The weather continues cold, but the snow is light, not adding much to the accumulation and sometimes the sky is almost completely blue. We enjoy it, but know it won’t last; the norm is four or five blizzards throughout the winter.
Father has a frustrating meeting with the Adres, Head of the Merchants guild, who claims to never have heard even the whisper of a rumor of merchants dealing with pirates. He almost claims to never have heard of pirates. Father, for a moment, considers making lying to the king against the law and punishable by beheading—but fortunately remembers how many times he lied to the old king and decides not to. He also considers forcing Adres to answer his questions under oath, where lying is against the law—even if the penalty isn’t beheading, only a fine. He tells all of this to Mynar, who later tells me and Jes. Father broods for a day, and then sends an order very thinly disguised as an invitation, for Adres to attend him at the keep.
He’s ushered into one of the common rooms, with roaring fire, wine and soft chairs, and mother. Jes, Mynar and I are scattered around the room, but might as well be furniture for all of the participation we intend. We are there because we want to be audience.
Father asks his first question. Adres tells his first lie. And mother looks at him and says, ever so gently, “Adres, are you sure that is entire correct.”
I don’t know how mother does it, her soft voice conveying how hurt and unhappy she is that you are not living up to her expectations. She only uses it when someone has really transgressed.
Adres stutters and tries to explain, but she is relentless. He finally caves, and gives father the names of those suspected of dealing with the pirates.
“I don’t know for sure, no one knows for sure except the ones who are doing it. And opinion is so divided between those morally opposed, and those who say someone is going to do it, so why not us.” He waits for a moment as if expecting condemnation, but my parents say nothing that will stop him from talking. “So we do nothing and pretend there is no problem.”
Adres is a nervous wreck by this time, and needs much soothing and promises of secrecy, and several goblets of wine. It wouldn’t do to have the Head of the Merchants guild leave the keep in a state of hysteria.
“What are you going to do?” Adres finally asks.
“Nothing. It would be impossible,” father tells him, “To interdict the entire shoreline. “And even if I could do that, they would just move north into Mysk.”
“You must not talk about this,” I tell him firmly, stepping forward so that he can see the Sword on my back. “If it becomes known we are interested in this information, there could be dire consequences.”
“And we will explain the whole matter to you, even if you will never be able to talk about it. Once it is safe for you to know.” Mother makes this promise, and father nods his agreement.
Adres goes from nervous to smug. He is going to share secrets with the royal family—has already shared one secret. And he doesn’t miss mother’s comment about ‘safe’; he will keep quiet.
Days of mild weather pass. Mother and I gather gossip, her from the letters she received in the past, the snow-filled roads preventing any new information, and me from Webb, who hears much of what is said in the city. We are trying to put together merchants who might deal with pirates and Lordlings with unseemly ambitions. There are depressingly too many possibilities.
Alan goes back to the smith and Mynar goes back to his books. Jes teaches his classes, one in unarmed combat and one in identifying Enchanters, and spars with my training master. I spar, train, throw knives, and have nightmares. But they grow less often.
Thunder grows, but still comes when I call, even though I don’t always have an apple now. It is time to start training him to be obedient even without a treat. In the spring, I will start getting him used to the Sword.
Father’s weekly court is filled with arguments about where shoveled snow is piled; as usual the street cleaners can’t keep up, even with fine weather. There are even more arguments that devolve into physical attacks over inconsequential disagreements brought on by the enforced idleness and close quarters of winter. Father generally sends them out digging snow.
The Sword is quiet, but I don’t worry, because I can feel its contentment.
I join mother for breakfast one morning, and tell her of Alan’s disinheriting. “How very foul,” she says. “But it is a good thing he will have no divided loyalties.”
I deliberately don’t ask her what she means.
Mild weather endures, and the road clears enough to allow a modest trickle of travelers into the city, some of them bearing letters for mother. I carry them to her, chiding myself for being excited, since she has sent no letters out that could garner information about our traitor—we surmised his existence long after the roads were closed by the first blizzard. But I am excited anyway, and sit beside her as she reads them.
“From Lars.” Mother is pleased. “Look, his eldest daughter sketched the wall niches carved for Bel, Dyon and Mik’ urns. She is very talented.” I look at the picture, knowing father will hope it contents mother, and knowing it won’t, and agree Lars’ daughter is talented.
Mother opens another letter, and I wonder what it would be like to be talented in drawing pictures instead of throwing knives. I force the thought away before mother detects it, and listen to the next letter.