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Nov 9, 2006

Excerpt from "Portrait of a Pretender"

“You were always a moody one, Othy,” said Forthia. “Even as a child. A stray child, mother called you, last born, when she thought her time for bearing past. You were born the same year Arnthom married Tulthana, and during all the years they tried and failed to conceive a babe of their own, Arnthom would pat you on the head and promise you his throne. It was a blow to you when Drajorian was born. Suddenly you went from heir apparent to being packed off to a lonely school on a distant moor.”

“It was a relief to me, not a burden, to be spared the throne, Forthia,” Othmordian said. “And as for the school, that was my request as well. I wanted to study magic. And I first went when I was thirteen, three years after Drajorian’s birth.”

“Yes,” Forthia said, “I know. After you tried to kill him.”

Othmordian frowned.

“No one told me,” she said. “I have my ways of knowing.”

“So I have discovered,” he said dryly.

“If you were willing to kill your nephew when he was but a toddler, how much more so now that he is almost twenty-five and the only remaining threat to your power?”

“And you think I killed our brother too?” Othmordian asked, his anger barely controlled.

“There is more,” she said.

“Say it then.”

“No one allowed the glamourers to perform an investigation of our brother’s death. Nonetheless, I secretly asked the Head Glamourer of Mangcansten Lodge to report his findings to me. He confirmed that Arnthom was killed by a brink. He also told me about your time as a student at his school, before you were expelled. And why you were expelled.”

Vivid memories flashed across Othmordian’s mind: the drunken smell of paint thinner, the sound of scribs on linen parchment, the giggles in the dark after the proctors extinguished the candles in the boys’ dorm. Most wonderful of all, had been the early mist-filled mornings walking out alone on the moor, with only a sketch pad and a pack of wild dogs for company.

“He told me,” continued Forthia, “That you were a mediocre artist, not a true glamour caster, except in one area. You could draw dogs like no one else, all kinds of dogs. He said that you even inquired into a forbidden area, how to make a certain kind of brink called a Smoke Hound. The Smoke Hound must be drawn with a burning coal. When it is brought to life, the hound moves with a hide of flame and smoke. The artist, however, is left with a burnt hand.”

Forthia held out her palms. “Put your right hand in mine, Orthmordin.”

He did so. His right hand was swathed in bandages.


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