Nan Maura had recognized the wind for what it was — a fierce wind laced with the Dark One’s laughter. A wind that tickled the walls while holding the very castle in its grip. If the boy were to escape, it had to be now.
Nan rang for the girl, then again. Fear made her angry, anger made careless and so she’d pulled the bell a third time before she realized the girl was standing before her.
Mirella looked terrified and much too young for such an undertaking. Why had she ever been jealous? The time had come too soon and she needed every prayer.
Even so, the old nurse couldn’t be gentle. She looked her directly in the eye and said, “Mirella, you must leave with the babe this very evening. I’ve already given him the tonic.”
Mirella’s face turned bloodless.
“But the storm is fierce, much too fierce for travel.” The girl looked at her as if she’d lost her wits. “Do you not hear the wind? The rain?”
“Or course I hear them” snapped Nan Maura. “I am not deaf . . . or blind.”
Did Mirella think she was crazy? Perhaps. But Nan Maura had dealt with the Dark before.
“The storm is unnatural, laced with the Dark. A gift, if you will. At a time when no one is expected to travel, you and the child must leave.”
” We can’t leave if the Dark has–
“You must. Or the child will be dead by morning.”
” Surely, we are safe in the castle!”
“No one is safe.The Dark has come. It has–“
“It?” Mirella sounded terrified.
“It. Them. Him. Her. I would tell you if I knew but I don’t, nor does it matter. All I know is that you must be gone as soon as I smooth the bedding, and stitch the skin over the top.”
“Surely you can’t think to send us into such a storm.”
“I have no choice. Nor do you.”
Mirella slowly nodded. Yes, she’d given her word. She’d keep it, but how would they survive?
Nan Maura motioned her into the nursery. They stopped in the doorway. The Queen stood next to the crib. She looked dead.
Laveth looked at Mirella. She was calm, unnaturally so. “Nan Maura is right. You must leave tonight. Listen to the wind. It speaks.”
Mirella listened to the murmur between the gusts until she could no longer stand it and covered her ears.
“We have only a window of time,” Nan Maura lifted her chin with her gnarled hand and looked at her. Mirella noted this was the first time she’d ever touched her or looked at her without hate. “You must be on your way before the rain breaks. Something or someone is here. Her hand trembled at this admission, but she continued. “None of us may be safe after tonight, but if the child goes, he will live.”
“If you take him, Mirella,” said the Queen, dry-eyed.
The use of her given name galvanized her into action.
She looked down at the prince who was nearly dozing.
She would do this, Mirella decided, she would protect him with her very life.