The convocation of the gods was over and the participants had dispersed to their home demesnes. Tala had taken Warial’s advice and kept her speculations to herself but she had continued to speculate and once the Thirteenth Swordlord and his small retinue had returned home, she took to the library when her duties and training allowed. Dorthiel found her there when he passed the open door on his way to wash and change after practising sword work with Lasrial.
“What are you looking for?” He had a fair question. She was surrounded by stacks of books, each book with pages marked by a tagged scrap of vellum or paper stuck between its pages. Some books had several such tags.
“The Vardmasters,” replied Tala, “and their agents. Tell me, Dorthiel, how do we know that an angel at the convocation is in the service of a god?”
“They arrive with their divine master, they wear his or her token,” he shrugged, “They’re an angel?”
“I didn’t see everyone arrive so I can’t say who arrived with who,” she started counting off on her fingers. “I saw angels who weren’t wearing tokens, come to that I saw angels who weren’t wearing clothes-”
“The servants of Ebroum,” interrupted Dorthiel. “It’s best not to ask, really.”
She looked at him doubtfully. “If you say so. My third point is that the Outcast are angels but they don’t serve a god.”
“They don’t serve the vard either,” he pointed out.
Tala sighed. “Dorthiel, do you remember what it was like to be newly made? Wanting desperately to serve? Did you get turned down at all before you found a position?”
He shook his head, though she wasn’t sure which question he was responding to.
“I was rejected and I remember what it felt like. I think if a Vardmaster had approached one of the Outcast when they were new and didn’t know any better, he would have taken service with it.” Tala looked at Dorthiel, waiting for a response.
“But that would only give them one or two…,” Dorthiel trailed off at his younger sister’s expression.
“How does a new angel know that the Choirmaster who accepts his or her service is the Choirmaster of a god?” Tala waited for his answer.
“Because-,” Dorthiel broke off and muttered a soldier’s expletive. “You don’t think they’ve got the one or two we assumed they’d coerced or turned somehow, you think they’ve got a Choir?”
“It would go with these references to the Perverted Choir in The Three Turns of the Tide ,” Tala indicated a heavy, leather bound volume that sat on its own, not stacked like the others around her.
“Those are the prophecies of an insane god,” pointed out Dorthiel.
“Which came first, the prophecies or the insanity?” Then she added, “And if he was insane and they meant nothing, why were the Vardmasters so quick to go after him? Even before they challenged the Swordlords?”