This is my first Pierce fiction, so please, be gentle!
Oh yes, and please be warned, there are some strong subjects and suggestions towards not nice things. There is a reason this is rated M...you have been warned.
"I know that this is a difficult thing for us to ask you to do. Please, take some time to think before you give us your answer."
"I will do as you ask. I am honoured that you thought of me for this."
"It will mean turning your back on your family…your friends…your country."
"I understand. But I ask that for this, you do something for me."
Blue eyes bored into hers through the flames in the fire and there was a slow nod. "Go on."
The flames faded and went down to embers. When the face in the flames disappeared, she spun wildly at a discreet cough from the shadows.
Lighter blue eyes met hers across the room and she knew she had been found. He looked at her, half in shock, half in understanding as she poured out her heart to him. He was by her side in a moment, holding her close.
I will." He murmured into her ear, threading his fingers through her hair. "I swear it, I will."
King Jonothan de Conté looked up from his conversation with his cousin and Prime Minister as a three weary, travel stained knights approached him.
"Sire, we need a word." The oldest of them murmured, drawing him into an antechamber. Duke Gareth frowned and followed them inside, shutting the door silently behind him.
"What is wrong? Did something happen on the way back from Northwatch?" he asked, putting the sheaf of papers down onto an empty table.
Wyldon shook his head. "No, majesty, not on the way from Northwatch." The grey haired man took a deep breath, sharing a look with Sir Paxton.
"It's Kelaldry of Mindelan." The lanky knight said shortly, his lips pursed tightly in anger.
"She is dead?" Jon asked, his eyes widening slightly. The loss of one of the only two female knights in the realm would have widespread repercussions.
"No. Not dead." Wyldon muttered darkly, darting a look at the youngest man who had an expression of shock on his face. "She is a traitor. She was giving information to the Scanrans. She has defected to their side."
There was silence in the room as Jon stared at them, his face deeply shocked. He closed his eyes for a moment, his head cocked to the side before he looked at them with disbelief. "I'm sorry, but I could have sworn you just said that Kelaldry of Mindelan has just defected."
"She has." Sir Nealan of Queenscove hung his head in shame. "I never knew, Majesty. I swear! I found her giving maps of new troop placements to a Scanran soldier. She…she tried to kill me." His lower lip jutted out slightly as he remembered his closest friend trying to run him through. "When she knew she was lost, she told me that we were all saps and that the Scanrans would be in Corus by next year. When we saw her next, she was dressed in Scanran armour, giving orders."
Jonathan took a deep breath and then nodded. "Thank you Gentlemen. I will handle this from here. Please, go rest. I know your trip must have been long and arduous, especially since you got here before the news reached me."
Duke Gareth looked across the table at Baron George Cooper.
"How could you not have known?" he slapped his hand against the wood veneer in anger.
Faces around the table stared down at the realms Chief Spymaster.
"She is from one of the most reputable families in the country. I did not have her checked for the same reason I have not had you checked, Gary, or Baird's son Nealan. She was brought up in the Yamani Isles for gods sake!"
He sat back heavily in his chair, his chest heaving and closed his eyes. "She would not be able to tell them much, at least. She has spent most of the war babysitting those refugees."
Wyldon nodded. "She came to Giantkiller and Northwatch infrequently. About the only thing she could tell them would be troop movements, and they changed every time there was a battle, or we changed our minds. She was a damned fine knight though. Damnit." He rubbed his beard and blew out an angry breath. Jon wasn't sure whether he was more angry at her defection or at having to admit that she was a good knight.
"What do we do with her family?"
The king sat back in his chair, his eyes distant as they began to argue loudly around him.
"We do nothing." He said finally, startling everyone into silence. "Ilane, Piers and their sons have done nothing but good for this country. They have worked tirelessly. They abandoned their family at my request to go to Yaman and broker our peace deal. They missed their children growing up. George, I want you to do a thorough check on them, deeper and quicker than any other you have done before. Make sure that they are the people we believe them to be. After that, I want your people to check on everyone that is involved in the war at the front. Anyone who is in the position to give information to the enemy."
George nodded silently. "May I be dismissed, Jon? I want to get started on this straight away. And I have some people I need to speak to." The look he gave his king showed that the conversations he was going to have would not be about their health, but rather an intense interrogation on how the hell this managed to get past them.
Ilane stared at her husband in shock as the room went silent.
"I…I…" She began, only to fall silent once more, her head shaking in disbelief. Beside her, her husband fell to his knees, his head bowed. "How could she do this…to her family…her country…the shame she has brought on us…" His voice was muffled by his hands covering his face.
"What will be done now?" Ilane asked, her voice trembling.
"A proclamation will be made denouncing her as a traitor and enemy to Tortall." Ilane closed her eyes tightly, her hands making fists by her sides.
"Ilane, I am sorry to have to have told you this." Jon emerged from behind his desk, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Your family will not suffer from this. Not from me. I am letting it be known that you are still in favour. I know that this does not help you right now, but I think you should consider her dead. If she is taken by any of our troops she will be executed immediately. You will never see her again."
There was a knock on the door, and George stuck his head around, beckoning Jon closer.
"I have just heard, Gideon has arrived at the destination and is beginning preparations." He murmured soft enough for only Jon to hear. The king gave a sharp nod and returned his attention to the devastated family.
Sir Raoul of Goldenlake lowered a spyglass. "There she is." He muttered sadly to the short stocky knight beside him. She ran her hands through her fiery red hair and snatched the spyglass from him. She peered through it as she tracked it across the line of the enemy in front of them and sought her quarry. In a few moments, she found who she was looking for. Eleven months since her defection, Kelaldry was wearing new armour, a intimidating set of steel with spikes and reinforcements that made her blanche.
"Raoul…" She began softly, talking quietly so that the men beside her couldn't hear.
"Yes, Alanna?" He looked down at his old friend, seeing how tightly her hands were clenched around the brass spyglass.
"I know you are close to her…were close to her. I know you treated her like a daughter when she was your squire, and that four years living hip to hip with someone can make you almost closer than family. And I know I asked you to look after her. But now, I ask you that if you come across her on the battlefield, take her down. And take her down quickly."
They both stood, staring out at the enemy as they prepared to battle once more. The tide of the war had changed after Kelaldry had killed the nothing man, destroying the killing machines he had conjured. But the Scanrans were still putting up a big fight.
"Do you think that George can do it?" Raoul asked, finally looking at the Baron's wife. Alanna shrugged.
"I'd be a liar if I said I did, Raoul. But I hope he can. And if anyone can pull this off, that blaggard of a husband of mine can." She gripped the hilt of her sword tightly with one hand and his arm with the other. "Stay safe, Raoul. I want to see your butt back in Corus." He covered her hand with his large one and squeezed it tightly before turning away and shouting for his men to prepare themselves.
Baron George leant against the doorframe of Numair Samilan's room in Giantkiller.
"Storkman, are you up for a small trip?" he murmured quietly, startling the Black robed mage.
"Just to Maggur's palace. I need you to use that fancy new spell of yours to get me in and out undetected. I know Jon's talked to you about this."
"I'll need to know exactly where we are going…" Numair sat down on the stool, his long legs tucked up against his chest as George leant back against to the rough wood wall and produced a small map from inside his tunic.
"Is this good enough?"
Numair studied the map carefully before nodding. "It is. Why do you need me to…?" he waggled his fingers to indicate using his Gift.
"Gideon." George murmured. Numair's eyes widened. Gideon was the name given to the most important spy of the moment. It changed due to circumstances, and was never used lightly. Between the immortals war and the current one, there had been no Gideon. He took a deep breath before asking "How is the other business going?"
"Nine say yes. I'm working on the others. In time, we will have them all. How soon can you be ready?"
Numair opened his eyes to a deep and unrelenting blackness. There was a touch to his arm and he turned silently, seeing low candlelight flicker behind him.
George peered around the room. "It's empty." He whispered, breaking the silence.
Numair reached out silently with his gift, questing through the room.
"George, the room is spelled. It isn't for listening or detection. It seems keyed to some sort of object. It's an obedience spell. It shouldn't affect us. What now?"
"We wait. Numair, if you see Maggur, do not, I repeat do not try to take him out. He is covered in protection spells and the last few people who tried to take him using either the gift or a sword died a very horrible death. If we are detected, you get us out immediately."
"What about Gideon?"
"We take Gideon too if we can…if we are made. But if we aren't able to reach her…we go on our own. Do you hear me, Numair?"
Numair nodded, seeing how serious he was. "I understand, George." After a few moments, his eyes opened. "her?"
They stood in silence for several long hours until the door opened.
Numair's eyes widened as the spy known as Gideon walked in the room, tense as a coiled spring, face apprehensive. Silently, George put his hand on his arm, holding him in place, raising a finger to his lips and drawing the mage further back into the shadowed privy.
Behind her, a hulking man followed, slamming the door tightly behind him. Maggur muttered something low in Scanran and around the room various stones set in the walls flared and the woman stiffened before Maggur back handed her across the face, sending her sprawling to the ground. He dragged her roughly to her feet, pulling her close and kissing her roughly, one hand fumbling at his belt.
The hand on Numair's arm tightened as Maggur laid into the woman with his fists, driving her back towards the bed. If he hadn't recognised the spell for what it was, he would have been amazed at how she never once tried to defend herself. After a time, he closed his eyes tightly against the horrible scene unfolding before him, but nothing he could do would block the small gasps coming from the bed chamber in front of them. Finally, Maggur got up from the ground, breathing heavily. When he reached the door he turned to look down at her and wiped a trail of spittle from his mouth before stalking out, slamming the door shut behind him.
The woman rolled over onto her front, and with a quiet sob, she pulled herself up until she was kneeling, large tears rolling silently down her face. She covered her face with her hands as her shoulders began to shake with violent sobs. After a moment she stopped and raised her head slightly, her light brown hair framing her face.
"I am sorry you had to see that, George." She murmured quietly, staring into the distance, her hazel eyes boring into the distance.
He emerged from the darkness, his hand pushing Numair back, letting him know not to reveal himself. He dragged a blanket from the bed and dropped to his knees beside her wrapping it around her naked body, holding her close.
"How long has this been going on?" He murmured into her hair as he rocked her gently.
"A week after I arrived he gave me these as a present." She held up her hands, showing bruised wrists covered by two large cuffs of metal that fit close to her skin and covered much of her forearms. "That night he visited me here and I realised what they did. He is incapable of…you know…but he likes to inflict pain. The Bracelets control my body, but not my mind. I cannot take them off, sir. For the last part of the plan, a mage will have to take them off or Petter Gronholm will have to be taken care of first. Or another will have to take my place." She murmured softly, taking comfort from his hold.
"Can you go on?" he asked, pulling away slightly so he could look her in the eye. She squared her shoulders and nodded.
"I can. When I agreed to do this, I wrote my will. And I accepted that I won't come back from here. No." She put her hand to his lips as he went to protest. "My Lord, it is easier for me if I do not look to hope to return. If I fall, though, I want my family to know of what I did. Why I disappeared…" George nodded, and she pulled out of his grip, dragging the blanket tightly around her. "Now, to business." Sitting on the edge of the bed she began to talk quietly, filling in the Spymaster on all the information she had gleaned since the last time they had spoken.
"And how is Maggur dealing with you?" he asked finally.
"He has taken me under his wing. He trusts my judgement implicitly and leaves a lot of the battle decisions to me. It is only at night that he takes control." she looked up at him with pain filled eyes. "It is hard, George, but you can trust me."
He smiled sadly and lifted her chin with is finger. "I know I can, love." He helped her to lie down on the bed and covered her with another blanket. "Stay safe." He whispered, kissing her forehead.
"Stay safe." She echoed him, her eyes sliding closed. In a moment she was asleep and George slipped back into the shadows to stand beside Numair.
"Can you take us to the palace?" He whispered. Numair nodded dumbly. "Jon's rooms. And Numair, no one but you, me and the King knows who Gideon is. We need to keep it that way."
In an instant they were in the Palace in Corus, standing in front of the fire place in the main sitting room in the royal quarters, making the Queen choke on a glass of wine.
Wordlessly, Numair crossed over to the drinks cabinet and took a decanter, pouring a large measure of brandy into a tumbler and knocking it back.
"Numair, take it easy. You have to take us back later."
Jon walked into the room as he spoke, to see Numair round on him, throwing the tumbler against the fireplace, sending shards of glass across the room.
"How can you stand there calmly and act like nothing happened? Were you not in the same room as me? Did you not see the same thing I saw?" He shouted angrily, his fists clenching tightly.
George sat down in a chair and rubbed his face tiredly. "I saw the same thing, Arram. But Gideon is strong."
"What happened?" Jon asked, sending his gift around the room, sealing it off from prying ears and listening spells.
"Maggur likes to beat up his people. Specifically, Gideon."
Numair snorted. "Maggur needs to die!" He shouted and stalked around the room, his robes flowing behind him as he raked his hands through his hair. "We had to stand there like idiots while he…he…" he fell silent and sat down on a padded seat with a heavy sigh. George gripped his shoulder tightly.
"I know, Numair. And I do not take this lightly. I promise you. But this is not the first time I have seen what Maggur's madness can do."
"Jon, George, I know Daine and the baby are here. If you don't mind, I will go to my rooms and visit with them for a time. George, when you want to go back to Giantkiller, come to our rooms."
Jon released the spell and let the mage leave.
Thayet followed him, leaving the king and his spymaster alone together.
"Drink?" Jon asked finally, breaking the silence. George thought for a moment before answering
"Just a small one. I have a lot to do tomorrow."
Jon put his hand on the top of the decanter and stared at the wall behind the table.
"Are we doing the right thing, George?"
"Yes." George didn't hesitate to answer. "And Gideon knows it too. She is prepared to give her life for her country. It is up to us to make sure she doesn't have to."
"Will they sign?"
George nodded. "I have nine signatures, Jon. Three left and they were only waiting on word from the other nine to see how things were panning out. We are close, Jon. I'll need Numair to be by my side till this is over. That transportation spell is our ace card. No one knows about it, and it means I can get anywhere I need to be in a moment. And we will need him in the end."
"The end is near anyway. Their armies are decimated. They need this peace. And they know it. The only one who can't see it is Maggur himself."
"If we don't take him out Jon, he will fight until there is no one left to fight for him."
George stepped out of the shadows of the room. Gideon was standing with her back turned to him, dressed in heavy armour, her visor down.
"Gideon, Numair is taking care of that mage now. Will you know when he is done?"
She gave a sharp nod and flexed her hand on the hilt of her heavy broadsword.
"George, do me one thing before…before I go?"
George nodded. "Anything."
She gave a snort of laughter. "Stop calling me Gideon. I keep looking around for someone else."
George gave a small smile and nodded. "Very well. I guess there is no need for any more subterfuge. The clan leaders are in place, waiting. They will stand at the sidelines until it is over. Then, Numair will bring us back to the palace in Corus."
"And if it goes wrong and Maggur kills me?"
George pursed his lips and looked down to the ground. "Well, then I have a feeling the clan leaders will take matters into their own hands. We have men with the people Maggur's men are holding. They will be freed at the same time."
"He has a lot to answer to, doesn't he." She murmured flatly. In the year and a half since her 'defection' she had seen first hand how Maggur had held clan after clan hostage by taking wives, daughters and sons captive and holding them to control the various Clan Kings.
"And we are chosen to get to put things right." George added, coming to stand beside her. Only for the fact he was that close to her let him hear her add 'Aren't we the lucky ones.'
"Come on." He whispered, guiding her towards the door. "We have a job to do."
Gideon squared her shoulders and stalked out of the room, leaving him to stay behind. He looked the part of a Scanran soldier, and after a few minutes he silently let himself out of the room and slipped through the empty halls to Maggur's throne room. She stood on Maggur's right hand side as the clan leaders stood in a semi-circle around him as he dictated new, stricter orders, demanding more tribute.
He watched from the shadows as the cuffs around her wrists glowed through the armour and her head whipped around, even as Maggur staggered from his throne as the protection spells upon him failed.
"What is going on?" He shouted in Scanran, drawing his sword, his gaze darting around the room. Gideon shrugged, an awkward movement in the heavy armour. She stayed where she was while he spun around in the semi circle of Clan members.
"Petter! Where the hell is Petter?" He roared loudly.
"Your pet mage is dead, Maggur." The King of the Weasel Clan stepped forwards, seeing Numair emerging from a side door, giving a brief nod, wiping blood from his hands.
Gideon took a deep breath and took a step forwards as Numair's hands sparkled black with his gift. "Maggur, for your crimes against the Country of Tortall, you have been tried and found guilty by its people and leaders. For your crimes against the people of Scanra you have been tried by its people and leaders and have been found guilty. Your sentence, decided by the King of Tortall and the Clan Kings of Scanra is to be executed by sword in a fight to the death. Come forward and accept your punishment."
Gideon stepped forwards as the Clan Kings moved back to give her room and pulled her sword from its scabbard, levelling it at him.
"Come meet your fate like a man, instead of hiding behind your pet mage like a mouse."
George let out a long breath as Numair appeared beside him, his long graceful fingers tracing a reddening bruise on his temple.
"Damn, but he had a good right hook."
"I take it he's been taken care of?"
Numair nodded. "I gave the signal to the members of the Own. They are freeing the hostages now."
"This will be the fight of her life." George nodded up to where Maggur was shrugging off his robes and drawing his sword. The man was nearly twice the size of Gideon, and heavily muscled.
"Do you think she can do it?" Numair whispered finally as she narrowly missed being cleaved in two.
"Gods, I hope so."
In King Jon's throne room a window of black fire showed against one of the walls. Few were in the room, but Jon had made sure that Thayet, Alanna and other members of his councel were gathered staring at a large wall of black fire, which sparkled brightly.
"Jon, what on earth is happening?" Alanna called out in confusion.
"What you are seeing is the end of the war. Maggur is facing trial by combat. When it is over, the twelve Clan Kings will sign a peace treaty. The war will be ended. All troops will be pulled back from the border on both sides, leaving only a small force of border guards. It will be signed in blood from the clan leaders and has already been signed by me. It is a blood oath and will hold all clan members."
There was silence for a few moments as they stared at him in amazement, and they hurriedly turned back to the fight. Jon's lips pursed tightly as the queen came to stand beside him.
"What?" She asked, gripping his arm tightly. He shook his head and nodded towards the fight.
"It's nearly over."
He was right. Maggur was tiring, and for all that he was managing to touch her more than she could him, his strength was flagging. But Gideon, was still striking at him like a hammer pounding an anvil. With one powerful overhand swing, she drove him to his knees, whipping the blade around to take his head. His headless body fell lifeless to the floor and she dropped to her knees beside him, the sword still gripped tightly in her hand as Numair's black fire moved to cover those in the room, bringing them to Corus.
Wordlessly, the Clan Kings walked up to Jonathan and shook hands with him.
"I am the only among us that speak Tortallan." King Solberg of the Weasel Clan murmured. "We give thanks that you free our families and our people. There will be no more war. Peace between our people."
"Peace between our people." Jon agreed, shaking his hand once more. One by one, the King's opened a vein and signed the documents in their own blood, before stepping back.
"We take body. You take head. No resurrection." King Solberg murmured finally, dragging the body towards the rest of the King's. "One week, borders empty. Troops home."
Jon nodded and gestured to Numair who nodded and summoned his gift for the last time, sending them back. He slumped as his gift drained away and Daine hurried to his side, bracing him and helping him to sit on the floor. He shook his head at her and squeezed her hand tightly. "It's ok, sweetling, I'm just a bit drained." He murmured, taking a water bottle form her and downing its contents.
In the silence, the clank of a sword hitting the ground echoed and drew the attention of everyone who was left to the still kneeling knight.
Jon was still pouring over the documents with Duke Gareth, making sure that everything was correct. Thayet looked from him to the knight and shook her head, rolling her eyes.
"Alanna, come with me. He is injured." She murmured, hurrying forwards as the Knight slowly pulled off the helmet, letting it fall to the ground with a half gasp, half sigh. Thayet took two more steps until she realised who knelt in front of her, and she faltered. Alanna, however, gathered speed and she pulled out her sword, a low growl building in her throat.
"TRAITOR!" She shouted, grabbing Kell by her hair and pulling her forwards, putting the blade to her throat. Kell stayed where she was, her hazel eyes boring up into Alanna's deep purple eyes. Alanna faltered when she saw the deep bruising surrounding Kell's face, the dead look in her eyes.
"No traitor, My Lady." She whispered. "I did as I was asked by my King and Country. And I am prepared to meet the Black God, if it is his wish."
In as long as it took her to say it, George covered the distance between them and knocked the sword from his wife's hand.
"No, Alanna. This is Gideon." He held her by her wrist as she looked up at him, shocked, Kell's hair still gripped in her hand. He glance down at Kell as she blinked up at him and took his free hand with hers. "It's Gideon."
"We did it, George. We stopped the killing." Her eyes closed to half mast and she gave him a weary sigh. "And I am tired of the pain. Can I rest now?"
"No, Kell. Not just yet. Stay with us. Alanna, help me get her out of this armour." Thayet had watched silently, seeing the blood beginning to pool on the ground beneath her. Her hands fumbled with the unfamiliar form of buckles and it took her longer to strip Kell of her breastplate than normal. The heavy padded undergarments gave her more trouble and she snatched Alanna's belt knife, cutting it away.
As she tore off the fabric, she faltered, her face paling.
"Gods…" She whispered, seeing the hand shaped bruises all over her torso. "Kell, who did this to you…" She whispered, trailing a shaking finger across the worst of the bruises.
"Maggur…liked violence to be involved in everything he did." Kell murmured, her eyes opening again as she blinked lazily at them. Alanna let her gift flow into her, healing the wound. The free flow of blood had slowed to a seep and before their eyes the sword wound began to close.
"Jon, I want an explanation." Alanna muttered darkly, realising that Jon had come to stand behind her, Gary at his elbow.
"As do I." Gary growled, staring down at Kell.
"It was necessary." Jon murmured, George nodding in agreement. "Kell was really the only knight that would have cause to betray us. Her treatment over her training years, what happened when she returned from killing Blayce. I asked her, and she agreed. She fully knew the consequences."
"I knew I would be branded a traitor, Alanna. It was the way it had to be. Please don't be angry."
"She could have been killed!" Alanna grabbed Jon by the shoulder, gripping him tightly.
"But I wasn't!" Kell pushed George away and staggered to her feet, pushing the smaller knight away from the king. "This was my choice. I was given the chance to stop a war that was destroying two countries, Alanna. And I took it. I've seen too much death over the past few years to say no. And if Jon came to you and asked you to do the same, you would. As would you, Duke Gareth. Or Buri, or Raoul. But you wouldn't have been believed. I would and I was. We had a deal, the king and I. When I returned, my name would be cleared. And that is the end of it."
She gave her speech, gripping George by the shirt for balance and waggling her finger in Alanna's face. She stared at her for a few moments before she visibly relaxed, some of the tension draining away. She then realised she was standing in front of her king wearing nothing but a breast band and her leg armour. She blushed slightly but shook off her embarrassment.
"We had a deal, Good Lady Knight, and it will be honoured. I promise." Jon gripped her shoulder tightly and she screwed her eyes shut as Duke Baird stood by her and began to pour his own healing gift into her.
"Kell, I know that you want your name cleared immediately, but I would rather do it at the ball in a few days time. We have a lot to thank you for and I want everyone to know how thankful we are."
Kell sighed and took her fingers out of George's shirt. Alanna took her by the arm and led her to a chair against one of the walls, helping her sit. Baird knelt beside her, his green gift seeking out broken and damaged bones and flesh.
Jon looked around the room and dismissed everyone, telling them to spread the good news and to celebrate.
"I think that that is enough for now, Kelaldry." Baird gripped her knee comfortingly. "I am truly glad that you are not what you were made out to be. I didn't believe it for a moment."
"Thank you." She smiled at him, the deadness in her eyes fading slightly. "I am sorry for trying to run your son through."
Baird snorted, drawing everyone's attention back on them once more. "Kelaldry, I have seen you and Neal in swordplay. If you had truly been trying to kill him he would be in his grave."
Kell and Alanna both snorted in laughter, and a shiver ran through Kell as the coldness of the throne room finally got through to her.
Numair had staggered back to his feet and he swept off his black robe and placed it around her shoulders. "Go and rest, Kelaldry. You did good work today. Alanna, can I talk to you for a minute."
He drew her off as Kell settled the black cotton around her, covering her bare skin. She was exhausted and stumbled to her feet. "Majesty, if I might go and rest?"
Jon nodded and gave her a small bow. "Of course, Lady Knight."
"We will take her." Thayet said quietly. "There is a room by our quarters. It would be the most suitable for you right now."
Alanna nodded and stared at George for a few moments.
"Ok, what's going on?" Jon asked when Thayet and the others left the room.
George looked down at the ground. "I am in trouble, for one." He muttered. "Do you honestly think that Alanna will be my friend after I have lied to her for the past gods only knows how long?"
Numair nodded and looked to George. "Did he…do you know if he ever went further than just…beating her?"
George nodded. "He couldn't apparently. But even if he did, at least there would have been no child from that union."
Both men looked at him in askance. "Between ourselves she saw a midwife healer. I have one on my staff. Any woman who goes into a situation like that goes to see her. she makes sure that the woman will not conceive during her mission. It can be fixed very easily. I don't think any of us would like her to bear Maggur's child. Or anyone's that she was not willing to lie with."
Numair stared into the distance, shocked. "George, the more I learn about your business, the less I want to know. And the more I think about it, you are one of the strongest men I know. Alanna is lucky."
George gave him a sad smile and patted him on the arm. "It's a hard business I'm in, Stork man. And I'll be lucky if Lucky Alanna doesn't kill me. Kell going to the other side nearly killed her."
Jon frowned slightly. "I didn't realise you were all so close." He admitted. George shrugged.
"Not close, per say. Alanna had me have my people watch over her during her training. I got…attached to her. And I looked in on her quite a lot when she was in Scanra. The lass has got guts, Jon. Not only did she go on her own into Scanra to get her people back and kill Blayce, she faced down conservatives for eight years to prove herself. She dealt with Wyldon. She took on Nealan of Queenscove for Mithros' sake. He's one of her closest friends. I only had to deal with him for a couple of months every year and I wanted to kill him. She had him full time. And she managed to get him to do what she told him. Even Alanna couldn't get him to do that."
"I got to know her when she was the commander of Haven. She's a damned fine commander, Jon. Remember that when it comes to her next posting. If you will both excuse me, I am exhausted. I think I will retire to my rooms with my good wife and hope that my child will have the sense to keep far, far away from me till I wake."
Thayet ordered a bath for Kell as they walked slowly through the halls, Kell weaving from side to side in pain and exhaustion, enveloped in Numairs large robes with the hood pulled down low over her eyes.
"I'm sorry, Alanna." Kell murmured finally, breaking the silence.
"What for?" Alanna asked, surprised.
"For trying to run you through the last time I saw you. Although in saying that, you got a couple of good shots in yourself."
"I wanted to kill you." Alanna admitted quietly, slightly embarrassed. "Your so called defection nearly killed me. I had such great hopes for you. But you've outdone them all. They will be singing songs about you come tomorrow."
Kell shuddered and made a face, making Thayet chuckle as she let them into the room.
"Can you stand for another couple of minutes?" She asked stopping her. Kell nodded.
"If I can hold onto something." Thayet smiled at her again. "Hold onto Alanna and I'll take the rest of your armour off."
Kell nodded gratefully and was secretly shocked at the fact that her queen was kneeling in front of her.
"Any chance we can have that melted down?" She asked hopefully. "I hated it. I hated every moment of wearing it."
"You can help the smith put it on the fire." Thayet chuckled as a maid let herself in quietly in front of the bath and the troop of people carrying the steaming water in. Thayet and Alanna moved to shield her face from the maids. Once they were gone, Thayet nodded to the woman, who began to walk forwards.
"Kell?" the woman faltered as she saw the half naked woman covered from head to toe in bruises.
"Lalasa?" Kell went to stand and fell back with a thump.
"I sent for her. I hope you don't mind, but I knew you are good friends." Thayet admitted quietly.
Lalasa advanced on her former mistress and gave a watery smile, her hand resting on her swelling bump.
"You…you…how could you do this to me!" Lalasa insisted when she could finally talk, waggling a fist at her. "I thought you…you…gods I'm so glad to see you again."
Kell's lower lip wobbled for a moment before she went back to what had caught her eye in the first place.
"Pregnant?" Lalasa's head dipped slightly as she blushed.
"Married. His name is Soloman. He is a really nice man, Kell. You would like him. He is quiet. And kind."
"Lalasa, help me put her into the bath." Alanna interrupted as Thayet threw the last piece of steel into a corner. Between them, they lifted Kell and placed her into the steaming water.
"When did you get these?" Alanna asked, lightly touching the bruises as Lalasa began to softly rub her back with soap.
"Just before George arrived. Maggur was in a state. Something had gone wrong but he wouldn't tell me what. I think that his intelligence service had caught wind that something was coming but couldn't find out what. That transportation spell of Numair's caught them all in a hop. They couldn't keep track of the Whisper Man and that was driving them crazy. Unfortunately he would take that out on me. Always on me." She sighed and the deadness returned to her eyes.
Lalasa shared a concerned look with Thayet but kept rubbing.
"What would he do?" Thayet asked finally, grimacing as the words came out and thankful that Kell couldn't see her face.
"Fists…feet…whatever he could get his hands on." Kell murmured, revelling in the feel of Alanna's hands cleaning her hair.
Lalasa came around from behind her and tucked a lock of wet hair behind her ear. "It gets better. I promise." She looked down to her belly and gave a sad smile. Kell nodded.
"I know, Lalasa. It was you who got me through that. It wasn't so bad for me. I went into this with my eyes open. I knew, to a degree, what was going to happen. I was prepared for every eventuality."
"But your innocence!" Thayet protested finally. "You were prepared to lose that?"
Kell snorted slightly. "I dealt with that before I left. He understood. He was there when the King approached me, though his Majesty did not know it…to be honest, neither did I. And when Maggur would stand before me, I would close my eyes and think of him. Of his kindness and that he loved me. I only hope he waited. I will find out when he returns, I guess. But it is a period of my life I wish to put behind me. To forget."
Lalasa nodded in understanding and kissed her tenderly on the cheek. "Dom is lucky to have you."
Kell grinned and shook her head as Alanna's jaw dropped. "Domitan of Masbole? Neal's cousin? One of the most…!"
"Infuriating, big headed, suave, handsome, beautiful, kind and gentle men? Yes. He asked me to marry him. I told him to wait until we met again, and if he still wanted to marry me, knowing what I went through, I would give him my answer then." She gave a wide yawn. "Alanna, I know you want to check…out what he did to me, but can it wait till tomorrow. I'm just so tired…"
Alanna nodded, knowing how blood loss and exhaustion after a healing could affect someone. "I can do it while you sleep, lass." They helped her out of the bath and put her to bed.
Kell blinked in confusion when she woke up. The room was bright…that meant it had windows, not like her normal quarters…back in Hamerkeng. Oh… She tried to sit up and winced as old aches made themselves present.
"Ow." She muttered, sweeping a lock of errant hair behind her ear. Looking around, she realised that Alanna was fast asleep in a chair. By her feet, George was snoring loudly, using his wife's knee as a pillow.
On shaky legs, she made her way to the window and looked out. There was a small cherry tree and Kell blinked when she realised that there was a small version of a Yamani stone garden, carefully raked below her. And standing by it, taking in the tranquillity, was her childhood friend, Princess Shinkokami.
"Cricket." Kell breathed quietly, letting the drapes fall back so that she wouldn't be seen.
"Cricket? Where?" George muttered, looking around sleepily.
"Cricket is the Princesses childhood nickname." Kell supplied with a small smile. "And she is down there."
George looked at her for a few moments, still addled by sleep. "Ok, I'm going to pretend that made sense and work it out in a few minutes time." He assured her, making her smile even broader.
"No problem." She stumbled slightly but righted herself. "I'll be fine." She waved him away as he lurched stiffly to his feet. "Just need to work out a few kinks." She gave a small yawn and sat down on the nearest chair. "Healing always takes a lot out of me."
Alanna started awake at George's touch and looked around, confused before remembering the night before. "Kell, how are you feeling?" She asked, putting her hand to Kell's forehead.
"Just fine, thank you Lady Alanna. Thank you for staying with me last night."
Alanna smiled wryly, her eyes narrowing slightly.
"You mean last night, yesterday and the night before." At Kell's confused look she explained "You slept through yesterday and last night. You had a pretty full on healing, Lady Knight." She smoothed back Kell's hair as she would her daughters. "You were a very ill young lady." She whispered finally.
Kell coloured slightly. "Much damage?" She asked quietly, looking down at her feet.
"Enough to drain me completely." Alanna admitted, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Kell…George, would you give us a few minutes." It wasn't a request. George nodded and gave his wife a kiss on the cheek. "I'll see if I can find some breakfast for us." He said, exiting the room quietly.
"George, you look terrible!" Buri exclaimed when she came across the ex thief.
"Thanks, Buri. I know I can always count on you to make me feel better." He grumbled, glaring at her from above the tray piled high with food.
"You are welcome. What's wrong?"
George shook his head. "Nothing. Just had two rather sleepless nights is all."
Buri nodded and then looked confused. "Where is Alanna? She hasn't been around the last day or so. Is she ok?" Her eyes widened. "She isn't ill is she?"
George shook his head again. "No, she's fine. She was taking care of Ke- a sick friend. A very sick friend who is quite alright now, and no, I can't tell you who it is." He added hurriedly. "We've both been up since the friend arrived."
Buri's eyes narrowed and her chin lifted slightly. "It's that strange knight from Scanra, isn't it? The one who killed Maggur? He was injured?"
George nodded, realising that the whole palace was probably buzzing with the news.
"Yes. The Knight was injured quite badly. But is doing fine now. And I had better go, Alanna's fair grumpy in the mornings without being starving." Buri nodded sagely, knowing well the red-head's temper.
"You had better get going if you want that Knight to still be alive when you get back." She replied, gripping the hilt of her sword and stalking off towards the training yards.
"When's Raoul back?" he called out after her. She spun on her heel, her face suddenly flushed.
"Tonight. My Lord comes back tonight." She chuckled, sending him off with a wave. After two and a half years, the return of her husband to the palace couldn't come quick enough, no matter how many times they had run into each other on the border during the war.
Kell stood anxiously in an empty room just off the presentation chamber, tapping her foot. She was covered from head to foot in a black cloak, hidden from view. Her hands were wrapped around the hilt of the blood stained sword that had killed Maggur.
"My Lady, they are ready for you." The herald tapped on the door and led her to the huge wooden doors that opened out into the cavernous Main Hall.
The herald opened the sealed envelope that the King had handed him. He nodded to his assistants who threw the two doors wide open.
"Announcing Gideon." It was a short announcement, but it caught everyone's attention and the vast ballroom fell silent as a cloaked and hooded figure slowly made it's way down the steps and across the floor, holding a huge and blood stained sword by it's hilt, point down. Silence descended as the figure passed them.
She went down on one knee when she reached the throne and held the hilt to the king.
"Majesty, I bring you the sword I used to cut off the head of Maggur, self proclaimed King of Scanra. Please accept it as a token of my obedience and fealty to you, your line, the throne and the Kingdom of Tortall."
Jon descended the steps and put his hand on the hilt.
"Gideon, I accept this sword on behalf of the people of Tortall. You have our unending thanks for ridding the world of his presence." He stepped back and held the sword up for all to see.
"With this sword, the war was ended." He called out. The room erupted in cheers, and he permitted himself a small smile. "And it is thanks to the person in front of us that it has happened. Let us show our thanks." He handed the sword over to a servant and bowed deeply. The rest of the room followed suit, curtsying and bowing. It was all Kell could do to hold back a snort of sarcastic laughter.
"My Lady, if you would care to remove your cloak and allow the good people of Tortall to know their saviour's face once more."
Kell carefully reached up and untied her cloak, allowing it to fall to the ground as she stood.
"Majesty, you are too kind with your praises." She protested quietly, loud enough for only him to hear.
"Nonsense, Kell." He whispered back, taking her hand and leading her up the stairs before making her turn and face the court.
"Lady Knight Kelaldry of Mindelan." He called out, staring his people in the eyes.
A loud gasp rang out and there was a commotion among the crowd as several people forced their way through. Kell saw the crown of white hair and realised her parents were among the crowd of people staring at her, dumbfounded.
They finally pushed out into the bare area in front of the thrones and stared at her, shocked. Kell bowed deeply to them, Yamani style, silently begging their forgiveness for her lies.
"We wish all to know of this Knight's sacrifice for her country. My spymaster and I approached Lady Kelaldry two years ago, when we realised that the war had the potential to drag on for years due to Maggur's madness. We asked her to set aside her honour, to lie to her family and friends. To betray us to the Scanrans. This she did without hesitation, because we asked it of her. Kelaldry comes from a family where honour and loyalty to the crown is held proud over everything else. She was raised well by her family and did us proud in the Yamani Isles. She did us proud during her training when obstacles blocked everything she did. Be it by certain people's inability to see that women can be knights, or by her inability to let some things lie when she saw them to be wrong."
He gave her a small smile and a wink, remembering how she had confronted him after the trial of Squire Joren of Stonemountain.
"By our will, she approached the Scanrans and gave them information, arranged for one of her closest friends to find her doing so and risked being killed by him so that she could enter King Maggur's court as a traitor to Tortall. And she suffered. I saw her on her return, and you can mark my words, she suffered greatly under his hands. She was witness to Maggur's insanity. She worked tirelessly to try to stop the war in every way she could, and when a peaceful method could not reached she was told by us to put into place the final plan. King Maggur is dead by her hands, and I wish all to know how difficult that was. And that we are proud of you, Kelaldry of Mindelan."
The room stayed silent in shock, and Kell squared her shoulders against the stares she knew were directed against her back.
"Normally, when a knight does a service for the crown, they are presented with a purse. We feel that this is not enough of a reward for what this Lady and her family have been put through. Lady Kelaldry, we give to you the lands and titles belonging to the fief of Griffinspeak. Arise, Baroness Kelaldry of Griffinspeak."
He smiled broadly at her as she gaped at him, and he finally had to bend and take her hand, pulling her to her feet. He gave her a quick wink and turned her to look at the crowd behind her.
Her mother stood with her hands pressed to her mouth in shock that her daughter had returned, but her father, her father's eyes sparkled brightly with unshed tears and he had a strange look on his face as he clapped loudly along with the rest of the crowd. But then her eyes lit on Neal, Cleon and Merric, all of whom had followed her parents lead in bullying their way to the front. All three looked hurt to the core, but clapped along with those around them. Kell instantly knew she would have some serious explaining to do later on when her friends cornered her on their own.
"Thanks for not killing me." Neal muttered wryly, having pulled her into an alcove where her friends sat.
"I am sorry. To all of you I am sorry…but I had to."
Neal quietened her with a raised hand, shaking his head. "It's ok, Kell. We may not have liked it, but we understand. And there is nothing to forgive, either, so don't ask for that either. But you might want to hide from Shinkokami and Yuki. They are looking for blood."
Kell raised an eyebrow and sat down tiredly beside Merric. She gave a loud snort. "Meathead, of anyone here in the palace, they are the only ones I would trust to understand why I did it. Where is Tobe?"
"He's with Dom. He took him under his wing after you…beat me senseless and tried to run me through."
"Still at the front?" Kell asked, concerned. Neal shook his head.
"No, they are on their way home. Should be back with Raoul."
Kell nodded, and Neal realised that the stone faced mask she had used well for the past twelve years he had known her was now gone.
Suddenly, and without warning, he pounced on her and gripped her tightly in a hard embrace, happy when she buried her face in his tuinic, hiding her tears.
"Gods, we've missed you, Kell. Do you know that? When I saw you with that Scanran, I felt like my world had ended." He pulled back slightly and was surprised to see the tears in her eyes. Reaching up, he realised that he was crying too. "Don't you ever, ever do that to me again. Do you hear me?" he shook her slightly and Merric and Cleon echoed his sentiments, putting their hands on her shoulders.
"Or at least, give us some warning." Merric added wryly. "They put me in charge of New Haven. Thought I was going to get lynched after the first week. They really didn't like having a new commander. Fanche is a tyrant too."
Kell gave a small smile and gripped his neck tightly with a cupped hand. "I'm sure you did just fine." She retorted with a snort.
Behind his back Neal shook his head and made a 'hanging by a noose' gesture, his tongue sticking out of his mouth and his eyes crossing.
"No, Really! That bastard Valestone tried to do another mutiny. Fanche ended up throwing him out."
"Who is there now?" Kell asked quietly.
"No one. Because they are so far from the border now, it was decided to designate them a town. Fanche, and a man called Idren are now the leaders. They have a council of twelve from different sets of refugee groups and they decide things democratically. Of course, they report to their lord, but other than that, they are on their own."
"I wish I had been there." She whispered into the silence. "To see their reactions…they have a home again."
"As do you, Baroness Kelaldry of Griffinspeak. Welcome home." Neal slung his arm around her shoulder again and hugged her. "Do you even know where Griffinspeak is?"
Kell smiled sheepishly and shook her head. "Not a clue, Neal. Not a clue. Where is it?"
Neal smiled quirkily and shrugged. "No idea. I was hoping you would know, since you are the Baroness of it."
Kell sat patiently on the sofa, watching her mother pace back and forth.
"And you just agreed." Ilane had whipped around and stared at her.
Kell nodded, playing with the fringe on a pillow. "My king asked it of me. A chance to win the war…to end the war at least. Of course I did. I was sick of the killing, mama. I lost too many friends, too many people I admire. He asked me just after a raid on the camp. We lost some people I had become very close to. I was given a chance to help stop it. So I took it."
Ilane stopped her pacing and sat down beside her daughter. "I could have killed you. Do you know that?"
Kell gave a sheepish laugh and nodded. "Mama, you visited me in my dreams, threatening that. I'd wake up with your voice ringing in my ears, threatening to throttle me or beat me to death with a fan."
Ilane gave a small chuckle and put her hand around her shoulder, hugging her close. "And as for your brothers…"
"I can imagine." Kell murmured dryly, using her mother's shoulder as a cushion. "I have a feeling that Anders threatened to do more than dangle me over the tower balcony."
Ilane fought back a smile and nodded. "I believe that might have been mentioned."
Piers watched them from the doorway of the ante-chamber and shook his head seriously. He was angry. At his daughter…at the king…at the war…without another word, he turned on his heel and walked away, leaving them alone.
Ilane smoothed down her daughter's hair and kissed her forehead. "Give him time. He took your defection very hard. I will go speak with him. Go back to the ball…Baroness Kelaldry." She rose gracefully and left her daughter to her own thoughts.
Raoul dismounted tiredly, handing the reigns of his horse over to the nearest hostler waiting to take his steed from him. It had been a long, long journey back from the front. With a smile, he lifted Tobe down from his place on Peachblossom's back and held him loosely around the middle, carrying him inside. The boy was exhausted from the ride. He would make a good officer, when he got a bit older. That was, of course, if Daine didn't corrupt him first. She had already been harping on at him to bring her student back.
He deposited the boy in his quarters, pulling a blanket over him and leaving him to sleep and stretched, looking at a set of clothes that had been set out for him. The palace seemed to be buzzing with something new. Something big, and changing into the fine garments, he blinked when a note fell out of the tunic.
His eyes widened slightly and he pulled the tunic hurriedly over his head, running out of the door. When he got to the ball room, his quick eyes sought out Jon and he hurried to his side.
"Is it true? The war?" he asked eagerly. Jon nodded, grinning at his friend's enthusiasm.
"All over, Raoul. Gideon came through. And there's something you should know. Lord Elrond…excuse us, please."
Kell tapped her fingers against the window pane, looking out at the falling snow. "MINDELAN!" A bellow from the doorway made her start and she whirled around, reaching for a non-existent sword.
Raoul stood at the door, his arms folded tightly. His face was full of fury and she cringed slightly, taking an unconscious step back.
"It's actually Griffinspeak now. Hi Lord Raoul." She replied with a bright smile.
"Don't you Hi Raoul me!" He belted out in his best parade ground voice.
"Would you rather I ignore you?" She asked pointedly.
"You, you, you,…" He shook his head and took a step closer.
"I, I, I, what?" Kell decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak and continued, "I betrayed you? I lied? I made a fool out of you? You are disappointed in me? You could throttle me? How could I not have told you? I've heard it all already, Raoul. Alanna almost slit my throat. Would you like a go?" She held out a dagger, her nose twitching slightly. "Hell, my father can't even bear to be in the same room as me right now. And I will tell you what I told my mama. The war is over. It was worth it."
"Dom is going to kill you. He was distraught when he heard-"
"He knew." Kell murmured softly, stepping closer. "He was in the room when the King and George asked me."
That stumped Raoul, and he gaped at her, unable to find the words.
"And you aren't allowed to kill him either. We were following orders. So there." She stuck out her tongue at him and mimicked his earlier position by folding her arms. Then she began tapping her foot.
She shifted uncomfortably and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "It's been a long couple of months, Raoul. Forgive me if my retorts don't pack the punch they used to. I've been too busy trying not to get beaten to death by a maniac." She muttered, not meeting his eye. "Is…is Dom back too?" she finished hopefully.
"He's about a day behind." Raoul jigged his entire body a little and Kell let out a little squawk as his happiness won it's war over his anger and he dragged her into a bone crushing hug. "Don't ever, ever do that to me again. Do you hear me? I nearly died…I couldn't believe it until I saw you in that get-up on the battle field. That was a right horrible suit of armour, too. It gave me the willies."
Kell gave a soft laugh and hugged him back. "It was supposed to. Not the most comfortable armour I've worn. I'm getting it melted down tomorrow. Everyone's invited to watch. Alanna's organising the refreshments."
Piers stared out over the battlements, letting the wind whip his hair and cloak around him. He heard someone approach, but didn't turn around. He knew who it was.
Kell leant against the stone beside him, looking down at the lights of the city below them.
"I'm not sorry, papa. I won't say it because it would be untrue."
He clenched his jaw angrily, but kept his hands folded on top of the granite block.
"I know you are angry."
Piers snorted angrily, still refusing to look at her. "I am not angry at you." He grated out finally.
"You could have fooled me." His head whipped around to look at her. She was still staring out at the lights, her fingertips rubbing over the polished stone.
"I am not angry at you. I am angry for you." He clarified. "You are my child."
"Who is also an adult, papa." She reminded him gently. "I made my choices. I could have said no. I was given every chance. But I chose. I chose to help end a war that was slowly killing two kingdoms."
"You agreed to betray-!"
"I AGREED TO PRETEND TO BETRAY!" Kell roared out finally, in a voice that had been trained on the battlefields and that had become accustomed to being obeyed. Piers took a step back, feeling the force behind her words, and the spark in her eyes that boded no good. "There is a difference! I was asked to infiltrate the Scanrans and to place myself as close to that bastard as I could. And I did. And I killed him. I murdered that evil bastard with happiness in my heart. I suffered at his hands and I damned well made sure that no one else did again. And if I had the choice, I would do it all over again."
Piers got a sudden glimpse of what his little girl had become. His mind had always known she was a warrior…but the fire in her eyes spoke to him of tempered Yamani steel. Something that was both beautiful and deadly…and harder than diamond.
"I know, Kell. I know that. But…" He took a deep breath and put his hand on her shoulder. "You are my daughter. And adult or not, I will always be fearful for you. From the first minute I held you in my hands I promised to help keep you safe, to teach you how to do things the right and honourable way. And then I found out you wanted to be a knight. I was not happy, but I knew it would make you happy. So I allowed you to enter your training. And I was happy then, because you were happy. And then to find that you…you had supposedly betrayed your king, your country and your family…then I grew angry at you. Today…my anger at you died, but for what was done…I will not lose that anger. I will be speaking to the king about this. Mark my words."
Kell managed a smile and shrugged. "That is your right as both my father, and as Baron of Mindelan. But as Baroness of Griffinspeak, I will back the King to the hilt."
Piers let out a long breath and began to chuckle. "My daughter. A Baroness in her own right. I never thought I'd see the day."
"Papa…?" she let him put his arm around her shoulders and turned to look out at the city once more.
"Where exactly is Griffinspeak?"
Dom watched as the woman he had pledged his love to, attacked a dummy out in the training yards. Of course, the dummy was his cousin Neal, but that didn't detract from the ferocity of her attack.
When she had disarmed him, she whirled around at the sound of a slow clap coming from the boundary fence and squinted against the sunlight.
"Nicely done, Mindelan." A familiar voice called out, and she took a hesitant step forwards, recognising it.
Dom stayed where he was, letting her drift closer, sheathing her sword.
"Kell." Dom smiled hesitantly at her, blinking nervously. It was only when she was a few steps away that she saw something in his hand catch the light. His nose twitched, and he held out a ring to her, slowly getting down on one knee.
"My lady…would you please do me the honour of being my wife?" he trembled out. "I waited…just like I promised. And I know…I don't know what you've gone through…but if it is as horrible as I think it is…" He shook his head, getting off track. "What I mean to say is that I love you, Kell…and I want you to be my wife, if you will let me be your husband. To walk beside you…"
"You are sure?" Kell's voice trembled as much as his had, and Neal was practically beside himself with anticipation.
"Absolutely positive. Ask anyone…I haven't even looked at another woman since…uh…Can I start again?"
Kell shook her head, her face expressionless. "No."
Suddenly Dom looked as if someone had punched him in the stomach. "No?"
"No, you can't start again." She replied frankly. "Domitan, I love you so much. And I am glad you waited. I am so glad. I will marry you, if you are sure."
"Oh, I'm sure." He scrambled to his feet and hurriedly pushed the small diamond ring onto her finger. "I am so sure. I want you to be Kelaldry of Masbolle."
Kell shook her head. "No. I won't be Kelaldry of Masbole. I think you would be Domitan of Griffinspeak. But I'm not sure. I think I'll have to ask someone about that."
Twenty minutes later, Dom was getting things straight in his head while Neal was busy searching for his wife to tell her the good news.