I arrive early to the council meeting expecting, correctly, father would also be early rather than have an audience as he is helped in. He confirms my decision and the guards now have resident priests.
There is little to discuss once the Lord Advisors arrive. Father has decided to send messengers to the north and west with news that flint weapons might work against demons, but they will delay until Kels returns. If he finds enough flint nodules in the chalk cliffs to the east, father will include a cross-bow bolt with each message. Everyone agrees—I must make a note in my journal, I think I was a baby the last time this happened.
Asher tries to ask a question about Mynar’s presumed wedding but is shushed by the other Lord Advisors. I think one of them kicked him under the table. Father ignores it all, and I am very glad it is my turn to attend the council meeting. Mynar’s mood is bad enough as it is, and Asher is stupid.
After the meeting I wonder up to my favorite tower and brood. I want to tell Mynar about my Sword, but no way in hell am I going to tell my brother that I’m talking to my Sword. I stare out over the city, thinking the low lying grey clouds go well with my mood. I’m getting as bad as Mynar. I want to talk to him about the Sword having rules, he’s good at problem solving. He asks questions until he get answers—or course he frequently drives people out of their minds along the way.
So what can I ask about rules? What are they? Who made them? How can they be changed?
I roll that last one over in my mind. If I ask the Sword, it will probably say they can’t. Will almost certainly say they can’t. But Mynar would ask anyway, so I will.
I start for the vault, leading my usual parade, but end up in the stables instead. Thunder is disappointed; I didn’t bring any apples. He settles for getting his ears scratched, and I admit I am delaying. I decide I am fine with that and go to the kitchen. I pick up cookies, sandwiches, and ale and go to visit Webb. And apples.
Webb is glad to see me. His horses are glad to see me. I am glad to see them, too until I start feeling guilty.
I finally end up at the vault.
“Hey Sword,” I start the conversation without waiting for its usual query. “Who made your rules.”
“Those who forged me.” I am surprised. I actually got an answer. “And Wielders.”
Oh my… I went away into my own mind for a while and though hard about that. “Can I add another bloodline?” I finally ask.
Damn, Damn, Damn. If any of the Stormborne were still alive I would track them down and kick them. We kept our end of the deal in full, and they had never intended to keep theirs.
“They are long dead.”
I am shocked for a moment, thinking the Sword has started reading my mind. Then I realize I had spoken my thoughts aloud. Again. Really got to stop that.
“Why didn’t you tell me? You don’t want to be alone again, do you?”
“No.” I almost believe I hear anguish in its tone. “You have to ask. It’s one of the rules. If you know the question to ask, then you are ready to know the answer.”
I stare at the wall for a while, thinking I should bring some breakable items down to the vault so I would have things to throw during moments like this, because I am certain there will be more moments like this. But then I remember I will have to be the one to clean up the broken pieces and decide not to. I finally calm down enough so that I am able to talk to the Sword without shrieking.
“Tell me how to add a bloodline.”
Now I am going to have to talk to Mynar. But first, I get my journal from its hiding place. I need to write about this—all of this. It is too big of a secret to be known only by one person. It isn’t likely I will suddenly die before I talk to Mynar, but I am not going to take any chances. I waste half a page damning the Stormborne and calling them names. Once I have everything on paper, I decide I can wait until morning to talk to my brother. My baby brother, I remind myself.
I go up the stairs from the vault, mentally kicking myself. The Sword had told me it kept silent because Ryka told it to. The damn Stormborne should have told us. But since they were all long dead it was no more effective to get angry at them than to stay angry with myself.
I stop my internal litany when I realize the top of the stairwell is filled with guards anxiously looking down. I hurry the rest of the way up.
“The king requests that you join him in the great hall. There is something…You probably want to take the Sword.”
“Damn.” At least I’m in the mood to hit something.
There is a cage in the middle of the great hall holding a whimpering man. My father, brother, and a much too large group of people are watching him, but he isn’t doing anything but whimpering.
Father looks at me as I walk up. “Sir Gryloe,” father indicates a soldierly looking older man, “Found this person in the woods of his manor upriver.” Gryloe was backed up by three younger men who were clearly his sons, but instead of soldier, the three of them proclaim farmer.
“We found him because of the screaming.” As if on cue the whimpering gains volume until it turns into shrieks. The man’s ears grow longer and hairy. Grey fur starts appearing on his hands and face. His nails grow into claws. And I revise my previously held opinion about werewolves just being myths. Then he gets stuck, not even half man-half wolf—more like one‑fourth wolf. His whimpers turn into howls. Everyone except Gryloe and his sons are just staring.
The sort-of-werewolf stares back and howls. I notice that everyone keeps a safe distance from the cage.
“When he’s a wolf, he tries to bite,” one of the sons explains. “He hasn’t succeeded because he tries to run on hands and feet, like a four-footed beast, and he can’t move very fast.”
“But we had to put him in a cage,” Sir Gryloe adds, “Because there is no pattern to his changing.”
“He won’t talk to us,” another son speaks up.
I circle around the room as if to view the wolfman from different angles. I am really seeking a few minutes of privacy so I can whisper “Sorcerer?” to my Sword.
“No. Not doing—done to.”
“Do you know who this is?” Father asks, not bothering to hid his annoyance at being forced to deal with more magic.
“No.” Gryloe’s tone is definite. His three sons nod in agreement. “Everyone in the village has seen him, and none recognized him.”
Everyone gawked at him, more likely. As I circle the room, I see the royal doctor. Imres looks at me and shrugs.
“You could at least give him a blanket and a pillow,” he points out, obviously thinking patient, not werewolf, for all that he has no suggestion of treatment.
“We tried,” the youngest son answers, feeling his father is being criticized. “When he is part wolf, he tears them up.”
“How long does he stay like this?”
“Sometimes hours, sometimes minutes.”
I keep circling. “Any suggestions, Sword?” I get no answer.
“The village priest tried to exorcise him, but it did nothing. Neither did a blessing.”
“Which form was he in?” That’s my little brother, always with the useful questions.
“Both. For each. We tried everything we could think of, then we brought him here.” Gryloe doesn’t say and now I can hand the problem off to you, but his thought are clear to everyone.
It isn’t hard to find a place to put our guest—at the moment he is not being treated as a prisoner, but more as a crazy person who needs to be restrained. We wouldn’t do that if he didn’t keep trying to bite people. His attempts cause more fright than harm. And the fright is all due to the old fables claiming being bitten by a werewolf turned you into one.
There are still unused barracks—unused since the Dark Years—and we turn a room into a cell for him by adding bars to the windows and door. When he is human the doctor examines him. He reports to father, Mynar and me in the council chamber. Lord Advisors Ekal and Taver are there, but otherwise getting ready for the winter months is more important to everyone else. Gryloe and his sons have already left, with orders to keep a watchful eye on their woods. Gryloe turned down a offer of a squadron of guards to help him. Many of his staff are, like him, retired from the army, so he thinks he needs no help.
Imres’ report tells us nothing. “When he is in his human form, he is completely human, as far as I can tell. The only anomalies are a number of tattoos done in a heavy black ink.” He produces an outline drawing of a human body with different words written on it. Between the five of us, we speak several languages, and wolf is tattooed on him in each of them.
“The guards won’t let me examine him when he is in his wolf form.” Imres is irritated.
“They don’t want you bitten,” father explains. I suspect he is also enjoying not letting the doctor do as he wants; not that father would do anything to get even with the days of enforced idleness—not much, anyway.
The doctor is not convinced. He and father start negotiating and I ignore them. I haven’t talked to Mynar yet. I probably could have, but have been using the sort-of-werewolf as rationalization. Maybe it is time to stop the procrastination. I have a sudden stroke of genius, and catch Mynar in the hall.
“Go to the vault and read the last entry in my journal.”
I walk off without answering, knowing curiosity will move Mynar faster than arguments.