Rand the Second had been unharmed. I tucked the wool-plas sling into my saddle bag and the porter helped me to mount. Vytar and the castle guards – no longer keeping their distance – escorted me back to the castle. A crowd lined the streets and several heralds yelled questions at me as I rode. It surprised me that most were positive. I assured the crowd that I had been uninjured and that the man whose arm good Captain Vytar had taken off, would receive the best care possible. It had been a misunderstanding. All the questions made for a long and exhausting ride. My fingers still shot off the occasional spark and I did my best to ignore them.
The stables bustled with activity. Many sentinels, more than I’d seen before, arrived on their horcines. Several waved at Vytar who acknowledged them with a nod. One, the female sentinel from Trommel, Elenosa, seemed especially happy to see him. He excused himself from me and went to see her. I heard her congratulate him on finding the heir. He told her he was very happy that she survived her encounter with The Owl. She put a hand on his arm and assured him that she had been uninjured. He looked like he wanted to kiss her, which reminded me of my own forbidden attraction, waiting, I supposed, up on my room.
I dismounted and Rand butted his head against me chest. I feed him an apple and promised him a real ride on the morrow. It appeared that Vytar would be a while with his old company, so I took my bloody and frustrated self off to my suite.
“My lord, what happened?” Rhaenan rose from her chair in the library – now her room – and rushed to my side.
“Its not my blood.”
She trailed me to my room, where I pondered my wardrobe. Did all of my clothing contain plas?
I told her of the attack and then the troubling, to me at least, position of the mech-mages on magic.
“Magic for the common Adnorian,” she said, sitting on the bed and nibbling on a strand of her hair. She looked healthier than before, seeming to move with more grace.
“Yes. Technology driven by magic for all. It has a certain appeal. My worry is the loss of respect, I guess you’d say, of the elements.”
She nodded. “Adnorians worship the elements, correct?”
“Nord too, I thought?”
“Yes, but our relationship to the supreme beings – the parent elements – is more direct because the gods grant us influence over the elements. There’s a level of separation for Adnorians. For example, an Adnorian would not ask the fire to light itself and expect the fire to respond.”
“Why is that? I mean, Adnorians and Nord have similar features – hands, feet, hearts, and so forth – physically the peoples are not very different. Why do the Nord have direct access to the elements and the Adnorians do not?”
“Why do song birds fly but turducken do not? I think it has to do with the ancients. I heard a story…”
I picked out a dark wine-colored doublet. As I ran my fingers across the brocade, green sparks shot up.
“Ah, my lord, you appear to have a blockage.”
“I think this fabric has plas in it.”
“An ancient technology according to Technician Stygand. I think it interferes with the elements.”
She ran her fingers down the doublet and nothing happened. She took it from me, murmuring something, and stood by the fire – which she asked the light.
Flame burst forth. She reached forward to put the sleeve in the fire and I objected.
She gave me a look that indicated that if I wanted to know, the doublet had to be sacrificed.
“Okay, just don’t burn the entire thing. Its the only decent doublet in the entire wardrobe.”
The burning fabric gave off an acrid smell not normally associated with wool or flax.
“Yuck.” She pulled the burned sleeve out and examined it. It had melted rather than burned.
I pulled out the sling, which I’d retrieved from my saddle bag, and put the end of it into the fire. The same nasty smell and the same melted appearance occurred.
“And you think this interferes with elemental magic?”
She put the sleeve of her gown into the flame. It melted as well.
“Is nothing here made of a normal fabric?” I asked, annoyed.
She took her gown off, leaving her dressed in a short chemise that showed a lot of enticing leg. Sparks shot from my fingers again.
She helped me out of my ruined doublet and ran her fingers through the hairs on my chest. The shocks made my head spin. I leaned in to kiss her, but she shook her head, her eyes unfocused. She wasn’t, I realized, trying to seduce me but trying to clear whatever magic block I’d acquired from wearing the strange fabric. Still, her touch roused my ardor.
With a pop, a wave a relief flowed through me, much like the orgasmic release that I yearned for but couldn’t have. She seemed aware of my urges – how could she not being pressed against me – and she tiled her head, giving me access, if I chose to kiss the line of her neck. I gritted me teeth and stepped back, bumping into the bed and falling into a sitting position. She would have climbed up on my lap, but I stopped her.
“Why? I know you are as attracted to me as I am to you. Our powers confirm it.”
“What?” She stepped back, crossing her arms across her chest.
“I’m married and then there’s that thing with your sister.”
“What do you mean?” Her eyes narrowed.
I chewed my lip for a moment, trying to decide how to explain. I decided to leave most of it out. If Rhaenan didn’t know her sister to be twisted, I didn’t want to tell her.
“I think she wanted to be considered for the position of Queen, should I suddenly acquire the thrown of Adnor.”
She looked unconvinced. “Why would she want that?”
“Don’t you want that?”
“Not for all the diamonds in the garden of eternal spring.”
I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
“We’d better find you some clothing that doesn’t have that substance in it,” she said after a moment and went back into her room for a robe.
“I’m not the only one,” I yelled to her.
Neither of us, after further testing at the fireplace, had any clothing not contaminated. The clothing I’d gotten from the Loyalists had been taken away.
Then we had a small argument about who should go in search of wholesome clothing. She won that by reminding me that she had many more years of training under The Owl than I did. I watched with reluctance as she tied her hair up, put on some of my dark colored trousers and doublet, and pulled a metallic liripipe hood on. She looked boy-ish and kind of cute. I felt disturbed at my increased attraction to her. Then she did something with her powers that obscured her face and form.
“What about shoes?”
“Don’t need ’em,” she said and with a flippant wave, walked out of the suite past Yerston, who was bringing dinner in.
“Who was that, my lord?”
“Hmm?” I said, keeping my eyes pointed downward toward the stained doublet I’d worn earlier. He spotted the blood and acted as I’d predicted. He hustled me off to the bath and found fresh clothing – full of plas no doubt – for me to wear. He didn’t think to check on Rhaenan until I’d eaten most of the meal.
When asked if I knew where the lady was, I said no. I did not elaborate.
“I shall call the guards.”
I rose and stood in front of the door.
“Why? Is she a prisoner?” Am I a prisoner? If I wanted to leave and go back to Oakvale, would I be allowed to?
“She is a Nord.”
“So am I – at least partially.”
“Would that you weren’t,” he said and turned from the door to gather my dirty dishes. The clanking of the plates together emphasized his displeasure.
He paused near the door, plates in hand.
“Is there anything else, my lord?”
I hesitated. If I used my voice on him, he’d forever be against me. If I didn’t and Rhaenan were detained by the guards, I’d have to rescue her all over again.
“Please let me know if you see the lady. She is only recently recovered.”
I could tell he wanted to sneer at that but nodded and left.
I cursed her stubbornness and my ineffectiveness.