When Illian finally released Gabriel to his own recognizance, Gabriel went straight to Emperor Marus’ library, where he found the Emperor looking over a book.
Marus looked up at Gabriel as the man entered, a slightly humored expression on his face. “Did my sister punish you sufficiently?”
Gabriel was silent for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “My Emperor, your sister lied to you. She was angry with me, not because I had threatened the life of a young man who smiled at her, but because while we were in the marketplace she was informed by someone I did not know about my brother, about his scar, and about his location. She has run to Castellan to find him.”
Marus set the book down and closed his eyes momentarily to collect his thoughts. “You did not know this person?”
“No, my Emperor, I did not. Though he acted as if we were old acquaintances for your sister’s benefit. His hair had a streak of white through it, much like the Lady Dauris.”
Marus blinked his eyes open. “Now that is a fascinating piece of information.” He paused. “You let her run?”
“Yes, your Excellency. I had… opportunity to enforce my will upon her, and prevent her leaving, but I did not. I must admit… I considered it. But she had already made arrangements to meet with Lord Illian before leaving and it would have been… difficult to carry her away before she was missed.”
Marus nodded. “I understand your restraint then. You say she met with Illian?”
“Yes, Excellency, she met with him before we encountered you in the hall and then after she had gathered her things before she left to find her way to Castellan. She was to travel with the same man who had encountered us in the market.” He paused. “She made comment about his hair, as if it were a quality that she knew.”
“If what I have read is correct, she would have. It seems to run in the family.” Marus glanced at the book again before turning back to Gabriel. “Is there anything else?”
“Lord Illian had paternal rights over your sister. He sent her with his permission and blessing, and she carries rings.”
Marus blinked. “Those two have been planning this for years.” He sounded awestruck. “They found the most obvious way that I could… and negated it.” After a moment he laughed, a sound of joy and surprise. “And the only way they could have known that far ahead was if she had dreamed it. This gets better and better.” He shook his head, still chuckling.
Gabriel writhed within himself. He wanted to confess everything. He wished for a blinding moment that he were reporting that he had, in fact, carried off the Imperial Princess. It would have been difficult, but not impossible, and it would have been so easy to bind her when he had her locked in his kiss.
Marus seemed to notice his inner conflict. “Guardian Gabriel, the path that I had set for you is a difficult one.”
“I came very near allowing my anger at my brother to gain the better of me. I… I cannot banish the wish that I had allowed it.”
Marus was silent for a moment and Gabriel thought that perhaps he had confessed too much. “Your anger is the weapon we need right now, if we are to reach our goal. Are you willing to become my true confidant? Are you willing to see this path to completion? It is a difficult one, for us both.”
Gabriel saluted his Emperor. “I am yours to command.”
“This is not a command, nor can it be. I need an ally, one capable of seeking his own path to a goal that we both share. Your loyalty must ever be to the Lady Dauris even as we work against her.” He paused again, his own pain written on his face. “You may yet be called upon to give your anger its rein.”
Gabriel nodded slowly. “Yes, my Emperor, I understand.”
Marus started to pace. “I will do all that I can to avoid such a necessity, fear not. But there is much that I must know, particularly about your brother. His honor, how he would respond to the sudden knowledge that a royal daughter has dreams of him, for I am certain that he was not given the reason why we sheltered her from him. I must know everything that you can tell me about him, sparing nothing, and when we have exhausted your knowledge we must find sources closer to him now to inform us further. And then we need to discuss the most effective way to start a war.” He paused and looked Gabriel full in the face. “I mean to kill a great many people, even some who are dear to me, before we reach our goal. But that goal… it is worth it all.”
What was it that Lady Dauris had said? “The ends justify the means”? She was not so certain that they did. Gabriel was not versed in philosophy, nor did he give consideration to such things. He was a soldier, and anything that gave him the chance to remind his brother that he, Gabriel, was dominant… was a goal worth seeking. Gabriel bowed to his Emperor. “Yes, Excellency, I understand.” He paused then and continued. “There is something else, something I only just heard mentioned in passing between them.”
Marus looked at him, curiously. “What could that be?”
“It may be that my brother is not the only man in her life and her dreams…”
— — —
With the dawn the rumors started about an attack in the Palace. Assassins struck the bower, seeking the life of the Imperial Princess, who then collapsed from the strain. Out of concern for her health, her brother the Emperor confined her until she could recover, placing heavy guard over her, though he made no public comment on the matter.
Gabriel walked to the house of Lady Dauris’ former guardian with a heavy heart. This was not going to be a pleasant interview. Not the least for his own secret guilt.
Gallus was waiting for him, face mottled with anger. “Attacked? In her own chambers? Where is she? Why are you not with her?” Why, indeed?
Gabriel glanced about, making certain that they would not be overheard. “Sir Gallus, the Lady Dauris was not attacked, though that is the tale that the Emperor wishes be spread, slowly.” Except, he still wished that events had happened differently, and cringed at his own wish. It was not honorable to wish for such things.
The older man slowly calmed. “She ran?” The anger was replaced by a hushed sort of joy, of a kind that made Gabriel feel even more soiled and impure. The old man loved their Princess, loved her with a purity that Gabriel did not feel, and could not.
“Yes, Sir Gallus, and she commanded me to remain silent to all except you. She wished for you to know the truth of her leaving.” He realized, then, that the Princess must have cared greatly for her former guardian, and did not wish him to worry for her.
“When did she find out? Did you tell her?” His voice betrayed the curiosity of a grandfather.
“No, I did not. A stranger in the market told her after we left here just yesterday.” Gabriel paused. The desire to confess everything was strong, but he could not bear to see the old warrior’s eyes darken in fury at what he had considered doing. “She was very angry with me.”
Gallus sighed, with a hint of a laugh. “She would have been. Do you love her yet?”
“Her anger… I have never seen its like before. She will be wasted on my brother. He will not be able to appreciate her anger.” Only he could. He did not love her. Desire, yes. Hunger, yes. As much as he wanted to lay sole claim to anything precious that was given to his brother.
“You cannot protect her from dreams. You could have gone with her, though.”
Gabriel shook his head; the very idea was more than he could stand. “No, I protect her best from here. I cannot be near my brother. To see him, with her, would tempt my anger too far.” And he would not be able to keep himself from following his desires; he would not even want to, and honor be damned.
Gallus put a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder, thinking that the younger soldier merely resented his brother’s good fortune, merely wished to keep her a child forever. How little he knew, how terribly little he knew. “One day, for her, you will have to set your anger aside.”
Gabriel didn’t have a response.
— — —
Doctor Revier looked at Marus in stunned disbelief. “Have I heard your Excellency correctly? You have decided… that is, you have reconsidered your decision to place your sister in my most protective care?”
Marus looked at the Doctor for a moment before answering. They were sitting in his personal library as he had summoned Revier to appear before him, making certain that his messenger arrived at the Tower before the rumors of the morning began to circulate. “You heard me correctly, Doctor. My sister is being cared for through other means at the moment in light of recent events.”
Revier blinked for a moment. “Recent events?”
It seemed the messenger had reached the good Doctor before he had heard any of the rumors that Marus had arranged to float around the city. All to the better. “My sister was attacked in her chambers last night. I have placed her under heavy guard lest another attempt be made against her life.”
“But, Emperor, that is all the more reason to see that she is placed within my care. I assure you, my Tower is most secure.” Revier was actually pale, slightly, as he pressed his case in genuine concern.
Marus lifted a single curious eyebrow. “Truly? So what I have heard is not, in fact, true? That one of your… guests managed to escape last night? And with a prototype vessel no less?”
Revier stiffened in reaction to the barb. “I assure you, my Tower and the accommodations I have arranged for your sister are most secure.” He was very pale though, and a muscle at the corner of one eye twitched nervously.
Marus nodded. “I shall consider placing my sister in your care in the future, if her current situation proves inadequate. That is all for this morning, Doctor. I trust that you are making progress in your research?”
He nodded briefly. “Fair progress, though I would prefer to have access to something of proven provenance, or at the least access to the person of a descendant of one of these wanderers.”
Marus shuffled some papers on his desk. “I shall see about making arrangements to acquire such, if it is possible. It will take time, though.”
Revier bowed. “A scientist is nothing if not patient.” After a brief discussion of the development of various devices, some to armor soldiers, some to prevent scrying, the Doctor bowed respectfully and left to see to his research projects and Marus returned to his plans and concern about how his sister fared on her journey to Castellan.