We both straightened at the sound of movement in the King’s bedroom, and then Namal entered the sitting room, having come from the hidden entrance. I scrambled to my feet in time for him to gather me into a crushing embrace. “Zare, you stupid, lucky girl,” his voice was muffled by my shoulder.
I crushed him back, then pinched him to get him to release me. “I’m alright.”
“Thank Eloi,” Namal inspected me, his blue eyes bright with emotion “Are you hurt? You were gone for hours. What happened?”
“I’m not hurt,” I stood straight, aware that this time I wasn’t pale as a ghost, rumpled, or wracked with pain. Wild hair excepted.
Namal started to relax much more quickly than Quill had. “Did she know who you were?”
“No, not at all. Khattmali was trying to make it look like Analie was with another man.”
Wariness came over my brother. “How?”
I put my hand on his arm, looking into his eyes, “Drugged me and set me to his rooms. But I escaped. I’m alright.” We had to sit down, then, and I had to relate the day’s events again. Quill gave his seat to Namal. Hesperide took Naran to bed. Namal got the shortest version yet.
I was just finishing when Tarr and Vaudrin came in through the suite’s main doors. Vaudrin gave me a smile, bowed to Namal, and, seeing Quill, left again without searching the suite. Tarr, handsome in dark green, dropped his swagger and found my gaze. I dipped my chin in assurance. His eyes cleared, and amusement flickered as he noticed I’d stolen his shirt. His questions answered, he nodded to Namal before crossing to the couch and lounging across it.
“Well,” said Tarr, “Analie certainly has some explaining to do.”
I swiveled in my chair to look at him better. “I was thinking about throwing your fourteen children in your face again, instead.”
“To which I’d reply that at least my women were one at a time.”
“I would throw another pillow at your head.”
“And then,” said Tar, “We’d either devolve into insults about one another’s skills, or we’d make up.” Our eyes locked. Tarr inclined his chin. He’d hoped I would talk him out of it, but I could see that he agreed with me: It was time. “Should I throw you out tonight or tomorrow? Or should we stew a few days?”
“I think we could make any of those things work…it just depends how long my brother needs.”
Namal leaned forward, “To leave the palace? Domjoa could find us a place to live in a day or two, but money to feed us and keep feeding the men could become difficult.” He was plainly in favor of this plan.
“I’ll send a generous gift with my departing mistress, as usual. That should help,” put in Tarr. The conversation spun away into details, timing, and even got side tracked into discussion of the Nether Queen’s visit. Eventually, Namal and Quill left through the secret door, and Tarr and I retired to the bedroom. I crawled into the King’s bed while he went to change into nightclothes. I was so tired, but couldn’t sleep yet, so I sat, legs crossed under the covers. Tarr came out of his dressing room fluffing his hair. He’d mostly buttoned his night shirt this time. He paused when he saw me sitting up. “Is everything alright?”
“Tarr…” I started. I had no idea how to say this.
He came over and sat on the bed in front of me. “What is it?”
“Have you ever heard…voices?”
Tarr arched a brow, “What kind of question is that?”
“I mean a voice when no one is there. You’re alone, and someone talks to you…” I bit my lip, “and when you look, no one is there.”
Tarr’s blue eyes grew cautious. “My madness has never included voices in my head.”
“No,” I moaned and covered my face, “Not like that…I don’t think…Eloi, I hope not.”
The King peeled my hands off my face until I met his eyes. I wondered if I looked as terrified as I felt. “You hear voices?” asked Tarr.
“Someone woke me up,” I blurted. “In Bel Valredes’ rooms…I heard a woman yelling at me to get up—I even felt her slap my face. And then once I was up she told me where to find the washroom and comforted me while I threw my guts up.”
“But you didn’t see her?”
I shook my head. “I looked for her, but never saw her. And once I was done in the washroom, I never heard or felt her again…”
Tarr frowned. “Well, enough people have been killed here that she could have been a ghost.”
A shudder ran through me. “She didn’t feel…evil.” I suppose that didn’t necessarily rule out ghost. But who stuck around if they could be in paradise?
“You don’t think it was the poison.” Not a question. Tarr searched my eyes.
“Since when is poison helpful?” my voice trembled.
“Have you ever heard anything before? Had premonitions? Known things you shouldn’t?”
“No. At least, I don’t think so.” I spread my hands helplessly. “Not that I know of.”
The King looked thoughtful. “Well…you might be a seer. Not, you know, a terribly gifted one. But a seer nonetheless.”
I stared at him.
“Seers see what most people cannot—the spiritual world, the past, the hearts of men, sometimes the future—”
“I know what a seer is,” I cut him off.
“You looked confused.”
“That doesn’t help me know what I heard!” I didn’t think it was accurate, either.
It was Tarr’s turn to spread his hands, though he was much less distressed than I was. “Could have been anything: An agent of Fornern, or Tirien, or of Eloi himself, or even the real Nelia. Or a ghost.” He shrugged. “She was helpful, though, keep your ear out for more.”
Fornern was the spirit who had been charged by Eloi with protecting the north and the seas, and Tirien was his consort, who protected the south and the lands. I sighed.
“Hearing things while drugged doesn’t make you mad, if that’s what’s worrying you,” continued Tarr, “Remember, my brother fell down and got up six years later…I’m just glad to hear of a good supernatural occurrence.”
A sort of comfort, I guess.
Tarr laid back on the bed, his leg still dangling off the side. “You should probably start with what could she be. You’ve got a long list of names to choose from. And without a physical description…” he trailed off.
I’d told Tarr about the voice because he’d believe me, but it was still surprising to have it taken so in stride. My lips tipped up, “I will miss you, you know.”
He looked over at me, his expression tender. “I’ll miss you, too.” Then he lifted a hand to gesture at the couch, “I won’t miss my couch.”