I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.
Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.
This week’s extra is a story from the point of view of Gelti Dimmin, captain of the King’s Guard. Though Gelti becomes a major character in Dagger and Coin, I found it really helpful to rewrite several parts of Sword and Verse from his point of view, as the events of that book form such an important part of his character arc. This story gives us Gelti’s perspective on Raisa’s sentencing and punishment by the Scholars Council in Sword and Verse, and the larger political machinations at play. Mati fans will be interested in seeing a fuller picture of how he handled the council negotiations after Raisa was sent out of the room, and was pressured into sending the raiders to the Nath Tarin – a choice that causes everything to fall apart in Dagger and Coin.
IT WAS HARDLY past sunrise bells when the summons came from the High Priest of Aqil. Kirol was the messenger, and he made no attempt to hide his disgust for the High Priest.
Couldn’t allow that. “Lieutenant,” I snapped. “You will speak with respect of your betters.”
His eyes widened, which gave me a pang, and he looked around the empty guardroom.
I sighed and rested a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not your cousin when you’re on duty. Can’t have the other guards thinking you get privileges.”
Other than the privilege, of course, of wearing lieutenant’s pips less than a year out of training. But what was the point of selling my soul if I couldn’t spread the rewards around to my family?
“Yes, sir,” he said, his tone making my mouth tighten. He saluted and turned to leave, but I grabbed his shoulder and turned him back to face me.
“Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”
Kirol’s eyes narrowed in a way that I would have called insubordination from any other guard. “Why do you let the High Priest order you around? He’s not the king.”
Keep your temper, I told myself. “Is that what you think? He orders me around?” And maybe better to say: not the king yet. “Perhaps I am working under orders from the king, orders my junior lieutenants are not privy to.”
Kirol heard the danger in my tone, and his forehead wrinkled. “Of course. Sir.” He frowned, but he couldn’t seem to let it go. “But…there’s something about the High Priest that…troubles me. Sir.” I continued to watch him, my impassive expression not betraying my suddenly pounding heart, and he squirmed. “I can’t explain why, exactly, but I don’t think he can be trusted. I just have this feeling–”
“A feeling,” I repeated skeptically, as if I hadn’t taught him myself how a guard’s intuition is one of his keenest tools for identifying threats. But damn him and his observant nature. I had enough to deal with. I didn’t want my cousin getting mixed up in this.
Kirol flushed to his hairline. “Sorry, Captain,” he mumbled, and hurried out of the room. I let him go.
I pushed aside the cold remains of my breakfast and went to see what the High Priest wanted now. Another bribe to be delivered to a ship captain, perhaps, or a threatening message to another councilor. Not like I could say no to whatever it was, no matter how petty, not when he was the one who’d put me in the post of captain.
Funny how I never used to mind it, doing his bidding, back when King Tyno was alive. It didn’t feel like treachery then, supporting Rale’s effort to keep King Tyno’s weak-willed son off the throne.
But now that King Tyno was gone and the worst had come to pass, it hadn’t turned out to be so bad. King Mati was nothing like his father—his father had been a great king for certain—but neither was he the sap that the council had expected. Maybe that was why they worked so hard to undermine him now.
It had taken me a long time to admit it to myself, that there was something about this new king not to be sneered at. He’d taken charge before his father’s body was even cold, sending me out to quietly investigate the councilors to determine if any of them had been behind the king’s death. The High Priest of Aqil had been the only councilor without an alibi, so I had invented one for him—couldn’t afford to have him blabbing about me while he was burning. Besides, why would Rale assassinate the king before he’d been named as regent?
And the way King Mati had gone after the Resistance, even letting me try some of the traps I’d been itching to set for them. Didn’t work, but I appreciated that he listened to the suggestion. His father never had.
And, I thought as I stood before the High Priest of Aqil in the council chamber, where he’d stationed himself as if this were his private audience room, at least King Mati spoke to his guards with some measure of politeness. It was disarming, if not especially kingly, and probably made more than one guard feel a bit guilty about the bribes they took from Rale. Didn’t stop them from taking those bribes any more than it had stopped me from answering Rale’s summons, but it made them feel a twinge about it.
“Captain,” said Rale, as soon as the door had shut behind me. “So glad you could join me. I have quite particular orders for you this morning. The timing is critical, I am afraid.”
I bristled at his phrasing. Orders. But, as he had so often reminded me, my position, Kirol’s position, my mother’s house in the Web—all of these things could easily be taken away at his whim. I couldn’t bring myself to address him politely, so I just jerked my head in a nod, without taking my eyes off of his fat face. He looked…elated. That sent dread creeping down my neck.
“Listen carefully,” he said. “Today, just after midmorning bells, you will arrest Raisa ke Margara and bring her before the Scholars Council.”
“For what offense?”
He let out a tutting sound, as if to say that no other offense than to be an Arnath and a Tutor was required. And while I didn’t disagree with him, I also had to at least pretend to be doing my job.
“Failing to burn her writing, of course.” He leaned forward, his smile splitting his pudgy cheeks. “That little one, that Jera. I’ve been questioning her, and she told me an extraordinary story of finding unburnt pages in the Adytum, and the Tutor acting strangely about it. She’s got more, no doubt. This is opportunity we have been waiting for, to destroy those wretched Tutors.”
I frowned. “But if there is no solid proof—”
Rale shrugged. “I searched the Adytum top to bottom—”
“You did what?” I gripped my sword.
Rale waved me off and went on, so sure—too sure—that the consequences of such an action would not apply to him. “The cagey girl must have already moved them. I suspect,” he said, tapping the side of his nose, “that she is carrying them on her person.” He laughed. “Which is why you and your men must strip search her.”
The thought repulsed me, for many reasons. “And if we find nothing on her?”
Rale laughed. “Oh, you will.” He held out a folded piece of paper, paper that was thicker than any I had ever seen. Not that I’d made a habit of looking too closely at papers—wasn’t prudent for anyone not of Scholar birth to get to close to anything smacking of writing—but I had seen enough Scholars clutching the stuff to know that this was a kind of paper no scribe or even councilor would use. It must have been some special stock of the Tutors, or even of the royals themselves. I clenched my teeth; Rale had probably stolen it from the sacred courtyard.
“You’ll have to actually take it, Captain, if you are to plant it on her,” said Rale acidly.
And once it was in my keeping, he could incriminate me easily. I saw the knowledge of that flash in his eyes as I reached out and took the paper. But I’d already thrown my lot in with this demon—what was one more step down that road?
I thrust the paper into the inside pocket of my uniform without looking at it. Wouldn’t do any good, since I couldn’t read any of those bedamned squiggles and I didn’t want to.
Rale’s superior little smile made me want to punch his fat face. I reminded myself, as I so often had, that the western vizier, Del Gamo, was in this too, that he was a man worth following even if Rale was not.
“Take her just after midmorning bells, remember,” said Rale. “I want the entire council here when she is brought in, so the king can’t make excuses. That business with his cousin was far too suspicious.” He let out a derisive snort. “Escaped in the night. I’m sure.”
I bristled. I had led that raid, on the king’s orders, and the traitor Patic Kone really had escaped. I suspected that someone inside the palace, perhaps even among my own guards, had tipped him off. But the king hadn’t hesitated to order his cousin brought back to face execution.
And if he’d sagged in relief when I brought him the news of Kone’s escape, I couldn’t really blame him. I had a cousin too.
I grimaced at my thoughts. It wasn’t seemly to have fellow-feeling with the king, for many reasons. For one, it didn’t change what I had to do, just made it damned uncomfortable.
But I couldn’t very well say any of that to Rale, so I just asked, “Anything else?”
I’d purposely left off any title of respect, and he noticed. “Careful, Captain,” he said softly. “I know what’s in your pocket.”
Read the rest of the story here: The Captain by Kathy MacMillan