The King’s Daughter, Chapter 33

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Hours later, the fire blazed in the darkness, the moon too small to compete. The barn contained enough hay to burn till morning, no doubt. Llelas leaned against a fence post, waiting with Farrier for the burning to stop.

They were fortunate. the wind was low, and the fire stayed to the barn. Grandfather lay on his right side, not far away, his eyes closed. Llelas wasn’t sure whether he was asleep or dead at this point. He barely moved. Captain Sirtris sat on the ground with his head bowed in his hands, his pale hair rumpled. This warred with his innate sense of propriety, this destruction, circumventing the letter of the law.

“It’s the most sensible thing,” Farrier said for the fiftieth time, as if to convince himself.

That was exactly what Ellis would have said in his place. Or practical. Or pragmatic.

“The truth today would aid no one,” Llelas responded.

Farrier gazed at the fire. “Yeah.”

A half-hearted agreement, but that was all he would get. Llelas had lived too long on the edge of Grandfather’s world, on the edge of the Menhirre world, to be unaware of the dangers of revealing information to the public.

Telling one person at a time, like Ellis or Captain Sirtris or Thomas, was acceptable. But should hundreds and thousands of people learn of the aras, those people would quickly become a mob, and mobs had no sense at all.

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Ellis had lain awake for hours, her mind twisting and turning over the events of the day. Not so much the hunt for Miralys Dantreon or learning to milk cows with Thomas or the return to Amiestrin to find Grandfather injured. Instead her mind kept replaying her discussion with Captain Dantreon in the library, and watching those brief flashes of confusion on his face when he realized he didn’t remember something.

It had scared him. She’d seen that on his face, a split-second when his mouth opened just a bit, his eyes focusing inward, his brows drawing together. And she’d wanted desperately to get away because she was the one causing that fear. She wasn’t the source, and the only reason he was pursuing it was because she was involved.

He’d wanted to protect her, but that was making it worse.

Maybe writing it out will help.

Ellis got out of bed, went to her desk, and drew out her tattered journal. She opened the cap on the ink and dipped in the nib as she tried to put words to the rambling thoughts in her mind.

July 22, 494

Captain Dantreon kept forgetting when we talked about Grandfather. If there’s some kind of prohibition about discussing aras with seers, that must be why. I feel almost as if he would have forgotten the entire past year if I’d pressed him on the subject. 

He’s always listened to me and supported me, so I hate keeping things from him, but this is for his own good. I’ve seen that with my own eyes.

He didn’t have this problem when he thought there was an imposter pretending to be Mikhal. He only seemed to react when Llelas and Grandfather were talking. There was a second when I could tell the captain had realized something before he collapsed, and I’m pretty sure that something was who Grandfather actually is—the Old Man of the Mountains. So that must be the forbidden information, the part that makes his mind react the way it did.

That was scary. I’ve seen the captain with his headaches before, but watching him collapse like that was terrifying.

Ellis sighed and sat back, watching the ink dry on the paper. If all seers had this much trouble with Grandfather, then this would happen to her father as well. And…

Ellis opened up her lower desk drawer and pulled out her locked box. There were only trinkets inside, no treasures: a pretty stone she’d found by the lake when she was six, the first coin that Geris had ever given her, a silver royal, a pendant she’d found by the side of the road. And the letter.

She unlocked the box with a key from the center drawer, picked out the letter, and unfolded it. Kerris’ childish scrawl filled the page, the first part of which spoke mainly of cats and dogs, then revealed to her that she had brothers. But there had been that bit that predicted things:

Tell Captain Dantreon he should name his first son Andrian. Tell Thomas the horse will be ready on time and tell Kellen his mother will be fine.

Those three things had all come true, more or less—proof of Kerris’ gift.

On either side of that, there had been cryptic notes that none of them had understood. Below had come a warning for her to take care and a note for Sandrine—presumably Llelas—to looks at some boots and a watch. In the light of the last few days, that warning for her made sense, although Ellis had no idea if Llelas’ warning had gained any significance. But above that sentence was an even stranger comment:

I’m not supposed to see the young lieutenant, but I do. Sometimes. Like a shadow, but I know he’s there.

I’m not supposed to see the young lieutenant. Ellis ran a fingertip over that line. Not supposed to see…

The young lieutenant must be a reference, somehow, to Grandfather. Kerris wasn’t supposed to see Grandfather, and knew it, yet he could. I know he’s there.

Ellis licked her lips. If Kerris could see Grandfather—or perhaps he meant another of Grandfather’s kind—that made him a stronger seer than Captain Dantreon. Or perhaps a different kind of seer. She didn’t know what it meant.

But she was going to ask Llelas whenever he returned. Or she could ask him now by writing in her journal, couldn’t she?

She heaved out a heavy sigh. She trusted Llelas, but there were some things she didn’t want him to know. Thinking of that, she plucked the throw off her bed, settled it over her head so that it cloaked her and part of the writing desk, and drew the inkwell inside its cover. Surely Llelas, if he was Watching her, wouldn’t peek inside that close shelter.

I shouldn’t have been in the officers’ quarters, she wrote. I know that, but Captain Sirtris told me to stay there for the captain’s sake. I didn’t have much choice. They could have called in Lieutenant Sidreiyan, but he still looked sick to his stomach, so it had to be me. I hope the captain has forgotten I was there, because I don’t want him to be angry with me.

I know now why I was forbidden. I knew before that Captain Dantreon was handsome, but I spent a couple of hours there, watching him sleeping.  He’s very handsome.

All the cadets are attractive in their own way, even Kellen, and I want to punch him because I don’t trust him. Mikhal is beautiful, the maids were right about that, but it’s not the same.

But there’s no point to mooning over him anyway, is there? I can’t waste my time like that, not if I want to keep up with the others, so I have to not think about it.

Ellis set down the pen, capped the inkwell, and blew gently on the paper to set the ink. Then she realized it didn’t matter. She tore the page from her journal and wadded it up. Then she tugged the throw off her head and went to throw the wad of paper on the fire. She watched it burn.

She laid back down and, as she reached to turn down the lamp at her bedside, spotted a smear of ink along the side of her thumb. She tried to rub it off with her other thumb, but only succeeded in getting ink on that hand as well, and under her fingernail.

Some things were harder to escape than others.

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