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Authors: Elizabeth A. Lynn

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BOOK: Dragon's Treasure
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Honoris Imorin was Commander of the Royal Guard of Kameni, and Idaris Imorin's brother. He was, next to the king himself, the most powerful man in Kameni. Treion's skin went a little cold.

Imorin looked at Edric. "Who are you? What are
you
doing in Kameni?"

Edric said promptly, "My name's Edric Edricson. I came with him."

"Just the two of you? No one else?"

"Yes, sir," Edric said.

Imorin frowned. Then he said, "You stay here." That was to Edric. "
You
—come with me." Bran opened the door. Imorin walked out.

Treion followed him along the corridor to a door. Imorin pushed it open a little.

"Look there," he said. "Do you know that man?"

On a bench in the middle of a bare stone courtyard sat Niello Savarini. There were chains on his wrists and ankles. His face was puffed and marked with bruises.

Treion said, "I know him. He rode with me."

"What's his name?"

"While he was with us, he called himself Savarini."

"How long was he with you?"

"Five months."

Imorin said, "Do you know what he is?"

Treion flushed. A little stiffly, he said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Turning his head, Niello stared at the two men in the doorway. A slow smile moved across his mouth. The emptiness in his eyes made Treion's skin crawl.

Imorin said, "I don't believe you." He gestured to the rider captain. "Put him in a cell. Find out everything you can from the other one."

"Aye, sir," Bran said.

He fastened a hand on Treion's upper arm. "Come on." He walked him down the hall to a cell. It was tiny, no bigger than a closet. Treion tensed. He hated small spaces. He considered resisting, for pride's sake. But his hands were useless; there was little that he could do to the rider captain, except try to bite him.

Wearily, he stepped inside.

 

* * *

 

Word of the despoilment of Castella came late to Dragon's country. The gypsies, who went everywhere, were first to speak of it. According to their accounts, a troop of Chuyo pirates had crossed the border and rampaged up the Great South Road, ravaging and looting. This news caused a stir among the ignorant. But those whose knowledge of the world reached past the back side of their neighbors' fences pointed out that Chuyo was part of Ryoka, and that even if it were not, no Chuyo pirate would travel hundreds of miles inland to assault a village in the heart of Nakase.

A trader from Poros had more accurate information. A troop of outlaws had entered Castella, killed the governor and all the guards, and made off with the governor's treasure.

"The Lemininkai is fuming like a geyser. There are soldiers everywhere on the road, asking questions. They held me at Yarrow for four hours, and searched every wagon. Look at this!" He pointed to the slash marks in his fleeces.

 

* * *

 

In the Windle river valley, the noise of quarreling birds filled the forest: the forest jays were squabbling over their nests. The smaller females sat smugly in the pines as the bright-feathered males puffed up their pinions and flew at one another. Morga hunted squirrels and barked playfully at the aggressive jays. Wild with snowmelt, the river plunged and sang between its banks. The pool below the cottage, deeper now than in the autumn, filled with fish: yellow perch, black bass, blue-bellied trout.

Sitting beneath the willows, pole in hand, one warm, sun-dappled afternoon, Maia heard Morga's warning bark. She turned.

Karadur Atani stood at the top of the bank. The dragon armband shone high on his bare right arm.

She scrambled to her feet. "My lord," she said, "welcome."

He came down the bank. Morga pranced through the underbrush to the dragon-lord's feet. Panting happily, she thrust her head at him. He fondled the dog's soft ears. Folding beside her, he glanced into the basket, which held a water flask, one rather small perch, and several dozen snails, culled from her garden, for bait.

"Fishing for your supper?" he inquired.

"Yes," she said. She sat again. Her line quivered, as some inquisitive fish nosed at the bait. "Do you fish, my lord?"

He said, "I am acquainted with the concept." Morga sprawled under the willow and pretended to sleep. After a while he said, "May I hold it?" She passed him the pole. It seemed to shrink in his hand. He looked across the river.

Then he said, "Gods, this is difficult. I am sorry to disturb your peace. Have you heard the news from Nakase?"

She had heard no news for days. "No."

"A courier arrived from Ujo this morning. Six days ago, a troop of outlaws entered Castella. They burned the guardhouse with the guards inside. They killed the governor and his servants and ransacked the town for whatever treasure they could find. Their leader was a slender blond man, quick with a sword."

"Treion," she said.

"It would seem so." He paused, then said, "Most of those responsible have been taken. But not your brother, not yet. Kalni Leminin promises gold to anyone whose information leads to his capture. I expect they will find him soon."

Morga, sensing her distress, rose and padded to her. Maia stroked her head. Stupid Treion. Savage Treion. She said, "He won't come here."

"No," Karadur Atani said. His molten gaze was turned away from her. A courtesy... "I doubt he will. Though my men will watch the roads."

And if they found him, they would deliver him to Kalni Leminin, who would kill him.

"It was generous of you to come and tell me," she said. "Will you, of your kindness, tell me when he is found?"

"I will," he said. On the far bank, the marsh marigolds glittered like coins in the sun. "Will you tell
me
something?"

"If I can."

"Do you love him?"

"Yes," she said. "I do."

"Does he love you?"

The question startled her. Did Treion love her? She was not sure.

"I think so," she said slowly. "He taught me to fish."

"What else?"

"He gave me a kitten once. When it died, he helped me bury it beneath the persimmon tree. When we were young he did his best to protect me."

"From what?"

Loyalty and courage,
Miri had said,
are everything to the dragon-kindred.
"From my father. His was not an even temper."

"Did he beat you?"

"No. He beat Treion, though." She remembered the morning Treion had interposed himself between an angry Marion diSorvino and a terrified servant, a serving-girl who had broken a glass. Her father, furious at the boy's defiance, had ordered a groom to thrash him.

Hours later, Maia, basket on her arm, crept into Treion's darkened bedchamber. Her brother lay rigid on his cot.

I brought you food. There's bread, and cold soup.... Treion, you must eat.

I will kill him someday
, he had whispered to her.
I promise you, Maia, I will.

Reckless, vengeful Treion. He had raged over Master Eccio's death, not because he had cared for the man, but because of what the death of the little physician had meant to her, and to her mother, whose friend he had been.

Karadur said, "Why did your mother leave your father?"

It was as if he had walked into her mind.

"She left because he killed her friend, and because he did not love her." She reached for the fishing pole. A cockawee called amid the marigolds.

"Why did she take you with her?"

"She loved me. My father didn't. He didn't want me, he wanted sons. I was a girl, and not a very satisfactory one: I was not pretty, or charming, or sweet. I preferred the company of an aging doctor to that of his friends."

The pole jerked in her slack fingers. She grabbed for it. The line pulled taut, dragging her into the water. She gasped as the cold slid up her thighs. The hooked fish thrashed, then leaped from the pool. It twisted in midair like an eel, and fell with a great splash. Her rod went horizontal. She hauled the tip of the rod upright. The fish leaped again. It was blue, with a sunset-red stripe along a swollen belly.

Her palms burned against the wood. If she let go of the pole, she would lose fish and pole both. She dug her bare feet into the greasy mud. Morga leaped and barked excitedly. Karadur, slithering down the bank, held out a hand for the pole.

"Give it to me!"

She passed it to him.

"Keep the tip up and walk backwards slowly." She splashed to the rocks and grabbed her net. The fish breached a third time. It was clearly tiring. Feeling with her toes for the bottom, she waded farther into the pool. The current nudged her legs and sucked at her balance. The trout bucked and spasmed, and then floated. She scooped it into the net with a shout. As she dragged it through the water it spasmed hard against the net. She yelped. The cold had numbed her hands. Forcing her frigid fingers shut, she half pushed, half pulled the net onto the rocks. A huge hand closed around her arm.

"The fish!"

"I have it." He steadied her with one arm, holding her against him. She felt his warmth through her shirt. She craned her head past him, looking for the net. Fish fast in its coils, it lay high against the bank. She grew conscious suddenly of her dishevelment. Her hair was matted and windblown, her tunic and borrowed breeches wet, stinking of the river, and streaked with slime and fish blood.

Her hands ached with chill. Grimacing, she stretched them into the sunlight. He drew her against him. "You are shivering," he said. "Stay still." An easeful, silken warmth enveloped her. Held as she was, she could feel his heartbeat; it had quickened.

So had hers.

"My lord," she said, "please let me go."

Immediately he opened his hands.

 

 

 

 

PART TWO

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

Shem Wolfson lay on his back, gazing into an azure sky.

Heat from the kitchen chimney rose through the brick. Beside him, his cherished companion, the two-year-old hunting hound Turtle, snored lightly, one eye open. Dogs could sleep like that, with their eyes open. Humans could not. Shem had tried.

He rolled over until his head was pillowed on the dog's furry flank. Turtle grunted softly, and his tail thumped. The smells from the kitchen made his stomach fizz with hunger. He rose and hauled himself on tiptoe to look over the parapet. It was laundry day. Girls with bright kerchiefs on their sleek heads carried laden baskets to and fro. Sheets, towels, and blankets flapped on lines.

"Dog. You dog." Dropping, he nudged the sleeping dog with his foot. Opening both eyes, Turtle sneezed, and leaped up, ready to play.

Shem trotted down the outer stairway to the courtyard.

It smelled powerfully of soap. Turtle sniffed curiously at a dripping sheet.

A reaching hand waved from behind a basket. Shem crouched.

"Where've you been?" It was Devin. "I was looking for you everywhere."

"On the wall. I was hiding from Kiala. She wants to make me a shirt." Kiala had been his nurse when first he came to the Keep. Even though he was much older now, and slept at night beside Devin's mother's fire, with Devin, she still behaved as though she was responsible for him.

"Ah." Devin squinted. "Can you see Mira? She was behind the well, but now I can't find her."

They were playing Hunt. Shem was not permitted to play; his friends had banned him from the game ever since they realized that he did not need to see them to know where they were hiding. It was one of the ways he was different from them. There were others. They had mothers and fathers, and he did not. They were dead. It had something to do with the war. He could see in the dark, too.

It's because you're changeling
, Mira had said loftily, as if she knew all about it.
Like Dragon.
The thought that he was like Dragon took the sting out of not being allowed to play.

He closed his eyes and found Mira behind the tallest of the baskets.

"You want me to tell? That's cheating."

Devin grinned. "I know. Tell me anyway." Shem pointed. Devin raced toward Mira's hiding place. There was a squeal from the other side of the courtyard. Mira leaped up, with Devin in pursuit. They weaved and dodged amid the baskets. Mira scampered through the blowing maze toward the whipping post. Devin lunged for her.

She slapped the post with both hands. "Lair!"

"Got you first!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

Bryony Maw, the laundry mistress, lumbered toward them.

"Out," she said, massive arms ominously extended. "Go on, all of you, get out of here."

"Race you to the kitchen," said Devin, dodging. They galloped across the courtyard toward the castle's kitchen. The doors stood wide. Turkeys, their featherless skins brown and cracked and running with juice, turned on the spits. Boris, face shiny with sweat, stood in the center of the steamy room, shouting at the undercooks. They ran frantically about with knives and pots and platters.

BOOK: Dragon's Treasure
4.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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