I go to the kitchen, my guards clattering behind, to collect the chief cook’s doting disapproval, my cup of coco and a plate of small cakes. Since they have icing, I grab some napkins too. All part of my plan to convince everyone that life is back to normal. It has been a week since Aker was deported, and people are still walking about as if on tip-toe, awaiting some as of yet unspecified disaster that too loud of a noise might attract.
We reach Mynar’s library, and I am so startled I almost drop the cakes. Even my sergeant pauses for a moment before he searches the shadows for enemies. Mynar is not at his desk and books, he is sitting in the window seat looking outward.
I join him. “Cake?”
He doesn’t answer, but he does take a cake. He finally asks, “Do you think our parents are ever happy?”
“I think they are glad enough to see things settling down.”
“That’s not what I mean? Do you think they are happy with their lives.” My brother falls silent, but I still clearly hear his last unspoken question, ‘Will my life be bearable?’
“Sometimes.” I answer both his questions.
Mynar takes another cake, and changes the subject. “Lord Hauilr is nearing the capital. His outriders arrived just before the council adjourned for the day. He passed Ambassador Aker’s party just this side of the border.”
We take turns going to the council meetings an attempt to keep from dying of boredom. While theoretically in favor of stomping all Enchanters out of existence, I consider not knowing the location of their stronghold a not inconsiderable barrier against being able to do it. But father doesn’t see it that way yet. His headaches have eased up, but not his temper. I can’t decide if mother’s going serenely back to her needlework means that she thinks there will be no war, or if she is in agreement with father and wants war.
“Ambassador Hauilr risked one last meeting with Afred, and took Leum along as aide.” Mynar reaches for his third cake, and starts telling me of the letters that accompanied the fast moving outriders. “Afred’s eyes were normal. Hauilr believes he is acting from greed, and not compulsion.”
“And you agree?” I can read my brother’s tone.
“Yes. Remember, they tried that first with father. I think,” he adds after a moment of reflection, “That such enchantments must be costly and hard—otherwise Enchanters would rule all realms.”
“We are idiots,” I inform him, struck by a sudden thought. “We have been concentrating on what they were doing. We should be looking at what they were trying to accomplish.” Mynar looks at me puzzled. “They wanted war against the tribes of the steppes.” I remind him.
“We should send warning to the tribes,” he agrees once he understands my reasoning, more than willing to do anything the Enchanters would disapprove of.
“And perhaps,” I add, “We should also send the remains of the Enchanter. As a gift.”
I sit in a window seat at the very top of the tallest tower. What had once been three arrow slits have been widened into a broad window that lets in the sun and a wide view. The landing is small, so my guards wait on the steps below, relaxing on the stone stairs because they have me tucked away somewhere safe.
I watch guards and army going in and out of the great gate and pout. The Sword leans against the far side of the window basking in the sun. I’m surprised it isn’t purring like a cat.
“Not a cat.” It whispers, and I realize I have been talking, not thinking.
I don’t answer. I have admitted to myself that the Sword talks to me. I have even admitted that it likes sunshine. “Like a cat.” I repeat.
I am mad at the whole world. More messengers ride out of the gate, and I am stuck here. I should have brought something to throw.
I am the one who thought of warning the tribes. I am the one who thought of gifting them with Alys remains. I should be the one leading an embassy to the summer meet of the tribes.
I pout some more. The Sword ignores me. There is a stirring behind me and Mynar squeezes into the landing. I ignore him.
“King Afred has sent a messenger.”
I think about pretending to be uninterested, but Mynar is capable of leaving if I do, so I look at him. “And?”
“He had no idea he was dealing with Enchanters. He though Alys was just going to seduce father.”
“Just” I scoot over next to the sword so he can sit down. “Is father accepting this?”
“Sort of. Mother is replying.”
I snicker. That will not be a reply Afred will be comfortable reading.
“So it’s over.” Mynar expects me to complain, but I don’t. I know the difference between what I want and what I can have. Couriers have been sent to all of the realms with warning of Enchanters acting outside of the steppes, even to Verkal. For now we can do no more.
“Yes,” I agree, “It is over.”