Aryalla the sorceress walked the streets of the bazaar, hunting for that which had no name, which might not even exist. She felt inside her that she would know that which her black eyes hunted, when she touched those eyes to it.
Yet she might be wrong.
Has a legend any shape?
The street vendors hawked their wares, a flashing carpet from Thakispan made a potpourri of color where a dark-faced man waved it; a bronze vase enameled by a craftsman of Ivareen caught the rays of the dying sun and sparkled; a curving sword from the distant south-lands was displayed beside a shield in which rare gems glimmered. Yet she had eyes for none of these.
She walked with firm steps, her feet bare in black sandals that matched the ebon of her cloak. Her long black hair fell free, like that of a harlot from the traveling fairs, but it was banded by silver links; and her face, aristocratic and touched by the refinement of royal blood, was cold and almost lifeless. Only her fine eyes lived, stabbing at a copper pot or a set of carved warriors with which to play the game called oganal.
Long had she walked the avenues and the bazaars of her world, from the frozen barrens of Isthulia to the sun-baked deserts of Arazalla, shivering in one clime and cooking in another, drawing her strength from the hate and the need for vengeance that ran with her blood in her veins. From time to time she had used the thin poniard hanging at her belt to defend her life; she had offered gifts at strange altars to even stranger gods, that her quest might find an ending. Yet with every step her spirit lagged and her head hung a little lower.
“So long. It has been so long,” she whispered into the hood of her dark cloak. “Almost I begin to think that the legend is a false one.”
What is a legend? A whispered word in the night, a tale spun by a storyteller in a bazaar, a hint of something long desired and put into words for another to hear. Men said Kyrik lived, men said the spell was still potent. Somewhere in the world he knew a life that was also a death, but that he waited. Waited, hoping. Waited
“I shall find him,” she snarled between red lips, making a fist of her right hand. “I shall. No matter how long it takes me.”
Aryalla had conjured up demons to aid her, yet the demons had been powerless in the face of that ancient necromancy that had doomed Kyrik. They had told her so, regretfully, in the darkest hours of the night, whispering that they might not be heard except by her own ears. Kilthin, Abakkan, Rogrod, their names were many, their powers vast. Yet they could not help her.
A horseman in the gray and silver of the rulers of Pthesk went by her at a gallop, a hoof splattering her feet with slops. She shrank back into shadows, muttering against the filth staining her flesh.
Yet she had endured worse than this, and would endure even more, if need be. She must find Kyrik! There was a desperate need in her to look upon his face, to listen to his voice. Aye! As great a need as he himself must feel, if legend spoke truth.
Her feet carried her from one end of the bazaar to the other, and she turned back, despair rounding her shoulders. Her belly ached, it had been a full day since she had eaten, but she cared naught for that. She would feed through her eyes, could she but behold that which she sought, that which she would know upon first sighting, though it had no name, though it was unknown. Her nostrils pinched at their corners, her eyes sunken slightly in her lovely face, she searched on.
Her feet took her into shop after shop, stall after stall. She was offered the silver lamps of Karalon, and the golden bells of Amanoy, raiment of rare workmanship from the looms of Inisfall. To each of these she shook her head and the shopkeepers, the sellers of wares, could sense her despair that was close to tears.
“What is it you seek, mistress?” they would ask. “I shall know it, I shall!” They looked upon her and their eyes knew sympathy, for she was a shapely woman and lovely, and they thought she would be better off in a bed with a strong man than wearing out her feet and those thin black sandals hunting something to which she could not put a name. Always, she walked on.
The sun was setting when she came at last to a little shop at the very end of the bazaar. Its proprietor was a tiny man, very thin and very old, with eyes rheumy from near blindness, and he fussed over a chest that was beyond his power to move.
The sorceress watched him a moment, eyes misting with pity, and then she went to help him, putting her white hands with the red fingernails to a corner of the chest and shoving. When the coffer was tight against the wall of the shop, the old man bobbed his head in gratitude.
“My thanks, gracious lady. I am an old man, I have lived too many years. It is not right that I must earn my bread in such a fashion.”
“All life is a problem, old one,” she smiled. “That thrice—cursed boy I hired has gone off with a girl.”
“Youth calls to youth.”
“Leaving me with this old thing from Tantagol. It is very heavy, I haven’t even examined it. I’ll wait until the morrow.”
The woman stared at him, scarcely breathing. “From Tantagol? You say—it comes from Tantagol?”