(Click here for links to prior chapters.)
Three days later father orders the Spires lit again, one beacon for warning. I watch them march across the horizon, coming to life one after another as their warders see the link before them lit. It is a political decision more than a military one, father explained to us (me, Mynar, and Jes); a warning all is not well, a command to be alert.
The captured assassin did not survive, never woke up, so we got no information from him. The Guildsmen did provide their lists of those who might have knowledge of Verkal, and mother works on merging the three lists we now have. She summons us to her solar and again sends her women out.
“When we add in knowledge of Verkal, four names come to the top of the list. But, it is still only guess work. And none of them are in Misthold, to be questioned, watched.” Mother sounds tired, as if she has reached a dead end too worn out to care she can go no farther.
“The first attacks were well organized. If the assassins’ magic had worked here, as it worked in Caeel, they might have succeeded. And the pirate attack would have been more of a problem without Celestes’ warning. If the plan had worked, anyone regaining the Sword, wielding the Sword, might well have been acclaimed king.
“The second attack, less so,” father continues. “If we all died at the hands of an assassin, there would have been suspicion toward anyone reaching his hand for the throne. This last plan reeks of desperation.”
“Or anger,” Mynar suggests. “His first beautiful plan failed, he must be furious.”
“Or things have been set in motion he cannot stop, and he is scrambling to patch things back together.”
“Are you sure it is all related?” For the first time Jes has a comment, probably remembering we had declared the Enchanters a separate occurrence. And, of course, the chest and its flint disk were even more of a separate event.
“There have been no assassination attempts on any of the royal family since father was fifteen, and now there have been two. It’s highly likely it’s the same person behind both.”
I agree with Mynar. And I have a suggestion. “We actually could ‘watch’ the four most likely suspects, if we included Alan. He has no Stormborne blood, and he knows a scrying spell.”
Father’s immediate response is negative, I expected that. Mynar and Jes look interested, but mother still just looks tired.
“We’ll think about it,” father promises, more concerned right now about how tired mother looks. Lady Aliac is still in very bad shape, and mother spends more time worrying than sleeping. The three of us leave, and let father see if he can get her to rest.
Mynar goes back to his library, as usual, while Jes and I start to go to the stables, but are called to the East Gate of the castle before we get there; a courier has ridden in half-dead. The guards at the gate help him to dismount, and castle staff come running to take the horse to the stables. I take the leather message folder from him, and tell the guards to get him to one of the doctors; from his looks, he has ridden long and hard through bad weather. I recognize the DeAlys emblem, so open the message as soon as we get back inside the keep.
Celeste warns of assassins in the night. I decide the courier has earned praise, even thought his warning came too late. At least, I hope it was too late, and there aren’t more assassins coming our way.
I ask Jes to check on the courier while I take the message to father. Father agrees with me.
I think of something, and go looking for Alan, finding him helping Dryn mount hinges which will eventually hold the metal grills, but for the time being will hold wooden ones.
Dryn agrees he can do without Alan, and I take him to one of the public rooms. “If someone were to write a message on a big piece of paper—or a wall—could you read it with your scrying spell?”
“I don’t know.” He sounds interested. “We could try and see what happens.”
“Daver,” I call our steward. “I need a wooden panel painted white and some black paint. And do we have any paper-mache bowls.”
The staff produces what I want with ridiculous speed, as usual. I have sometimes wondered if they stockpile random things in the lower storerooms, just to be able to produce anything we might ask for. I paint a few meaningless words on the board, and take it up to my rooms to be put it in front of a window. If this works, we will have to use code, so for the test I don’t write anything intelligible.
When I rejoin Alan, he has a wide paper-mache bowl, a pitcher of water and a towel. I shut the door, and tell him where the board is. We have to wait a moment, while I go to get paper, pen and ink, which I had forgotten. Then I shut everyone out. My guard objects, loudly, until I finally realize they are more concerned with propriety than safety—after all, I am wearing my Sword and I have killed a Sorcerer—and chase them out.
Alan moves a chair to a far corner of the room, and I frown at him. “Do you really want me to have to deal with your guards if the spell fails and you get burned?”
I sigh and move to the chair.
He doesn’t do much, just pours in some water and stares intently at the bowl, muttering things under his breath. Then he starts writing. It’s almost right.
“How far away can you do this, and how often?” This could be very useful.
“Distance doesn’t matter, knowing the location does. It isn’t a very draining spell, spaced out I could probably do it five or six times in a day. This is really clever; I never thought of it. At the least, we could set up one way communication. If you had more Sorcerers…” He breaks off when I hit him on the arm. I don’t bother to remind him he isn’t a Sorcerer.
“Don’t tell anyone about this, I need to talk to some people.”