ROOK AND AVESTINE shared a look of astonishment before Avestine asked, “How can this be happening without my knowing about it?”
“You don’t have anyone watching Wald,” replied Rook. “He comes and goes as he pleases because he’s good about his duties.”
“Yes, he’s my Essanti. He doesn’t need a guard. I assumed he would be more concerned with staying near me than—than servicing my staff. And why isn’t he trained? You told me the younger the better.”
Rook shifted his weight to his other foot. “He wasn’t ready.”
Avestine noticed Rook’s discomfort. “Ready? You decide when he’s ready. Go get him. I want to ask him about this.”
Kami knelt beside Gerard’s body. “I didn’t know him. He was quiet, stayed in the background. Did you know how devoted he was to you?”
“I wonder if I know all his secrets.”
When Rook returned with the boy, Wald was trembling, his eyes wide. He refused to walk to the bed.
“Come here,” ordered Avestine, but Wald didn’t respond, so she went to him. He wore a loose green tunic and baggy trousers, and his face had its usual oily sheen. He stood still, not fidgeting, but his body was taut. She was a head taller, so when she stood in front of him, she lifted his face and looked down into his eyes. “Don’t be afraid of me.”
He seemed surprised and stumbled over his words before saying, “But I’m not, Your Grace. Why would I be? You’re beloved of both the Father and the Son. Is that not so?”
The boy’s sincerity was palpable. His fear was, too. “Then why are you afraid?”
“Please, don’t make me see him like this.”
“You know what happened, then?”
“Killed by a traitor, Your Grace.”
“What was he to you?”
“Your Grace’s warmaster.”
“That’s what he was to me.” Avestine stepped back. “I know what you were to him. Go to him now.”
“No,” he said so firmly, the hair on Avestine’s neck prickled.
“You don’t say ‘no’ to me,” said Avestine in her quietly threatening tone.
“Please don’t make me see him.”
Rook came to Avestine’s side. “Perhaps it’s not necessary.”
“Shut up,” she snapped. She said to Wald, “Do what I tell you.” She stepped behind him and eased him forward with a push.
He walked slowly to the bed, each step appearing painful. Kami met him halfway. She looked over his shoulder at Avestine, but before she could say anything, Avestine pulled her out of the way. Avestine put a hand on Wald’s shoulder again. “Sit with him.”
Rook’s chin rose at Avestine who nodded at him. Kami noticed the communication and began to ask what was happening but stopped when Rook shook his head at her.
Wald reached the bedside and sat down. His hands rested on his lap, and tears were streaming down his face, but he made no sound.
“Take his hand,” said Avestine as she stood behind him.
Wald clasped his hands together again and sputtered through his tears.
“Take his hand.”
Slowly, Wald reached one hand to the nearest lifeless one. His fingers curled around dead flesh.
“You loved him,” said Avestine.
“Feel that love now.”
Wald broke down, the trickle of tears breaking into heavy sobs, and he fell across Gerard’s chest and hugged him. He cried without restraint, his sobs mingled with pleading for the gods to bring his beloved back to him. He crawled onto the bed and lay beside Gerard, drawing the lifeless body into an embrace as he kissed the dead lips, and his tears wetted the flaccid cheeks.
Avestine led Rook and Kami from the room. Her guards waited for her in the corridor, and she ordered one to stay and inform her if Wald should ask for anything.
Servants arrived as soon as she reached her room, and asked if they should prepare the body, but she dismissed them.
Kami turned on her and Rook. “He’s just a boy. Why did you do that? And leaving him alone with the corpse!”
Avestine sighed, weary from the tension of the day. To Rook, she said, “I want to know why two men with weapons were able to get into the dining hall. I don’t want it to happen again. The balconies will have netting to prevent access in the future. See that it’s done by evensun tomorrow.”
Rook nodded and left, while Kami stood with arms crossed, unwilling to let her question remain unanswered.
Avestine gestured for her chambermaid, who had arrived to remove her tunic, as another maid unwound the band from around her breasts before raising a heavy cotton gown and dropping it over her head. When it came to rest, it reached to mid-thigh. Avestine slipped her bare feet into short fur boots and sat down at her table. “Bring my robe,” she told the maid, who brought her blue robe and laid it across a chair back. Then the women returned to the post at the servants’ entrance.
“Now that you’re comfortable,” said Kami, “will you tell me why you did that?”
“Wald is Essanti.”
“Undisciplined. Not untalented. Rook and I suspect he’s an Essanti of Mercy. We may find out tonight.”
“What will happen?”
“I don’t know what will happen.” She looked Kami over suggestively. “But we may have all sunfall to wait.”
“You’re excited about something besides me. You want to sit and imagine the possibilities of whatever scheme you’ve begun, not lick my body.”
Avestine smiled. “Maybe I could be persuaded.”
“I’ll be back when your hunger is stronger than your craving.”
When Kami rose to leave, Avestine stopped her. “Sleep in my bed. You won’t be disturbing me.”
“But you will be disturbing me, Your Grace.”
Avestine let her leave. Kami was right. She was covetous. How could she not be? How could she not be excited about the prospect of raising the dead?
Published in Darklaw |
Copyright © 2017 Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved. |