The Gates of Sleep

The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey Read Free Book Online

Book: The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mercedes Lackey
should they come to her notice then? Their parents
had been the equivalent of Roeswood servants; Sebastian was hardly known
outside of the small circle of patrons who prized his talent. As for Thomas, he
was a mere cabinetmaker; he worked with his hands, and was not even the social
equivalent of a farmer who owned his own land. That was their safety then, and
now. But they had always known they could not rely on it.
    The danger was unspoken because they never, ever said
Arachne’s name aloud and tried not even to think it. Arachne’s
curse lay dormant, but who knew what would happen if her name was spoken aloud
in Marina’s presence? Names had power, and even if that sleeping curse did
not awaken, saying Arachne’s name still might draw her attention to this
obscure little corner of Devon. Whether Arachne’s magic was her own or
borrowed, it still followed no rules of Elemental power that Margherita
recognized, and there was no telling what she could and could not do.
    That was why they had kept the reason for Marina’s
exile a secret from her all these years, and up until she was old enough to
keep her own counsel, had even kept her real name from her. If she knew about
the curse, about her real aunt—she might try to break the curse herself,
she might try to find Arachne and persuade her to take it off, she might even
dare, in adolescent hubris, to challenge her aunt.
    She might not do any of those things; she
might
be
sensible about it, but Margherita had judged it unwise to take the chance.
Marina was sweet-natured, but there was a stubborn streak to her, and not even
a promise would keep her from doing something she really wanted to. Marina had
a very agile mind, and a positively lawyerlike ability to find a way, however
tangled and convoluted the path might be, of getting around any promises she’d
made if she truly wanted something. That was a Water characteristic—the
ability to go wherever the will drove. Perhaps they had done her no favors by
keeping her in ignorance, but at least they had done her no harm.
    Other than the harm of separating mother from child.
    It hadn’t been Marina that had suffered, though;
Margherita would pledge her soul on that. The happy, carefree child had grown
into a remarkable young woman, and if she had not had all the advantages her
parents’ relative wealth could have bought her, she had obtained other
advantages that money probably could not have purchased. Freedom, for one
thing; she’d learned her letters and reckoning from Margherita, and all
the other graces that young ladies were supposed to require, and a great deal
more. From Thomas, who had a scholarly turn, she’d learned Latin and
Greek as well as the French she got from Margherita—and from Sebastian,
Italian. She learned German on her own. When she was little, they’d given
her formal lessons, but when she turned fourteen, they let her choose her own
subjects for the most part, though she’d still had plenty of studying to
do. This year was the first time they’d let her follow her own
inclinations; there was no telling what she’d choose to do when she
passed that fateful eighteenth birthday and her parents collected her. Thomas
hoped that she would go to Oxford, to the women’s college there, even
though women were not actually given degrees.
    Meanwhile, she had the run of the library, and devoured
books in all five languages besides her native English. Winter-long, there wasn’t
a great deal to do besides work and read, for the long winter rains kept all of
them indoors. Margherita reflected that she would have to keep an eye on
Sebastian and his demands for Mari’s time as his model; it had already
occurred to him that by next summer he would lose her, and he was painting at a
furious rate. Mari was being very good-natured about all the posing, but
Margherita knew from her own experience that it was hard work, and that
Sebastian was singularly indifferent to the needs of his models when

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