Home > Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(4)

Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11)(4)
Michelle Sagara

Kaylin rolled back her sleeve, exposing the bracer that she wore. It was a gift—of sorts—from the Imperial Treasury, and it looked like a golden manacle, but longer, and with gems. The gems were actually buttons, and when pressed in a specific sequence, it opened. If one didn’t know the sequence, the bracer wouldn’t open. If it didn’t open, it did not come off. Cutting Kaylin’s hand off would not remove the bracer—because while she wore it, her entire arm seemed almost impervious to physical damage.

She frequently tossed it over her shoulder; she sometimes tossed it into the Ablayne. No matter where she threw it, it always returned to its keeper.

Its keeper was not Kaylin. It was Severn.

Today, she handed it to Bellusdeo instead. Bellusdeo didn’t exactly argue when Kaylin dropped it, but she clearly didn’t approve of the casual way Kaylin treated the artifact.

“You mean to heal her.”

“I mean to try, yes. She has a very Barrani attitude toward healing. She considers it intrusive.”

“It is intrusive.”

“I didn’t say she was stupid. I might in the very near future, though.”

Kaylin’s power had been used extensively the day after the disastrous attack. Moran had been absent from the infirmary, and the mood of the Hawks working in its crowded environs had been a blend of determination and gloom. Moran was not particularly fond of Kaylin’s healing ability; she seldom allowed Kaylin to heal at all. But First Corporal Kirby, the Aerian who had taken over the infirmary in Moran’s absence, was more of a pushover. He was only a little older than Kaylin, and he lacked Moran’s wintery presence and absolute authority.

Since Moran hadn’t been present, things had gone more smoothly. If over two dozen officers of the law had died, many, many more had been injured. Moran felt that setting bones—arms, legs, ribs, collars—was her purview. She was less sanguine about burns—especially those that involved flight feathers or wings.

Kaylin had insisted she be allowed to heal the men and women who were not guaranteed to survive. She tended to severe burns and the infections that came with them; she was allowed to heal crushed limbs and fractured skulls. Kirby approved it all, while muttering Moran is going to kill me under his breath.

No one had questioned Kaylin’s work in the infirmary, though the use of her power was not entirely legal. Kaylin was not yet a member of the Imperial Order or the Arcanum—and she would rather die than join the latter.

In theory, there were strict laws that governed the use of magic in Elantra. But in practice, the use of magic wasn’t easily quantified. It was therefore very poorly governed.

Even had it not been, it wouldn’t have mattered. The Hawklord and the Swordlord were fully capable of petitioning the Emperor for permission; neither had felt the paperwork would be productive or entirely necessary.

The beds had emptied slowly. While Kaylin could heal—and very effectively—the process exhausted her, and she’d only been able to work on one man or woman at a time.

At least today, if she collapsed on the way home, Bellusdeo could carry her the rest of the way.

The likelihood of that happening was very small if Moran was, as Clint stated, at her desk. Kaylin wanted to believe that Teela had exaggerated. She didn’t. Moran, she was certain, should not be at work. Not yet.

* * *

Clint, unsurprisingly, was right: Moran was in the infirmary.

Her left arm was in a sling, and her wings...

Kaylin shook her head. Moran’s left wing was a mess; the skeletal structure of the limb itself could be seen, and huge sections of feathers were missing entirely. It looked as if half of the Aerian’s flight feathers were gone. Aerians, like regular birds, did molt—but they didn’t do it publicly. As far as Kaylin could tell, it would be the cultural equivalent of taking a bath fully nude in the market fountain. She knew that full regrowth could take months if the feathers were damaged. She was less certain about what happened if they were simply gone.

There was no way Moran had flown here. She must have been carried.

Moran glared at Kaylin.

Actually, she glared at everything. She nodded—stiffly—to Bellusdeo, the gesture weighted with what Kaylin felt was genuine respect. “We’re honored to have you back among us,” she said, startling Kaylin. Her expression softened slightly. “We owe you.”

Bellusdeo’s eyes, which were already mostly gold, brightened until they were shining. “I have become very fond of the Halls of Law, and of the city. I am less fond of the Barrani High Halls, but if a battle of any significance had to take place within the city—”

“It’s better there than anywhere, aye. You’ll be going on duty rounds with the private?”

“I will.”

“Then you’d best drag her off—she’s going to be late, and the Sergeant is not in a charitable mood.”

And whose fault is that? “I’m right here,” Kaylin said.

Moran had an impressive glare.

“What, exactly, are you afraid of? Everyone else who was badly injured accepted my help.”

“I am not—”

“You can’t fly, Sergeant.”

“Not immediately, no. The feathers will grow in.”

Kaylin didn’t believe it; she wondered if Moran actually did.

“I have already had an argument about the state of my health this morning. Two, in fact. If I did not listen to that giant, lumbering cat and I did not bow to Lord Grammayre, believe that I am not going to blithely obey a private.”

“Teela said you would be out for months.”

“She was demonstrably incorrect. There is nothing wrong with my hands, my legs or my eyes. I am capable of doing my duty. I can’t fly in these rooms, anyway.”

“Moran, please—”

“No.”

“But your wings—”

“Do you know why I’m a sergeant in the infirmary, Private?”

Kaylin did not roll her eyes, though it took effort. “Because you can deal with the injured, regardless of their moods or state of mind.”

“Exactly. You can plead, beg, cry and curse me. I won’t be moved.”

Kaylin inexplicably felt like crying at the moment. Moran’s wings—white and speckled with a brown that almost formed a pattern when the wings were closed—were unique among the Aerians of her acquaintance.

“You still have your childish obsessions, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Kaylin folded her arms, refusing to feel embarrassed.

Moran’s eyes narrowed. They were blue. Aerian blue was not the same midnight as Barrani blue, but it meant essentially the same thing. Moran was angry. Then again, Moran was almost always angry.

“Where are you staying?”

Moran blinked. “Pardon?”

“You can’t fly. You can get Aerians to carry you to and from the Southern Reach, but you can’t fly back on your own. Given it’s you, I’m willing to bet last week’s pay that you don’t even intend to try.”

Moran shifted her gaze; it fell on Bellusdeo. There was nothing else in the room to look at, as the beds were all empty.

Bellusdeo held up both hands. “I am willing to face Barrani ancestors, Shadows and death. I am not willing to pull nonexistent rank on a private. Please don’t ask—I am here on sufferance, with the understanding that I will not interfere with the private’s duties.” She spoke in more formal Barrani, though the rest of the conversation had been uttered in Kaylin’s mother tongue.

“You’re a Dragon,” Moran pointed out. “You don’t need rank.”

“She’s the Chosen,” Bellusdeo countered. Her eyes were still golden, although her expression was neutral. Except for the corners of her mouth, which were twitching.

Moran turned to Kaylin. She could look down on the private from the secure position of rank, but she wasn’t quite tall enough to tower. “I intend to stay here until I’ve fully recovered.”

No bloody wonder Marcus had thrown a fit. “This isn’t exactly residential.”

“It has a roof, and the doors are never completely unmanned. Food is within relatively easy walking distance, and if I need supplies, that’s what privates are for.”

“And where are you going to sleep?”

“In the Aerie in the halls.”

“Which you can’t reach.” Kaylin’s eyes narrowed a little more with each sentence.

“Which is none of your business,” Moran snapped.

“Fine.” Kaylin turned and marched toward the door. When she reached the frame, she turned back. Bellusdeo was still standing beside Moran; the Dragon looked amused. She was the only person in the room who did.

“I believe Private Neya is attempting, in her brusque fashion, to offer you a more amenable place to stay while you recover,” Bellusdeo said.

“I don’t need her charity.”

“Ah.”

Kaylin attempted to count to ten. She made it to three. “But it’s okay for me to accept yours?”

“I’m not offering you charity.”

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