How did you like rebellious Sonea in the last chapter? I could never understand why she was so meekly accepting of Regin's harassment and later Akkarin's blackmail and treatment. I really wanted her defiance.
Disclaimer: BMT belongs to Trudi Canavan
Lorlen opened his eyes and met the anxious gaze of Kyralia's ruler.
"What now?" the king demanded in dismay.
Lorlen sighed and shook his head.
"Only an emergency at the Guild, Your Majesty," he explained quickly. "One of the magicians, Lord Rothen, went missing this morning. His friends were concerned as he has suffered a mental collapse in the recent hours. They tried to contact him."
The king's face cleared as he considered the news. Lorlen felt a pang of guilt as he thought of Rothen, as Administrator of the Guild he should have helped him convince Sonea to stay here. But would she have listened? He couldn't erase from his memory the angry look she had on her face when they had offered her a lesser punishment while sentencing her guardian to exile in enemy land, her bold defiance. No, she wouldn't have changed her mind if he had begged her on bended knees. Sonea understood that Sachaka was a death trap, but she consciously chose to risk that rather than live in the temporary safety of the Guild, among the blind and the cowardly. Lorlen felt sick to the core.
"Ah, he was the slum girl's first guardian, was he not," the king remarked after a stretch of silence. "I pity the poor man, what do you plan to do, Administrator?"
Lorlen lifted his shoulders.
"I cannot allow mental communication to continue, nor can I send a search party after him," he inhaled deeply. "In the present situation we may do little but hope he'll return safely."
The monarch nodded with understanding.
"And what of Akkarin?"
Lorlen looked at the painted floor tiles. What he had to say wouldn't be well-received, he expected.
"I spoke to Akkarin," the king's features transformed in alarm. Lorlen hurried on to explain about the blood ring. The sharp mind of the ruler seemed to pick out the slight hesitation in Lorlen's excuse as to why he had concealed his prior knowledge of the artifact's existence, but he let that be for the time's being. "I believe he is too upset to be reasoned with."
King Merrin frowned as he pondered the Administrator's words. He looked out of the high window of the palace north tower and observed the tiny Imardians going about their business.
"Your words are testament enough to the warm feelings that still linger in you," he said softly. "I understand that. You want to trust him despite his questionable deeds," he fixed Lorlen with a piercing stare.
"We know Akkarin spoke the truth, Your Majesty," he said in self-defense.
The king's eyes flashed dangerously.
"Do we," he was full of doubt. "It is certainly confirmed that Sachacan Black Magicians exist, but are they Akkarin's enemies or allies? They murdered his novice, not him after all."
The implied meaning of what the king suggested struck Lorlen like a blow. He shook his head in denial. He would not believe that. Akkarin was not so callous. Or was he? The memory of Akkarin forcing entry into his mind flashed through his mind.
"No!" he was horrified. "Your Majesty believes it was all pre-arranged?" Lorlen's voice was strangled. "That Akkarin planned for Sonea's death?"
"That makes sense," one of the king's advisors observed dryly. "She had the knowledge and the skills that made her a threat if she discovered his story was a ruse. He needed her gone."
Lorlen swayed alarmingly and had to grab the window sill for support.
"But he advised her!" he insisted desperately. "During the battle, he broke through her panic!"
Captain Arrynd gave Lorlen a direct look.
"How else could he convince us of his honesty?" he pointed out. "He must have known she'd lose either way."
King Merrin raised his hands to halt the further discussion.
"Administrator Lorlen, I do not like this possibility any better than you, but I must accept that it cannot be eliminated fully. We shall take the necessary precautions in case Akkarin proves to be a-," he hesitated a moment, after inhaling deeply the young king persevered. "A traitor and we face an invasion led by the former High Lord."
The air in Lorlen's lungs seemed to congeal at every word uttered by the monarch. It couldn't be the truth.
"Precautions?" he forced out.
The king eyed the Administrator with burning intensity.
"For a start, I must order you not to contact Akkarin from now on," he decreed. "Through the ring or by other means."
Lorlen heaved a sigh and nodded respectfully.
"As you say, Your Majesty," he agreed unwillingly.
The king nodded in approval.
"Another thing is a Black Magician of our own so that we may confront the approaching threat. Akkarin's books should be enough to gain the required knowledge, I was told," he went on. "You will oversee the choosing of a suitable candidate to that role. The sooner he or she succeeds, the better to us all."
So it was decided, then. Lorlen felt a great weight burden his soul. The magicians under his command were to relearn Black Magic which even Akkarin described as evil.
"I shall call the Meet to make that decision as soon as Lord Balkan returns from the Fort," he said gravely.