Home > The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)(9)

The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2)(9)
Mary E. Pearson

Gwyneth threw her bag on the bed. “I sent a note to the Chancellor requesting a meeting.”

I caught my breath, unable to speak for a moment. “You what? Against my wishes? I already told you, he hates Lia.”

She began unpacking, unruffled by my alarm. “I think it might be wiser to nose around through … more discreet channels, before we go straight to the second in power. If the Viceregent proves unhelpful, we’re at a dead end.”

I looked at her, a chill crawling across my shoulders. It was the second time she had suggested the Chancellor, and now she had gone ahead and acted without my consent. She seemed determined to draw the Chancellor into this. “Do you know the Chancellor, Gwyneth?”

She shrugged. “Hmm, maybe a little. Our paths crossed some time back.”

“And you never thought to tell me before now?”

“I thought you might not take it well, and it seems I was right.”

I dumped out my bag on the bed and shuffled through the pile, looking for my brush. I brushed my hair briskly, trying to untangle my thoughts, trying to appear in control when I felt anything but. She knew him a little? I didn’t like or trust the Chancellor any more than Lia did. There wasn’t anything about any of this that I liked.

“I’ve decided. I’m going to go straight to the king,” I said. “You can just stay put.”

She grabbed my hand, stopping my strokes. “And how would you manage that? March through the citadelle and bang your brush on his chamber door? How far do you think you’d get? Or would you send a note? Everything goes through the Chancellor’s office first anyway. Why not go straight to him in the first place?”

“I’m certain I can get an audience with the king one way or another.”

“Of course you can. But don’t forget, you were an accomplice in Lia’s flight. You might very likely be speaking to him from a prison cell.”

I knew she was right. “If that’s what it takes.”

Gwyneth sighed. “Noble, but let’s see if we can avoid that. Let’s nose around first.”

“By talking to the Chancellor?”

She sat down on the bed and frowned. “Lia didn’t tell you about me, did she?”

I swallowed, preparing myself for something I didn’t want to know about Gwyneth’s past. “Tell me what?”

“I used to be in the service of the realm. I was a purveyor of news.”

“Which means?” I asked cautiously.

“I was a spy.”

I closed my eyes. It was worse than I thought.

“Now, don’t go getting all knotted up. It’s not good for the baby. My being a spy—an ex-spy—isn’t the end of the world. It might even come in handy.”

Come in handy? I opened my eyes and saw her grinning at me.

She told me about the Eyes of the Realm, spies of Civica scattered throughout towns and manors in Morrighan, who relayed information back to the seat of power. At one time, she had needed the money and was good at drawing out information from patrons at an inn in Graceport where she cleaned rooms.

“So you spied for the king?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Maybe. I dealt only with the Chancellor. He—” Her expression darkened. “He was persuasive, and I was young and stupid.”

Gwyneth was still young. She was only a handful of years older than me. But stupid? Never. She was sly and calculating and irreverent, things I was not. In my gut, I knew her skills could be useful in finding a sympathetic ear, but still I hesitated. I was afraid to be drawn into some network of spies, even if she claimed to no longer be part of it. And what if she still was?

It was almost as if she could see the thoughts parading through my mind.

“Pauline,” she said firmly, “you’re probably the most saintly, loyal person I’ve ever met, which can be admirable, but also quite annoying at times. It’s time to knuckle down. No more playing nice girl. Do you want to help Lia or not?”

The only answer to that was yes.

No matter what I had to do.

CHAPTER SEVEN

The walls closed in, the path seeming to narrow with each footstep. I was led through a dark hall, up two flights of musty stairs, along another hall no wider than arms’ breadth, three turns, then down several steps. The inside of this fortress was as much a maze as it appeared to be from the outside, centuries of architecture mashed together.

This wasn’t the path back to Sanctum Hall. I felt my heart quicken. Where were they taking me now? My hair was still damp on my shoulders, and my bare feet frigid on the cold floor. I memorized my path, certain it would matter at some point. Everything mattered. Every detail. Every flutter of an eyelash. Of all people right now, I longed for Gwyneth, so smooth in all her movements, and so good at hiding her secrets with a smile—except when it came to things she cared about, like Simone. That was when lies showed on Gwyneth’s face. Even now, I was learning from her. Everything I still cared about had to cease to show on my face.

On our last turn, we walked down a drafty passageway headed toward a large double door. Its thick black hinges branched out in tangled thorns. The guards knocked, and I heard the heavy slide of a bolt unlatched within. I was thrown forward because the guards seemed to know no other way of releasing prisoners, but this time I was ready and only stumbled.

I entered a silent room. My gaze fell on Kaden first, his jaw tight, the telltale vein rising on his neck as he took in my new coarse attire. Was it shame or anger I saw flashing through his eyes? But I also noticed he had bathed—and changed. With his Morrighese disguise discarded, he looked like one of them now, an animal of a different stripe. He wore a loose shirt cut in their style, and a trail of bones hung from his weapon belt. This had been the real Kaden all along.

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