At least Celeste’s message puts an end to the argument—or more likely just causes a pause in the argument—as father, Mynar and I try to decide what to do, especially since we can’t offer a rational explanation as to why we are doing anything.
“We should light the Spires—at least one beacon.”
I agree with Mynar, but I also agree with father when he asks what reason we can send by the courier who always follows such lighting.
“We could say we are expecting an unusual amount of attacks from Outlanders.”
“And focus all eyes on the coast, guaranteeing they will miss danger from any other direction?”
I really hate it when my younger brother is right.
“We could say,” father interrupts us, “That we have reason to believe the swamp-wizard may be planning another attack.” Father scowls at the wall for a few minutes, “He may very well be.”
So Mynar is sent to give the orders to light the Spire, and I am sent, as always to explain to Mother.
Given the good weather, crisp and dry, we can expect a courier from Celeste in eight or nine days, but we weren’t counting on it. If Celeste had more information, her message would have been more than just one repeated word. I keep thinking about Murr, and the timing of his arrival. He doesn’t look dangerous—short, round and on the upper side of middle age—but odds were he had hired Rout to come looking for the chest. (Well, we don’t really know Rout was looking for the chest, but he was looking for something and he found the chest…) The grandfatherly type Murr appeared would not have hired a Sorcerer.
We have watched him for several days now, and have nothing to show for it. Once I managed to get close enough, unseen, for the Sword to assure me he isn’t a Sorcerer. Not surprising, since he had hired one. And a couple of times I got Alan to scry him, but both times he was just quietly reading a journal in his rooms. At least father and Mynar have stopped arguing, for the moment.
I walk the halls, disrupt the kitchens, and worry, both about the warning and about Mother’s lethargy, frustrated because I can’t do anything about either problem. So I walk the halls, mutter under my breath, and worry.
I’m finally driven to throwing knives, under the disapproving eyes of my training master. Eventually I realize a guard is standing quietly by the door waiting to be noticed.
“What?” If mother had heard my tone I would have been in for a lecture.
“My Sergeant thought you might want to know that Mage Alan has been slightly injured.” Might? Idiots.
“What happened. Never mind,” I interrupt myself, “Where is he?”
Alan and Taver are both in the armory inspecting knives when I find them. Alan has a scratch along the side of his face, as if he has slid on gravel, and Taver has the beginnings of what is going to be a specular black eye. And they are both grinning.
“What did you blow up?”
“Nothing.” Alan thinks he is going to kiss me. Well, maybe he is right about that, but it isn’t going to distract me for long. “What, then?” I continue my questioning after we both shock everyone in the room except Taver who is too busy looking at knives to notice what we are doing.
I just gently pat his cheek and look skeptical.
“The second time.” He is still grinning. And I am still without an answer.
“I can’t find it.” Taver is riffling through the chest where the ‘special’ weapons are kept, the ones exceptionally forged, not the formal bejeweled ones good for nothing but show. “No, here it is. Forged from the metal of a falling star.”
I grab the box before Alan can get it. “What are you planning on doing with this?”
“Legend always attributes magical powers to star-metal; I want to see if it is better at absorbing a spell.”
I seriously roll my eyes at both of them. “This was gifted to the king by the Collective of Isal as a token of our alliance twenty years ago when Isal and Abalem banded together to attack the outlaws entrenched in the woods along our borders.” They just stare at me, waiting for me to finish and give them their new toy. “It has political significance. You can’t play with it.”
Of course they want to argue. Since I have the box containing the knife tightly held in both hands and won’t let go, they lose.
“Have you tried flint yet?” I try to distract them. “You have only the legends of star metal, we know for a fact flint wounds demons.”
“Isal would never know?” Surprisingly, it is Taver who argues the most.
I just say ‘no’; I say it multiple times until they finally give up, and go to demand a flint knife from Kels. Instead of putting the star metal knife back where they found it, I take it down to the vault. It’s safer to remove temptation.
“Do you know how to repair magic? Do you even know where to start looking to find out how to repair magic?” Mynar’s only answer is a sullen glare. “So what is the point of arguing with father about what you should or should not do, until you actually have the ability to do it.”
I only want to tell Mynar not to let the knife out of the vault, but I don’t leave fast enough, so I get to listen to a twenty minute lecture about why he is right. I try logic. Doesn’t work. Lej somberly nodding in agreement each time Mynar makes a point doesn’t help. I stay and listen instead of walking out because if my brother is lecturing me, he isn’t arguing with father.
When he starts repeating himself, I finally leave and go find Jes. “I need to get out of the castle; want to go visit Webb?”
The air is crisp, the sky deep, clear blue, and the citizenry is out and about enjoying it. I try to ignore my brother’s obsession with fixing magic, my beloved’s obsession with making magic objects, and the unclarified ‘danger’ lurking ahead. Luckily Jes has no problems with silence, because if I opened my mouth, I would scream. We are in sight of Webb’s stable before I realize I forgot apples. I am hoping the horses will forgive me when one of the younger guards hands me a bag of new fall apples.
Webb looks smaller, but his smile is still just as bright. And his selection of gossip just as entertaining, until he gets to the rumors about father and Mynar’s fight—distressingly accurate rumors. I am concerned with the city’s reaction; most of the citizens agree with father about Sorcerers being a danger and a nuisance.
Webb reassures me. “Everyone knows that magic doesn’t work, has never worked, can’t be made to work. They just think Mynar is young. Everyone has enthusiasms when they are young.”
I pretend to accept Webb’s analysis, and change the subject by telling him about the drunken riot in Blythe.
“There is nothing to do, save be alert.” As we walk back to the castle, Jes speaks so softly, I can barely hear him; I am sure my guards can’t. “So it is best to be alert in calmness—just awaiting.”
I nod my agreement, debating, then admit, “It’s really mother I am worried about.” I refuse to admit mother is old, 68 is not old. Then I remember that her birthday celebration was while I was in Blythe, and she is 69 now—but still not old, I tell myself. Jes lightly touches my arm in sympathy, but says nothing more.
We walk back to the Castle in silence, only to find that while we were gone, Murr has come to the main gate and requested an audience with Mynar.