Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(16)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(16)
Jeff Wheeler

The dusty tiles met his sandals soundlessly as he maneuvered past columns and enormous urns. He listened and heard her voice, then changed his direction. He had heard her speak occasionally, and she spoke with a strong accent, a wild accent, as if she were from some unmannered country. Yet if that were so, why did she comport herself with the disdain of someone very wealthy? Was she in disguise, perhaps? That kindled Paedrin’s curiosity even more. Out of favor with a wealthy father, a duke in Wayland? He could not help but let his imagination run wild.

He heard Master Shivu’s voice next, a comforting but firm tone in it. He was resisting her request. He was patient about it, as he always was, but he was telling her no.

“I can pay,” he heard her say. “When the job is done.”

“We have little need for treasure, little one. It is contrary to our order to accept payment of any kind.” He was excruciatingly patient. Paedrin did not understand this, considering how difficult little orphaned boys could be. “It is our duty to serve the races.”

“But I am in need of a service for hire,” the girl insisted. “It will not be a long journey. A fortnight or two. I need a protector.”

Master Shivu came into view, his head bent thoughtfully, his wrinkled eyes warm with sympathy. His hair was a patchwork of silver and white stubble. “What protection do you need that these walls cannot provide?” He held his hand out, gesturing toward the structure around them. “If you are hunted, you are safe here. The Bhikhu will defend you. You are an orphan, as you said. There is work for you to do right here among us. There is no need to venture into the woods.”

“But I do not belong here,” she said, her voice betraying a hint of anger. “Nor am I safe here from my enemies. You do not understand. I turn eighteen soon.”

Paedrin licked his lips, intrigued beyond calculation. If he lingered much longer, he would learn more about this girl. But it was rude to delay his approach. Even though he walked on cat’s feet, she still heard him. Her expression shifted at once from sincere desperation to annoyance.

“Forgive me for disturbing you, Master,” the girl said and started to go the other way, abandoning Master Shivu with a quick toss of her head.

It was in the moment Paedrin saw the subtle gleam in her right ear—the gold earring. Only one.

The pieces began to assemble in his mind.

“A word before you go, child,” Shivu said, stalling her.

“Yes?”

“I would like you to meet your protector.” Master Shivu opened his palm and gestured. “This is Paedrin.”

“He’s Vaettir,” she said, sizing him up with cool eyes. The tone in her voice was insulting to him.

“I am,” he answered, closing the gap between them. “And you are Romani, though you try to hide it. What is my assignment, Master Shivu? Protecting a special caravan?”

Her eyebrows arched. “I meant that you were Vaettir-born and that our people have a history. I do not see why he chose you.”

“I chose Paedrin,” Master Shivu said, “because he is the best our temple has to offer your uncle. He has been trained in all martial weapons as well as the subtle ways of hand and foot. He is nearly done with all of his philosophical training and will soon be introduced to the city as a defender. There is no one else I would trust more with your safety.”

“Has he traveled beyond the city before?” she asked, her voice slightly mocking.

“I am right here,” Paedrin said, not sure which emotion he wanted to subdue more—his excitement to be chosen or his animosity toward this girl. “No, I have not…”

“I guess this is the best I can expect then,” she said, interrupting him. She nodded to him and then to Master Shivu and turned to leave.

Master Shivu waited until she disappeared through the archway leading to the female quarters.

“You should not lurk in shadows, Paedrin,” Master Shivu said with no malice.

“Was I lurking?” Paedrin asked, smiling broadly to hide a grin. “I was trying to be respectful and not intrude on your conversation, Master.”

“You were lurking, Paedrin.” Master Shivu began to walk away, his colorful amber robes fluttering. Master Shivu was a Vaettir as well, so old his stubs of hair were white as snow instead of black. He had a flat nose and high cheekbones. “I should have told our guest that good manners or soft-spokenness is not one of your skills.”

“Our guest is Romani,” Paedrin said, keeping pace with him as they crossed the vast hall. “What do they know of good manners?”

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