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Alastair J. Archibald
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As Mage Questor Grimm Afelnor continues his Quest to destroy the pernicious influence of the witch-nun, Lizaveta, he has no idea that the evil Prioress’ inner coterie has abducted his secret lover, Drexelica.
While Drex fights to retain her individuality in the face of relentless, savage torment, Grimm has to face troubles of his own, including the sullen opposition of the unpredictable Questor, Guy Great Flame. When the members of Grimm’s party find themselves marked for sacrifice and imprisoned in a fortress immune to even Questor magic, the young mage has to consider highly unorthodox tactics in order to survive.
Meanwhile, Lizaveta is training a new recruit: a human weapon of her own with which to beguile and vanquish the young Weapon of the Guild.
Prioress Lizaveta sat at ease in her most private sanctum, deep within the bowels of Rendale Priory, scanning the grey-garbed figures assembled around her.
The room was sealed: the Prioress had placed a potent spell of warding upon it, since she did not want uninvited ears to overhear the night’s proceedings. Candles lit the scene in flickering, orange light, sending shadows flitting mothlike across the flagstone floor. Twenty nuns sat, cross-legged, in a semicircle around Lizaveta’s marble throne.
Lizaveta smiled at the Anointed Score, assembled in their entirety for the first time in over a generation.
She knew that, high above her, innocent Sisters bustled through their allotted tasks, blissfully unaware of her machinations and political games, and this gave her considerable pleasure. Despite the sense of fear the Prioress instilled in even the most insignificant Novice, she knew she was regarded as the well-spring of rectitude and holiness within her Order.
Hundreds of righteous, religious women waited for her least command, quite ignorant of the complete disregard in which she and the Score held the sworn vows of the lesser nuns. Fifty years before, Lizaveta had attained the high rank of Prioress’ Handmaiden, and she had wasted little time in despatching her foolish, benign predecessor and taking her place.
Before long, Lizaveta had identified the Geomantically-skilled members of her flock, and a long series of illnesses and tragic “accidents” served to allow her to fill the ranks of the blessed Score with powerful witches whose views coincided with her own. She knew that every one of these nuns was ambitious and egotistical, prepared to kill her as soon as the chance presented itself; however, Lizaveta was always on her guard. Each member of her inner coterie knew she was shadowed by at least one eager acolyte, waiting to take her place at the least open sign of treachery. These hand-picked, ambitious girls, numbering thirty-five, formed Lizaveta’s second line of defence.
Each woman before her had been selected, not only for her ruthlessness, but also for the least sign of Geomantic power. Each had been trained in the use of her inner magic, but always at a lower level than that of her Prioress. Lizaveta had no intention of raising a witch capable of mounting any serious challenge to her.
“Sisters,” she intoned, leaning back in her gold-and-mahogany throne and scanning the eager eyes arrayed before her. “A great threat lies before us.”
As ever, the women stood in silence, none daring to interrupt her. Each knew the depth of her wrath only too well, and was unwilling to risk angering her.
“The younger Afelnor has come into his full power, and he is coming to avenge his grandfather. I am to be his target, but I know he will be catholic in his rage; harbour no dreams that he will spare any of you. Should he be allowed to vent his anger upon us, this Priory may well lie in ruins by the time he is finished. At this time, he is leaving Yoren, having destroyed the Mansion House there, and he will be making his way here as I speak.
“I had hoped that the Mansion would have posed more of an obstacle for the boy, but it was not to be.”
A hard-faced woman of riper years raised a hand.
“Sister Arissa, you may speak.”
“Reverend Mother, he is just a boy, and he must contend with Brianston and Merrydeath Road long before he reaches us. Is he really such a threat?”
Lizaveta laughed; a dry, hacking sound. “You are right, Sister. He is only a male, and a young one at that; nonetheless, I have taken a particular fancy to this immature youth, and I would like to have him under my control. He and his party may be too wary to take the direct route and, even if they do, the trials of Brianston and Merrydeath Road may not stop them. If Afelnor survives, and I almost hope he does, I wish to be sure that we have the proper reception for him when he arrives here.”
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 422
Paper Weight (lb): 17.4
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