Kymr is stripped to the waist, setting on a stool, with a priest standing behind him holding a wet towel. One of Sister Mays nurses stands beside the priest holding a basin of the blessed and sanctified water. We have reached a deal with Kymr, and the farce is about to begin.
It was hardest to convince mother. She didn’t want to kill Kymr only because she wanted to dig a new pit below the lowest level of the dungeon and put him in it for decades with only rats for company. Our gentle mother is not the least forgiving toward someone who tried to hurt her children. It took days to talk her into our plan, days while wet snow fell, filling the streets.
In return for Kymr’s help, he would be freed in the spring, given two sets of clothes, a modest bag of silver, and shoved over the border into Halft with a promise of a slow, lingering death should he ever cross our borders again. It was sending him to Halft that convinced mother; she is still annoyed with Afred.
After all of the planning, arguing, and waiting for winter to arrive, the act itself is boring. Kymr goes into a light trance that has Jes frowning, and talks in a sing-song voice to someone who isn’t there. He reports my death, in some detail, and then the death of his fellow assassin who was trying to ‘rescue’ him. At that point he screams ‘no’, and the priest uses the towel to remove his last runes. With luck, his ‘master’ will think he was killed.
While the guards return Kymr to his cell, Mynar goes off to tell our parents that everything seemed to go well, and I follow Jes to a vantage spot on the outer walls of the castle. I find him staring in confusion at a lit brazier in a corner where the wall meets a higher tower.
“You’ve been coming here to watch the snow.” He nods at me, still looking confused. “The palace staff considers it a point of pride to keep us cosseted so, of course, they don’t want you to get cold watching the snow. Stay here long enough, and someone will probably bring you a snack.”
“I don’t understand why you haven’t become weak.” But he doesn’t move away from the brazier. He watches the falling snow for a while, and I wonder how long before there will be a tarp stretched above the brazier to keep him dry as well as warm. He finally decides to tell me what is bothering him.
“The trance Kymr entered wasn’t dream-speech, but it was very similar. It wasn’t Enchanter power, but it was similar. Whatever his ‘master’ is, I fear he came from the tribes.”
“Every race has their rogues and renegades.” I’m not sure why he is upset, after all, we have our Sorcerers.
“The Shaman may decide that the tribes should deal with him, and I’m not sure they can.”
“Perhaps we should gather more information before you share this with them.” I suggest, thinking that information gathering could take years. I don’t convince him, but I can see him thinking about it, wanting to be convinced.
“It’s a real pity we can’t trust Alan. I would really like to know what he thinks about all of this.” I waste a moment thinking about the furor I could provoke by asking Alan to eat with us, and talk of his travels.
The snow keeps falling, and every day I get reports about what the Sorcerers did the day before. The guards trade off watching Blight sit in the inn by the fire, Rout digging in the snow, and Alan working in the smith. They are making bets whether Rout will freeze to death before he has a chance to get demon eaten. Alan is learning to make nails. I waste some time trying to decide what a ‘magic’ nail would do, but he will probably wait until he can make some type of blade, or staff, or hammer. Or horseshoe?
One of the staff interrupts my somewhat unprofitable daydreaming about Thunder with magic horseshoes with a summons to the council chamber.
Father is there, but nothing is said until Mynar finally arrives. They had probably had to pry a book out of his hands before he would leave his library. The first three of mother’s ‘guests’ arrived before the snow made travel difficult, and Mynar has been hiding in books ever since.
“I received a letter from Celeste,” father tells us when Mynar finally arrives. That explains why Jes isn’t here. Every additional person who knows of her talent adds to her danger from the fanatics of Verkal. “She warns of a battle. Snow and a full moon and boats coming up the river from the sea.”
“Outlanders.” An attack from the sea made more sense than an overland attack during the winter. Not a lot more, but some.
Father nods in agreement. “A surprise winter attack on Misthold would have a possibility of succeeding, leaving them entrenched in the city and ready to raid the countryside in the spring.”
Father sends for Lord Taver, while Mynar and I weave a fantasy of a non-existent informer to explain why the soldiers should be readied to move in the middle of the winter since we can’t tell him about Celeste.
When Lord Taver arrives I leave them to their planning, knowing I will only be irritated. He will be confident I can face and defeat an entire army, but he will try and make sure while I am doing it, I won’t get wet, or cold, or muddy, and that afterward I will have a nice warm bath and clean clothes.
I go down to the vault to talk to the Sword. Maybe a little late in the day to be looking for assurance, but I do it anyway.
After the ritual ‘fighting?’/’no’, I ask, “In battle, will I be able to use your full strength, as Michl did?” The great warrior had protected our borders during the Dark Years with only the Sword and a handful of warriors. Well trained as I am, I am nowhere near his equal.
“You will have the same power Michl could call,” my Sword answers, surprising me with more words than a simple ‘yes’. It always answers minimally, irritatingly so. What part of my question could a ‘yes’ not cover. I thought about what I asked for several minutes.
“Could Michl use your full strength?”
“Damn Stormborne.” I’m not asking, I know.
“Yes.” It answers anyway, or maybe it is only agreeing they should be damned.
I indulge in several minutes of temper and the kind of language mother would not approve of before I start asking questions. Slowly I piece the story together. Before the Sword came as dower, it’s last Stormborne wielder had limited it’s power.
I curse some more, and would have probably have thrown things, if there had been anything other than books in the vault to throw. I am momentarily diverted by the thought of Mynar’s reaction if I were to throw books. Nope, not that angry.
Then I remember that I had removed Ryka’s command. By accident, but nonetheless removed it.
“I revoke the command that limits your power.”
“That easy?” I am beginning to doubt my sanity again.
“Why is it that easy?”
“Because you are Prime and he was only descendant of Primes.”
“But I set my bloodline myself.”
“Yes. That would have surprised him.”
“I wasn’t prime when I removed Ryka’s command. And Ryka was closer in blood to Stormborne than I am.”
“Ryka’s command was loosely worded, just ‘don’t talk until you are told to’.” I could feel satisfaction from the sword, “And you told me to, by asking a question.”
I stare at a wall for a very long time. Definitely doubting my sanity. But this time, I think to ask the question I should have asked long before; feel stupid for not asking it long before. “Are there any more commands?”
“No more constraints from wielders, only Rules from maker.” I swear it sounds smug. “You can’t change Rules.” Definitely smug.
I leave. Truthfully, I flee. Too many changes have come too easily, and it frightens me. There is probably more I can find out, but not today, or tomorrow—maybe next year. I don’t even care what the enhanced powers are. Damn Stormborne.
I think about disrupting Mynar’s library with a fit of hysteria, but self-preservation kicks in; when I tell Mynar, he is going to have questions for the sword—massive numbers of questions—and I will be caught in the middle ‘translating’. Not today. Maybe not ever.
I go to my rooms and sit shivering by the fire while my ladies flurry about providing lap blankets and hot drinks. I think about disguising myself (there are massive amounts of clothing in my chests that I have never worn) and going out to the town, maybe visit Webb. But no matter how much I disguise myself, I can’t even imagine disguising the guards. Pity I can’t be invisible. Pity I can’t go anywhere by myself.