Read Arrow’s Flight Online

Authors: Mercedes Lackey

Tags: #Fantasy, #General, #Fiction, #Fantasy - General, #American Science Fiction And Fantasy, #Action & Adventure, #Spanish: Adult Fiction

Arrow’s Flight (25 page)

BOOK: Arrow’s Flight
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“It’s better than trying to do it with bare hands,” Kris replied, taking her hands in his own and massaging them.

“I guess so,” she tried to force herself to relax. “Kris, just how does the Guard clear the roads off?”

“They recruit villagers. Then it’s teams with shovels; they dig out the worst places, and pack down the rest.”

“I don’t imagine that it’s a very fast process.”

“No.”

The single word hung in the air between him. Talia was afraid, but didn’t want to put more of a burden on Kris than he already had by giving way to her fears.

The silence between them grew.

“I hate to say this” he broke it reluctantly “but you’re projecting. I can feel it, and I know it isn’t me, and Tantris just backed me up.”

Anger flared a little, followed by despair—

“Dammit Talia, lock it down! You’re not helping either of us!”

She gulped back a sob; bit her lip hard enough to draw blood, then steadied herself by beginning a breathing exercise; it calmed her, calmed her enough that she actually found the leakage, and blocked it. Kris heaved a sigh of relief, and smiled at her, and she felt a tiny stirring of hope and accomplishment.

Finally he let her hands go and went after the harp; she wasn’t in a mood to sing by any means, but he chose nothing that she knew. He seemed more to be drifting from melody to melody, perhaps finding his own release from distress in the music he searched. She listened only; the chirras seemed to have caught the somber mood and did not sing either. She used the harpsong to reinforce her own ritual of calming and did not open her eyes until it stopped.

Kris had risen and was replacing the harp in its corner of the hearth. He returned to her side and stretched himself next to her without speaking.

She was the one who broke the silence.

“Kris, I’m scared. Really afraid. Not just because of what’s happening to me, but because of all that—” she waved her hand “—out there.”

“I know.” A pause. “I’m scared, too. We ... haven’t got a good situation here. You—you could have killed us both the other night. You still could. And out there . .. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. Between the two, I just wanted to give up. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hope it all went away.”

It cost him to admit that, Talia knew. “I wish I wasn’t so messed up; I wish I was bigger and stronger. Or a Farspeaker like Kyril,” she replied in a very small voice.

“You can’t help what happened. As for being a Farspeaker, I don’t think both of us together could reach someone with the Gift to hear us, and if we could, I don’t know that it would do any good,” he sighed. “We just have to keep on as we have been, and hope we get out of here before the supplies run out. That’s the real problem, when it comes down to it—the supplies. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry. We’ve got about enough for a month, but not much more than that. If we run out . . .”

“Kris—you know, we are in Sorrows—remember the tree? Maybe—maybe we’ll be sent game.”

“You could be right,” he mused, beginning to brighten. “It would take less magic to send a few rabbits within reach of our bows than it did to divert that tree.”

“And maybe we’ll get out before we have to worry about it. And you don’t have to worry about me, you know. I’m Borderbred. I can do with a lot less than I’ve been used to eating.”

“Let’s not cut rations down unless we have to. We’ll be using a lot of energy keeping warm.”

Gloom settled back over them. Talia decided that it was her turn to dispel it.

“I wonder what things are like back at Court right now. It’s almost Midwinter.”

“Pandemonium; it’s never less. Uncle hates Midwinter; there’re so many people coming in for the celebrations who ‘just incidentally’ have petitions that there are Council meetings nearly every day.”

She looked at him unhappily. “I don’t get along with your uncle very well. No, that’s a lie. I don’t get along with him at all. I know he doesn’t like me, but there’s more to it than that. I keep having the feeling that he’s looking for a way to get rid of me.”

Kris looked flatly astonished. “Whoa—wait just a minute here—you’d better start at the very beginning. I can hardly believe my ears—”

“All right,” she replied hesitantly, “but only if you promise to hear me out completely.”

“That’s only fair, I guess.”

“All right; when I first got to the Collegium I had a pretty miserable time of it as you know. Dirty tricks, nasty anonymous notes, ambushes—it was the unaffiliated students, the Blues, but they made it seem as if it was other trainees that might be responsible so I wouldn’t look inside the Collegium for help. It all came to a head—”

“When they dumped you in the river just after Midwinter—”

“And they meant to kill me.”

“What?” he exclaimed.

“It isn’t common knowledge. Elcarth and Kyril know; and Sherrill, Keren, Skif, Teren, and Jeri. Ylsa knew, so did Jadus; I think Alberich knows. Mero guessed. I’m pretty sure one or more of the others told Selenay some time later. One of the Blues told me to ‘give their greetings to Talamir’ just after they threw me in—I think the meaning there is pretty clear. They expected me to drown, and if it hadn’t been that my bond with Rolan was strong enough for him to know what had happened—well. But I was delirious with fever when they were caught and I couldn’t tell anyone. They claimed it was all just a joke, that they hadn’t thought I’d get worse than a ducking. Your uncle backed them up before the Council. So instead of being charged with trying to kill me, they got their wrists slapped and were sent home to the familial bosoms.”

“That’s hardly an indication that—”

“You promised not to interrupt me.”

“Sorry.”

“The next time we got into it was over Skif. It was right when Skif was helping me unmask Elspeth’s nurse Hulda. I needed to find out who had sponsored her into Valdemar besides Selenay and Elspeth’s father. Skif went to the Provost-Marshal’s office to find the immigration records, and Orthallen caught him there. He dragged him up in front of Selenay, accusing him of trying to alter the Misdemeanor Book. And he demanded that Skif be given the maximum punishment for it—stable duty with the Guard for the next two years on the Border. You know what that could have meant. At worst, he could have been killed; at best, he’d be two years behind the rest of us, and I’d have been without one of my two best friends all that time—as well as being without the only person in the Collegium who could possibly have helped me expose Huida. I got Skif off, but I had to lie to do it; and I can tell you that Orthallen was not pleased.”

Kris looked as if he wanted to interject something, but held his peace.

“Lastly there’s the matter of my internship. Orthallen ‘in view of my youth and inexperience’ was trying to pressure the Council into ruling I should stay out in the field for three years—double the normal time. Fortunately, neither Selenay, Elcarth or Kyril were having any of that—and pointed out that internships are subject only to the will of the Circle, not the Council.”

“Is that all?”

“Isn’t it enough?”

“Talia, this all has very logical explanations if you know my uncle. Firstly he couldn’t possibly have known about the students’ malice—I’m certain of it. He’s known most of them since they were in swaddling clothes; he even refers to people grown and with babes of their own as ‘the youngsters.’ And he probably felt obligated to act as their spokesperson. After all, you had two people to speak for you on the Council, Elcarth and Kyril.”

“I suppose that’s logical,” Talia said reluctandy. “But Skif—”

“Oh, Skif—my uncle is a prude and a stickler for convention, I know that for a fact. Skif has been a thorn in his side ever since he was Chosen. Before Skif came, there was never any problem with Heraldic students getting involved in trouble down in town—the unaffiliates and the Bardics, and once in a great while the Healers, but never the Grays.”

“Never?” Talia’s right eyebrow rose markedly. “I find that rather hard to believe.”

“Well, almost never. But after Skif started his little escapades—Lord and Lady, the Grays are as bad as the Bardics! It’s like the younger ones feel they have to top him. Well, uncle is not amused, not at all. He’s a great believer in military discipline as a cure for high spirits, and I’m certain he never meant anything worse for Skif than that.”

“What about me? Why does he keep trying to get between me and Selenay?”

“He’s not. You are young; his idea of Queen’s Own is someone like Talamir. I have no doubt he truly felt a long internship was appropriate in your case.” “I wish I could believe you.” “Holding a grudge is rather childish—and unlike you—”

“I am not holding a grudge!” “Then why are you even refusing to consider what I’ve told you?”

Talia drew a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. “There is a third explanation for what he’s been doing. It could be that he thinks of me as a threat to his influence with Selenay. And I might point out one other thing to you—and that is I am willing to bet the person who told you all about those ‘rumors’ is your uncle. And I’d be willing to bet he asked you to investigate them. He knows what my Gift is. He could well know what the effect of hearing that poison would be on me.”

Instead of refuting her immediately, Kris looked thoughtful. “That is a possibility; at least over the internship thing. He’s very fond of power, my uncle; he’s been Selenay’s chief advisor for a long time, and was her father’s before that. And there isn’t a great deal you can do to change the fact that Queen’s Own is always going to have more influence than chief advisor. And I hate to admit it,” he finished reluctantly, “but you’re right about my source of information on the rumors.”

Talia figured that now that she’d got him thinking instead of just reacting, it was time to change the subject. She would dearly have loved to have suggested that Orthallen might well have originated the rumors, but Kris would never have stood still for the implication that his uncle’s conduct was less than honorable.

“Kris—let’s try and forget about it, for a few hours, anyway. We’ve got other things to worry about.”

He regarded her soberly. “Like the fact that you had enough energy to project; like the fact that you could do it again.”

“Yes.” She drew a deep breath. “I could even break down again; I was right on the verge of it this afternoon. If we hadn’t had something to do, I might have. And I was—maybe hallucinating out there.”

“Hell.”

“I’ll—try. But I thought you’d better be warned.”

“Featherfoot?” He looked long at Tantris, then nodded in satisfaction. “He says he thinks hie and Rolan can handle you, if it gets bad again. He says it was mostly that Rolan was caught off-guard that things got out of hand the first time.”

She felt a heavy burden fall from her heart. “Good. And—thanks.’

He gave her a wink. “I’ll get it out of you.”

She made a face at him, and curled up in the blankets to sleep with a much lighter heart.

They woke at very close to their normal time; there would be no dallying today, nor for many days to come, not if they wanted to reach the road before their supplies ran out. They suited up in their warmest clothes, took the shovels, and began the long task of cutting a path to freedom.

The snow was wet and heavy—an advantage, since it stayed on their shovels better. But the very weight of it made shoveling exhausting work. They took a break at noon for a hot meal and a change of clothing, as what they’d put on this morning was now quite soaked through. They shoveled until it was almost too dark to see.

“We’ve got to get to that tree and get it moved out of the way while the snow’s still like it is now,” Kris said over supper. “If it should turn colder and freeze, we’ll never be able to get that thing moved. It would be stuck in ice like a cork in a bottle.”

“We’ll be all right as long as the snow keeps falling a little,” Talia replied, thinking back to her days watching the Hold flocks at lambing time. “We’ll only have to worry about the temperature falling if the weather changes.”

They turned in early, hoping to get to the tree before the end of the next day.

By late afternoon they had reached it, and decided, after looking the massive trunk over, that it would be best if they hacked it in half with their handaxes and hitched the chirras and Companions to the lighter half. When darkness fell, they were slightly more than halfway through the trunk.

Again they rose with the sun and returned to the tree. They managed to cut through it by noon, and after lunch made their attempt to move it.

They had decided the previous night to leave nothing to chance and had made a set of harnesses for themselves from spare rope. They hitched their own bodies right in beside the chirras and Rolan and Tantris.

It turned out that it was just as well that they had decided to do so. Only when all six of them dug in and strained with all their strength did it move at all.

All of them gasped and panted with the effort, and over-burdened muscles screamed out in protest, while jhe tree shifted fraction by minute fraction. It took jtntil dark to haul it clear of their escape route. As darkness fell, they dragged themselves back Iftto the Station, nearly weeping with aches and exhaustion. Nevertheless, they rubbed the chirras dry and groomed their Companions, fed and watered sind blanketed them. Only then did they strip off their own sodden garments and collapse on their bed. They were too boneweary to think of anything but lying down—and their aching bodies.

BOOK: Arrow’s Flight
6.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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