Raven, Chapter 14-b

Lady Almi glanced between her daughter and her husband. Both were unusually quiet this morning. Tyala, she could understand. They had essentially forbidden their daughter from leaving the manor grounds and had assigned one of the servants to follow her everywhere. She was all but a prisoner in her own home. Her husband, she couldn’t understand. She assumed he had slept as well as she had, but there were dark circles under his eyes and there was a haunted look on his face. It ghosted by every so often, but she had caught it.

She dabbed at her lips with the cloth napkin before clearing her throat. “Boys, why don’t you go out and play in the gardens?”

The twins grinned and raced away before their breakfasts were fully settled. Their mother hardly ever sent them out to play right after breakfast. It was a treat to them, and they meant to take it before their mother could rescind her instructions to them.

Lady Almi turned to focus her attention on her daughter. Tyala was picking at a piece of fruit, and hadn’t touched anything else on her plate. She kept her head down low over the plate, letting her long hair veil her face.

“Tyala,” she said gently. “Why don’t you finish with breakfast and instead enjoy the day.”

Tyala’s head jerked up and around to the serving woman who stood a discrete distance behind her chair. “With my chaperone, I assume?”

Lady Almi sighed. “Tyala, please. We don’t want to lose you.”

The girl stood and threw down her napkin. Without a word, she turned on her heel and left the dining room, the serving woman following after.

That left only Lord and Lady Almi. She turned her attention to her husband, who saw hunched over, pushing around his food. Like Tyala, he hadn’t touched much. That concerned her. Usually, her husband was a hearty eater.

“Emeri, what’s going on?”

He looked up at her, his eyes hooded. “What makes you think something is going on?”

She laid a hand on his arm. “Dearest, you’re never like this. Is it because of Tyala? Because she wanted to run away? Emeri, please tell me what’s going on.”

Lord Almi didn’t look at her as he spoke. “I had an idea last night, Nyana, an idea of how to keep our daughter with us. I despise this feud, but I love our daughter. The only way I found to keep her with us was to kill Lord Sarlik and make Tyala and Caidy turn against each other, for Caidy would know that it was us that called for her father’s death.

“So, I went to a Thief Lord, the one called Raven, and asked her to murder Lord Sarlik. She didn’t give me an answer other than to tell me I should return to her with you.”

Lord Almi lifted his eyes to meet his wife’s gaze. She looked stricken and was sitting straight and still. “You went to Raven?” she whispered. “When?”

“Last night, while you were sleeping. She was actually quite reasonable.”

Lady Almi lifted a hand to tangle her fingers with a golden necklace. She tugged on it gently and revealed a beautiful jewel setting. “Raven stole this for me from Caidy. She is a pleasure to work with. I’m glad you chose to go to her. And I am surprised you decided Lord Sarlik has to die.”

Lord Almi gritted his teeth. “Don’t read too much into this, Nyana. I just want to keep our daughter from leaving us.”

“Of course, Emeri. I don’t want her to leave, either. When should we return to Raven?”

His eyes lowered so he wasn’t looking at her. “Tonight. The sooner we finish with this, the better.”

He didn’t see his wife nod in approval and agreement.

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