Mirella had always known, in the way that women know things, that it had been the Queen’s decision to give her a place at court. Of course, the King hadn’t been opposed but what father would burn his daughter? Hers. Yes, she’d read the note beforehand, and for that reason had stood proudly before the throne, staring at the light coming though the leaded windows, following the patterns as a child might as they splayed on the floor. Her father wanted her dead, and for all she knew, it might happen. But it hadn’t and she’d been given a place of honor at the Queen’s command.
Mirella owed Laveth her life.
For that reason, her feet descended carefully on the stone steps and every pull from the basket weight was disregarded. Mirella was resolved to reach the Shautu.
She’d given herself a moment’s rest once out of the castle, then stepped up and into the back of the cart. It was raining lightly, and Mirella covered only the basket that held the child . The rain was hardly more than a sprinkle now, and she imagined it would stop. Perhaps all it was meant to be was a bout of freakish lightening.
She looked toward the front of the wagon to see Trad, the deaf-mute whom Nan Maura had designated as driver. He was covered in a poncho cut from the same skin that covered the baby’s basket.
The old nurse had thought of everything.
They’d left the kitchen bailey and were out of the bailey proper when lightning cracked again, this time frightening the horses. The deaf-mute let out a cry that somehow managed to calm rather than frighten and flicked the reins, urging the team into a brisk trot. Rather than slow and easy, Trad was urging hard and fast. He used the whip as they neared the drawbridge. The bridge was down but Trad pushed them as though any minute the heavy planks might begin to rise.
Mirella glanced up, trying to see inside the gate house, but night had fallen and she saw no movement. The men who worked the counterweights must have been driven in by the initial lightening blast.
As they crossed the bridge, fear crawled in her stomach like a small animal. All else had been apprehension. The water was high, the excess from the castle already run in, and what little moonlight left in the sky had settled on the water. She saw huge fantastical shapes swimming below. Surfacing fins, snapping jaws, razor sharp teeth that bulged up, filled with meat. They were feeding on something. The thought came to her that it might be a man. She closed her eyes and tightened her grip on the basket handle.
As if heaven had been watching, the rain came down in sheets the minute they were in the town. Trad didn’t pull over, but continued pushing the team, sticking to the main roads, the cobbled ones, with a surety that made Mirella realize that he’d gone over this route countless times.
The old nurse had thought of everything but the storm.