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The family is meeting for supper in one of the larger chambers on the first level of the keep, since the Great Hall is filled with construction. I don’t know where everyone else is eating; the steward can worry about that, but I have to go find Alan when he doesn’t come in with Mynar and Jes. He doesn’t realize where I am taking him until we walk into the room, then he tries to leave—would leave if I didn’t have hold of his arm again.
“Oh just set down.” Father isn’t the least bit gracious, but it’s still a surrender. Of course, Alan doesn’t know this, and I have to drag him a little bit.
Staff rush about putting another plate on the table, making room for Alan. The room is very quiet; once the table is full and we are served, the staff almost tiptoe out closing the door behind them. Someone must have specified we were to have a private family dinner.
Mother looks at Alan, “When the family gathers, I expect you to be there.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Alan gives the right answer. The only answer her family gives her when she uses her Queen voice.
Father just looks, well…I don’t know what father looks like. Not angry, or irritated and definitely not happy.
Mother has apparently said all she believes needs saying, and is placidly eating. I try to think of something to say which won’t set father off, without success until I remember the clairvoyant. I can’t believe I forgot all about him.
“He’s hanging around,” father tells me when I ask. “Pretending his horse was injured and needs rest before he starts home.
“The letter from the Oligarchs was surprisingly cordial for them, and they did seem truly grateful for the information about the flint weapons. Surprisingly so, even to the point of praising you for killing a demon.”
“Yes, he told me that when we met on the road.” Now I have both of my parents’ attention.
“He actually praised you to your face?”
“Yes.” I’m not sure why father is so incredulous.
“I don’t believe,” mother interrupts, “We ever told you about the fit the Oligarchs threw when a girl was named Wielder.”
I wouldn’t have remembered, would have been way too young to remember, but considering their attitude toward women, I’m not surprised.
“He is being watched.” Father’s tone makes it clear nothing else is being done.
“You could just ask him what he is doing.” Surprisingly, this suggestion comes from Jes.
Father thinks for a moment, but can’t come up with any reason why not, so the discussion devolves into a debate about who should ask him, which goes down a side street, or maybe a dark alley, about why Jes can recognize Enchanters and not Clairvoyants.
“I don’t recognize Enchanters because I’m a Shaman,” Jes is finally provoked enough to try and explain, “it’s totally different, because Enchanters are from the tribes bloodlines.”
“So all of your trainees must have some tribal blood?” Trust Mynar to get off track if there is some new knowledge to be found. And, I have to admit, Alan will be right behind him.
“I vote for father to ask him.” Everyone looks at me in surprise. “Father is the King, he has a right to know why the messenger mis-represented himself.”
“I could summon him to the weekly council meeting.” Father is thinking out loud more than asking suggestions. “And Mynar should probably attend.” He didn’t say, and not Adava, but everyone heard it anyway. For the first time I consciously think about the fact that all of the Lord Advisors are men. But the Wielder is a woman, and mother, as Queen, is a potent power. But still…something to think about.
I take Alan on my next kitchen foray, partly to gratify/scandalize the chief cook and partly to help carry cookies. I expect our wait for Mynar and Jes will be long, and there really should be some cookies left when the council meeting finally ends, otherwise Mynar might just get stubborn about telling us the details. It all works out pretty much as I expect, to my enjoyment.
I am pleased father decided Jes should attend the council meeting. Maybe, in the future, the three of us can divide the duty, and I will only have to go to one third of the meetings instead of one half.
Of course Alan heads toward the papers still scattered across the three tables the minute we enter Mynar’s library. At least until my guards have satisfied themselves the library really doesn’t have invisible assassins lurking about. We have to seize our moments of courting when we can.
“So what,” he eventually asks, “Am I suppose to do at next week’s court.”
“Look pleased about marrying me.”
“I think I can manage that.” His eyes really are the deepest clearest blue, and I get lost in them for a moment. “But am I expected to say anything, do anything?”
“No. Only father will speak. Your job is to look pleased, and my job is to give my best imitation of a beautiful princess.”
“You always look like a beautiful princess.” And he actually means it.
Mynar and Jes are laughing when they finally join us, making noise coming down the hall, warning Alan to return to his papers. Unlike the guards, Mynar knows Alan really does find me more interesting than the various stacks of papers looted from various sorcerers.
“The idiot clairvoyant admitted who he was, and then said that he should have realized he couldn’t successfully hide his gravitas. Didn’t even occur to him that someone simply recognized him.” Mynar is contemptuous.
“But why is he here?”
Mynar ignores me to search through his journals, leaving it to Jes to answer. “Their four most powerful clairvoyants had identical visions, which none of them could explain other than something had happened in Abalem. Because this was unusual, and because it frightened them, they sent one of their own here, hoping for a clearer vision. He didn’t have one, but he did find out more about the demon you killed. Given the timeframe he thinks their premonition was about the death of the demon. He thinks they didn’t recognize the significance because no one has ever killed a demon before; he is satisfied with this as an explanation.”
“Demons have been killed before,” Alan objects, “The great sorcerer Black killed the demon he summoned but could not control, before it could kill him.”
“That’s just one other.”
“Two.” We all stare at Alan until he continues. “Black killed two demons.” We keep staring, until Alan finally gives in. “But the third one he summoned killed him.”
Mynar interrupts before I can give my usual ‘you shouldn’t play with demons’ speech. “I knew it.” He smirks, very satisfied with himself.
“And are you going to tell us?” Little brothers can be so annoying.
“Their vision was the same night Falchen summoned his demon; the same night some ‘disturbance’ started Rout toward Misthold.”
We all stare at each other. I finally state the obvious, “This doesn’t help.” I am disappointed when no one disagrees with me.
“You already knew the disturbance wasn’t sorcerous,” my sword whispers. “I didn’t sense it.”
Alan adds a few lines to one of the sets of notes littering the library. “Every piece of data is useful. Eventually we will have enough pieces to form an answer.”
I wish I felt as confident as Alan sounds.
“So should we tell him what really happened?” I get two instant no’s from Alan and Mynar, and a slower one from Jes.
Mynar’s is instinctive, his training is ‘keep secrets’, but Alan actually has a reason.
“Clairvoyants don’t share with anyone except other clairvoyants; he would take our information, but not give any in return. We would gain nothing by showing him the disk, even if he recognized it.” Alan speaks with assurance, and I remember he has visited Verkal. Jes nods his agreement. “And we shouldn’t tell him about the ex-ShadowWalker assassins, either.”
My heart smiles when Alan says “we”. Every time he says something, anything, proving he thinks of Misthold as home, my heart just leaps. My head may have accepted he won’t leave, but my heart still treasures each proof. I miss part of the discussion, but start paying attention when Mynar concludes he should go report to mother.
And this reminds me of yet another thing I haven’t shared, and probably should.
“Mother,” I begin as Mynar moves toward the door, “Wants her ashes interred at Kaskl, and I have given her my oath.”
Mynar looks shocked, sits down again somewhat abruptly. Jes shows no emotion at all, so I know he is equally upset.
Mynar stares accusingly at me for saying out loud things he hasn’t wanted to talk about, so I explain, “She was crying because she can’t visit our siblings graves.” We all know Duke Rals is interred there too, but I’m not going to mention that.