Home > Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(10)

Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(10)
Michelle Sagara

“No,” he replied.

“Gilbert doesn’t sleep, you know. He doesn’t need sleep.” This was spoken to Kaylin, but of course everyone else in the room heard it, as well. Kaylin almost told the girl to be quiet—for her own sake, not for Gilbert’s. If, in the end, it was necessary to arrest Gilbert, it would also probably be necessary to kill or destroy him—and Kattea would discover, sooner or later, that her naive comments had somehow helped to betray him.

Gilbert, however, looked resigned. He lifted his hands from the armrests and turned them, slowly, palm out as he rose from the chair. “I will ask you all,” he said quietly, “to take care that your actions do not harm the child.” Turning to Kattea, he said, “I have told you before that it is unwise to tell people about me.”

“But they’re Hawks. And you haven’t done anything wrong,” Kattea insisted once again.

The small dragon squawked. Loudly. Everyone turned toward him, except Severn, who continued to watch Gilbert and Kattea.

“Barrani and Dragons don’t need sleep, either,” Kaylin said to break the awkward silence.

“You’ve met Dragons?”

“Yes, I have. We have one here.”

The child’s eyes alighted on the familiar, which caused Bellusdeo to snort. “Not that,” the Dragon said. “Private Neya refers to me.”

“Oh.” Pause. “You don’t look like a Dragon.”

“Not at the moment, no. But remember when you asked me why my eyes were red?”

The girl nodded.

“Dragon eyes—unlike yours—change color in different situations.”

“Is red bad?”

“It is very, very bad,” Kaylin answered, before Bellusdeo could.

Kattea fell silent. It didn’t last. “Can you turn into a real Dragon?”

“Yes. I won’t do it here, though—I don’t think your house would survive it.”

Gilbert looked wearier by the passing second.

Kattea surprised them all. Rising, she walked to the curtains and shut them. Gilbert did not resume his seat. None of the Hawks stood, but it didn’t matter; Teela and Tain could be out of their seats, armed and deadly by the time Kaylin had blinked twice. Gilbert was obviously aware of this.

“We did not see anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “Nor did we hear anything out of the ordinary. When did you say this took place?”

“Late last night or very early this morning,” Kaylin replied.

“Ah. Kattea—”

“No, I’m not leaving,” she told him, folding her arms and suddenly looking older. “I don’t think they’ll hurt you while I’m here.”

Chapter 4

Gilbert smiled. It was a drawn, but affectionate, expression. “Kattea believes many things with absolute confidence.” His smile was pained, but again, laced with resigned affection. “She does not always understand the world in which you live.”

“She’s not wrong in theory,” Kaylin countered. “But we do have a few questions.”

“I will answer, as I may, but first, I must ask: What brought you to our home?”

“Do Kattea’s parents also live here?” Bellusdeo asked.

The child stilled. After a long pause, and in a much quieter voice, she said, “My parents are dead.”

Kaylin’s heart echoed Kattea’s obvious pain. “Mine, too,” she said. “I was five years old and living in the fiefs.”

Kattea’s eyes almost fell out of her head. She turned, excited again, to Gilbert. “Gilbert! Gilbert! She’s just like us! Which fief?”

“Nightshade.”

“Gilbert! Gilbert!”

Gilbert closed his eyes; in the darkened room, he looked less pale. “Kattea was born in the fief of Nightshade,” he said quietly.

“Gilbert found me. Gilbert saved me from—” She stopped, paling at the memory. “Gilbert saved me. And then we came here. Well—not right here, but after.”

“So your parents didn’t live in the city.”

Kattea shook her head.

“And you made it across the bridge.”

She nodded.

“When did this happen?”

“Months ago,” the young girl said.

“Three weeks ago,” Gilbert clarified.

Three weeks. Every Hawk present exchanged a glance. “Three weeks,” Kaylin said slowly. “This was on the night that the Dragons were flying above the city?”

Kattea nodded.

“Kattea’s confidence in the city across the bridge was...high.”

Kaylin’s had been, too. In some ways, it still was; if the ideal city she’d imagined was tarnished, it was still a far better place to live than the fiefs had been. “Why did you bring her here?”

“Because the fiefs were not suitable. I do not think she would have survived them long. Had I not found her, she would not have survived at all.”

“Where were you born?” Bellusdeo asked.

“In Ravellon,” Gilbert replied.

Bellusdeo rose then. Kattea stepped, instantly, in front of Gilbert, her arms wide-open; Kaylin reached out and placed a hand—gently—on the Dragon’s shoulder. “Forgive us,” she said, the words aimed more at Kattea than at Gilbert, “but only Shadow dwells within Ravellon now.”

“That is true,” he replied. “But it was not always so.”

“If you come from Ravellon now, it’s true,” the Dragon said. Her eyes, which had lightened slightly while Kattea spoke, now shifted back into true red.

“It is not” was the quiet reply. “Perhaps you cannot discern the difference, but there is one. Understand that while we share mutual goals, we are not one creature, and those of us who maintain a shred of sanity retain some element of choice.”

The Dragon stared at him, unmoved.

Kaylin said quietly, “Bellusdeo walked the path between worlds to arrive in Elantra. Her world was lost to the Shadows.”

“I did not say that there was no danger; there is always an element of danger when dealing with the powerful. You,” he said, nodding to Bellusdeo, “are a danger to everyone in this room. I intend you—and your citizens—no harm.”

“And the child?” Bellusdeo asked.

“It is as she said. When I stumbled into the fief—and it seems an odd demarcation—I met Kattea. Minor creatures are given free rein in the streets of the fief; she would not have survived them. She called out to me; she asked me to come to her aid. I chose, for reasons of my own, to do so.”

“And those reasons are?”

“I say, again, that I have no harmful intent.”

“And we are to trust you? Your kind has done irreparable harm here, as well as elsewhere.”

“I am aware that it will be difficult to convince you. You have long held my kind in contempt. I am to be judged, always, by the actions of others—actions I would not have chosen to take.” To Kaylin, he said, “How is it that you chose to come first to my home? What error did I make?”

Kaylin shook her head to clear it. What Gilbert appeared to be claiming—that Shadows had free will and that they functioned as individuals—was a new thought, at least to Kaylin. It went against everything she had been told about Shadows; it went against anything she had ever personally experienced.

Yes, Shadows were not uniform in shape or size, although there were Ferals. There were one-offs, as her old friend Morse called them: creatures with too many limbs or no limbs or too many heads or too many mouths in one head—the list was endless. Shadows could be freaking weather. But every Shadow of any stripe Kaylin had encountered thus far had been attempting to kill. Or worse. The Shadows in Kaylin’s day-to-day life existed solely to torment, corrupt and ultimately destroy. Oh, and rule everything.

The Towers had been created by the Ancients to guard against the Shadow incursions that could otherwise destroy not only a city, but a world. Helen had defenses against Shadows, and she wasn’t even built in the fiefs.

Kaylin’s first thought—and second, and third—was that Gilbert was lying. That he had to be lying. But Kattea seemed neither injured nor cowed. She seemed, if anything, apprehensive and indignant—on Gilbert’s behalf, as he certainly wasn’t either on his own.

“Bellusdeo,” Teela said, “is this possible? You have the greater experience.”

Bellusdeo opened her mouth seconds after the small dragon opened his. This time, the translucent creature breathed.

Kaylin had seen this a few times now. The first time, she had understood the pearlescent cloud to be dangerous by the quality of blue in Barrani eyes. The second had confirmed the earlier Barrani opinion. A group of giant Ferals—for want of a better word—had attacked them on their recent journey to the West March and swallowed those clouds.

The clouds had destroyed them.

This seemed fair to Kaylin, because the Ferals’ blood had attempted to destroy the Barrani, and in what she assumed was a similar fashion: it spread, transmuting Barrani flesh into—well, into something that was no longer Barrani. Kaylin’s ability to heal couldn’t stop that transformation: she’d had to cut out the bad bits and start from there. The changes made by the combination of flesh and Shadow blood had instantly become the “healthy” or “default” state of the body. What the finished product of that default state would look like, she didn’t know; she’d worked desperately to make sure that it never happened.

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