Time for another Dagger and Coin extra! Today I am pleased to share a short story that bridges Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. This story shows the very first meeting of the new Ruling Council, and takes place between the final two chapters of Sword and Verse…but it’s from Soraya’s point of view. This story was originally featured in the Fall 2018 YA Scavenger Hunt, and I pleased to share it now with all my readers.
The Council of Four: A Story from the World of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin
by Kathy MacMillan
IT HAD BEEN a day since I agreed to be on the new Ruling Council, and my mother had not said a word about it. She must not have figured out the best way to use it to her advantage yet. Or perhaps she had, and was staying silent to provoke me into asking what she thought.
I watched her as I sat on the bed Aunt Silya and I shared in the priest’s residence at the Temple of Aqil. Mother lay in the second bed, one arm over her eyes, her other hand on her copious stomach. I’d already given her one of the little honey-herb packets that were supposed to help her dizziness, but I couldn’t help worrying.
Alshara was curled up on her side next to Mother, facing the wall. Mother took up so much space that Alshara practically clung to the edge of the bed. If she’d been in her usual state, my sister would have been complaining nonstop, but she’d hardly said more than two words in the past five days, since she had witnessed our father being cut down by the Arnath Resistance, since I’d had to tell her, haltingly, of finding the body of our sister Aliana, her twin, lifeless in the courtyard of the palace.
I never thought that I would actually miss Alshara’s whining.
I should have been relishing the peace; Aunt Silya and her constant chatter had removed to the gardens with much muttering that my mother had made the room smell like a barnyard. She wasn’t wrong—Mother tended to sweat profusely when the headaches and dizziness took her, and we hardly had the perfumes, oils, and powders we had once had to cover up foul odors.
I was debating with myself. I didn’t quite know what it meant, the fact that I had agreed yesterday, in front of everyone, to be on the new Ruling Council, and I was annoyed that no one had bothered to enlighten me. I was sick of sitting around waiting for something to happen, but it felt indecently self-revealing to seek out those answers. I couldn’t have Mati and Raisa and Jonis thinking I was eager to join in their plans.
I ran my finger over my father’s signet ring, worn on my right thumb because it was so large it slipped off every other finger. The pad of my index finger was becoming callused from the number of times I had repeated this gesture over the past few days. This is ridiculous, I decided. I was head of the Gamo family now. If Mati and Jonis didn’t want me on this council, then that was all the more reason for me to force them to give me answers.
I pushed myself up off the bed and smoothed the skirt of the yellow dress I’d been wearing for days now. Aunt Silya had disappeared not long after we’d arrived at the Temple of Aqil and returned with a pile of clothes, of which this dress had been the least offensively plain. The fact that she had known her way around the priest’s residence made me wonder exactly what kind of relationship she’d had with Penta Rale, her brother-in-law, and whether any inappropriateness had started before or after her husband had died. I was certain that she had been the one to convince my father, her younger brother, to join in Rale’s coup.
Regardless, I’d been glad enough to shed my torn and muddy wedding dress. I would have liked to toss it into the fire, but I knew how much the silk in the rosettes would be worth when unraveled. Most of my family’s wealth remained in the west at Pira, of course, but our finances would not escape the ravages in the city unscathed, and there was no sense being wasteful.
When I stepped into the hallway, Valdis looked up from his seat outside the door. I started to tell him where I was going, as if I owed him an explanation, but I ran my finger over my father’s signet ring on my thumb and stopped myself. I was his mistress, not his charge.
“Stay and guard them,” I ordered, though he’d done nothing to indicate that he planned to do anything else.
I marched down the hallway, glancing into open rooms and straining to hear conversations behind closed doors. I had no idea where to find Mati or the others, but I was reluctant to ask anyone I passed. I kept my head up and turned a corner as if I knew where I was going, and caught a glimpse of Mati entering a room at the end. I went directly to it and knocked on the closed door.
“Coming,” said Mati’s muffled voice.
He opened the door a moment later, tying the laces of a rough brown tunic that didn’t suit him at all. His hair was damp and the ends dripped onto his shoulders. He looked nothing like a king, which was fortunate, since he wasn’t one any longer.
I couldn’t help a bit of satisfaction at the fear that flashed over his face at the sight of me. My father had inspired fear in his enemies, but the only people who’d ever been afraid of me had been servants dreading the edge of my sharp tongue.
After all Mati had done to me, he should fear me.