Carmeyon was surprised Monday evening when Ellis approached him. After the episode Sunday, she’d avoided him for the remainder of that day, taking to her room and claiming a headache. Carmeyon put aside the letter to Marshal Severin he’d been writing. It can wait.
“Are you looking for a game of chess?” he asked after she’d sat without speaking for a couple of minutes.
She’d skinned her knuckles again, probably practicing with Thomas. Her eyes met his quickly. “Is there a difference between, say, the Gift a Dantreon has and the Gift a Revasien has? You said that Sub-marshal Revasien has the most powerful Gift of anyone you know save my father. Is it a different kind of Gift? I’ve been reading about seers, but I couldn’t find a clear answer on that.”
Well, that came out quickly. “I think there are some differences. Each of my brothers has a different Gift.”
Andrian’s Gift was one they rarely discussed with others outside the family. “Sivian tends to know things that will happen to himself. Verin, on the other hand, knows about mechanical things, one reason he’s an excellent engineer. He usually knows whether some idea will work without having to build it. I know things that will happen if I have some need to, usually not very far in advance.” He paused, hoping he would say this acceptably. “When Andrian meets someone, he often knows when and how they’re going to die.”
Ellis gasped. “But you said none of you knew his wife would die,” she protested.
She picked out the flaw quickly, he noted. “That’s the difficult part. There are holes in our foreknowledge–things we don’t know. We get blindsided by them.”
She sat silent for a moment, formulating her next question. “Is it the same for the Revasiens?”
“That they each have different Gifts?”
“I suppose that’s what I’m asking.”
“I know that Sirien–the sub-marshal–sees possibilities, things that may happen. None of the rest of us do. The only other Revasiens I know of are the two boys and they’re a bit young to tell.”
“My brothers,” she said in a whisper. “Wouldn’t they have gotten any Gift they have from their…our…father anyway, rather than their mother?”
He blinked, surprised she didn’t know. “You won’t remember her at all, but Aliesa Revasien had the Gift.” At her blank look, he explained. “Apparently among the Revasiens it passes to both the men and the women. Given that fact alone, the Revasien Gift must be a different one.”
Her mouth twisted to one side. “So my brothers might have both.”
“It’s a possibility.”
“What about the Arnacassans? Do they have a gift like the Dantreons or like the Revasiens?”
“I’ve never met an Arnacassan,” he said. “I suspect the family has died out.”
“But if their gift could pass through the female line, there could be people of Arnacassan descent without that name who have some sort of Gift, couldn’t there?”
She seemed quite serious, making him wonder what provoked this line of questioning. Certainly not anything he’d said on Sunday. “I think we would know if that’s the case.”
She cast a dry look his direction. “Does your brother tell other people about his Gift?”
“No,” he answered. “Very few people know he has a Gift, and I’d rather you not mention it to anyone else.”
“So…one might want to hide a Gift if other people found it…objectionable.”
He sat back. He’d reached that conclusion himself years ago but in their rather Dantreon-centric circle, they never discussed it.
“Mikhal says,” she added after a moment, “that people claim all sorts of strange things go on up in the mountains. There are stories about people who can do odd things.”
“The Menhirre claim that,” he said carefully, “which is why they have a reputation for being superstitious.”
“Were you aware there was a Revasien Gift before the sub-marshal and his sister arrived in the capital?”
Carmeyon turned his mug around in his hands.
“Yes or no?” she prompted.
“No. I’d read the name before. That’s all. I never really knew anything about them. I don’t think my father did either, but I’ll ask him tomorrow.”
“Did you know all of Jerin’s brothers are musical?”
Carmeyon snapped his attention back to her face, wondering where that worked into this discussion. “I was unaware of that fact.”
“They’re all talented. They each play several instruments. Have you listened to Jerin sing, sir? I’ve never heard anyone else sing like that.”
Jerin did have a good singing voice–a spectacularly good one. He could probably make a living as a performer if he chose. “Are his brothers as good?”
Ellis shrugged. “He speaks highly of Garayan’s skill, but I have the impression his older brothers just gave up music altogether.”
That didn’t surprise him at all. “Not much political advantage for the Duke of Perisen in playing a harp, I would think.” Carmeyon had never liked Anton Marisi and couldn’t quite keep that from showing in his tone.
“I don’t think he plays the harp,” Ellis corrected him in a confused tone. “Jerin said he plays the guitar and the mandolin,”
Sometimes Ellis is too literal. ““I was being snide. I’m not overly fond of him.”
“Oh.” She nodded, picking up his meaning. “Then no, I suppose there would be no political advantage.”
“Why do you ask about Jerin’s family?”
She worked out her answer very carefully before she spoke. “Would you consider it possible that his family has a Gift? Only their Gift–let’s call it the Marisi Gift–is music?”
This argument he knew. “I argued this with my father when I was about twelve. We have no proof to offer either way, so I suppose you’ll just have to go with your instincts. What do you think?”
When she didn’t answer, he tried again. “You wouldn’t have asked me this many questions if you didn’t have some sort of theory. So what is it?”
“All of the Gifted families seem to be Menhirre. I’ve never heard of anything like that running in a Versh family or a Galasiene family.”
“Or a Cantreidian family,” he finished for her.
“I wonder if there might actually be a variety of Gifts among the Menhirre. Some are acceptable, like a talent for music, but some aren’t, so they remain hidden.”
He needed to take a better look at that list of books she’d borrowed from the capital’s library. “Such as my brother’s Gift?”
“Yes, but other things too. Perhaps the ability to know what someone else has done in the past instead of what they will do. Something like that would worry people, I think, having someone know what you’ve done.”
“Are you suggesting there are people who can do that?”
“The books I’ve read talk about Readers, people who can do so, sir. There are Finders, who can locate others, and Watchers who can see others even when they’re not close. Mikhal says there are tales about people making weather in the mountains. They can make it rain or snow. People who can move things without touching them. The stories are likely exaggerated but there might be a small grain of truth. The Gift had to have come from somewhere.”
“I still think we would have heard of them,” he said, “but I can’t discount it, either.”
She chewed on her thumbnail and then, realizing what she was doing, jerked her hand down to the table. He thought guiltily of his mention of Miralys’ nail-biting habit.
“It’s possible the Dantreon Gift is accepted because it runs in the royal family,” she continued. “The people have to accept it. The Revasiens can claim that their Gift is the same and have the same…I suppose you could call it an immunity from censure.”
“I just wondered if you’ve ever heard of anything…odd, sir. Anything that would be different.”
“I think Andrian’s Gift is the oddest I know. I only told you because you are family. Please…”
“I know when to keep other people’s secrets. I wish I knew more about our family’s history, sir. About our…bloodlines.” She looked pensive, and he suspected she still had a few ideas buzzing around in her head. He hoped she would tell him but, after a few minutes of silence, she got up, claiming she wanted to retire. “You don’t like Llelas very much, do you, sir?”
Just for a second, Carmeyon considered lying. “Are you asking me as your cousin?”
“No,” he admitted.
Carmeyon sat back in his chair. He’d never come up with a good reason. “Instinct, I think. I disliked him the moment I met him. I don’t have any idea why.”
“Could your Gift be telling you something about him?”
“I don’t think so. I’d rather you not tell him, please.”
She shrugged. “He already knows.”
With that parting shot, she left, leaving Carmeyon embarrassed.
Ellis tried asking Llelas–three times. He’d begun to think it funny and kept brushing her questions aside. Mikhal, when questioned again about the supposed Gifts, confided to her that he thought it all nonsense and superstition. Jerin had seemed disturbed by her questions, but indicated that he didn’t consider the legends completely false.
Taking a chance, she approached Lieutenant Sidreiyan, getting him first to talk about him home up in the highlands of Sandrine. When she finally got around to the questions she really wanted to ask him, he merely shook his head.
“Now I know why the others call you a badger behind your back,” the lieutenant said, his sardonic smile in evidence. “Good evening, Miss Dantreon.”
He left her there, thinking.
Captain Dantreon found her still there half-an-hour later. He brought a book with him–not a particularly unusual occurrence, but this time he’d brought the book for her. He turned it so she could read the cover.
“Genealogical Listings for the Year 490,” she read aloud. “I don’t understand, sir. This is four years old.”
“Yes, it is, but that doesn’t make much difference. They only publish this once every five years. If you’re curious about your family’s bloodlines, they’ll be in there. Marshal Severin loaned it to me.”
Fascinated, Ellis opened the book, following the captain’s instructions. The listings apparently went back to the settlement of Jenear almost four hundred years before. Surnames were arranged alphabetically with pages cross-referenced.
She located ‘Dantreon’ further back in the book. Finding the reference that listed her father, Ellis noted with shock that her own name appeared there. “Have I been in this all along?” she asked.
“Since the 480 edition. You’d just been born when they went to press on that one, I suppose. It would have been in fall of 479.”
“If I’m in this book, how could the newspapers not have known who I was when they found out my name?”
“These aren’t widely available. I suppose some never thought to look. Others may have chosen not to mention it for fear of offending your father. The law allows him to place restrictions on their printing or fine them for publishing something he doesn’t want seen.”
“Really?” Ellis tried to gauge his seriousness. She glanced at the entry again. Ellis Karsyet Dantreon, it read. “I didn’t know I had a middle name,” she noted. The surplus name sounded harsh and uncomfortable, like wearing someone else’s boots. She would have to get used to it. She glanced back up at the captain. “Are you in here, sir?”
He shook his head. “None of my family is. Look at this.” He flipped back a few pages until he reached the Dantreon family of five generations before. The king at that time, Selerian Dantreon, had one sibling, a twin brother named Sivian. The letters MGNM appeared beneath his name.
“What is that?” she asked, pointing out the inscription.
“Morganatic marriage, a Versh term. The children of that marriage have no legal rights of inheritance. That’s where my family line disappears.”
“Why would they say that? I mean, why would that happen?”
“Sivian–for whom one of my younger brothers is named, if you recall–served as the ambassador to Galas, still an independent nation at that time. He married a Galasiene woman without his father’s permission. His father claimed the marriage would be null in Jenear, but never actually had it nullified. All the same, Sivian didn’t return to Jenear until after his father died.”
“How sad. Was the marriage nullified?”
“Never legally, causing difficulties over the succession. I suppose the king never really had the heart to go through with it. Periodically there are noises made about returning our family to the line of succession, which my father cringes to hear.”
Ellis ran a finger down the book’s gilt spine. “Could I borrow this, sir? I’d like to look through it.”
When he nodded, Ellis scooped up the book and headed back to her room. She lit her candle, set the book on her desk and began reading. She stayed awake far later than usual, sifting through the fascinating names and dates.
Interesting bits of information turned up. She and Jerin had a common ancestor three generations back. That made them second cousins, as she understood it. Captain Dantreon and his sister were farther out, fifth cousins to both her and Jerin.
Jerin and Llelas turned out to be first cousins. Despite the fact that Jerin had never laid eyes on him before coming to Amiestrin, Llelas was actually Jerin’s nearest living relative outside his immediate family. Their mothers were half-sisters, separated by eleven years.
If one looked far back enough, Llelas’ mother was an Arnacassan through her mother’s mother. Interestingly, his father was also an Arnacassan through his mother, meaning Llelas bore that bloodline on both sides. Just as she’d suggested the name had died out, with only women carrying on the line.
There were holes in some families, people who appeared and disappeared with no connecting reference. The majority of the cadets didn’t figure in the book’s pages at all, giving definition to the compilers’ view of ‘nobility’.
She closed the book and readied herself for bed, deciding against writing in her journal.
Llelas sat in the library flipping through one of the reference books. A shadow crossed the desk, obscuring his book. Lieutenant Sidreiyan loomed over him, the very first time the lieutenant had sought out his company since their short discussion after his arrival.
“I have a letter,” the lieutenant said without preamble, “from Sub-marshal Revasien.”
“For me, sir?” Llelas asked, mystified.
“Does he write to you often?” Sidreiyan asked in turn, a quizzical expression on his face.
Llelas frowned up at him. Is he baiting me? “We are on good terms.”
“He and Grandfather are not,” the lieutenant said, “so I was surprised to receive a letter from him.”
“Would you like to sit down, sir?” Llelas asked. The lieutenant had just revealed a great deal. It must have been intentional.
The lieutenant sat and laid the folded letter on the table, favoring Llelas with a serious expression. “Grandfather raised my father, you know, so I have some fondness for the Old Man.”
“I had heard that,” Llelas admitted. Sovre had gone to some lengths to find information about this cousin of theirs. While ‘Grandfather’ was generally an honorary title for the Old Man, Llelas knew it actually applied in the lieutenant’s case. His own relationship to the Old Man was only one generation more distant.
“Sub-marshal Revasien,” Llelas said, offering information in exchange, “serves on the board of the Sandrine Trust. I thought he might have sent me instructions.”
An obscure law allowed a parent to draw funds from their child to maintain entailed estates, so the very morning Llelas had come of age—and inherited all that his grandfather had left for him—he had rolled his funds and properties into the Sandrine Trust to keep his father from touching it. That was the legal situation about which his father’s lawyers kept importuning him. Sovre administered the trust, acting on advice from the sub-marshal and several others.
“Ah.” The lieutenant folded his gloved hands before him on the table. “I understand better.”
“I do what I can.” Llelas shrugged. “I have no real power until my father dies.”
“Grandfather has little respect for the duke.” Sidreiyan met his gaze, his hazel eyes very serious.
That was an understatement. Grandfather despised Llelas’ father—or rather he despised the choices that Llelas’ father had made in his life. While the duke might control the lowlands, the highlands gave little credence to a title bestowed by a lowland king. The Old Man of the Mountains held sway there.
“Grandfather and I have discussed this,” Llelas said warily, wondering what Sidreiyan was getting at.
“I have kept a close eye on you these past few months.” Sidreiyan paused and tapped the letter lying on the table with two fingers. “Should you need it, the sub-marshal asks me to put my abilities at your disposal. He has no right to command that of me. He asks. I will consider it.”
Llelas glanced at the man’s gloved hands. Sidreiyan’s family ran to Readers, if he recalled correctly. “What do you see?”
“The past,” Sidreiyan admitted.
A frightening prospect. The past held much more information than the present and, unlike the Old Man’s, a human mind could not hold it all. “By touch?” he whispered.
“Yes, but it is stronger than I am, so I do not often use it by choice.” Sidreiyan glanced over at Jerin, the only other cadet in the library, distant enough he would not overhear them. “I do not know why you would need me, though.”
Llelas wished Sub-marshal Revasien had contacted him directly. Revasien was almost as capricious as the Old Man. “I have learned that the sub-marshal is usually correct,” Llelas warned.
“I hear the Sandrine Trust invests well,” Sidreiyan replied in a dry voice. “I did not know he sat on the board.”
Only in existence for a couple of years, the trust had already managed to sway a few important pieces of legislation that would someday be very beneficial for Sandrine Province. Llelas hoped the Old Man would not suddenly take an interest in business; the Old Man generally preferred tinkering with people. “I hope you will tell no one that, sir.”
Sidreiyan smiled then, a self-deprecating expression. “Grandfather would spit kittens. I will save my ears and not tell.”
“There are things we do not talk about,” Llelas told her, wrapping her hands before their practice session. “You ask into business that does not concern you. Family matters.”
She bent closer to him, keeping her voice low so Captain Sirtris wouldn’t overhear. “How does it not concern me when I know you know things you shouldn’t know about me?”
“Have I harmed you?” he asked, his bright blue eyes narrowed. “Have I done something criminal?”
“I know you would never hurt me,” she said.
He tucked in the end of her wrap and moved to her other hand, frowning. “You are stupid to trust me,” he said. “You do not know what I am.”
“How can I defend myself if I don’t know?” she asked as he finished.
“Step back,” he said and launched into the regular series of warm-up drills.
Ellis assumed he’d decided to ignore her question again. When they’d finished their practice session, he sat next to her on the floor while she caught her breath. She ached in a couple of spots, but she thought she’d gotten in a couple of good hits of her own. “You have more gray in your hair now than when you came here,” she observed.
He shot her a gratifyingly annoyed look and then laughed. “It is your fault. I will consider your request.”
Since it was the most she’d gotten out of him so far, she considered that excellent progress.