3 March 2007
It had taken some time, between finalizing preparations with Roderick and gaining clearance from his father and working out the details of what he should take and say, but Michael Hudson finally stood in front of the Ravi River, north of Lahore. It was hot, much more hot than it had been when he left England, and he was still trying to get comfortable. To a certain degree, he was hopeful Iravati would be more tolerable.
The sun began to rise, and the river shimmered in a way that was only barely detectable through the spell he’d cast specifically to spot it. There, just upstream of him, was the actual entrance. He walked over to stand before it, set his bag down, and braced himself. It was no surprise to him when the gates of the city were suddenly thrown open from the river, and a group of naga soldiers rushed out to surround him. Each had a spear pointed at him. He held his arms up to show he had nothing in his hands.
“You dare return to Iravati, Hudson?” a larger naga guard demanded, slithering out behind the troops and approaching him.
“I have come to make restitution,” Michael answered.
“And why should we believe you?”
“You and I both know you aren’t the one I’m here to convince.” The guard’s eyes narrowed. “You may arrest or escort me, whatever suits you. But what I have here,” Michael said, nudging the bag with his foot; the soldiers tensed, “is a carefully researched plan that would allow us to undo the magic that severed Iravati from the world. It will require the cooperation, and consent, of the Queen of Heaven, and either a very powerful mage or a collection of mages. I would, of course, be willing to offer my services.”
“And you expect her to simply go along with this claim?”
“I hope to present it to her. I can only offer this; what your queen does with it is her business.” Michael and the guard stared at each other for a tense minute, then the guard yelled out an order in a language Michael didn’t speak. The spears were raised and the soldiers rearranged themselves to leave an opening in their ranks that led directly to the guard and the gate. The guard slithered forward, grabbed the bag, and returned to the gate. Michael felt a nudge at his back, and stepped forward. The soldiers kept pace with him. He sighed, lowered his arms, and entered Iravati surrounded by naga.