Arc Three Chapter Ten

Story Arc Three: Chapter Ten

Dalziel was in the docking bay where the Windborne was preparing to depart. He looked away from his ship towards Riva as the last of the supplied were loaded on board. “Are you sure about this? All you have to do is say the word and I’ll steal you both away from here.”

Riva smiled. “We may yet need you for that, but I’m not ready yet to leave Castellan.”

Bastion stood at Riva’s side and looked at the Windborne for a moment. “Keep in touch, Pirate. We need to know that you and your sister are well and free.”

Dalziel grinned. “Aye, aye, Cap’n. I’ll be back as soon as I can, once I have something to report.” Dalziel had volunteered to seek out more information on what Doctor Revier was doing and where. It was very dangerous as they all knew well.

“Don’t take any chances you don’t have to, Dalziel.” Riva warned him. “We don’t want to have to rescue you, and you know we will.”

He bowed extravagantly to her and kissed the back of her hand. “Never fear for me, gentle maiden, I shall return unscathed from the hazards I brave in your honor.”

Riva sighed, unsure whether to glare at him or to shake her head in disbelief. In the end she simply said, “Go with God, Dalziel.”

He smiled. “Your lips to His ears, sweet Riva.” The last of the crates were loaded and Dalziel hugged Riva goodbye and then clasped hands with Bastion. “Fair skies, Captain.”

Bastion nodded. “Fair skies.”

Dalziel hurried onto the Windborne and Riva and Bastion stood back a distance as the skyship rose up from the docking bay and flew into the sky.

Riva leaned against Bastion and trembled. “I’m afraid for him, Bastion.”

Bastion didn’t know how to comfort her fears. All he could do was hold her close. It seemed to be enough.

Marus was pacing impatiently when Gabriel entered the library and saluted. He stood, tapping one foot anxiously as Gabriel closed the door and made certain that they were secure.

“What news from Castellan?” His voice was clipped and worried.

Gabriel bowed briefly. “It is certain that Lady Dauris was attacked for the purpose of delivering her to Doctor Revier and, most particularly, Lukan. The survivors of the gang which attacked her confessed as much during their trial, though no one has referred to Lady Dauris by any name other than the streetling, Riva Songbird or, more recently, Riva Kodransdotter.”

Marus stiffened in astonishment. “Kodransdotter? My sister has been taken in by the Chieftain of the dwarven tribes?”

Gabriel nodded. “The walking-stick she carried from his shop before the attack was his name-gift to her.”

“It becomes more and more apparent to me that her arrival here and my mother’s dreams were nothing of mere chance. Great events are afoot, and we are moving in the midst of them.”

“Excellency, you are the Emperor of the North. Anything you seek to accomplish sets great events in motion.”

Marus shook his head. “You do not understand. I am Emperor because of her.” He sighed. “What happened during the attack?”

“Lady Dauris and her companion were bound by magic…”

Marus went still immediately. “Please assure me that term was a slip. Please tell me that my sister has not been given to someone other than your brother.”

Gabriel frowned in confusion. “Excellency? I do not understand. Your sister was accompanied by the Pirate who stole Doctor Revier’s vessel.”

Marus sat down in his chair, forcing himself to relax. “I did not mean to frighten you, Gabriel. The term ‘Companion’ has a very specific meaning in what I seek to accomplish. It merely surprised me, that is all. My sister and the Pirate were bound?”

Gabriel nodded. “It appears that the ironwood staff your sister carried protected her from the immobilization spell until she was disarmed, giving her time and opportunity to fight back. She killed two of her attackers before she was overcome.”

Marus closed his eyes in pain. “Oh, Dauris…” He sighed. “Continue. I wish to know everything.”

“Once immobilized and helpless, your sister was held between two of the gang while their leader took her knife and set to disrobe her in preparation for violating her before turning her over to Lukan.” He paused. “Before he could do more than cut open her blouse rescue arrived in the form of my brother and Lord Kian.” He looked at his notes. “The gang members report that, as they ran, the leader had your sister’s knife at her neck to threaten her life and force my brother to halt. No one has said what was said in the alleyway, but Lord Kian distracted the ringleader so that my brother could free Lady Dauris from the immobilization spell. She then took back her knife and killed the man with it.”

“So my sister was attacked at a vulnerable time, almost violated and given over to her enemy, rescued by the narrowest of margins, and has killed three men in the process.”

“Yes, Excellency. Following the attack there was some confusion that I have not been able to unravel, something to do with the two of them late at night, though not a dalliance. I have not yet been able to gain an agent inside the Order itself, but servants sometimes talk. The two of them have since begun sharing his rooms, apparently with the joint blessings of both the King and Kodran.”

Marus breathed a sigh of relief. “At last, they begin to see. She must not be left alone. They must keep her most securely right now.”

Gabriel frowned. “I do not understand, my Emperor.”

“My sister is uniquely capable of doing what must be done, and doing so personally, but there is a price to pay, in the calm that comes afterwards. You say that your brother cannot appreciate her anger, but are you able to appreciate her vulnerability?”

Gabriel’s frown deepened and he had no answer for his Emperor. “How is someone to appreciate weakness?”

Marus sighed. “You do not yet know what a gift it is, what a wondrously precious gift it is to be needed by someone. She needed me in the calm that came after we killed Jules. Yes, Gabriel,” he said at Gabriel’s surprised look, “she was no mere bystander that day. She needed me and for that gift I will damn myself to Hell forever to know that she is safe. Now she needs your brother and he is a very blessed man for it.”

Gabriel shook his head in disbelief. “And to think I was uncertain of her ability to kill even me.” He sighed. “There is more, Excellency. Following the attack on Lady Dauris a…” he paused, looking at his notes with a slight shake of his head in disbelief, “apparently a giant, of all things, made his presence known in the castle seeking your sister.”

Marus turned his head in silence and simply looked at Gabriel, slowly blinking his eyes. “A giant, you say?” He swallowed carefully. “Seeking my sister?”

Gabriel nodded with a depreciating shrug. “I am merely relaying what has been told to me. He is called a giant and he is credited with wielding walls of pure darkness to hold back the soldiers of the castle as he charged through, breaking walls in his search. He called your sister by the epithet ‘Goldeneyes’ and she seemed to be familiar with him as she evidently ran to calm his anger.” He looked up from his notes. “He thought her to be held prisoner within Castellan’s palace.”

The Emperor frowned to himself, considering this latest information. “Curiouser and curiouser…” He took a deep breath. “I shall have to have more information about this giant, then, if you can acquire it.”

“As you wish, my Emperor.” He looked back at the notes and continued. “Also, as a consequence of these events several rumors have begun floating around which seem to originate in Castellan.”

“Hmm? Is my sister preparing to declare herself?”

“Not that I am aware, Excellency. No, it is being said that the Imperial army, under the direction of Doctor Revier, is targeting gifted young people without families, and even some with families, who show promise and exceptional ability.”

Marus blinked in surprise. “Is there any truth to the rumors?”

“By all indications, Excellency, it appears so.”

Marus thought carefully for a moment. “Find out for certain. Find out who he’s taken, from where, and what their current condition is.”

Gabriel nodded. “One last point of interest. The Pirate who was with your sister, he has reappeared in Pallantia. He seems to be investigating Doctor Revier, though very quietly and with exceptional care. If I hadn’t been looking into the good Doctor myself I would never have noticed him.”

Marus frowned and then smiled, it was a cold smile. “Invite him to the Palace. I wish to have a private conversation with him. I want to know what happened in that alley that no one is talking about.”

Gabriel bowed. “As you will, Excellency, but is that wise? He is doubtless expected back in Castellan and will be missed. If you coerce the information from him then he will know that you are aware of Lady Dauris’ whereabouts, and will pass that information on when he returns to Castellan.”

Marus nodded. “My sister is unlikely to believe that I do not know where she is. She merely hopes to stay my wrath through plausible deniability. It is no great loss and I must know what the Pirate knows about my sister and her condition.”

Gabriel bowed again. “As you will, then, Excellency.”

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