Gilvelle Marser stared in irritation at the man who sat across from him, wondering what his father would have thought of his situation. He was quite sure Tarell Marser had never had to deal with a role like this. Diplomat to the foreign stoneworkers was no job for Dargon’s master architect, but Gilvelle had his orders from the duke. The strangeness of these stoneworkers, the Doravin, didn’t help the situation. This one had just said something unintelligible. Gilvelle was anticipating a very long day. The throbbing pain in his head, centered behind his left eye, wasn’t going to help. He made a mental note to have one less goblet of wine after dinner that night.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand you.” Gilvelle tried very hard not to grit his teeth as he spoke. There was no telling what that might mean to a Doravin.
“You must do barners move from chaos mud land,” Na Chok repeated.
Gilvelle sighed and put his hand to his temple, as the throbbing grew worse. The only thing stranger than the Doravin’s garb, layers of intricately decorated stone plates, was what sometimes came out of their mouths. This Doravin was worse than usual. One of their customs was fill the role Na Chok with a different Doravin each day. Chok was “one who must speak to strangers” in their language. Na meant something like “the” or “today’s”, but not exactly. He’d tried asking for yesterday’s Chok and yesterday’s Na Chok, but the words didn’t seem to make sense to the Doravin. To them, there was only Na Chok.
Gil sighed again and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry; you want me to do what?”
“You do Bar-a-nurs move from chaos mud land,” Na Chok said, more slowly, annunciating every syllable.
At least Gilvelle had been able to pick up “Baranurs” this time, even with the accent on the wrong syllable. He supposed Na Chok meant Baranurians. He decided to leave “chaos mud land” alone for a moment, and focus on the first part. Did Na Chok mean “make” instead of “do”?
“You want me to make Baranurians move from somewhere?”
“Yes! From chaos mud land.” The Na Chok’s voice was clipped, and his eyes flashed with irritation.
Gilvelle remembered the Doravin considered chaos to be a very bad thing. “Are they in danger? I’m sorry, I just don’t know where or what that is. Can you show me?”
Na Chok stared in apparent anger, but then he rose and motioned to the circular opening of the tent in which the two men had been seated. Gilvelle rose and both men exited the dome-like structure. Gilvelle almost cried out as the bright sunlight stabbed into his eyes, bringing fresh pain and a wave of nausea. Thinking that one less goblet of wine might not be enough, he shaded his eyes and followed Na Chok, watching the ground and listening to the clack-clack of the stone plates the man wore.
It was easy at first, but the Doravin headed through the bustling camp of his people, moving much faster than a man in stone clothing had a right to move. Gilvelle was quickly surrounded by the clacking plates of similarly clothed men and women. Many carried heavy stoneworking tools, and heaps of mixed earth and loose stone. Finally, he had to look up and brave the sunlight. He was just in time to see Na Chok heading for the far side of the camp.
The Doravin man crossed the Street of Travellers, which formed one boundary of the foreigners’ camp. To the left was where the base of the former causeway had stood. An accident had severely damaged it, and the Doravin had finished the destruction against Gilvelle’s wishes. To the right, the Street of Travellers continued in a long arc to the entrance of the New City. The New City was the bustling, low-walled portion of Dargon that sat on the north bank of the Coldwell, in stark contrast to the Old City on the opposite banks, with its massive, ancient stone walls and the triple towers of Dargon Keep looking down on it from Coldwell Height. Na Chok stopped and fixed his gaze on the stretch of land between the low wall surrounding the New City and the Street of Travellers, bound to the south by the Coldwell River. Looking at the fetid marshy land dotted with stunted trees and ramshackle buildings, Gilvelle realized what the chaos mud land was and wondered why he hadn’t guessed earlier. He supposed it was because, like most Dargon residents he tried to ignore it.
Gilvelle pointed toward the stretch of swamp. “You mean this, don’t you?”
Na Chok threw his arms wide, which Gilvelle had learned meant “yes” to the Doravin.
“We call this Pickett’s Let,” Gilvelle said, as he closed the distance to Na Chok. “You need me to get the people who live there to move? Why?”
Na Chok paused before replying. Had his eyes actually rolled at Gilvelle’s question? Then he spoke a single word as if it explained it all. “Nadla.”
Gilvelle waited, but when no more information seemed forthcoming he said, “What’s nadla?”
Now he was sure Na Chok had rolled his eyes. Then the man stalked back across the road and pointed to one of the heaps of earth and rock. “Nadla. Bridge will do much nadla. Nadla is chaos, but can take away chaos. Cha– Pick-ett Let,” Na Chok spoke the syllables very carefully, “has most chaos. Doravin to fill with nadla.”
Gilvelle looked back at the expanse of swamp, “Fill it? How much dirt — how much nadla are you planning to dig up?”
“For bridge,” Na Chok replied. His tone seemed to imply the answer was obvious.
“Well, find a place in there where no one is living to dump your nadla. I can’t make those people move.”
Gilvelle opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it. He’d been working with the Doravin long enough to know there was no point in arguing with them once those two magic words had been uttered. “Straight. I will talk to the duke. Is there anything else you need?”
“Yes. Doravin to use other rock place.”
This puzzled Gilvelle for a moment. He knew the Doravin called the quarry a “rock place” — in fact, he had escorted another Na Chok and a small group of Doravin there — but what could the “other rock place” be? Then he remembered the hot summer afternoons he had spent swimming after his father had released him from his duties for the day.
“You mean the old quarry? The place up in the hills?” He pointed in the general direction, and Na Chok spread his arms wide. “That place is flooded; it has been for decades.”
“What means ‘flooded’?”
“Water. It’s full of water. There’s no way to get the stone out.”
Na Chok rolled his eyes again. “Doravin to remove water.”
“You’re going to –?” Gilvelle stopped himself. He’d heard tales of how a former quarry master had tried to drain the old quarry after it had flooded. The Doravin were welcome to try, he supposed. “Straight. I’ll talk to the duke about that, as well.”
“Good. We are done talking, Arky Teck.” Na Chok turned and left.
Simultaneously annoyed at the abruptness of Na Chok’s departure and relieved to be done with the man, Gilvelle set about going to Dargon Keep. This was something that had been much easier before the Doravin destroyed what was left of the causeway.
It was a long trek from the Doravin encampment to the nearest ferry dock. Shortly after the causeway disaster, a dock had been set up just off the Street of Travellers on either side of the ruined bridge, but the Doravin’s work had so disrupted traffic on the north bank the ferry dock there had quickly fallen into disuse. So, Gilvelle made the trip back up the Street of Travellers and through the busy streets of the New City. He reached the dock just as a small crowd and several carts were boarding a ferry. When the ferry master extended his hand for payment, Gilvelle flashed the duke’s sigil. The man grumbled but allowed him to board.
Once across, he was able to borrow a horse from a guardsman stationed at the dock. He had become well known among the Town Guard since the causeway’s original collapse. He looked for one guard in particular — a woman named Celia — whom he hadn’t seen since the day the Doravin finished the destruction of the causeway, but she was not among the small group on duty there.
It was a quick ride to the keep along a road bereft of people. With no bridge across the river, there was little traffic between the Old City and the New. Apart from the occasional brave — or foolish — swimmer, all river crossings were done by the ferries, which were expensive and occasionally capsized. There were fewer travellers to Dargon as well. With the bridge down, people were finding ways to cross the Coldwell further south. Gilvelle left the horse at the stables, sent a messenger to request time with the duke, and went to his own small office in the keep to await the duke’s reply. He had time to wash off the dirt from the road, and change his clothes before the messenger returned. Refreshed, Gilvelle went to the duke’s audience chamber to wait until Clifton had time to see him.
Clifton entered the audience chamber almost a bell later, trailed by a page and a scribe. Gilvelle rose in greeting. He found his eyes drawn to the left sleeve of Clifton’s doublet, which was pinned up to the elbow. It had been five years, but Gilvelle still hadn’t gotten used to Clifton’s missing arm. He tore his gaze away.
“Hello, Gil,” the duke said, “I heard you needed to speak to me. Have you come to deliver a report in person? I haven’t seen one come across my desk in over a sennight.” Clifton’s smile was pleasant, his tone less so.
Gilvelle’s cheeks began to redden. Had it been that long since his last report to the duke? He quickly composed himself, trying not to stammer his reply. “Yes, my lord. It’s the Doravin.” Of course, it was the Doravin. What else would it be? “They want to drain the old quarry and start using it –”
“Hm. Well, I’m sure if they can figure out how to drain it, Aidona won’t object. It’s just sitting idle now. The people who go there to swim might feel otherwise. But you didn’t need to come to me for that, Gil.”
“No, my lord.” Gilvelle felt the flush creeping to his forehead and his palms began to sweat. He’d chosen to make the simpler of the two requests first, but managed to make himself look foolish. He rushed into the second request. “They want us to evacuate Pickett’s Let.”
Clifton’s mouth fell open for a moment, just as Gilvelle imagined his own had once he’d figured out what Na Chok meant. “Did they say why?”
“They intend to fill it in, my lord.” When Clifton motioned for him to continue, Gilvelle recounted his discussion with Na Chok, ending when the Doravin had said “no bridge”.
“So, it was really more of a demand, than a request?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I see. And if we take the project away from them, would you be able to finish it?”
Gilvelle’s heart leapt for a moment, but then plummeted. “My lord, it could be done, but now the Doravin have toppled what was left of the causeway, I fear it would take years. Much longer than the Doravin have promised, although –”
Clifton held up a hand, forestalling Gilvelle’s objection. The two men had been through this discussion several times. Gilvelle still stung from how he felt the Doravin had misled and distracted him while they prepared to collapse the damaged causeway, although even he had to admit to himself it could have just been miscommunication. What stung worse was the faith his duke had placed in these strange foreigners over him.
“We have no choice,” the duke said, “if we want the Doravin to continue work. I’ll send a message to Captain Koren about evacuating Pickett’s Let. I don’t envy him the task.”
“Nor I, my lord.” Once called Pickett’s Inlet, the Let had been the dwelling place of the original settlers of Dargon. It had become a swamp after being choked with trash and debris, and was now home to the lowest of the low, huddled together in shacks built from whatever scrap wood they could find.
“You know them better than anyone, Gil. Why do you think they want to fill in Pickett’s Let?”
“It’s hard to say, my lord.” It was even harder not to say it was because they were mad, or just enjoying making his life miserable, but Gil swept those thoughts aside and tried to answer. “They’re all very passionate about order over chaos. It could be the Let is the most chaotic thing in sight and they can’t bear to look at it. Or maybe they have designs on the land.”
“They’d be welcome to it, if they can restore the causeway. It’s not like anyone in there actually owns the land they are using.”
“There’s the Longshoremen’s Guild hall.”
Clifton actually smiled at this. “Gil, have you ever wondered why the longshoremen would have their guild hall so far from the docks?”
“I, um… no, my lord.” As architect, he rarely had dealings with them.
“It must be the hardest place in Dargon for me to keep an eye on, if that helps. I doubt there’s much longshoreman business conducted there, or even many longshoremen present. It might just be a good opportunity to level the place. Do you think the Doravin will want to take care of that?”
“I’m sure they’d be delighted, my lord. They aren’t much for sharp corners.”
“Ah, that explains a few things. I’ve seen their village.”
Gil was thinking about Captain Koren, not only having to clear the squatters out of the Let, but having to pry the longshoremen — or whoever was really in there — out of their little stronghold. He almost missed the next thing Clifton said.
“I’m going to need your leadership on this.”
“Mine? But what –?”
“Someone has to figure out where those people in Pickett’s Let are going to live, master architect.”
Gilvelle was very busy over the next several days, finding a location to build new homes for the people of Pickett’s Let, developing plans, and obtaining materials. He did need to speak with the Doravin about the building materials but they were surprisingly cooperative, offering him leftover blocks of stone from the remains of the former causeway. They even agreed to help transport the stone once he selected a site. It was enough stone to get started; he knew he would need to acquire more from the quarry master, and soon.
Gilvelle assumed they were glad to have him out of their way. He shared the feeling; anything was better than spending the day trying to talk to the latest Na Chok. At least they got to rotate the role of “one who must talk to strangers”. Gilvelle had been the duke’s Na Chok for fortnights without rest, having to work with the people who took away his legacy. Was it any wonder he took an extra drink or two in the evenings?
Selection of a building site also proved easier than Gilvelle expected. There were several fallow fields along the Street of Travellers as it approached the New City, north of the Doravin village. The fields were rough and rock-strewn, not very suitable for farming although there was evidence of vain attempts in the past, including the remains of a ruined plow that stood testament to some farmer’s stubbornness.
Gilvelle even began to warm to the idea of the project. He wasn’t rebuilding the causeway, or designing a grand edifice, but he was going to improve the lives of those who dwelled in Pickett’s Let, and his work would be visible to everyone who travelled by land between the old city and the new. Perhaps that would be enough to satisfy his ancestors, or at least his own yearning to leave his mark on Dargon.
He was in good spirits when he arrived at the office of the quarry master, Aidona Callin. She was not the easiest person to work with — she and Gilvelle’s father had fought like mating shivarees half of the time — but she was a genius at running the quarry. Gilvelle’s memories of her stretched back to his childhood when he had been following at his father’s boot heels to learn the role of master architect. Gilvelle had always tried, and mostly succeeded, to stay on her good side. That was why he was taken aback when she glared at him as he entered.
“You owe me an explanation.” Her tone was icy.
“I – what?” he stammered.
“What?” She sighed, and waived a piece of parchment at him. “This.” A broken wax seal still clung to it, and the duke’s signature stood out at the bottom.
“I don’t understand. I thought –”
“No, it’s clear to me you didn’t think. What right do you have talking to the duke about quarry business? How dare you take this to him without consulting me?”
“I’m sorry, Aidona. I didn’t think you’d care which quarry the Doravin used –”
“It doesn’t matter what you think! You’ve overstepped your bounds. Your father knew his place, and it wasn’t trying to run the quarries. You need to learn yours.”
This was too much for Gil. It was one thing to be scolded for not consulting Aidona. “‘Knew his place?’ What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t report to you, and neither did my father.”
“Nor do I report to you, young *master* architect. You Marsers have ever been the same, treating me — my family — as underlings. ‘Just do as you’re told,’ one said. Hah! You don’t get to tell me how to run things. Duke Sumner Dargon granted me the role of quarry master after the Great Houses War, the same as you, and Sumner didn’t give any Marser mastery over me!
“Now the Doravin come, and think they’re going to decide where they get their stone. And you, their little messenger boy, go running off to the duke, leaving me stuck with this!” She slammed the page onto her desk.
Gilvelle glanced at the paper for a moment, but now his ire was up. “Duke Sumner Dargon didn’t grant either of us anything, Aidona! That was our ancestors, over a century ago!”
The quarry master simply glared, red spots appearing on her cheeks.
Gil pushed on in the face of her anger. “It’s Clifton Dargon who has work for us now. Besides, you’ve always let the Marsers, first my father and now me, speak to the duke on your behalf.”
“I let you carry my messages, not make my decisions,” she hissed.
“Aren’t you overreacting a bit? The old quarry is flooded. What difference does it make –?”
“The difference is it’s supposed to be my decision where the stone in this city comes from. I decide, and I supply it. Not you and not some stone-wearing freaks! Because of you, I’m stuck with this order from the duke, and it’s your fault. Now get out!”
Gilvelle almost left, but then remembered why he’d come. “Aidona, I need some stone.”
“You need?” The corners of her mouth curled up. “Submit your request to me in writing, master architect. And it had better be very specific.”
Gilvelle bit back a caustic comment, remembering the image of fighting shivarees. “It will be,” he said, and turned on his heel to leave. He wanted — no, needed — a drink.
Over the next few sennights, Gilvelle devoted himself to preparing the new site, wanting to complete as many of the new homes as possible before winter set in. Aidona, despite her anger with him, ensured the stone he needed each day arrived and met his specifications. Gilvelle didn’t know whether it was fear of his going to the duke again, or her own professionalism that caused it; he was just happy not to have to face the woman again.
Gilvelle’s sense of urgency was due to the Doravin’s intent to continue work through the winter. They seemed undaunted by the prospect of snow and ice, and intended to have a significant amount of nadla to put in Pickett’s Let, so it was important for Gilvelle to get as many of the residents removed as he could, before it became too cold for his own crews to work.
Gilvelle thought the Doravin indifference to the cold came from where they were working. They had erected an enormous half-dome tent, much larger than their own temporary dwellings, in the middle of the Street of Travellers.
Within the tent stood a large stone sphere standing on six short legs that projected from its surface. A fire blazed beneath this strange contraption day and night, making the interior of the tent stiflingly hot. A longer extension of the sphere projected out and down to the ground, where it touched a pillar of stone slabs that was embedded in the ground at a steep angle, canted toward the Coldwell. On his last visit to the Doravin site, Gilvelle had watched the pillar sink slowly into the ground while loose dirt and rock seemed to boil up around it. This — what the Doravin called nadla — was being hauled over to Pickett’s Let and dumped into the swampy water. Gilvelle supposed the pillar would be an anchor for the new bridge, although the angle seemed strange. He wondered how the Doravin would affix the bridge to it. He also wondered how they would feel about working in winter when they were closer to the river.
Gil had little time to dwell on such things. Construction of the group of houses moved quickly. They were simple designs — little more than two rooms and a roof with common walls — but they would be well constructed, warm, and secure against the elements. Sard Rilius, Gil’s chief mason, and his crew worked quickly, completing the first three homes in less than a sennight. Gilvelle watched, providing the occasional bit of direction, but it was rarely needed. Sard took to the work almost eagerly. Requiring less imagination than repairing the causeway, it suited him. He took command and soon had the work crew running sharply and efficiently. Gilvelle began to see why Sard’s predecessor, Adjarn, had thought so highly of him.
When the first three houses were finished, Gilvelle watched a group from Pickett’s Let approaching, escorted by Lieutenant Kalen Darklen and several other members of the Town Guard. The new arrivals were a woman with three small children, an older couple, and a young man who required an occasional shove from a guard to keep moving. They each carried a meager set of possessions, mostly clothing and some tools and cooking implements.
As they reached the houses, Gilvelle smiled. “Welcome to your new homes!”
The reaction was not what he had expected.
One of the children started wailing and pulling on the mother’s shift. “Do we have to live here? I hate it! I miss my friends!”
The woman stared at the houses for a moment, and turned to the older man.
The old man looked at Gilvelle sharply, but spoke to the woman. “No, don’t see as they can make us live nowhere we don’t want to. Who in the name of Nehru’s pointy nose are you, anyway?”
It took Gilvelle a moment to realize the last question was addressed to him. By then, Kalen answered. “He’s Gilvelle Marser, the duke’s master architect, and you should be thanking him for your new homes, Polson.”
Polson spared a glare for Kalen before turning back to Gil. “Well, don’t you have a fancy title? I suppose you think you can tell people what to do, eh? I know who you are. I see you going in and out o’ the stone-head camp. Kickin’ good Baranurians out o’ the Let so your friends can move in, are you?”
Gilvelle raised a hand, trying to placate the old man. “It’s not like that at all. The Doravin are rebuilding the causeway for us, and we need a place to put the dirt and rock. It’s more than fair, sir. You’re getting to move out of the swamp and into a much nicer home –”
The color rising in Polson’s cheeks made Gilvelle realize his mistake. “Getting to move out of the *swamp*? The Let’s my home. Got friends there, and I can catch enough food for me ‘n my wife, and have some leftover to take to market. What do I have here? Dirt and rocks, I say. An’ I built my house with my own two hands. You sayin’ this is better? I suppose you think it’s some kinda mansion an’ I should be fallin’ all over myself to thank you for it.”
The younger man brayed a nasal laugh at this. “Welcome to the Marser Mansions, where you can choke on the dust from the road, eat rocks, and do your business right out in front of the duke’s men.”
Polson laughed at this, and Gilvelle felt his growing urge to apologize to him evaporate. He looked at the young woman, but she was still taking Polson’s lead.
“Nothing to say?” Polson asked. “Don’t see as there’s really much you can say to your own kind when you’re treadin’ on ‘em in favor of some foreigners.” He put an arm around his wife. “Come on, Mara, let’s go see our new ‘mansion’.”
The young woman followed with her children in tow. The other man swaggered past with a sneer on his face, leaving Gilvelle and Kalen looking at each other.
“That could have gone better,” Gilvelle said with a feeble laugh.
Kalen grinned half-heartedly. “It’s about what I expected. If Captain Koren would retire instead of just talking about it two or three times a sennight, I could delegate work like this to someone else.”
“I don’t understand why they seem so angry.”
“Polson said it all. He might as well be speaking for the whole community. Even if it’s just a hovel, it’s their home. The people of the Let have no love of authority. Either they’ve been stepped on by the law or they’re running from it. If you were giving them real mansions, half of them would still spit in your eye.”
Gilvelle felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and turned to see Sard Rilius. “Come on, sir. Let me buy you a beer.”
He opened his mouth to decline, not wanting pity from Rilius, but then realized he really did need a beer, and it might be better to drink with company for a change.
Gilvelle found himself at the crowded bar in the Inn of the Serpent, with a mug of beer in his hand. He and Rilius chatted for a few menes, then Gilvelle felt a nudge in his back.
He turned to see a pretty waitress leaning past him to grab several mugs from the heavyset man tending bar.
She saw him looking and smiled. “Excuse me. Crowded in here tonight. You’re new aren’t you? What’s your name? I’m Raizel.”
“I’m Gil –”A hard elbow to the ribs interrupted him, and a heavy hand clapped onto his shoulder.
“This here is Gillem Stonecutter. Best mason on my crew, by Ol.” He was slurring his words and sounded much drunker than he had a moment earlier.
Raizel smiled again. “Welcome to the ‘Serpent, Gillem. Don’t you try to keep up with Sard, straight?” She winked and walked away with her mugs.
Gilvelle rubbed his ribs. “What was that all about?”
“Sorry, sir,” said Rilius, “I had to stop you. The Doravin aren’t too popular in here, or anywhere working men gather to drink in Dargon, and people here know you spend time with them. It might be best if you’re someone else while you’re here.”
“How would they know that?”
“I might have had something to do with that.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it. People tell stories in bars, and the interesting ones earn drinks. I thought it would be interesting, what you do. Instead of a drink, I got an earful of things I should tell you and not a one of them polite.”
“I see. And you still thought to bring me here?”
“You wanted a drink, straight? It won’t be any better anywhere else in Dargon. You’re dirty enough from the work at the site I didn’t think anyone would notice your clothes. I wasn’t expecting you to go blurting out your name, so I had to act fast.”
Gilvelle rubbed his ribs again. “Straight. Thanks for keeping me safe.”
“You just be Gillem Stonecutter in here, and keep your gold and silver in your pocket. It’s copper and brass for the likes of you.”
Gilvelle returned to the site the next day, but he left before the Town Guard brought the new arrivals from Pickett’s Let. It was hard enough to bear the scowls of the current residents. He didn’t want to be present for another confrontation like the one with Polson. Instead, he visited the causeway worksite, where the Doravin seemed to be making little progress. The tent and the strange device were still in the same location. He watched blocks of stone disappear into the tent, and barrow after barrow of dirt and rock emerge. That detritus — nadla, he reminded himself — was hauled to Pickett’s Let. What was happening to all that stone was a mystery to Gil, and that day’s Na Chok seemed to lose his Baranurian when Gilvelle asked. He gave up and went to join Rilius at the Inn of the Serpent, after stopping to change into a workman’s tunic and trews along the way.
He went to the Serpent most evenings after that, wearing the clothes and the name of Gillem Stonemason. He found comfort in the role, removed from the stress of his position. He enjoyed the way the men and women there drank and laughed together; he shared in the storytelling, and even offered a snide comment or two when the conversation turned to the Doravin. He winced the first time he heard “Marser Mansions” mentioned, none too kindly, by one of his fellow patrons. Then he took a long pull on his ale and shrugged. That was Gilvelle Marser’s problem; in the Serpent, he was Gillem Stonecutter.
This routine continued for the next few sennights, until the weather grew too cold and wet. Gilvelle found himself rising slower in the morning, but what matter? His two biggest jobs were building the Marser Mansions and speaking to the Doravin. Sard Rilius had the former task well in hand, and the latter served no purpose. He could write his reports to the duke without even speaking to the day’s Na Chok, simply by observing. The Doravin drained the old quarry, though Gil never learned how. They began cutting stone, and moving it to their worksite. Soon a massive pile of granite blocks stood outside the tent. The Doravin moved blocks into the tent each day and brought nadla out. Beyond that, Gilvelle could detect no progress. He often wondered if they were simply grinding the blocks up and moving the debris straight to Pickett’s Let.
Gilvelle did not put this suspicion in his report to the duke. He knew if the Doravin failed to rebuild the causeway, Clifton would run them off and give the job back to him. His concern was not knowing how to rebuild it now that the Doravin had torn the remains of the original bridge down. He needed an answer to that before he brought his concerns to the duke. Most of his abbreviated working time was spent in the archives looking for a solution to this problem: some notes on the construction of the original causeway, or guidelines on how to span such a wide river. The records were disorganized and full of gaps, though, so Gilvelle spent many bells hunched over old scrolls and tomes.
This work was occasionally interrupted by an inspection or the approval of some building plans; there were a number of minor buildings still needing repair after the spate of “ill luck” that struck Dargon after the causeway disaster. One of these interruptions was from a young nobleman who sought approval to work on two sites on opposite sides of the Coldwell. He claimed they were the original landings from the magical bridge that had spanned the river when the ancient Fretheod Empire ruled. The story was good for a laugh that evening in the bar, though he needed to change the facts a bit; no one would believe a nobleman would need to consult with Gillem Stonecutter about restoring a mythical bridge.
There was one event during that period that stuck in Gil’s mind, even though he remembered the details only dimly. In his mind, it marked the point where he began to drink a little less, but not enough less to prevent what came later.
A woman approached him one night while at the Serpent and deep in his cups. He remembered her voice whispering in his ear, “Gilvelle Marser?”
His real name! That had his attention. He sat up and tried to look around surreptitiously, almost falling off his stool. He turned back to her and stammered incoherently.
“Don’t worry, Gil, no one here needs to know your little secret. I only want to know one thing: it is true that you have no love for the Doravin?”
He ran that over in his mind a moment. He was a few ales too many in to understand something that convoluted, so he tried to answer as Gillem Stonemason would. “I hate the Doravin!”
He must have said it a little too loud; it started a chorus of “Gods-damned Stoneheads!” in the bar.
The strange woman ignored the shouting crowd and stared into Gil’s eyes. “What if I told you I knew of a way to get rid of them? Would you be interested?”
“Straight.” He tried to nod, but it was too much wobbling for his head. In his head, a quiet little voice wanted to know how he would finish the new bridge if the Doravin did go away. In his head, he told the little voice what it could go do.
“It will take some gold,” said the woman, distracting Gil from his conversation with himself. “Five Marks. Can you afford that?”
Too loud again. A man nearby chimed in. “She ain’t worth no five Marks! Why, my sister’ll squirm with you for four Bits, an’ she’s prettier than this ‘un!”
The woman stared at the would-be pimp wordlessly for a few moments, until he backed away without another word.
“Five Marks?” Gil said, more quietly this time. “That’s a fortune. It would take some time to raise.”
“This is a one-time offer. No negotiations. A chance to be rid of the Doravin. Are you in or not?”
The little voice tried to speak up again, but Gil silenced it with another few swallows of ale. He put his mug down and slapped his hand on the table. “In!”
“Good.” She smiled.
What followed was a blur. He remembered going home to get the coins, from a stash of ten gold Marks — part of the family fortune hidden away for emergencies. He remembered changing out of his workman’s clothes, because she said he would need to be taken seriously. They met two men on a street corner, and the next thing Gil knew he was in a house. There was yet another man there, and a woman wearing heavy stone gloves. There was a lot of talking; he drifted in and out for that part. Then something happened that woke him up. The woman hurt one of the men from the street badly, and then the man in the house made that man attack the other man from the street. Gil remembered paying his gold, and the man’s final words to him, “Kept secrets keep one living.”
He woke the next day wondering if it had all been a dream, but he was missing five Marks. He never saw the woman again, and never found out if any of the trouble that happened later was a result of his payment, or if he’d simply been conned. After that, Gil vowed to drink a little less and not talk to strange women. And, of course, to keep secrets even if they made no sense to him.
The heavy snows of winter came, bringing most work to a halt. The Doravin even stopped filling in the Let, but the pile of stone outside their tent continued to shrink, and the pile of nadla grew. Gilvelle learned from a short but unpleasant meeting with Aidona they were still “poking around in her quarry”, and she continued to blame him for it. Work on the new homes also stopped, which meant Sard came by earlier each day to fetch Gilvelle for a drink or three. Gilvelle found himself liking his new chief mason despite his initial misgivings about the man. The fact that it was affection based on a shared love of drink and a good story, rather than a passion for building, bothered Gilvelle less and less. Sard would never be Adjarn, but he was still a good man.
The early thaws of Vibril arrived sooner than Gilvelle expected. One day Dargon was in the icy grip of Janis, and the next Sard was at his doorstep with a dozen masons. The men were bundled up heavily against the cold to be sure, but they were eager to work. With some relief, Gilvelle closed the thick tome he’d been struggling through, pulled on a heavy cloak and boots, and stepped out into the cold.
He was shivering but wide awake when they reached the worksite. After a quick inspection, Gilvelle indicated a few sites where the crew could commence work after clearing away some snow. He pulled Sard aside as the men set to work with shovels and axes.
“Don’t keep them out too long today, Sard.”
“Don’t worry, Gil. I’ve no desire to lose my nose or any fingers. I’ll keep them out here long enough to earn more than they have as day laborers, or whatever winter work they’ve found. Then it will be off to the Serpent to warm up. See you there?”
“Straight. I should probably get to the Doravin site today. I owe the duke a report. I don’t think I’ve been there in more than a sennight.”
“From what I hear, you should see something interesting. Word is a wall just grew up around the Doravin camp last night. I haven’t been to see it myself, but I might head down there once I get these lads started.”
“A wall grew up around the camp?”
“That’s the rumor. Hard to believe, but we’ve both seen the Doravin do some incredible things.”
“And incredibly strange things.”
“Straight!” said Sard. Both men laughed.
Gilvelle continued down the Street of Travellers, pulling his heavy cloak tighter as he approached the river. He could see the rumored wall well before he reached the camp. A mound of earth and stone surrounded the Doravin encampment. As Gilvelle drew closer, he could see the surrounding snow was undisturbed. It seemed the wall had simply pushed up from the ground. The wall was an almost-perfect circle, marred only by a small gap facing the road.
The large tent still occupied the Street of Travellers in the same location, but the enormous pile of granite had dwindled. The pile of loose earth and stone had grown correspondingly large. Gilvelle shook his head. This only reinforced his suspicions. Either the Doravin had just spent months on a single piling, or they weren’t working on the causeway at all.
As Gilvelle neared the entrance to the tent, he saw some of the Town Guard and a small group of Doravin, glaring at each other. At Gilvelle’s approach, one of the guards pulled back his hood, revealing the face of Kalen Darklen.
“Gil! Thank Ol you’re here. I just sent a runner looking for you. I want to ask these people about the fort they’ve built at the edge of the city. Most of them won’t talk to me at all, and the only thing the Na Chok here will say that she only has to talk to you.”
“Actually, it’s just ‘Na Chok’, there’s no … ah, never mind. Look, can you and your men stop glaring at them? I’ll see what I can do, but I’m an architect, not a diplomat.”
Kalen motioned for his guards to stand down. “Now get me some answers.”
Gilvelle approached the Doravin, feeling like a horseshoe between hammer and anvil.
One of the Doravin stepped forward. “Greetings, Marser.” The woman’s voice was familiar.
Gilvelle sighed with relief. He might make it through this day without being caught in the middle of a fight between the Town Guard and the Doravin after all. Some Na Chok were almost incomprehensible. Noval was the second Na Chok Gilvelle had worked with and the only one to give her name. Her Baranurian was very good.
“It is good that you are here, Marser. The arc is nearing the surface.”
Perhaps her Baranurian was not as good as he remembered. “Do you mean the wall there? I would say it’s reached the surface. That’s what I need to discuss with you. These guards aren’t happy about it.”
Noval looked back over her shoulder, causing the overlapping stone plates in her robe to clatter. “That is not the arc, Marser. The wall is for the cold. It is colder here than where we dwelled before.”
“The cold? Why raise it now, then? Winter is ending.”
“Before now, the ground was too strong — hard — for the Evim to raise the wall.”
The Evim were workers of stone magic. If they had simply raised the wall that explained how it had gone up overnight, but it also represented an unusual use of magic by the Doravin Normally the Evim worked in partnership with the Evik, who worked stone with tools and hands. Why had the Doravin needed to raise the wall so quickly? “I see. I think the guards may want to look inside your wall.”
“No, Marser. Your duke gave us the land. It is ours. If the guards violate this, there will be no bridge.”
“You keep saying that, Noval, but I am starting to wonder whether there will be a bridge no matter what we do. You’ve shown almost no progress. How much stone have you driven into that one piling? Or are you simply grinding it all into ‘nadla’?”
“You are a rude man, Marser. We would never grind good stone into nadla. That stone has become the arc.”
“That’s the arc? What do you mean it’s nearing the surface? Isn’t it already on the surface?” He pointed toward the large tent squatting on the Street of Travellers.
“Not here, Marser. There.” She pointed across the river. Gilvelle followed her gesture to a spot where dirt and rock had pushed up through the snow, a brown-gray stain on the pristine whiteness of the far bank.
“When the arc reaches the surface, we will need to move Evik and Evim across the river and back quickly, to work both sides. They will need free passage on your ferries. With the arc at the surface, we can close the circle.” Her eyes narrowed. “You will have your bridge, Marser.”
Gilvelle couldn’t help but let his jaw hang open as he stared across the river. Close the circle? Did she really mean –? He pictured an enormous ring of stone, half-buried in the ground. But how? The Doravin must have somehow joined — merged — each new block as they formed the partial ring that was now about to emerge on the far side of the Coldwell. Could the Doravin stone magic really be that powerful? How had they driven it beneath the ground? Then he remembered the strange six-legged contraption and the nadla. He’d wondered where all of that loose stone and soil had come from; now he knew. It was being drawn somehow past the stone ring and out of the ground, creating a void at the leading edge. The ring was being pulled into the ground by its own weight, and drawn into the opening left by the nadla.
His mind raced, calculating distances, dimensions, and weights. If the ring were half-buried, it would be vertical where it came out of the ground, and no use as a bridge. Then he remembered the angle of the “piling” and his mental calculations shifted. It would have to be an absolutely massive ring of stone, mostly buried, with only a gentle curve spanning the river. The ring wasn’t halfway complete, it was seven eighths complete or more, with only the portion above ground to complete. With the stone fused into a single ring, it would be incredibly strong, and require no pilings to support it. Instead of bringing the duke a reason to eject the Doravin, he was going to have to explain an engineering marvel he could barely fathom himself.
He turned back to Noval. “You’ll have your transport.” His voice was shaking.
Two bells later, Gilvelle sat at his desk completing a letter to the duke. He was eager to be done with it and off to the Serpent. He had never needed a drink more than he did at that moment. The Doravin had diminished not only anything Gilvelle might have hoped to achieve, but the accomplishments of all of his ancestors. The works of the Marsers were as nothing compared to what he’d seen at the river.
As he cast the sand over the ink to dry it, the door of his office banged open, almost causing him to spill ink all over his letter. He caught the bottle in trembling hands. Aidona stormed in, slamming the door behind her.
“Do you know what they’ve done now?”
There was no question who “they” were.
“Are you talking about the wall around their camp?”
“Yes, but that’s the least of it. They’ve found something in the old quarry, Gil. I’ve been watching them. Yesterday a large group of them gathered where they’ve been removing stone, and they were all excited. Several of them stayed there overnight, so I couldn’t get a closer look at what they were doing. Today, most of them moved back to their camp, and then they raised that wall. They’re up to something in my quarry, and I want whatever it is to stop.”
“So why come to me? Other than because everything the Doravin do is my fault, I mean.”
“Because I want you to fix this problem. Discredit them with the duke. Make him drive them away. *Get them out of my quarry.*”
“I can’t do that.” Part of him wanted to, though. Part of him wanted to drive these strangers back into the ocean, to cast them adrift in their stone boats. If they stayed, they would erase the Marser legacy. If they departed, he would be left with a bridge he couldn’t build. The duke knew, he realized. That unshakeable confidence in the Doravin from the first meeting. He knew something of these people and their works.
“So be it, Gilvelle Marser. I expected as much from you, but I thought I would give you the chance to do the right thing. I’ll take care of this myself. I’ll find out what those people have been doing. When I tell the duke, I’ll make sure he knows you’ve been helping them.” She turned on her heel and left, slamming the door again.
Gilvelle sat in stunned silence for a moment. Then he brushed the sand from his letter, folded it carefully and sealed it. On his way to the Inn of the Serpent, he stopped by a guard post and found a messenger to deliver it.
The Serpent was crowded when Gilvelle stepped inside. He wove through the crowd on his way to the bar, smiling at a few familiar faces. He slapped a Penny on the bar top, accepted a mug of ale from the barman — some young fellow instead of the heavyset Ballard Tamblebuck — and made his way toward a raucous group telling stories. As he approached, several of the men called “Gillem!” and Sard Rilius turned and clapped him on the shoulder.
“Thought you’d never make it, Gil.”
“Another visit from Aidona.”
“Oh? Still beating on you for letting those stone-heads poke around her nasty ol’ quarry, eh? The way that woman yells at you, you might as well just marry her!”
Gilvelle grinned at Sard’s ribald comment, and found himself laughing out loud at the next jest. The tensions of the day seemed to slip from his shoulders as Sard led him into the group.
A few bells and more than a few beers later, Gilvelle Marser and his troubles were forgotten. Someone was just finishing one of Gilvelle’s favorites — a bawdy tale about the Sea Hag’s daughter — when a large man pushed his way into the group, flanked by two companions. Their clothing, rough to begin with, was dirty and disheveled.
“Enough of these tired old saws,” the big man bellowed. “We have a new tale for you. One that happened to us this very night!”
This elicited some catcalls.
“Your tales aren’t worth the spit it takes to tell ‘em, Hektar!”
“Did you get rolled by some shadow boys? Again?”
The big man simply reached into his pocket and tossed a silver Round on the table. The heckling stopped immediately as all eyes went to the coin. “That there is enough to buy a drink for every man in this circle and then some. If at the end of our story you can look me in the eye and say it wasn’t worth your time, I’ll do just that. Otherwise, you lot can buy our drinks this night!”
“Where’d you get that kind of coin, Hektar?” one man called.
“Quiet, you!” barked Sard. “I’m sure that’s part of the tale, isn’t it, Hektar?”
“Straight! And it’s time I get to telling it. As you might well know, we three are proud new residents of the Marser Mansions. We were sitting outside one of our fine new homes this afternoon, trying to figure out how we’ll ever find any decent work under the eyes of Kalen Darklen and his crew, when a lovely young lady comes right up to us.
“‘Might you gentlemen be in need of some work?’ she asks.”
“Oho!” cried Sard. “Ladies and gentlemen, are we? Very believable Hektar. Did the duke stop by for tea next?”
Hektar simply glared and waited. When no more comments were forthcoming, he continued like he’d never been interrupted. “‘Depends on the kind!’ says I.
“‘It pays well, and you might have to spill some blood,’ she says.
“‘You have the right lads, then,’ I tell her.
“She tells us she wants us to sneak into the stone-heads’ camp for a look around. Well, more than a look around — a look for something particular. She says they found something they’d be guarding real heavy. She wants to know what it is, and says she’ll pay us double if we can steal it. Even gives us a little up-front money.” He patted his purse, making it jingle.
“‘Triple!’ I say, and she agrees without battin’ an eye.
“So after a sip of courage, me and the lads go up over the wall, slicker ‘n a stretch-rat, and we’re in their camp. We don’t have to look around for long before we figure out what she wants to know about. One of the tents is lit up like a Melrin lantern.”
“Only the colors was swirlin’ about!” one of the other men added.
“Straight!” said Hektar. “And there’s four of them stone-heads guarding the door. So we creep up on the back and I slice it open. We’re in on them in a flash. There’s four of them huddled around a hunk of rock — that’s what’s making the glow — and chanting. We bust through the circle to make a grab for it, and one of ‘em takes hold of my knife arm. Without thinking about it, I take a swing at him, straight into one of those stone plates they wear. He’s the funny part, lads; it breaks! Shatters into tiny pieces! Here I am thinking I’m about to break my hand. Instead the stone-head goes down in a heap! Navin here grabs the glowing stone and we’re out the back and over the wall ‘fore the stoneheads know what happened.”
“Ol’s balls!” called Sard. “You expect us to believe that, Hektar? You’re going to need to show some proof, or you’re going to be spending your Round after all.”
Hektar glared at Sard. “It’s proof you want? How about the rock we stole?”
“That would do, if you had it.”
“Show him, Navin.”
Navin stepped to the front and reached into a pocket sewn into the inside of his cloak. He held up an object for the crowd to see. Gilvelle could see that it was crystalline, milky white and smooth, except where it seemed to have broken from a larger piece.
“I thought you said it was glowing,” called Sard.
“It was,” said Hektar, “til we stole it.”
“I don’t think –”
“I think we’d better buy the man a drink, Sard,” said Gil.
Deep within the stone, a glimmer of light had appeared. The circle fell silent as the glimmer grew into a pulse that throbbed like a beating heart, as subtle hues emerged and began to swirl. Gilvelle stared in silence at the ebb and flow of light before he realized that the entire bar had grown silent. Gilvelle looked around, expecting all eyes to be on the stone, but apart from the circle around Hektar, most of the patrons were looking at the door.
Four Doravin were standing in the doorway. One pointed toward Navin and the four moved as one, approaching Gilvelle’s circle of drinking friends. The rest of the patrons remained silent, watching.
“That belongs to us,” said one, pointing to the stone. Navin, who was looking at the glow with growing discomfort, stepped forward as if to deliver it, but Hektar pushed him back.
“Prove it, stonehead,” said the big man.
The Doravin tried to push past Hektar and take the stone, but Hektar grabbed him. “I don’t think so!” He punctuated the sentence with a roundhouse, striking one of the Doravin’s chest plates squarely. There was a crunching sound, but the plate didn’t shatter. Instead, Hektar howled in agony, holding up the crumpled ruin of his right hand. His left still held the other man by the shoulder, but not for long. The Doravin shifted and his arm arced out from beneath his robes, describing a circle that intersected with Hektar’s arm below the elbow. There was a spurt of blood and Hektar’s howl became a shriek. He fell to his knees, holding his left arm with his ruined right hand.
The Doravin stood over Hektar in a fighting crouch. In his hand was a ring of stone, grasped by a rod that went through the middle. From the blood oozing between Hektar’s fingers, Gilvelle had no doubt how sharp the edge of the ring was. “Return what you stole,” he hissed through his mask.
“Get them!” cried Sard.
The bar erupted into sudden movement. Sard and most of the men with him charged the Doravin. Gilvelle sat stunned as men rushed past him, suddenly armed with an array of weapons — mostly knives and small clubs produced from sleeves, boots, and hidden pockets. The other Doravin produced more of the round weapons and formed a fighting circle with the first. The wave of men crashed into the Doravin circle and broke, scattered in all directions. The Doravin, braced against the charge, barely moved, but their weapons flashed, and men fell back, clutching cuts to arm or leg.
Gilvelle watched as Sard leapt in, yelling a drunken battle cry and brandishing a mug. His leap sent him caroming off the back of another man. His new trajectory brought him into the path of a Doravin’s arm, and Sard fell backwards, a gout of blood erupting from his throat. He fell flat on his back, mouth gasping for a final breath he would never draw.
“Sard! No!” Gilvelle cried, and he was on his feet, charging. He rushed at the Doravin, his hands curled into claws, wanting to tear into these strangers who had ruined his life and slain his friend. He hurtled into one of the Doravin with men pressed all around him. The Doravin staggered under the impact, but remained standing, his arms held up defensively. Gilvelle rained down blows, not caring who he struck. His punches caused no harm to his armored foe; the wildness of the blows saved Gil from severe injury to his hands. Then his opponent lashed out with one of the edged discs. He caught sight too late to duck. It struck his forehead and he stumbled back with blood in his eyes. He fell, and rolled to one side, trying to avoid being stepped on.
Above him, the battle continued. Gilvelle could hear yells, grunts, and cries of pain. He longed to rejoin the fight, to strike out against the invaders, but his head was swimming from too much drink and the blow he had taken, and his vision was obscured. He managed to mop enough blood out of his eyes to find a table to hide under.
How had this happened? He’d just been enjoying a drink with his friends, trying to escape from the worries of dealing with the Doravin. Instead, they had invaded his bar, attacked innocent people — murdered Sard! This thought made Gilvelle rise up, wanting to rush back into the fight, blind or not. Instead, his head struck the underside of the table, and his world went black for a moment. When his senses cleared, he was lying on the floor, looking through a bloody haze at the body of Sard, lying several feet away. Sard’s head was turned toward Gil, eyes wide, his limp hand outstretched in an accusing gesture.
Voices rose above the din of the battle.
“Put up your weapons!”
“In the name of the duke!”
The Town Guard had arrived.
Gilvelle listened as the guards barked orders, dispersing the crowd around the Doravin. When he was able to wipe the blood from his eyes and peer out from under the table, he could see that the four stone-clad men were still in a circle, crouched and eying the guards warily. Four guards surrounded them, shifting their attention between the angry drunks without and the glaring Doravin within. One, a sergeant, stood back apparently surveying the scene, while a sixth bent over the still body of Sard Rilius. This last guard Gilvelle recognized as Celia, whom he had once befriended.
“Great Nehru, look at the blood,” she whispered.
“Forget the blood! Is he alive or dead?” asked the sergeant.
Celia stood, her face pale. “No question. He’s dead.”
“Straight,” said the sergeant. “Who knows what happened here?”
There was silence for a moment, and then a voice called from the crowd. “Them stoneheads came in here and attacked us for no reason.”
The crowd murmured, and then a chorus of replies in support.
“Aye, that’s just what they did!”
“Took us by surprise while we was in our cups!”
The sergeant turned to face the Doravin. “Is this true?”
The Doravin only stared back at him, unmoving as stone. The four surrounding guards shifted their attention toward them.
Silence is all it would have taken. Gilvelle knew he could lie there quietly and watch the guards arrest the four Doravin. They would be tried and convicted of Sard Rilius’ murder, and the rest of the Doravin would be driven from Dargon by the duke. Gilvelle would be free to restore the causeway without the Doravin’s interference. It would not be easy, but he knew he could do it. The only problem: it was all a lie. That lie could get more people killed on both sides, including people he cared about. Including Celia.
He rose, more carefully this time, and crept out from under the table. “It’s not true!” he called.
Celia glanced at him and then stopped, peering more closely.
The crowd rumbled; angry mutterings refuted Gilvelle’s words.
The sergeant turned to face him. “What did happen, then?”
“This man,” Gilvelle pointed to Hektar, now slumped against a wall and ashen-faced, “came in here bragging about a raid on the Doravin camp. These four Doravin came in looking for them. He struck first — that’s how he broke his hand — and the Doravin defended themselves. Then the whole room attacked.”
“And this fellow? How did he end up with his throat slit?”
Gilvelle glanced down at Sard, and swallowed. “He was in the first wave. I watched him charge and leap at the Doravin. It– I think it was an accident. He was my friend.”
There were some cries of “Liar!” and several in the crowd cursed Gil, but some began to move away, finding renewed interest in uprighting chairs and tables, finding unspilled drinks, or slipping out one of the doors.
“Why should we believe you?” asked the sergeant.
“Believe him,” said Celia. “This is Gilvelle Marser, the duke’s master architect.”
“Truly?” The sergeant’s scowl lessened. “Beg pardon, sir. Didn’t recognize you. You’re a bit out of place here, and with all of the blood … Still, it’s just your word, and we have a dead man on the floor.”
“Look at the other wounds, Roman,” said another of the guards.
“Eh? What do you mean, Cael?” asked the sergeant — Roman Cepero, Gilvelle realized.
“Outer arm, outer thigh, across the ribs, back of the hand, forehead — like the architect there. None of these wounds were intended to kill,” said Cael.
Sergeant Cepero looked around at the injuries. “Straight. I see what you mean.” Then to Gil, “I hear you’re good at talking to these Doravin. Can you help translate?”
“I think you’ll find at least one of them understood everything you’ve said, but I’ll help if I can.”
“Straight.” Cepero turned back to the Doravin. “Look. I need you to lower your weapons and come with us. We need to get you out of here before anyone else gets hurt. Some of those people that slipped out could be coming back for you with friends and weapons. We’re going to take you to the Old Guard House until we can sort this out. Understand?”
One of the Doravin looked at Gil, who nodded.
“We go with you.”
Cepero gestured to Cael and another guard. “Check the door.”
The two men stepped outside and looked up and down the street. “It’s clear,” called Cael.
“We’ll send someone back for the body.” Cepero moved toward the door and motioned to the Doravin, who followed. The other guards fell in behind; Celia spared Gilvelle a backward glance before exiting.
Gilvelle was left staring down at Sard’s still form. Had he done the right thing in speaking the truth? Sard gave no answer. He reached down and shut the man’s eyes. All of this violence, and Sard’s life, for what?
Gilvelle’s head jerked up. The stone! What had become of it? He scanned the room for Navin, but he was gone. When had he escaped? Did he still have the Doravin’s stolen stone?