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Of all the things for Roger to die from, it is the Sweating Sickness that fells him.

He is old when it happens, and he is not in the best of health anyway; too many years serving the Crown in Carthak have stripped him of his tolerance for moister Tortall.

The Sickness strikes Port Caynn every winter, and Corus every few years; it is just Roger's bad luck that he has returned home now, to escort Empress Kally's twin girls on their first visit to their mother's homeland. The Sickness rarely reaches into the palace, but Roger doesn't let himself spend much time there.

It is things like this that almost make me believe in divine justice, Roger thinks. He never actually went through with his plan to unleash a magic-bolstered version of this plague upon the capital, but he had been fully prepared to do so. Only an urgent summons to return home had prevented him from going through with it.

Nobody knows about that, but Roger knows, and the irony makes his lingering decline even more vexing than it already is.

He has few friends in Tortall. The friends he had are now wary of him, and the friends he might have had he has all tried to kill at one time or another. Roger purses his lips, plumps his disagreeable pillow, and settles in to (finally) finish reading that epic history of Ekallatum the Emperor foisted on him years ago.

With any luck, he'll die before the boredom kills him.

The window makes barely any noise as it slides open, but there are no other noises in Roger's townhouse, so it catches his attention anyway. A purple magelight bobbing up over the sill screams the intruder's identity even before the man makes it into the room.

"Hello, Roger," Thom says absently. "You're looking well, for a dying man. I can't believe you're reading that."

Roger snorts. "And I can't believe that you're over forty and still breaking and entering." He regards the book in his hands. "But I can't believe I'm reading this, either." He tosses it aside; it crashes to the floor with a loud thump.

Thom almost winces.

"What are you doing here, Thom?" Roger asks.

Thom gives him one of his patented looks. "Visiting you," he replies. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Visitors don't usually come 'round at witching hour through one's bedroom window," Roger dryly responds. He has missed this, and it surprises him. "Visitors generally come by during the day, and to the front door."

"Since when have I ever done things the usual way?" Thom snarks back, shifting his awkward grip on the window frame slightly. Roger wonders, idly, how Thom manages to stay balanced.

The air in the room is full of the usual strange (comforting), electrifying, aware potential that always accompanies Thom. Roger, as usual, is the one to break the silence.

"I planned to kill them, you know."

Thom's eyebrows raise. "Yes, I know. Rather better than most other people, I imagine. Which attempt are we reminiscing about now?"

Roger glares at his former squire. "An attempt that never got off the ground, thank you very much."

"Oh." A wicked smirk curls Thom's mouth. "You mean the whole 'magic the Sweating Sickness all the way from Carthak' thing."

Roger stares.

Thom laughs, and it still sounds exactly as sinister as it did when he was a page. "I read your notebooks," Thom says, "when we were in Carthak."

"Of course you did," Roger grumbles. "Is there anything you didn't manage to poke your nose into?"

The smirk is back. That's answer enough.

It's when Thom's other hand comes up from behind the window and cold steel glints harshly in the purple light that Roger remembers what else was in those notebooks.

Thom's smile, this time, is actually sad. His eyes are as hard as diamonds, and never waver.

"I can't risk it," the younger man says. His voice is level, and just a touch grave. "Alanna will be by in the morning."

Roger has always known the mistakes of his youth would come back to haunt him. They have been haunting him all his life. He meets Thom's eyes squarely.

"I named you my heir," Roger murmurs. It is only fitting, after all.

Thom's eyes go wide, and then narrow again. He enters the room fully, now, booted feet surprisingly noiseless on the old wood floor. He raises his sword to Roger's throat, and Roger can see that the blade is impregnated with dozens of spells to undo Sleep and prevent resurrection.

Thom was always a bit paranoid, Roger thinks, and he has not lost his tendency to overdo things.

It is strangely comforting.

Roger's last thought isn't a thought, but a bittersweet emotion: pride.