"You rescue my son. Not without exposing him to Jayadevii. You lose the artefact that seekers and claimants will fight over for long months. May I pour you some wine?" the Lady Anjanaa of Lalla's court—and a mage of the Zhentarim—offered in the richly appointed sitting-room of her home, her son safely by her robes. Like her son she was green-eyed and light brown in complexion; her face was long and angular and her long hair bound in a loose braid.

"No, b-but...t-thank you," Khalid managed. He raised his splinted right hand awkwardly to refuse.

"You are of the past and Prince Lalla is of the future," she said. "He is for trade. He selects that which grants the best for Durpar. The borders will open and our commerce will bear fruit from the highest reaches of barbarian north to Maztica and Chult."

"The offers of the Zhentarim poison those who take them over time," Khalid said.

She raised a hand flowing with a draped silken sleeve. "And who is to calculate that? I am a mage and I know the new ways will come. There are those among us who serve nothing but the international brotherhood of magery; my husband was one such. Is there any who makes advances as well known to others as Manshoon?"

Khalid did not mention the Chosen of Mystra of their own organisation; he was convinced that the goddess intended to work in mysterious ways, but to a mage always wanting to know what was next it was not an excuse. "Manshoon does w-wicked things with his abilities," he said, in as courteous a tone as he could.

"At least he does not conceal them like a snail who does not care to know of a world beyond its shell," the lady said. "I see I shall not convince you of realities; it is immaterial that you be convinced. And do not bother yourself about adults' talk, my son." She laid a hand on his shoulder and the child tried to stop himself from interrupting.

He lost the fight with himself and burst out in another bright round of speech. "I don't want to have to say goodbye! I saw all the colours with you, Khalid, and the mirrors and the stones and the strange houses and the whale-swallowing-words and dragons with funny feet! I don't see why you can't stay here with the little woman and meet Face-In-The-Glass-Bookshelf and Walking-The-Walls properly. There're threads around you, good threads, all brown and green and gold like the eyes inside water-lilies." He went so easily to exuberance; Khalid ruffled the curls on his head.

"Come back. Be quiet," his mother said, and he retreated again to her side. She watched Khalid. "He is defective. You will tell nobody of it—" She looked down at her son, who hung his head and inched closer to her side. "How many times must I tell you, poor moonstruck boy? You are to stay; you are to be quiet when I teach you; you are not to run around like a crazed piglet. This time you will obey me and close your mouth while I speak."


"Nobody s-should say such things of any child!" Khalid burst out. Memories of his father sprung too quickly to his mind, but he wanted to defend. "It would not matter if he was—and he did much—nobody is defective!"

The mage drew herself to her full height. Her features grew stone cold and her eyes a very light and pale green. "I would not dare to say such things if I were you. A Harper has no place to criticise how I will raise my son..."

The boy drew back and stared at Khalid with a sudden shock and betrayal. "Harper? Harpers murdered my father! They did!"

In the course of their duty they had to kill. Khalid felt the irreparable break of a childish trust. He had slain Zhents and though it would not have been Anjanaa's husband it did not matter. "I am...sorry," was all he could say.

"You may go," Anjanaa said to her son. She bent down and kissed the top of his head, while he did not look at Khalid at all. She straightened and gave her enemy a last frosty look.

"You know nothing," she said, and for that moment seemed tired as Lalla. "My son's mind is touched but he is mageborn by blood. If I were gone or slain then there are those in my own organisation who would think of him as only a toy to use, and break his mind until only his magery remained in service to them. I have enemies within as well as without...and while I live I will protect him." For a moment her eyes stared past Khalid as if she searched for a diviner's vision, but whatever she saw she kept inside herself.

"I m-may be reassigned in the near future," Khalid said.

"Then may your replacement be incompetent," Anjanaa said. "My construct shall see you out."

Khalid was ushered through the rich halls of the lonely mansion by an eyeless summoned form. Again he stepped into the Durparan streets in warm sunlight. Thick flowering trees and green grasses bloomed by this corner of the city, and the golden dome of Saiva's temple still stood in place, marked by living men making repairs. Smells of saffron and new incense filled the air and the shouts of children playing in the streets echoed in his ears. He walked by the same fountain and growing plants as before, hearing games and gossip while many pennants of different colours and devices flew in the city air, and he turned his mind to his home by Jaheira's side.

I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds - J. Robert Oppenheimer

Thou seest Me as Time who Kills, Time who brings all to doom - Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita.