A cannon. Sejanes rushed through the thronged streets, pausing only to state his name and business to the head of the Guards keeping onlookers away from the Kamiya Dojo’s gate. A Chi’in cannon. Forty little gods, I never thought to see one of those again!
Or rather, the ex-Imperial admitted to himself, he’d hoped to never see one of those hellish creations again. Thank the gods, most outside that vicious empire recognized that Adepts were safer than weapons touched with salamander’s fire.
Most, except for desperate Yamato, Sejanes thought darkly, pushing the gate open just enough to slip through. The air was still thick with the acrid scent of blasting powder, and every magical sense an Adept claimed shuddered at the raw hunger embodied in flames. Both sides of the Revolution were using them before we left… Karal. I’ve got to get Karal over here. We need someone touched by the gods to disarm the damned thing, and he’s the best one in Valdemar for that. Hells – do we even have anyone who can take it apart without blowing their own heads off-?
He stopped almost in one of the courtyard craters, staring at what had been a wooden muzzle. Now it was a nest of neatly-slashed wooden pieces, a fist-sized bundle of white-wrapped, carved stone cupped in their midst.
The focus talisman, Sejanes realized, sensing faint emanations of dark elemental fire through insulating silk. “Thank the gods,” he breathed, turning his gaze on the blue uniform that had stalked through the perimeter next to him. “How on earth did your people know what to do, Chief?”
Tostig shrugged, embarrassed. “It wasn’t us, Instructor Sejanes. Himura warned us off. He said there was a risk of fire.” The Guard Chief paused. “And given Himura-san’s usual talent for understatement….”
“I’ve seen those things take out a city block if they’re mishandled,” Sejanes confirmed. “Though I’m surprised anyone who’d know that would leave what’s left of it unguarded, even under your watchful eye.”
“I did not.”
The cool voice peeled the years away; he was no longer a peaceful instructor, one of many Adepts handling the mage-school of Valdemar, but Imperial Adept Sejanes, running with Tremane through the bloody alleys of Kyoto as the Shogunate’s men fell behind them….
Red hair, Sejanes saw, dimly registering the mad scramble of Guards backwards as lightning danced in his hands. Short. Skinny as a woman. An aura subtle as wind over running water. And the cross-shaped scar.
Battousai the Manslayer.