“Had enough of your younger self?” asked Lilah, holding out her hand.

“I never liked him, even when I was him.”

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