The Chaos Curse - By R. A. Salvatore

Chapter One
Dean Thobicus drummed his skinny fingers on the hardwood desk before him. He had turned his chair so that he faced the window, not the door, pointedly looking away as a nervous and wiry man entered his office on the library's second floor.

"You ... you asked ..." the man, Vicero Belago, stuttered, but Thobicus lifted a trembling leathery hand to stop him. Belago broke into a cold sweat as he stared at the back of the old dean's balding head. He looked to the side, where stood Bron Turman, one of the library's headmasters and the highest ranking of the Oghman priests, but the large, muscular man merely shrugged, having no answers for him. "I did not ask," Dean Thobicus corrected Belago at length. "I commanded you to come." Thobicus swung about in his chair, and the nervous Belago, seeming small and insignificant indeed, shrank back near the door. "You do still heed my commands, do you not, dear Vicero?"

"Of course, Dean Thobicus," Belago replied. He dared come a step closer, out of the shadows. Belago was the Edi-ficant Library's resident alchemist, a professed follower of both Oghma and Deneir, though he formally belonged to neither sect. He was loyal to Dean Thobicus as both an employee to an employer, and as a sheep to a shepherd. "You are the dean," he said sincerely. "I am but a servant"

"Exactly!" Thobicus snarled, his voice hissing like the warning of an angry serpent, and Bron Turman eyed the withered old dean suspiciously. Never before had the old man been so animated or agitated.

"I am the dean," Thobicus said, with emphasis on the final word. "/ design the duties of the library, not Ca - " Thobicus bit back the rest of his words, but both Belago and Turman caught the slip and understood the implications.

The dean spoke of Cadderly.

"Of course, Dean Thobicus," Belago said again, more subdued. Suddenly the alchemist realized that he was in the middle of a much larger power struggle, one in which he might pay a price. Belago's friendship with Cadderly was no secret. Neither was the fact that the alchemist often worked on unsanctioned and privately funded projects for the young priest, often for the cost of materials alone.

"You have an inventory document for your shop?" Thobicus asked.

Belago nodded. Of course he did, and Thobicus knew it. Belago's shop had been destroyed less than a year before, when the library was in the throes of the chaos curse. The library's deep coffers had funded the repairs and the replacement ingredients, and Belago had promptly given a complete accounting.

"As do I," Thobicus remarked. Bron Turman still eyed the dean curiously, not understanding the last statement. "I know everything that belongs there," Thobicus went on imperiously. "Everything, you understand?"

Belago, finding strength in honor, straightened for the first time since he had entered the room. "Are you accusing me of thievery?" he demanded.

The dean's chuckle mocked the wiry man's firm stance. "Not yet," Thobicus answered casually, "for you are still here, and thus, anything you might wish to take would also still be here."

That set Belago back; his ample eyebrows furrowed.

"Your services are no longer required," Thobicus explained, still speaking in an awful, cold, casual tone.

"But... but, Dean," Belago stuttered. "I have been - "


Bron Turman straightened, recognizing the inflections and the weight of magic in Thobicus's voice. The burly Oghman headmaster was not surprised when Belago stiffened suddenly and fell back out of the room. With a look to Thobicus, Turman quickly moved to close the door.

"He was a fine alchemist," Turman said quietly, turning back to the large desk. Thobicus was again staring out the window.

"I had reason to doubt his loyalty," the dean explained.

Bron Turman, pragmatic and no real ally of Cadderly, did not press the point. Thobicus was the dean, and as such, he had the authority to hire or dismiss any of the nonclerical assistants that he chose.

"Baccio has been here for more than a day," Bron Turman said to change the subject The man he referred to, Baccio, was the commander of the Carradoon garrison, come to discuss the defense of the city and the library should Castle Trinity strike at them. "Have you spoken with him?"

"We will not need Baccio and his little army," Thobi-cus said with confidence. "I shall soon dismiss him."

"You have word from Cadderly?"

"No," Thobicus answered honestly Indeed, the dean had heard nothing since Cadderly and his companions had gone into the mountains earlier that winter. But Thobicus believed that