Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha) (10 page)

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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“As to what you will say, well, I cannot tell you. It may be there is nothing to say that will do any good. But you must try. And, as to finding him—”

“Well?”

“Perhaps, working together, we will discover a way.”

“You will help me?”

“Khaavren! How can you doubt it?”

“You are a good friend, Aerich.”

“Well,” said the Lyorn, shrugging and permitting a smile to touch his lips.

At this moment, there was a clap outside of the door.

“Who is there?” asked Khaavren.

Someone whose voice he did not recognize said, “If that is the Lord Khaavren, late of Her Majesty’s Guard, then I would beg a moment of your time.”

“It is I,” said Khaavren, rising and opening the door. “And I believe I have a moment to spare.”

The woman on the other side of the door, who seemed rather old, with lines of care on her forehead and marks of worry beneath her eyes, was dressed as a warrior, entirely in black with not the least speck of color, and had the distinctive ears and eyes of the House of the Dzur. She bowed to Khaavren and said, “My lord, I am called Sennya.”

Khaavren’s eyes widened, and he said, “Your Highness? I remember
you from the days before the Disaster, though you perhaps never noticed me.”

“Indeed, I remember you very well, the Captain of Tortaalik’s Guard. And yes, I am the Dzur Heir, but it is not as Dzur Heir that I wish to exchange thoughts with you.”

“Nevertheless, madam, please accept my respectful salute, and permit me to name my friend the Duke of Arylle.”

Aerich, who had also risen to his feet, bowed. Sennya, for her part, returned the courtesy and, addressing Khaavren once more, said, “Perhaps we ought to speak in private, my lord.”

Aerich bowed again and made a motion as if he would leave, but Khaavren said, “Not at all. Indeed, I believe I know the matter about which you would address me, and it is exactly what my friend Aerich and I have been discussing.”

The Lyorn turned an inquiring look upon Khaavren, who said, “Her Highness Princess Sennya is, in addition to being Dzur Heir, also the mother of Ibronka.”

“Ah. I comprehend,” said Aerich.

The Lyorn pulled up a chair for the Princess, then waited. After a moment, as if she had to make up her mind, she sat; Khaavren and Aerich did the same.

“I have been deciding,” said Sennya, “whether to begin by saying, ‘You are the man whose son has corrupted my daughter.’ ”

“The reverse,” observed Khaavren, “would be equally valid.”

“Certainly. And, whichever way it were put, there can only be one result of such a statement, and I would welcome it.”

“You wish, then, to fight?”

“I am in no condition to fight. It would be a slaughter, and that is why I would welcome it.”

Khaavren bowed his head. “I hope Your Highness will not think it too familiar of me to say that I understand.”

“What happened?”

“I have not the least idea in the world, Highness. I gave her permission to accompany me when I left on an errand in the service of the Empire. I feared what I would say to you if she were killed—”

“Oh, I nearly wish she had been!”

“But this, I never expected this. Do you know, she had a friend?”

“No, I know nothing of any friend.”

“And the friend was as pretty a Tiassa as you could imagine. This Tiassa and your daughter traveled together. How could I have thought that, when my son and your daughter met—”

“I do not blame you, my lord.”

Khaavren bowed his head.

After a moment, he said, “My friend and I are going to look for my son. I imagine that, when we find him—”

“Yes. You will, no doubt, also find Ibronka.”

“Yes.”

Sennya considered. “Do you know the Hotel of the Tides in Adrilankha?”

“I do.”

“That is where I will be.”

“You do not wish to accompany us?”

“I am not ready to see my daughter yet. I do not trust what I might say.”

“Your Highness is wiser than I am.”

Sennya gave him a glance of inquiry, but he chose not to expand on his response. She said, “Very well. I will await word.”

She rose, as did Khaavren and Aerich; they both bowed to her respectfully, and followed her out into the ball-room, where Khaavren, upon seeing a familiar face, cried, “Tazendra!”

“Khaavren! Aerich!”

The three of them embraced warmly, and were soon joined by Daro.

“My dear Countess,” said Khaavren. “I fear—”

“You are leaving again.”

“How, you knew?”

“It would be beyond my comprehension if you did not go to look for Piro, my lord.”

Khaavren smiled. “Aerich will help me look.”

“How,” said Tazendra. “Your son is missing?”

“Yes,” said Khaavren.

“Then I will help you find him as well.”

“And do not leave me out,” said another.

“Pel!” cried the others. “Or,” continued Khaavren, “should I say, Your Discretion.”

“Ah,” said the Yendi, smiling. “It is all the same, it is all me. But what is this I hear, Khaavren. Your son is missing?”

“It is a tolerably long story, and one that is painful.”

“You know,” said Pel, “that it makes me only too happy to be of service to you.”

“You are too good,” said Khaavren.

“Not in the least.”

“But your duties—”

“Oh, as to that. The Empress can spare me for a while; she has a tolerably clear conscience.”

“Indeed?” said Khaavren.

Pel gave him a quick glance, but Khaavren only shrugged and said, “Well, perhaps she does at that. It is more than I can say of myself.”

Daro, who had been holding his arm, pressed it gently.

“So then,” said Khaavren. “You are with me? We go to find my son?”

“We are with you,” said Aerich. “I must only take a short time to arrange matters with my steward, which cannot take more than a day.”

“Indeed,” said Pel. “For my part, I am ready as soon as I have packed a few belongings, and dusted off my sword.”

“Certainly,” said Tazendra. “A day or so to prepare a few spells that may be useful on the road, and I am at your service.”

As Tazendra finished speaking, Lady Teldra entered and cried in a voice that carried throughout the room, “The Empress, Zerika the Fourth.”

Her Majesty, resplendent in a high-necked gold gown, shimmering with opals and diamonds, also wore trim gold slippers, her yellow hair flowing entirely free behind her. Everyone bowed, which courtesy Her Majesty returned with a nod of her head and a wave of her hand. It was easy to see, from her countenance, that she was in the best of spirits: her lips and eyes smiled, and each movement was animated; she laughed as she was introduced to certain of the guests, and, although Khaavren could not hear what was said, it seemed that she was amused by everything that was said to her, and everything she said. Even when her path took her near Khaavren, whose courtesy to her was not without a certain stiffness, her spirits gave no hint of failing, but she gave him a cheerful greeting as if there had never been the thought of ill-feelings between them.

Needless to say, she was equally delighted to see the Countess, whose path she rarely crossed, though they lived for the moment under the same roof; the Countess smiled happily to Pel, and gave Tazendra and Aerich each a friendly smile.

By chance, at the moment the Empress had made her entrance, Morrolan had been involved in a conversation with the Necromancer in the far end of the ball-room. Breaking this off, he arrived to greet Her Majesty at just the moment that Pel and Tazendra were giving her their respectful courtesies.

“Your Majesty!” cried Morrolan. “You honor my poor house.”

“Not at all,” said Zerika, laughing. “A splendid place. You must do me the honor of visiting my own, when it is done. It should only be another five or ten years, I believe, now that all the best artisans are free, having finished yours.”

“Oh, Majesty, if I have—”

She waved him to silence. “It is nothing, my friend. But come, we are in a public place, so, very publicly, I will tell you that I have broken my word to you, and I am sorry.”

“How, broken your word to me?”

“There are three counties to the north that I promised you. Well, for reasons of state, I have been forced to give them elsewhere. I am very sorry, Southmoor, and I swear that I will find a way to make it up to you.”

As it happened, Morrolan, though enjoying his reception in the event, had not expected to; that is, so much of his effort was directed at his study of the sorcerous arts that he had resented the interruption, though, indeed, he had agreed to it some months before when Teldra had proposed the idea. The result was that, with most of his attention absorbed by the ball, and the remainder still running the combinations for certain spells through his mind (“draw, twist, spread; draw, twist, send”), he had no attention left for matters of politics or economy—he had not given those three counties a single thought from the day they had been promised him. Accordingly, his only response was to wave his hand and say, “I beg Your Majesty will think nothing of it,” with such obvious sincerity that Khaavren, for one, was astonished.

“You are generous, my lord,” said Zerika, “and I shall not forget it.”

“Oh, Your Majesty is free to remember or forget what you wish.”

“Yes, Count, and it pleases me to remember this. And it pleases
me, as well, to pay you a thousand compliments on your lavish entertainment. You are giving me a lesson from which I hope to profit once there is an Imperial Palace again.”

“Your Majesty is kind.”

“Sethra Lavode,” announced Lady Teldra.

The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain—powerful, enigmatic, moody—had been looked upon by many Emperors in many different ways. There had been times when she had been sought and courted, other times when she had been banished and threatened with arrest; but, so far as this historian has been able to discover, this was the first time the Empress of Dragaera had thrown herself into the arms of Sethra Lavode, embracing her as a dear friend, to the silent astonishment of those present who were old enough to have known the ways of court. She dressed, as was her custom, in the ancient Lavode uniform of loose-fitting trousers and shirt of black, with only the flair of the former and the collar of the latter giving any hint of style.

As for Zerika, she cared not all for what anyone thought, nor for the Enchantress’s garb, but was merely glad to see her friend. “Ah, Sethra! I had not known you would be here!”

“Nor had I planned to attend, until I learned that Your Majesty was coming. As it is, alas, I cannot remain long.”

“Well, I understand, but I cannot express my joy to see you.”

“And I am equally delighted to see Your Majesty.”

And so the evening passed—indeed, the evening, the night, and much of the next morning, until at length Lady Teldra observed to Morrolan that they ought to consider sending around the bottle of parting.

“Indeed? Why is that?”

“Well, my lord, the entertainment cannot continue forever, after all.”

“But why can it not? You perceive, we sent out hundreds of invitations, and it seems that every time someone arrives, he must speak with a friend and inform him that the entertainment is entertaining, and so someone else appears. Indeed, I have had a full score of our guests approach me and beg to be permitted to extend an invitation to a friend who was not included in our list.”

“Well, and?”

“And so, I see no reason to ask my guests to leave. Some, indeed, have already departed, although this has seemed to me to be from an
excess of wine rather than from an onset of sleepiness. So, some leave, some arrive; let it continue.”

“My lord—”

“Well?”

“You cannot remain awake forever.”

“Nor do I need to. We have plenty of servants to continue supplying wine and food, and enough musicians. Should I require sleep, well, I will turn the matter over to you. Should you wish to sleep, no doubt Sethra the Younger will manage. If she becomes tired, she may ask the Sorceress in Green. And, by the time the Sorceress is weary, well, I shall be awake once more.”

“My lord, you wish this entertainment to run forever?”

“Why not?”

Teldra frowned. “In fact, I must consider this question.”

“Very well. While you consider, I—”

“Yes, my lord?”

“I will order more wine from the cellar.”

The wine-cellars of Castle Black were not as famous then as they would become, but were tolerably well filled with casks, barrels, and bottles. At this moment, however, they held something else, that being a pair of Teckla, who sat against one of the walls, each holding a large wooden goblet, which he refilled from the nearest cask as the need arose. The reader will hardly be surprised to learn that one of these is our old friend Mica, the other being none other than Aerich’s servant, Fawnd.

“So then,” said Fawnd in a clear voice, as, it must be admitted, he held his wine remarkably well for a Teckla, “how is your dear Srahi?”

“Oh, splendid,” said Mica. “After a hard day’s work, if she has exerted herself, I bring her pilsner and rub her back. Whereas, if it is I who have been working hard, why, she brings me ale and rubs my foot.”

“Your foot, my friend? Not your feet?”

“Well, you perceive it would be useless to rub the wooden stump that replaced my foot when I lost it, so long ago.”

“Ah, yes. I had forgotten this circumstance. Well, you must remember me to her.”

“I shall certainly do so, dear Fawnd.”

“Well, we have seen some adventures, you and I, have we not?”

“Of a certainty we have. And, moreover—ah, my cup is empty.”

“Here, permit me.”

“You are kind.”

“There. What were you saying?”

“I no longer recall.”

“Adventure.”

“Ah. Yes. Well, I see no reason for it to stop.”

“You do not? Even with the Empire restored?”

“Oh, I do not believe that is settled, you know.”

“How, you do not think it is?”

“No, nothing is certain.”

“And yet, there is now an Empress, is there not?”

“The Houses have yet to agree on that.”

“Well, that is true, good Mica. But I have overheard my master speak of this, and he sounds sufficiently sanguine.”

BOOK: Sethra Lavode (Viscount of Adrilankha)
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