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5.

They put Henry in his new room with some books and some food and a bottle of wine, and put a nice unobtrusive seal around him.

“So how many of you know this Photios Patriarchos?” asked Lilah, once they were all settled in with plates of some sort of calzone in their laps and mugs of an excellent throaty red wine perched on chair arms. Marius raised a hand, and so did George and Zinnia. Rob gave a timid wave. “Robert? Seriously?”

“I’ve heard of him,” Rob explained. “Photius,” he said, pronouncing it Foe-shus. “He’s a major wizard, definitely. I can’t say I know much else about him.”

“He’s big in the Grorian struggles,” said Zinnia. “Seems to be one of the major people in the opposition to Antor.”

“He’s from Groria, like you guys?” asked Lilah.

“He’s a big name there, in some circles,” said George. “Not sure where he came from. I know something else about him. He’s got a major enemy. That would be a guy called Ignatius, I think they came from the same place, they came from some kingdom somewhere where they were, like, arch-rivals, I guess they brought their rivalry here.”

“So this Ignatius,” said Lilah, “he’s with Antor?”

“No, no one’s with Antor but Antor and people he basically created.” George looked at Zinnia, who nodded.

“This history,” said Andre, “is why my parents moved us from Groria to Olvar.”

“It moved a lot of people a lot of places,” said Zinnia.

“Me, for instance,” said Rob.

“So this is complicated,” said Lilah. “Grorians. They think the rest of us are such hayseeds because our history isn’t as messed up as theirs.”

“Oh, thanks,” said Zinnia. “Give it time,” said George.

“Whatever one might think of Grorian history,” said Marius in a low voice, as if imparting a secret, “one needs to note that it’s not a fixed thing. Once upon a time, if I may, Antor’s wars were like other wars: they spooled out over time, with a rise and a reaction and an inevitable fall.”

“He was a rebel against his own kin, wasn’t he?” asked Annelise.

“He was a rebel against his kindred. Antor and Elturri were the sons of Odflor and Sinthë, and from the beginning they jostled and jousted. Odflor and Sinthë were Elven King and Queen, and immortal, and there seemed no prospect of handing on their crowns, and when it came to relations with the mortal races, there was always something to disagree on. One can imagine.”

“But it was more than that,” said Rob.

“The nature of the disagreement was unimportant in the end,” said Marius. “It attracted wizards like rotten meat attracts flies. No, like blood attracts sharks; but these sharks could change History, and that only made for more blood. Antor was, is, awesomely powerful, and he assembled great powers and forces before the very first time he made his move, but of course even as many moderately great wizards and priests flocked to his cause, even more, some very great, knew how it must come out and took the field against him, so that they could be the victors. It grew, even as Antor turned and twisted the history to forestall defeat.”

“Yeah,” said Lilah. “So the greatest wizard of Podunk-5 would suddenly find he needed to be on Groria in the year of the Battle of Despre. What’s that to do with this guy?”

Marius smiled very dimly. George said, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“We don’t know where he’s from,” said Zinnia. “It sounds like the same thing you just said.”

“Except,” said George, “that he’s not just great. He’s greater than great.”

“He’s like me,” said Zinnia. “He’s a wizard and also a priest.”

“Yes,” said Marius. “And there is rumor of one who is even greater than he is.”

“Ignatius?” guessed Lilah.

“Nope. Another.” He took a drink. “And that is all I am going to say about it.”

“And you just went and reported to the Council??”

“Lilah,” said Marius, “perhaps you imagine seventeen elders in violet robes meeting around a great table in a room lined with books and smelling of incense. I did various things and met with various people, but I assure you, I did not meet with the Violet Council or with Photius the Patriarch. I met with, let’s see, four of the senior members of the Council, and no, I do not know for certain how many senior members there are, it must be more than a dozen. I did not meet with Photius. Before you ask, I would guess that my assurances and explanations to some have been transmitted to him and others, and they must know of the end result in other ways, because, indeed, he seems to have known before I did.”

“Where did you get the letter?”

“It appeared. I woke up and found my breakfast waiting—ah, the life of a great wizard, even to one who grew up the son of a humble court scribe on Tympest!—and the scroll was by my cup. Of course I knew the seal.”

“So what about us restraining ourselves and all that? Is he really on the Violet Council? Do we have to do what he says?”

“He is. And you do, ah, as far as doing anything I’m aware of. If I am not aware of some deed or action of yours, then that would not apply, as far as I’m concerned.”

“If I don’t tell you, I can do as I see fit?” asked Lilah. Marius just smiled, very slightly.

“Why? What’s left to do?” asked George.

“We need to find Parkavan,” said Lilah. “It’s the only way we can be sure—ah, what a joke. We can’t be sure of anything, we all know that.”

“Still,” said Marius, “I think you are looking at it from the right angle. Just, please, do not involve me directly.”

“Of course. Uh, Marius.”

“Yes?”

“Who exactly is on the Council?”

Marius finished his drink and got up. “As my friend George observed, it’s a nice day, isn’t it?”

“It’s night, Marius.”

“Ah. Well, I must have been mistaken. Good night.”

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