Spire: Chapter 15

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Another thing fables get wrong, they end when the monster is slain, and ignore the clean‑up afterwards.

The demon parts are burned to ashes in three separate fires, put into three separate weighted boxes and sent out on three different fishing boats to be dropped in the ocean.  Sister Mays suggests mixing them with salt and the priests do their cleansing ritual, one for each box.

“Is all of this necessary,” Jes asks me.

“To deal with the demon, probably not,” I explain, “But to reassure the city, definitely.”  For the same reason, I walk around the city some more, late morning until early afternoon so my Sword can enjoy the sunlight.

Father and Mother issue an edict:  Raising a demon is named an act of treason.   I don’t understand until Mynar reminds me that Father, rather than a magistrate, presides over treason trials.

They think they can keep hidden what the Sorcerer did.  I think too many people already know and we need to find a way to track demons.

#

We arrange for the guild masters to visit father.  We tell father they need to be re-assured he is mending, but the real reason is to provide a distraction for father before he drives us out of our minds.

Seventeen died during the attack, fourteen Royal Guards and three palace staff who didn’t get out of the way fast enough.  Their pyres are built in the fields outside the city walls, for by royal edict from the Dark Years, all bodies must be burned.  Father insists on being present, even though he has to be brought by cart.  His doctor disagrees, but mother supports him.

No matter how much silk and furs you put on a cart, it’s still a cart. But these men died protecting the crown, so the King and Queen will say Godspeed.

Mynar and I walk beside the cart, while mother rides with father.  A crowd from the city follows us. I carry my Sword strapped to my back, and can ‘feel’ it enjoying the sun.

“You are good people, much better than the Stormborne,” it whispers to me, yet again.   I have come to that conclusion myself; we kept our side of the deal.  Really have to remember to talk to the sword about this, somewhere private, and not surrounded by hundreds of people.

Mother is pale with fatigue and father pale from pain before it is all over and the seventeen urns are filled with ashes.  As each family comes to claim their ashes, both mother and father speak to them.  At the end of the rites, three urns are left unclaimed, guardsmen who had no families.  My parents take charge of them.

When we get back to the Keep, I take mother to her bed and Mynar takes father to his.  I know that mother is very tired because she doesn’t insist on making sure father really goes to bed.

That night Mynar and I sit at the high table, alone except for Jes.  Tradition and ritual must be maintained, symbolism so ancient that we don’t even pretend to know it’s origins, but the royal family at the high table sharing bread with the court sends waves of comfort across the city, and from there, the realm.  Everyone is quiet; no one feels like celebrating with twenty-two dead.  All because of some idiot Sorcerer.

“We need to find a better way to kill demons.”  I have no confidence we can keep secret what the Sorcerer did, and given the arrogance of Sorcerers someone else would try it again.

“It would be easier to just kill the Sorcerers,” Jes suggests.

“You can’t kill someone for what they might do.”  I nod in agreement with Mynar. Jes looks unconvinced.

I go to the stables to say goodnight to my foal.  His wounds are healing and he is eating well.  He comes to me and I feed him a rock of sugar.  The horse master is not pleased with me, he thinks I’m making the foal ‘soft’.  I think that I am making him ‘mine’. I really need to decide on a name for him.

I have almost a whole day of quiet; mother and father resting, Mynar researching demons and Jes in the trance he calls dreaming.  I’m worried about him, the trances take a lot of energy and leave him drained, but I can’t disagree that the tribes would want to be told, and that it’s Jes’ duty to do the telling.

I decide to go visit Webb and tell him about my horse.  Which, or course, means me and my guards, one of which is, again, carrying a bag of apples.   I can kill a demon, but heaven forbid that I should demean  myself by actually carrying anything other than a sword down the city streets.  Mynar understands, or claims to understand, all of the restrictions placed on us, but I don’t—I just grit my teeth and go along.

“Princess Adava.”  Webb is pleased to see me.  So are his four horses, or at least they are happy to see the apples.  I have brought a bottle of hard apple cider, too.  Webb and I drink a glass of that while talking about names for stallions.

“I think your methods have merit,” Webb agrees with me.  “You will never be able to control a war stallion by strength, but you might by love.  What are you going to name him?”

“Thunder.  Thunder!”  I whisper to myself as I walk home.  I’m almost decided.   Webb and I had considered, and rejected, names involving demon in some form.

I go to the stable to see if Thunder likes his new name.  He approves.  So does the horse master, who clearly was afraid I would give my war stallion some cute, fuzzy name.  Didn’t he notice that the princess was the one who killed the demon?

I had expected a quiet supper, with Mynar and my parents, since Jes would be either in his dream trance, or recovering from it.  The last thing I expected was for mother to be the center of the next storm.

“I have decided that Bel, Dyon and Mik’s ashes will be interred at Kaskl.”

“That’s a nice suggestion, Mislei,” father agrees.  “I will provide an honor guard for them.”

“We should pick two or three from the city guard.  They all acted with great courage.”  Mynar agrees with me.

“I plan on taking the ashes myself.”

We all stare at mother in horror.  Then father and Mynar both look at me.  For some reason I’m the person everyone looks at when they want to change mother’s opinion, despite my lack of success at ever having done so.

“Look at how tired you got at the funerals; you are not strong.”

“I will never get stronger.  I want to see my son and daughter’s graves one last time.”  She did not say ‘and Rals’ but we all heard it.  “I will travel slowly.”

“In the dead of winter?”  I continue to argue.  “The fall mists have stopped rising, and there is ice at the edge of the ponds.”

“Their ashes can rest on the altar of the castle chapel until spring,” Mynar suggests.

Mother doesn’t like it, but she does finally agree to wait until spring.

#

People calm down, forget, and go back to normal.  The Lord Advisors start talking marriage lists again, and Mynar goes back to being sullen.  I go hide in the vault.

“Why do you have to only answer to Stormborne blood?” I ask my Sword.  Well, I phrase it as a question, but I am really just bitching.

“I don’t”.

“But…”

“I can answer to 47 bloodlines, and only 23 of them are Stormborne.”

“And the others?”

“Long dead.”

I try to think of some way this can help us, and come to the conclusion it doesn’t.  I tell the Sword ‘good night’ and go to the stables to give Thunder his bedtime apple.  Thunder doesn’t’ tell me cryptic and/or useless things, he just appreciates his apple.

When I return Mynar is in front of my fire being flirted with by my ladies.  I am surprised.  Mynar has always been my little brother, and I forget sometimes that he has grown up handsome.

“There you are.  Stables again?”

“Maybe.”

“Father has set the date for the trial.  His doctor has approved.  This will be the first royal trial since the old King’s time.  Lord Ekal is having to look up the protocols.”  Misdeeds that are ‘Acts Against the Crown’ are rare;  the last that would have counted was the attempt to poison father, and that assassin had eaten his own poison rather than be captured.  It will be elaborate—everything is elaborate—it is expected of us.

“Are we going to have to do anything besides stand around and look stern?”

“Don’t’ know yet, but they will probably want you to bear the Sword.”

“I draw the line at cutting anyone’s head off.”

“Ekal started reading the old laws for executions, but father stopped him and ordered a gallows built.”

“Good.”

Trials are suppose to be about guilt or innocence; this one is about grief.  There is  no doubt about guilt, but Father is determined to have testimony for each of the fallen, even the three who have no families to mourn.  I have no hope the Sorcerer will come to see the evil he has done, but listing his crimes to his face may offer some comfort to those who grieve.  And hanging him may make some other Sorcerer think twice.  No, probably not, even if we used the barbarian execution methods father had vetoed.

All want to attend, so father orders a lottery.  Only the Lord Advisors and the families of the murdered are exempt.  The guard have requested and received approval for one of them to stand as family for the three who have none.  Those three guards were selected by lottery too.

We break with tradition, the Royal family is seated first, father on his throne, his leg propped up on a pillowed stool.  Jes stands to Mynar’s left, causing less murmuring than would have been expected; too many had seen him hunting the demon with me to question his place now.

We are arranged like some theatrical tableau before anyone else is allowed to enter. Even the Lord Advisors are not witness to the sight of father being helped to his throne.  When the rest are allowed in, they move more silently than I would have expected.  The Sorcerer and his guards are last, halting before the throne.

Mynar, Jes and I settle back on the stools waiting for us and listen to two days of listing the dead.  The third day the Sorcerer gets to defend himself.

His theory is that a few paltry deaths are nothing compared to the knowledge gained.  He is surprised when he is found guilty of causing twenty-two deaths by the agency of demon summoning, as part of an attack on the royal family.

Despite requests, demands, and whining, father refuses to make a public spectacle of the hanging.  Only the usual witnesses are allowed.  I don’t go.

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