The wicked heroine, p.5
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.5

           Jasmine Giacomo


  In the end, Geret mused, it hadn’t been so bad, coming to live at the Magister’s palace in Highnave. What purpose the Magister had for him was becoming more clear as the weeks went by, but Geret didn’t understand why it was happening now. In truth, Geret was shocked that his performance that day hadn’t put the Magister off him entirely. He considered, with a thrill of glee, that his next expedition into the realms of the illegal should include spying on the Magister to find out. That would be putting his talents to a more practical use, as his tutors constantly urged him.

  He knew what they were doing. They were trying to overfill his daily schedule, while encouraging him toward positive hobbies, so that he’d have no time for his own amusement. It was true, eventually he’d have to stop. He was at the cusp of manhood; he’d have to grow up and be responsible someday. Then Geret smiled, as he realized he’d been responsible for one practical joke or another for years.

  “Find your latest prank amusing, do you, Geret?” the seneschal asked, startling Geret in his plush chair. He’d been so lost in thought that he hadn’t heard the man come in.

  Geret looked over at the seneschal. This one was tall and lean. His name was Ilvan Imorlar, and he still had a full head of short brown hair. Well, thought Geret with a wicked grin, there’s time enough to change that.

  “Yes, my lord, I do,” Geret answered, effortlessly polite.

  “Naturally. You wouldn’t have done it otherwise.” Imorlar sat down in his chair and aimed a level gaze at Geret. “You’ve been in here three times now. That amounts to one prank every few weeks. Too much more of you, and I think you might collapse the entire nation from the inside out.”

  Geret merely grinned.

  Imorlar leaned forward onto his elbows and looked directly into Geret’s eyes. “You’re too smart for us, Geret. That’s your problem. In spite of all the classes and extracurricular activities we’re burdening you with, you still have time to churn out these ideas. And you lack a direction to churn them out to, so you play these pranks. Well, I have an idea.”

  Here it comes, thought Geret. The unimaginative part.

  “I want you to work for me.”

  Wait, what? Geret’s eyebrows rose. “Didn’t see that coming,” he admitted, grinning. Maybe I’ve judged this seneschal a bit hastily, after all.

  Imorlar smiled. “Good. Now, before I induct you into my ranks,” he said with a disarming grin, “you’ll need to pass a test. And no, it won’t involve playing a prank.”

  Despite himself, Geret was interested. He loved challenges, strategy and games, and he was physically quick and agile. Whatever the test, he was sure he was up to it. “What do I need to do?” he asked, realizing with amusement that he sounded as eager as a little boy with Low Solstice presents to open.

  “That’s part one of the test, now, isn’t it?” Imorlar grinned.

  “But…” Geret trailed off, thinking. Either a bit of effort would make it pretty clear what Imorlar wanted, or it would all be a trick to occupy Geret for a few days. But he thought Imorlar was smarter than that: to anger Geret was to wake up with pig intestines pulled up to one’s thighs like stockings and glued in place, as the seneschal knew quite well from Geret’s most recent prank on Lord Munder. The women Geret had gotten to walk by, just as the lord had burst from his guest rooms, had been both repulsed and highly amused, and they had been selected purely for their immense gossiping ability, so Geret knew that revenge would indeed be his by nightfall.

  So, this was all probably legitimate. Geret squinted a bit, watching Imorlar watch him. “Done,” he said, and was relieved to see a genuine smile, not a crafty one, spread across Imorlar’s face.

  “Excellent. Consider your test begun. You have three days to discover what your test is and complete it, and then…well, then we will see what we can do. I have faith in you, Geret.”

  “So do I, my lord,” Geret returned, one cheek dimpling with a wicked grin.

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