A/N: Last chapter, Lucretia explained to Myra why she trusts Golzar. In this chapter, the conversation continues.
Myra was a lucky woman,
everyone in the palace staff said so. She had the ear of Queen Lucretia, had
been by her side nearly all her life.
Now she sat before her
Grace, who looked chillingly striking in purple, and a black-and-gold mantle
thrown about her shoulders to shield her from the cooler spring breezes. A pair
of icy silver earrings dropped elegantly from either side of her head, framing
her otherwise round and youthful face.
Myra watched as her Grace
finally pulled the pen from her other pocket and began to scribble something in
spoke, Myra searched her eyes, trying to comprehend just what she saw in this
“She is a
powerful ally. Not right now, perhaps. But eventually.” Lucretia’s gaze was
distant, but not in the sense of physical space. With the morning light making
everything hazy, she seemed to be looking inward at something, perhaps a
memory, that Myra had no access to. Myra found herself leaning forward
unconsciously, trying to get closer to whatever it was that Lucretia saw.
“I . . . It
would be beneficial. Maybe even decisive, for me. To have her on my side .”
Myra sat back
up straight, shaking herself from that momentary illusion. This was strategy,
after all, she assured herself. It had to be. Lucretia’s face gave no sign of
sentiment. Her lips were flat, her eyes cast downward and thoughtful, as they
often were. But Myra had a sneaking suspicion creeping up on her. Outside,
through the window, a breeze fluttered through the leaves of the trees.
line is,” Lucretia continued, feigning a casual tone. “Golzar is a capable
Commander. She has a position of power in the Heroes’ Guild, and many men even
outside of her Company would follow her. Have you ever heard the stories about
the Vanguard Racer, Myra?”
She had. There
were a plethora of them. Mostly passed around as entertainment in taverns,
perhaps of dubious origin, but Myra was a native Woodlandian, and new well
enough that tales tended to hold substance here.
“They said . .
. They said she once defeated a troop of Korvus’ soldiers by leading them into
a landslide.” Myra said. Then a thought occurred to her, and she blushed. “And
that another time, she distracted the guards of a fort by sending a recon unit
to put laxatives in their meals and . . . “
Myra looked up
in surprise when Lucretia let out a snide snigger. “Oh yes. I remember that. I
was in the next town over.”
Lucretia set down her pen, blew dry the ink on her notebook and then placed
both back into her pockets. “Now let’s get going,” she said, her expression
once again steely and business-like.
Grace.” Myra stood up and pushed her chair back inside the table. Lucretia did
the same with hers, before Myra could walk over and do it for her.
As they walked
out of the new throne room, with the crisp breeze before them, Myra wondered
what exactly this Dame Golzar was like, to have made such an impression on her
A light shower
had descended on the Halls of the Grey Hound Company. It was a pattering, and
the sky was only the palest of greys. Gerhard squinted upwards, looking at the
shape of the clouds, still illuminated in patches by a reluctantly receding
morning sun. In his hand, he was holding the mail for the day, just barely
saved from the water.
With a sigh, he
turned around, pushing the door open with his shoulder as his other hand was
occupied gripping his walking stick.
Alexis said. They were leaning against the wall, sharpening a knife. On the
opposite side of the hallway, Bryn stood. They nodded at him. “Old Shrew.”
forehead scrunched at the nickname, Bryn’s face broke into a smirk.
for him to follow them into the common room, and so he did.
expanse of stone floor was warmed by a sturdy firepit in the centre of the
hall. At night, they would all sleep here, huddled up against each other with
thick furs. Now the firepit was burning mostly for light and a bit of warmth.
Some of them had taken their furs out to sit on, but for the most part, the
Miscreants were awake and relaxing after the morning drill they had taken
before the rain started.
Gerhard felt a
pull in his heart and a stinging in his eyes. He rapidly blinked it away. It
was just an old memory, sparked by the familiar scene.
He had the
sudden image of the hut he had grown up in, and the three cows they had kept
inside. They had slept with two children to a cow, and the last cow always reserved
for Mary, one of their sisters, and their parents. He remembered the axes and
hatchets hanging from the wall, the way a night breeze smelt of leaves from the
“You said . . .
you had the guest list, right?” Bryn was scrutinising him. They knew something
back to reality. “Yes, that’s right.”
sitting cross-legged near the fire, watching them. Gerhard kicked aside some of
the rushes – they were flammable, for goodness sake – clearing enough room to
safely put down his bundle of mail. Golzar pulled a nearby chair, but Gerhard
insisted on sitting on the floor like the rest of them.
Golzar and Bryn
exchanged a glance as Gerhard lowered himself to the floor. He scowled back. He
knew they only wanted him not to bruise himself, but he had not done that once
since leaving the infirmary. And, what more: he was the one meant to be
worrying about them, wasn’t he?
dinner,” he started, opening the list and flipping it around so the two of them
could read it. “We’ll need to host mealtime prayers with it. With the mask
mounted on the wall . . . “ he looked at Golzar sheepishly.
shrugged. “Someone remind me not to put it on, and we’re all good.”
“I could remind
you!” Tanya said. She had turned around from where she had been watching Robert
sort out some axels, surprising the three of them.
the adults are talking.” Golzar intoned. Bryn nodded after her. Well, Gerhard
thought. She had surprised him, at least.
Tanya turned away
with a huff, continuing her previous occupation of pointing at each of the
axels and trying to guess whose cart they were attached to. Gerhard just caught
the last snippet of commentary from her before he refocused on the list:
“. . . that one
looks like Old Shrew’s, it’s so old and scuffed, he probably just keeps it for
decoration now . . .”
Gerhard thought, was going to be the death of him someday. With a fond smile
reluctantly creeping up on his face, he shuffled through the papers. “We’ll
definitely be going with plates, not truncheons. Most of our guests will be
from the south.”
drew together for a moment, as they struggled to process the logic. They looked
at the list of names as though it was something utterly foreign. “Why?”
“We have to
invite all of the Guild’s sponsors. Most of the Guild’s sponsors come from
Witchfield and Samton Fields. There are a few in Tome as well, but they’ll
follow the southern tradition while they’re here.” Gerhard said wearily. Nobles
were nobles no matter where they came from, he thought, and for the next month
or so, he would need to be thinking about them and talking to them much more
than he ever had during the war. He wasn’t looking forward to it.
the list closer to her to inspect it. “You ever noticed that nobles always have
two-part names? Red-vine, Ton-guard, Sky-root . . . Feels like they’re
As Golzar was
looking at the list however, she stopped, eyes fixated on something in the pile
of mail. She glanced at Gerhard. “Hey . . . is this?”
“Is this what?”
The smile dropped off of Gerhard’s face as he hovered, worried over the stack.
He suppressed a gasp when he saw the purple seal. “I – I can’t believe I missed
Golzar took the
Queen’s letter out of the pile, eyes wide. Gerhard held his breath, Bryn sat up
on their knees, leaning forward, as she carefully cracked the seal and opened
it. A moment passed. Golzar skimmed the contents of the letter.
Then she raised
her fist in the air in triumph. “We’re in!”
to their left, Tanya’s head whipped around – “. . . in what?”
Tanya.” Gerhard said quickly.
silent. They leaned over Golzar’s shoulder to read the letter.
next spoke, she had lowered her voice. “I will be meeting with the Queen in the
House of Periwinkles. The middle of this week, she says.”
Gerhard reached over to take the guest list, where Golzar had dropped it. They
had better not lose the thing, after he had spent so long putting it together.
Before he could pull away, Golzar’s hand was on his, stopping him from taking
“Hang on, I
wasn’t finished with that,” she said, as she closed up the Queen’s letter. She
put it aside, turning back to Gerhard. He realised it was in the pile of papers
Golzar had been working on prior to Gerhard entering the room. “So you were
saying . . . plates and not truncheons.”
rain went on pouring. The three of them shifted closer to each other so they
could hear over the sound. “Right,” Gerhard said. He was strangely warm,
despite the increasing intensity of the rainfall. “We’ll need an appetizer,
four-to-five main dishes, dessert . . . “
“We should just
feed ‘em all hardtack,” Bryn grumbled, prompting a laugh from Golzar.
It had been a
few days since Golzar had last entered her private quarters in the Halls. Most
nights, she had gone back to sleeping in the common room, huddled with the
others. It was warmer that way, and it was how they were all used to doing it.
open the door, wincing at the cloud of dust that had already accumulated. Her
quarters was facing the one part of the mountain that was both sandy and windy.
Covering her nose and mouth with one hand, she suppressed a sneeze.
appeared from behind the door, a handkerchief tied around his face. “Well?” he
said, handing her the broom.
“I told you,
I’ve been busy.” Golzar groaned. She took the broom from him, and then tied her
own handkerchief to protect herself from the dust. She saw Bryn lurking in the
“I thought we
were just using this as a cover up to sneak away and talk about our plans.
Didn’t know you were actually going to make me clean my room.”
scoffed. “I’m not making you clean your room, we’re cleaning it together.”
her eyes, but true enough, Gerhard accepted a rag from Bryn and begun to wipe
down her desk.
“So. What’s the
plan?” Bryn asked from outside. They weren’t much of a cleaning person, especially
if the stuff to clean wasn’t theirs. Golzar didn’t mind. She wasn’t at all
enthusiastic about cleaning herself, and besides, with Gerhard here, this
strange side-track to their day would be over in just a moment. He had already
finished cleaning the desk.
feel Bryn’s curious gaze on her as they continued. “You know the Queen, don’t
you? I remember. You talked about ‘er before.”
Golzar thought, frowning. She did remember. When she had seen Lucretia again at
her coronation, it had felt like nothing about the girl – the woman, now – had
changed. She remembered the conversation they had shared years ago in the
After that, it
had seemed the Queen was around wherever they went. She had to be, as both the
figurehead and main benefactor of that war. At the same time, Golzar never came
within an arm’s length of her or spoke with her as candidly as they had in that
wagon. And now it seemed they were going to see each other again. Golzar
wondered what would have changed.
Gerhard asked, as he wiped out a whole village of dust bunnies from underneath
line,” Bryn remarked.
her head. She was nervous. But there was no need to acknowledge it. Get in, get
it done, get out: that was what she planned to do. Besides, she thought to
herself. There was no doubt in her mind that the Queen had forgotten her.
Bitterly, she thought about the flower incident. How embarrassing.
asking that because you want to come with,” she observed.
their arms, and Gerhard sputtered.
A grin spread
on Golzar’s face, even as she scraped at a particularly nasty patch of dirt.
“She won’t know what’s coming.”
The pressure in
the room lightened. Bryn even walked in with one of the mops they had standing
outside. All three of them would go together, just as they always had.