Darklaw – Episode 74

AVESTINE GLANCED AROUND at all the men watching her. She stared at Rook and ordered Gerard to remove everyone. When guards came for Rook, she stopped them. “He stays. Gerard, you, too.” When the guards had cleared out the attendants and left, Avestine returned to Kami, “What do you know about the Avatar of Katan?”

“I met him. Twice.”

Avestine snarled at Rook but said to Kami, “And you believe him?”

“He’s the one who freed me in Sahrdon. He was at Agate Bay, just before Rook arrived. He was someone else. He…” she didn’t know how to explain his impersonation, one that went to a sense of Avestar’s essence more than his appearance.

“Why would you believe him? Did he hurt you?”

“He told me your advisor would die but you would live.”

“Did he threaten you?”

“I’m not Essanti.”

Avestine stepped closer so that she had to look down into Kami’s eyes. “What does that mean?”

As Kami began to form the explanation of what she knew, of what she could sense, of who she was, exhaustion washed through her. “Tired. I’m tired. I need to sleep.”

“Tell me what you know,” insisted Avestine.

Kami said, “I can feel every beast crawling across the land, swimming in the sea, flying through the air. I become the thoughts of those without thoughts of their own.”

Avestine took her by the shoulders again. “You can stop this. Call the beasts, have them attack the regiments heading this way.”

“I can send them, but they can’t distinguish among people. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat whatever they can. If they’re afraid, they’ll attack whoever they find.”

Avestine’s jaw tightened. “Then what good are you?”

Kami shrugged. “What do men’s borders mean to the trees? What do men’s possessions mean to the beasts?”

“You’re not a tree or a beast. You’re a woman, a woman who’s alive because of me.”

“I won’t kill all those people.”

“These are enemies, men who want to kill us. We have a right to defend ourselves.”

“But thousands of villagers will die, too.”

“Then start with the ships.”

“There are merchants and fishermen out there.”

“That can’t be helped.”

Kami stepped back, her exhaustion driven by the thought of what would happen as much as by physical weakness. She nodded, and when she tried to leave the room, Avestine asked where she was going.

“I need to rest.” She watched indecision flicker in Avestine’s eyes, even as her jaw tightened again. Kami was too tired to try to address Avestine’s calculating resentment.

Avestine nodded at Rook, who took Kami’s arm and escorted her away.

Kami had fallen asleep in Avestine’s bed, but she didn’t feel as if she were sleeping. She tossed about, throwing off the blankets when she sweated, burrowing herself in them again when she grew chilled. She saw Avestar’s face, heard Avestine’s laughter. Raret watched but then ran from her approach. She shouted for Rook, but no one came.

She sat up, awakening in a dim room, the candles nearly burnt out. She fell back onto the pillows and turned over. She had fallen asleep after Rook had left, soothed by Avestine’s scent on the pillows before the dreams, but now she wondered where Avestine was, why she hadn’t come to bed.

Kami’s ability to sense the life around her had been gaining strength. She had even reached out from within the city earlier in the day. Cities had always interfered with her sense of life until now, so she reached out again, wondering if she could leave the city, if only in her thoughts.

Her journey was slowed by the thousands of small, parasitical lives—rats, mice, worms, beetles, flies, bats, pigeons, sparrows, moles, cats, and dogs. She felt a desire to touch each one, and each of them reached out for her, as well. The palace was a city of beasts more populous than all the citizens in the kingdom, with food sources and breeding grounds like small cities in themselves. Kami followed animals along trails through rafters and walls. She visited nests on the roofs and burrows tucked in floorboards.

Cold hands startled her from her explorations, and as she turned, her senses drew back, like a tide rolling back out to sea, leaving the beasts she touched stirred up and confused. Avestine’s warm breath spread across her face as she kissed her.

“Would you have ever come back?” asked Avestine.

“I did.”

“Because I sent Rook.”

Kami pulled away so she could look into Avestine’s eyes. They were brimming with emotion, passion thawing the usual blue ice. “I do what I want.”

“I won’t let you out of my sight again.” “How will you cage a god?”

Published in Darklaw |
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