The man they called Bearkiller said something in a deep, gutteral voice that made it hard to understand. He had a beard of course black hair so thick his mouth was nearly hidden. All Paul glimpsed was a flash of bright, white teeth.
“My Knight,” Lord Mossfield said in his high, nasal voice, “Keeps fairer law here than Lord Halloway. By right of force, I say begone, boy.” He giggled then and coughed so hideously that brown flecked snot and drool flung from the frog lord and Paul had to turn away to avoid being struck by it. Anger began to override his fear, yet the sight of Bearkiller stayed his sword hand. He swallowed and glanced to his uncle, but the older man simply stared at the fat lord with disdain. If I back down now I am a coward and father will disown me. The Nobility has no need of cowards. Continue reading →
“It’s all right,” Resh said. “They just want to ask you a few questions.”
It took all the calm she had left to step into the room and stand before them. Each of them looked as old as the Governess, if not older. They all regarded her like she had, with suspicion and distrust.
“Young lady,” said the one in the center, a woman with gray hair and a rasping voice. “Tell us who you are.” Continue reading →
In time the trees thinned and gave way to high grass and shrubbery. By then Aderyn was wheezing and her eyes and exposed skin felt red and raw and itchy. She needed to rest often and she drained the bottle of water Resh gave her.
“Your injection is wearing off,” he said, worry coloring his voice. “We need to get you to the tunnels soon or you’ll relapse.” Continue reading →
She slept but did not dream, waking often. Each time she did, she saw the boy with his back to her, crouched or laying and watching the curtained entrance. Eventually a red light crept in and chased away the darkness. In that pale light, they left the shelter, setting out at a careful walk. As they began, she saw him clearly for the first time.
He was probably her own age, perhaps slightly older but not by much. His hair was a dark red, turned almost fiery by the red light of Querra. Almost as thin as she was, he bore an olive complexion and eyes the color of the frozen lakes of Meda. Those eyes looked at her on occasion and he seemed to be on the verge of asking a question but remained silent. It was Aderyn who spoke first. Continue reading →
Her lungs burned, her skin felt stretched too tight and raw all over. When she opened her mouth, Aderyn found that her throat was thick and swollen. She gasped for air and found that it came raggedly but at least it came.
To strike one of the Blood when you were not one was an act punishable by a public whipping and humiliation. She knew that, but as her hand struck him, she could not have pulled the blow to save her life. If she died here, her dignity would remain.
She stepped back and pushed passed him, suddenly unable to breath. The whole viewing platform was silent, all eyes turning to follow her. Mouths were left agape and women moved from her path. Men reached for her but she ducked beneath their grasps. Running now, she found the airlock and went through it, out into the open air of Zennir. Continue reading →
They walked through the sitting room. Aderyn’s cheeks were still hot but she tried to push away her frustration and irritation. Her mother never changed. Her children were assets or liabilities, just like good soldiers to her father’s fleet. If one was not pulling their weight, they were reprimanded or discarded. She needed to be strong.
“I have secured us a place next to the Nevans, a minor House with only a single world to their name, but growing wealthier. They’ve discovered two Jump Nodes in their system that lead directly to Orion. I’m sure Lord Kellen will move quickly to secure them, so an alliance with Nevan would mean an alliance with the Orions. You understand, of course.” Continue reading →
Aderyn Medani turned in the projector, seeing how the dress looked from the back. Her image moved and six copies of herself surrounded her, all wearing the dress. Yes, the ivory one is perfect. It would please her mother, as she would not be wearing the House colors, yet would not be far from it. It befit her station as a Null-Blooded.
“The ivory,” she said to the floating image behind her. The keep’s artificial intelligence Icon nodded its head and the holographic dresser blinked off. She stepped off the projector and covered her nakedness with a silk sheet while the AI’s robots came in to collect her clothing. Continue reading →