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Authors: Margaret Weis

Ghost Legion

BOOK: Ghost Legion
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Ghost Legion

Star of the Guardians, Book 4

Margaret Weis

To all who love.

And have been loved.

Book One

But say I could repent, and could obtain,

By act of grace, my former state; how soon

Would height recall high thoughts, how soon unsay What feigned
submission swore; ease would recant Vows made in pain, as violent and
void—

For never can true reconcilement grow

Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep—

Which would but lead me to a worse relapse

And heavier fall . . .

John Milton,
Paradise Lost

The king and his people are like the head and the body. Where the
head is infirm, the body is infirm. Where a virtuous king does not
rule, the people are unsound and lack good morals.

John Gower,
The Major Latin Works of John Gower

Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls,

Our debts, our careful wives,

Our children and our sins lay on the king!

We must bear all, O hard condition,

Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath Of every fool,
whose sense no more can feel

But his own wringing! What infinite heart's-ease Must kings
neglect, that private men enjoy!

William Shakespeare
,

King Henry V,
Act IV, Scene i

Chapter One

... is there no place

Left for repentance, none for pardon left?

John Milton,
Paradise Lost

The monk's cell was dark and chill, small and narrow. Walls, ceiling,
and floor were made of stone. It held a crude bed, a desk, a chair,
and a small altar for personal use when the bells roused the brethren
from their slumbers, called them to matins—midnight prayers.

The service had long ago been said. It was only an hour before
dawning, during that restless part of sleep when dreams come most
vividly, most terribly.

The sleeper in the crude bed was obviously entering into the shadowed
world of one of these dreams. He stirred on his pillow, moving his
head from side to side like a blind man, groping through his endless
darkness. He stretched forth one hand suddenly, the right hand, and
grasped an object that was not there, except for him, in the dream.
His fingers closed over it, as they would close over the hilt on a
sword. An expression of pain contorted his face. He groaned and
caught his breath.

The one who watched over his sleep sighed and shifted restlessly in
the chair on which she sat. She reached out a hand to waken him,
checked herself. She would have wept for him—wept in pity and
frustration—but for two things: the knowledge that her tears
would irritate him and the fact that the dead are not permitted the
comfort of tears, just as they are not permitted the comfort of a
touch.

She could only sigh again and settle back in the chair that she
occupied by instinct rather than by need, for she no longer possessed
a body whose needs and aches and pains had to be considered. Her
spirit could have floated upon the air, with less substance than the
smoke of the flickering flame dancing upon the oil of the altar's
small incense burner. She preferred to sit in the chair. It was an
action of the living and it seemed to make her one again with the
world of the living.

Night after night, she had occupied that chair. Night after night,
she'd watched over his sleep, guarded it—except that she made a
poor guard, for she could not drive away the dreams that tormented
him by night, just as she could not comfort him for the regret that
tormented him by day. But her anger intensified as she watched his
suffering this night. She bit her lip and frowned and appeared to
make up her mind to some action, for she rose to her feet and was
taking a step toward the door of the cell when suddenly the sleeper
sat upright, his eyes open, wide, and staring, a hoarse cry in his
throat.

Startled, afraid at first that he'd seen her, Maigrey stumbled
backward through the chair, the desk, into the corner of the cell.
Then she realized he wasn't awake; nor was he staring at her, but at
something beyond her. Something in the dream.

He sat on the edge of his bed. He wore the habit of his calling even
when asleep; the cell was cold and the cassock and a loosely woven
shabby blanket were all he had to protect himself against the dank
chill. He dragged off the blanket, threw it to the floor, and stood
up.

He raised the unseen weapon in either defense or salute—
Maigrey could not be certain—and he spoke words that held some
meaning to him, apparently, but which she couldn't make out.

She crept forward, out of her dark corner, instinct drawing her to
his side, as she had gone to his side during countless battles faced
together in their lifetime. Pity burned in her, pity and anger and
frustration. She was tempted to thwart the prohibition that had been
placed upon her, tempted to break the covenant she had made and speak
to him.

She was close, so close to him, yet she knew the bitter pain of never
being able to get close enough. His mortal flesh stood like a prison
door, barring her entry. But their spirits had been closer than most;
the mind-link that bound them together in life had not, apparently,
been shattered, even by death.

Maigrey felt a jolt surge through her, a spark that arced from him to
her, and she was sharing the vision, the dream ... the reality. But
she understood instantly what she saw and heard. He did not, and
there was no way she could warn him.

He spoke again and stretched out his left hand.

The action woke him up. He was confused at first; confused and
alarmed, and he fell back in an instinctive defensive posture, sword
hand raised. It was then, by the feeble flame burning on the dish of
oil, that he saw where he was, saw that the right hand holding the
weapon was, in reality, empty.

Sagan straightened and frowned and looked around. His frown grew
deeper, darker. He raised his right hand to wipe the cold sweat "from
his face, caught a glimpse of the palm in the shadowy light. His eyes
widened; he stared in disbelief. Falling to his knees before the
altar, he held his hand to the light of the flame.

Maigrey, looking to see, shook her head, whispered in soft anger,
"No! How could You? This is not fair!"

On Sagan's right hand—five scars. Five scars of five puncture
wounds made by the needles of the bloodsword—the weapon of the
Blood Royal.

Three years had passed since Derek Sagan had been constrained by
Abdiel to throw the bloodsword into a lake of water and of flame.
Three years had passed since he had put his hand to that weapon. The
palm was callused, roughened by the hard physical labor he'd endured
since, smoothed by being pressed together in hour upon hour of
passionate, desperate prayer. The scars had all but disappeared—from
his hand, if not his soul.

But by the fire's light, this night, the scars were fresh, as if he'd
just now released the bloodsword. A clear liquid, streaked with red,
oozed from the wounds.

Sagan stared, disbelieving, pondering. Then he clenched his fist over
the scars. He returned to his bed, lay facing the wall, his face grim
and hard as the stone.

And, though he did not know it, he was now alone. The silent guardian
of his sleep had left him.

The radiant personage strode through the vast and echoing hallways of
white marble and gold. Intent, earnest, all thoughts bent on the
errand, the personage was only gradually aware of a shadow across the
path. The radiant being turned eyes outward, instead of inward, and
the shadow took on form and substance, took on the semblance of the
living being it had once been, became a thin human male clad in faded
blue denim jeans and a blue denim work shirt. The man was tall and
stooped, his face pleasant and careworn and sad.

"Child of God," said the radiant personage.

"Platus," the man gave his name, with a quiet but dignified
inclination of the head.

"What may I do for you, Platus?" asked the radiant being.

"If ... if I could talk to her," Platus suggested softly.

"Do you think it would do any good?" the personage asked
after a moment's serious consideration.

"I understand her," said Platus. "I believe I can
reason with her."

"I don't know, my son," said the radiant being doubtfully.
"Much is at stake."

"Yes ... yes, I know. If I could just try ..."

The radiant personage gave the matter thought, then indicated
approval. "Perhaps it would be best. Go, then, and may His
blessing go with you."

Platus accepted the task and the blessing and continued on the way
which the radiant personage would have taken, the radiant being
turning aside to tend to other duties.

The martial tread of booted feet and the faint metallic jingle of
armor echoed disturbingly through the peaceful vaults. Platus made
his way toward the sound, walking slowly, taking his time. He could
have reached his destination with the swiftness of a thought, for he
was not bound by constraints of time or place or distance. But as his
thoughts themselves were lumbering and slow-paced, so he matched his
speed to them. Platus was far from being as assured as he'd assured
the radiant being.

When he had, at least, some vague outline of his arguments readied,
Platus drew near the echoing footfalls. He came upon Maigrey, pacing
the empty halls, which were empty to her only because she refused to
populate them. Every line of her body was expressive of anger,
defiance.

She wore in death the silver armor she'd worn in life. Her right hand
rested on the hilt of the bloodsword strapped at her waist. The long,
pale hair flowed over her shoulders, drifted around her in the air
she still breathed, air she created.

Aware of another presence, she turned on her heel, advanced on him,
her face stern with resolve. But she had obviously expected someone
else.

Seeing only her brother, Maigrey paused; a momentary confusion
checked her swift steps. The hesitation passed swiftly, however. She
continued on, the warlike sound of her clicking heels jarring Platus,
seeming to jar the very stars.

"So, they sent you," she said.

"I offered to come," he returned mildly.

This answer was nonplussing, to judge by the fact that she was silent
a moment, inwardly struggling.

"I want to know why they are tormenting him like this," she
demanded at last.

"Maigrey, it is not our place to question—"

"It is!" she flared. "He doesn't need to be involved!
He was at peace. . .."

"Was he, Maigrey?" Platus asked quietly.

She raged on. "I see their intent. Not satisfied that they have
brought him low, humbled and crushed him, they want to destroy him."

"Maigrey, that's not true—"

"You probably approve of it!" she accused him bitterly.

"It isn't my place to approve or disapprove," Platus said,
uncomfortable. "And it isn't their intent to hurt him. He hurts
himself. . . ." He paused, began again. "Maigrey, what is
done is done because of the failings of mortal men."

"Do you approve?"

"I am afraid," Platus said after a moment. "Afraid for
Dion. If Sagan ..." He fell silent.

"If Sagan falls, you were going to say. You don't trust him!"

Platus smiled sadly. "It is difficult to trust one's killer,
sister."

Maigrey glared at him, as at an opponent who takes advantage of a
misstep and thrusts the sword point home. Turning away in disgust,
she began to pace again. "I want to talk to someone else."

Platus checked a sigh. "They are displeased...."

"They don't trust me either, I suppose."

"You came very close to breaking your covenant with God this
time, Maigrey," he told her gently.

She halted, stood a moment, her head bowed. Then, lifting her gaze,
she looked earnestly at her brother. "If you could see Sagan,
Platus! If you could see how he suffers! Why don't they hear his
prayers? Why don't they grant him the peace he's earned and longs
for—"

"They
have
heard his prayers, Maigrey. Words of
repentance come from his lips, but not his heart. Sagan is filled
with rage and resentment, doubts and questioning. He did not enter
the church humbly, baring his bleeding soul to the healing light. He
skulked into the church like a hurt animal, using it as a place to
hide and lick his cuts. And consequently, the wounds have not healed,
but fester and pain him still."

"And whose fault is that?" Maigrey cried. "When he
asked for forgiveness was there an answer? No, only silence."
She resumed her distraught pacing. "As for the covenant I made.
I
will
break it. I must. That's what I came to tell them."
She paused. "Though I don't consider it truly broken, for I
don't consider it truly made. It was a trick, a trick meant to keep
me from helping Sagan. They only want their revenge, they want to see
him suffer—"

BOOK: Ghost Legion
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