Lord Ravenglass stood by the arched window of his chamber, looking out over the roofs of the city. The pale towers of the palace gleamed in the sunset, but dusk was gently settling on the rest of the city below. He watched the shadows deepen, thinking about the piece of deep amber he’d so nearly had in his grasp. He could see it in his mind’s eye – the glowing, orange-brown teardrop with its ornate clasp of bronze leaves.
Maybe he should just have killed the girl, he thought, absently fingering his lace cuffs. Once she’d given him the earth amber, he could have blasted her and her brother to little heaps of dust on the floor of the palace cellars. Then they wouldn’t have had a chance to steal it back and disappear.
He sighed. He would have done it, left to himself. He would happily have reduced the two meddling children to nothingness. But Lukos had turned out to be right, as usual. Letting them live, even letting them escape, was going to reap a much larger reward than killing them.
Ravenglass thought about the first time he’d met Lukos. He’d been a mere boy, exploring the palace cellars. Deep in a forgotten corner he’d found an invisible barrier and a man imprisoned behind it in silver chains. Locked up, his very name erased from memory, for being too adventurous, too ambitious. I can see you’re the same, boy, he’d said. We’re alike, you and me. You’ve got power and the will to use it. You’re not like most of the useless milk-sops who find me.
Lord Ravenglass stroked his chin and smiled, remembering. He’d felt special, Lukos’s favourite; the boy who wasn’t afraid to question, to experiment. And Lukos had taught him so much. The dark magic of the crow karls. The truth about the forest and the Great Tree and the so-called worlds of light. The way the forest folk had tricked and stolen the worlds from the creatures of darkness. Ravenglass knew now that Lukos was the half-brother of the ancient king, Bruni. The king had betrayed Lukos, imprisoned him in a world of ice and snow, and destroyed his followers. Now Ravenglass would be the one to release him, overthrow the forest and destroy all the current worlds of light. Then he would rule over a new realm, with Lukos to advise him and guide him, like a good uncle should. And to teach him the magic of immortality…
There was a noise near the door and Ravenglass turned, his eyebrows raised. Two tall, thin men in black suits stood at the entrance to the chambers.
“My lord,” said the first, in a dry, rasping voice.
“Mr Jones,” said Lord Ravenglass coldly. “Mr Smith.”
“We have located the ship that carries the sea amber, and we are making ready to set sail. Preparations will be completed tomorrow.”
. “Good,” said Lord Ravenglass. “This almost makes up for your incompetence in Ur-Akkad. And a portal key for Wemworthy?”
Mr Jones held out a small chip of dark metal. “From a lamp-post,” he said. “At the end of the road.”
Lord Ravenglass took the metal and slipped it into his pocket, waving Smith and Jones away with his other hand. He turned back to the window, peering at the fading light. The spell Lukos had told him to put on the boy Simon would be starting to work just about now. It would be creeping into Simon’s mind, rearranging his thoughts, persuading him that the man Simon had seen trapped in the ice cave was not Lukos, Lord of Wolves, but Gwyn Arnold, his own father. Making him think that the best way to help his father was to return to the kingdom, to Lord Ravenglass, and that above all he had to bring the pieces of deep amber – the earth amber his sister Catrin possessed, and the fire amber that the forest agents had snatched before Smith and Jones could get to it.
Lord Ravenglass rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window and smiled. Soon, he thought. Soon.