Waking up and finding Mellio gone was almost worse than waking up from the pox. Even as I first came out of sleep, I knew I was alone in the room; it went beyond the absence of his breathing into a definite sense that he was gone. I didn't think for a moment that he was at the privy or gone early to the refectory.
What I did think was that Dasil had taken him. Our truce had been holding fairly well for a month or so, but he was quite capable of moving Mellio into a different room to help me take whatever step he thought I should be taking next. And however much Mellio and I complained, neither of us had any right of appeal.
I lay for a while, trying to work out the best way to confront Dasil, but none of the outraged phrases that came to my mind ever made it to my mouth. While I was waiting for him to come in, I heard the most terrible sound from outside. Screams, cries, names called in desperation, swallowed up as more and more parents woke to discover their children gone.
The first few days were terrible. Parents stormed the Guild, insisting that the Masters had to find their children. No matter how many times Previs Corvus explained that they were doing all they could, they kept coming. I think they must have been doing the same thing to the sheriff's office, because Faric Faber threatened to put the city under martial law if they didn't disperse.
The Guild itself was less affected than the rest of the city: research mages don't usually have children. Some, like Noen, had had nephews and neices, and a handful of the students had had brothers young enough to be among the vanished, but Mellio was the only disappearance from within our walls. All the same, it changed us. Anything that didn't have a direct chance of finding the children was pushed to one side, and huge working groups formed to try different methods of searching. Algen, Tilf and Falla, of course, were at the heart of one of them, running the highest powered viewing spells there had ever been.
And I was on the outside. Oh, Dasil put me to work folding sheets and carrying teas for the mages who cracked under the strain, but there was nothing useful I could do towards finding Mellio and the others. I could only sit and listen to whole men doing their part, and simmer in the bitterness I thought Mellio had helped me banish.
But maybe I had banished it. I wasn't willing to accept, as I once had, that the situation was hopeless. I couldn't help by reading the glyphs, but I'd learned another way to take action. I could search for answers in my own way - I'd done it once, and I could do it again. So I asked Onis Reeve to find out what he could, and I kept my own ears open in the refectory, and between us we put a few pieces together.
There was never any direct evidence - it was even worse than the dragons. But this Nicolae Carpathia kept cropping up on the edges of conversations, until I wasn't ready to believe it was a coincidence. If he hadn't taken the children himself, he knew who had.
Wallen Ross's old assistant found the only piece of real evidence among Wallen's private books. It was a strange thing, an Andaroi translation of something from across the other ocean, and even worse written than that ridiculous Ersh book Mellio and I struggled with. It was about the "Final Era" - their idea of how the world was going to end. It began with the children vanishing into air; after that, a charismatic leader emerged who would bring war and chaos. They even named the leader: Nicolae.
The moment we'd finished reading, I asked Onis to find me a passage across the ocean.
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