Sacrifice: The Queen's Blade

Sacrifice: The Queen's Blade by T C Southwell Read Free Book Online

Book: Sacrifice: The Queen's Blade by T C Southwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: T C Southwell
they. We are both cat kin, after all."
    Blade nodded, wincing. "I will eat only if I get my medicine right after I have vomited."
    Minna smiled. "So you shall." She looked at Jayon. "Attendant, bring Lord Conash more food."
    "At once, My Queen." Jayon scuttled out, shooting Blade a hard glance.
    Minna perched on the edge of the bed and studied the assassin's gaunt countenance, but did not make the mistake of commenting on his appearance, as Chiana had done. "You know that I am well pleased with you. Did Kerrion have anything to say?"
    Blade looked at Chiana. "Does she know?"
    "He asks that you delay taking the Queen's Cup for at least a year, so he has time to take up the reins of power."
    Chiana gasped, and Minna frowned. "How does he know...?" She sighed, shaking her head. "You are too perceptive. I have told you before. You told Kerrion that I planned to take the Queen's Cup?"
    "Right after the birth of his child."
    "So, now he knows everything." Minna looked thoughtful. "It saves sending a message, I suppose. But I cannot wait that long, the Contara will be at the gates by mid-summer."
    "So I told him."
    Blade shrugged. "He needs time. You do not have it. There is no solution."
    "He will have to take action to save his daughter."
    "And if he does not, Jashimari is doomed."
    "Yes, but we are in any case." Minna rose and turned away. "I wish you a speedy recover, My Lord, there will be work for you soon."
    The assassin stared at the ceiling after she had left, then groaned when Jayon returned with a brimming bowl of broth. Blade ate some of it without vomiting, then received his medicine and went back to sleep.

    Chapter Three
    Over the next moon phase, Blade's appetite returned, and his strength followed. The wound in his lung healed, and he went from gentle exercise in his room to brisk walks through the garden. Jayon stayed, airing no wish to leave, though his services as a nurse were no longer required. Blade received a letter from Lilu, scrawled in her childish hand, reporting that the estate was well but she suspected the retainer of stealing from the coffers.
    Blade laughed when he read it, not bothering to find any truth in it. His bodyguard, Lirek, took up his duties again, and Jayon made a jolly threesome when they ventured into the city to drink. Blade increased the vigour of his exercise daily, revelling in the stiffness of his strengthening muscles and the renewed bounce in his stride. The Queen visited him often, enjoying his much-improved mood, although his prior rudeness seemed to have mortally offended Chiana, who avoided him like the plague. He decided to speak to her about it, but put off that day constantly.
    Judging that the time was right, Blade resumed his daily ritual of exercise, not merely walking and running but going through the strenuous steps of the assassin's dance, also known as the Dance of Death. At first his steps were clumsy, his feet slow and his leaps lacked the height that enabled him to tuck up his legs or kick one high in the air. Less than halfway through it, he was forced to stop, sweat beading his brow as he gasped for air.
    A burning pain smouldered in his left lung, and his legs cramped. The following day, he tried again, forcing his aching muscles to obey, and completed a little more. By the end of a tenday, he could perform three quarters of the Dance, but with difficulty, and the last few steps were torturous. His disability annoyed him, but no matter how hard he tried, the pain in his lung held him back. He wondered if he would ever again be able to complete the Dance of Death. If his disability proved to be permanent, he would be forced to retire, for any assassin who could not complete the Dance was not allowed to ply his trade.
    Kerrion's coronation was a splendid affair, one in which he took little pleasure, though some satisfaction. The city celebrated with music, dancing and revelry. Banners and flags flew from every rooftop and flagpole.

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