I was deeply asleep, dreaming pleasantly for a change, when the strident ‘Wielder’ wakes me. Reflexively I roll from the bed and draw my Sword, seeing only my darkened bedroom. I didn’t need the ‘attacker’ warning, I felt draft where there should be none, and a heavy shadow moves toward me. He isn’t that good, I could have won without the Sword. We didn’t even bother with lightening. The assassin is too used to knifing sleeping victims, and doesn’t attack effectively.
I do not have time to feel any satisfaction, I remember only too well our belief that all of my family would have been targeted if the pirates had entered the keep.
I run out of my bedroom to my solar, and am almost trampled by my guards running in. One of mother’s guards is there too. “Mother?”
“I don’t know.”
I run toward Mynar’s rooms, and find him bleeding and disgruntled. “They shouldn’t have been able to break the windows.”
“They shouldn’t have been able to climb up the outside walls of the towers, either,” I remind him, before going to check on father. Mynar follows despite his wounded arm bleeding. We reach father’s rooms just in time to see his back heading up the stairs to mother. I make Mynar slow down and get his arm bandaged.
“We don’t want to alarm mother.” Suddenly the hall is filled, guards and staff, and Jes looking frustrated. Someone brings clean unblooded clothes for Mynar, and my ladies wrap me in a robe and slippers. I suddenly realize I have been charging around the halls in a lacy nightgown, barefooted banishing a Sword. Oh well.
It only takes our people mere minutes to get us presentable enough to not shock mother unduly. When we enter we hear mother, “I want my children, here, now.”
She sees us and indulges in several minutes of frantic hugging. Mynar does a good job of hiding that her hugs hurt his arm, and I make her let me lay the Sword down first, since I have no sheath for it. I see the fleeting look of contentment on Jes’ face as she hugs him just as fiercely.
Lord Taver runs in unannounced and I can see him looking, counting, to see if we are all there. Then Lord Ekal does the same, and has the good sense to send guards to tell the rest of the castle we are all alive.
“I will have the keep and castle searched.” Taver leaves as the royal doctor arrives.
He starts toward mother, but she waves him on to her bedroom. “Aliac is direly hurt. She saved me,” mother is close to crying.
Father is trying to get mother to leave, and she is refusing by her usual method of just not hearing. He ladies know who will win, and are already adding more logs to the fire place and positioning chairs.
While they are distracted, I pull one of the assistant doctors over to look at Mynar. With several of mother’s ladies to assist, his arm is stitched up and bandaged. Somewhere during the process our parents become aware of what is going on, and stop arguing to watch.
When he finishes bandaging the doctor crafts a sling for Mynar from a scarf.
“Keep your arm as motionless as you can for a day or two, so the stitches don’t pull. I will change the bandages tomorrow.” He goes to report to our parents, and I can finally collapse in one of the chairs, my Sword across my lap.
I thought I sat there for only a moment or two, but it must have been longer, because Lord Taver comes back, followed by Jes, and two guards flanking Alan, who has the beginnings of a massive black eye.
“What happened.” For a moment no one answers me.
Jes finally explains, “Alan and several guards had a disagreement about whether he was going to be allowed into the keep.” Jes keeps his face bland, but I am absolutely sure he has a grin inside.
I go and look at Alan, and shake my head at him. “You shouldn’t fight with the guards.”
He ignores me. “Are you hurt?”
“No.” Then I shush him, so I can hear what Lord Taver is saying. Alan doesn’t argue, he just watches me, as if he doesn’t believe my answer.
“Of the four assassins, three are dead, and one wounded but captured. A fifth was killed trying to force his way out the main gate of the city, even though it was closed for the night.” I must have stared into space much longer than I realized. “We found two guards garroted at the base of the keep. Three more were injured fighting the assassins. The only other injuries were Prince Mynar and Lady Aliac.”
“They shouldn’t have been able to break the windows.” Mynar repeats what he said to me earlier.
“They didn’t,” Taver explains. “They had something which dissolved the mortar, and they removed the entire window.
“They all,” he continues, “Have the tattoo of the ShadowWalkers of Verkal—but overlaid by a black bar.”
Royal assassins from Verkal—disgraced royal assassins, with transgressions bad enough for exile, but not bad enough for execution. I sit and shake for a while, we were lucky to have only two dead. After a while, I realize Alan has come over and sit down beside me. It doesn’t make me feel any better, but I am still glad. We both ignore the two guards who stay right behind him, although I do notice one of them has raw looking knuckles, as if he might have hit someone.
We all sit, starting at nothing until the doctor comes out long enough to tell us he thinks it is possible Aliac may live. Father is finally able to convince mother to go to bed in one of the inner rooms with no windows. No one else tries to sleep, but we do eventually go to get dressed.
“Would you get Dryn?” I ask Alan. “We must put some sort of bars over the windows, at least in the bedrooms.”
“Of course, just tell them to let me back in.”
My ladies have a tub full of hot water waiting for me; it’s almost as good as a night’s sleep. I didn’t realize how bloody I was under the robe