Gar Morwen had one foot in the hills and one in the plains, the Juni cutting through it’s center like good blade. The capitol had once been two cities, and as such it had two of everything. Two market squares, two warehouse districts, two cathedrals, two huge gates in the same side of the city, two libraries, and two palaces. A thousand years ago, when the cities merged, the king had moved the Palace of Spires stone by stone from its place on the southern side of the city to a new spot across the river from the Palace of Domes. Three splendid bridges connected the palaces over the river, and the most ornate docks I’d ever seen spindled along the banks, full of graceful watercraft and large barges for parties on the river.
We had arrived just after noon, a day and half after Quill and I had…scouted…on the riverbanks. After much discussion, the Countess and the Lord of Linden chose to enter the city in tandem. They weren’t ready to comingle their trains, so the Countess’s train entered first, and the column of elves rode in behind. Crowds grew as word spread through the city before us. From my place riding beside the Countess’s carriage, they seemed curious—there was no tension as there had been riding out of Wuhnravinwel. These people were just eager to catch a glimpse of the bridal train and get a peek at the Countess and the elves. We arrived without incident at the Palace of Domes, and were received by a black robed steward who conducted an army of servants to unload and show the parties to their respective accommodations. I was not the only one to notice the look the Countess and the Lord of Linden exchanged before parting ways. It was a look of solidarity. We hadn’t told the rest of the staff the whole story of Adorjan’s kidnapping, and I could sense the confusion from the others at their closeness.
The suite provided for the Countess and her retinue was enormous and ornate. Apparently, it was her usual rooms, because the leanyodi bustled about like they were already well familiar with the place. I prowled through the bedchamber, inspecting the walls for hidden peepholes, compartments, panels, doors…any vulnerabilities. I got a third of the way through before Druskin joined me, “There is a false wall beside the bed, do not reveal it. It leads to a passage and a hiding place.”
I nodded. He stayed with me, also tapping the walls and looking for holes or cracks. If he wondered why I was behaving like a bodyguard after insisting for so long that I wasn’t, he didn’t say. He also didn’t seem surprised that I knew to do these things. He hadn’t asked questions when Quill and I turned up clean and damp after scouting, either. I was glad enough of his silence. I still felt off balance after my conversation with Quill. Everything about it had shaken loose emotions long filed away and I didn’t feel like concocting explanations for my truly unique skillset. When Eliah had arrived at the riverside with one of the retinue’s carriages, I had wanted both to embrace her and to punch her—But couldn’t do either. She, too, was one of Trinh’s sworn before she was my friend, and I shouldn’t be mad at her for keeping her king’s actions to herself. Even when he was moving in a direction that might mend the rift between us exiles. I had sat and shared a tent with the leanyodi, she had stayed close to Quill after giving me a look that said she was glad I was alive. I hadn’t seen her reaction to seeing Rakov and the elves in our company, though I wished I had.
Finding nothing in the bedroom or the sitting room, I stopped by the great arching glass windows and looked out at the domes of the palace. The dressing room was too full of people for me to check thoroughly so I would wait and do it later.
Druskin came to stand beside me, “What do you think?” he asked.
“About the rooms?” Looking around, I noted the high ceilings painted to resemble a sky rolling with thick clouds, the enormous feather bed, the exquisitely carved furniture, and the beautiful windows rimmed with colored glass. “They are extremely fine.” Druskin cut me a glare, and I smirked. “I think these rooms are as secure as we’ll get without invading the royal apartments.”
For a moment, Druskin looked as if he was considering the idea. Then he let out a breath. “Even so, will you be willing to stay here at night?”
“You really need to find some female guards, because I’m not staying past the wedding,” I replied, and turned back to the window.
“Believe me, Hian Ruddybrook, I have been cursing my lack of foresight for months,” said Druskin.
“I am still here to investigate,” I said, keeping my voice low, “I will sleep as close to her as you can get me, but I am going to be sleeping, Druskin.” I cared very much if the Countess lived or died, but I also cared very much, who, precisely, had tried to hire the Breaker. Happily, the King of Angareth cared, also.
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