Azzie was annoyed at the news. He was just about to ride off to rescue Mother Joanna when there was another sound at the inn door and in came Rodrigo Sforza.
"Are you the one who sends out magic horses?" Sforza asked boldly.
"What if I am?" Azzie asked.
"I've got one. I want a wish granted."
"It's not quite as easy as that," Azzie said. "There's some work you have to do first."
"I am quite prepared for that. But tell me, can you, will you, grant me my dearest wish?"
"Yes," Azzie said. "I can. What is it?"
"I want to be known far and wide as a scholar," Sforza said. "I want to be better known than Erasmus, and looked upon as a model of learning."
"Nothing simpler," Azzie said.
"I should mention that I can neither read nor write."
"That need not impede us."
"You're sure? I thought literacy was a prerequisite for great learning."
"So it is," Azzie said. "But what we are after here is the reputation, not necessarily the real thing. Listen carefully. You will have to undertake an adventure."
"Not a dangerous one, I hope."
"I hope not, either," Azzie said. "But first I have an errand to run. Wait for me here. I'll be back presently."
Azzie shed his cloak, freed his wings, and leaped into the sky with the sprite along to show the way.
Azzie found Mother Joanna at the bandits' camp. She and Hugh were seated at the table, going over a map and discussing what sounded like the hijacking of a caravan two days hence. As Azzie reached out to dismember a drunkenly merry man, she stayed his hand. "Hold, Azzie," she said. "These are my men. I am in charge here."
"What?" Azzie responded.
"My wish was granted even sooner than I'd anticipated," she stated. "For this I owe you considerable thanks."
"Think nothing of it," Azzie said. "Just be in Venice for the ceremony."
"Of course. And I do get to keep my soul?"
"Certainly. That was a part of the bargain."
"Good. I'll be there."
Shaking his head, Azzie sprang into the air and was gone.