The weekly court has been so amusing, I might not even count it when I tell Mynar how much he owes me because, of course, I am going to keep count. Mynar has months of being tormented by his big sister before I forgive him for being so stupid as to take the disk out of the vault.
Right now the residents of an entire street are yelling about a pig. Or formally a pig and now hams, and bacon, and sausage.
“Quiet!” father uses his ‘King’ voice, which rarely fails. It doesn’t work this time. He waves his guards forward, separating the bystanders from the two main combatants and silencing everyone except a shrill woman going on and on about what she will not tolerate.
“Your stinking pig is an offense to our neighborhood.” She sniffs at him as if the smell of pig has followed him. While the others are dressed in their normal working clothes, she is dressed in silks as fine as those worn by my ladies.
“I’ve been raising pigs in the back of my lot all of my life, and my father before me, who are you to come in and try to changes things.” Most of the onlookers cheer at this. The screeching woman doesn’t seem to be popular.
“Quiet.” This time silence falls. “I will hear you one at a time. You first,” father points to the woman.
“I am Widow Jensen, widow of the merchant Jensen.” She says ‘widow’ as if it’s a royal title. “I want this man to be told not to keep smelly pigs in his back lot. The stench lowers the status of the entire street.”
There is a mummer from the crowd, but I can’t make out distinct words.
“You majesty, we have always had pigs in the back lot, why should she be able to move in and start demanding changes?”
Father points randomly to one of the men who followed the two combatants in. “What do you say?”
The man just gives father a ‘who me?’ look.
“Does the pig smell?”
“Of course, it’s a pig.” You can see the man thinking, coming to the conclusion kings don’t know about pigs. He’s wrong, of course, but it makes him talkative, explaining that pigs do smell, even well kept ones. “But,” he goes on, “We don’t care. Walt always throws a nice party the first of winter, after butchering, you understand, with sausages and spiced pancakes.” He smiles at the thought.
Father points to another man, “And you.”
“They are very good sausages,” he agrees.
Father points to a woman. “Widow Jensen just wants to tell people what to do. If Walt didn’t have a pig, she would be demanding you tell him he had to get one.”
That wasn’t what father asked, but it did draw mutters of agreement.
“When did you move to Flinter Street?” father asks the widow.
“June.” She looks as if she is going to demand father get on with forbidding the pig, and even takes a deep breath, but wisely decides to say nothing.
“Then you knew there was a pig on the lot before you moved.” She just stares at father. “Answer me.”
She sniffs a bit, but finally answers, “Yes, but I didn’t intend to put up with it.”
Father looks at her blandly, but I know him well enough to be sure he is reminding himself being arrogant and obnoxious isn’t against the law. After a few moments even the mutters from the mass of neighbors stills.
“The pig was there first and you knew the pig was there when you moved, you have no right to complain.”
As far as father and everyone else is concerned, the matter is settled, but the widow wants to argue. With father.
I step forward, Sword on my back, shouting warrior with my stance the way my training master has taught me. “The King has spoken.” I glare at the woman, and she suddenly decides to leave. Actually, she flounces out, and I fade back into the shadows beside the throne.
“You wouldn’t really have fought that stupid woman, would you?” My Sword’s question reeks of disapproval.
“Disrespect of the king cannot be tolerated.” My tone leaves no doubt that I do not care for the Sword’s opinion. I am right about this. Allowing disrespect is dangerous, for the people of the realm just as much as for father. I can feel those assembled for the court agreeing with me—or rather agreeing with my actions, since they can’t hear the conversation.
“She’ll be back.” Father is speaking low enough only I can hear. “She’ll find something else to argue about.” He sounds pleased, and I understand it isn’t because it will amuse he to see her again, but because things are getting back to normal. No assassins, no demons, and no visiting Sorcerers—yet, I add mentally, thinking of Rage.
I decide it’s time to wander around the city again; it’s been days since I have left the castle. Jes sees me going through the hall and pads up to join me. The dark circles are no longer around his eyes; he has recovered from his long dream-discussion with the other Shaman. Jes was exhausted and hungry when he reported to father. We were in father’s library for a change, Jes, Mynar, Alan, me and Father. Keeping the information in the family, as usual. I really believed Lej and Emrinalda wouldn’t have heard anything we said, wouldn’t have noticed us unless we got between them and their rubbings of ancient tablets. Actually, it was probably a good thing we pulled Mynar into another room, or he wouldn’t have heard anything either.
“The Shaman were interested, very interested, in Lej’s timeline.” Jes sounded slightly surprised. “This may help them devise a way to strengthen the containment…” Jes didn’t finish his sentence, instead just stared at the wall for a moment, considering his next words. “I think they are having more difficulty containing the Enchanters.”
“Your Elders know we will help.” Oh yeah, father would help. Although not necessarily with containment.
Jes nodded. “They know, but for now, the line is holding.”
Father was satisfied. He didn’t realize all of the research was about magic, not about Enchanters, and I’m wasn’t going to tell him.
So Jes and I walk through the city streets under a fall blue sky, the air crisp but not yet cold, the few trees bright colors. People walk the streets, come in and out of taverns, and in general are in a good mood. Harvest was plentiful, and there is a royal wedding in the near future. No one dares complain about the ceremonies being curtailed, for fear of one of my Ladies or their allies hearing. Apparently my Ladies are very good at lecturing, especially with the threat of the Queen being Unhappy. Which is definitely perceived as more of a threat than the Princess with a really big Sword.
So we smile, and nod, and walk aimlessly about the city. And everyone is happy because things are back to normal, even the historically challenged bard is singing something improbable about harvest and love.
We enter the castle gate just behind a courier. Another Verkal courier. Before I can start to worry, I notice that neither the courier nor his horse look that tired or travelworn, so Jes and I just follow quietly behind as he is led to father.
“I’ll get the others,” Jes tells me softly. I make a bet to myself that ‘others’ will only be Alan.
I lose my bet. Shortly after father has finished welcoming the courier, both Alan and Mynar follow Jes in. At father’s nod the courier delivers his message.
“The danger has passed. The dark visions have stopped. Fifty-seven days ago, most of the Clairvoyants in Verkal had intense vision, so intense we feared for the health of the elders. And then the dark visions stopped. Fifty-six days ago, there were multiple visions showing good harvests, and such things. Which is extremely unusual. Visions are almost always warnings.”
“And you don’t know why?” Father’s tone is more ‘of course, you don’t know why’.
“The danger was real.” The courier is vehement.
“I don’t doubt you,” father assures him. “I just wish we knew what happened.”
After counting days, I’m sure that five of us do know what happened. But not sharing.