This will be the last chapter of Book One (which will be titled “The Amiestrin Gambit”). It needs some work still, but I should start posting chapters of Book Two (The Passing of Pawns) soon.
The next morning, despite being short on sleep, Ellis forced herself out of bed. After cleaning up, she dressed in a fresh uniform, braided her hair, and made her way down toward the lake. Llelas would know to find her there—she’d put that in her journal and left it open for him to see.
He’d arrived there before her, looking as if he hadn’t slept at all. Thomas was with him, a rarity. Circumstances had forced them together in this, and Ellis didn’t know if their alliance would last. Llelas was the first to spot her, and raised one hand to let her know. So she walked the rest of the way to the lake’s receding edge, under the big rhododendrons. Thomas gave her a tight-lipped nod as she joined them.
“Where is he?” she asked.
Llelas tilted his head toward the stables up the hill. “In the groom’s quarters, packing his gear.”
“Good,” she said. “I want him to leave.”
Thomas cast a strange glance her way. “Grandfather? Why?”
“Captain Dantreon has no memory of last night,” she told them. “It’s like it disappeared from his mind, while he was talking to me. It scared him. I could see that on his face.”
Llelas glanced down and away, looking even wearier than before. Thomas folded his arms over his chest. “Is he…all right?”
“He knows he forgot something,” she admitted, “but other than not telling him about any of this, I don’t think we can do anything.”
“Grandfather is leaving,” Llelas said then. “To go after the last one.”
Ellis turned to him, startled. “One of them got away? Did you…?”
Llelas shook his head. He knew what she was asking—had he had to kill someone? “One killed the others, and four humans, too,” Llelas said. “To ensure her escape.”
“A woman?” Ellis blurted out. “I…”
She honestly didn’t know what she’d intended to say.
“Grandfather said he was sure,” Llelas said, his voice low. “She came to start a…I forget the word, but to start a big family, looking for a suitable place to control people. Now she will try somewhere else. He wishes to keep her from coming back.”
“Because she knows about you,” Ellis surmised, “and the lieutenant.”
“Yes,” Llelas said softly. “He protects us. We protect him.”
Thomas chose that moment to speak up. “I want a full explanation, Sevireiya. I want to know whatever it is that you do. And who he is.”
Llelas’ lips pressed together in a thin line. “Not today. We have tests.”
“I’m leaving for home right after,” Thomas said.
Ellis touched Llelas’ sleeve. “After the exams, after the break, I’d like you to tell us what you can. I know you said it was a family concern, but they came to this estate looking to cause trouble. We need to know.”
Llelas’ eyes rose to fix on Thomas’ grim face, evaluating him, it seemed. After a moment, he said, “When we return, I will tell you both what I can. My promise.”
Ellis took a deep breath and gazed out at the lake, more a pond this time of year, in the light of the early sun. Today there would be exams, and then a week’s break, the fall courses would start. Not long after that, she would turn sixteen.
This time last year, her world had been controlled by the will of one Seer. Now everything was more complicated. The Gifts she’d thought the stuff of legend were real, and creatures that had seemed silly myths had come to hunt on her estate. And if she wasn’t to be helpless, she needed to know.
As always, Cantrian was correct. Information is power.