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Ellenessia's Curse Book 2: The Seer's Tower by Fran Jacobs (Fantasy)

Ellenessia's Curse Book 2: The Seer's Tower by Fran Jacobs (Fantasy)
 
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rince Candale has discovered the truth about himself at last. He is the Shadow Seer, foretold prophet of dark visions and fallen kingdoms. The witch Mayrilla tried to teach him control, but now she lies dead, struck down by Candale's own hand, and the ever-watching shadow has begun to talk.

It wants him to go the kingdom of Idryan, to the Seer's Tower, and tells him that what he will learn there will change everything. It promises rewards, if he obeys, but punishment if he does not.

But is it the voice of the demon, Ellenessia, that talks to him, a voice to be obeyed, or just the beginnings of Candale's prophecised descent into madness?

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ISBN/EAN13: 2066400 / 9781922066404
Page Count: 512
Trim Size: 5" x 8"

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Ellenessia's Curse Book 2: The Seer's Tower by Fran Jacobs (Fantasy)
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Sample Chapter

Afterwards

The room was awash with blood. It was everywhere. It covered the walls and dripped down from the ceiling and had marked every item of furniture with thick, scarlet patches. There wasn't a corner of the room that hadn't been touched. Everything had been painted with the same bloody brush. And I was no exception. My clothes were stuck to my body with thick red globs, they ran down my face, like crimson tears, and my hands were slick with it. I could barely hold my sword, the hilt was so slippery, but somehow I managed to cling to it, holding it in my bloody grasp with tightly curled fingers.

And in the middle of the room, in the middle of that sea of red, almost drowning in it, lay Mayrila, my mother. She was sprawled on her bed. Her lips were white, her skin was turning blue and her violet eyes were glazed and lifeless. She was dead and it was my fault. I had done this. I didn't know how, I couldn't remember, but I knew it all the same. I had done this. I had killed her. I had killed my mother. I was a murderer.

Reality barged in around me as I came awake, coughing and gasping and struggling to breathe as I sat up in my bed. My body was drenched with sweat. It stuck my nightshirt and sheet to me, my hair against my face, but I was shivering, too. Trembling. My body was shaking, enough to make the mattress creak, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. It was all beyond my control.

And then there was light - a flickering, warm orange glow beneath the door that connected my room to my bodyguard's. A moment later it opened and Trellany stood there, clutching a lantern, clad only in her nightshirt, her pale legs bare and her red hair dishevelled. But even though I knew she had been in bed, the shadows around her green eyes betrayed that she hadn't been sleeping. "Are you all right?" she asked. "You were screaming..."

"I-I'm fine," I lied, hoping the shadows around me and the dark red curtains that framed the bed could hide my trembling and the beads of sweat I could feel dripping down my forehead. "Sorry if I woke you."

"That doesn't matter," she said. "Candale, if it was a bad dream, if it was about Mayrila-"

"No," I said. "No, it was just about some spiders, crawling all over me." I shivered, genuine, and gave her a smile, forced. "You know how much I hate the buggers."

"Yes..." she said, doubtfully.

"So, don't worry about it. I'm fine. In fact, I might just get up, do some work, or read a book..."

"Why don't you take a break, Candale?" she said. "You've been working so hard recently. Maybe we could play a game of chess, or some cards?"

"Are you sure? I don't want to drag you out of your bed like this."

"It's fine," she said. "I wasn't really sleeping anyway. I'll be back in a few minutes, all right?"

I nodded and she turned and left the room. As soon as the door had clicked shut behind her, I collapsed. I curled up in my bed, arms wrapped around my head and choked on the sobs that threatened to suffocate me.

It had been five days since the 'accident'. Five, long days since I'd woken in Mayrila's room, following a fit, to find her lying dead on the bed with no idea how it had happened. I could remember that I'd gone to Mayrila's rooms, in the middle of the night, convinced that a child I'd been seeing in my dreams had actually been her secret daughter, Illiyana. My half-sister. I believed that Illiyana had been reaching me from a distance, with psychic gifts, to beg me for help, leaving bruises on my skin whenever she touched me. And I'd wanted to know why Mayrila had never told me about her. Mayrila had denied having a daughter and claimed ignorance of what I was talking about and we'd argued. During that argument she had revealed that, not only had she agreed to help me with my awakening seer gifts so that she could use me for her own ends, but that she believed I was actually the demon Ellenessia's prophet.

But that was the last thing that I could remember; clearly at least. Mixed up in my memories were images of a misty shadow coming toward me, which I had tried to fend off, voices whispering, and then my fit. But it was all hazy, unclear, until the moment I'd woken to find Mayrila dead and the sword, that I'd taken for my protection, covered with her blood. I couldn't remember having raised it against her, but I knew that I must have as there had been no one else there that night. There could be no other explanation for what had happened and there was no way that I could deny it. I was to blame.

Since then, for five long days and nights, I'd lived with the guilt of what I'd done, but nothing else. No punishment had followed, as much as I deserved it, no prison cell, no trial, no waiting execution, because the whole thing had been covered up by my grandfather King Sorron. And, other than being locked in my bedroom at night, nothing seemed to have changed at all.

Except for the dreams. Every night I relived what I'd done and woke screaming. Some nights Trellany heard me, came to me, and I had to lie to her about the cause. Other times she didn't, and I would lie still in the dark, sobbing so hard that I thought I would break. But I didn't. My sobs always faded and, somehow, I would pull myself together and face another day as a prince of Carnia. At least until I was alone at night and the dreams returned.

Now was no different and I struggled to control myself, to stop the tears, by forcing myself to take deep breaths, letting the air out slowly, my chest rattling. Trellany would be back soon and I couldn't let her see me crying. I couldn't let her know that anything was wrong. I couldn't let anyone know that. So I took another breath and, still trembling, turned to strike up my own lantern, turning the dark shadows of the room into the familiar items of furniture and decorations, and got up from my bed.

Slowly I pulled the red, satin coverings back over the bed, making it as tidy as I possibly could, before peeling off my sweat-sodden nightshirt and reaching for some clean clothes. Once, I had taken great pride in my appearance, had been the 'peacock prince', always fashionable. Although I could never look as presentable as I would have liked, with my unruly hair and ability to rip and tear my clothes through my own clumsiness. But now it just didn't seem that important anymore and I pulled on the first things that came to hand, before tying back my hair. Then I sat down on my bed, straightened my back, and waited for Trellany to return.

I didn't have to wait long. Trellany returned within a handful of minutes, impeccably dressed in her clinging black uniform, breeches and tunic, with my symbol, a three-headed dragon, shimmering in silver thread on the breast. Her red hair was braided and hung in a tail down her back and her face was pink from the cold wash water. "Chess then?" she said.

"All right," I replied.

It was dark in the sitting room. Dawn was a good few hours away, so Trellany set to work quickly, bringing the lanterns to life. I bowed my head, so that she couldn't see my face, my red eyes and swollen nose, something that always happened to me when I cried, and slid quickly into my bathing room. There I washed in the cold water left over from the day before and shaved quickly, more clumsily than usual. I couldn't stand to look at myself in the mirror, to see the guilt in my face, or my features, my dark curly hair and violet eyes, which were so much like Mayrila's, any longer than I had to. When I returned to the sitting room the lanterns were lit and the room was warm and comforting in the orange glow. Trellany was setting up the chessboard, a gift from my sister, Aylara, and I left her to it while I went to fetch myself a large brandy. She looked concerned when I turned to join her, drink in hand, but she didn't say anything.

I'd taught Trellany the game in the autumn, when my father had sought to dissuade me, outright prevent me really, from leaving home to visit the mage school of White Oaks. He'd kept me imprisoned in my suite for three weeks and Trellany had been given the job as my prison guard. Chess was one of the few ways that we'd had to pass the time. Trellany had proved to be a quick study and was rather good at the game, probably because she thought tactically ahead, something she would have learnt as part of her weapons training. Tonight we played in silence, not because either of us wanted to concentrate particularly since we both knew this game was simply a distraction, but because we didn't talk much these days, least of all about what had happened.

Only a few people knew what had happened 'that night': Silver, my mage-guard who had found me; Trellany, who he'd turned to; my grandfather, King Sorron, and those he had ordered to conceal it. And there was an unspoken agreement, between all of us that we didn't talk about it, or even acknowledge that it had happened. But, even though we never talked about it, I knew that the others thought about it. I could see it in their eyes, just as it was never far from my own thoughts. I tried to distract myself, throwing myself into work, into the duties of Court, matters of state. But every now and then Mayrila's violet eyes would flash before mine, my breath would catch in my throat, my stomach would twist into knots and I would feel sick. It was something that I knew was never going to go away. But I didn't let on to anyone about it, about my nightmares, about how I saw Mayrila's face every time I looked at my own reflection. Because if I did then I knew that they would try to comfort me, to console me, to remind me that it had just been an accident and that everything would be all right, in time. Not only did I not want, or deserve, their sympathy, but I was afraid that, if I did talk about how I felt, then I wouldn't be able to control myself again afterwards. And then everyone would be able to see that something was wrong and I couldn't have that.

We played three games of chess. I won two, Trellany one. Afterwards I put the board away and turned my attention to my work, while Trellany reached for a book to read. But I don't think she was really concentrating, I didn't hear many pages turn. Dawn came a few hours later and a few hours after that the rest of my guards, grey-eyed Silver, and the sandy haired, statue-like brothers, Milan and Breskarn, came to accompany me down to the hall for breakfast.

I still found it strange, as I made my way along the long corridors of Carnia Castle, just how normal everything was. For me, everything had changed, not just in the last week, with the horror of what I'd done, but during the last year. Yet there was nothing visible to reflect that. Everything looked the same and my friends and family behaved the same, but then, there was no reason why they wouldn't. They didn't know what had happened, they didn't know any of my secrets. Sometimes that made me feel detached from it all, apart from everything that was going on around me. At other times it was rather comforting. I could lose myself in the whirl of court life, in its gossip and fashions and political games, and not have to think about anything else. But today was not one of those days. I found it difficult to shake off the shadow of my dream and it left me out of sorts.

"Candale." It was Silnia, my father's wife and the woman I'd always believed was my mother, and there was no mistaking the concern in her voice. "Candale, you're not eating. Is everything all right?"

I looked past my grandfather and father to where Silnia sat. She was looking my way, her delicate features narrowed with worry. I gave her a smile, lopsided, but it was the best that I could manage. "I'm fine, Mother," I assured her. "Really. I...I had a nightmare, that's all. And I'm finding it difficult to forget it."

Relief flooded through her and she smiled warmly. "Ah. Son, dreams aren't anything to be scared of, you know that. They can't hurt you."

"What was it about?" my father, Gerian, asked.

"Just..." I swallowed. "Spiders," I said finally. "It was just about some spiders."

"Spiders?" And my father laughed.

Silnia gave him a withering look. "Well, it was just a dream. No matter how unpleasant or frightening, you know they can't hurt you."

"Yes, I know."

"Maybe you should go and get some fresh air and sunshine, before your meeting this morning? You could use some colour and it will do you good, chase away the shadows."

"Yes," I said, nodding. "Yes, that's a good idea."

"But don't be late," my father said. And with that he turned to Silnia and started talking to her about a new item of furniture he wanted to have made for their suite. I sighed and turned my own attention back to my now cold porridge.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Sorron asked me, in a low voice so that my father couldn't hear.

I gave him another forced smile. "Yes, Grandfather," I said. "I'm all right."

He studied me carefully, with thoughtful blue eyes, as if to make sure that I was telling the truth, then he nodded. "All right," he said, "if you're sure..."

"I am," I said. "Really."

He nodded again and turned back to his breakfast. "I'm going to need you to come to my quarters tonight, after supper," he said, in that same low voice.

"Why?" I asked.

"Just come, Dale." There was a firmness to his voice that made me nervous and I swallowed before nodding.

"Yes," I said. "Yes, sir. Of course."

Our conversation over, he continued with his breakfast, leaving me sitting there, still and silent, staring at my porridge and wondering what, in Drakan's name, he needed to see me for.

I spent the day in a nervous sort of haze, too concerned with what my grandfather could want with me to be aware of my meeting, lessons, or anything else for that matter. Over and over my anxious mind ran through various scenarios, ranging from the simple, that it was just some family matter that he wanted to discuss, to the terrifying, that someone had found out what I'd done. Trellany tried to distract me, saying that we do as my mother had suggested that morning and go for a walk. But I refused each time, preferring to stay in my room, when I wasn't in a meeting or lesson, and keep myself busy with work, although it was difficult to concentrate on anything.

Then, finally, the day was over, supper was finished, and, after changing my gravy stained shirt and dismissing Milan and Breskarn, I made my way, flanked by Trellany and Silver, to my grandfather's quarters.

A page, dressed in the blue uniform that all my grandfather's servants wore, showed me into Sorron's private sitting room, where he bowed and made himself scarce. The room was warm and comfortable, simply furnished, the only real item of decoration being the portrait of my grandmother over the fireplace. She had died before I was born, but I'd always thought that she looked a gentle sort of woman, pretty and delicate, with the same doll like features that my sister, Aylara, had. That we'd been brought here, into Sorron's private room, said a lot. I was only ever brought here when I was in some sort of trouble, although it had always seemed rather inappropriate, to me, to be lectured while such a warm looking woman smiled down at me from the wall. But I knew that this was the only room where Sorron felt he could be sure of complete and total privacy and he'd always been one to keep personal, family matters between us. Unlike my father who didn't seem to care who heard, or saw, what.

My grandfather was sitting in his favourite chair, a blanket wrapped around his frail body, while a fire crackled in the hearth, despite the warmth of the night. This betrayed his age far more than his grey hair or the lines on his face, because he had never really seemed old before. And I knew that it was everything that had happened the last few months that had aged him like this.

Sitting across from my grandfather there was a strange man. Lean, with a pointed face, and long, slim hands, which were resting neatly in his lap. He was immaculately dressed in a pristine white shirt and grey doublet and matching breeches. His dark hair was short and it gleamed in the flickering firelight and, when he rose to bow to me, I could smell the oil that he had used on it and on his neatly trimmed beard.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Prince Candale," he said, in a smooth voice. "My name is Nyvin."

"Good evening," I said slowly, too unsure of the situation, of who this man was, to be able to think of anything else to say.

"Why don't you sit down, son?" Sorron said. "And then we can talk." I nodded and sat down in the nearest chair, fingers twisted anxiously together in my lap. Sorron turned to face me. "Candale, Nyvin is here to help you."

"Help me?" I repeated. "I didn't know that you were looking for someone new, let alone that you'd found someone."

"No, I know. I didn't want you to worry about it and I thought that you might object to my choice, to what I believe that we have to do. But you must have guessed that I might do this? You needed help before, Candale. You need it even more now."

"I-I hadn't thought about it to be honest," I said. "I've just been trying to get on as best I can."

"Ah." Sorron nodded. "Well, you don't need to do that, any more. As I said, Nyvin is here to help you, but, because of that, I've had to tell him everything."

"Everything?" I whispered, stunned.

"Everything."

I sat still for a moment, trying to process that. The only people who knew for sure what I was, that I was the Shadow Seer, a dark prophet whose visions would foretell the destruction of the kingdoms, were those that I'd chosen to tell. I didn't like the idea that this man, who I didn't even know, knew this about me. And I didn't know how I felt about the idea that he must also know what I'd done. What must he think of me? I couldn't bring myself to look him in the eye, when I turned to him, instead I focused on a spot beyond his shoulder.

"Thank you for coming," I said politely. "May I ask, are you a mage? O-or a prophet?"

"Neither," Nyvin replied. "I'm a doctor."

"A...a doctor?" I turned back to my grandfather. "I don't understand. When we discussed this before, getting me help, it was to find someone to help with my visions. That's why...that's why you sent for Mayrila-" Saying her name brought a lump to my throat and I had to swallow it down before I could continue, "You wanted a seer, you wanted the best for me. I don't understand how Master Nyvin can help me if he's not a seer or a mage."

"Controlling your visions and concealing them from the Court is going to have to take second place to everything else at the moment, Candale," Sorron told me. "It's important that you deal with them, of course it is. But, right now, we have to make sure that you are all right."

"I am all right," I insisted.

"No," Sorron said quietly. "You're not. And you haven't been for a while. You've been through so much and it can't have been easy, to have been poisoned, to have assassins sent against you, to learn the truth of your birth, to learn what you are, to see what you have seen...It's a lot for anyone to deal with, least of all a young man with all the pressure of Court and his position already on his shoulders. You need help to deal with all of that-"

"But I'm fine," I began. "Grandfather, really-"

"You killed someone, Candale," he said, suddenly harsh. I flinched, sinking back into my chair. It was the first time anyone had said out loud what I'd done and the words stung as though he'd hit me. "You killed someone and you don't know how or why! How can you say that you're fine after doing something like that?"

"I-I'm sorry," I whispered, staring at my booted feet. I couldn't bring myself to look at him. "I-I didn't mean it like that."

"No," he said, softer now. "No. I know you didn't, Dale. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped. But you have to try and understand that just because you feel all right, or want to believe that you are, it doesn't mean that such is the case. What happened is proof of that."

"What do you mean?"

"From what King Sorron has been telling me," Nyvin cut in gently, "I believe that what happened that night was the result of some sort of breakdown. That your mind snapped and you attacked this Mayrila in a mad-fit, which is why you can't remember anything of it. And that breakdown was the result of the stress that you'd been under because of everything that you'd been going through."

"You...you think I'm mad?" I whispered. I almost couldn't say the words. It was what I'd feared to hear since the moment I had seen it written in a book in Carnia Castle's library, that the Shadow Seer, me, was fated to go mad. But I was only eighteen, it couldn't be happening to me already, could it?

"No one is saying that," Sorron said, reaching out to touch my arm to comfort me. "We're just saying that, perhaps, what has been happening to you has affected you in ways that you're not aware of and that led you to do what you did. A temporary loss of control, a temporary madness. And Nyvin is here to help you deal with that and to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again."

"You think...you think I-I might do it again?" Now I felt sick. My stomach was churning.

"It is a possibility," Nyvin said. "If you don't get any help. But I'm here now so you don't need to worry." He crossed one leg over the other. "I have already organised some of your treatment, which will start to help with some of the problems King Sorron informs me you've been having, insomnia, mood swings and the hallucinations. A-"

"Hallucinations?" I interrupted. "What hallucinations?"

"Of this mist that you've claimed to see, the one that you believe was there the night Mayrila died, the one that you believe is a demon that you call Ellenessia." He smiled at me, a gentle smile that was nothing but patronising. "You do know, Prince Candale, that demons don't exist, don't you?"

I wasn't surprised to hear that he thought that. A few months ago I would probably have said the same, but I knew what I'd seen. A black mist, with glowing blue eyes, had appeared in the stable, after I'd returned from a day's hunting, panicking the horses. It had come toward me, touched me, a touch so cold that it had burned, and then it had taken on a woman's form. Only to vanish when a stable-girl had come to find out what all the noise was about. I'd seen the mist again, in Mayrila's room, the night she'd died, and, again, it had come toward me. It was one of the few things that I was sure of about that night. Just as I was sure of what I'd been told, by Illiyana, that Ellenessia, the demon, had touched me, just as that mist had touched me. And, by Mayrila, who had told me that Ellenessia had cursed our line when an ancestor, Medyna, had condemned the demon to limbo and that, as the Shadow Seer, I was the fulfilment of that curse.

I started to explain all this, only Nyvin cut me off, mid sentence. "I'm sure you think you saw this mist, Prince Candale," he said, "But that doesn't mean it was actually there, or that it was a demon. And Mayrila, well, from what I can make out, was not someone to be trusted."

"No," I whispered, shaking my head. "No. No. Ellenessia was there. She was. She is real...I-I'd seen her before, I'm sure-"

"Son," Sorron said gently, "isn't it possible that Mayrila was lying to you? That she said what she did to make you think that you needed her? You already told me that she had admitted to planning to use you and your gifts to further her own position. Couldn't her story just have been part of that? Couldn't she have simply been using your fears, your hallucinations of this misty creature, to help her get what she wanted?"

"But Illiyana said that she was real, that she had touched me."

"Candale, as of yet we have no proof that Illiyana exists."

"You...you don't think she's real either, Grandfather?" I whispered.

"I don't...I don't know, son," Sorron said slowly, as though speaking carefully would somehow take the sting from his words. "I don't doubt that it's possible that someone, even a child, could reach out to someone else psychically. But you told me yourself, and Silver has confirmed it, that for such a thing to be possible you must either have a blood-bond with this child or have met them so that a bond could be formed. But you insist that you have never met her and told me that Mayrila denied having a child. And that, when added to you seeing a demon, makes me think that, perhaps, you are imagining this girl as well."

"But, as you said yourself, Mayrila can't always be trusted," I said, desperately. "She could have been lying about having a daughter. And Illiyana, she left bruises on my wrists when she touched me that first time and I still have a trace of the bruises on the back of my hand from when she touched me that night, too. And...and I heard her singing the song about Ellenessia and I didn't know what that was, if it was anything at all, until Teveriel found out for me."

"That's not proof of anything either, Candale," my grandfather said. "You may well have come across the name and just not remembered it. And the bruises, well, perhaps your father was right, perhaps you did do them to yourself." I stared at him, my mouth suddenly dry, and shook my head, struggling to find the words so I could say how much this hurt me. I had always thought that my grandfather believed in me. He had always been the one to listen to me, to support me, to try and help me. And to hear that he now thought that this wasn't real, that I'd imagined it, was a betrayal. Sorron must have seen something in my face because he squeezed my arm gently. "I'm not saying any of this to hurt you, Candale. Really I'm not. And there is still a chance that she does exist. As you said, Mayrila lied. But I have to consider the alternative that, perhaps, she was telling the truth, and there is no child at her estate for the men I sent to find, no daughter. I want to believe you about her, but it's hard when I know that demons aren't real, yet you're claiming to have seen one. It makes me question everything else that you claim to have seen as well."

"What about my visions?" I whispered. "Do you still believe in them?"

"Yes," Sorron said. "Of course." And I almost wept with relief to hear him say that. He leaned back in his chair, drawing the blanket closer around him. "I saw the Rose Prophecies for myself in White Oaks. I read Calran's book. I believe that you are this Shadow Seer. It's only the rest that I can't be sure of and, until my men return, until we have some proof, I'm afraid you will have to be treated as though what you saw were just hallucinations. I'm sorry, but I can't give you the benefit of the doubt any more, not after what happened."

Limply I nodded. I didn't have it in me to try and argue any more, I felt numb, and tired. I just wanted to get this finished with now and be alone somewhere. "How...how am I to be...treated for this?"

"I will provide some medicine for you to take to help with the hallucinations," Nyvin said. "And a sleeping draught, which should help with your insomnia. I-"

"We tried that," I said. "The healer here gave me several different draughts to help me sleep, but it didn't do anything. Silver's been helping me." And I glanced at the mage with a nervous grin. "He's a mage, he's been using his magic."

Nyvin gave me a polite, small smile. "I'm sure he's very good at his job, Prince Candale. Just as I am at mine. You're going to have to trust that I know what I'm talking about and not question me at every stage."

I blinked. It hadn't been a question, just a statement, something I'd thought he would find helpful to know. But clearly Nyvin was used to making decisions without anyone questioning, objecting or challenging him in anyway. That could be a problem. I'd never been very good at just quietly doing what I was told. "I'm sorry," I said. Nyvin was still looking at me, waiting patiently. "Sir," I added stiffly.

He nodded, pleased. "As I was saying, the draught will help you sleep, but we also need to do something about your mood-swings. I will prepare some herbs that you will make into a tea to drink each morning and, from now on, I want you to have a cold bath each day as well. Very cold, no hot water at all. In fact, if it's possible, ice water-"

"Ice water?" I interrupted. "How is this meant to help me?"

Nyvin looked at my grandfather, who sighed. "Candale," he said. "Nyvin is chief doctor at Haven, the insane asylum. He knows what he's talking about. You have to trust him."

Insane asylum? Sorron had sent for a doctor from an insane asylum. He really must have doubts about me, about my sanity, to have done that. I had to swallow down another lump before I could speak again. "I-I don't doubt that," I said. "I just don't understand this. If what happened, if what I did, was because of stress, because I couldn't cope with everything that was happening to me, then how is an ice bath meant to help me?"

Sorron studied me for a moment then he turned to Nyvin. "Why don't you retire?" he suggested. "It's been a long day. We can discuss things more fully in the morning."

"Yes, Sire," Nyvin replied, getting to his feet. "Of course. And I will see you in a few days, Prince Candale. We have much to discuss."

"Yes," I said quietly. "All right."

When he had gone, Sorron turned to me. "Candale, I've always encouraged you to ask questions, to think for yourself, to wonder about everything around you, but there is a time and place for that. Now is not it. Nyvin is in charge. You have to do what he tells you, even if it seems strange, or is unpleasant, even painful, because it is for your own good. And if you can't trust him, and what he says, then trust me. Trust that I would never ask you to place your faith in someone if I wasn't completely sure that they knew what they were talking about."

"I-I know that-"

"Then please, just do as he says. If there's anything that you're unsure of, ask me about it. But do not question him. That goes for you too, Trellany. I know how ferociously you defend the boy, it's why we appointed you as his guard, after all. But in this situation you must trust Nyvin, even if you don't like, or agree, with what he says."

"Yes, Sire," Trellany replied, a little stiffly. I could see that she didn't like having to let anyone else have any authority over me, any more than I did.

"Good." Sorron turned back to me. "Now there are a couple of things that you need to know about this situation. The first is that Nyvin is not going to be here in secret, but you are to keep your relationship with him that way. As far as anyone else knows he is here for research, to use the library. And you must behave as though that is his reason for being here by not being overly familiar with him, or telling anyone else the truth, including Teveriel. I know how close you and the bard are and what a good friend he has been to you, but this is something that you must keep to yourself, do you understand?"

I nodded. "I-I won't tell Teveriel anything," I promised. It was something I'd rather as few people as possible knew anyway.

"Good. Well, the second thing that you should know is that you won't be told where Nyvin is staying. I'm sure you can find out, if you really want to, but I rather that you leave him to his privacy. He will come to you, in the evenings, but it won't be every night, so you will have some time to yourself." I nodded. "That's it. Is there anything that you want to ask?"

"No," I said quietly. "No. Not really."

Sorron nodded. "Well, it's late and I need to get some rest. I'll see you in the morning, Dale."

"Yes, sir." I got to my feet. "Sleep well."

"You too." But before I could turn to leave, he caught my wrist. His fingers were frail but there was still strength in his grip. I turned, looking down at him. "It will be all right," he said softly, so that no one else but me could hear him. "I promise you that, Candale. That it will be all right. I'm going to do everything that I can to help you, to get you well again, believe me."

"I do," I said. "I do. Goodnight, Grandfather."

"Goodnight, lad." And I left him, sitting there, staring into the fire.

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