Did I really write that? That we could handle anything tomorrow brings? My hands are shaking so hard I can barely
Trying to stay calm. This book does no one any good if it’s illegible. I’m going to write it all as it happened, and then I’ll let myself think about what has to come next.
This morning I woke when Cederic kissed my forehead and said something about going to the circle chamber. I never used to sleep this soundly. You’d think sharing a bed with someone would make me more likely to be roused at unfamiliar movement, but no, he can rise and dress and be out the door while I snore peacefully away. (That was a figure of speech—I don’t snore. I know, everyone says that, but trust me, if I were a snorer, I’d be dead several times over by now.)
I didn’t remember what had happened between Vorantor and Cederic until I reached the dining hall; I was in a good mood thanks to a wonderful night with a wonderful man, but when Audryn said, “What is Sai Aleynten going to do?” it brought me out of my peaceful contentment like a gallon of ice water to the face.
“You probably know more about it than I do,” I said. “I barely understand the oaths they swore. What judgment was Vorantor talking about?”
Audryn and Sovrin exchanged glances. “Only the God-Empress can determine if they’ve broken their vows,” Audryn said. “Sai Vorantor will try to show her that Sai Aleynten failed to follow his leadership. What we want to know is if Sai Aleynten decided to counter-challenge.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Can he?”
“Sai Vorantor hasn’t been listening to Sai Aleynten for days now,” Sovrin said, lowering her voice to a whisper. “Sai Aleynten can claim Sai Vorantor wasted the Kilios’s abilities after accepting what he offered. If he counter-challenges and wins, he can request that Sai Vorantor be removed.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Why wouldn’t he do that?” I said.
“Because the God-Empress is…not consistent,” Audryn said, after nearly three seconds of groping for a word that didn’t sound like a criticism. “She might see being asked for a judgment at all as an affront to God. Sai Aleynten might be better off staying quiet. It’s not as if Sai Vorantor can prove his case.”
“So why is he bothering?” Sovrin said. “This is a waste of time. We should be preparing that kathana. I swear I’ve felt tremors this morning.”
“We don’t even know what the signs of the convergence are,” Audryn said. “It’s your imagination. Sesskia, hurry up and eat, and let’s go to the circle chamber. Whatever happens, we should be there.”
I gobbled my food, and I wasn’t the only one; if Vorantor did bring some kind of challenge against Cederic, it would affect all of us. When we arrived, though, Vorantor and Cederic weren’t there. We found places with the rest of the Darssan mages and resumed our work on the complicated th’an.
I wish I could write that it became instantly obvious that it was a pouvra and that I could use it with ease, but all I can say is that it does feel like it has the same shape as a pouvra, just with missing parts. I was debating with Kaurin whether it made more sense for me to figure out those missing pieces first, or just try to make it work, when Vorantor came in. He was dressed in one of his most ornate robes (not the red one, so he wasn’t insane) and there was a smug gleam in his eye I didn’t like.
He started ordering people around immediately, both his mages and the Darssan mages, but he ignored me entirely. I stood and watched and wondered, first, where Cederic was, and second, whether I should try to annoy Vorantor by asking for instructions when he clearly didn’t believe I was necessary. I decided to watch for the moment, and see how much of the kathana I could understand.
It was another twenty minutes before Cederic appeared, and all movement stopped when he entered, because he was wearing the Kilios’s robe and looked every inch the leader Vorantor wished he could be. He came to Vorantor’s side—Vorantor was supervising a pair of Sais crouched on the floor who were having trouble scribing an inert th’an, it kept activating and disappearing—and said, “I believe if the two of you switch places, you will overcome your difficulty.”
“You have no authority here, Cederic,” Vorantor said. The two Sais looked up at him, then at each other, nervously.
“You made that clear, Denril,” Cederic said. “I think you will find that the Kilios still has a right to participate. And there is nothing wrong with the Kilios making a suggestion.” The two Sais quietly began to switch places with as little movement as possible.
“Stay where you are,” Vorantor said to the Sais. “Full of yourself today, aren’t you, Kilios? Feeling the need to impress your lowly inferiors with the red robe?”
“Just a reminder,” Cederic said, though he didn’t say who needed to be reminded.
Vorantor turned on him, grabbed his shoulder and got right up into his face. “As if you haven’t gone out of your way to remind me of it every day for the last four years,” he snarled. The two Sais looked like they were thinking about crawling away. “You couldn’t let it go, could you,” Vorantor said.
“You are the one who craved glory, Denril, not I,” Cederic said. He was the only one unmoved by Vorantor’s aggression; everyone else went tense, waiting for a fight to start. I began making plans in my head, ways to defend Cederic, ways to attack Vorantor and anyone who might want to side with him.
“I only wanted what was mine,” Vorantor said, his fingers tightening on Cederic’s arm. “And you always got there first. Well, that’s not going to happen again. I’m going to ask the God-Empress to strip you of that robe.”
“She lacks the authority to do so,” Cederic said. “Release me, Denril. If the God-Empress comes, I will submit to her judgment, but until then, I will exercise my right to be present. Unless you believe you should usurp her authority in that as well.”
Vorantor cursed (I think. It was a word that didn’t translate) and shoved Cederic away; Cederic rocked, but otherwise stood firm, then stepped away from the circle and went to stand by himself at one side of the room. I nodded once at him in acknowledgment, then looked away toward where Sovrin was having a discussion with one of Vorantor’s mages that had an edge to it that promised violence, even if only verbal.
Vorantor was pretending he still had control, but everyone kept glancing at Cederic, who looked bored. The only time I’d seen him look bored before this was when he created that shield kathana, and since I now knew he’d been ready to attack the God-Empress’s soldiers if they raised their swords, I was really worried about what might happen next.
to be continued…