Tomorrow, he and Hepzebah would have a day to themselves. The PN would arrive on the following day.

What can I tell him?

Sil-Chan felt that he had been enchanted, caught in a magic web. I know it and I don't care. What matter the Dornbaker Account? Nothing mattered except the enchantment.

But I can't abandon the Library. Tchung depends on me.

Why did Tchung depend on him? The question had not occurred to Sil-Chan in quite that form. Why? Well . . . Tchung would not move without the advice of Records. That was certain. What could Records tell the Director about one Sooma Sil-Chan?

Sil-Chan looked inward at his own past life -- a dedicated Library slave, little better than one of the robots. Self-programming, of course. Too single-minded for most people. Few friends. No women friends, although several had indicated more than a casual interest in him. This interest had vanished quickly when they found he was on anti-S.

Well, I'm off it now. They've probably never even heard of it on the Free Island.

He thought of Hepzebah then, conjured her face into his mind. Ahhh, with her, all things were possible.

With a sigh, Sil-Chan once more wrapped himself in the blankets and composed himself for sleep. This time, he invited another nightmare: His body was transformed by a witch (who looked remarkably like Hepzebah) and he became a throbbing eye which moved inward, ever deeper inward down a shaft of the Library Planet. The drop seemed endless and when it finally stopped, the eye/himself peered upward as all of the Library's contents came cascading down the shaft toward him.

"It'll blind me!" he screamed.

And he awoke to find the pale glow of morning coming through the skylight and mists drifting across the tree branches out there.

A knock sounded on his door. David's voice: "You awake?"


"The PN is here."

Sil-Chan sat upright, stared at the closed door. "But he wasn't supposed to . . ."

"He's here and he wants to see you immediately. You and Hepzebah."

The Paternomer Dornbaker was not as tall as his nightmare counterpart, but he towered over Sil-Chan nonetheless. The PN stood more than two meters and his shock of grey hair added another ten centimeters. The PN was also a heavy man, muscular and swift in his movements. The early morning light penetrated the east windows to bathe the room in sharp contrasts. The PN stood out like an ancient figurehead, an older David -- skin like cured leather, fan wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and mouth, a square chin, sea blue eyes and a wide mouth with dark lips.

Sil-Chan stood facing him in front of the fireplace. Hepzebah sat on the divan with David standing behind her.

The PN glared at Sil-Chan. "Why do you deliberately disrupt things of which you have no knowledge?" Sil-Chan glanced at Hepzebah, but she was staring at the floor.

"I did not come to disrupt," Sil-Chan aid.

"I judge a man by what he does," the PN said. "How long have you been seeing my niece?"

"I met her for the first time, yesterday."

"A likely story."

"Are you calling me a liar, sir?" Sil-Chan kept his voice low and steady. It was a tone that surprised even him. The pre-Dornbaker Sil-Chan would never have used it.

The PN favored him with a peculiar, weighted stare, then: "No-o-o, I am not. But you will admit this is disruptively surprising."

"Surprising, yes."

"Why did you come here, then?"

"The Library needs your help."

"This is how you enlist my help?" He waved at Hepzebah.

She stood and moved to Sil-Chan's side, put her hand in his. "You almost killed him, Uncle, and you've not apologized."

"You stay out of this."

"Don't you take that tone with me," she said, "or I and my sisters will ban the seed. How will you find a PN then?"

He glared at her. "I'm the PN here!" He made it sound "Pen."

"And I am the Elected Womb," she said.

The PN focused on Sil-Chan. "With him?"

"With whomever I choose!"

"The trothers agreeing!"

"They'll agree."

"I'm thirsty," the PN said.

David whirled away and went into the rear of the house while the PN stared into the fire. Presently, David returned with one of the earthen mugs he had brought to Sil-Chan. The PN took the drink without looking at David, quaffed it, wiped his lips and returned the mug with the same casual disregard for its source.

"My word is law here," the PN said. "Except when I give a direct order to a chit like that." He jerked his head at Hepzebah. "You know you've interrupted my hunt?"

"David sent word to you, I know," she said. "But you could have come back after the hunt."

"And found you already with the trothers?" He looked at Sil-Chan. "Why aren't you sitting? I told you there was no need to stand." His voice sounded suddenly old and petulant. "I know you were injured."

Sil-Chan realized that was as much of an apology as he would ever get. It amused him and strengthened him.

"You owe him something for the loss of his jetter," David ventured.

The PN whirled. "I don't owe him the woman who could join those lines! Martin's willing. Why can't she . . ."

"I have sisters," Hepzebah said. "The lines can still be joined."

"But not this year," the PN grumbled. "It's an imposition to expect an old man to wait for . . ."

Sil-Chan interrupted: "Aren't you being a little . . ."

"Stay out of this!" the PN snapped.

"I will not stay out of this!"

"You won't obey a direct order from the PN?" His voice was ominous.