April 18, 2005
It would appear we have rattled Martin Cobbles a bit.
Caden was called to another meeting last night. They aren’t usually so close together, which made Caden nervous, but he went with a story prepared about my plans to attempt to divine Grestean troop movement.
(Not that I actually have such plans. Unless I used a calling spell the information would be nearly useless by the time it got to the knights and soldiers at the border.)
It didn’t matter, though, because Cobbles brushed off Caden’s attempt to explain this and instead focused on my supposed divination about Grestean spies.
“So H’ma probably is real then,” Jace said thoughtfully. “Otherwise there would be no reason to be so interested.”
Caden nodded. “I think so, but you’re not going to like what Cobbles wants me to do.”
Jace raised an eyebrow at Caden, who bit his lip, stared at the carpet and took a full minute to finally speak again.
“They want to talk to Keish. He thinks this information needs to be had more quickly than I can charm it out of her.”
“And I suppose they’ll just apply to Brooksby for an appointment and ask me nicely,” I said, my voice low but thick with sarcasm.
Slowly, haltingly, he described what Cobbles had outlined.
Jace was dangerously quiet throughout.
To be short-- the Gresteans want to abduct and interrogate me quietly, using the threat of scandal to keep me quiet.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “And without a magician among them how do they expect to stop me from blasting them before they can even get a question out?” I asked incredulously.
Caden reddened a little. “They might be under the impression that you can’t perform magic without a mirror,” he responded, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously.
I smiled. “They might be under that impression?”
His color deepened. “I may have told them something to that effect. They think you carry a small mirror with you,” he mumbled.
“Well, that proves they’re not magic workers. Anyone with a little knowledge wouldn’t have believed you. You took a gamble telling them something like that, but it works to our advantage.”
Jace still hadn’t even moved. Caden kept glancing at him nervously.
Finally, softly but firmly, Jace said, “No.” He looked at me. “No.”
“Jace, I think we have to consider it,” I replied just as softly.
He shook his head. “No. It’s too dangerous. How can you say that?”
“There’s a danger to Caden if we don’t at least consider all of the options,” I said.
Caden seemed to shrink away from us, his nervousness palpable.
Jace didn’t even glance his way. “It’s too dangerous,” he repeated.
I sighed. “It is a risk. But it’s my risk to take if I think it needs to be done. Right now Cobbles isn’t insisting on questioning me himself and they don’t have a magician. They’ll take my reticule with a small mirror and they’ll think I’m helpless. I’ll be anything but.”
“Cobbles sent a request for a magician last week,” Caden said, nearly whispering.
I gave Jace a moment to think about that before saying, “I think we need to do this.”
Jace stood so abruptly that his chair went flying. “No. This is where I draw the line, Keish.”
I gave him a small smile. “You’re going to choose now to play the stern husband?”
He stormed from the room without another word.
Caden stood slowly. “Should I…?”
I shook my head. “No. Let him be.”
We were silent a moment, then Caden murmured some apology and slipped out.
As the door shut behind him, I felt the tears on my face.
That was just after lunch. It’s late now, but Jace still hasn’t returned.
I’ve seen Jace upset, but never with me. We’ve never really fought before.
But I also know he wouldn’t be so upset if he didn’t know I’m right about this.
It must have been two am before I heard Jace come in from his dressing room.
I hadn’t been able to sleep, so I turned to him as he slipped into bed. “It will be more dangerous to wait,” I said simply.
He sighed heavily. “I know,” was his only reply before he wrapped his arms around me and I finally found sleep.
This morning neither of us had early classes so we took breakfast in my study along with Caden and Papa and we had ourselves a little council.
Jace is still very unhappy with the situation and Papa wasn’t thrilled either, but we all agreed that if we do this now we’ll have more control.
If Caden goes back to Cobbles and says he can’t lure me away for them to get their hands on me, they’ll find another way. And if they wait until their magician arrives, I could be completely outmatched.
I don’t like being outmatched.
“I’ll follow you. To keep an eye on things,” Jace said at one point.
Papa shook his head. “I appreciate the sentiment, Jace, but it won’t do. If you’re spotted things may become even more dangerous. A scrying spell would be better.”
Jace blew out his breath in frustration. “The one thing I can’t do.”
“I’ll have it all set up and Ryland can monitor everything, start to finish..”
“And the king wants to set up a signal so that the palace guards can rush to the rescue,” Papa added. “Sir Kinley has enough magic for something to be arranged. He’ll be leading.”
I nodded and made a note to coordinate with him as well. “I’ll need a few days to work with Ryland on the scrying spell.”
“They expect it to take me a week or so to set this up anyway,” Caden put in.
I shook my head ruefully. “These men have a very interesting opinion of me.”
Jace grunted. Rather un-Jace-like. Caden was instantly on guard again. I think he’s convinced that Jace blames this whole mess on him.
“Everyone has an interesting opinion of you, my dear,” Papa said fondly. “Just as they did of your mother.”
“We must protect Caden in all this as well,” Papa said. “If you do magic without a mirror…”
“Then either he lied to them or I don’t trust him enough to be useful to them,” I finished. “Yes I’d considered that. I think it would be better to glamour one, though. Then I don’t have to worry about actually concealing one.”
At one point, Caden and Papa left the room to retrieve books that would be useful.
“I need to do this,” I said softly to Jace, who was still looking pained.
He sighed. “I know.” He gave me a crooked grin. “It’s part of why I love you.”
In the end we agreed on the 26th, which means I have a week to work with Ryland, go over everything with Sir Kinley, and divine dates for all of the royal births. Yes, all of them. Despite hopes to the contrary, I’ve received requests from all five expecting mothers.
In the afternoon post we finally received a response from Brinden and Dameka-- Keaton is to stay with us for another year! Cook made a special dessert to celebrate.
They’ve also asked Jace and me to spend a couple of weeks in Leilan while Keaton is home this summer. I should like to see it, assuming all of this Grestean nonsense is ever resolved.
Your letter came just as I was making my way down to breakfast.
I’m intrigued by the enclosed note for Jace, but he’s already off to an early self defense class and as I’m certain you will explain it I will wait and let him open it.
Master Ujifil’s explanation of the healing stone is very interesting. Particularly his explanation of how it could be used as a weapon. A soldier whose wounds were healed immediately in battle would be quite a foe indeed.
I had never really considered the shapes on a globe, but they do look a bit like a puzzle, don’t they? Such questions are certain to make you Dr. Smith’s favorite.
I am glad Nuicui is no longer so dependent on the stone for her health. Who knows what we’ll have to do with it by the end of all this.
As to her magic, I imagine Liop would be thrilled to spend time trading strengthening spells with a winged lion. If I’m wrong, send her here-- Keaton would certainly be game.
Gordo is a good friend. You should be able to tell him everything soon, I think.
I had gotten just that far in your letter when a bleary-eyed Caden stumbled in for some breakfast.
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Good morning. Trouble sleeping?”
He shook his head and winced. “Your father asked Tish up to the observatory last night, so I tagged along. I thought they’d never tire, but I had insisted I would escort Tish home. I only stumbled to bed a few hours ago.”
I laughed. “Papa often doesn’t tire until the sun is up. You’re lucky to have gotten that much sleep.”
He shuddered. Then he spotted your letter. “What does Arri have to say?”
I read your account of Sir Raporty’s report.
“They wanted to abduct Euan?” Caden laughed loudly. “Other than upsetting the queen, I’m not at all sure that would have accomplished anything.”
“Well they wanted to blame me. Or Jace and me, at any rate. If they weren’t trying to make it a Roushan plot that could have worked. Heaven knows I’ve threatened to do worse.”
“But even at the worst of the Gazette rumors, no one would have believed that kind of cold-bloodedness from Jace. The court may have been cool to him because he’s Elcaran, but he was still too well respected for any of that.”
I nodded. While a few in Adya would have been suspicious, most would have scoffed at the idea.
If only because I wouldn’t need anyone controlling me to make me do something to Euan.
“If nothing else, this will give me something else to report back to Cobbles. He wants to see me again tomorrow,” Caden said with a grimace.
My nod was absent as I was continuing to read your letter to myself.
Mendel having actually attracted the dragons is a frightening thought. Hopefully he learns to be very very careful of such things in the future. Heavens.
In light of Cobbles’ questions for me, I think we can assume that H’ma is real and simply a well-kept secret. We’ve debated various other alternatives, but none make much sense.
I summarized the council bit by bit for Caden as I ate.
I am inclined to write a letter to Uncle W. demanding a copy of that cloaking spell. Ten hours is very impressive.
Caden says that if Mendel really wants to train in fighting he should spend part of the summer here and “let Jace torture him”.
“I suppose it’s best that Arri isn’t going,” I said slowly. “If only because she’d miss too much school.”
Caden nodded. “And Imato would be furious.”
“That too.” I kept reading. “Oh, but Uncle Quin asked Nysa to go.”
“Only fair. She hasn’t really gotten a quest yet,” Caden responded with a smile.
Instead of responding I dropped my fork, my hand jerking and spilling my tea.
“What’s wrong?” Caden asked in alarm.
“They want Jace,” I said softly, rereading the crown prince’s words.
Caden pried your letter out of my hands and read that part himself. After a moment he sat back, looking stunned, though not nearly as stunned as I felt. “I suppose that’s to be expected since Jace is in fact that skilled.”
I nodded mutely. My hands were cold and I must have looked even paler than usual, because Caden gave me an appraising look and called for Malia.
“Take her upstairs and get her some chamomile,” he told her quietly. “I’m going for Jace.”
“What’s wrong?” Malia asked, somewhat alarmed.
Caden shook his head. “Just a surprise in Arri’s letter that’s not very welcome. You and Ryland should stay close, though, in case anything else is needed.”
He left and Malia guided me upstairs, carrying your letter and the note for Jace. When I was settled on my favorite chaise in the sitting room, she left to get a tea tray and I read the last of your letter.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been so shocked at the idea of Jace going. Imato is his best friend, he certainly has every right to go.
Caden clearly hadn’t explained everything to Jace because he burst into the sitting room with concern etched on his face.
I gave him a small smile and handed him the note from your father.
Jace read it then looked back to me in disbelief. “Captain Etautca wants… me?”
Caden laughed from the doorway. “You’d better let him read Arri’s account, Keish.”
I handed Jace your letter. As he read he sat slowly on the chaise with me.
“Prince Dedric specifically recommended me?” Jace shook his head, amazed. “Second best since your uncle is surely an exaggeration.”
That got a snort from Caden. “You’re ridiculously modest, you know that?”
Jace just rolled his eyes at him. “I’d like to read the whole letter before we discuss this,” he told me gently.
I nodded, leaning back and closing my eyes while he read.
When he had finished I was feeling more settled about the whole thing.
He handed me your father’s invitation. “I am being given a choice,” Jace said carefully.
I read through it and laughed a little. “Imato would certainly have phrased that last bit differently.”
Jace smiled, but thinking about Imato made us both sober again quickly.
We sat in silence. Caden drifted out, muttering something about having no place in such a decision.
Finally I forced out the words I knew I needed to say. “You should go.”
Jace blew out his breath. “If it were any other week…” he trailed off, then looked deeply into my eyes. “I don’t want to leave you alone next week.”
“I know. But I won’t be alone. Imato is the one who’s alone.”
Jace closed his eyes and nodded. “I should go. Captain Etautca wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t think it was important.”
Jace looked at me in surprise.
“Sorry, it just sounds so funny to hear you talk about Uncle Quin so formally.”
He gave me a playful glare, than laughed lightly. “I suppose I’ll have to ask what I should call him.” Then he sighed. “I don’t want to leave you at all.”
I leaned forward to put my head on his shoulder. I didn’t want him to leave either. We haven’t spent any real time apart since the wedding, and even before that he was living in the tower for months.
Jace echoed my thoughts. “We haven’t been apart in over a year.”
I buried my face deeper into his shoulder.
Jace wrapped his arms around me and just held me.
“I need to do this,” he said finally.
“I know.” I lifted my head and gave him the best smile I could manage. “It’s part of why I love you.”
He laughed a little and then kissed me fiercely.
I was breathless when he broke away from me, striding quickly to the door of our bedroom and through to his dressing room.
I trailed behind him, hearing Ryland’s voice from the dressing room.
“Are you well, Mistress?” Malia asked, peeking out of my dressing room nervously.
I nodded. “I’ll be fine. Jace has been called away and it was a bit of a shock, that’s all.”
She nodded, looking relieved, and retreated again.
A moment later, Jace emerged from his dressing room holding a rather intricate scabbard. He set it on the bed. Ryland followed with a set of simple soldier’s armor. It wasn’t fancy or heavy like Imato’s knightly suit, but the workmanship was obviously very fine and it matched the scabbard.
Curious, I slowly drew the sword out. It was beautiful.
Jace saw the question in my eyes. “A gift from Tulson and his brothers. After I beat the fencing master at 16.”
My eyebrows went up. I studied the sword more closely. It wasn’t the weapon he took when we took our quest to the cave. Obviously it had still been in Rousha then. I couldn’t believe I’d never seen these things.
“What other secrets are hidden in that dressing room?” I queried, replacing the sword.
Jace laughed. “No secrets, love. All this just… embarrassed me, I guess. I’ve never wanted to be a soldier.”
“You’re ridiculously good at it.”
He shrugged, uncomfortable. “It will be useful now, if nothing else.”
Behind him, Ryland cleared his throat. “Will you be requiring me to accompany you, sir?”
Jace shook his head fervently. “No, Keish needs you here. I’m counting on you to keep her safe through that scrying spell next week.”
Ryland nodded and retreated to attend to the rest of Jace’s packing.
Jace kissed my forehead. “I need to find Kaplan and make arrangements for my classes.”
I nodded. “I’ll go talk to Keaton. He’s bound to hear something soon and I’d rather tell him what’s going on first.”
Jace considered. “I’ll go with you and talk to him first.”
We found Keaton and Master Zart at their lessons. Jace explained the situation, giving Keaton firm instructions that it would be his job not only to help keep me safe in Jace’s absence but to keep my spirits up. Keaton accepted this all very solemnly, squeezing my hand before we left his study.
Jace went off to make his arrangements and I went down to the kitchen to ask Cook to have something ready for Jace to take with him. I’m sure he’ll end up waiting until morning to leave, but it was better than doing nothing and I had no classes to teach because I’d given everyone a study day.
When Jace had everything settled to his satisfaction he found me in my study, trying to call Imato just to give myself something else to do.
“I’ve worked out the details for all of my classes, love, but Caden is off somewhere, so will you help me remember to tell him that Kaplan will be coming daily to continue our sessions for me.”
I smiled. “He’ll be thrilled.”
Jace smirked. “Yes, well, he needs the help.”
“I’ve been thinking,” I said quickly as he turned to leave the room, “I want you to take Argentum.”
Jace turned back to me slowly.
“Argyros is a wonderful mount, but Argentum is stronger. He’ll bring you back safely.”
He considered me for a moment then put a hand on my cheek. “If you’re certain.”
With that, Jace went to check Ryland’s progress and send word to Bryce to have Argentum saddled and ready at first light.
I sat down at my desk to write Gretel a rather stern letter. I don’t care how unfair it seems, she cannot try to follow them. I’m ordering her to stay in Rousha or come to Adya. In case you find that you need to ward the house to keep track of her I’m including a couple of helpful spells.
Not much of a birthday for her, I know, and certainly this is ironic coming from me, but she had better stay put. Imato would never forgive any of us if anything happened to her. Or the baby.
It’s not too late yet, but Jace wants an early start tomorrow.
He asks that information on the route being taken and anything else he needs to know be sent to Sean in Odsreq since he’ll likely have to catch up to the main party. He hopes to make Odsreq by midday the 22nd, but doesn’t want to push too hard too early on.
I’d best send Hermes off now if you are to receive this before your father wants to leave.
My love to everyone, of course.
PS: I shall, of course, write and tell you everything that happens next week. Jace is not happy about my going through with it while he isn’t even here, but things have already been set in motion and he understands that. He has made me promise to use a calling spell to let him know I’m safe when it’s all over.