Estaban appeared in the subtle way people appear in dreams: one moment he wasn’t there, had never been there, could never be there.

The next, he was and had always been.

“You can’t fool me, Esteban,” Jan whispered, fighting whatever sorcerous glamor suffused the area. “I know what will happen if I shatter the crystal, if I read the spell.”

“Yes, you do.” His hands were on her shoulders now, a gentle caress. “You’ll have the power that you’ve always dreamed of, from your first days in that Latónian gutter to your appearance at court mere weeks ago. The power to reshape the world, to remake it in your own image–a more compassionate, more just image.”

Even as the rational part of her mind cried out that Esteban was employing his most powerful sorcery, Jan felt her instincts move in the opposite direction. Esteban was a snake, a traitor…but even treacherous serpents could be right once in a while.