eavesdropping, feared the worst from Nigel’s intentions. “I wish I had a bow,” mumbled Bjorn. “I’d shut him up before he had a chance to stab us in the back.” They were all desperate to stop the looming disaster. Sven untied himself from the group and disappeared from the roof in search of an oil lamp. Ekvar undid his sash as well, then jumped through the window to grab the nearest wooden pillar. The wild-eyed man with the broken jaw garnered several large splinters on his slide down to the auditorium floor. Brent held his silence and position as ordered, tying all of the remaining sashes together into a single rope about eight cubits long. Jotham took advantage of the chaos and crawled to the altar. Pressing a stone at its base, he opened a secret compartment slightly larger than a man’s head. The relic storage vault was lined with gray felt, but otherwise empty. When the doors to the temple closed, all the Somnambulists surrounded the actor, and the severe handmaiden said, “Continue.” Nigel announced, “The Sheriff of Tamarind Pass has escaped from the emperor’s dungeon.” “Impossible,” claimed one priestess. Another handmaiden, who held a pig goad eagerly in her hand, looked up at the Great Eye and read something there. “He’s not lying. What else do you have to say, worm?” Nigel narrowed his eyes, wary of the soothsayer. “Isn’t that enough? I know for a fact that the man will stop at nothing to wipe out your entire sect. The sheriff is on his way here at the earliest opportunity.” The truth-witch gazed at the round stone window again. “He’s sincere. Call the Holy One,” she ordered. Jotham searched the treasure hole beneath the altar and found no clues, no hint of the relic once hidden there. The senses he gained from passing through the Doors told him the missing magical device had been a deck of special cards. But there remained no trace of the item anywhere around the altar. It made no sense; there was always a relic. Glancing at the Door to Eternity, Jotham noted several differences when compared with previous magic doors. This Door was the largest so far, easily three times the height of his tallest companion. The frame was curved on top instead of squared off. Instead of oak, the wood seemed to be a heavy teak, reinforced with studded iron. But most significantly, the door was ajar. A black, glass brick had been wedged in the entryway to prevent the door from closing. A gentle wind blew from behind the Door and filled the sanctuary with a hint of spices and an exhilarating power richer than wine. The raw mana made the priest’s skin tingle. In his haste, he felt he was missing something obvious. Ekvar pulled wood slivers out of his hands and knees. As he finished wrapping his injured palms, someone rang a gong. Bjorn spotted a brace of unused spears nearby and anchored the sash rope to the window jam using Jotham’s iron-hard staff across the narrow frame. Brent helped to make sure the knot would hold. By the time the summoning gong rang again, Bjorn was halfway down the wall, dangling at the end of his rope. Swinging in a gentle arc, he caught hold of a large piece of masonry in the parsonage wall. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the rest of the way down because he couldn’t keep his grip on the ledge and untie the rope at the same time. Seeing his predicament, Brent reluctantly turned the staff and slipped the knot off the bottom. Freed from his lifeline, Bjorn resumed his climb down. Jotham looked up at the Great Eye above him to find out how the sooth-saying trick had been accomplished. What he saw there turned his blood cold. Where normal pilgrims here saw thin layers of ancient stone, Jotham’s finely tuned senses perceived something quite different—scales. The scales belonged to an enormous snake body curled into the shape of a circle. Jotham heard the Stone Monkeys moving around the stage area, eager to help him. Too late, he tried to wave them off.