Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(20)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(20)
Jeff Wheeler

The growl from Nizeera’s mouth caused Lukias to turn in fear. She padded up to the table, leapt on it in a single bound, and pressed her whiskered nose directly up to his forehead.

“It…is…a…cat. A trained…cat. You gave it a signal…I could not see.”

“Stubborn,” Annon said. “You require more proof. Whisper a name into Nizeera’s ear and I will hear it. Choose whatever word you wish. And to assure you that I cannot read lips, I will turn around.”

“It cannot…be…”

“Choose your word wisely. Choose a phrase. I can hear her thoughts and she can hear mine. Only a Druidecht can do this, Lukias. Say what you will, and I’ll hear it.”

Annon turned around, but not before noticing the subtle nod of approval from Erasmus and Khiara. He waited a moment before he heard the whisper.

I believe you. The ring on Annon’s finger confirmed it.

“A Rike once told me a wonderful proverb. A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently. Men deceive and are often deceived in turn. I do not fully know the tradition of when the Rikes of Seithrall began wearing rings that divine the truth, but I do know that doing so made it possible for the city to complete its construction and to become a prosperous kingdom in its own right. I do not know if the rings actually work. What I do know is that just the thought of them working make men more honest. For once trust is broken within a group or amongst individuals, you can be sure that only evil will result.”

—Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

When Hettie and Paedrin emerged from the Dryad tree in the midst of the Paracelsus Towers in Kenatos, it was crowded with workers intent on rebuilding the broken edifice. The transfer from the Prince’s garden in Silvandom had been instantaneous and it was early in the day still, though crowded and full of dust. Scaffolding had been erected throughout the inner courtyard and workers of all types carted wheelbarrows, baskets of chisels, and fragments of stone. Dung from cart animals littered the way, bringing with them the buzzing of flies and the smell of manure.

Paedrin stood gawking at the commotion in the inner courtyard and Hettie grabbed his sleeve and tugged at him impatiently. He had no idea how to blend in with a crowd or make himself unseen.

“Stop staring,” Hettie whispered. “It makes us conspicuous. We need to get out of this courtyard. The gate is over there. Haven’t you been here before?”

He jerked his arm away from her, but he did follow her to the gate leaving the tower courtyard. There were individuals up on the scaffold already, hammering fragments of stone and rubble away to prepare neat flat surfaces for the replacement stones. As they passed outside the gateway, Hettie saw the Cruithne soldier look at her and Paedrin, his eyes narrowing. So many people passed the gates day after day. Would he recognize her as Tyrus’s niece? She had to assume so.

“Faster,” Hettie murmured, increasing her pace. Her ears were frantic for the sound of pursuit. Her heart raced with panic. It was a bold move coming to Kenatos after what had just happened in Silvandom. However, it would be the last place the Arch-Rike would suspect them to go.

Outside the gate, an enormous wooden structure had been erected, with long beams fastened to it and rigged with counterweights. The structure was as tall as the outer wall and reminded her of the equipment used at the docks to unload ships. There were numerous workers around it, mostly burly Cruithne who were managing the chains and ropes and counterweights. It was impressive how quickly the repair was underway. The city was truly a hive of activity.

“I did not know there was a Dryad tree in the midst of Tyrus’s tower,” Paedrin said. “It did not even seem alive. Few if any leaves.”

“Are we speaking to each other again?” Hettie asked with an edge of anger in her voice, but she kept it low. “I was under the impression you wanted nothing to do with me.”

“You understand correctly,” he answered. The look in his eye was full of venom. “I was making an observation.”

“You are too simple, Paedrin,” she said. “For all your talk of the Uddhava and anticipating motives, it stings that you were outwitted. Your pride is injured. Pain is a teacher. But Tyrus thought we would be more successful working together.” They were both walking at a very fast pace, heading down from the tower heights toward the Bhikhu temple.

“Working together would require trust, which is something we lack between us right now. At least I lack it. Perhaps in your culture, it is acceptable to betray someone and then continue on as if nothing happened. Maybe you feel you deserve praise for doing such a wonderful job?”

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