Fantasy. Edward formally becomes the Duke of Solaris and confers with Alain and his party, Alain sees a sign of an ancient evil awakening in the world, and Salak the Dark Elf demonstrates that he is just as dangerous as ever. With fellow Triond author Jack Shepherd.

“You do know that the colors are symbolic, don’t you?” Basil went on more seriously. “They represent House Solaris and the rule of the Sun over Sept-Ternia, no more, no less. Allowing any other colors in the garden would symbolize some outside interference with that natural order.”

“Then what are those purple flowers doing over there?” Ariel asked, pointing to where some were blooming amidst the expected yellows and whites on a waist-high bush.

“Good question,” said Alain, and from the way he strode over to the bush, everyone else guessed that there was more going on than met the eye. When they drew near, Alain showed them how a slender vine had sprung up from the ground and intertwined itself in the branches of the bush.

“This flower hasn’t been seen on Sept-Ternia for hundreds of years,” said Alain gravely. He looked at it as if it were a purple viper ready to strike.

“Is it poisonous?” asked Ariel, stepping back a pace as she did.

“It makes a thoroughly nasty tea, one of the better ways of killing yourself swiftly,” Alain replied. “Of course, the way it tastes makes you wish you were dead, all by itself.”

“How do you know?”

“Some innkeeper in someone else’s pay tried to kill me with it, substituting it for my tea without my knowledge. No one told him that Lightchildren can’t be poisoned; I made sure that he learned. But Basil’s right: it’s what it symbolizes that’s the real danger. I remember it all too clearly: fields and meadows and whole forests infested with this plant, as vines creeping on the ground, in bushes and all over trees, as the power that nourished it spread in the world.”

“Then what are you saying?” said Basil. Autumn, from the look on her face, had already guessed.

“Ancient and profoundly evil powers, once banished, are making a slow return. Probably this flower’s appearing in isolated spots, so far, wherever ambitious people are gathering and plotting. They’re not causing this particular evil, but that evil seeks out divisions among mortal men and exploits them. If we see this flower taking root even in Solaris, I can only guess at what Highridge might be finding among the weeds by now.”

“Do you see Alain’s point of view now?” Autumn asked Ariel. “We don’t hold to superstition, we Lightchildren, but this is an omen. For us to leave you here in Solaris would only postpone the inevitable. Mortal Adamim are plotting here already, and some evil other than theirs is stirring too – and husband, you’d better tell me more about that evil later.”

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