Carmeyon watched Ellis walk down the hallway, irrationally fearful about letting her out of his sight. She was only going back to her room to check on Merielle, not far out of his sight.
He knew, down to the very soles of his boots, that their assassin hadn’t acted alone. There had to be at least one more person about who bore Ellis ill will. Another attempt might follow. Sirtris considered it unlikely, but he lacked Sirtris’ objectivity.
He felt relieved when she reappeared a few minutes later, calmer than she had been. She’d washed her face and slicked back her hair. She had just settled at one of the tables when Thomas and Llelas Sevireiya came charging into the library together.
Sevireiya wore the old garb he favored when he ran in the mornings. His hair was spiked with sweat and his face still flushed from exertion. Thomas held a pair of boots in his hands, which Carmeyon realized must have come from the corpse in the stables.
“There is a watch, sir?” Sevireiya blurted out.
Ellis rose from her seat by the fire. “The boots and the watch,” she said quickly.
Carmeyon looked between them. They both knew something, but…
Ellis answered his question. “There was a watch. Captain Sirtris has it.”
Sevireiya turned to Thomas. “In kitchen.”
Thomas set the dead man’s boots down on one of the tables and headed down the hall to fetch Sirtris.
“Do you remember the letter, sir?” Ellis asked.
Carmeyon suddenly recalled the cryptic letter that Ellis’ brother had written to her the previous year. One line had reminded Sandrine—presumably Llelas Sevireiya and not his father, who currently held that title—to look for the boots and the watch. It had seemed senseless at the time.
When Carmeyon nodded, Ellis continued. “Kerris must have known.”
“Yes,” Sevireiya agreed eagerly. “I think I know who made these boots, sir. They are…special made.”
Carmeyon glanced at the boots. Sirtris had said the same, and if they were custom, the maker might be able to tell them the identity of the wearer. Why didn’t I think of that?
Thomas and Sirtris returned by then, forcing him not to answer that question.
Sirtris drew the silver watch from his jacket pocket and held it out to Sevireiya. The smile faded from the cadet’s face. Sevireiya reached out slowly and took the watch, holding it gingerly in his palm as if it were a snake. After a moment’s silence, he opened the cover and glanced at the inscription. He held it out for them all to see. “It is my watch.”
Thomas was the first to react. “What do you mean?”
“This watch was made for me. I bought it. The words inside. Ellesiva, fiarn esade diall. That is the…motto of my family.” He showed the inscription again.
Thomas took the watch and surveyed it more carefully.
“I sold it,” Sevireiya explained, “when I bought into the Guard. I needed the money more than the watch.”
Sevireiya glanced up at Carmeyon’s question. “Back to the jeweler who made it.”
“Elerin and Sons,” Thomas interjected, turning it and pointing to the maker’s mark on the back. “They’re expensive. Even second hand, someone paid a lot to get this watch.”
“How much?” Carmeyon asked.
Sevireiya glanced across at Thomas and shrugged. “I paid six-hundred and twenty gold for it.”
Thomas nodded his agreement with the price. “About right.”
Ellis stood with her arms wrapped about her. Her squared jaw suggested that she was already working out the possible ramifications of that.
Carmeyon said it aloud, what they were all thinking. “I think if he’d succeeded, we would have found the watch with you, Miss Dantreon. Perhaps nearby, so that we would think he’d left it accidentally. And the knife, too. Both to implicate Mr. Sevireiya.”
Sevireiya nodded, mouth in a tight line. “Anthony knows I own no watch, but the evidence would be too much damnation.”
Thomas passed the watch to Ellis. She flipped it open and read the motto aloud.
“What does it mean?” Thomas asked.
Sevireiya shook his head. “Forever, all or nothing.”
“It’s the Sandrine ducal motto, right?”
“I’ve seen it before,” Ellis continued. “I didn’t recognize it when you told me that months ago, but now I remember where I’d seen it. In a book on the First Bremagni War. Forever, everything or nothing, is how it was translated there.”
Carmeyon wondered exactly where Ellis was heading with this. She had the talent of pulling out the strangest bits of information at times when they became most pertinent.
“Anyone who has studied the First Bremagni War might recognize this if they saw it, sir. Would the watch have been displayed where the inscription could be seen?”
Thomas seemed to understand her line of thought. “To show the watch face, yes. So anyone could have seen it in… what, the last two years?”
“And recognized the motto,” Ellis said. “They didn’t necessarily need for Llelas to have owned it. The motto was the key.”
“Why Llelas?” Thomas asked.
Ellis shook her head. “It doesn’t matter…”
“It matters to me,” Sevireiya interjected.
“I know that,” Ellis returned crossly, “but once we know who, then we’ll know why you.”
Sevireiya seemed to accept that logic. “The boots as well, then.”
“Where are these boots from?” Thomas asked him.
“I believe a maker named Verdriana Canata in Perisen. He used to make my boots. I think these are his.”
“Then we need to find out who bought them from him.” Thomas considered the problem and glanced up at Carmeyon. “Sir, I think we need to go there.”
Carmeyon glanced at the two younger men. They’d suddenly formed a sort of pact between them, one of shared purpose. Thomas wanted to find the truth and Llelas wanted to clear his name. “Come up with a plan,” he told them. “I’ll give you a couple of hours.”
Carmeyon gestured for Ellis to follow him out of the library, leaving the two young men alone. Ellis caught up as he made his way back to the dining hall where several of the cadets lingered over breakfast. He waited until he had their attention and then dismissed them from their regular studies for the day with a warning that classes would resume on the morrow.
And not to talk to anyone outside the estate about the incident. He hoped to keep rumors at a minimum as long as he could.
When he went back to the library, Ellis followed him. She sat and dropped her head to her hands, massaging her temples. For a moment Carmeyon wished he could do the same. His head was beginning to buzz again, and he hadn’t gotten much sleep, either.
Ellis raised her head. “What is the value in killing me?”
Carmeyon had plenty of time during the night to think about it. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “It could have something to do with the succession, which would seem to be the most likely. It could have to do with the Guard.”
“I’m not part of the succession,” she pointed out.
“Not any more than Jerin’s mother.”
Apparently, she understood that. “Why kill me and implicate Llelas, then? Is he a threat to the Marisi? Or to any others among the Separatists?”
“I don’t know the answer. I doubt even Llelas does.”
“Llelas probably has a good idea whom he should fear.”
“One doesn’t always know what others do in secret.”
Ellis gave him an odd look, but he couldn’t tell what it meant. “Are we certain he was hiding in the house before?”
“No indication of entry. The snow would have shown it. Sirtris is about to discover where he was hidden.”
“Is that something you know?”
He nodded, hearing the way she said it.
“Is there anything else you know?”
“No, not in this case. I know Sevireiya and Thomas will go to Perisen, Sirtris is going to find where the man was hidden, but not a thing otherwise.”
“Which means we have to wait on Sirtris, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. I could go and coerce him into hunting, but I don’t think that’ll make it happen any faster.”
“So you could be hunting then,” she reasoned, “but it would just be wasted time. You might as well be asleep.”
The temptation began to grow. “Then I would be doing just what your father does—doing the things I know I’ll do rather than acting on what might be.”
Kellen Kemiranya walked into the dining hall. His uniform hung open at the collar as if he had trouble breathing. He shot a guilty glance at Ellis. “Sir, may I speak to you?”
Carmeyon looked up at him, thinking that Kellen should never play poker. “What is it, Mr. Kemiranya?”
Kemiranya glanced at Ellis again, and Carmeyon guessed he didn’t want to talk in front of her. “Spit it out,” he snapped.
The cadet sat down at the table, dropping his face into his hands. “I have seen that man before, sir,” he said through his fingers. “I have talked with him.”
Ellis looked down at Kemiranya as if he were a particularly loathsome toad. Carmeyon met her eyes, willing her with all his might not to interfere. Quick to pick up on his expression, she leaned back against the wall, out of Kemiranya’s view.
“Did you go out to the stables to look at the body?”
“We have all been there, sir. I was one of the last—but I have seen him.”
“Where? And when?”
“When I was last in Perisen, at Winter Solstice. I met him in a bar there. He told me he was a writer for The Quarter Voice. We talked for a long time. I thought he was a writer.” Kemiranya sounded desperate.
Carmeyon didn’t doubt him. Kemiranya would have kept the information to himself if he’d done it intentionally. Kemiranya might be a malicious gossip, but he’s not the sort to attempt murder. “How long did you talk with this man?”
“I think, perhaps, not two hours. He was buying.”
The cadet would have been drinking, then.
“Did he tell you his name?”
Kemiranya ‘s brow furrowed. “I do not recall.”
Carmeyon sat back, tapping his pen against his boot. Without intending, Kemiranya might have told the man everything he needed to know: how to get onto the estate undetected, how to remain hidden in the manor. The duty roster in the library would have told the assassin when Llelas had patrol duty. If he’d known all that, the man might have been able to act alone. Then again, perhaps not.
Kemiranya looked relieved he hadn’t been shot out of hand. While it might be unprofessional to reveal details about a post, it wasn’t illegal save in times of war.
“I want you to go back to the library and write down every last thing you can remember about that conversation. I don’t care if it takes you five hours,” Carmeyon told him. “Do your best to remember everything.”
“Yes, sir,” Kemiranya said, getting to his feet. Without looking at Ellis, he bowed and left the room.
“I think that was a good sign,” Carmeyon said softly.
“Llelas has always said that Kellen is vicious, but I don’t think Kellen would be involved in something that would implicate Llelas. He’s spent too much time toadying Llelas to ruin it now.”
The cynicism of her answer surprised him, sounding more like words from Llelas’ mouth. For all that, she was right.
Noises caught his attention. He heard Thomas shouting in the library. Carmeyon shot Ellis a surprised glance, then rose and ran down the hallway, Ellis in his wake.
One of the desks had been thrown to one side, and the chair knocked backward, papers flown everywhere in the disturbance. Thomas stood silent, eyes wide. Carmeyon glanced around the corner of the shelves.
Sevireiya had Kellen Kemiranya by the neck, pressing his throat into one of the shelves. His other hand twisted Kemiranya ‘s arm behind his back, holding him by his thumb. He spoke in a soft voice, pitched for Kemiranya alone.
Carmeyon stepped into the room, taking in Kemiranya ‘s frightened eyes. Llelas would suffocate him if he held him there much longer. “Let him go, Mr. Sevireiya.”
Sevireiya’s head turned slowly, and Carmeyon met his eyes.
For the very first time, Carmeyon didn’t see the Sevireiya he knew, but the man who would someday be the Duke of Sandrine, a man who understood power very well. He could kill Kellen right before their eyes, and would probably escape prosecution.
As if nothing had happened at all, Sevireiya stepped back, allowing Kemiranya to pull away from the bookshelves. Kemiranya leaned weakly against the shelves, trying to catch his breath.
Sevireiya picked up the overturned chair and righted the desk. The inkwell Kemiranya had intended to use lay under the desk, the cap mercifully still screwed on. Sevireiya gazed at it for a moment, then gracefully stooped down and retrieved it, placing it back on the desk.
“I will ask Lieutenant Sidreiyan to return here, sir,” Sevireiya announced. “He will, better than others, be able to question the cadets and the servants.”
Carmeyon wondered how the artillery lieutenant could possibly do a better job than Sirtris. “Captain Sirtris will handle that, Mr. Sevireiya.”
“Lieutenant Sidreiyan will do it better, sir.” Sevireiya stared back at him, bright blue eyes furious even if his posture no longer reflected that.
We aren’t meant to like each other. That didn’t mean they weren’t both working toward the same end.
“Do what you think best, then.” Carmeyon suspected Lieutenant Sidreiyan would turn up no matter what he said.
“Mr. Farrier and I can be on our way in an hour,” Sevireiya continued. “There is a train that leaves the capital at four. We can be in Perisen tomorrow.”
“And once you get there?”
“We have two names. Sidreiyan can supply the man’s real name. That will give us a third.”
“And you will…?”
“We will find out who hired him,” Llelas said.
Ellis spoke for the first time. “And bring the information back here.”
“That’s what we intend to do,” Thomas answered firmly.
Llelas’ face didn’t reflect that sentiment.
April 3, 495
I thought, just for a moment, Llelas would kill Kellen. I hope Thomas can keep Llelas in check while they’re gone. The captain is putting a great deal of trust in them, and I hope nothing happens that will make him regret it.
Merielle has moved into my room. It’s odd to share my room with someone else, but I admit I feel safer with her here. She’s uncomfortable with the idea of being a ‘companion’, but Mrs. Verus has agreed to the plan. Captain Sirtris has said he and I will start training Merielle to shoot.
It will be different, I think, because I don’t know what she’s supposed to do all day. Neither does she. I suppose we’ll have to figure out her ‘duties’ as we go along.
I hope the captain is finally getting some sleep.
Jerin looks terrible. He must be torn between worry that his family has something to do with this and worry that something might have happened to me. Poor Jerin. He doesn’t like his older brothers very much, but for him to turn against them would be extremely difficult. I hope he never has to make that decision.
“Why did you do that?” Merielle asked when Ellis dropped her writing into the fire. Her smaller bed had been set at an angle to Ellis’, blocking the courtyard doors. Merielle had her own desk squeezed in. The precious violin lay on it, gleaming in the firelight.
“I don’t want to leave anything that will tell people secrets about me, I guess. Or about my friends.” She watched the paper until it disappeared in the flames.