The wandering fire - By Guy Gavriel Kay

Chapter 1

Winter was coming. Last night’s snow hadn’t melted and the bare trees were laced with it. Toronto woke that morning to see itself cloaked and made over in white, and it was only November.

Cutting across Nathan Philips Square in front of the twin curves of the City Hall, Dave Martyniuk walked as carefully as he could and wished he’d worn boots. As he maneuvered toward the restaurant entrance on the far side, he saw with some surprise that the other three were already waiting.

“Dave,” said sharp-eyed Kevin Laine. “A new suit! When did this happen?”

“Hi, everyone,” Dave said. “I got it last week. Can’t wear the same corduroy jackets all year, can I?”

“A deep truth,” said Kevin, grinning. He was wearing jeans and a sheepskin jacket. And boots. Having finished the obligatory apprenticeship with a law firm that Dave had just begun, Kevin was now immersed in the equally tedious if less formal six-month Bar Admission course. “If that is a three-piece suit,” he added, “my image of you is going to be irrevocably shattered.”

Wordlessly, Dave unbuttoned his overcoat to reveal the shattering navy vest beneath.

“Angels and ministers of grace defend us!” Kevin exclaimed, crossing himself with the wrong hand while making the sign against evil with the other. Paul Schafer laughed. “Actually,” Kevin said, “it looks very nice. Why didn’t you buy it in your size?”

“Oh, Kev, give him a break!” Kim Ford said. “It is nice, Dave, and it fits perfectly. Kevin’s feeling scruffy and jealous.”

“I am not,” Kevin protested. “I am simply giving my buddy a hard time. If I can’t tease Dave, who can I tease?”

“It’s okay,” said Dave. “I’m tough, I can take it.” But what he was remembering in that moment was the face of Kevin Laine the spring before, in a room in the Park Plaza Hotel. The face, and the flat, harshly mastered voice in which he’d spoken, looking down at the wreckage of a woman on the floor:

“To this I will make reply although he be a god and it mean my death.”

You gave some latitude, Dave was thinking, to someone who’d sworn an oath like that, even if his style was more than occasionally jarring. You gave latitude because what Kevin had done that evening was give voice, and not for the only time, to the mute rage in one’s own heart.

“All right,” said Kim Ford softly, and Dave knew that she was responding to his thought and not his flippant words. Which would have been unsettling, were she not who she was, with her white hair, the green bracelet on her wrist, and the red ring on her finger that had blazed to bring them home. “Let’s go in,” Kim said. “We’ve things to talk about.”

Paul Schafer, the Twiceborn, had already turned to lead them through the door.

How many shadings, Kevin was thinking, are there to helplessness? He remembered the feeling from the year before, watching Paul twist inward on himself in the months after Rachel Kincaid had died. A bad time, that was. But Paul had come out of it, had gone so far in three nights on the Summer Tree in Fionavar that he was beyond understanding in the most important ways. He was healed, though, and Kevin held to that as a gift from Fionavar, some recompense for what had been done to Jennifer by the god named Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller. Though recompense was hardly the word; there was no true compensation to be found in this or any other world, only the hope of retribution, a flame so faint, despite what he had sworn, it scarcely burned. What were any of them against a god? Even Kim, with her Sight, even Paul, even Dave, who had changed among the Dalrei on the Plain and had found a horn in Pendaran Wood.

And who was he, Kevin Laine, to swear an oath of revenge? It all seemed so pathetic, so ridiculous, especially here, eating fillet of sole in the Mackenzie King Dining Room, amid the clink of cutlery and the lunchtime talk of lawyers and civil servants.

“Well?” said Paul, in a tone that made their setting instantly irrelevant. He was looking at Kim. “Have you seen anything?”

“Stop that,” she said. “Stop pushing. If anything happens I’ll tell you. Do you want it in writing?”

“Easy, Kim,” Kevin said. “You have to understand how ignorant we feel. You’re our only link.”

“Well, I’m not linked to anything now, and that’s all there is to it. There’s a place I

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