A Concordance for John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting
[Nov 1477] 5. Departures

He reached to von Bayern's face, pulled off the dark glasses, turned Gregory's face to the windows. Gregory spasmed, tried to cover his eyes, made a whimpering, gurgling sound.

Vampires are very sensitive to light, and it is a bright day over snow.

"Herr Doktor von Bayern, for his condition, and I for my age do not require much sleep. We were up together the whole night, in the taproom, drinking... wine."

This is untrue (see p123); Hywel is giving Gregory an alibi.

The phrasing recalls the classic Dracula movie schtick: "I never drink... wine." (TDW vampires do drink wine, so the line is not out of context.)

Kronig's passkey opened an empty room. "You're certain this was de la Maison's?" Hywel said, sniffing the air.

As Dimi noted (p116), Charles de la Maison was not present at dinner. He has not made an appearance since p107. Now it seems that he vanished entirely at that time.

He made a set of elaborate passes in the air, his patched blue sleeves flapping. "Abracadabra... abracavitti... dit! Dit! Dit!"

An egg appeared between his fingers; then there were two eggs, then three. Tommasi presented them to Kronig. "I should like those fried in butter, with the yolks whole... and, if you would, a little bacon..."

"Abracadabra" is not an anachronism; it dates to Roman times, as a word used on magical amulets. I cannot find "abracavitti."

Note that Tommasi is as grotesquely unaware of Falcone's death as Gregory was (p118).

Other fiction:

In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, "avada kedavra" is a virulent death curse.

Speaking of anachronisms, Tommasi is ordering his eggs sunny-side-up with bacon. The combination is not out-of-period of itself, but the notion of this as standard breakfast fare probably is.

"My joints are like glass in the cold," said Hywel [...]

This will be confirmed when he bends down "very gradually" in the stable (p127); but matters will become more complex later. See p254.

"You see, kindness is deadly to vampires; it makes us less careless."

Should be "more careless"? Or perhaps Gregory means "careless of others"; he only came down to breakfast because he felt a need for company.

Then, more softly, "Why did you lie for me?"

"Because I need you," Hywel said flatly, "and whole. This enterprise is already short one eye."

The lie was on p119.

Gregory said "You don't believe that bat-shaped, wolf-shape nonsense! Or perhaps that I can turn into smoke and seep under doors?"

"No. And whoever did this doesn't, either. Look at the horrid care of it; the ropes, the quill, the cup -- he imitates a real gwaedwr, not any imaginary one with hypnotic powers or snake fangs -- and then he opens the window. Why?"

A quick list of traditional vampire abilities which TDW vampires are known not to have.

"[...] That Italian wizard--"

"Is no more a genuine worker than you are, and there's not one within twenty miles."

"Suppose he concealed his powers behind the tricks."

"Can you become a bat? There are many things magic cannot do, and hiding itself is one of them."

As Ptolemy and Hywel sensed each other (p6, p11).

Gregory looked at the enameled design on the ring. "I know that pattern. Six red balls... the Medici." He looked up. "Antonio della Robbia, the Medici banker."

The symbol was referred to in chapter 3 as the palle.

As Hywel says, it makes no sense for the killer -- della Robbia or anyone else -- to have dropped a ring incriminating the Medici; he or she would certainly have retrieved it before leaving.

The explanation, we will discover, is that the ring belongs to Falcone; the killer never noticed it.

Hywel rolled the ring over in his hand. "But some kinds of care and carelessness just do not go together."

"Care" and "careless" are repeated notes in this scene. See p124 (referring to the killer), but also p123 (referring to Gregory).

"Unless... have you ever seen Nordic snowshoes, schees?"

Skis, that is.

There were some bits of partly burned paper, really only ashes held together by the ink on them. The English king's debts... Hywel read from a scrap, and from another ...interests of the Bank abroad... Then his first touch disintegrated them.

The message was found with Falcone and with Falcone's courier pouch. However, these fragments sound more like business of the Medici bank (who had lent money to King Edward; see p70).

(As we will discover, Falcone has been a Medici agent all along.)

The fire, by the way, must have been doused by the servant who found Tommasi in the first place (p126).

"But we're still short a Frenchman. Charles couldn't have been anyone but Tommasi..."

Hywel said "No one expects a single inn guest to be in disguise. Why should one expect two?"

As Hywel noted (p126), Charles de la Maison was present the first afternoon p107; everyone arrived or was already there, except Nottesignore. However, the logic fails if one of the other guests was also a different person, disguised.

This is a slightly absurd concatenation of events; but no one would blink at it in a three-act mystery. (In fact, it will turn out that both disguises were perpetrated by the same person, so it's not as absurd as it seems.)

Hywel said "Suppose two men meet at a coach station. One is a wandering hedge-wizard, good at sleights and disguises as such people are, hungry as they usually are. Call him Guido. The other... call the Agent.

"The Agent offers Guido a chance to travel by coach instead of on foot, and a warm inn bed -- which, since it is November and snowing, sounds better than money. All Guido has to do is pretend to be the Agent for a little while."

The mystery becomes espionage; Hywel introduces "the Agent," implying that the ultimate cause of the deaths is political, not simple theft.

(But then Hywel is himself creating deliberate drama, by holding the Agent's identity back.)

"[...] The coach departs with Guido aboard; the Agent is left behind at the station with Guido's clothes. But he does not put them on. He dresses up as a mercenary, in leather and steel, gets on a fast horse such as mercenaries prefer to ride, and follows the coach; and passes it.

"So he reaches the inn that will be the next coach stop. He makes sure that the guests there see him, remember him, but don't become too interested in him; some well-placed coarseness and insult does that well. And when the chance arises, he changes into the wizard's clothes, puts in an appearance, changes again."

This fits with Charles's manner; he was rude, but also pried for information in the manner of an agent. (See p105.)

Given this scenario, we can already put a name to the Agent. When della Robbia got off the coach, his voice was rough (p106-107); when he came down to dinner, it was fine (p108). We can deduce that it was Tommasi who got off the coach (ostentatiously dressed and disguising his voice). He then went upstairs with "Charles," exchanged clothes, and went out the window to the stable. The mercenary vanished, and della Robbia had dinner.

The appearance referred to by Hywel was not Nottesignore's introduction (p108), but "Nottesignore"'s original arrival at the inn (before the chapter began). Della Robbia had to establish that, because Tommasi had not yet arrived in his coach.

"If the hair were colored with saffron, would pinning it up in the Grecian style protect it through a bath?"

Ricardi said pleasantly, "Surely, Professore Plato, you are not suggesting I am that good an actress." There was general laughter.

Cynthia denies having been Charles, which of course she was not. But she is also deflecting Hywel's implication that she too is in disguise, which she is. (Her hair was pinned up, as described, when she came down from her bath on p109.)

"How else would a man in a forever-mended gown and wooden shoes be wearing new woolen hose when he died?"

The same hose he first appeared in (p108). These are not, however, the brown-and-white hose that he was wearing when he got off the coach as "della Robbia" (p106-107).

"All Medici bankers were agents... spies... to one extent or another."

"Well," della Robbia said, "guilty."

Without any surprise, Hywel said "You admit it."

Della Robbia's brief hesitation is probably his (admirably quick) decision to stop protesting innocence, and fall back to plan B. He will claim that he has done a good deed by killing a Sforza courier.

Hywel got up, tapped his fingers idly on the stair rail, went to stand near Caterina. "My lady, did you tell Claudio Falcone you were Dottorina Cynthia Ricci, the Medici physician?"

The first appearance of Cynthia's name since chapter 3.

Hywel is moving so that he can quickly touch Cynthia (p133). But he touches the stair rail in passing. That rail was mentioned on p109; Falcone touched it while looking for Cynthia. It is not impossible that Hywel is preparing his magic at this point, sensitizing himself to a possible connection between Falcone and Cynthia.

Della Robbia said "I learned the cuts from a book. In the inn library."

"There is no such book," Hywel said. "The only medical book there is a treatise on the gout. By Doctors Vittorio and Cynthia Ricci. Their portraits appear in the frontispiece."

Della Robbia is trying to protect Cynthia. It is not clear how this benefits him, except perhaps to retain her as an ally.

Hywel stood wholly rigid, sweat dripping from his face. [...] Cynthia bent forward in her chair, her hands cupping her right eye.

Hywel said earlier (p115) that he does not read minds. He does here; the effect at least supports his statement that it is a difficult magic.

The contact appears to be two-way; Cynthia feels a phantom pain in her right eye, the one Hywel lost (p24).

Della Robbia said "Why, that's mine. Where did you--" He reached for the ring.

Della Robbia again shows himself to be commendably quick on the uptake. He probably knows that Falcone had such a ring, but he has not seen it until this moment. (Hywel has had it since p124-125.) Della Robbia nonetheless reacts consistently with his cover story.

"Spies have signals to recognize one another; words, gestures. When you didn't respond to his, he knew you weren't what you were claiming."

Falcone's signal was probably spilled sugar (p110).

"Dottorina Ricci, do you see what this is? These men are all Imperials--"

Della Robbia is now on plan C; not very convincing, but he needs to get something out before Hywel lays down more evidence.

Hywel drew out the red wax ball. "The last palla," he said.

The significance of this, however, is not clear. The wax is from the seal of the message that della Robbia stole and then burned. Possibly red wax is most commonly used by the Medici.

Hywel felt along the hose. "There is a legend that a murdered wizard curses his killer. I think Nottesignore has left us one last trick." He reached into the stocking. His hand came out holding a large white egg.

Hywel must know more about the death curse than its legend, but he too is remaining in character.

(Ironically, Hywel is playing -- or at least recalling -- the conjuror, in his production of the hose and then the egg.)

The hose have been in della Robbia's possession since he and Tommasi went upstairs the first day (p107; see p129-130). Therefore, this must be a spare egg which Tommasi had stashed for his coach ride. He forgot to remove it when he removed the hose, and della Robbia did not notice it. (Della Robbia has not worn the hose himself since then.)

Gregory literally tore apart the curtains entangling him, ripping the heavy fabric with his hands.

A display of vampiric strength.

A black horse, the kind mercenaries prefer to ride, stood in the snow...

The phrase precisely echoes p129-130. It is unclear why the phrase is emphasized; perhaps Ford simply didn't know enough about horses to be more specific.

Dimi said "I wonder if we could even have gotten the message out of him."

Gregory said "Perhaps not. But between you, and I, and the wizard and the woman, were there any other kinds of fear to offer him?"

Dimi, Gregory, and Hywel are all frightening in obvious ways: violence, predation and infection, transgression of the mind. Cynthia is less clearly a figure of fear. Her medical knowledge earlier allowed della Robbia to torture Falcone; possibly this is what Gregory means.

Dimitrios held out his hand. Gregory took it, and got to his feet.

Unspoken is that Dimi is now willing to accept Gregory as a full comrade, forgoing his earlier revulsion (p113).

"When we touched -- I felt how much you hated them."

"That is a danger of the technique."

This confirms the implication (p133) that mental contact is two-way.

"...We have to act for those who aren't yet hurt." She smiled then, like a flower opening. "An ounce of prevention."

Cynthia is able to cast their private war against the Empire into medical terms. This makes her feel better... or perhaps feel dangerous; the "flower opening" recalls her pendant, which has revealed both medicine (p87) and poison (p79).

Hywel poured brandy from his own glass into hers. He put his hand over his left eye for a moment. Then he uncovered it, blinked, smiled.

Hywel peers through his missing right eye (see p24). The implication is of magical perception; perhaps of Cynthia, perhaps of the future.

See also: p318-319 (two eyes)