Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(6)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(6)
Jeff Wheeler

She tried to smile, but her mouth felt all wrong.

“How did the last harvest go?” he prodded, trying again to distract her.

“I know what you are doing,” she said, trying not to whine. “Let’s go back to our first conversation.” She gave him a level look. “I don’t like the thought of you being a soldier, Trasen. The Romani are dangerous.”

“So are the Wayland Outriders,” he countered. “I’m not going as a soldier. Finders are paid much better.”

“Why are you so suddenly interested in earning ducats?” she asked, butting his knee with hers. “Is there a fancy bow you are craving? A new blade?”

He smiled wanly, looking down at the floor suddenly. “It takes ducats to start a homestead, Phae. Of course, there are all those abandoned ones in Wayland from the last Plague. But I’ve heard they are haunted.”

“You would go to Wayland to start a homestead? Why not here?”

“Is this where you want to spend the rest of your life, Phae?”

“Not in the city. But yes, I love this country. I thought you did too.”

He nodded. There was something in his eyes again. Something he wasn’t telling her.

“Why do ducats mean so much to you now, Trasen?” she pushed again, unrelenting. “If anything were to happen to you…”

His eyebrow twitched up, waiting for her to finish.

She did not. There was a knock on the door and Trasen was on his feet. The others deferred to him, since he was the oldest and he opened the door cautiously, hand resting on his dagger hilt.

Winemiller entered, followed by the Vaettir prince. Phae’s heart fell to the bottom of her boots. The other children hushed at once, and even Dame Winemiller stopped her chatter when he appeared.

“Children, we have a guest tonight,” Winemiller said. Phae stared at his face in suspense, wondering what he would say. “This is Prince Aran of Silvandom. He will be spending the night with us. Devin and Tate—you will give up your room tonight and sleep in the kitchen. The Prince needs some privacy and he refused to take our room. All right, boys? Good. Everyone needs to go to bed. We have extra chores in the morning. Go on, now. No stories. You can hear more from Trasen in the morning. Sorry, lad, but you will sleep in the barn tonight. We don’t have any extra beds at the moment.”

Trasen waved it away. He was used to sleeping out of doors.

Phae bit her lip, meeting the Prince’s eyes as he looked at her, almost scowling. His expression was grave and disapproving. He bowed thankfully and declined Dame Winemiller’s offer of wine to drink. He stood aloof as the children began crossing paths, unused to heading to bed so early.

Winemiller approached Phae at the hearth and Trasen joined him.

“I must leave?” Phae asked, devastated.

He nodded brusquely. His voice was low, almost a whisper. “But not as this man wishes. I do not know who he is. I do not trust him. I am not letting you leave with him tonight.”

Her heart surged with joy.

“He says he knows your father, claiming he is a Paracelsus at Kenatos who is out of favor with the Arch-Rike. Some bad debt, probably. You never know with these things. He told me quite a tale. I don’t know how much of it is true.” He glanced back at the Vaettir a moment, saw the man in conversation with his wife. Winemiller half-smiled and dropped his voice even lower. “Mother will keep him distracted a while. You have a necklace, Phae. Made with a blue stone. The one that was left in the basket with you.”

She reached for it around her throat, but a subtle jerk from his head made her stop. “No, he can see you from there. When you go to bed tonight, leave it under your pillow. Apparently, that is how he found you. Then I want you to crawl out your window and go straight to the barn. Trasen, take Phae to the cabin in the mountains. Also take some bows, a few braces of arrows, knives, and short axes. Rope. It’s always good to have enough rope. A change of clothes too, but travel light. If you leave tonight, you might get there by nightfall tomorrow.”

Phae had not even thought of that. She wanted to hug and kiss him, but knew that it would attract the Prince’s attention. She needed to look forlorn and rejected. She put on her best pout.

Trasen folded his arms, nodding warily. “Will you send word for us?”

“I will come myself,” he promised. “If what Prince Aran told me tonight is true, the whole family is in danger. We might all need to go live in the cabin for a while. But it gives me some time to verify what I can from his story. I don’t care how many people the Arch-Rike can pay. This is Stonehollow. Our neighbors mind their own business. We won’t be as easy to find as Aran thinks.”

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