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I watch Mynar closely, this is the third elaborate trial since spring—counting the haranguing of Ambassador Aker as the first—and I am certain he’s very near an eye roll. I don’t want to miss it. But I am not so absorbed in Mynar watching that I am not aware of Alan watching me.
The room is crowded, but space is left around the three Sorcerers. And not a few angry looks are being tossed their way—the citizenry is tired of demons in their squares.
Father easily interprets the worried glances at mother’s empty throne, and starts by telling the court that mother will be staying by the warmth of her fire instead of attending. The court relaxes at knowing she is not ill—or at least no more ill than usual.
As my gaze wanders past Alan, the sword whispers not-sorcerer yet again. I have asked why this is important and only got silence for an answer.
Jes and my training master have their heads together just inside the main doors. I gaze idly around, smiling at Webb when I see him in the audience. All of the doors have at least two additional guards, and more guards mingle with the crowd.
Someone is expecting trouble—but then, our guards always expect trouble, it is part of their job. I look around more carefully. They could be right this time. There is a dark current of anger in the crowd, not just the usual sense of waiting to be entertained. Even the Sorcerers seem to notice it.
There is an unusual silence as the charges are read: “assisting a Sorcerer in summoning a demon”, with Ydal’s wail of “just chicken ashes” as a counterpoint.
And so we are off, so well staged by father that we should all be in costume like the royal players. I am amused when Alan is called to testify.
He is scornful of the claim of demon ashes, but admits they were offered as such. “Anyone who believed a peasant had a bag of demon ashes deserved to be demon-killed.” The prosecutor ends his questions before Alan can say anything else, but Ydal’s council continues asking variations of “so you didn’t believe it was demon ashes” until father finally tells him to stop.
Ydal’s council continues with witnesses of Ydal buying a chicken, cooking a chicken—shared with the witness—and burning the remains of the chicken to ashes.
By the end of the day, even the Sorcerers are convinced the bag contained chicken ashes. The prosecutor tries to convince the court that it was the belief in demon ashes which led the Sorcerer to summon the demon, but he doesn’t succeed. All of the citizens know that sooner or later a Sorcerer will summon a demon. (Of course, any Sorcerer who was smart enough to avoid demon summoning or any other spell that would fail violently would likely escape notice.)
So Ydal is found guilty of ‘perpetrating a public nuisance’ and sentenced to six months of labor for the good of the realm. Considering the angry looks, I need to suggest the labor be outside the city.
The people are still leaving the castle as Duke Lars rides in the east gate. They have made some effort not to appear as travel worn as they must be, considering how soon they arrive.
Father goes to the courtyard to meet them, and takes Lars straight to mother. We have agreed they will talk to him alone, first. Mynar goes to his library and I go to the vault. It’s time to tell my Sword our plan. Mynar is anxious that Lars won’t agree, but I am sure he will. There are people who can say ‘no’ to mother, but Lars isn’t one of them.
The Sword is excited, especially when I tell it Lars and his wife have five sons.
“I would not trade you for anyone else,” the Sword tells me, “But being alone is hard.”
This time the Sword gets silence for an answer. I am never alone and the Sword fears being along. Probably some great philosophical truth somewhere in that. I decide I don’t care.
I leave the Sword in the vault and go to my daily session with my training master. The last few months Jes has joined us; sometimes as student, and sometimes as teacher.
I enjoy watching them spar with each other—like some exotic deadly dance. I am smart enough not to make this observation out loud. I am pleased that I can beat both of them at throwing knives. Probably because of all the practice I get when I’m angry or annoyed. Being constantly followed by a group of warriors determined to throw themselves between you and any perceived danger can lead to frequent annoyance. The only time they are not watching is when I am in my private rooms. There my ladies watch. I practice knife throwing a lot, for all that my training master does not approve of it. A knife thrown is a weapon you no long have in your hand. I have promised him I will never throw my last knife.
It’s been a long day, supper is subdued, Lars sitting between father and mother, is looking shocked, but I don’t think anyone else notices. Mynar decides to provide a distraction by lecturing about a new philosopher he is reading, and I do my part by making snarky comments. It works, and Lars relaxes.
He follows Mynar and me back to my brothers library. (I don’t know why he has other rooms; put a bed in the corner of his library and he wouldn’t leave it for weeks at a time.)
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” he asks both of us when we are alone at last. The guard’s ritual inspections of the room has gotten longer now they have to consider invisible assassins.
“Of course not!”
We answer in chorus.
“It relieves us both of a great burden,” Mynar tells him. “And of arranged marriages.”
It takes a while, but he is convinced we really agree. He has promised our parents his answer in the morning, so he finally goes off to bed. I don’t think he will sleep. I sleep well, certain one of our major problems has been solved—or will be before the next day is over.
Lars spends the morning with mother, her ladies listening as they plan the final resting place for the guards ashes. He leaves only when mother pretends fatigue (or pretends that she pretends—the fatigue being real).
He joins us in the library—me, Mynar, and my Sword. Then, minutes later, we have a second new bloodline.
Mynar hands Lars a glass of wine; he looks as if he needs it.