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By the time the sun comes above the horizon, the castle has been busy for hours. Dryn is measuring windows, and making plans to put every smith in the city to work. He is designing decorative openwork shutters mounted to the inside wall, and able to be open or shut across the windows with locks out of reach from the outside, even if the window is gone. They actually sound pretty as well as functional. Father has told him to make it happen, and not worry about expense.
Dryn’s mood wavers between outrage at the assassination attempt and smugness because I sent for him to solve one of the problems. Alan is helping him measure, the side of his face covered with a yellow salve which actually makes him look worse.
I go down to Mynar’s library. He comes in and catches me looking through his books. “Do you remember,” I ask, “The journals where someone who’s name I can’t remember, wrote down all of the old folk tales he could get the grandmothers of the city to tell him.”
“Second bookcase to the left of the door, top shelf.” Of course he knew. If someone took even one of his books he would immediately miss it.
I pulled the steps over and take them down.
“What are you looking for?”
I ignore him, and start skimming through the books—I hadn’t remembered there were fourteen of them. I found what I wanted about half-way through the third volume. “Do you remember this story?”
“Yes.” Of course he did, Mynar remembers everything.
It is a short tale. An arrogant king confronts a learned man baring entry to his retreat, and is confounded by his knowledge and philosophy, leaving without conquering.
“You know this isn’t at all likely to have happened, right?”
“I don’t care. It’s a good story. I want copies of it.” I don’t tell him why.
I half draw my Sword as both of our duty sergeants come through the door.
“It’s time to eat.” Now that they mention it, I do feel hungry. Mynar must agree because he heads to the tables faster than I do. Father is already there, with Sister Mays.
“Aliac is conscious,” father tells us. I feel relief, both because I like Lady Aliac, and because her death would be hard on mother. I remember I should visit the other wounded, but food first, so I can stop feeling faint. At least I hope so.
Mynar and I are still eating when a delegation of Guild Masters is ushered in. Father waves them toward seats, there is more than enough food. The staff can’t kill assassins, but they can keep us warm and feed us, so the kitchens are producing massive amounts of breakfast. It is good the harvest was lavish this year.
“We have heard the Queen was attacked?” Their spokesperson looks angry. He adds, “And the rest of the royal family.”
“Two guards were killed, Lady Aliac was direly wounded, but may survive; three guards were wounded and likely will survive; Prince Mynar, my son, was slightly wounded,” father grows angrier as he lists our casualties. “Four assassins were killed, and one captured.”
“Our resources are yours,” they all nod in agreement, Mother being the target of an assassin will cause the greatest competitors to cry ‘peace’ and work together—at least until the assassins and their paymaster are all dead. “When the Wielder was attacked, well… We just thought how stupid they were. Princess Adava has the Weapon and kills demons.”
I suddenly understand, he is trying to explain why there was no corresponding outcry from the guilds over the first set of assassins. I smile at him, “I understand, completely.” And I mean it. I am warrior, fair target; mother isn’t. He looks relieved.
Father looks tired. “We believe the assassins only recently entered the city. Lord Taver is talking to the guards at the gates, I will tell him to seek you, if he thinks you can be of help.” He motions Mynar and me closer, and whispers, “I cannot decide if I wish to ask them about Verkal.”
“I think you should go rest, and take Mynar with you,” I tell him. “I will maintain a presence here, and ask Lord Ekal and Lord Taver’s opinions.”
Father must be really tired, because he agrees. “I appreciate your offer, please enjoy the meal. When Queen Mislei wakens, I will convey your good wishes to her.” Father leaves, and Mynar goes with him, understanding that he is really going to be sure father rests.
“Father is very tired,” I tell them, unnecessarily. “But your support comforts him.” For a moment I sound a little like mother. I can’t sustain it all through the meal, but I think they do feel appreciated.
“Is it true,” one of the younger Guildsmen asks me, “The Sword can allow you to fly?”
“I wish.” The Sword and I had a long discussion—a typical long discussion with the Sword, i.e. me asking a lot of questions and getting very few words in answer. “It can cushion a fall that would otherwise break my bones, but I can’t fly.”
“That’s sad.” I agree with him, I had daydreamed about taking off into the sky, my guards unable to follow.
I finally go to the Council room to wait for Lord Taver’s report, I needed to be alone for a little while. Or alone after my guards finished searching the room. The Sergeant wants to leave a guard in front of both of the widows, we compromise by pulling the curtains completely back, and I set on the side of the table facing the windows, so I can see if assassins start climbing walls again.
The fires are blazing hot enough to offset the drafts off the windows, and someone has decided to provide cushions and wine against father’s protocols. I think about it for a minute, and decide it is the right thing to do.
I put my head down on the table and close my eyes, certain the Sword will call me if more assassins start appearing. I wake up when Ekal, Taver, Mynar and Mynar’s guards come in. It must have been a while, because I feel better, just a little stiff. I am surprised to see Jes sitting across from me, drinking a goblet of wine (probably watered).
“Jes is no threat,” my Sword whispers, “So I did not wake you.”
“Right.” I say to the room at large, meaning it for my Sword. “Is father asleep?”
“Yes, and mother is still asleep,” Mynar answers me.
“The assassins came into town through the Upper Gate. There have been few travelers, and the guards noticed well the few there were. The four of them were traveling as guards for a merchant. The fifth, killed trying to leave the city, came in alone, claiming to be a courier.
“We are looking for the merchant, to see what he knows.”
I tell Taver about the Guild Master’s offer of help. “We couldn’t decide if we should ask for experts on Verkal or not.”
He thinks for a few moments. “I don’t see why not. Whoever sent them will know we will see their tattoos, so we are giving nothing away to seek information from those who might know more about exiled ShadowWalkers. “
“To start with,” I suggest, “Just get a list of everyone they know, not restricted to Misthold, who has dealing with Verkal. We may not solve this quickly, we may have to summon information from elsewhere in the realm.” Of course, I’m not going to tell them we need the list to cross-index with our other two lists, still not trusting anyone outside the family.
“What about the captured assassin.” I had forgotten him; trust Mynar not to forget anything.
“Still alive, but not fully conscious. The doctors say it will be several days, at least before we can question him—and that we had best question him gently for he will be fragile.”