[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.The house, the accounts.We begin the grape harvest in less than a tenday.You do understand my mother does not reside here anymore.”He ought.For the first year we had lived under the shadow of my father’s disappearance, my mother had been our mainstay, her strength inspiring, uncompromising.But then the king had ringed Montclaire with soldiers hunting Papa, and this Duplais had come here with his dreadful mage.They had poked about the house, pried, questioned, brutalized my mother with insinuations and threats until her spirit had fractured.By the time of Papa’s trial and condemnation, her distress had deepened into mania.Duplais’ slender face remained cold.Long dark lashes shielded his eyes.“You needn’t concern yourself with Montclaire any longer, damoselle.The Ruggiere titles and lands have been granted elsewhere.”As a fox empties a meadow of birdsong, so did this announcement silence my heart.Papa’s crimes had already exiled Mama, Ambrose, and Lianelle.Now it was my turn.And to my shame, though the terms of my departure were trivial beside madness, prison, or death, I was not sure I could bear it.Montclaire’s expansive vistas, the abundant richness of its soil, the warmth and unpretentious comforts of the rambling house had created a nest for my life’s nurturing.Though the echoes of laughter and playacting, sword fights, my mother’s whimsical singing, and debates over everything from politics to mathematical proofs to shoes were fast fading, I felt safe here, embraced by the warm stone and sweet airs and the robust quiet that I could not seem to find in any city or village.The reprieve that had kept us in our home had always been temporary.I’d known better than to credit the king with some lingering belief in Papa’s innocence that I myself did not hold.My father was a betrayer and a murderer; he was never coming back.Like an automaton, I gestured toward the doorway where Bernard waited, his expression bloodless with shock.“Our steward will show you to a room.It’s very late, and it appears we’ve a great deal to do tomorrow.”“Indeed.As I informed your man, a clerk will arrive in the morning to begin an inventory.You may set aside your family’s personal belongings.Everything else remains with the house.”“Yes.Naturally.I understand.” My lips spoke the proper words, the only words possible.Duplais did not move immediately to join Bernard.His sharply inquisitive gaze fixed on me, as if he could sight straight through my bones.“Have you—? You understand I must ask, damoselle.Why is your sister dead?”“They told me she overreached in her magical studies.I don’t know what that means.Perhaps you could tell me.”“Have you any further information on your father’s whereabouts or activities?”“I have not.” Despite his burrowing stare, I refused to drop my eyes.I was guilty of nothing.“You understand, surely, an intelligent young woman, a daughter so close in mind to her father, that this death signifies some change in his situation, some rising conflict with allies or rivals.I urge you to share whatever you know.” When Duplais came to Montclaire that first time, he had lured us into exposure with this same reasoned urgency.Only at my father’s trial had I observed his steel blades fully bared.“You know nothing of my relationship with my father, sonjeur.Nor do you know anything of my mind.”“Very true.I do not.” He bowed, stiff as an oaken door.“Angels’ peace, damoselle.”Foolish to bait him.Silly, angry bravado, the kind of response for which I had always berated my brother.But I could not grasp his purpose, and the long day and its grinding emotion had deprived me of any more reasoned response.My father had called me the child of his mind.Then he had set about torturing and murdering a girl younger than me.How could I ever come to terms with that?I stumbled up the stair to my own bedchamber.Once behind a closed door, I sat on my bed and screamed into a lapful of pillows, indulging anger and outrage and a shameful dose of self-pity.I would grieve forever for my beloved sister and my mad mother, for my wretched hostage brother, and for the false memory of a father I had worshiped.But for that one hour I mourned the end of one life and the dismal prospects of the next, raging and weeping and cursing my treacherous parent and his cruel king and their damnable conspiracy to steal away the home that was as much a part of me as heart and bones.SELFISH EMOTIONAL INDULGENCE AIDS NOTHING, of course.Certainly not sleep.When my crusted eyes blinked open in the dark hours before dawn, the harsh facts remained unchanged.Even after stripping off shoes and travel-stained skirt and climbing under the sheets, I could not banish them with dreams.My thoughts were already snarled in packing, choosing, leaving.But I refused to yield these last quiet hours alone to Portier de Savin-Duplais and his summons.Some things were more important.Traveling in the dark, lost in the storm of grieving, I had not yet read my sister’s letter.The candle Melusina had left burning on my table was naught but a puddle of wax, but I found another, coaxed a spark from the ashes of my bedchamber hearth to light it, and set it on my family altar beside the stone figurines representing my Cazar grandmother and a young cousin who had died ten years previous.Until I received Lianelle’s death warrant from the Seravain deadhouse, our local verger would not sanctify a tessila for her.Although I had long abandoned my childhood beliefs in the trials of Ixtador Beyond the Veil and the Ten Gates to Heaven in favor of reasoned ethics in this life and speculative ignorance about what might follow, I found comfort in the rituals of remembrance.I invited the memories of my sister to fill my heart as I extracted her packet from my discarded skirt, untied the string, and pulled out the paper bearing my name.The crumpled letter was spotted with candle wax and varicolored blots of ink and tea.Not unexpected from the perennially messy Lianelle.Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I smiled and broke her seal.The letter was initially dated ten days past, but the two pages appeared to have been written in fits and starts.I wrapped a shawl about my shift and settled down to read.She had stuffed the red leather packet with scraps of old linen.Nestled in the soft folds was a gold ring, fashioned in the likeness of a falcon’s head.A silver bead had been fitted as the bird’s eye.The packet’s weight derived from a palm-sized round case made of ivory, filled with a coarse gray powder.The nireals must be the two thumb-sized oval pendants of untarnished silver.Pretty trinkets.It was only the thought of magic working that left me queasy.Smoke and mirrors and lies.The letter revealed no hint of the anxiety her wizardly instructor had described.I read on into the second page, a jumble of snippets scrawled in different inks.I’ve had no occasion to post this, as Mage Bourrier has stuck me on the restriction list again—for demonstrating that his “talking door” could be made wholly inarticulate by applying a rasp to the hinges, and silenced altogether with a healthy dollop of grease.As usual, I am named insolent and self-aggrandizing.Ah, but not stupid at least!This last scrap was scrawled with the same pen and ink that scribed my name on the outside of the letter.So she had written it the morning she died [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]