For Love of Evil (Piers Anthony) – ukázka

Rozhodl jsem se, že v rámci svých recenzí méně známých knížek budu uvádět i ukázky, aby případný zájemce mohl sám posoudit jazyk a obsah knihy, jestli se mu budou líbit. Z hlediska autorského zákona by to mělo být v pořádku (podle paragrafu 31, odstavec 1), pokud však majitel práv s mým názorem nesouhlasí, uvítal bych, kdyby napřed kontaktoval kvůli odstranění ukázky mě a teprve v případě neúspěchu soud.

Následuje první kapitola knihy For Love of Evil, šestého dílu série Incarnations of Immortality od Pierse Anthonyho. Knihu snadno pořídíte na Amazonu. Recenzi naleznete zde.


  1. ANTHONY, Piers: For Love of Evil. New York: Avon Books, 1988. 336 str. ISBN 0-380-75285-9.


There was a knock at the door, so hesitant as to be almost inaudible. Parry opened it.

A girl stood without, huddled and childlike. Her flowing honey hair was bound back from her face by a fillet: a narrow band of cloth that circled her bare head. Her frightened eyes seemed enormous, the irises gray-green. “I am Jolie,” she whispered, her hands making a tentative gesture toward her bosom.

She had come! Suddenly Parry’s mouth felt dry. He had known she would, yet doubted. He had wanted her to, yet been afraid. Now the test was upon him.

“Please come in,” he said, his voice sounding considerably more assured than he felt.

She gazed at him. Her face crumpled. “Oh, please, my lord, please let me go! I never did you harm, or even spoke ill of you! I never meant to give offense, and if I have, I apologize most abjectly! Please, please do not enchant me!” She put her face in her hands, sobbing.

Parry was taken aback. “I am not going to enchant you, Jolie!” he protested. “I have no grievance against you.”

Those marvelous eyes peeked from between her fingers. “No?”

“None. I know you have done me no harm. I want only to—” He found no appropriate word. “If you will come in, I will explain.”

Her tears ceased, but not her fright. “The Sorcerer said I would not be hurt,” she said somewhat defiantly.

“My father spoke truly,” Parry said. “I mean only to talk with you. Please come in; it is warm inside.”

She hesitated. A gust of wind tugged at her garment, and she shivered. It was evidently her best dress, but it was somewhat soiled linen, given shape only by the cord at her waist. It was inadequate protection against the chill of the fall evening. “You order me, lord?”

Parry grimaced. “I am no lord, Jolie. I am the Sorcerer’s apprentice. I am hardly older man you. I cannot order you, nor would I if I could. I only want your company this night.”

Her face crumpled again. “Oh, please, spare me this! To you it may be nothing, but to me it’s my life!”

Parry had realized that there would be difficulty, but he had not properly appreciated its nature before. The girl believed that she was doomed if she set foot inside his house.

He could let her go. But that would mean the loss of what might be his sole opportunity, and failure in his first significant challenge. The Sorcerer had little sympathy for failure of any type.

“How can I persuade you that I mean you no harm?” he asked. “I swear to you that I will do nothing to you without your leave, and that I will not force that leave-giving.”

“Will you swear by the Blessed Virgin Mary?” she asked disbelievingly.

“I swear it by the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

She watched him for some sign of disaster, but mere was none. He had not been smitten for false swearing; therefore it must be safe. Still, her doubt loomed almost tangibly.

“Come in before you freeze,” he urged. “I have a fire within.”

That did it; her shivering was not entirely from fright. “Remember, you swore,” she reminded him nervously.

“By the Virgin,” he agreed.

She stepped in through the doorway, her eyes fixing on the fireplace within. There was indeed fire, radiating flickering heat. He had banked it so that it gave off little smoke and warmed the chamber without depleting the air; it was one of the arts the Sorcerer had taught him.

Jolie knelt before it, extending her hands to the warmth. Now the threadbare nature of her garment became evident; the light of the fire shone through, showing her thin arms, and there were holes. But she was oblivious; for the moment that warmth was all that she craved.

Parry closed and barred the door against the wind. It was of stout oak, and chinked around the edges, but some drafts still leaked through. He went quietly to his pantry, which was a niche to the side, separated by a dark linen curtain. He brought out a loaf of bread, a cup of butter, and a jar of blackberry jam. He set these on a tray and added a pitcher of goat milk and a knife and two mugs. He brought these to the main chamber and set them on the wooden table.

“I have food,” he said.

Jolie tore her rapt gaze from the fire and turned to him. For a moment her eyes met his; then she turned away without speaking.

“For you,” he clarified, picking up the sharp knife.

She looked again—and screamed. She lurched to her feet and ran for the door. She would have been out and away, but the bar balked her.

“No, wait!” Parry cried, dropping the knife and hurrying to join her. “I meant—”

Perceiving herself trapped, Jolie turned on him a stricken countenance, then fainted.

He caught her as she fell. It was no ruse; her body slumped in rag-doll fashion. He had to transfer his hold from her shoulders to her midsection as she sagged. She was so light she seemed indeed like a doll; there was little flesh on her bones.

He tried to walk her to a stool, but couldn’t make it work. Finally he picked her up and carried her. He eased her down by the fireplace, propping her against the warm hearth wall, then fetched pillows for comfort.

In a moment she recovered. Her eyes popped open, and she glanced about like a snared bird.

“You are safe, Jolie,” Parry said quickly. “You swooned, but you are safe.”

“The knife—”

Then it burst upon him: the knife! He had been about to slice the bread, and she had thought he meant to use it on her. No wonder she had spooked!

“I gave my oath,” he reminded her. “No harm to you.”


“I was cutting bread for you.”

“But the sacrifice—”

“My oath,” he repeated. “By the Holy Virgin. You can trust that.”

“Yes,” she agreed dubiously.

“I am going to cut you a slice of bread,” he said carefully. “Or you may do it yourself, if you prefer.”

“No…” she said, evidently afraid that the knife would turn in her hand and seek her innocent blood.

Parry picked up the knife, slowly, and oriented on the hard loaf. He sawed through it, severing a thick slice, and set down the knife.

Jolie’s eyes remained locked on the knife throughout. She relaxed only when it left his hand.

“Would you like butter on it?” he inquired. “Or jam?”

“Oh, my lord…” she demurred.

“I am no lord,” he repeated firmly. “Call me Parry.”

“Oh, I could not!”

Parry smiled, a trifle grimly. “Call me Parry,” he said, touching the knife.

“Parry!” she cried, shrinking into her dress.

“That’s better,” he said. “You know I am only a year older than you. I see you as an equal.”

“But you are the Sorcerer’s son!”

“Butter or jam?” he asked. “Or both?”

“For me?” She simply could not believe.

“For you. I will have a separate slice. Here, I will cut it now.” He picked up the knife.

Again her eyes locked on it, and her breath became shallow. It was as though he were torturing the loaf.

“I will put the knife away,” he said as he finished. He carried it back to the pantry and set it behind the curtain, safely out of sight. Only then did the girl’s breathing revert to normal.

He used a wooden spatula to spread butter generously on both slices of the coarse black bread, then poured jam on each. He picked up the slices and walked to her, proffering one. “For you,” he repeated. “I will sit on the other side of the fire and eat my own.”

Hesitantly, her tiny hand came up, as if ready to dart away at the first sign of menace. Her whole arm was shaking. He set the bread firmly in it, then took his place on the other side as promised.

He had been uncertain how to proceed, but now he felt more confident. “Jolie, I would like you to understand me. May I tell you my story?”

“Yes, lord,” she said. Then, as his glance went to the table where the knife had lain, “Parry!”

He smiled. “You learn quickly, Jolie. That is one of two reasons I asked for you.”

“You gave your oath!” she cried.

“I asked only for your company this evening. Your father owed my father, and this is the manner of the payment: your visit here. After this you will be free; we shall never require this of you again.”

“Oh, please—I never harmed you!”

“And I will not harm you!” he snapped. “Eat your bread and listen; then perhaps you will understand.”

She looked at the bread she held as if seeing it for the first time. “I—really can eat?”

“Slowly,” he cautioned. “One small bite at a time. Like so.” He took a delicate bite of his own. “Chew it well before swallowing.” He was aware that a hungry peasant tended to gulp good food, fearing it would vanish. He did not want the girl to make herself sick.

She took a bite, emulating him exactly.

“Fifteen years ago, the Sorcerer was preparing a major spell,” Parry said. “For this he required a blood sacrifice. So he bought a baby. As you know, such babies are for sale by poor families who have too many to feed already.”

She knew. She chewed deliberately, watching him. “I was that baby,” he continued. “It was my destiny to be cut and bled on the altar, my life’s blood lending substance to the potency of the spell. I believe it was a weather spell; there had been a drought, and the Lord of the Manor feared for his crops and the wild animals on his preserve. He did not want to suffer poor hunting. So he hired this service of the Sorcerer, in the year of our Savior 1190. The sacrifice was to be private, because the Holy Church frowns on human sacrifice.”

He paused, glancing at her. She watched him as if mesmerized, slowly chewing.

“But the Abbot somehow learned of it,” Parry continued after a moment. “He showed up at the site in person. ‘What’s this noise of sacrifice?’ he demanded. ‘You know it is forbidden to cut a living human baby!’ And naturally the Lord had to disavow it, because the Abbot could make things very difficult for the progress of his soul to Heaven. ‘No, no. Abbot, you misunderstand!’ he protested. ‘This is no human sacrifice! We have a fine sheep for that!’ And he signaled his minion to fetch a sheep from the herd.

“ ‘Then what is this human baby doing here?’ the Abbot demanded, for he was no fool. The Lord had to think fast. ‘Why, this is the Sorcerer’s newborn son,’ he explained. ‘But the Sorcerer is not married,’ the Abbot pointed out. ‘That is why he is adopting this fine baby,’ the Lord said.

“The Abbot looked at the Sorcerer, whom he didn’t like because magic was, strictly speaking, forbidden outside the auspices of the Church. But on occasion the community did need the professional touch, as now, so the Sorcerer was tolerated. The Abbot saw a way to make the Sorcerer really uncomfortable, and he pounced on it. ‘I am very glad to hear that,’ he said, rubbing his hands together. ‘Children are the Lord’s blessing. I shall perform the ceremony of adoption straightaway.’ And the Sorcerer was trapped in this bed of thistles of the Lord’s making; he would have to adopt and raise the sacrificial baby. Thus was my life spared, and I have not had occasion to regret it.”

He looked again at Jolie, and caught her in a tentative smile. He smiled in return, encouraging her. She was now halfway through her feast of bread, still chewing deliberately, as directed.

“The sheep arrived, and the sacrifice was made,” he resumed. “And do you know, the weather did turn, and rain came within the day. It seemed that the sacrifice had been effective. The Abbot performed the ceremony of adoption, and I became the Sorcerer’s son. I understand it was difficult for the Sorcerer to mask his scowl, or the Abbot his smirk. Even the Lord, when he pondered the matter, considered it a fine joke. But he remained neutral, for he required the good offices of both the Abbot and the Sorcerer. He went so far as to guarantee a nominal stipend for the care of the boy, so that he might never be in want. The Abbot matched him by guaranteeing a proper and churchly education for the lad. Thus I received both material and spiritual blessings, to the discomfiture of my adopted father. It was impossible for him to renege, or to dispose of me privately; the Abbot watched like a hawk. Thus the joke became a fact, and I was indeed the heir to the Sorcerer. But do you know, I somehow never did take a liking to the notion of human sacrifice? I am not certain I ever quite figured out why.”

Now Jolie could not prevent her laugh. Her face illuminated with the momentary pleasure of it, becoming pretty. She had finished her bread, while Parry’s had only one bite from it.

“Here, take mine,” he said, offering it to her. “I find I would rather talk than eat; you are a good listener.”

She tried to demur, but she remained hungry, and her protest lacked force. She accepted the bread, and ate it with better confidence.

“Then the oddest thing developed,” Parry said. “I turned out to have a talent for magic. It was as if God had chosen this way to provide the Sorcerer an heir that he would never have chosen for himself. The Abbot died when I was ten, and the Lord when I was twelve, but the need for any coercion had long since passed. My father now saw to my education and welfare with enthusiasm, and indeed, I have never wanted for either. I have long known the story of my adoption, and have no resentment on that account; I know that had I not been sold for sacrifice, I would now be a completely ignorant peasant, or perhaps dead of a fever. I believe the Lord in his mercy and discretion did intervene to make of my life what it could be. I was never in danger of death from the knife; God knew that, if the others did not.” He smiled again. “But you may be sure that when I pick up a knife, it is to cut bread, and not to harm a visitor. Do you believe that now, Jolie?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Will you have some milk? I have plenty.”

She nodded mutely, seeming afraid to speak such greed aloud. He got up and went to the table and poured a mugful. He brought it to her.

She took it, and sipped it carefully. He knew she was honoring his cautions, which she took to be meaningless; but he knew also that she was far more likely to keep the food down if she went slowly. She was a typical peasant girl in that she had seldom if ever been properly fed.

“And so I learned the disciplines of law and medicine and magic,” Parry said. “Also combat—and the arts. The art of communication among them. I doubt you have had much difficulty understanding me.”

She nodded, her smile coming more freely now.

“But I suspect you are wondering why I asked for you.”

The fear flared up again, and the remaining milk slopped in the mug. “I have done you no harm!”

“And I shall do you no harm,” he replied automatically. “I am fifteen years old now, and in good health. I am becoming a man. That means I am ready for a woman.”

Now the milk slopped over the brim. “Oh, please, lord—”

“Surely you know that my father would have brought me any woman I wished,” he said.

She nodded, her hands still shaking.

“Obviously I asked for you. Why do you think I should want an illiterate peasant girl one year my junior?”

Her breathing was becoming labored. “Oh, please—”

“Stop that!” he snapped. “Answer the question.”

She took a shuddering breath. “Be-because I am the only virgin without disease in the village.”


“But it is true, lord! No man has touched me.”

“I know it is true, but that is not why I asked for you. Try again.”

“Because my father owed—”

“No! All the villagers owe the Sorcerer!”

She shrugged. “Then I do not know, Lord.”

“Parry! Call me Parry! That’s my name. I am low-born, like you.”

“Parry,” she agreed faintly.

“I asked for you because I want the best woman I can get, and you are that one.”

Now she laughed. “You do ill to tease me so, lor—Parry.”

“It is true that you are young, but so am I. You are potentially the smartest and the prettiest woman of the village. That is why—”

This time her laugh was wholehearted. “I am the thinnest and dumbest waif in the village!” she protested. “How can you pretend otherwise?”

Parry leaned forward, reaching for her. She shrank away, but he persisted, catching hold of a hank of her hair at her shoulder. “Look at this,” he said earnestly. “Golden tresses, like few known here in the south of France. Look at your face: perfect. Not even any scars from the pox.”

“I have scars,” she said, almost eagerly. “But they don’t show.”

“All you need is some feeding, and you will flesh out into sheer loveliness. You have the frame already; I can see it clearly.”

She drew her dress more closely about her, fearing that her body showed. “You shouldn’t look!”

“Figuratively, I mean. I have learned to see folk for what they are and for what they can be; my father taught me that. He had me look at the villagers whenever we were in the village, and choose the best woman. Had I chosen wrongly, he would have served me as I deserved for my error.”

She was not persuaded, but she was flattered, and curious. “How would that be?”

“He would have delivered that wrong girl to me.”

Again she laughed. “And so he did!”

“No. I have no doubt of this. You are the one.”

Her doubt remained, but she was beginning to accept the fact that he believed. “What will you have of me, then?”

“Your love.”

She looked stricken, having briefly dared hope for escape. “I dare not deny you, Parry.”

“I said your love, not your body! I want you to love me.”

“I fear you,” she said. “Is that enough?”

“No. You must come to know me, and to love me.”

She spread her hands slightly. “You promised never to summon me again, after this night.”

“And I shall not! You must come only if you choose.”

“If the Sorcerer chooses.”

“No! It must be free. It shall be free.”

“I do not understand you.”

Parry got up and fetched a sheet of paper, one of the valuable supplies his father provided him with. He took a stick of charcoal and began to mark it, gazing intently at her. “I have been trained also in the art of persuasion,” he said. “This is my test: to persuade you. If I prove unable to do so, then I will fail, and my father will be disappointed. I must not fail, for there is no other woman as right for me as you. I must have you with me as I step out into the world as a sorcerer.”

“I have no truck with magic!” she exclaimed with some asperity. “It is the work of the devil!”

“No. Black magic is the work of the devil. White magic is the work of the Church. It is white magic I am learning. It is beneficial to man and good for the soul.”

She shrugged. “I wish you would let me go. I fear what sorcery you may work on me.”

“Give me one more hour,” he said earnestly. “If I cannot persuade you in that time, then I will know it is not to be.”

“You talk so foolishly! I am not to be persuaded! I am here to be—” She hesitated, then forced herself to finish. “Taken.”

“Persuaded,” he said firmly. “Just as I was given a far better life by the intervention of the Lord God, so may you also be. I can offer you good food, better than what you have just eaten. Good clothing, better than what you wear now. The warmth of the fire, every night. The respect, even the awe, of the villagers—”

“Why torment me like this?” she protested. “I know none of it can be true!”

He set aside his charcoal and turned the paper to her. “What do you see?”

Her eyes rounded with surprise. “You drew this?”

“You saw me doing it. Who is it?”

“The Madonna!” she exclaimed. “You can draw! But you had no model!”

“I had a model.”

“But you were looking at me—” She faltered. “It cannot be! She is so lovely!”

“It is you, Jolie—as you can be. When properly fed and dressed. When your beauty manifests to others as it does to me now.”

“No!” she said, bemused and flattered.

“It is what you will be, if you come to me. If you love me, and let me love you. It is the potential I see in you, that I know will appear if it is allowed.”

She stared at the sketch, fascinated. “You believe this?”

“I know this. Yet this is only the lesser half of it. Even as the soul is more than the flesh, your mind is more than your body. You can be brilliant!”

“I cannot even read,” she said. “Or figure.”

“I can teach you these. I know you can learn. I believe you have the desire. Will you not allow me to try?”

Her gaze became canny. “So I will return to you every night for your pleasure? You would fool me with impossible promises, so that this night will be not the end, but only the beginning?”

“Only the beginning,” he agreed. “But not of delusion. All that I have told you is true—or will be true, if you accept it. Please, I beg of you—give me this chance!”

“You beg of me? You have no need to beg, only to command. You know that.”

“A command is made to an unwilling person, without love,” he said. “A plea is made to a person one respects.”

“Peasants are not respected!” she exclaimed.

“Jolie, I will offer you a job, so it is legitimate. To be my servant. I will pay you a fair wage. I will give you a coin tonight, that you can take home and show as evidence. Then will you return?”

“But you said you don’t want my body, you want my love. A servant doesn’t love.”

“It is only a pretext. I will not treat you as a servant. I will treat you as an apprentice.”

“An apprentice! To be a sorcerer?”

“And to be my wife.”

“Blessed Mary!” she breathed, staring at him almost in shock.

“What more can I promise you?” he asked. “I want your love. I want you to know me and to love me. I will do anything you ask.”

She sighed. “I know my place. I am a poor, ignorant peasant girl. I know that none of this is to be believed. I wish you would just do what you mean to do and let me go, so that I need not fear evil anymore, because it will be behind me. You have no cause to mix up my mind.”

Parry saw her slipping away despite his best effort. He could not let it happen. He realized he would have to do what he had sought to avoid. He would have to enchant her.

“What do you fear of me?” he asked.

“I cannot tell you that! The uttering of it might make it come true.”

“Do you fear that I will ravish you and cast you out despoiled, so that your father will beat you for being of lesser value on the marriage market?”

She nodded, agreeing without uttering.

“Do you not wonder why I have not done it long since, instead of talking with you?”

“I have been asking you that!”

“Can you not accept that what I am telling you is true?”

“I cannot.”

“Then let me show you the nature of my power.”

She tried to shrink back against the hearthstones. “I believe it already!”

“Look at me, Jolie. Gaze into my eyes and do not flinch.”

She nerved herself for the inevitable and obeyed.

Parry invoked the magic of mesmerism. He accessed her mind through her eyes and made it responsive to his verbal commands. She would now obey any reasonable directive, and any unreasonable directive if it were suitably couched to seem reasonable. Almost anything could be done with a mesmerized person, if the sorcerer was sufficiently skilled.

“Listen to me,” he said. “Believe what I say. Do not question it.”

She nodded, her eyes fixed on his.

“I am about to teach you to fly,” he said. “Follow my instructions, and you will fly. Are you ready to fly?”

She hesitated, obviously wishing to question this, but constrained by his injunction against that. She nodded, ill at ease despite the power of the spell.

“Spread your arms,” he said. She did so. Now the holes in her dress were revealed; she had held her arms close to her body before, hiding the condition of the dress. Stitching had made up much of the damage, but it was not enough; he could see a portion of her right breast through the stitching. The breast was small, because she was young and because she was ill nourished; still, it threatened to distract him from this demonstration, so he forced his gaze away from it.

“You are now poised for flight,” he said. “When you flap your arms you will rise into the air. Be careful, because the space is limited here; you do not want to bang into the roof. Do it slowly, and remain in control.”

Still she looked doubtful.

“Flap your arms,” he said.

She lifted and dropped her arms, imitating the motion of the wings of a bird, awkwardly.

“You are now rising from the floor,” he said. “Look down. What do you see?”

She remained on the floor, moving her arms. But her face as she looked down changed. Sheer wonder showed. “I—I am hovering in the air!” she exclaimed.

“I have taught you to fly,” he said. “But you are as yet clumsy. It takes practice to do it well. When you can do it well, we can fly outside. Now come down, carefully.”

She changed her motions, then her knees bent and she almost lost her balance. She recovered, and stood normally, her bosom heaving. “I am down!”

“The lesson is over,” he said. “Do not attempt to fly again tonight. Fix this experience in your memory. When I snap my fingers you will be free of my power.”

He waited a moment, then snapped his fingers.

Her attitude changed. She looked warily at him. “You enchanted me!” she exclaimed.

“I enchanted you,” he agreed.

“But I flew!”

“You did, and you did not. It is a matter of perspective. I made you seem to fly, but later I can make you fly in reality. This is an aspect of my power.”

She looked about the room. “It was so real! But I didn’t really fly?”

“You had a vision of flying. It would not have been safe for you really to fly at this time. You aren’t dressed for it.”

She glanced down at herself, and quickly pulled in her arms, covering the flaws in her dress. “Why did you do this to me?”

“To show you the kind of power I have, taught me by my father, the Sorcerer. I appeal now to your logic: if I can make you believe you are flying, do you understand I could make you believe that you must undress and do whatever I ask of you?”

She considered. “Yes,” she whispered, awed.

“Can you now believe that what I am telling you is true? That I value your person, and want your love, not your enchantment?”

“Almost,” she whispered.

“That I will teach you these things I know, that you may join me in the practice of this kind of magic, for the good of the village?”


He saw that it wasn’t enough. If she had this doubt immediately after the experience, that doubt would grow when she went home. His effort of persuasion had not been sufficient.

He had only one more thing to try. It seemed the weakest of his devices, but it was all that remained. If it failed, then he would have to admit defeat.

“I will sing to you,” he said. “Then you may go, your father’s debt acquitted. But here—I promised you a coin, in token of the employment I offer you. In token of all I ask of you. Take it, and return to me if you will.” He fetched the tiny copper coin from his pocket and gave it to her.

“You are letting me go, without—?”

“After my song.” Then he breathed deeply, twice, and sang. He composed the words extemporaneously, and the melody; it was a thing he had always had a talent for. That was part of what the Sorcerer had discovered in him. There was a sonance and meter in the language he used—French—but those hardly mattered; the sentiment would manifest in any language. Yet the words were only the lesser aspect of it, a convenience of the moment, tuned to this passing purpose.

The song filled the house, for it was buttressed by the sorcery he had mastered best: the ethereal accompaniment. It was as if the finest musicians of the realm sat behind him, playing their instruments in perfect accord, buttressing and amplifying his voice, making of it a sound no natural human throat could issue. The power of that orchestra infused the building, making the floor vibrate and the low fire quiver in resonance. There was, literally, magic in it.

“Jolie! I sing of the beauty I see in you,
Of the glory in you, waiting to be evoked,
Of the joy I would have of you,
If only you could love me.
If only you could love me.”

“Jolie! I sing of your elegance to come,
Of the envy of those who once knew you,
Who will take you for an Abbess,
If only I may love you.
If only I may love you.”

The girl stood as if transfixed, listening. Her tresses seemed to waver with the sound, and faint washes of color crossed her eyes. She was indeed beautiful, and intelligent; only the poverty of her situation had masked her qualities. With food and care and confidence she would be a woman to reckon with. Parry had not deceived her in that; she deceived herself. He did want her love, for he knew her to be a treasure. Her name meant “Pretty,” and that she was, in many senses. His comprehension of this infused his song with passion; he loved her already.

He finished. He said nothing; he walked to the door and lifted the bar, and stood aside, waiting for her to leave.

Dazed, she clutched her dress about her and walked out.

She hesitated just outside, afraid of the night, shivering with its chill. Parry took a cloak from a hook and carried it to her, and set it on her shoulders.

Still she stood. He realized that she was concerned for the creatures of the darkness. The village dogs knew her and would not attack, but they were not out now, which meant that wild animals could encroach. The village was some distance from Parry’s house. It could be dangerous for a woman to walk alone.

He took down a cloak for himself, and fetched a stout staff. Then he joined Jolie. Without a word he set out for the village.

She followed, grateful for the protection. He slowed, encouraging her to catch up. Then they walked together, silently. The distance had seemed formidable; now it seemed short. No animals encroached.

When they came to her house, he stopped. She paused, glancing at him, then removed her cloak; it was not hers to keep. Gravely, he accepted it. Then he turned and walked away.

Would she come to him again? She had been moved by his song; he knew that. But how long would the effect last? She was free now; she had paid her father’s debt.


Parry slept irregularly. He had put himself across as an urbane young man of considerable power, and he was that, but this was his first attempt to accomplish a major thing by himself. It was his rite of passage as a sorcerer—and it was something he truly wanted. Jolie was the best possible woman for him in the region; with her he knew he could achieve happiness. There would be a great deal of work to develop her, of course, but there would also be much pleasure in the doing of it. He did not know what he would do if she did not come to him. He had at the moment no other ambition than to bring her to his house and keep her.

He woke before dawn, and dressed and ate and performed necessary tasks, his mind elsewhere.

The day passed with routine chores. One villager had chickens who ranged too far; neighbors had complained and threatened to kill them for their own pots, but the hens were undisciplined and could not be restrained. The man had paid the Sorcerer for a solution to the problem, and the Sorcerer had given the task to Parry for practice. If he bungled it, the Sorcerer would make it right, but Parry intended to handle the matter competently himself.

He pored over his text on law, and in due course found it: a procedure covering exactly this situation. It was not known locally, but had been used in other countries, and it had the force of common law. It was this: the owner of the hens had to stand at the ridge of the roof of his house, and pass his right arm under his left, and reach up and grab his own hair. Then he was to take a sickle by its point, in his left hand, whose motion was at this stage restricted. He would fling the sickle as far as he could, and its landing would define the distance his hens could go with impunity.

It happened that this particular peasant was athletic and coordinated; he would, with a little practice, be able to fling the sickle quite far. That should give his hens enough room to range. The Sorcerer would advise the client of this, privately; then, in a few days, present the procedure. It would be done in public, so that all the villagers would see how the man vindicated his chickens. Once again, the Sorcerer would earn his fee. The Lord of the Manor, seeing the matter settled amicably, would not interfere; he might even come to watch the sickle-throwing himself.

Parry was well satisfied. But as evening approached he became nervous. Would Jolie come? He thought she would, but also he doubted. He had done the best he could to convince her; if it wasn’t enough…

The day waned, but the girl did not show. Parry’s gloom deepened. He had tried so hard to persuade her! What could he have done differently? He had a whole life to live with her, if only she chose it.

He lit a fire on the hearth. The air was turning chill, but that was not what motivated him. It was that he had the fire going when she had come before, and she had sat beside it. Almost he could visualize her there! But he stopped that vision; a sorcerer had no business succumbing to the illusions he foisted on others. A sorcerer had to deal in reality, whatever it was, wherever he found it, being always undeceived. Magic, science, law and illusion were merely tools to be understood and applied. Reality was his truest master.

Even the reality of a woman who chose not to come.

But he had pinned so much on this! He knew she was right for him; he knew he could offer her a better life man any peasant of the village could. But did she know?

The fire blazed up, and smoked, and gradually settled into place as the draft became established. The average peasant cottage had no internal fire; it would have been dangerous for the thatched roof. But Parry had been raised in comparative luxury—a luxury he had hoped to share with Jolie!

He stiffened, listening. Was that a knock? He doubted it, for the sound had been so faint as to be coincidence, but he hurried to the door anyway and threw it open.

Jolie stood there. “Did you mean it?” she asked timorously.

Parry opened his arms to her, realizing even as he did it that he might be making a mistake. He had asked for her love, but promised her only a job.

She stepped into his embrace. Her action, like his, was answer enough.

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