63-Ghost Stories

There was a knocking sound at the door. Quill bolted upright, I came fully awake as I tumbled off his chest and caught myself before landing face first in the pillows. The knock came again, a little pattern that sounded familiar to me.

“Fornern’s fists,” muttered Quill. He rubbed his hand across his face. “It’s probably Rakov.”

Sunlight was streaming in through a gap in the curtains. I wasn’t sure which way Quill’s rooms faced offhand and had no idea what time it was. Apparently, we’d slept quite hard and quite well. I realized with a jolt that Shiharr and Azzad were on the trunk at the foot of the bed with my other knives. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept without a knife under my pillow.

Quill turned to me, “If I don’t answer he’ll probably pick the lock to see if I’m dead or if he should look elsewhere.”

“I would do the same,” I conceded, sitting up and stretching. I made no move to get out of the bed as he threw back the covers and stood up.

Pausing on his way to the door, Quill asked, “Are you ready for them to know?”

The knocking pattern rapped out more insistently. Then the door handle rattled.

“No time like the present,” I said, fluffing my hair, which was almost certainly a colossal mess.

The look Quill gave me was as good as a kiss, then he opened the door, revealing Rakov on his knees with lock-picking tools in his hands.  Eliah and Rakov’s twin, Rae’d, were standing behind him.

Rakov stood and pocketed the tools. “Finally.” His eyes skipped over Quill’s bed clothes. “Were you…sleeping?” he sounded surprised. How late was it?

“I was,” said Quill, “May as well come in.” He stepped aside and motioned for them to enter.

Eliah noticed me first and a huge grin spread across her face. I felt heat spread across my cheeks and I quirked a smile at her.

Rakov and Rae’d both froze when they saw me. Pushing past them, Eliah walked right in and plunked on the bed, pushing me so there was room for her against the pillows. “At last. And it’s so much more efficient to have you both in one place.”

Rae’d recovered before Rakov, and walked over to the desk, pulling out the chair and facing it into the room before sitting. “It’s good to see you again, your Highness.”

“Your pretty lies please me,” I replied, drawing my legs up and folding them as Eliah reached across me to steal pillows from Quill’s side of the bed. Fornern’s fists, one night and I’d claimed half his bed as mine.

“They aren’t lies from me,” Rae’d smiled, “If Rakov said it, it might be a lie.”

This shook Rakov to action, and he crossed the room to glare more effectively at his brother. “That is not true. I was merely surprised to find you in our good Captain’s rooms.”

“Because you’re not very observant, Rakov,” said Eliah, brightly.

“I’m observant,” growled Rakov. “That doesn’t mean I expected her here.”

Rae’d folded his arms. “Quill is one of the best men I know. If I trusted anyone to sleep with a foreign princess, it would be him.”

“Am I a foreign princess anymore if we’re all exiles?” I asked.

Quill locked the door and returned to sit on the end of the bed. He gave me a longsuffering look, then addressed the others, “What news of the hunt for Lucius Tene?”

“Gone as if he never existed,” announced Eliah.

“Not even the hounds found any trace.” Rakov sounded grim.

I blew out a breath. “That is most impressive.”

Rakov continued, “Belledi Valredes left this morning, quite openly and leisurely, with one of the Angari lords. The guards apparently also caught someone else who tried to break into the palace and others who defaced a wall with some obscene objections to the treaty…so they had a very busy night.”

Eliah took up the narrative, “The Imperial Ambassador has already spent some time groveling to both Kings and distancing himself from Tene. I’m told he seems quite genuinely horrified.”

“That’s quite a lot that’s happened already today, what time is it?” I asked.

“Nearly noon,” answered Eliah.

Had I ever slept till noon without being wounded? “Fornern’s fists.” I had an instinctive flinch that the leanyodi would be looking for me. Except they all knew I wasn’t really one of them, and probably deduced that I’d stop showing up after the wedding.

“I need to clean up, then,” said Quill, sounding just as surprised that we’d slept so late, “and seek an audience with King Keleman. Rakov, have you been to King Balint?”

“Not yet,” Rakov folded his arms, looking strikingly like Rae’d, beside him. “I was going to approach him after his lunch meetings.”

I bit my lip to keep from commenting. Quill looked at me as if I had said something. I spread my hands, “Alright, I’ll ask. Is there something special about these audiences?”

No one spoke for a long moment. The members of the Breaker’s team looked at one another.

Then Eliah said, “Well, I’ll say the words on Quill’s face: I think we should tell her, because she may know something that can help.”

Rakov sighed. “There it is.”

“We haven’t shared intelligence with the Galhirim in years,” Quill pointed out.

Everyone was looking to Rakov, now. I got the impression that while this mission had been Quill’s, Rakov still held a higher rank in overall company.

“Should I leave so you can discuss?” I asked dryly, starting to push back the covers so I could climb off the bed. I knew it was a serious issue for them, and I knew I was touchy about Trinh Kegan.

Eliah slapped her hand down on my knee so forcefully I jumped. “Stay.”

“Ouch,” I glared at Eliah. She was unaffected, patting my knee with affection.

“If we tell her,” said Rakov measuredly, “She will tell her brother. I will have to tell Trinh that we made the decision to bring the Galhirim into this.”

“Which brother are you worried about, the Fox or the King?” I asked, “Because the Fox will find out soon, but you have at least a few weeks before the King finds out. And at this point, they are all going to find out you’re acting cagey as demons.”

“Trinh did say he’d do whatever was necessary,” said Quill, his eyes on Rakov. “It’s not as if we’re telling an enemy, or even someone whose interests aren’t aligned.”

Rakov looked at Rae’d, who inclined his head. “Quill’s right, he did say that. And sharing intelligence with the Galhirim doesn’t mean he and Namal have to speak ever again.”

“Alright,” Rakov spread his hands. “Alright. Tell her.”

Now all eyes shifted to me as Quill said, “As I told you in Wimshell, the King of Angareth now owes me a favor. But…we’re here to gain access to the King’s libraries.”

“His libraries? Why?”

“Because we are trying to find any and all writings about demon magic…and the ether.”

I stared at him, struggling—visibly, I’m sure—to not jump to uncharitable conclusions. “What in Serrifis does Trinh Kegan want with demon magic?”

Quill rubbed his hand across his face, “This is going to sound really crazy.”

“Try me,” I said archly.

“We’ve seen A’rora Wynn.”

*

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