A Liam Rhenford story, from his days as a student in Torquay. This one was supposed to appear a long time ago in the magazine Aberations, but I'm not sure if it ever did .... It's not a mystery -- more of a sword-and-sorcery kind o' thing, with no redeeming features. The Master Bahorel referred to is indeed the same as the old gentleman in The Siege of Bahorel's Bed.
The Library of Ligarius
By Daniel Hood
Liam Rhenford studied his two friends carefully, frowning absently to hide his thoughts. The two, a boy and girl, had argued in the wineshop over the girl's plan for almost half an hour.
"Marcade, you're mad," Calpur finished, staring earnestly over his mug.
Marcade ignored the red-haired boy, drawing her finger through a puddle of wine on the tabletop with forced casualness, addressing her words to Liam.
"Well, Rhenford? Are you in?"
Liam repressed a frown. If he did not go, Calpur wouldn't have to, but that would lower him in Marcade's estimation -- and Calpur had a vastly exaggerated idea of that. If he went, on the other hand, Calpur would have to, an idea he apparently did not relish.
"Tell me again," Liam said, stalling for time.
With a sigh, Marcade launched impatiently into her story for the second time. "Master Bahorel was boring us with another lecture on the history of Ghost War, and he mentioned a book used by Rif -- Auric the Great's wizard, eh? -- that could foretell the future. There is only one copy of this book, and it's in Torquay." She dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper as a serving girl went by. "Right here in Torquay! Practically under our noses!"
Calpur snorted, tossing his curly-haired head. "Right here in the city, yes. Under our noses, no. Under the nose of Ligarius the Vivisectionist, yes." At an angry glance from Marcade he cut off, dropping his gaze to his wine with a sullen grimace.
"But I've found a way into his tower," Marcade said, smiling mysteriously. "A way only I know. Sure and it leads right into Ligarius' tower." She aimed her smile at Liam and he lowered his own gaze under the force of it.
For a long moment he thought, not about the book or Ligarius and his tower or the theft Marcade was proposing, but about the strange currents that had brought the three of them together. They were students in the same year, of course, but that was not the sum of it. He and Calpur were from the Midlands, both country lordlings out of place in the royal capital, but that was not the sum of it either. Nor was Calpur's infatuation with the pretty, sophisticated, rebellious Marcade, a Torquayer from birth. In a flash of imagination, Liam saw the three of them in a lecture hall: he listening, taking notes, Marcade with glazed eyes beneath the hood of her student's robe, dreaming in a dark corner, and Calpur dreaming as well, but of Marcade. They were a strange trio.
"It can be done safely?"
Marcade flashed him an arch glance. "What do you think?"
"I doubt it," Liam replied, still revolving the image of the three of them in his head.
"Of course not," Calpur broke out, sudden fear in his eyes. He believed Liam would agree to go. "How can it be safe? With all the rogues and resurrection men out on the street? And they say that Ligarius himself doesn't buy all his corpses from the Peacemakers or the approved temples, like he's supposed to! They say he goes out and takes them himself, takes living people! It's mad!"
Liam winced to himself, sorry about his friend's outburst in front of Marcade. She was regarding Calpur with open disdain.
"Next you'll be telling us there's really a demon haunting the streets," she observed coolly.
"And maybe there is," Calpur shot back, but then relapsed into moody silence, aware he had gone too far.
Marcade eyed him for a long moment, then turned with elaborate nonchalance to Liam. "Well, will I have any company from the Midlands tonight, or will a poor city girl have to do this all herself?"
Liam shook his head, trying to forget that both the girl's and the boy's eyes were upon him, the one imperious and the other pleading. He had heard of Ligarius' library, where the book was surely kept. It was said to be a wonder. And if Marcade did not really know a way in, as he half suspected, there would be no harm done.
"I think I might go along."
With a delighted laugh Marcade turned to Calpur. Not for the first time, Liam wondered to what degree the girl was aware of the strength of her hold over the Midlander's heart. "Very noble of Sir Liam, don't you think, Calpur? It's not too late to change your mind, you know."
"I'll go," the boy said miserably, flashing Liam a piteous glance.
"Good," Marcade said, her face lit up with excitement over the coming adventure. "Meet me at the west riverside entrance of Breechmaker Street at dusk. And bring swords!"
Liam hurried along the riverfront just after dusk. He had not brought a sword, but the heavy silver poniard at his side indicated the excitement he had begun to feel about the adventure. It had cost him most of the monthly stipend his father sent him from the Midlands, but he judged the expense worthwhile.
He had spent the afternoon among the newsmongers and pamphleteers that gathered near Tall Gate, and among the many who had stories to sell about demons wandering Torquay's streets and murderous thugs in its alleys, he found one or two about Ligarius and his library. He had even found a pamphlet -- now neatly folded and stuck beneath his black tunic -- describing important libraries located in the capital which mentioned Ligarius' collection in an aside. One newsmonger had been willing, for a small coin, to part with the fact that Ligarius was not just a vivisectionist but also a practicing wizard. "And not the sort that's registered with the Guild," the monger had added with a knowing nod, meaning black magic and expecting a tip. Liam had produced the extra coin and gone off to buy the poniard. Between the demon stories being offered all around the gate and the knowledge that Ligarius was a black magician, he had deemed a silver weapon a good idea, no matter what the price.
Stuffed with information, the heavy blade weighing uncomfortably at his belt, he paced along the slick paving stones at the edge of the river, waiting for Marcade and Calpur. From where he stood, Torquay rose in serried, ivy-covered ranks away from the stone-walled bank, looming over the river. Though the sun had not yet set, the tall, hoary towers and buildings of the city blocked out and sucked in the light, dropping the murky river into an oily darkness. He could also see Ligarius' tower, distinguishable from the others by its lack of windows, the completeness of the ivy that coated it like a pelt. It was several minutes' walk in from the river bank.
As the minutes dragged on and the glow in the west diminished, Liam decided that he did not really like Torquay. Center of learning for Taralon or no, seat of culture and wisdom or no, it was a gloomy place, more shadow than light. The prodigious growths of ivy for which it was famed suggested death, not growth, a funeral wreath for a city grown old, steeped in its arcana, drowned in its accumulated wisdom and its covering of leaves so dark a green they were almost black.
For a moment Ligarius' tower represented the city to him: mysterious, windowless, inturned and malignantly self-absorbed. For a moment he hated the whole place.
Then he heard Marcade's voice, calling from the river. He turned away from the tower to see her smiling at him from a small boat, a lantern by her side illuminating a small patch of water. She backed her oars easily, keeping the boat in place, and he was reminded that she had lived in Torquay all her life.
"Gods, you're in a brown study, Rhenford! Snap out of it and tie me up."
She tossed him a painter, which he quickly attached to one of the bollards surmounting the river bank. With the grace of a nymph she leapt out of the boat and onto the bank, landing beside him and only briefly steadying herself with a hand on her shoulder.
"That's a sword?" she asked reprovingly, indicating the poniard.
"It's silver," he said, and explained how he had spent his afternoon, refraining from comment on the clothes she had chosen. He wore an old tunic and dark breeches, suitable for sneaking into someone else's home. She had gotten the color correct, though that was all: a full skirt of black swirled dangerously around her ankles and her blouse was worked with silver threads that caught the light from the lantern. His information, however, so impressed her that she did not catch his reproving glance.
"Sure, and that's amazing, Rhenford! I knew it would pay to have you along! We'll have Rif's book out of Ligarius' hands in a trice! If," she added with a sudden dark look, "Calpur ever shows his face."
Calpur did not show his face. They waited, increasingly impatient, for almost half an hour. The sky went black and the stars came out, twinkling far above the black shapes of Torquay and the mountains around it. Liam frowned uncomfortably. He felt bad for his friend, but saw no way around it. When he agreed to go, he had not believed Calpur would be so afraid as to back out, which would damage him inestimably with Marcade. She was already sniffing indignantly and muttering his name under her breath.
"That's enough, and too much," she exploded at last, turning and making for the boat. "I'll not wait another minute for him. You can tell him all about it tomorrow."
Two ideas struck Liam at once -- that he would not enjoy telling Calpur about their adventure, successful or not, and that Marcade had looked strangely pretty as the lantern-light caught her. Then he grimaced. It would be bad enough that Calpur should miss the night, but that he should be noticing Marcade's prettiness at the same time seemed disloyal.
Still, as he climbed reluctantly after her into the boat, he could not help considering it. He had always known she was pretty, but had never thought about it. Now, with the lantern-light illuminating her face from below, giving more arch to her eyebrows and highlighting her thick auburn hair, he had to admit her captivating. Suddenly she laughed, interrupting his examination of her newly-beautiful face.
"Why Rhenford, you haven't even asked me where we're going!"
He smiled ruefully and spread his hands in submission. "You're in charge."
She took the oars with another laugh. "You're supposed to ask why we're getting in a boat!"
He bowed slightly. "You're in charge."
With a toss of her head she turned the boat upstream, pulling strongly and evenly against the current. "You're no fun."
Leaning forward he touched her hand where it held the oar. "Marcade, we're going to steal. From a wizard."
She nodded soberly, as if the seriousness of it had just dawned on her. "There's a sewer entrance near here that's big enough for a boat," she said after a moment. "It leads to an entrance to Ligarius' tower. One of my father's clerks told me about it." Her father was an administrator in the king's court; Liam did not doubt the information.
They went a little further up the river, accompanied only by the plash of the oars and the tiny circle of light from the lantern, until Marcade caught site of the dark tunnel in the bank. She angled the boat skillfully into it, motioning for Liam to duck as they passed through the low entrance and under the bank. The smell was even ranker than on the open river, a mix of age-old rot and fresh sewage. A few feet in the sewer expanded, where the hillside began to rise beyond the river, and they both straightened up. The roof was still only a few feet above them, but at least they were no longer in danger of brushing against the slimy stones.
The passage through the sewer went in silence, suspended between the dripping roof and the sluggish water. Other tunnels opened up on either side, some barred and grated, others open, but Marcade kept them on the main path, careful now to dip her blades quietly, avoiding the splash, wincing at the occasional creak from the oarlocks. The lantern light seemed to shrink in on itself, revealing only the walls for a few feet around them.
Once they heard what sounded like voices coming from one of the side tunnels, voices raised in argument, and then later a single scream. Marcade shivered and Liam shook his head, his excitement dimming.
After an appallingly long time, when he was about to suggest that they turn back, Marcade's face brightened.
"We're almost there," she whispered.
The tunnel had broadened, and suddenly acquired catwalks on either side, narrow ledges barely a foot wide. She brought the boat close to the wall and, after slipping on a pair of gloves, tied the painter to a small grating below the ledge, out of which oozed a trickle of oily water. Then she climbed gingerly up to the ledge and turned to look at where Liam still sat in the boat.
"Sure, Rhenford, and you're not going to give up now? We're almost there!"
Frowning, his misgivings pressing as close upon him as the low roof of the sewer, Liam took her outstretched hand and climbed up to the ledge. Her gloved hand felt cold and slick, though the air in the tunnel was warm. Muttering a curse, he followed her along the ledge, one hand on the hilt at his side and the other holding the lantern high.
They had only gone a few feet before they heard the sound of stone grating on stone. Liam froze, staring dumbly at the blackness before them, until Marcade's hand frantically tugged at his arm.
"The light," she hissed, and he snapped into awareness, shuttering the lantern with fumbling fingers.
The sound swelled in the sudden dark, growing until it seemed the stones around them were going to collapse. Waiting, numb, Liam could not collect his thoughts, only imagine nightmares. The tunnel was a giant throat, about to constrict and swallow them. His knees trembled and then Marcade found his hand and grabbed it fiercely.
A square of light burst into the sewer, only yards away, and the sound stopped. For a suspended, hand-squeezing moment, there was a deafening silence, and then a figure jumped into the river of sewage, a tremendous splash. In the light they saw a hunched figure waist-deep in the water, cowled head twisting back and forth. Liam's heart stopped when it seemed to turn in their direction, but then the figure splashed away in the opposite direction.
Marcade released his hand minutes after the last sound had faded away, and then skipped toward the square of light. Liam almost called out, then followed to where she had stopped.
The light came from a doorway built into the ledge. Beyond it was an empty cellar, globes of brilliant white witchfire suspended at even distances along the stairway that ran up one side of the room. The door itself was a massive slab of black stone, almost three feet thick and tall as a man. Furrows in the floor showed where it had been dragged open. They took a few hesitant steps into the cellar, and saw the huge iron ring set in the far side of the stone block.
"Gods," Liam whispered in awe. He was thinking of the strength that had been needed to pull the door open, to create the sound that had terrified them in the tunnel.
Marcade did not hear him. She was gazing up the steps, a strange smile playing on her lips.
"He's gone out," she said suddenly, in a normal tone, loud in the empty silence. She grabbed Liam's hand and started pulling him up the steps. "Ligarius' gone out, and left us his tower! Come on!"
"How do you know this is his tower?" He resisted her pulling, worried.
"I know," she insisted. "This is it!"
Liam allowed himself a shake of his head, then gave in, following the impetuous girl up the steps.
They climbed for a long time, as the moldy, rough-hewn blocks of the cellar gave way to more neatly-squared masonry, to lighter colors that were grey, then white. The stairs rose and rose, and when the cellar was well behind they came to another open door, this one of thick oak bound with iron. The light of the witchfire paled before that which spilled from it.
Marcade did not even pause at the door, bursting through it instead, dragging Liam by the hand. When she saw what was beyond, though, she stopped in her tracks. Liam froze as well, remonstrance of her foolishness dying on his tongue.
They were in Ligarius' tower.
After the cramped confines of the sewer tunnel it seemed to stretch gloriously, impossibly high above them, a single octagonal room from floor to sky-high roof. A railless, thread-like spiral staircase sprouted in the middle of the floor, emphasizing the height by joining the floor to the distance-dwindled ceiling. There was no source for the bright daylight that filled the immense chamber.
But for Liam the most stunning part of the room was the books which lined the walls, thousands, hundreds of thousands of spines and leather-bound covers filling the walls, a trove like gold. He ran to the nearest shelf and began to pull books at random, examining, replacing, re-examining, excited and frustrated by the sheer expanse of books, by the impossibility of ever reading them all. His father's library in the Midlands was considered extensive, yet its contents would barely have filled one level of the shelves that ringed the room; a measly few hundred volumes compared with the millions here.
Marcade's voice recalled him.
"We'll never find it in all these books!"
Turning to face her where she stood, still in the doorway, he remembered where he was.
"Ligarius could come back at any time," she went on, frowning angrily. "How are we going to find it? And what if it's up there?" She jabbed a leather-covered finger up at the far recesses of the tower, where more books awaited, as out of reach as the clouds.
Liam gestured helplessly, then walked over to the base of the spiral staircase. There was a landing a few steps up, from which the real staircase ran; on it, like a pulpit in a temple, was a small lectern. He stepped up to it, placing his hands on the smooth stone. It felt warm. Looking around at the ranks of books, an idea came to him.
"Quelen's Journeys," he said, thinking of a book he had loved as a child, a collection of travelers' stories.
Before he had even finished saying the words, before he could even blink, a thick volume appeared out of the air a foot above the lectern and dropped down onto his spread hands. With a startled cry he leapt back, stumbling against the staircase, sending the book thumping to the ground. In an instant, though, he was on his feet, scrambling after and picking up the book, checking to see if he had damaged it.
Marcade was at his side immediately, laughing, kissing him soundly on the cheek. "Sure and you're a genius, Rhenford!" He looked up from the book, catching only a glimpse of her happy face before she dashed up to the lectern.
"Rif's book!" She called the title loudly, her smile so huge it threatened to split her face. Liam was once again struck by how beautiful she was, even with her clothes smudged by sewer filth.
"I think you have to give the whole title. Maybe there's more than one book by Rif here."
"But I don't know the title!"
"Then guess," he said, which seemed to satisfy her. She started calling out possible names while he thumbed through the Journeys. The version in his father's library had been cheap, but it had served to inspire him to love both travelling and reading. Ligarius' version was bound in soft red leather and filled with pictures, some colored. He smiled happily at the illustrations of his favorite stories.
"Rif's Prophecies," Marcade called, and when nothing happened: "The Prophecies of Rif," then, "The Prophecies of Rif the Wizard."
Liam wandered, absorbed in his book, stopping and starting unaware, until he stood by a section of the shelves. He leaned against it, thumbing eagerly through the pages, completely lost.
"Rif's Future History. Prophecies of Things to Come by Rif the Wizard."
He leafed through the entire book, giving a cursory inspection to each illustration, then settled in to reading his absolute favorite story, of the sea-captain who sailed west for years on end, only to reach his own home again from the east.
"Things to Come. What Will Be. Why Can't I Find This Stupid Book, by Marcade. On the Future."
A single drop of blood hit the page Liam was reading. He gasped, then slowly raised his eyes to the ceiling. He could see nothing; the far reaches of the tower were lost in distance.
"Any book by Rif. Any book on the future. Any book of prophecies."
He deliberately closed the Journeys and crossed to the steps, up to the lectern, his eyes fixed on the spiral staircase and the ceiling it reached.
"Rhenford, you might at least help," Marcade said, frowning in concentration. "Rif's Predictions. Rif's Prefigurations."
"I'm going up there," he said quietly.
"Be quick," she said absently. "Ligarius might come at any minute, and I want to have this book before we go. Rif's Glimpses of the Future. Rif's Glimpses of Things to Come. Rif's Annoying."
With the book still in his hand, Liam started up the steps, planting his feet firmly on each because his eyes were glued to their destination.
The staircase was narrow, and the twisting made him nervous. The higher he climbed the more aware he was of the drop below. Keeping pace with him, the books made him more nervous; they seemed within arm's reach, and glimpses of titles on spines distracted him. An image entered his head: himself, reaching out for a book on a level with him, slipping off the risers, plunging without a word, shattering beside Marcade far below.
He shook the image away and climbed on, forcing his gaze now at the ceiling, trying to ignore the wealth of books on every side, the new treasures revealed with each twist of the staircase. He was sweating and his legs aching by the time the ceiling finally came into view.
It was not the roof, he realized, but another floor of the tower; where the shelves ended there was a gap between the wall and the new floor, a foot-wide space. The second floor was an octagonal plate resting on the thin pedestal of the staircase. Liam climbed on, taking the last few steps very slowly to where the the spiral staircase petered out.
He poked his head above the level of the second floor and, hearing nothing, came the rest of the way out.
A strange horror awaited him: a bent and battered framework of silver bars, hinged in the center to close upon itself but standing open, rested at one end of the room. Thrust onto the spikes and pincers that protruded from the silver bars was an older man clad in wizard's robes. Liam stopped on the last step, staring aghast at the corpse and wondering at the force that had so crushed the man into the silver frame that it had distorted the heavy metal.
With a shake of his head, he turned his head to take in the rest of the room. It was a shambles -- a long worktable covered with a drift of anatomical drawings, some of which had been scattered onto the floor; an overturned chair behind the table, a set of silver chains bolted to the stones of the tower wall, ending in blackened manacles. Liam wondered briefly at the amount of silver in the tower, then remembered both the value of silver as a protection against magic and where he was. If Ligarius could handle the wizard in the cage, he would make short work of Marcade and himself.
Turning to take in the last section of the room he saw, on a framework like the one that held the wizard's body, Calpur.
Arms outstretched, legs spread, his friend looked like a man turning a cartwheel, only he was supported inside the hinged frame of silver, from which silver needles and pincers extended to pull aside his skin, revealing the organs and muscles beneath. His eyes were blank. There was surprisingly little blood, only a thin stream that had barely overflowed the runnels beneath the cage.
Liam dropped his book. "Gods," he whispered, "he came." Another image entered his head: Calpur early on the waterfront, alone, wondering where he and Marcade were, pacing fearfully. Then, Ligarius or his resurrection men taking him from behind, hauling him into the tower, dissecting him.
He was torn between the two bodies -- his friend and the dead wizard. He did not want to admit the existence of the first, and the second puzzled him. How could Calpur be dead? How would a wizard end up skinned and exposed in a vivisectionist's laboratory?
Indecision gave way to impulse. He dashed up to Calpur and closed his eyes, spoke a prayer.
Averting his eyes from the sight of his friend, he hurried to the steps. He would get Marcade to leave, and tell her about their friend later, when they could perhaps contact the Peacemakers about the murder.
She was almost at the head of the steps when he started down.
"Marcade! Go down!"
"That foolish book is nowhere to be -- what is it, Rhenford?"
She had caught his tone, but did not seem frightened.
"Never mind, just go down. You don't want to come up here!"
To his surprise, she laughed and climbed the last few stairs. "You Midlanders! What has he got up here, a brace of corpses?"
She tried to push past him, and when he held her firmly she gave him an angry glare.
"I've seen corpses before, Rhenford."
She started to say something, and then saw Calpur over his shoulder.
Liam had expected tears, not the wordless anger with which she stalked over to stand before the cage. Her fingers, clenched into fists, whitened, and she fiercely knuckled away the few tears that did come.
After a minute he came up behind and touched her shoulder lightly.
"Marcade, we must go. Ligarius might come back any time."
"No!" She shouted the word, and shouted louder when he winced. "No! I'll have something first! I'll have something for this!"
She started ransacking the bare room, kicking at the manacles, throwing aside the papers on the table. Liam followed after her lamely, trying and failing to get her attention. Kicking at the toppled chair she found something beneath it, a necklace, heavy links of silver with a broad medallion of the same metal and an inset gem of brilliant emerald green. She snatched at it, then used both hands to lift. It was tremendously heavy, but she held it with both hands.
"This," she snarled, "for Calpur! And the Peacemakers for Ligarius, when we get out of here. The Peacemakers, and a hanging! This, and a hanging!" She glared at Liam, daring him to deny her.
Blood price, he thought crazily, recalling the old custom. She's claiming blood price.
"All right," he said. "That's right. But we must go, now." He left unsaid his suspicion that Ligarius might return at any time.
She nodded decisively and strode past him to the steps. With a fearful glance at Calpur's corpse, he followed after, stooping to pick up the book he had dropped.
Marcade stopped him a few steps down. Wordlessly she pointed down to the very foot of the staircase, where the hunched figure from the sewer had reappeared.
"Ligarius," she whispered fiercely.
The figure was bustling around by the lectern, and from their great height, they could not see what it was doing. But when it suddenly straightened up and what they had thought a cowl in the sewer turned into great sprouting wings, stretching nearly from bookshelf to bookshelf on either side of the room, Liam shook his wide-eyed head. Then it spoke, a silken whisper that wafted up to them along the shaft of the tower and caressed their eardrums.
"Mine," it said.
"Not Ligarius," Liam whispered, at which Marcade nodded fearfully. Fixing their eyes on the thing below, they began to back up the stairs. One slow step at a time, silent, they retreated, until the lip of the last one caught Liam's heel. With a suppressed grunt he sat down heavily, the book in his hand flying away from him, out into the space of the tower.
Shocked, they watched the tome drop silently down the long length of the tower shaft, plummeting past the ranks of shelves towards the distant floor. It hit the stones with a sound like thunder.
The creature's head whipped toward them, and even over the long distance they could see the glowing green eyes.
"Get back," Liam shouted, hauling Marcade off the steps by the cloth of her shirt as the creature spread its wings and launched into the air.
They scrambled away from the stairs, by unspoken consent coming to stand in front of Calpur. Liam drew the heavy blade at his side and held it with trembling hands as another whisper reached them: "Mine."
The creature's hands appeared around the well of the stairs for a moment, long enough for them to see the beautiful, tapering fingers, the diamond-sharp nails, the flawless white skin marred by purplish welts at the thin wrists, before the creature pulled its body into the room.
It was as beautiful as its fingers: tall as a fairy, thin and sexless, naked and hairless except for the fringe of feathers that surmounted its exquisite head and the film of sewage that coated it from the waist down. It stared at them, its eyes huge orbs of emerald fire.
"Mine," it whispered again, though this time the voice grated on their ears, and they could hear its hate.
Liam brought his sword up in front of him, catching its attention. It snarled at the silver blade, then saw the silver necklace still in Marcade's hands, and raised an arm in a protective gesture.
"Ligarius?" Marcade asked the question, her eyes slitted like an angry cat's.
The creature swept an arm in the direction of the battered cage and the dead wizard, and Liam once again noticed the welts on its wrists.
"His servant," he said, another picture forming in his mind. The corpse in the cage seated at the table, releasing the creature from the silver manacles, controlling it with the necklace, sending it out. Then taking the necklace off, confident, not expecting his servant to find Calpur waiting right at the riverfront, not expecting him to be back so soon. Surprised when the demon -- or spirit, or whatever -- returning to find its master unprepared, and seized the moment.
"No more," it hissed proudly, jabbing a long finger at its own chest. "Master." But it still looked nervously at the medallion in Marcade's hands.
"Bastard," she yelled, and swung the necklace in an arc, bringing it around to crash heavily into the creature's outstretched fingers. A loud cracking rent the air, followed by its howling, a whispering like tormented winds.
Liam, taken aback by the suddenness of Marcade's attack, did not respond immediately, and the creature struck back with astonishing speed. The necklace had broken several of the long fingers of one hand, but it brought the other hand up and caught her on the side of the head, driving her to her knees.
It loomed over her, but Liam had regained his horrified wits and drove forward with the sword. It passed easily into the creature's side, releasing a vent of bluish steam and a longer whisper of pain. Ligarius's servant turned from Marcade and slashed at the boy. Its nails shredded the front of his tunic and cut deeply into his chest.
Marcade stumbled to her feet, ears ringing, and swung the necklace again, staggering the creature with the impact. Liam crossed his free arm over his bleeding wounds and hacked at its arms.
"Into the cage," he shouted, and Marcade nodded grimly.
Between the two of them they drove the creature, purple welts blossoming on its pearl-white skin where the necklace struck, blue smoke boiling from sword wounds, toward Ligarius' corpse and the cage that held it.
The creature fought wildly, panic showing in every movement and feature except its emerald eyes, which, pupilless, continued to glow fiercely.
Both Marcade and Liam were cut again and again by its blade-sharp nails, but in only a few moments they had backed it up against the corpse in the cage. With a shout, Liam drove the short blade through the creature's stomach. It went through like it was cutting butter, and lodged in the firmer flesh of Ligarius, pinning master and servant together. Clouds of bluish steam erupted from around the sword, almost completely obscuring the creature's writhing.
Marcade dropped the necklace and caught hold of the open side of the cage, swung it around, pushed it closed on the two bodies. Liam joined her, forcing the battered sides of the cage together. The spikes and pincers suddenly took on a life of their own when the cage was closed; by magic they began picking and tearing at both Ligarius and his servant, as if trying to reduce demon-flesh and wizard into a neat anatomical design.
Both boy and girl turned from the sight; groping blindly they fell into each others arms, sobbing with relief and exhaustion while the silver cage finished the demon.
Marcade broke the embrace first, stiffening and pulling herself up. Liam followed suit, knuckling away the tears and wincing suddenly at his cuts.
They tried to find a way to release Calpur's body, but the silver cage refused to open.
"Maybe the Peacemakers can do it, or the Guild will send someone to release him," Liam said at last.
"Yes," Marcade said softly. "We'd better go get the Peacemakers."
They went slowly down the long staircase, ignoring the books. Liam reflected that when they told the Peacemakers, the library would probably be confiscated. He paused for a moment as they crossed the floor, picked up the book he had dropped. The Journeys' spine had been cracked.
He dropped it again, and followed Marcade down the steps to the cellar.