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I go down to the vault. After three days of arguing with Mynar, I need the quiet. We had discretely made sure that none of the female guards were red-heads (an easy task since there aren’t many of them, and red-heads are rare in Abalem), and made plans to speak to Father when he returns from the border. The argument was whether or not to tell Mother; Mynar says ‘no’ and I say ‘yes’. We reach a momentary truce by agreeing that Father needs to be told first, and I come to the vault.
To everyone except me, Mynar and our parents the vault is where the Weapon lies; the actuality is much more than that.
Once I light the lamps and close the door the vault is strangely comfortable and even cozy. The Weapon mutters drowsily in my mind ‘Fighting?’, but goes back to dozing at my ‘no’.
I don’t know if the Weapon ever spoke to prior Wielders. There is no record of it, but there won’t be any record from me either. My life is complicated enough without adding ‘crazy’ to the mix.
I would worry more if the tone was eager, or worse, blood thirsty, but it is matter of fact, dry. Just asking if there was work to be done. I sometimes wonder what will happen when I say ‘yes’. Perhaps I will be lucky and never find out. Yeah. Not likely.
Besides the Weapon, drowsing on its stand, there is a large bookcase with sixty-one books in an unknown language—legacy of the Stormborne; and a stack of translations made over the years before the last of the Stormborne died. And in a chest, with locks even though it never leaves the vault, a flag, a ring, and a cornet. I had seen them once; to my relief, none had whispered to me. All were dower, brought when the Stormborne’s young Princess married King Trisum’s oldest son, thus gaining sanctuary for the fleeing remnants of her people.
Another bookcase holds the King’s journals; including King Trisum’s from the months after the Stormborne were blown ashore. Mynar reads the most recent ones; I read the most ancient. Someday we will meet in the middle. Father refuses to read them while maintaining the custom by writing his own. Mother pretends not to know they exist. I know that Mynar has hopes of translating more of the original Stormborne books, coveting their knowledge. It was lore from the translations we have which facilitate the building of the Spires, the great warning beacons that can summon the army or the Weapon when there is need. If anyone can find a way to translate the remaining books, it will be Mynar. But the few translations we have are random, unmatched to any particular book, much less page. Mynar hopes to make such a matching as a start to learning their language, but hasn’t yet.
I stare at the Sword, the Weapon that will only respond to the blood of the Stormborne, and wonder yet again if it is worth all the trouble. Last generation it had ceased answering to the royal line, until father married mother, with an ancestry that included three of the Stormborne. So the Weapon deigned to answer to me, and to whisper to me, and to irritate the life out of me by being as cryptic as Celeste.
“It is only a stop-gap,” Mynar had told me. “A generation or two, three at the most, even with the most carefully arranged marriages.” And then he had scowled at the sixty-one books so carefully arranged in the book case and so completely unreadable. “Why preserve them but not teach us the language.” He has asked this question before. There is still no answer.
“Two or three generations may be enough,” I had reminded Mynar yet again. The plague that had weakened us was generations in the past, we were not as dependent on the Weapon as we had been once the fear of the plague no longer kept our neighbors from thinking to expand their holdings at our expense.
I decide to stop thinking about my brother, who is being irritating. “I will tell mother, myself,” I decide, “no matter what he and father think.” Because of her three miscarriages, they want to coddle her, but because of her three miscarriages, I believed she more than deserves the truth. Her body might no longer be strong, but her will is adamant.
Thinking of mother draws me out of the vault and to her bower in the central tower. Mother’s bower is near the top, allowing large windows covered by the hardened glass we learned to make from the Stormborne. The guards dutifully follow me, but stop short of her door, knowing—whether liking or not—that they are not allowed in. The hallway is crowded with guards, mother having twice as many as I do.
Mother is seated by the largest window with her ladies scattered around the room. Several, without families or resources, are permanently at court. The rest rotate every six months, not all a once, of course, or there would be chaos, but by thirds.
Most—well everyone except her family—think that Mother does this to equally distribute the honor-burden of serving the Queen at court, but we knew how much useful information she gleans from the random gossip and from the many letters she writes, once her ladies go home. And from the servants that come with the ladies, carefully cultivated by several of mother’s servants. Only I know that she has inserted more than one servant or landless knight into service across the realm, and receives regular reports from them. Someday, hopefully not for many years yet, those reports will come to me. Father and Mynar would not approve, and would lecture about honor; I agree with mother, honor is talking care of the people of the realm.
At any given time in mother’s court there will be wives and daughters of the Lord Advisors and other knights, and daughters of prosperous famers (farmer’s wives being too busy to be spared from the farm for six months). Mother sits placidly working on a silk tapestry seeming ignoring the murmuring going on around her. She looks older than her 67 years, and frail. No one would ever suspect that she was the center of the realm’s spy network. No one would ever suspect that the realm had a spy network, knowing father’s opinions.
I sit down beside her, and hug her lightly. As always I fear that too much pressure will snap her frail bones. Five pregnancies with only two living children has eaten her strength; seven and two, I remind myself and feel guilty at forgetting my two dead half-siblings, even though they were in their graves when father was still a child, and the old king ruled.
“Have you been teasing the guards again,” she asks as she hugs me back, but she also smiles, so I know that her words are not a rebuke.
“Only ignoring them,” I tell her, “Otherwise, they would drive me crazy.” Provided, of course, I was not already crazy, believing the weapon whispers to me. I think, yet again, of telling mother, and don’t, yet again. We all protect her, just father and Mynar to a greater extent.
When Mynar was two, one of the Lord Advisors had pushed for yet another pregnancy, foolishly telling father that the possibility of another Prince was worth risking mother’s life. It took two of the other Lord Advisors to stop father from strangling him. The subject wasn’t raised again.
So I forget red-headed women and whispering Weapons and ask mother to show me the flower covered tapestry she is working on. I don’t really believe that she isn’t aware something is worrying me, but she will talk about silk colors and wait for me to decide to talk to her. Patience is one of mother’s many virtues.