Thunder answers to his name now, comes when I call. (I ignore the possibility that he recognizes the sugar cubes in my hand rather than his name.) I hear footsteps behind me as I’m petting Thunder, and expect the horse master with another lecture. Instead it’s Lord Ekal. He wants to talk about Mynar.
“Lord Asher did get a bit carried away,” he tells me, as if making a concession.
I look at him. “Really? Is that what you call it?”
“What would have happened if the Weapon hadn’t been here to kill the demon?”
“We are likely going to find out considering that there are many Sorcerers and one Sword.”
He refuses to be defected. “The prince must marry the right person.”
“Then you should back off,” I tell him. “All of the Lord Advisors should back off. Keep pushing and Mynar will go stubborn on you.”
He doesn’t like my answer, silly man. He should know I’m going to be completely on Mynar’s side, but I’m not sure he even realizes there are sides.
Ekal has convinced me of one thing, whether or not Mynar’s reasons are good, his conclusion is right. We have become too dependent on the Sword—or rather, given that this was the first time the Sword has been drawn in battle in generations—too dependent on the idea of the Sword.
“This needs to be fixed.” Oops. Luckily Lord Ekal thinks I am talking to him, and takes this as a commitment, leaving satisfied. I’ve really got to stop speaking my thoughts out loud.
I can’t talk to my parents about this, they have sacrificed their lives to a belief in the necessity of the Sword. I can’t tell them I think their sacrifice ill judged. Should I tell Mynar? I’m not sure that I trust his judgment right now. But his is so very good at politics; only father is better. I’m going to have to think about this.
I head back across the court yard, thinking I will put in some practice with my crossbow. My training master is one of the injured, still weak from the infection from the claw marks on his arm. One of my guards draws my attention to a priest moving to intercept us. I stop and wait for him, recognizing him as the main priest who went demon hunting with us.
“Princess Adava,” he greets me. “May I have a moment of your time?”
“Always,” I answer, truthfully as well as politely. I will always have time for those who sought the demon instead of hiding from it. We go to comfortable seats before one of the fireplaces in a wall chamber. The fall has turned cold and the fire feels good.
“I examined each piece of the demon before they were burned. There were many pieces,” he smiles a little. “But the wounds from the Weapon were easily identified because it burned as it cut. There was one wound that was different.”
Suddenly he had not only my full attention, but that of my guards. Another weapon that could wound a demon might mean a better weapon for them.
He nods at all of us. He knows how important his information is. “When I examined the wound I found a broken flint point.”
“Flint?” my Sergeant questions. “Flint weapons haven’t been used since the days we were wandering tribes, yet to become a nation.”
“Flint,” the priest confirms. “I did some investigation. One of the household staff took an antique weapon from the wall and used it against the demon. I consider it divine intervention that the weapon worked at all, much less that she hit her target. Apparently the castle steward expects all weapons to be tended, even those adorning the wall of the tower staircase.”
“And you’re sure?” I ask.
“I did not keep the flint point or the broken bolt I found later—we burned all those with the demon—but I did keep a sketch. It matched the bolts left with the crossbow.”
“Flint,” this time the sergeants tone is meditative. “Why?”
No one answers him.
“So who would know how to make flint points?”
“A historian,” the priest surprises me with and answer.
“And knives,” the sergeant adds. Right, the guard doesn’t normally carry crossbows.
“Can you find such a historian,” I ask the priest.
This I can tell my parents. I go and hunt Mynar and make him go with me. Father spends afternoons with mother, now that his doctor allows him to hobble around a little. She is working on an elaborate set of altar vestments for the chapel at the monastery in the hills of Kaskl. It was monks from this monastery who cleaned the cemetery at Glaze Manor of bodies that should have been burned instead of buried, many monks dying of the plague themselves while doing so.
The lady of Glaze Manor who defied the burning edict for her sons was lucky to have died decades before grave robbers dug up plague. As it was, her descendant opened her crypt and scattered her ashes on the wind before he died of the plague she had preserved.
The vestments were exquisite work; I would appreciate them more if they did not remind me of mother’s proposed trip.
Mynar and I had collected Jes, so it was three of us disturbing the serenity of mother’s solar. But this time, we are bringing good news, or at least the possibility of good news.
Father immediately summons the chief armorer to the council chamber, and is so excited he doesn’t complain when Mynar and Jes help him down the stairs and send for cushions and a stool for his leg.
“Adava,” mother calls as I start to leave. “Send the priest to speak to me. I wish to commend him on his wisdom.”
I nod. The priest may disavowal the material, but everyone likes to have their work appreciated.
As we wait for the armorer, Jes closes the doors and moves next to father so he can speak softly. “The chief among the Shaman choose the greatest of their number to carry one of three ancient weapons. They are never in the same place, except during the yearly gathering of the tribes. No one living knows now why we protect the knives—but they are all made of flint.”
That’s the problem with secret knowledge, one or two people get killed before choosing an heir and it gets lost. Of course that didn’t apply to the secret I am keeping. Damn! I’m going to have to tell Mynar my Sword talks to me.
“Thank you, Jes,” father doesn’t even hint that the information isn’t useful.
Kels, the chief armorer, arrives and I have to tell the story again. For a few moments he just keeps repeating ‘flint’. Then he secures father’s permission to strip the castle and keep of any old weapons containing flint points. I figure he will be busy for a while.
“You need to examine the whole bolt,” Mynar suggests. “It would not do to discount the type of wood the point is fixed to.”
“And there is no need,” father adds, “To keep this secret.”
So rumor spreads, and random people show up at the castle gates handing guards all types of old weapons their relatives have stacked in attics and barns. Some of them are actually what we are looking for, and the guards share them out in some system they devise themselves—after Kels gets a good look at them.
A few days later the priest shows up with a whole squadron of historians; they find it exciting to be considered important to the defense of the realm. Unfortunately, all of their information is theoretical. They do, however, know where to find flint. Within two days Kels and four army squadrons head out of the city accompanying three empty wagons they expect to fill with flint stones waiting to be turned into weapons. Jes, Mynar and I watch them ride out.
Jes leaves; he has a light workout scheduled with my training master. Jes is helping him get back into shape because Jes is good enough to keep from hurting him, or getting hurt.
Our bodyguards have started having at least two cross-bows with them. I think this is excessive, but it makes them feel better. They are still frustrated at being unable to hurt the demon. Kels manages to produce enough quarrels to spread among the varieties of royal guards.
Mother has sent word that she wants to talk to Mynar, so he heads for her solar and I go to the vault. I’ve got some planning to do.
“Fighting?” My Sword gives me his usual question in greeting.
“No.” I give my usual answer. “I think we’ve used up all of the Sorcerers currently in town.
“Can I tell Mynar that you talk to me? Is there any rule against it?
“There are no rules for Wielders.”
“There are bloodline rules,” I remind it.
“Rules for me, not you.”
I have to think about that. It feels important. “So you don’t care if I tell Mynar that you talk to me. Will you talk to him?”
“No. Wielder only.”
Well that’s just great. I figure it’s a toss-up if Mynar will believe me or think I’m crazy. Some of the time I’m not sure I’m not crazy. Maybe I should re-think this whole ‘no secrets’ theory.
“Sun?” asks my Sword.
“Sure.” Why not take my Sword for a walk, we can visit Thunder.
At least my guards stay calm when I walk up the stairs bearing my Sword. For the first few days after the fight, every time they saw the Sword they looked around for demons.
Thunder is growing fast, he’s going to be a big horse. My big horse. Jes joins us. I’m surprised—I must have spent more time staring into space thinking than I realized.
“He shouldn’t be exercising yet,” Jes explains.
“Have I mentioned that your new ‘tribe’ is excessively endowed with stubbornness?”
“You do know this isn’t a virtue?” he asks me. I just laugh.
When we are leaving, Mynar comes stomping in. “I’m going for a ride. Alone.” He snaps as if we were demanding to go with him. “Damn list.”
“List?” Jes asks as we watch my brother ride off trailed by his guard. So much for ‘alone’.
I tell Jes mostly the truth. I just imply political reasons instead of bloodlines.
“Duty drives us,” Jes commiserates.
I wonder if he had any choice about joining a new ‘tribe’. Probably best not to ask. “How is the training going?” I ask instead. He seems to appreciate the change of subject.
“Two show promise, and one other may.” Chasing demons has interfered, and secrecy. Any Enchanters will know to avoid Jes, but might not be wary of native Abalemians. At least, that is the theory.
“Two are better than none,” I point out.
He agrees with me. “Training usually takes years. I did hope for more students.:
“Do you miss your family?” I suddenly feel very guilty—I don’t know anything about Jes’ life before he came to Misthold.
“I don’t have any family. When my father died the clan’s Shaman took me as apprentice a year early.” His tone was matter of fact, showing no emotion.
Of course I am curious, but I was raised by my mother so I have excellent manners. I don’t ask any leading questions; just walk along with him waiting to see if he will volunteer more. He doesn’t. Of course not. Instead he changes the subject.
“I’m going to have to dream-talk with the Shaman about flint and demons.” He sounds reluctant.
I look my question at him.
“I don’t mind telling them, but at this distance it’s …draining. I don’t like being so weak afterward, although you do have very comfortable beds.”
Now that I think about it, I realize luxuries are probably rare when you live a nomadic existence.
“So..are your flint knives considered holy?” This isn’t a personal question, so manners allow it.
“No, not even powerful, just special.”
“Do you think the Shaman can tell you more?”
“No. I don’t think they know more. But tomorrow, I’ll talk to them anyway.”
“I’ll bring you a plate of cookies,” I promise.
“Those honey covered ones?”
“Sure.” I’m beginning to think Jes is enjoying our less austere life.