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his broken nose. His jaw was not broken, although he would have difficulty speaking for several days. Vance thanked Valen that the infirmary held no mirrors. He never considered himself vain, but he probably valued his looks a little too much, and the prospect of seeing his features beaten to a pulp was not one he relished.

In no mood to face Merreck when he awoke, Vance took his leave as soon as the healers finished with him. Besides, he needed to find Jerklenn and get an explanation of what was going on. She wasn't hard to find. First Vance visited the empty library seeking her, but then he left the academy and worked his way through Tuzanor's streets to the square where he had tended the garden weeks before. Jerklenn sat silently by the garden, her hands crossed on her lap. Now a picture of serenity, Vance could not reconcile this Jerklenn with the dervish-like warrior she had been earlier.

As Vance approached she glanced up, meeting his eyes for an instant before looking down, as though ashamed. Without a word, Vance sat beside her, unsure how to begin. Despite the endless questions swirling through his mind, Vance hesitated, knowing Jerklenn was finding the cur rent situation difficult. Tact wasn't one of his strong points, and if he wasn't careful he would only be a short sentence away from deeply offending her, possibly so deeply that she would not speak to him again.

'I know what you're thinking,' said Jerklenn. Vance was surprised when she spoke first. 'That I have deceived you, that I have deceived everyone. But I did it for good reason.'

'I believe you,' said Vance with a smile that made his face throb. He could hear the hurt in her voice and only wanted to allay any fears she had. The reason she deceived everyone was low on his list of questions.

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