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Three days later and everyone from father to the guards to the cooks in the kitchen are getting more and more nervous, despite the fact that I am healthy and un-assassinated. Jes is practically living in the corridor outside Kymr’s cell, to be available whenever he has a lucid period. The royal doctor has examined him several times and believes he is dying. Imres has conferred with Sister Mays and the various priests who now consider themselves part of my guard. They believe the only chance of saving his life is to remove the inked letters—which have proven not to be real tattoos. So far, they have resisted being removed. In one of his lucid moments Kymr admitted they were the source of the power that once let him become a wolf. He lapsed back to his partial-wolf form before the doctor could get his approval to remove them. They are moving ahead anyway—considering he came with the intent of killing me, he can consider himself lucky we do not plan on removing them by skinning him.
The three of them have decided on pure mountain spring water infused with a combination of herbs and flowers known to banish evil remnants and alleviate curses. A gallon of it is going to spend three days on the altar in the chapel at the Nursing Order.
Kymr is willing to talk when he is able, but he doesn’t really know much. His master has just been hanging around the swamplands gathering minions (his word, not ours) and devising random powers for them. Kymr had never been out of Caeel before.
So Jes talks to him in spurts, and I wander about the castle inviting the last assassin to make his attempt so I can capture him. Nothing has happened, maybe he decided the odds aren’t good, given that two of the three assassins had been captured.
I decide to go visit Thunder. As I enter the stables, one of the stable boys stops working to watch us enter. He is taller than the other boys. Finally. Although I am aware of his interest in me, he doesn’t seem to be aware I am noticing him. I go on two steps farther. One more and we will be in a better tactical position. As I take the last step, I turn with my sword half drawn.
He is standing, his hands cupping a glow which turns into fire. He draws back his hand as if to throw it, and it stops being a ball of fire and turns into a liquid spilling over him, intensifying. He’s still screaming as my guards drag me out of the stables. People start running with buckets of water.
“Thunder.” I start back, but a solid wall of guards tops me. Before I can do anything totally irrational, I realize the horses are being lead out the door at the other end of the stable.
I spend my time soothing Thunder; there is no need to hurry, we won’t be getting any answers from the third assassin. We probably won’t even have to burn the body. A couple of apples and Thunder is fine, but the other stallions in this end of the stable don’t like fire in their stable and are letting everyone know it.
I send one of my guards to tell father the last assassin is dead, while I go to talk to mother.
Mother and I are in our usual chairs in fall and winter before the fire. Mother is wrapped in a fleecy robe, and not even pretending to work on anything. But she is calmer now; the last assassin is dead.
“I can’t remember Verkal ever sending a delegation to Abalem, do you?”
“They haven’t for years, but there was one or two when I was young. Why?”
“Did the delegates include Clairvoyants? I need a reason, other than Claire, to know clairvoyants can operate in Abalem.”
“Oh. Good thinking. Yes, they did, and they showed off. We were all suppose to admire how wonderful they were. I think one of the reasons they rarely come here is they don’t like our outspoken women.”
“All three of the assassins’ powers failed, but the Enchanter’s didn’t, and Clairvoyants, and whatever Jes does…”
“That could lead to something useful,” mother agrees. “But I am more interested in finding out who presumed to hire assassins to kill my daughter. And then I want to kill them. Slowly.”
I stare at mother in shock. This is not like her. Or maybe it is. I have never seen her when one of her children was threatened. I feel my breath coming back. If mother is this angry, father will be ten times worse. I do not want a war fought over me, after all, I’m alive and the assassins mostly aren’t.
I make the mistake of telling mother this, and have to listen to her explain, in detail, twice, why this wasn’t the end. The end required making it clear to the whole world that no one, no one, could get away with trying to kill one of her children.
She isn’t going to let this go.
I lead my parade of guards to the kitchen. This time I grab a platter of sandwiches and a bottle of wine. Which means I need glasses and desert—so I get a couple of undercooks to carry things and head to my brother’s library. He raises his eyes to the ceiling, but then points to an unused table. They have picked up a tablecloth, candlesticks and a vase of flowers. Oh well. They didn’t get to help me fight demons, or assassins, but they can give me the most elegant snack ever. I just smile and thank them.
I am surprised to find Jes in the library too. “Kymr is changing so frequently I can’t get any sense out of him,” he answers my questioning look.
Eventually the undercooks and guards leave us alone. I grab a sandwich and realize I’m starving. I haven’t been eating much since we found the wolf-man, and sleeping less once we caught the invisible man. Jes and Mynar are also both happy to sit and eat for a while.
“This is a good idea, Adava,” my brother tells me as he nibbles on his third sandwich.
“We know that Enchanters, Clairvoyants, and whatever Jes does works in Abalem.” I pause for a moment to see if Jes is going to add anything. He doesn’t. “And Sorcerous magic doesn’t, much of the time. So what prevents Sorcerous magic from working in Abalem?”
“Not just Abalem,” Mynar disagrees. If there were Sorcerer’s who were always able to control their spells consistently in other realms, we would have heard about it. Demons are not subtle weapons.”
“Perhaps that is the wrong question?” Jes finally decides to contribute. “Perhaps the right question is what in the swamps allows a Sorcerer to succeed.”
That made sense. “So we now have another unanswered question to go with who is the assassin master and who hired him.”
“I have translated all but one set of words,” Mynar apparently things we need some good news. “They are all some variant of unseen or wolf, except for one phrase common to both. I can’t translate it, but I believe it is how they were able to communicate with their ‘master’.”
“Kymr has said nothing about being able to communicate.” Jes is skeptical.
“If he didn’t know communication was possible, then how could his master have ordered him killed?”
“Nice theory,” I agree, “But does it do us any good?”
“It gives us a way to feed disinformation.” My little brother is definitely the most devious one in the family.