Lenore Mestonie pulled her little brother, Devon, close to her. She tried to catch her breath. The boy who’d saved them scrambled to his feet, and ran towards the canal. She wanted to scream for him to come back, that there were other soldiers who might still hurt them, and she still couldn’t even see her brother Octavian, but then she realized how foolish that was. She didn’t even know this boy, after all.
Devon was struggling out of her grasp. “Michael was hurt, Lenore,” he cried. “We’ve got to check on him.”
“What are we going to do, stupid?” Lenore snapped. “Just stay here with me until we see Papa.”
Septa soldiers were running through the garden, trying to round up the Montelarians. Lenore saw some of them get away, and she hoped that they all drowned in the canals like their leader.
Samuel, her father, was running out into the garden, followed by the other men of the court. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and a head and beard of thick black hair. He was looking around, as though trying to figure out what was going on. Lenore had to admit that it was very difficult to guess, given the chaos.
A guard was kneeling over Uncle Issac. He looked up, his face pale, and announced to no one in particular, “The king is dead!”
“Prince Michael, too!” someone cried. Lenore looked toward them, to find that it was her younger brother Octavian, the middle of the children, holding their cousin Michael in his arms and sobbing.
Lenore looked back at her father. His strong face was ashen. He took a deep breath, and then another. Finally, he walked over to her. “Bug,” he said, kneeling in front of her, “tell me what happened here.”
“Uncle Issac brought Devon, Michael and me out to see the bats leave the tower,” Lenore said. “Then the wall, well, it just sort of exploded, and those Montelair soldiers came running through. The biggest one shot some sort of light ball at Uncle Issac, Aunt Grace and Michael. I grabbed Devon, and we hid here, but the soldier saw us. He would have killed us, but that boy over there saved our lives.” She nodded her head towards the boy kneeling next to the canal.
“Papa, I thought we were at peace with Montelair,” Devon whispered.
“No tears, Devon,” Samuel said. “Look at your sister, she’s not crying.” Lenore thought that was a very near thing.
“I know that we were at peace with Montelair, and I’ve no idea why they’ve decided to attack us now,” Samuel said, getting to his feet, “but we will find out.”
“It was not Montelair,” said the boy.
Everyone looked towards him, as he rose to his feet, and turned. “It was not the king that sent us,” he repeated. “It was the Brothers of the Broken Chain. My older brother, Calvin, he was leading them. I was only along to try to stop him.”
Samuel pulled his sword, and swung it, lighting the blade on fire. “Not another step closer, not yet,” he said. “It was your brother who was leading, so it was him that killed my brother, the king?”
“And it is him that is now dead, at the bottom of your canal,” Victor said. His Montelarian accent was thick. Lenore had thought that he was a boy, but looking at his face she realized that he had to be at least twenty-three. His roughly cut blond hair hung in wet strands around his face.
“Papa, don’t hurt him,” Lenore said. “He saved us.”
“Who are you?” Samuel asked.
“My name is Victor Olendae. I was a member of the Brotherhood of the Broken Chain.”
“And why did you save my children?” Samuel asked.
“Because I did not want to see more innocent lives taken because my brother could not tell an enemy from a bystander. Because it was the right thing to do.”
“So, what am I to do with you now?” Samuel asked.
Lenore was astonished at how calm her father sounded. She wondered if anyone else noticed how his hands were shaking on the handle of his sword.
Samuel walked up to Victor. “I’ll make you a deal, Victor Olendae. You swear your fealty to me, and I’ll spare your life. I’ll give you a job, and a place in my household. Otherwise, I’ll hold you accountable for your brothers’ crimes.”
“So, my choices are death or slavery?” Victor asked.
“Fealty isn’t slavery,” Lenore snapped. “It’s a promise of loyalty and service. A slave is a bought and paid for possession, and slavery is a filthy practice. There haven’t been any slaves in Septa since my family overthrew the old church.”
One of the noblemen, Lord David, cleared his throat. Lenore looked over at him. He was a taller man, with more nose than his face really needed. “Prince Samuel, we are awaiting your orders,” he said.
“Oh,” Samuel said. “I suppose you must be. Yes, Victor, please look after my children while I get this mess sorted, will you?”
He wandered towards David, calling for guards to collect Issac and Michael, to sweep the grounds in case any more rebels were hiding, and to rouse the ambassadors.
Victor walked up to Lenore, who was just getting to her feet, pulling Devon along with her. “Your dress shines,” he said.
“I am a thread mage, I spin light into yarn,” Lenore said. “Thank you for saving us. I am sorry that you lost your brother.”
“I am sorry that you lost family as well,” Victor said. “I tried to stop the whole thing several times on the way here. This is not how my people should gain their freedom from our king.”
Octavian stumbled up to them. “Lenore,” he asked, “is Papa the king now?”
Lenore looked at him. For a moment, she had a hard time remembering what the words he’d used meant. King wasn’t a title, king was her uncle.
Finally, though, she said, “I think so.”