Authors: Michelle Sagara
Tags: #General, #Epic, #Fiction, #Romance, #Fantasy
“So…no gates. Guards?”
Morse snorted. “We’re better put to use watching carpenters and their supplies, apparently.” She added, “Not that he needs us. We’re there to stop people from doing something so stupid he has to kill them, as far as I can tell.”
Kaylin shook her head. “But it’s good work?”
“It’s boring work. Except for the feral runs. But…I can live with the boring. I thought—” She shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. You asking me if I’m happy?”
Kaylin shrugged. “Not really.”
“Good. You may have forgotten, but happy is not one of my strong suits.” She walked ahead for half a block, and then slowed enough that Kaylin and Severn could catch up without running. Turning the corner, they came to the Tower.
Morse was right. There was no gate. No fences. No guardhouse. There was a garden—if you could call it that—but it was an odd tangle of plants that did not look to Kaylin’s admittedly ignorant eye like flowers or the usual things you found on the lawns of the powerful and the mighty.
“Don’t ask,” Morse told her.
“Those are—are those carrots? Please tell me I’m not seeing carrots.”
“What are they
“Apparently an ‘open experiment’. I don’t think the Lord was fond of the idea, but the Lady was really taken by it. She wants to see what will grow here, if she puts her mind to it. If it’s useful, she wants to see how far across the fief she can encourage things to grow. Those were her words. Swear to gods, he doesn’t say no to her if she asks for anything.
“I’m just grateful all she’s asking for is a patch of dirt and few seeds. That building there, the one that looks like it’s made of glass? It’s hers.”
“It’s not glass?”
“You try breaking it. Once. After you ask permission first.” Morse grinned. She was right: she wasn’t
at being happy. But if this new life disagreed with her, it was hard to see how.
“This is where you found me,” Kaylin said softly.
“Yeah. That was a day. Feral runs then, too—but those were more risky.” A brief smile twisted her lips and faded. “Come on. Door’s over here.”
“It has a door?”
“Well, two. The usual.”
“And it’s just a door?”
“You have a problem with doors?”
“Not normal ones, no.” Kaylin walked up the path between rows of orderly plants; they fell away, revealing flat, pale stone that eventually became stairs. The stairs were long, the rise low; she climbed them, pausing to glance at the building that now seemed to rise, in a more regular form, around the base of the Tower. The doors led to that.
She glanced at Morse, who looked at her as if she were insane, and then looked for a knocker or something; the doors were over ten feet in height, and they weren’t exactly narrow. She didn’t need one, though; before she could actually touch the doors, they began to roll inward.
Standing between them, were Tiamaris and Tara. Lord and Lady. Tara was wearing what looked like gardening clothing, however. She smiled at Kaylin, and there was nothing shy or hesitant in her smile; she was quietly, peacefully, happy. “There are no wards,” she told Kaylin, before Kaylin could speak.
“She did not believe you liked them. I can’t imagine why,” Tiamaris added, with the hint of a smile. “However, she insisted that they not be part of the functioning visitor’s door. She likewise rejected a portal, although I believe that
Kaylin hesitated for just a minute, and then she walked quickly to Tara and wrapped her arms around her in a brief, tight hug. Tara returned it; there was nothing insubstantial or ghostly about her arms, now. “Take care of him,” Tara whispered, before they parted.
Of course. Tara couldn’t leave the fief. Tiamaris had to do so.
But there was no fear of abandonment on the avatar’s face.
Tiamaris reached up and gently brushed strands of hair from her forehead.
“Morse,” he said, without looking at Morse. “Remain with her until I return.”
“Oh, good!” Tara said. “Morse, you can help me! And you can tell me the rest of the story.”
Morse froze. Kaylin kept her face as expressionless as possible, mostly because Morse with wounded dignity wouldn’t generally think twice about causing damage.
“It’s not that kind of story,” Morse muttered to Kaylin out of the corner of her mouth. “It’s a real one, about some stupid kid who gets lost in the fiefs, and stays. But…she seems to like it.”
“She would,” Kaylin replied. “It could be about her, in a way. If she’s happy, it will be good for the fief.”
“Like I care about the fief.” But Morse went where Tara led.
And when they were out of sight, Tiamaris said, “Thank you.”
Kaylin started to ask him for what, and stopped herself; they would have been just words. “Ready to face the Emperor?”
“Good. You are there to escort me. You are not actually expected to attend the Court session. You are, however, expected to wait until it’s done. Corporal Handred, on the other hand, is expected to attend.” He laughed at the expression that flitted across Kaylin’s face as she tried to choose between relief and irritation.
“We have plans for the fief,” he said, as they began to walk. “But we hope, in the end, it will be a place that you would have been happy to grow up in.”
She felt some tiny part of her unclench and relax, and she began to ask him what, and why, and how, as they walked, and she didn’t even mind when he got all technical and half his words went straight over her head.
CAST IN SILENCE
Copyright © 2009 by Michelle Sagara
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