The Amber Arrow – Snippet 14
Chapter Eleven: The Advice
Ravenelle Archambeault finished reading aloud the last chapter of The Pierced and Bleeding Heart of Julia Silves and closed the codex with a sigh and a shudder. Such a bittersweet ending. All of the stories she read tended to finish that way, true, but that never really bothered Ravenelle. She could will herself to forget when parts of a story were repetitions (and sometimes outright stealing) of the many dark romances she’d read before.
She sat, knees drawn up, in a chair at the side of Saeunn Amberstone’s bed in the Apfelwein Inn.
After tossing and turning for at least three watches, suddenly burning with fever, then just as quickly shivering with chills, Saeunn had finally fallen into a fitful sleep. Ravenelle considered going back to her own room to rest. Yes, she really ought to do that because she expected to be needed again soon.
Ravenelle moved her perception into the minds of her bloodservants, her retainers Harrald and Alvis Torsson. These were men who had once been commanders in a Sandhavener elite legion, fighting under the names Rask and Steel.
They had kept guard outside for as long as she’d been tending to Saeunn. She hadn’t compelled them to guard her, although she could have. They’d done it of their own will.
So strange that she even let them have a will. But things had changed a lot in the past year–including her attitude toward her religious faith, Talaia.
Ravenelle could feel her men’s weariness. Literally. She could share their viewpoints, their senses, their very thoughts if she liked. She could also force them to obey her will any time she wished. They were her bloodservants and she was their dominator.
Harrald, tell Jakka to turn back my bed and open the windows in my room to let the stale air out.
They communicated in Talaia thought-speak–which they could do at up to a half league distance–with no spoken words being exchanged.
And both of you go to bed. I’m perfectly safe here.
It isn’t that, Harrald explained. It’s just that we want to be near when you need us.
Well, I need you to get some rest now. If Saeunn can be moved, we will reach the border soon. And I will enter my kingdom.
Harrald’s hearing and touch sensations were acute. She could see nothing through his eyes, however. This was because he was blind. She was the one who gave him sight. She used her eyes and her thought-link with his brother Alvis. Harrald had adapted to these weird, displaced perspectives, and had learned to function very well. He even claimed to like having a bigger field of vision, from multiple perspectives. All the better to protect his lady, the one who had saved him and Alvis from mental domination by a terrible evil thing.
The Draugar Wuten.
Now dead. Dead and crumbled to dust.
He’d memorized the layout of this wing of the inn, and was able to find Ravenelle’s lady’s maid by touch and sound alone.
Before Harrald left to do so, he shook Alvis awake and grunted for him to take his place by the door. For a moment, his disobedience infuriated Ravenelle. She’d told them both to go. She would never have allowed even well-meant insubordination like this from her bloodservants before. But those bloodservants were all dead–killed defending her from attacking horsemen. And now this unlikely pair was all she had left under her domination. That is, if you didn’t count Father Calceatus. He was one of the dominates of her will and a bloodservant, true. But he had a special place and specific duties as a Talaia priest. Besides, he was back in Raukenrose.
She moved into the mind of Alvis. She felt him come awake and rub his eyes. He sat up from his slump, and looked through the hallway window of the inn, out at the town of Tjark. The town was a sea of neatly thatched and slated roofs. Its spread was broken only by a river-rock chimney here and there trailing smoke.
The town bell tower rose in the distance. Just then, the elder bell at the top of the tower began to toll. Beyond the tower to the north and west was the Shwartzwald Forest, where the leaves of the trees were just beginning to show their colors. It was late in the month of Anker, as the Northern barbarians, the Kaltemen, called it. It was named after the first anchorage of Leif Ericsson. He was the Northman, the Kalteman, who had left the Old Countries and crossed the sea to settle on the continent of Freiland.
For a moment she couldn’t think of the Roman name for the month of Anker. She hated when that happened. There was so much about being Roman that she knew she was just guessing at. She should be good at the things she had control over, at least.
Then she remembered.
“Septembres,” she whispered to herself.
Still in Alvis’s viewpoint, she counted three strikes of the village bell. That mean it was Melkin bell, the beginning of the morning watch.
She had promised herself to be on her way home by the month of Gilbfast.
She’d meant to leave earlier, but her foster-sister had begun to have her bouts of sickness, and she’d stayed to tend her.
I’ll have to leave soon, Ravenelle thought. Even though I’m terrified of what I’ll find when I get there.
There had been no word, not a letter or report, from her mother the queen in over a year now.
At least Rainer will be with me, she thought.
Rainer had promised to accompany her to Montserrat. They’d grown up together and he knew how to handle her worries and fears. Just being around Rainer had a calming effect on her.
What she was going to do about his feelings for her now she tried not to think about. She had decided to worry about that after they arrived in Montserrat.
And Harrald and I, m’lady, came the thought-speech of Alvis Torsson. We, too, will be there to protect you always.
She was embarrassed to have allowed her thoughts about Rainer to leak over to the bloodservant. She abruptly pulled out of his mind and back into her own single point of awareness.
It was a lovely town, she had to admit, filled with the kind of order a Roman could appreciate. At least, she thought so. She’d not been outside of Shenandoah since she was a year old. She had been sent from Vall l’Obac as royal hostage to enter the family of Duke Otto at Raukenrose castle.
Her secret fear was that she was as much a barbarian as any Kalte woman–and maybe her mother had finally realized this. That Ravenelle would never fit in down south.
Would never make a good queen.
No. She wouldn’t let herself think this way.
She was staying at an inn famous for its hospitality and comfort, but she hadn’t been to her room yet. Instead, she’d been sitting at the bedside of Saeunn during her latest spell of sickness. The spells had begun to come over Saeunn about three months before. They had grown steadily worse. They were also lasting longer.
“You should go,” Saeunn said. Ravenelle saw that she was awake.
“I’m not tired.”
“Go to Montserrat, I mean,” said Saeunn.
“I’m worried about my mother. About what’s happening there.”
“Yes, but that’s not why you should go now.”
“Okay, why then?”
Saeunn sat up wearily and looked Ravenelle in the eyes. “It’s time for you to decide what to do about Rainer.”
Then she collapsed into her pillows and fell back to sleep.