We got inside Lemien's private quarters. The first thing that caught my eye though were the numerous skulls he'd put around. I got the feeling I was walking into some kind of catacomb. Then there were the seats and tables made entirely out of bones.
"You had some time to kill here," I said after a long whistle. "Were all these your previous subordinates?"
"Believe it or not," Lemien said, "I wasn't behind this grim décor. I may be able to control death, but I was a doctor once. I don't approve of using bones for furniture."
"Yet you didn't change the place."
"Why would I?" Lemien said. "This place is a treasure trove. Don't touch anything by the way. Some things here can kill you."
I retracted the hand that was about to pick up a skull.
"So, who decorated this place?" I asked.
"The last warden of this prison," Lemien answered, "and the reason the Children closed this section off entirely."
"Genocide?" I asked.
"You're quite sharp," Lemien said. He looked at me with approving eyes. "I guess you're a spy after all."
I chuckled. I didn't blame him for doubting me. "So where's my gear?"
"You'll have to stick to prisoner attire here," Lemien said. "Your gear is well kept by yours truly, but unless I'm sure you'll follow my instructions to the letter, I'm not willing to give it to you just yet. I hope you understand."
"There," Lemien pointed to a trunk by the corner of the room. "You'll find something that fits you there, I'm sure."
I picked some navy blue trousers and a white tunic which didn't have many holes. I found some clean undergarments. I took it as today's second win. Being alive was the first, obviously. I'll spare you the details of sweating while wearing dirty undergarments.
"So," Lemien addressed me after I'd finished changing. "How will you help me get into the city?"
"The clothes you've given me fit the situation perfectly," I said.
"You'll send some of your puppets after me while I run toward the door. It'll have to be believable, so Ofelia may have to play a role in this."
"You mean to get inside without me?" I didn't like the look of his narrowed eyes.
"My job as a spy is infiltration. If you want to get inside the city and win, you'll have to know everything about the enemy. Do you know how many warriors they have? Do they have some defense mechanisms against intruders? Do they have any magic user who could be a threat to you?"
Lemien remained silent.
"You're fighting a war, yet you don't know anything about strategies and troop organization," I said. I let that sink in for a while. I needed him to feel as though I was indispensable.
"So you want me to let you in," Lemien said. "What guarantee do I have that you'll come back?"
"What guarantee do we have that this plan will work?" I asked back. Change the subject while you think of something clever to say Stalwart.
"They saved your friend earlier," Lemien said. "They will surely save you."
"Don't you think they'll suspect I'm on your side? They're wary of you Lemien. They would've attacked you if they weren't. We should always go in with the a.s.sumption that they're onto us."
"What do you suggest?"
"I have something of mine I'll be willing to trade for your banshee," I said.
"You want me to give up Ofelia?" Lemien's voice had increased in volume.
"Just… listen to me, will you? I'm not suggesting you give her up for nothing."
"What are you suggesting then?" Lemien asked.
I had to phrase this delicately. I couldn't have him refuse me now.
"You're Lord Qil'Al's candidate," I said. "I'm sure you have your reasons for joining the Holi Wars, so does my country. What I learned from the encounter between Stalwart and the Church changed everything. How about I tell you who has the Fragment of Lord Minsec? Better yet, how about I deliver her to you?"
"Her?" Lemien asked. "You mean?" Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click for visiting.
I nodded, a large grin showed on my scarred face.
"What's in it for you?" Lemien asked. "You were probably escorting her away from Stalwart when you found yourselves in this predicament."
"I was stealing her from Stalwart," I said. "He probably doesn't care about her anymore. He's got what he needed for the summoning. I need to report to the king. The girl had just become immaterial, to tell you the truth."
"I'm still not sure about this Zedd," Lemien said. "How will you deal with the Children? They must have some way of getting the truth out of you."
"That's where you precious Ofelia comes," I said. "If I defeat her in front of their door, they will welcome me with open arms. They probably didn't save me because the banshee was out to get me anyway."
"Hmmm…" Lemien scratched his beard as he took the information in. "They could banish her, but they never managed to defeat her. That would lower their defenses."
"I'm a great spy," I told the necromancer. "They'll let me in, and I'll find a way of sneaking Zoey out, along with intel on their defenses and the layout of their city."
Lemien still seemed undecided.
"You can control the dead, right?" I asked.
"Then how about this," I leaned forward, all business like. "You teach me how to defeat that banshee of yours. In the meantime you make a small corpse that I can smuggle inside, a mouse would do. You'll have ears and eyes on the inside as well. You'll be sure of my intentions then. And," I added before the necromancer could object, "even if they still suspect me, you'll have your little creature to do the scouting for you."
"That would take some time to prepare," Lemien said.
"There are no rats around here?" I asked.
"There are, in abundance," Lemien answered. "But I need to prepare a link with the corpse that the Children won't sense."
"I can sense Essence," I told him. "I learned a thing or two from my days serving the great Theolonius Stalwart. I may be able to test the links you create."
"I don't think I could've come up with a better pan," Lemien admitted. "Alright then, you have your dinner. I'll go prepare some test subjects."
Lemien rang a bell and a woman in a maid outfit came to the room. She was carrying a silver tray on which different dishes were aligned, all dried meat and fruit though. But I didn't object, I was starving and I didn't have any other choice. I looked at the woman in front of me warily though. Her skin was ghastly white. I didn't like the groans she gave me either.
"I prepare the meals myself," Lemien said. "They only deliver the food."
"Thanks," I said then dug right in.
Lemien left the room to prepare his test subjects while I devoured the food heartily. Oh the sweet taste of sour wine running down my throat! I didn't think I would be this happy about gulping down sour wine and munching on dried meat. But I was, and my body thanked me for it. My head seemed to clear a bit as well.
'What are you playing at?' Eva's voice echoed inside of me.
'What does it look like?' I said. 'I could easily kill him, but what if he had a way to revive himself? I can't be sure unless I know everything about this doctor from Boligne.'
'What happened to you while you slept?' Eva asked. 'You've even closed many of your thoughts. I hardly recognize you.'
'I remembered,' I told the empress as I munched on some dried meat and gulped it down with a large gla.s.s of wine. 'It's a topic for another day. Now we have two pressing matters to discuss.'
'I want to partic.i.p.ate in the Holi Wars. Perhaps Dif has gone silent, but I'll deliver this necromancer to him and get the power of the Fragment back.'
'What about me?'
'I wanted to suggest a fusion. Part of the empress is still in you. I don't know much about her or how she knew so much about Essence and its manipulation. It would help if I could. I'll leave your consciousness alone if I can help it. But I want your power.'
'Why ask for permission?' Eva asked.
'Because I don't want to fight you for it,' I said. 'I don't want to waste my time on fighting useless battles for now. The enemy's Lemien, not you.'
'Very well,' Eva said. 'Your argument's quite reasonable. What do you expect of me?'
'Let me into your s.p.a.ce,' I said. 'I'll learn from you, and perhaps find a way to leave your consciousness intact.'
'You really don't want to a.s.similate the fragment of my soul?'
'I'd rather not,' I answered. 'I'm still struggling to rearrange all my memories. I don't want to add yours to the equation.'
'When do we start then?' Eva asked.
'You agree then?'
'As long as you keep your promise,' she answered. 'I may be but a fragment of my former self, but I'll fight back if provoked.'
'I'll be gentle,' I a.s.sured her. 'We start after I fill my stomach.'
What Eva, and Lemien for that matter, didn't know was that I had a library in my mind too. Remember all the things Dif poured into my poor brain? I was ready to use it all to achieve my own goals. I wouldn't hurt the fragment, but if worse comes to worst, I had to make sure I was ready to fight back.