Jes comes in, interrupting us. “The king wants you Adava. An outland ship is sailing up the river, flying a flag of truce.” Unusual.
We receive their delegation in court, father wearing his crown, and me wearing light armor and the Sword. Jes is there wearing the armor of his old Clan, just to thrown in some confusion. Mynar and Alan are still in the library. They translate papers until their eyes won’t focus, then stop to sleep for a while. Father told Jes not to bother trying to get Mynar, since his mind would stay in the library, even if his body was pulled into the court.
The envoys are allowed to keep their weapons, but there are enough guards with cross-bows ready to discourage any violation of the truce.
Their leader stops before father, but looks at me. “You were suppose to be dead.”
“Can’t believe everything you are told,” I flatly smirk at him.
“I am Carle Wyson, Under Captain of the Grim Fleet. We wish to ransom the captives you hold.” He finally speaks to father.
This is unprecedented, sometimes individuals will be ransomed by their families, but Fleet Captains just shrug off their loses and hire new men.
“This could take some time,” father tells him, “We might as well be comfortable.” Father arranges the three of us before the fire, distant enough that our words will not carry if we talk quietly. Jes watches our back, as our men and the Captain’s men stare at each other.
The Under Captain, settles back, comfortable, ready to negotiate.
“I would be interested in knowing who suggested this attack,” father tells him. “In fact, if you can convince me of the accuracy of his identity, I would consider that in lieu of ransom. Considering how incorrect his information was, I should think you wouldn’t feel much loyalty to him.”
Carle is surprised, he was expecting some huge number as a starting point, to be whittled down during hours of arguing. “A good offer, one I regret not being able to accept. If you wanted to know the name of the one who swore the Wielder dead and the Sword dormant, you should have not had your archers shoot so true. You killed the Fleet Captain, and he was the only person who knew the source of his information.”
Now I understood why father had arranged for a private discussion; he was hoping to learn the name of the traitor. And I thought I understood Carle too. The Fleet Captain was dead, if Carle were ambitious, ransoming the captives might be a good move to gain support.
“Whatever the outcome, you are free to take the urns from the beach, containing the ashes of your dead.”
“You are generous.”
I watch the next hour of negotiating, contributing nothing other than being there and being alive. I am sure father intends to come to an agreement. We have all of the information we are likely to get from the prisoners, and father will gladly be rid of them.
After hours of discussion, drawn out by father, I am certain, just to keep it from looking too easy, an agreement is reached. Father gives orders to see that the captives are warmly dressed when they are released, and Sister Mays provides packets of medicine for the wounded.
Carle doesn’t understand, and we don’t bother to explain. Either you understand morals or you don’t. Outlanders mostly don’t.
The trade of gold for prisoners takes some time, since neither side is in a trusting mood. A few prisoners walk to the beach, or are carried if wounded, and a small amount of gold is handed over. Then repeat. Finally the last bag of gold is handed over, and the last few prisoners walk out the gate. I stand to the side watching, shielded by rows of guards. At the end, Carle comes to talk to father again—and ten of the royal guards.
“The Fleet Captain was told the Wielder was going to be killed, and that would make the city defenseless. In return for arranging the Princesses’ death, his informant was to get the contents of your vault. The Fleet Captain was adamant in his orders to the fleet, that everything in the vault must be brought to him.”
“And did you believe him?”
“No.” Carle laughs. “I think he was paid, well paid, to get the contents of your vault.”
They surprise us by stopping to get the urns, before they put back out to sea.
I settle myself in one of the window seats and quit listening to the court. Everyone has an opinion why the Outlander Captain acted so strangely, and some people have more than one. But after all of the talking, the reality is we just don’t know, and the rest of them just won’t quit talking, as if by talking long enough the right answer will suddenly appear.
So I take my aching head to the side of the room. Jes, the only person who hasn’t proffered an opinion, comes over and hands me a steaming drink. From the smell, it isn’t punch.
“Herbs,” he answers the question I didn’t ask. “It will help your head.”
I take a sip. It is hot and bitter, and I make a face at the tartness.
“I said it cured headaches, I didn’t say it would taste good.”
I frown at him, but keep sipping the brew he handed me. I recognize the taste, and it will make me feel better.
“Why did your father ransom the captives? They will only come back raiding again in the future.”
“There would be more raids if we didn’t let them go, too. If we had killed all of them, there would still be raids.”
There’s a momentary flurry as two minor Lords come to blows, each defending an opinion that can’t be proved. Guards pull them apart, and father declares the discussion ended. It’s going to be a long winter.