It is two more days before Sister Mays and the priests are ready to remove the words. They have spent the two days debating removing the words one at a time, or immersing him in a bath, to remove all at once. One at a time won when Jes, over the course of six transformations to wolf, managed to get the order the words were added
So they are going to remove them in reverse order, with Mynar hovering to be sure his ‘communication’ runes aren’t smudged.
After a lot of debate, it is decided that I should wait outside in the hall, to protect my delicate princess sensibilities. Have I mentioned people are inconsistent in dealing with me? The warrior can fight a demon, but the princess shouldn’t see an unclothed man. Sometimes I think I am the only sane person in the realm, until I remember I talk to my Sword.
So I lounge in the doorway watching wood being delivered to rebuild the burned parts of the stable. The war stallions are still making their displeasure felt. The stable master sneered at my suggestion of apples the first day after the fire, and then brought in bushels. Unfortunately the stallions only progressed from wanting to kill people to just wanting to hurt people.
Watching the knights trying to deal with their angry mounts, I have to admit, if only to myself, to a nagging feeling I might not be able to manage one myself. I am going to have to spend more time training Thunder.
“It’s working,” Mynar sticks his head out to tell me. “Treating it as a taint instead of a color is the right way to go about removing them.”
“Sister Mays is rarely wrong,” I point out as he ducks back in to continue supervising.
It takes several hours, but at the end Kymr stops changing. He falls into an exhausted sleep, closely monitored by one of the priests. He claims to be grateful we saved his life, but I have my doubts. He told us about the other assassins in a fit of anger, and confusion brought on by the incomplete transformation, not because he had a change of heart about being an assassin.
Mynar and I have talked several times about the Sword, but he is still unconvinced. I believe he is afraid to be convinced because he wants it so much. I leave Mynar to his plotting and Jes to his well-deserved rest and go to the vault.
“Tell me how to do this again, Sword,” I demand. So I lay the Sword on a table and watch as one of the gems in the hilt slides open. I cut my thumb and let drops of blood fall into the cavity below the gen. It closes and I tell the Sword, “Register a new bloodline.”
“Done.” For the first time I sense an emotion from the Sword—satisfaction.
“You will recognize my children?”
“Yes, and your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews…” Again the feeling of satisfaction. “It was very lonely when there was no Wielder,” the Sword explains.
“Then why didn’t you tell anyone—oh yeah, Ryka told you to be quiet.”
I don’t know what I expected to change, but nothing did. Other than my Sword feeling ‘happy’. First my Sword talks to me, now it’s having emotions.
I tell my Sword about what was done to the ex-wolfman, and then go to upset my brother.
“I’ve identified the language of the last phrase,” he tells me as I walk into the library (or we walk in, as always), “But I can’t find anyone who speaks it.”
Well that’s useful, I think but don’t say as my guards, satisfied there is no monster hiding among the books leave.
I tell Mynar about the Sword, leaving out my perception of emotions, and then listen to his fussing and bitching. Somehow he had acquired the notion I was going to wait on his approval. Sometimes being the heir goes to his head. Eventually he gets over it and sits quietly for a few minutes.
“I’ve been thinking about how to explain to our parents.” He tells me, admitting silently that he has been thinking about the problem and not just translating variations of ‘wolf’. “If they hadn’t gotten married, the Sword would have been lost forever. The fact the Stormborne didn’t keep their side of the deal doesn’t negate that our parents saved the Sword by making possible your existence.”
“In any case, we have to tell them. You did document what you did in your journal, right?”
“Of course. But it takes a Wielder. We aren’t safe until we have children.”
“Or until you add another bloodline.”
Got to admit I hadn’t thought of that. Now that Mynar has brought it up, I don’t much like it either. But, like it or not, he is right. We have a long discussion about when to talk to our parents and come to no conclusion. We finally decide ‘not now’ and Mynar goes back to trying to track down an expert in a long dead language.
I go to visit Webb, he’s an amazing good source of information about the rumors going around town. I want to know what people are saying about the wolfman and the fire. I think we have contained any rumors about invisibility. As usual I bring apples and snacks. It’s a profitable trip. The general opinion about both the wolfman and the ‘exploding into fire’ man is that Sorcerers are stupid. That the only thing a Sorcerer is good for is committing spectacular suicide. People know that Sorcerers can do amazing things, but they also know that eventually one of those amazing things will go wrong. None of the rumors mention invisibility or assassin. It’s good to know something is going well.
News of mother’s invitations has spread to the streets also. Rumor has her matchmaking. The people approve, assuming she is making sure of the next generation of Wielders. The need for Stormborne blood is suppose to be a state secret, but the people aren’t stupid. No Wielder for a generation, then an unlikely marriage and I’m being groomed—unarmed combat lessons along with dance lessons. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.
I go home and take Thunder his share of the apples. He’s in a good mood and growing fast. The repairs to the barn are well underway, and the fire smell almost gone. Despite that the stallions are still expressing their displeasure. One of the stable hands has a broken arm, and several knights have bruises.
I feed Thunder another apple and whisper to him that he is a spectacularly good horse and I am sure he will never be so grumpy over things that cannot be helped. At least talking to my horse won’t get me labeled crazy. But if he starts talking back I’m going to retire to one of the Nursing Order retreats and become an anchorite.
The stable master comes over and instead of his usual ‘you are ruining that foal’ lecture he grudgingly admits the apples have helped. At least no one has been permanently maimed. He watches me scratch Thunder’s ears. I can’t decide if he is thinking about telling me to stop, or if he is thinking about scratching the stallions ears. He walks off without saying anything so as usual I’m left without an answer.
As I walk back toward the keep, light snow flakes start falling. From the looks of the clouds, the first of many.