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“Two days until the full moon.” I look out over the snow whitened city landscape from the tower window. Mynar ignores me, ignores the Sword, ignores the shifting noises our guards make from the stairs below. From our higher window I can see Jes on the inner wall, also looking outward. His vantage point has, as I predicted, acquired a triangular shaped tarp, but he moves up and down the wall, fidgeting as much as Mynar and I are.
I pretend I can see the deep warehouse shaped hole in the city, but all I can really see is the tops of the warehouses surrounding it. Mynar, Jes and Alan, with a troop of city guard, got wet, cold and muddy proving there was nothing else buried with the chest. I happily stayed warm and cozy in mother’s solar, secure that I would eventually find out anything I needed to know.
“There are easily three more months that will have snow and full moons,” Mynar finally decides to stop ignoring me. I decide it’s my turn to ignore him and don’t answer.
The Sorcerers’ duel turned out to be very useful. Burning the Sorcerers’ bodies, digging out the foundations of the warehouse, and cleansing their rooms, had been useful cover for moving more soldiers and guards about the city.
Advised by Alan, we burned some of their possessions and several parchments. Father had it done in the city square near their lodgings, with a large audience. Several of the parchments burned with brilliant colors, and one leather pouch provided a small explosion That one morning provided fodder for months of rumors.
There were papers to translate, journals to investigate, and a chest to open. Alan couldn’t understand why we weren’t doing any of it, and would nag us about it every chance he got. It would have been more irritating if he hadn’t decided after three days to go back to his blacksmith studies. He stared at the Sword a lot too. The Sword and I didn’t care.
We hear steps on the stairs and watch as Lord Taver works his way up the guard packed stars. He is smiling for the first time in weeks. “Two groups of men entered the city this morning, and have taken rooms in inns near the Lower Gate. Our watchers did not see them on the road, so they must have come from the river.”
“I guess it will be this full moon,” I tell my brother as we all head back down the stairs. I continue on to a lower level when Mynar and Taver step into the hallway leading to the council rooms. It will take them a little while to summon everyone to meeting, and I have something that must be done before the battle, something I have been putting off doing.
I go to the vault out of habit—every disturbing discussion with my Sword has been in the vault.
“There have been big changes Sword, and it has been too easy.” The Sword is silent.
“The Stormborne would have known how easy I could end their meddling. Why didn’t they do more. What else have they done.”
“The Stormborne never thought I would be able to talk to you.”
“I use words.”
“That’s not an answer.” Maybe the Sword thought it was, but I was determined to understand. The changes were too easy, and I cannot keep from thinking ‘trap’.
“I make small vibrations so you hear words in your ear. I read words from the movement of your lips and the air leaving them. But I use words. They didn’t know I could learn your language. So they thought I would never be able to talk to you.”
“So the Stormborne made a big mistake?”
“Yes.” More smugness.
“You didn’t like the Stormborne, did you.”
“No.” A single word answer, but a world of scorn.
So not a trap. And maybe not so easy from the Sword’s point of view. Years of learning a language, and then being ordered silent by Ryka. Waiting for someone to release it. Waiting for a adolescent girl who talked to it just as she still talked to her stuffed animals and dolls. Yeah, probably not easy for the Sword.
“Well, then, we have the Outlanders to take care of and a chest to open.” There is no answer, but a wave of confidence rolls through me as I walk to the council chamber.
Lord Taver is going over the battle plans. It is highly likely the attack will come against the Lower gate, but he has contingency plans in place just in case the two groups of men are expected to be recognized in order to draw our attention to the wrong gate.
“I want you to wait in the keep, Princess Adava,” he instructs me, “Until we determine where the main attack will be.”
I nod my agreement. It’s his battle plan. My training master joins me; looks at me intently. I stare back, hearing what he is not saying. This time I will be fighting men, not demon, and their killing will be more of a cost to me. It’s not as if I haven’t known all of my life this day would come. I will do what needs to be done, and deal with the consequences afterward.
Waiting is hard. Jes and my training master spar and meditate. Mynar reads books, and father snarls at people. Mother stays in her solar, warm and protected because she knows this gives us comfort. I wander around the castle, keeping within the inner walls; I don’t even visit Thunder in the outer courtyards between the inner and outer castle walls.
I do run into Alan, coming back from a hard day of beating iron with a hammer. Somehow it had been decided he would stay in the castle until the chest was opened. According to the reports that I still get, he does nothing but work, eat, and sleep. And nag whoever he could catch, me Mynar, father, about opening the chest.
It is common knowledge he had saved the guards watching Rout, and had put out the magical fire, so most people have stopped avoiding him. He doesn’t seem to notice.
I keep thinking about his I thought you would be there comment. Had he rushed to the fire to help me? I couldn’t decide. I also can’t decide if I liked he would come to help, or if I am annoyed he thought I needed help. I come to the conclusion there isn’t any reason I can’t feel both—certainly not just because they are contradictory.
“Why won’t you open the chest. What else is going on?” Nag, nag, nag.
“I can’t tell you. Yet.”
He’s surprised that I admit his guess is right. Maybe surprised by the ‘Yet’, and the implication that someday I will tell him. I won’t have to tell him, I’m sure he will notice the attack. What I will tell him is because of an informer we expected the attack. Which will also be obvious.
“I felt no power in the chest,” he admits, joining me on my walk without invitation.
“So it isn’t magic?”
“It isn’t magic, or it is shielded by someone so much stronger than me that I can’t even detect the shielding.” He doesn’t seem displeased at the thought.
“You confuse me.”
“Sorcerers covet power, he covets knowledge. You can’t learn from someone weaker.” I stumble, surprised that the Sword has joined the discussion. Luckily Alan thinks that I slipped on some ice.
“I need to get some studs for my boots.” Alan thinks I am commenting about the icy courtyard, but I’m really thinking about the upcoming battle.
“I don’t suppose,” he asks after several minutes of walking silently, “You would tell me who made your sword?”
“I don’t know.” I tell him the truth, even as I hear my Sword say, “Long dead and Last, with the Stormborne best of the poor choices available.”
“The cold is giving me a headache,” I lie, and start back to the keep. I don’t have the focus to carry on a conversation with him if the Sword is going to be muttering in my ear. I’ll forget and talk to the wrong one. He’s too interested in my Sword as it is, I don’t even want to think about what he would do if he knew he could ask it questions.