Outer Flower, 42

Sights and Sounds

“Nooo!!!” he rose from the throne, only to fall back again. Elymas closed his eyes tightly, aware that his head was spinning. When he opened them again, the hanged man was gone.

He uttered a particularly foul curse and vowed that, after tonight, he’d never drink Frennin White again. But for now, he couldn’t stop. He filled the goblet and drank deeply.

Tonight’s feast had been thick with talk of the Third Stripe, or Axis, if they were brave enough to say it, and, of course, his infant successor, the new Earth Skyll. Talk would die at the announcement of William’s death, but the respite would be only temporary. Too many eyes had looked away, too many conversations had halted at his approach. The latter reaction was not unusual; Elymas knew himself to be intimidating. He reveled in the fact that he could quell a court dandy with a frown, but tonight’s silences had been strained and waiting, the whispers resuming even as he turned to go.

He could almost hear them whispering now. Elymas shook his head, trying to clear his head of words. Damnit, the Frennin White was a trickster. One minute it made him hallucinate, the next it made things too real.

Of course, they’d been speculating about his successor, but that speculation would be short-lived. He’d order the child found and killed. The Whitehair would also be eliminated, the only question in his case being when. It would be simple enough to declare him a traitor and hang him on the morrow, but that led Elymas to the problem of the Shautu. He had no wish to quarrel with the old man nor his lot of assorted followers at this critical juncture. Certainly, he’d like nothing better than to destroy the Shautu’s power and break the back of the nearly mythical order of the Blue Stone, but there would be time when he was fully in control.

Out of nowhere, he heard the sound of an avalanche. He ignored it.

William’s young queen was hardly an obstacle. Peasants like Laveth were easy to crush; besides, a large part of the populace had never really accepted her. Elymas remembered how she’d looked tonight entering the banquet hall. She’d arrived even later than the tardy crowd, clad in lavender silk with pearls draped about her neck and in her hair. She’d been particularly animated, a giddiness he’d never seen break through her usual reserve. Ah, she was a tender morsel.

The smack of lips echoed through the hall. Elymas took another drink.

He would woo her with dependency, the subtlest form of control. When the time came for destruction, it would be her mouth that issued the fighting orders, her seal upon the scroll.

If not, she would boil in oil.

Yes, death was a ripe fruit above him; all he need do was reach up his hand and his enemies would fall. Death to William, death to Ondred, death to the earth child, too. As for the Hunter, for now he would remain in the dungeon, where the walls were thick and the chains were strong.

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