“Rydderhall?” I demanded. “Any relation to Quilleran Rydderick?”
Jemin followed my gaze. “I will tell you, my lady, if you will come back inside the villa.”
Fair enough. I followed him back through the doorway and as he kept going over the pile of pillars and down one of the hallways that was still reasonably intact. We stopped at a circular room lined with windows that looked out at a tiny walled garden. “You know your way around this house, too,” I accused, taking a seat on a windowsill.
“Yes, I do,” confessed Jemin, settling in the next window. “Vaudrin does, also.”
“It belongs to Quill, doesn’t it?”
“By rights, it is his. But the Nether Queen forbade it from being rebuilt—there are many in the city who support her reign, she would find out if she were defied. Add that Quill’s survival was very likely an oversight, and you can see why it remains a ruin.”
I waved my hand, “That part isn’t a mystery. Who are the Rydderick’s that they garnered such treatment?”
“Quill told you that when you arrived,” replied Jemin, “Lord Rydderick was a formidable officer in the war, and the rumors say he came close to reaching the queen herself in a battle.”
I was unsatisfied, and apparently looked it because Jemin added, “You can ask Quill yourself if you want more details about his past. It’s not my place to tell his secrets.”
He was right, of course. “Alright, then, tell me about you.”
Jemin opened his mouth to object, then closed it. “Alright, your highness,” he used my proper title to show his displeasure. It made me feel delightfully at home. “I’m the lesser son of a lesser lord with a small holding. I joined the guard the same time Quill and Vaudrin did, and we became friends.”
“That wasn’t too terribly hard,” I replied. I wanted to ask him more but decided to press my luck in other ways. “Now,” I said, “Tell me about that gossip you mentioned earlier.”
Jemin leaned back and rubbed his hand through his beard, as if this wasn’t really an improvement in topics.
“Oh, come now,” I exclaimed, “It can’t be more scandalous than anything I heard while I was princess in Galhara.”
“No,” Jemin shifted again and took a deep breath. “I was going to have to tell anyway, I expect. You, well…you have made quite an impression on a number of soldiers between here and the garrison in Gillenwater.”
I stared at him, “What do you mean?”
He continued, “Soldiers love to talk even more than court ladies. When we went down to the taverns in the city everyone was talking about a girl—perhaps a ghost or a sorceress—who was attacking soldiers and freeing prisoners. They say she spoke of judgement and vengeance at each turn. Of course, there are those who believe she is flesh and blood, but most of the stories agree that she is undead or magical somehow—because how else could a mere girl wreak such havoc among the queen’s armies?”
I laughed. “Really?” There must be a downside to this, but at the moment I was entertained.
“Really. If they didn’t believe initially, they may have convinced themselves thusly to save their own hides.” Jemin shook his head. “There are stories I recognize from our mission in Gillenwater and the rescue by the Cymerie. But it seems that every strange happening or failed duty is turning into a ‘I saw her also!’ story.”
“Is it useful, you think?”
“Maybe. The king thinks it might be.”
“King Tarr? You have spoken with him?” I asked, leaning forward. Tarr Kegan was seventeen or eighteen now, but had been crowned five years ago when Dalyn was conquered. A mere lad, he’d been set up as a puppet—the rightful heir, so harder to argue with—but really controlled by the Queen and her ambassadors. I wondered what he was like.
“Quill spoke with the king,” corrected Jemin. “Once the doctor is finished I am to speak with your father about the next steps.”
“Are we to go into the city?”
“That is ultimately for your father to decide.”
“If we did, would we have to sneak in as peasants? Or would we pose as visiting nobles to make it easier to move about the court? With better tack Hook and Sinker would fit that part well enough.”
Jemin shifted, “I’m not certain. Some of that depends on what your father decides. But also, you could not all come openly—your parents are too recognizable, and the soldiers from Gillenwater are still in the city. We could not risk them seeing your parents or sister. Possibly not even you.”
“I suppose that means Ayglos and Namal will get their chance for daring deeds.”
I wrinkled my nose. I tried not to be too disappointed as I thought of weeks closeted in hiding somewhere waiting for things to happen. It would be restful. Restful was good.
Jemin laughed. “You are the most unusual princess I have ever had the pleasure to fight beside.”
“What?” I tried not to grin. Pleasure to fight beside.
“You look like a puppy being left behind by its master at the mere thought of being out of the action.”
“I want to help.” My protest sounded thin, even to me.
Jemin stood to his feet, his eyes sparkling, and offered me a hand up, “Shall we go check to see if the doctor is through?”
“Jemin,” I accepted his hand and then swept down the hall as regally as I could, “Is Quill the Captain of the Guard?”
“How on earth did he get away for so long?”
“It was a holiday.”
I stopped, “What an awful holiday. How does he explain his wounds?”
“Hunting trip,” Jemin grinned. “He will not be hunting with that neighbor again.”
“How is he Captain of the Guard when his family was so singled out by the Nether Queen?”
“You are full of questions.”
“Yes, but this hardly qualifies as prying into his past.” We were climbing over the rubble before the great hall now, where my brothers were wrestling and the horses loitering.
“He took a different last name when he joined the guard,” explained the big man. “He goes by Quilleran Silver.”
“Huh,” we crossed the great hall and headed for the kitchen. “I don’t think I like it so well as a Rydderick.”
“I don’t think he does, either.”