I find father in front of mother’s fire, both of them staring at it as if they have decided I should not be part of whatever conversation I’ve interrupted.
I tell them about the rumors I’ve picked up, and stop there. For a moment, a very short moment, I consider telling them, “Oh, by the way, my Sword talks to me now” to distract them from whatever argument they are having. Having decided not to martyr myself, I leave. Lady Ckel follows me out.
“Your mother should not be planning such a long trip.” She glares at me as if I have any say in it.
“You going to tell her that?” She gives me no answer, but does shift her glare to the wall behind me. “I’ve already tried,” I admit. “Mynar has already tried, and father is obviously still trying. The best I can do is insist on going with her.”
“And take the Sword?”
I just tell her ‘yes’ instead of saying any of the sarcastic things I’m thinking.
I go to my rooms to see if my ladies have finished the red skirt they have been working on. If they have, I will dine in the great hall tonight wearing all red—even my new boots. It might be enough to distract the court from noticing if my parents aren’t speaking. And in a day or two, I’ll talk to Webb and see what rumors I’ve started.
They are talking, it would seem, but very formally. When given the chance Mynar whispers, “What?”
“The trip,” I whisper back.
I agree with him, but I don’t think carrying the ashes back to Kaskl is mother’s only reason for going. I think she would be making this trip even if there had been no rampaging demon.
“I have a plan,” Mynar continues whispering, “But we need to tell the parents about the Sword first.”
I just look at him, suspecting his reason.
“We need to have an alternative Wielder bloodline—an unknown one, so they won’t be the target of assassins too.”
Well, we agree on that. “In the morning,” I answer. I surprise myself by sleeping well.
It is easy enough to get father to join us beside mother’s fire, the cold is unpleasant to his healing leg, and her solar is the warmest place in the castle.
They both stop smiling when Mynar asks mother’s ladies to leave, but they don’t countermand his orders. Mynar delays a few moments putting an unnecessary log on the fire. Then he looks at me.
“The Sword talks to me,” I tell them.
I tell them all of it, starting with Ryka’s order of silence, and my accidentally revoking it. It is a long story, and we stop once to have lunch brought in. I am vaguely comforted by the fact my parents have not sent for the royal doctor to examine my head. Lunch is long gone and the bottle of accompanying wine empty by the time I get to the ‘identifying’ bloodlines part, and that I have tried it.
I know my parents believe me when father starts cursing the lack of honor of the Stormborne and mother agrees with him without deploying the language he is using.
Mynar finally decides he isn’t mute and adds his own surprise, “We need to establish another bloodline.”
Father tries to drink from his empty goblet, and I can see mother’s hands tremble slightly.
“The past searches for Wielders, your and mother’s marriage, the hunt for my prospective bride—the bloodline has grown thin, and people know it. We have enemies, even if we don’t know their names. Adava’s life and mine are all that stand between the Weapon becoming dormant, and it is no longer a secret. Someone is already trying to kill Adava.”
I want to kick Mynar for upsetting mother, even if what he says is true. I don’t kick him, because what he says is true.
“The army is perfectly capable of defending the realm.” Father is still trying to deny how vulnerable we are, but mother’s trembling grows worse as she faces an ugly reality.
“They can,” I agree. “But they do not believe it. The Dark Years are too much in memory.”
“And the fear the plague could return,” Mynar adds.
I glare at him.
“They are right,” mother finally speaks. “And who it is must be secret.’
I disagree. “Not just who, that there is anyone at all. All we should say is that we have learned how to properly introduce Wielders.”
“We shouldn’t say even that,” father has apparently decided we are right as he starts plotting with us. “We wouldn’t be believed. We need to let rumor get about without denying or confirming, to prime people’s expectations.”
“Starting rumors will be easy to do,” mother is still trembling, but she joins our plotting.
“What will be hard,” Mynar interrupts, “Is deciding who will start the secondary bloodline.”
“And I assume you have a suggestion for that, too.” I can’t tell if father is being sarcastic or not. I am surprised when my brother just shakes his head ‘no’. I thought he had everything worked out.
“We’ll meet here again in the morning,” father decided. “After your mother and I have had time to think about this. And don’t try to discourage the gossip this will inevitably get started—we will use it to our advantage.”
After we close the solar door, I hit Mynar on the arm, hard. “You upset mother.”
He doesn’t deny it. “There is no way to do what needs to be done without upsetting her.”
I think about hitting him again, and would have, except I realize he has upset himself too. So I let him go down to the comfort of his library and books.
I go and get my Sword, intending to walk around the town a little. We may want rumor, but we don’t want panic. The senior Captain of the city guard calls to me as I leave the castle. He is walking up the street, not running, so it probably isn’t another demon.
“There are Sorcerers in town, foreign ones. Trying to find Falchen’s secrets.”
We should have expected this; it is common knowledge Falchen was hanged, not demon-killed. “They won’t have any success,” I assure him. “The King had his house and the warehouse he rented dismantled and burned.” There are enough empty houses still from the Dark Years, to give Falchen’s landlord a choice of replacement, and he was happy to get a different house, with no Sorcerous taint, in trade.
Technically it isn’t against any law to be a Sorcerer, however irritating they usually are, so I don’t see what we can do about the visitors, other than watch them, which the Captain is already doing. So I walk about city, feeling the Sword enjoying the sunlight. Three different people warn me about the foreign Sorcerers. I smile and thank them for the information. After I walk about the upper reaches of the town long enough to be seen—with a double line of guards following me it would be hard not to be seen—I go back to the castle.
Je is sitting on the castle wall beside the gate, so I go up to see what he is doing.
“I expected more snow,” he complains.
“There will just be flurries for several weeks yet, but there will be snow enough before the winter is over.”
“Kymr sleeps and eats, regaining his strength. I have warned the guards against being careless. Perhaps I should warn you too.”
“I’ll take it under consideration,” I lie to him.
The next morning I am surprised to see father looking pleased. “I have proposed Duke Lars of Kaskl, and your mother agrees.” Mother nods her head, seeming less troubled today.
“He is a good choice,” Mynar agrees.
“And we have a good reason to summon him to court. He can bear the three urns back to Kaskl and inter them.”
Now I understand his pleasure; he thinks he has arranged for mother to forego her trip. I don’t believe she has, but say nothing in hope of a more peaceful winter.
Lars is a good choice. He had been Duke Rals’ square. As a newly made knight, he had been with Rals when the plague was released by robbers opening an illegal grave. He stood at Rals side at the mouth of the valley, enforcing quarantine. He had proven he would protect the realm, and so he had been named Duke of Kaskl when mother married father and assumed the duties of Queen.
“I have sent couriers to summon him.”
So father did not intend to allow us an opinion. I look at Mynar and find him looking at me. We both understand father’s main purpose is to keep mother safe in her nice warm and dry tower. Lots of luck with that father, I think but do not say.
Assassins, foreign Sorcerers, impetuous travel; I think longingly of the days I was bored. I bring my attention back to the room and realize the topic under discussion has changed. Mynar has found his ancient language expert at the great University of Ponti.
“He’s too old to travel here,” Mynar is explaining, “So I sent a transcription by courier.”
Well, waiting for Lars to arrive, waiting for the courier to return. Maybe I would get a little boredom after all—provided no new assassins show up.
“One more thing,” mother adds as the meeting ends, “Adava, carry the weapon any time you leave the keep.”
I promise. This time I’m not lying.