The Curse of Chalion

The Curse of Chalion by Lois M. Bujold Read Free Book Online

Book: The Curse of Chalion by Lois M. Bujold Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lois M. Bujold
duelist that skilled must be a good soldier for the roya!”
    “Not in my experience,” Cazaril said dryly.
    “What do you mean?” Teidez promptly challenged him.
    Abashed, Cazaril mumbled, “Excuse me. I spoke out of turn.”
    “What’s the difference?” Teidez pressed.
    The Provincara tapped a finger on the tablecloth and shot him an indecipherable look. “Do expand, Castillar.”
    Cazaril shrugged, and offered a slight, apologetic bow in the boy’s direction. “The difference, Royse, is that a skilled soldier kills your enemies, but a skilled duelist kills your allies. I leave you to guess which a wise commander prefers to have in his camp.”
    “Oh,” said Teidez. He fell silent, looking thoughtful.
    There was, apparently, no rush to return the merchant’s notebook to the proper authorities, and also no difficulty. Cazaril might search out the divine at the Temple of the Holy Family here in Valenda tomorrow at his leisure, and turn it over to be passed along. It would have to be decoded; some men found that sort of puzzle difficult or tedious, but Cazaril had always found it restful. He wondered if he ought, as a courtesy, to offer to decipher it. He touched his soft wool robe, and was glad he’d prayed for the man at his hurried burning.
    Betriz, her dark brows crimping, asked, “Who was the judge, Papa?”
    Dy Ferrej hesitated a moment, then shrugged. “The Honorable Vrese.”
    “Ah,” said the Provincara. “Him.” Her nose twitched, as though she’d sniffed a bad smell.
    “Did the duelist threaten him, then?” asked Royesse Iselle. “Shouldn’t he—couldn’t he have called for help, or had dy Naoza arrested?”
    “I doubt that even dy Naoza was foolish enough to threaten a justiciar of the province,” said dy Ferrej. “Though it was probable he intimidated the witnesses. Vrese was, hm, likely handled by more peaceful means.” He popped a fragment of bread into his mouth and rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, miming a man warming a coin.
    “If the judge had done his job honestly and bravely, the merchant would never have been driven to use death magic,” said Iselle slowly. “Two men are dead and damned, where it might have only been one…and even if he’d been executed, dy Naoza might have had time to clean his soul before facing the gods. If this is known, why is the man still a judge? Grandmama, can’t you do something about it?”
    The Provincara pressed her lips together. “The appointment of provincial justiciars is not within my gift, dear one. Nor their removal. Or their department would be rather more orderly run, I assure you.” She took a sip of her wine and added to her granddaughter’s frowning look, “I have great privilege in Baocia, child. I do not have great powers.”
    Iselle glanced at Teidez, and at Cazaril, before echoing her brother’s question, in a voice gone serious: “What’s the difference?”
    “One is the right to rule—and the duty to protect! T’ other is the right to receive protection,” replied the Provincara. “There is alas more difference between a provincar and a provincara than just the one letter.”
    Teidez smirked. “Oh, like the difference between a royse and a royesse?”
    Iselle turned on him and raised her brows. “Oh? And how do you propose to remove the corrupt judge—privileged boy?”
    “That’s enough, you two,” said the Provincara sternly, in a voice that was pure grandmother. Cazaril hid a smile. Within these walls, she ruled, right enough, by an older code than Chalion’s. Hers was a sufficient little state.
    The conversation turned to less lurid matters as the servants brought cakes, cheese, and a wine from Brajar. Cazaril had, surreptitiously he hoped, stuffed himself. If he didn’t stop soon, he would make himself sick. But the golden dessert wine almost sent him into tears at the table; that one, he drank unwatered, though he managed to limit himself to one glass.
    At the end of the meal prayers

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