Copyright Kelly St. Clare 2016
I twist side to side as the wind catches the folded Soar under my arm, and ignore the few blue-eyed Brumas who pass me on my way. They gawk at my clothing and the contraption pinned to my side. I also have the veil on—which I tend to forget about now. That will draw almost as
much attention as my clothing and the Soar. There was a time when I was painfully aware of the veil. But every time I removed the material, it became easier. Now I control the veil, not the other way around.
A call goes up as I’m sighted. The portcullis is raised. I pass under the lattice of iron bars.
One of the watchmen runs toward me as fast as his full armor will allow him. I’m not sure why the watch wears such cumbersome equipment. The man gives an awkward bow, a terrorized expression on his face.
“Tatuma Olina, the king has o-ordered you be taken to him immediately upon your arrival.” Well, that explains his fear. I doubt Jovan’s order was polite.
I nod calmly, despite the nervous thrill that jolts through me at his words. “That will be fine. Show me to him.” I wonder if this is one of the guards I tricked when I escaped to the Outer Rings.
The guard looks from me to the portcullis and back.
I smile beneath my veil. “Unless … you cannot leave your post?”
“But he did tell me to take you, and—”
I hold up a hand, trying to stem my laughter. “That’s fine. I’ll go to him directly and assure him of your determination to fulfill both of his commands.”
I leave while the watchman is still bowing. That one wasn’t picked for his brains.
It hits me as soon as I enter the heavy wooden entrance of the castle … I’m about to see Jovan! I stop in my tracks, halfway to the meeting room. The lack of sleep and stress of the last week has to be showing. I wonder what I look like. I shake my head to clear my foggy mind. What am I thinking? I resume my walk, ignoring the new tension.
“Uh, Lina?” I whip my head toward the sound. It’s Cameron. The little son of Tomi, one of the delegates.
“Cam, hello. Do you need something?” I ask.
“Nah, I’m all right. King wants to see you. I heard.”
Had Jovan given the order to everyone? I steadfastly ignore the warmth flooding through me. I’m tired enough to admit I feel this way because I’ve missed him. I’m too weary to pretend it’s just eagerness to relay the news of what happened in the Ire. But knowing my feelings and acting on them are two different things.
“I’m just on my way. Will you show me?”
I trail behind the young, chubby boy until we arrive at the meeting room. Do I knock? It seems too timid for my liking.
I push through the door, and a wave of noise hits me.