Mirella nodded and began, blushing every time she mentioned the Hunter’s name, stumbling over the part she’d played, her face a myriad of emotions each time she described a participant’s reaction.
“Mi’Lady, I’ve never seen the King so angry. He ordered everyone out of the Great Throne Room in his old voice, the voice that thundered, and when they didn’t move fast enough, he threw his scepter. The Hunter was taken to the best bedchamber to rest and wash, while the King delayed Elymas.”
“William has gone nearly three days without the tonic. I should go to him, but pain makes him unpredictable. He angers easily and repeats himself.” She lifted the long rope of pearls and scrunched them in her hand. “The Hunter has brought much confusion, and it changes our plans.”
“Laveth, what are you plotting?” asked Nan Maura sharply. “Only a moment ago, you agreed to carry out our plans.”
“My resolve has strengthened. Arek will leave tonight.”
“What?” the nurse shrieked. “I’m not packed and as for the—“
“Glynnis Fen is out of the question. My son wouldn’t be safe there. Nor would you.”
“Then where do you propose to send us?” demanded the old nurse. “Trent is a deaf mute who only knows the western roads and I’m old.”
“My child will be sent to the Shautu as the Shautu demands.”
Nan Maura paused for only a moment. “Very well, but I must take more belongings. The mountains are cold.”
“You’re staying here.”
“I will not!”
“I command you.”
“Laveth, you can’t mean this! The babe can’t be sent with only the Hunter. They’ll be slaughtered once beyond the city walls.”
Mirella, silent through their sharp exchange, spoke. “But the Shautu sent Oren because he is the Protectra. Majesty, Oren is very strong.”
“Child, however god-like you perceive this man, he’s but a man, after all. A large man, yes. A strong man, true. Skilled in war? Legendary. But he is one man and Elymas has dozens, perhaps hundreds of Sacred Servants at his beck and call. Slithering like red snakes, each an assassin, trained in obscene ways to kill. The Shautu is depending on the fact that Elymas won’t counteract the Elyon’s will, but he is wrong.”
“Until now, I never understood why the Prince’s foot had to be kept a secret,” said Mirella, slowly. “I thought it had to do with pride. Or timing. Perhaps, Mi’Lady, you were waiting for the right time to tell the King. Or maybe that in time he might outgrow it. It never occurred to me that his life was in danger. He is the King’s son!
“The King steps closer to death every day,” replied Laveth. “Some are big steps; other small, but short of a miracle, he’s near the end. The tips of his fingers are black now, did you know?”
Mirella shook her head.
“The Earth Skyll is poisoning him, but I don’t know how. The physicians have drunk the same tonic to no ill effect, excerpt for the fat leech Cyril who feigned sleep for three days. I’ve no grounds for accusations, but I know Elymas is killing William.” Laveth’s eyes were bleak. “The Prince won’t be coming into his own for many years and many unexpected things can happen, especially to a boy with the foot of an Earth Skyll and the right of a King. The situation is unnatural; my son is unnatural. If Arek died suddenly, no one would turn a hair. I can’t hear the old hens cackle now: Those like him weren’t meant to live.