The Sword of Flame spun away clattering over smooth white stone. The blackened Chalice of Rebirth fell ringing to the floor, rolled in a circle on its rim, and came to a trembling halt. Eliseth stumbled forward and fell to her knees, downed by her own unexpected momentum and by a sickening swirl of disorientation as reality wrenched itself back onto its normal course. She touched the paving beneath her and bit back a shriek as pain exploded through blackened, blistered hands that had been burned by the Sword, following her theft of the Artifact from Aurian. Instinctively, the Magewoman concentrated her powers to block the pain. Further healing could wait--at the moment it was the least of her concerns.
When had it come to be night? As her vision gradually cleared and the whirling in her head steadied, Eliseth looked about her, expecting to see the same Valley that she had left--only moments ago, it seemed. Instead she saw a low, white wall sculpted in the familiar, nacreous marble that still, despite the surrounding darkness, held its own faint glimmer. The Weather-Mage, amazed and disbelieving, pulled herself unsteadily to her feet and looked over the low parapet. Nexis lay sprawled in the valley below, and she could discern the dark, swelling humps of the hills beyond, black against the cloudy sky.
Even to a Mage's night vision, Nexis looked different somehow--the contours of its streets and buildings seemed subtly altered from the shapes she remembered--but Eliseth gave the matter little thought as her heart leapt with joy at the sight of the city. She uttered a soft, triumphant cry of relief. By some miracle, the grail had returned her to the Academy and placed her on the flat roof that topped the Mages' Tower. Though she did not look to any gods, it seemed that this time her unvoiced prayers had been answered. Not only had she survived her horrifying fall through the rent in reality--but she was safely home.
The Weather-Mage, shivering a little in the cool breeze and still very shaky from the shock of her recent experience, leaned against the parapet in the silken darkness and took deep breaths of blessed, smoke-tinged Nexian air. Her narrow escape from the tumultuous events in the Valley had left her feeling light-headed and inordinately pleased with herself--as though she had been responsible for her own good fortune. Once her plan to defeat Aurian had recoiled with such dramatic and deadly consequences, snatching Eliseth out of the world, survival had been her only concern. She could recall an incandescent blaze of multicolored light--a sensation of being sucked, swirling, into a darkly gleaming vortex. She remembered wishing with a desperate wild yearning to be back at the Academy--but who would have suspected that the Artifacts would take her wish so literally? Clearly, the strength of her own will had saved her.
Her gloating was interrupted by the faintest whisper of sound and a flicker of movement at the very edge of her vision. Eliseth spun round with a startled curse. Behind her, a long, dark form was inching weakly across the roof. A pale hand stretched out, reaching for the precious Sword. Anvar! Eliseth's breath exhaled in a hiss. In the panic of her fall through time and the subsequent relief at finding herself back in Nexis, the Weather-Mage had forgotten, briefly, that Aurian's lover had also been drawn into the vortex.
The Magewoman saw Anvar freeze as he realized that he had been discovered. In the shadowed gloom of the rooftop his eyes met hers and for an instant Eliseth saw fear, determination--and the icy steel of implacable loathing. Then with unexpected speed he lurched forward, his outstretched hand snatching desperately at the Sword. Eliseth reacted instantaneously, gathering her powers and lashing them out toward the recumbent form in a coil of smoky blackness laced with threads of searing blue-white light. Anvar jerked once, convulsively, as the spell hit him, pouring over him in a writhing mass of dark vapor webbed with crawling strands of blue. Then he was utterly still, unbreathing, locked away in an instant and stranded outside the stream of time--until Eliseth should choose to bring him back again.
The Weather-Mage laughed aloud in triumph as she walked over to her prey. For a moment she stood there, looking down at him with a sneer. How easy it had been to defeat him! Without Aurian to protect him, the former Academy drudge had soon betrayed his lowly half-Mortal origins. Following the capture of Miathan, taking another Mage out of time had been a simple matter--and one that put Anvar into her power while she decided his future at her leisure. The possibilities of the situation were now beginning to dawn on Eliseth. With her enemy's paramour enmeshed and isolated within the crawling blue shimmer of the spell, she knew she had some time to ponder the considerable advantage his capture would give her over Aurian--who, judging from her absence, so plainly lacked the courage to follow her so-called love to his fate. But she would turn up eventually--of that, Eliseth was absolutely certain. And when she did . . . The Weather-Mage smiled coldly. Aurian was a pathetic fool for her softhearted devotion to this half-Mortal scum with his tainted blood! Eliseth knew that she could use Anvar as bait to rid herself of her foe for good.
Without a backward glance, she left her victim where he lay on the cold stone of the roof--isolated as he was in her time spell, he should be safe enough up there--and strode across to the door that led down into the tower. Eliseth's eyebrows rose in surprise, then drew down in a frown as she tugged at the latch and nothing happened. But this door was never locked! A closer examination showed that the latch was stiff with rust.
Excerpted from Dhiammara by Maggie Furey. Copyright © 1997 by Maggie Furey. Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.