(Click her for links to previous chapters.)
Slowly the bodies are burned and the damage from the attack repaired. The soldiers keep watch in case the raiders regroup and try again.
“I don’t really think they will,” Taver explains to me and Jes late one afternoon. “They counted on the Sword being dormant, and on surprise. They got neither. But it is good that the extra soldiers in the city have something to do to keep them occupied.”
Father has ordered the hole filled back in at the warehouse site, now that we are convinced there is nothing else there. I could tell father wrestled with the desire to put the chest back in the ground before the hole was filled, but he resisted, and the chest stays hidden in the outer bailey.
He did give the Sorcerers’ papers to Mynar. He and Alan have been looking at them, sorting them into piles. Most of Rout’s papers are in a language neither of them speak.
I decide it’s up to me to try and reestablish ‘normal’ and take the Sword for a walk through the city. I visit the wounded still under Sister Mays’ care, I visit Webb, and I check on the families of my two dead guards. One was unmarried. His parents are in pain, but they have two other sons and a daughter sharing their grief. The other had a wife, but no children. She has moved in with her widowed father. Neither need anything from me, except my acknowledging their grief, showing I valued the dead.
I walk in the cold yellow sunlight, greeting our people, until I can stand it no longer, and go to my rooms to set huddled by the fire.
Our respite is over, not nightmare but howling wind, wakes me this time. A blizzard blows out of the western mountains; mother gets her wish—people will set huddled by their fires. Even the soldiers and guards. If anyone tries to attack in this storm, we will just sit by our fires and let them freeze to death.
Morning is still dark. I decide I had better check on Jes, make sure he isn’t frozen under his tarp, provided his tarp hasn’t blown away or been crushed under the weight of snow. I find him in my favorite tower, watching the wind send the snow swirling against the windows.
“That is a snow storm.”
Well I’m glad he’s happy. “Do you intend to spend the day up here watching it?”
“Unless you have something that needs to be done.” He doesn’t look at me, he keeps his eyes on the blizzard.
I leave, wondering why he is so enamored of snow storms. And go to check on Mynar and Alan. We pass one of the castle staff on the stairs, because, of course, it is always ‘we’ if I am not in the vault or my bedroom. She is carrying a plate of cookies and a blanket, so I assume Jes will be taken care of whether he wants it or not.
I go to the library by way of the kitchen, and find simmering cauldrons of stews, soups, and hot punch. The cook is so happy to see me, he forgets I shouldn’t be there. My entourage is augmented by staff carrying punch bowl, glasses and three kinds of cookies.
Mynar thinks that he is going to be annoyed when I interrupt them, but then he smells the punch and changes his mind. Alan watches the guards clear the room, because, of course, they always will. I can see the wheels turning behind his eyes as they poke about with the two pikes that are now usual equipment, as well as the two crossbows.
He wants to ask questions, but he, with an effort I can feel, remains silent. I don’t delude myself that he has given up, only that he bides his time.
The punch is warming, as is Mynar’s fire. Drinking punch by a fire is one of the best things to do when there is a blizzard blowing around the keep.
“You might as well tell me what you have found Mynar.” I recognize my brother’s ‘I’ve just found something new’ grin. Sometimes it is something interesting, many times it’s just another nuance of some philosophy written by a man long dead.
“Blight kept a journal.”
“Careless of him.”
“Not really, it was in code.”
“Which you have broken.”
“You don’t seem impressed.” Poor Alan, had he wanted to show off for me.
“We broke it,” Mynar shares the credit. “Alan knew how to make the words visible, and I figured out the language the code was in. Once we had that, it was easy.”
But not particularly useful. Blight had heard the same rumor as Alan, a Sorcerer who seemed to have summoned a demon without getting eaten. He snooped, collected gossip, and found nothing. He was on the verge of leaving when he heard about Rout’s digging, and decided to stay and see what he found. And take it.
“So you have established Blight didn’t know anything about the chest.”
A particularly hard blast of wind beats against the windows, and we decide the most useful thing we can do is finish the punch.
We have three days of blizzard. More of the wounded die, the rest start recovering. Taver questions the prisoners, and finally turns their Sorcerer’s belongings over to Mynar and Alan, for all the good it does; there was nothing of any magic portent. Likely his body had been stripped by his comrades.
Alan was disappointed. “He was very strong, to be able to throw two fireballs in a row. I wonder what was taken…”
They had finished with Blight’s letters without finding anything interesting, and are starting on Rout’s. That is the more difficult job, and they had hoped to find a starting point among Blight’s letters. All they found was the decision that if Rout was hunting for something, then it would be worth stealing. Not very useful.
Mynar and Alan are still arguing about Rout’s papers—are they in an unknown language or a code. I listen to their discussion about repeated symbols and groupings until my ears hurt.
“So have you tried showing a page to the merchants guild? They are the most traveled people in the city—or at least the most traveled work for them.” Of course they hadn’t, it was too practical. I decide I have no need to walk through waist deep snow; it will be days before the streets can be cleared and the excess snow dumped down the cliffs to the river below. Jes, of course does go with them.
So when Taver reports to father, I am the only one who can be summoned to join the council.
“The prisoners are angry. They believe they have been betrayed.” Taver smiles a little, “I may have helped them come to that conclusion. But we were clearly ready for them, and Princess Adava clearly is not dead.
“They were assured the weapon was dormant, and would stay that way.
“The raiders were to have all they could loot from the city, except for the Sword, and anything else in the vault were it is kept. That was to go to the one who arranged the assassination of Princess Adava.”
“And was that the unnamed ‘master’ in the swamps, or yet other unknown.”
This time it is Lord Taver who shrugs in answer to father’s question. There is no way of knowing.
I start to ask why they would want the Sword, but then think better of saying it aloud. Someone wants the Sword, and a traitor opened the sally port. I realize our real enemy is much closer than the swamps of Caeel.
I ignore the discussion about what to do with the prisoners. Father isn’t going to just kill them, and we certainly aren’t going to set them free to ravage the countryside. When the discussion moves on to the traitor, father limits it to telling Taver to keep searching. I am certain father has reached the same conclusion I have.