Deline tensed, but there was no poison in the air — nothing of the sort would’ve survived the spells on the room, explaining why the Talon was awake already. It was the room of an Emperor’s wife, after all. You couldn’t risk someone just walking in and poisoning a wife – or the Emperor himself. “Strange threats from a woman tied up on the floor.”
“Do you really think I was working alone?” The talon coughed again and then hissed. “You saved my life. You miserable-” she ended in a hiss as Carrone grabbed her hair and yanked, shoved a handkerchief between her teeth and tied another one over her mouth.
“I know she’s having trouble breathing,” he muttered, “but she was going to have more trouble if she kept that up. Here’s your trews. Who are we going for?”
“Put her in my trunk, if you would? There should be room right now, but put down the duvet first. We -” she wasn’t going to argue the we so instead she took a moment to pull on her trews. “We’re going to find the Emperor. And, mmm. There’s more, but we start there.” She pulled her weapons out of her trunk as Carrone grabbed the duvet, belted them on – and her spare spell-belt – as he put the Talon in the chest – and handed him her spare blades. “This is going to be bad,” she murmured. “They’re in the Imperial Complex.” She hissed out something that wasn’t quite a word, more of a shudder voiced. “And they’re in the Claws.”Continue reading →
A dart flew over her head and thunked into the window. Deline rolled up to her knees and grabbed the knife she’d been holding to Carrone’s throat. She gauged where the dart had come from, rolled up several feet away from where she’d gone down, and found herself facing empty air for a heartbeat.
She turned and ducked down as another dart flew, just catching the edge of her tunic as she listened, this time, were there — of course there weren’t footsteps. A breath, another breath — if they fled, they’d come back again. If she didn’t move, they’d be most likely to flee.
Carrone’s trews were sitting on the floor between them. She gestured quickly to him; he nodded, scooped up the trews, and shifted to the foot of the bed.
She counted down on her fingers: 3, 2,1 — on one, he popped around the side of the bed and threw the trews in the air. The dart went through them as she took the second she needed to spot her target and threw her dagger.Continue reading →
She slipped out of bed and opened the window, found a clean tunic and slipped it over her head pulled it off and found an under-tunic, slipped both on, and laid out a tunic for Carrone. She looked in her pack, not sure what she was looking for. For understanding.
“Hey.” It took her a moment to realize that he’d said that several times. “Hey, Deline. Lady Dedenarrion. Look at me.”
She looked up, wondering why Pethiarrie hadn’t left her any trews, to find Carrone sitting on the side of the bed. He’d made it and put on the tunic,but he was still sitting there, watching her.
A knock on the door pulled Deline out of her comfortable half-sleep many hours later.
She propped herself up on one elbow; next to her, Carrone had reached for a weapon, his eyes open and his posture worried. “Announce yourself,” she called.
“Pethiarrie, Your Sharpness.” The voice came in clearly; soundproofing was not considered a priority for Imperial chambers — if anything, it was the opposite.
Carrone tugged the sheet up to his mid-chest, covering his knife. Deline shifted so she was mostly blocking him from the doorway. She didn’t reach for her own weapon, but she made sure her spell components were laid out on the table to the side of the bed.Continue reading →
Deline took the drink that the bath attendant – Tandio, her pick for the position and quite good at both ends of the position – offered her and sipped it slowly. It had not been a quick report. Her Emperor was now robed and sitting comfortably on a divan while the other bath attendant brushed his hair and braided his beard. Carrone had spent much of the early part of the report eyeing her with some surprise and, occasionally, some worry.
“You have indeed had an interesting trip.” Mesaruxenne nodded solemnly at her, although his lips were turned up with a bit of a smile. “I am – I am very glad you survived it, Dedenarrion. If I had known –“Continue reading →
The way Carrone was holding his jaw, Deline wasn’t sure if he was afraid he might say something wrong or that he might vomit. She held his hand anyway and led him into the Emperor’s bathing chamber.
Unlike Pethiarrie, the two Claws standing guard didn’t give Deline any trouble. She nodded very politely to them – Seliarre, an Eagle Talon, and Teran, a Fox-Claw – and led Carrone over the tub.
You’d want me in your bed with the Emperor there., he’d asked, way back in the cabin, before things had gotten even more complicated.
What are you doing to do? Glare him to death? she’d countered. The way Carrone was looking now, she thought it might be a concern.
The Emperor was up to his neck in water, one bath attendants in the tub, kneeling in front of him, while the other was massaging his scalp and his long white hair with a scented soap. He opened his eyes as they entered. Continue reading →
The capital city was one of those cities that didn’t so much as rise into sight on the horizon as pop up suddenly when you rounded a bend in the road. Nestled in the middle of the Bear Mountains, the city had been stopped from expanding further by the need to keep the pass clear through the entire year, including the six to eight months a year where the pass might be covered in snow. There were buildings carved into the sides of the pass, but by regulation and army enforcement, those buildings were forced to stay back from the edges of the track far enough that even the widest wagons could head through with no problems, even in the worst weather.
Thus, they went from the vendors leaning over the edges of their balconies, calling down to them about their fine wares, better prices than in the city, of course, and better quality of manufacture as well, around a corner where no vendors had managed to carve homes, into the gates of the city with the buildings looming up above them. Continue reading →
Deline was trying to pretend that she wasn’t tense, and she wasn’t doing that good of a job.
She walked by Carrone and near Ranger Learone, wishing for the casual conversation they’d had the day before. The rain had held off while they camped, at least, but now, with the capital city looming on the horizon like a monster peeking out through the Bear Mountains, the rain, too, was looming. It suited her mood, and the tenseness in Carrone’s shoulders, and the worry on the Ranger’s face and in the set of Lord Eigeran’s pace, stomping as if he could kick away his concern. Continue reading →