THE LAW OF LOVE

(For a moment after the man had spoken, Rodvard felt as though he were
falling.) He looked at Lalette (and saw the same black fear was in her
also), but the step was taken, they could only hope to carry matters
through at the port office. Hinze was a thin man in a sailor’s jacket,
who looked over his shoulder back at the captain as he led them down the
cobbles to a brick building that Lalette remembered all too well. “You
will find it a good voyage. The ship is tight as an egg, but the food
not too good,” said he.

There was a doorman in his coop, who directed Hinze down a hall,
whereupon the girl clutched Rodvard’s arm and said; “I do not like this.
I—”

(A silly remark, he thought.) “We cannot run away now,” he said. “It is
the only chance”; and Hinze was back to say that the protostylarion
would entertain them at once, there could be only a moment of waiting.
They looked at each other apprehensively; Lalette leaned against a wall
and closed her eyes, and a man came down the hall to call them in.

Rodvard led the way into a room where a little man sat behind a desk
with lines of disobligingness set round his mouth. He said; “You wish to
leave the dominion of Mancherei for the barbarous Green Islands?”

“It is because of a family matter,” said Rodvard. “My wife and I—”

The protostylarion looked at Lalette’s hair, down in the maiden-sweep,
then quickly at Rodvard and back to her face. Wrinkles shot up the
middle of his forehead. “Wife? Wife? What is your profession? Where is
your certificate of employ?” He came up out of his seat (like a small
bear, Rodvard thought), peering the more intently at the girl. “Ah, I
have it! I know! You are the one I registered for the Myonessae. The
Dossolan; and a witch, too. Guards! Guards!” His voice went treble; two
or three armed men tumbled into the room.

“An inquiry!” said the protostylarion, flinging up his arm to point at
the couple as Hinze shrank back. “These two for an inquiry! I accuse her
of being a runaway Myonessan!” The face was distorted (the thought
behind it one of the purest delight and triumph). “Be careful with her;
she is a witch!”

Rodvard was gripped above the elbow and jerked stumbling to the door,
catching only a glimpse of Lalette’s despairing face. Outside, people
stopped and goggled as the two were hurried along and into a carriage,
with a guard beside each. “I am sorry,” began Rodvard, but one of the
guards said; “Close your clack; no talking among prisoners.” (His eyes
spoke a brutality that would have taken pleasure in a blow.)

They came to a structure with a battlemented gate, like a small
fortress; an odor of sewage emanated from it. A pair of guards brought
forward bills in salutation to those entering. Rodvard and Lalette were
swung into a gate-house, where a man lounged at a window—an officer by
his shoulder-knot. One of the guards said; “These two are in for an
inquiry. Authority of the Protostylarion Barthvödi. He says to be
careful of the woman, she’s a witch.”

The officer looked at Lalette appreciatively, then seated himself at the
desk and drew out a paper. “Your names and professions,” he said.

Rodvard gave his; Lalette checked over the profession (wishing to cry
out that she would not give it, wishing to defy the man). The officer
looked at her. “You are warned,” he said, “that I am diaconal, and your
witchery will be wasted on me.”

“Oh,” she said, and half-choking; “Myonessan.”

“Which couvertine? . . . The more trouble it is to obtain the
information, the harder it will be with you.”

“Lolau.”

The officer turned to one of the guards. “Go to the couvertine of Lolau
and inform the mattern that she is to come here tomorrow morning at the
fourth glass for an inquiry in the matter of Demoiselle Lalette.” He
addressed the other guard. “You wait here while I draw the proclamation
calling for information on this Bergelin, then take it around.”

(Rodvard thought of Leece, and wondered what she would say in answer to
the proclamation), (Lalette of facing Dame Quasso again.) Another pair
of guards came in to take them to stone cells, set in the wall of the
fortress. Rodvard saw Lalette vanish into one and heard the door clang
behind her, then was himself thrust into another. There was a stool and
straw on the floor, an archery-slit for the only lighting. The place
stank, the origin of which odor was a bucket beneath the archery-slit.
He sat on the stool and tried to think, but the turmoil of fear held him
so that he could do little more than run around back and over his own
conduct like a mouse, to ask where he had stepped wrongly and what else
he could have done to make things come out other than they were. This
was the morning when Leece . . . and he would have been bound to her for
life. . . . No, that could not have been the right path. Farther back,
then? When he asked that, he went off into a train of reminiscence in
which thought almost ceased.

His throat was dry, there was no water in the cell. Nor did he seem to
have near neighbors, all being silence around, save that somewhere a
tiny drip of water increased his thirst. Would he be able to hold
anything back tomorrow morning at the inquiry, where an Initiate would
surely question? Round the circuit of his failure his mind ran again,
and slid off into a consideration of present circumstance. He rose,
going to the iron-bound door, but even the small trap in it would not
open from his side. Alone.

Not for the first time. How like the imprisonment on the ship this was,
and how dark the prospect had loomed then! Out of that he had risen, but
to what? A choice between Leece and this. A wave of misery swept across
him, and then he thought of Lalette, and her misery equal to his own,
and maybe more.

But this was no help either, and he began to examine his prison,
finger-breadth by finger-breadth, for something that might take his mind
away from this procession of regrets and anxieties toward a future he
could not know. There were only accidents of the wall at first, in which
he tried to see pictures and carvings, making up a tale for himself,
like those in the ballads. This had not gone far when he came to a trace
of writing which looked as though someone had tried to wipe it out, for
there were only a few words to be read:

“Horv . . . in the month . . . only for lov . . . God.”

A cryptic message, indeed; he tried to imagine the tale behind it, and
how the love of which these Amorosians forever gabbled had brought
someone to this cell. This caused him to ask himself whether it was
really love for Lalette that had brought him there; for that matter
whether he loved her, and what love was; and to none of these questions
could he find a satisfactory answer, because he kept comparing her with
Maritzl and wondering whether the emotion were the same. But this in
turn brought a deep weariness; he flung himself on the straw to rest and
work the matter out; and so doing, fell into an uneasy slumber—product
of his sleepless night—in which he dreamed that the world was ruled, not
by the God he had been taught to believe in, nor disputed by the two
gods of whom the Amorosians spoke, but by three demons, who sat in a
closed space with smoke pouring from their mouths, and decided what
penalties should be exacted for witchery.

A key grated; he woke to see the trap being pulled back from without,
and a voice said roughly:

“Here’s your banquet, my lord. The sweetmeats come with the dancing
girls.”

A plate was thrust through, with a pewter mug of water. On the former
were some vegetables, cold and sticky, and no table utensils, but
Rodvard was in a mood of hunger that forbade him to be over-nice and he
ate, saving part of his water to cleanse his fingers after the meal. It
was hardly done before the trap opened again, and the outer voice
demanded; “The tools, pig-face. The administration doesn’t give
souvenirs to its guests.”

Rodvard passed the dishes through and seated himself again. Time ticked;
the light that had been fading when he woke was all gone, he had slept
so much that he could do so no more and the uncertainty of his lot held
him from consecutive thought. Somewhere outside there was a thin cry and
a sound of feet. Then quiet again, but for the briefest space; and now
another key grated, in the main lock of his door. It was flung open; in
the space stood a small man and a dark, with no cap. Behind him, a smoky
torch held by another showed this first visitor to be holding a naked
sword, that dripped, plash, plash, on the stone.

“You are Bergelin?” he said. “I call myself Demadé Slair. The revolt has
begun. Have you the Blue Star safe?”

II

Questions whirled in Rodvard’s mind, but the larger of the pair said;
“Hurry,” and gripped him by the elbow like the guard who had brought him
in, dragging along the corridor.

“Wait!” said Rodvard, resisting. “There is another—”

“We must hurry,” said Demadé Slair. “You do not know how desperate a
business this is. We have had to kill.”

“No. I will not leave her. She is my sweetheart; my witch.”

“You have her here? Of the two of you, she is the more important! Where
is she?”

“At the third cell here, I think.”

Without another word Slair counted off. “The torch, Cordisso,” and began
to try keys from a chain of them. The big man advanced the torch, but
the place held only some babbling, furtive creature with white hair and
idiot eyes. The next cell was empty. Slair swore furiously. “You are
sure your doxy’s here?”

“She was brought in with me.”

He tried another door. It was she, rising surprised from the floor in a
whirl of dresses. Rodvard pushed past the small man to grip her by the
hands. “Come, and quickly.”

She made small uncomprehending sounds. Rodvard put an arm around her and
drew her toward the door. Reverse of the stair by which they had been
brought in; in the torchlight Rodvard saw a pair of feet at the base. A
dead man, one of the guards. In spite of the hurry, he paused to unbelt
the fellow’s dag, and rushed with the rest, feeling more a man again now
the lost knife was replaced.

At the outer gate stood two more men, hoods pulled over their faces.
They saluted Demadé respectively and led across the street to where a
carriage stood, pushing Lalette into the back seat. There were three
horses, one in front of the pair, according to the Mancherei fashion.
One of the hooded men cracked his whip, and they were off at a bumping
pace, as Demadé Slair said; “It is as well you were placed in arrest and
proclaimed this afternoon. We should not have known how to find you
otherwise.”

“Who sent you—Dr. Remigorius?”

A shadow winked across the man’s face, even in the dark. “The High
Center; I say the revolt has begun and they are in rule. But you shall
be told everything soon.” He would say no more; the carriage bumped
across cobbles, and they were at the dock, with a man holding a
candle-lantern by its side. Slair leaped down without offering a hand to
Lalette and sprang across the plank of a ship with “Hurry!” Already, as
she and Rodvard reached the deck a whistle was blown, and men were
moving rapidly among the ropes. They followed their guide’s beckoning
down a ladder to a cabin; he set the lantern on a table.

“Let yourselves be placed, and hear me carefully,” he said. “It is of
the utmost moment to the cause and everything that you are not caught or
even held back. If the guards come aboard, if we are stopped by a galley
as we leave the harbor, you are strictly to go down the ladder leftward
of this cabin. At its base is a pile of bales of goods, of which one is
hollowed out to take a man, with a flap at the edge that can be pulled
to from inside. Insert yourself and pull the flap.”

(A thrill more of excitement than apprehension shot through Rodvard; the
thought of being as important as this to the great enterprise.) He said;
“If this ship’s invaded, they will likely have an Initiate or at least
one of their diaconals with them, and from the mind of anyone aboard, he
will be likely to know where the hiding place is.”

Slair grinned. “That has been thought of. No one knows of this hollow
but me. I made it and can take care of myself.”

Lalette said; “And I; what shall I do?”

Slair frowned. “You are a problem, demoiselle. We came for friend
Rodvard and his Blue Star, imagining you were still in Dossola, and
there’s no preparation.” He put an index-finger on his chin. “You have
the Art. Could you not—”

She raised a hand. “Ah, no. Never.” (In the flash of her eye Rodvard saw
how she was thinking of some witchery on a ship, something terrible and
sickening connected with it.)

“Of course,” said Slair. “Against an Initiate, it would miss nine times
out of ten. And concealment’s a weak resource. No, the problem is one of
hiding you in plain sight; that is, to let them look but not know your
identity. . . . Ah, I have it; let your hair down and the hem of your
dress up to show an ankle; be one of those travelling strumpets who call
themselves sea-witches.”

Lalette said steadily; “How will this deceive one of the Initiates?”

Demadé Slair made a twisting with his mouth. “Why, demoiselle, these
Initiates are not magicians; they can read no more than thoughts and not
all of those. All women have in them a trifle of the strumpet; you have
but to think yourself one, be one with your mind. It would be a rare
Initiate to tell the difference.”

(Lalette’s mind beat frantic wings; the bars were there again, whatever
route she took led to the same cage); (and Rodvard caught enough of her
thought to know how deep was her trouble.) “Is there not some better
plan?” he asked.

“No time; see, the ship is stirring.” Demadé Slair stood up. “So now I
must leave you.” The door banged behind him.

Lalette said; “This is a second rescue—from one prison to another, each
time. I thank you, Rodvard.” (Her eyes flashed a dark color of anger, he
knew what was stirring in her mind, but also that if he mentioned it
directly, there would be a flash.)

He said; “Lalette, let me implore you. I will not quarrel with you about
whose making this trouble is, or how we seem to go from one difficulty
to another. But if we can work together, this escape shall be better
than the last. I did not leave you at the couvertine.”

“Oh, I am grateful,” she said, in the tone of one who is not grateful in
the least, turning aside her head. “If you had only—”

(He had wit enough not to carry this line on.) “Do you know anything of
this revolt?” he asked.

She turned again. “Ah, I cannot bear if that I should never have a
thought of my own while I am with you. Will you give me back the Blue
Star?”

“No! It is all our lives and fortune now, and the fate of many more
important than we.”

“I am not beautiful and brilliant like those girls of noble houses; but
even so, would like to be wanted for myself, and not what I can bring.”
Norfloxacin Manufacturer
Outside, the first harbor-swell caught the ship; she turned her face
again, queasy at her stomach. They slept in shut-beds on opposite sides
of the cabin.