Snippet

The new king’s court is filled with enemies. Gardak has the sight, and that helps him protect Alaric, but Sylwan sees auras, and that makes her worry during the banquet.

When the servants arrived this time, they cleared all of the food from the table to make room for dessert.  Sweet and savory tarts were sent from the kitchen.  A young steward bearing a pitcher came to refill their wine glasses.  His aura darted with shots of worry and fear, and when Gardak started to raise his tankard, Sylwan placed her hand over his, shaking her head.  “Don’t drink.”

Gardak stayed the king’s hand, too.

Alaric frowned at his goblet, then rose and called to the young man.  “You!  Come.  Return to drink with us.  Your father cares for our horses, doesn’t he?”

The man stopped, glancing toward the door to the hallway.  He looked ready to bolt but would never make it there without being stopped.  Trying to appear calm, he turned on his heel to approach their table.  “I thank you for your generosity, my king, but I never drink while I’m working.”

“You will now.”  Alaric’s voice carried and people turned to listen to him.  “Either that, or you’ll tell me who sent you with a pitcher of poison.”

The man’s face turned ashen, all color draining from it.  “I have no access to poisons, my king.”

“I’m sure you don’t, but whoever put you up to this does.  Who was it?”

As the poor man glanced around the room, looking for an escape, Gardak rose and circled the table.  “Guard the king,” he told Sylwan.

She stood, too, removing her sword from its secret sheath.  The Guard rose at the same time, turning to face the room.

The young man panicked, pointing at Morcant.  “He told me to deliver this pitcher to your table.  He said it was a special blend of wine that you’d enjoy, but I was worried you’d call me out, because I thought we were serving your favorite already.”

Morcant jumped to his feet.  “Idiot!  What did you do to make them suspicious?”

Gardak sneered.  “You forget.  I have the sight.  The steward did nothing.”

Sylwan sighed her relief.  Gardak clearly didn’t want people to know about her gift.  It would ruin their advantage.

Morcant raised his fist, shouting to people at other tables, “It’s time for action!  Gardak has found the daughter of Rhoslyn and Allard.  We have a witch among us.”

A gasp went up from the people before them. 

“He’s training her as a Guard.  Once she’s at her fullest powers, it will be nearly impossible to overthrow Alaric with two warriors wielding magic.  If you’re true to Malra and want to return to our natural order of things, join me now!”

The two men Sylwan had decided were Malra’s allies strode to join Morcant.  Another man joined them.  All drew their swords and charged Gardak.  Five others leapt up, following behind them.

The warriors sitting near the front table stood in unison.  Gardak didn’t wait for them.  He ran to meet Morcant and the three with him.  His sword burst into flames, and four bodies fell to the ground.  The Guard finished off the others, but Sylwan’s attention was diverted by Morcant’s wife.  She reached beneath their table and rose, raised a bow and notched an arrow.  Taking aim for the king, she shot. 

Sylwan pushed the king behind her and raised her sword, point up.  The blade blazed and she shoved it to arm’s length, willing the flames to flare even wider.  The arrow entered the fire and fell in ashes, its tip melted. 

Eda had watched the entire thing.   She followed Sylwan’s gaze and realized who’d shot the arrow.  Drawing back her arm, she hurled her knife, burying it in Morcant’s wife’s chest.  The woman fell, her body crashing onto the table.  With screams, her companions scurried back, out of the way.

Gardak scanned the room for any more enemies.  Satisfied the king was safe, he reached down and wiped his blade on Morcant’s tunic before returning it to his sheath.  Then calmly, he smiled at the assemblage.

“This was unfortunate.  Tonight is a time to celebrate.”  He motioned to the warriors.  “Dispose of the bodies, then come back to enjoy our feast.”

Subdued voices filled the room.  The king ate a blackberry tart and called, “My friends, you should try these.  They’re wonderful.”

BLOOD AND BONES on Vella.

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