“Pereleth,” Edric said. “The City of Water. The Old City, at the center of the Pereleth, was built on an actual island in the center of the lake. The latter portions of the city were built directly over the water.”
“An island on an island?” Katryl smiled at the irony.
“A little like the Septeru themselves,” Edric answered. “Isolation within isolation.”
Last week, I introduced you to Katryl through excerpts from my work in progress, The Seeing Queen (Book 3 of the Firewing Chronicles). This week, meet Edric, the man who has acted as her guide, protector, and guardian since Book 1.
1. I Will Not Faint
“I will leave at once.”
Calthorn arrested Edric. “Stay a few minutes and warm yourself. The matters are urgent, but I cannot have my friend fainting on the way.”
“Not likely,” Edric replied wryly.
“When have you last eaten?” Fiasa asked her brother.
Edric shrugged. “I do not remember.”
“No wonder you look so pale!” Fiasa grasped Edric’s sleeve and pointed to a place by the small fire that they dared to permit in the tunnels. “Sit down. Have some bread.”
“I am not hungry,” Edric slumped by the fire, his eyes glassy with fatigue. “Truth to tell, I am a little nauseous.”
“You will be hungry once you have begun eating. You must drink as well. Here is hot tea.”
Edric protested, but Katryl knew it was for show. He was utterly spent and fell asleep by the fire without meaning to. Calthorn let him sleep and sent another man in his place.
2. Extraordinarily Good-looking
Edric found the captain at a table of oak once rough-hewn by now smooth and shining with the wearing of many hands and tankards over the years. His beard was peppered with gray, and the smell that curled from his steaming tankard was not spiced rum.
“Brick tea?” Edric asked as he seated himself.
“An Onikan habit,” the captain shrugged. “I did not always sail east, and there are some things that even the land of luxury cannot compete with.” He leaned his elbows on the table and folded his hands together. “I hear that a shifty-looking Septeru has been looking for passage for himself and five companions to the island.”
“It can’t be me then,” Edric replied. “I’m the extraordinarily good-looking Septeru looking for passage for myself and five companions.”
“I charge a vanity tax,” the captain said dryly, without cracking so much as a grin.
3. I am not so trusting
“I once asked Calthorn how he could stand to let other men do for him what he wished to do for himself, how he could bear the limitations of his curse. He replied, ‘It is the privilege of a king to trust his people as deeply as they must trust him.’ In many ways, his trust was his weakness, but it also saved him in his greatest hour of need.”
Edric glanced toward the Dwarf and his voice hardened.
“I am not as trusting as Calthorn, Rory. If either of them lose so much as a hair while under your care, I will swim from Septerume, tie you up, drag you back down the hole you came from, and feed you piece by piece to the yaygu.”
4. I paid for my place
“Hey! Beardless boy!” A thoroughly drunk Septeru approached. “Thou must sleep on the floor.”
“I paid for my place,” Edric replied, his hands laced behind his head and his gaze neutral. Katryl felt the tension of his body and inched herself closer to the wall.
“Thou art a Great Lander, but I am a true son of Septerume, and thy place is on the floor.”
Edric merely looked at the trouble maker and shrugged.
“Get thee on the floor!”
Katryl could not quite see what happened, but one moment the man reached for Edric and the next moment, Edric’s hands had made a quick movement and the other man’s head struck the edge of the wooden bench. He crumpled to the ground, his head rolling weakly and his eyes unfocused. A few of the other guests glanced Edric’s way, but no one interfered. Edric rolled back onto the bench and resumed his quiet posture.
Presently, the Septeru man rose, his hands pressed to his bleeding forehead, and staggered away.
“Was that wise?” Katryl asked.
“He was of the House of the Lake. It is a weak House and not well liked. If he tried to speak to the authorities, they will likely laugh in his face.”
“How could you tell what House he was of?”
“The insignia on the clasp of his cloak, of course. Do you pay attention to anything?”
5. I am not in the mood for this
“It is not fitting,” one of the sailors protested. “To play war games with a woman is to make her vulnerable.”
“She is more vulnerable without weapons than with them,” Edric replied. “The skill to defend herself is the best protection I know how to give her.”
“It is her guardian’s duty to be her protection…”
“I am not in the mood for this,” Edric growled. “Be it known that this woman has killed more than a dozen men on her own, and had she not had the ability to do so, she would be dead many times over.”
Katryl caught his sleeve as he turned to go. “Did you have to tell them of how many I have killed?”
“Do you imagine I simply like to boast of your skills? The little peewee by the stern has been watching you too closely ever since you boarded this vessel. I know the Lassgardans have a reputation for courtesy, but they are still men. I smell trouble with that one.”