Mask of Swords
shook his head. “Earnachar is a troublemaker, and if you give him an inch he’ll take a mile, but he’s always done as I commanded.” He shrugged. “These could have been renegades. You all saw them attack us, so there’s not even a need for a trial or a wergild.”
    “Timothy,” said Romaria, “can you cast the spell to sense magic over them?”
    “Of course, my lady,” said Timothy, and he produced a chunk of smoky crystal wrapped in copper wire from a pocket of his coat.
    “You think they were enspelled through some witchery?” said Arnulf, giving Timothy a sidelong glance. The Tervingi did not like wizards, Adalar recalled, though after seeing what Lucan Mandragon had wrought, he could hardly blame the barbarians. 
    “There’s something…” said Romaria.
    “The Sight?” said Mazael.
    She nodded. 
    Timothy gestured, light flashing around his crystal, and his eyes widened. 
    “My lord,” he said. “Lady Romaria was right. There is dark magic upon each of these men, though I cannot pinpoint the source…”
    “Upon?” said Romaria. “Or within?”
    Timothy gave a sharp nod. “Yes, that’s exactly right. It’s inside of them somehow.”
    “Mazael,” said Romaria. “I think…I think that you should probably cut one of them open and look at the heart.” 
    He blinked at his wife. “The heart? Truly?” 
    “It is ill to desecrate the dead,” said Arnulf. “Even traitors. The gods frown most sternly upon it.”
    “I think these men desecrated themselves in life,” said Romaria. “Mazael, there’s something wrong with them. I’m not sure what, but I can see it with the Sight.”
    Mazael shrugged. “Very well. Arnulf, Lord Adalar. Have your men form a shield wall around us. It wouldn’t do to let people see the liege lord of the Grim Marches mutilating corpses in public. Also, Sir Wesson, might I borrow your mace? This will go easier if I can break some ribs first.”
    Wesson swallowed and offered Mazael his mace. Mazael shrugged out his cloak, handed it over to a nervous-looking boy who was likely his squire, and went to work. Adalar made himself watch as Mazael removed the mail shirt of a dead Tervingi, broke the fallen spearthain’s ribs, and start sawing with a dagger.
    “You do that,” Adalar heard himself say, “so calmly.”
    Mazael shrugged, his golden armor splashed with blood. “Not much different than a battle. Slower, though. I’ve seen and made a lot of dead men in my time. There’s nothing left to shock me any…what the hell?”
    He shot to his feet, the bloody dagger in his hand. 
    Something was moving in the bloody ruin of the dead Tervingi’s chest. 
    At first Adalar thought that the dead man was still alive, that his heart was still beating and his lungs were pumping. Then he saw the black bulge rising from the ragged wound Mazael had carved into the dead man’s chest, a black bulge with slender legs and red streaks down its body.
    A spider. It was the size of a man’s fist, but otherwise identical to the dead spider in the wagon.
    Mazael speared the thing with his dagger. Its legs went into a wild, twitching dance, and then went still.
    “A spider,” breathed Romaria. “That’s what I saw. There’s a spider inside each of those men.” 
    “The spider is charged with dark magic,” said Timothy, waving his crystal again. 
    Mazael looked at Romaria. “When you visited Skuldar, did the Skuldari have spiders like this?”
    “No,” said Romaria. Mazael drew his curved sword and walked from Tervingi to Tervingi, impaling the corpses through the chest. “They had the larger spiders and used them as war beasts. But these smaller ones…I’ve never seen or heard anything like this before.” He ripped his sword from the last of the dead spearthains. “I think you got them all.”
    “Arnulf,” said Mazael. “Did you see anything like this in the middle lands or in the old Tervingi homeland?”
    “Nothing,” said Arnulf. “The soliphages in the

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