Chapter Title: Midwife

Summary: She is more valuable than she knows, more powerful than he had guessed, and sharper than they give her credit for. He will not underestimate her again.

Spoilers: Cast in Courtlight—it would be most helpful if that were read prior to this chapter.

Notes: To hopefully avoid too much confusion: Kaylin is 'her', Nightshade will refer to himself as 'himself', but the story is told from 3rd person so 'he' without reference to another character is also Nightshade. But any 'him' you see probably refers to a different character altogether. Sorry.

Relevant pages in Cast in Courtlight: 108-111, 288-297, 435-438


If he had not been foolish enough to expect she would be able to avoid the High Court forever, he had also not been prepared for her to be taken so quickly. And by Lord Anteela, of all people, who had argued most vehemently for Kaylin's survival not seven years ago.

When the girl was focused enough, he could feel her, and the shape of her name in his mind took on more defined edges. She had been focused then; of course, he would not have called the waking of the Lord of the West March a task that required anything less than full commitment. The why was in his mind taking on a form that was almost tangible; it was the how that concerned him.

Where the Barrani healers had failed, she would attempt to triumph. To the eyes of an outsider, it was foolishness. And it was upon this perception that Anteela depended; it was a calculated risk.

Kaylin Neya. She was the sum of the two words, contained and yet not bound by them. And she had woken the son of the castelord by offering him her sense of duty, and respect. She offered him the hawk; he accepted and he was made whole.

And if this was beneficial for him it was troublesome for her, and consequently a difficulty for himself as well. It was good, upon reflection, that the Lord of the West March had not harmed her. Because then Nightshade knew he would have had to kill him. War, indeed.

Now that the Court had gotten a taste of her power, they would demand her back. It would be done as they desired. And if she emerged relatively unscathed, he would continue to watch her. If not…

His smile was all teeth and no humor. There was a reason he was the only surviving outcaste Barrani Lord.

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Only Kaylin, he was sure, could go into the High Halls a Hawk of the lowest rank (a technicality, he knew, since promoting her would draw unwanted attention, but with meaning nonetheless) and emerge a Lord of the High Court.

And it was, again, the way she went about it that disturbed him. She had found the Source—something little more than a rumor—and offered the alter her blood. Blood of the living, the breathing, and the nameless. Sometimes he curses her instincts, sometimes they save her life. He wonders if they aren't perhaps a direct result of the markings on her skin.

The magic has so entangled itself with her that he cannot tell where it ends, and the human Kaylin begins. To walk so defiantly into the Halls where countless Barrani have lost themselves, and offer blood to the heart of the Court.

And then she had named herself.

He would have called it impossible. He would not have shown her the path, as Andellen had, but rather allowed her to find her own. Choice. The symbol inscribed had been intended to guide her way; he feared she had taken it far too literally. Mortals were not meant to choose Barrani names.

Which begged the question: What was Kaylin, if not mortal?

A question for another time. At the moment, she was still hunting behind the walls of the High Court. What she was hunting, he was not certain. But he hoped it would not find her first. Unfortunately, whereas Kaylin and hope seemed to be constant companions, they were not all compatible.

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Andellen called her worthy. High praise, from this man who had argued against her in the beginning. But if Kaylin was at times without tact, her character was such that it was difficult to take offense, and even more so to hold a grudge. Andellen would stand by her, now.

This showed promise. It was an attribute of the strong to forge alliances in all places. And she was strong. In mind as well as, inasmuch as could be expected of a mortal at her age, in body. She was showing herself to be not quite the pliable tool he would have expected, before their first meeting.

He was not convinced he preferred her this way, but he was in all things a realist. What she was could not be undone. It could be added to, but attempting to unmake her would be futile and costly.

He was not sure it would not cost him his life.

But in the end, he was satisfied. She was impressive. She is more valuable than she knows, more powerful than he had guessed, and sharper than they give her credit for. He will not underestimate her again. And she will be his.

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Oooh. Ominous. But I think he truly believes it. So, I'm curious: who are we more fond of, Nightshade, or Severn? Leave your pick in a review, and if you'd like, give a rationale.

Thank you to all the reviewers who left such nice comments :) It gives me a warm glowy feeling inside. Next up, Cast in Secret. Feel free to suggest scenes (I have a particular one in mind...;)