The guard nodded. “Don’t think the other landens around here believed any good would come of it, so they’re not leaving.”
Ranon called in the letters of passage. “You’ll need to get one of these to Weaver and make sure the other two parties have one, as well as a guard riding as escort.”
“Done,” Rogir said.
“I’ll need you to come with us to represent your men.”
Some nerves now, but Rogir nodded.
“We’ve got a Coach at the station. We’ll take the women and children and as much of the household goods as we can pack into the thing.”
“Appreciate it. We’ve all used Craft to vanish things and store them, but that takes power, and we’re all holding more than is comfortable.”
And compromising their ability to fight by draining the reserves in the Jewels that way.
“The men at the Coaching station said they have a Coach and driver we can use if we’re relocating folks,” Haele said. “I did tell them some of those people would be landens, and he said as a courtesy to the Queen, he’d charge the same price for each passenger.”
Another message, Ranon thought. Landens weren’t forbidden from buying passage on the Coaches that could ride the Winds, but they were usually charged double—sometimes triple—what any of the Blood would pay, so most couldn’t afford the luxury of speed.
A feeling crawled just under his skin, scratching at him. He used to feel like this when he was trying to finish an assignment and get out before a Queen’s guards arrived.
“Let’s do this and get out of here,” he growled.
Maybe he wasn’t the only one who had that feeling because they all settled into their tasks with grim efficiency, and by the quiet hours of deep night, they were all out of Grayhaven and traveling, by one means or another, to Eyota.
Two days after that disastrous dinner party, Theran went into the Steward’s office, sat behind the desk, and pressed his hands against his forehead. The damn headache had teeth, and it wasn’t going to let him have the hour of peace he needed before he had to face the rest of a miserable day.
Then he noticed the neat stack of papers placed in the center of the desk and swore as he read the first merchant’s bill. The swearing, and the headache, increased in intensity as he looked through the rest of the stack and realized what they were.
“How in the name of Hell could she spend this much?” he muttered. Yes, he’d offered to pay for the expenses Kermilla would have because she was staying here, but obviously he hadn’t been explicit enough about how much she could spend.
Feeling sick, he added up the bills three times, hoping he’d find some mistake that would reduce the total.
No mistake. He vanished all the bills and pushed away from the desk. He had to talk to the merchantsnow. And he’d have to pay the price of Kermilla’s misunderstanding.
And that would make this day a whole lot worse.
Kermilla lifted her chin to indicate the tavern two doors down from where she had arranged to meet Garth and Brok. She hadn’t heard from her boys since they’d been taken away by those nasty guards the other day, so it was a good thing they’d set up this meeting before they separated. “Trae, go inside and see if they’re still in there.”
Trae hesitated. “I’m the only escort you brought today. I can’t leave you unattended, Lady.”
“You can if I say you can.” She tapped her foot to indicate she was annoyed. He used to smile and give in when she did that. Now he looked uneasy. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll walk down with you and stand outside. It isn’t suitable for me to go into a tavern.”
“You went into the tavern back home,” Trae said.
Kermilla stiffened. “I never did. That was an aristo establishment for fine wines and conversation.”
“As the Lady pleases,” Trae replied.
As good as calling her a liar without saying anything that could justify discipline.
They walked to the tavern, and Trae stepped inside the doorway. Moments later he stepped out with a young Warlord. “This is a friend of Garth’s.”
“Please tell Lords Garth and Brok that I’m waiting.” Kermilla put a little chill in her voice.
“Can’t,” the Warlord replied. “They’re gone.”
She frowned. “Gone? Gone where?”
The Warlord shifted his weight from one foot to the other and looked at Trae instead of her. “They weren’t supposed to go into the landen part of town. Queen’s command.”
Kermilla rolled her eyes. “Oh,la. I countermanded that order.”
“Well, you should have told that to the Master of the Guard,” the Warlord said hotly. “Talon came for them last night, and nowthey’re gone. ”
She forgot how to breathe. That fierce, maimed old Warlord Prince had come for her boys? “He exiled them?”
“Don’t know. The courtesy fingers weren’t on their father’s doorstep this morning, so maybe they were just sent away.”
“Courtesy fingers?” Trae asked.
The Warlord shook his head and backed away. “I’ve said enough. You want to know anything more, you ask Prince Grayhaven.”
“I will,” Kermilla huffed as the Warlord hurried away. “I certainly will.”
“Lady,” Trae said quietly. “I think it would be better if Jhorma and I asked about the fingers. I don’t think you’re going to like the answer.”
“Let’s go back to the mansion,” Kermilla said. “That’s not the only answer I want from Prince Grayhaven.”
The biggest one being where he had gone so early this morning. And why Correne had gone with him.
When he got back from his discussions with all the merchants, Theran found another package on his desk: a small, plain wooden box.
He knew what that box meant. Anyone who lived in Dena Nehele knew what it meant.
Using a psychic thread, he summoned Julien, his new butler. He picked up the folded and wax-sealed paper that had been on top of the box, but he didn’t break the seal or open the paper.
“Prince Grayhaven?” Julien took one step into the room and came no farther until he looked around and confirmed there were no females present. Then he approached the desk.
Julien was a Warlord who had a handsome face and a cold temper. Like Gray, his body had been tortured—and scarred. When he applied for the butler’s position, he’d told Theran straight out that he would gut any woman who tried to ride him, but as long as Theran kept theLadies away from him, he’d be pleased to have the job.