Back in Tallis’s rooms, Samel materialized beside me and held out the Hashna Stone. I put it around my neck. “Thanks Samel.”
Samel stretched out on a couch. “I’m just glad I’m not wearing it anymore. All that dodging makes a person tired.” He crossed his feet, laid his head in his laced fingers, and closed his eyes. “Still, I guess I was the only one who could do it. Lucky thing you decided to let me come along.”
For a minute, I wondered if he forgot that he’d followed us and we’d been given no choice. Then he opened his eyes and winked at me.
Faiza grunted from where she sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, hands clasping the bow in her lap. She seemed to want to say something smart to Samel, but knew if she started that conversation, it would end with her admitting that Samel was useful after all.
Rachael walked from where she stood at the window. “Did you run into any trouble? Father came back a while ago.”
“We’re fine,” I said. “Where is Tallis? We need to talk to him.”
“He went to find the two of you,” Ethan said. He stood by the mantle, absentmindedly turning a glass figure of a horse frozen in a rearing position in his hands.
“When he came back and neither one of you were here yet,” Rachael said, “he thought something happened.”
The door opened and Tallis stepped in. He looked relieved when he saw me. “Was everything alright? Where is Samel?” The back of the couch kept Samel’s reclining form from his view.
Samel raised his arm so his hand came over the edge of the couch. “Still alive.”
“We overheard something,” I said. When Tallis turned to me, I continued. “Bayvlad is trying to blame you for the grimulin.”
“How? I’m the head of ambassadors, not a sorcerer.”
“He said you learned magic from us,” Samel said.
“He tried to convince Ryker that the dwarves sent a message with Rachael,” I said, “telling you that he isn’t really the king.”
Samel sat up and his curly head appeared over the couch. “And Ryker told Bayvlad that he had to get him the stone by tomorrow.”
“Bayvlad said he could get control of the grimulin in the dungeon,” I said. “So Ryker wants him to use them to get the stone from Radon.”
“But Bayvlad doesn’t know where the stone is.” Tallis frowned. “Besides, he wants it for himself. He wouldn’t give it to Ryker.”
“Why does he want the stone?” Rachael asked. “Does anyone know?”
“From what our spies tell me,” Tallis said, “Bayvlad plans on starting a war.”
“So he’s not trying to become king himself?” Ethan asked.
At the same time Faiza said, “A war with who?”
“I think he is happier leading Minaria from behind a king. Which is why he helped Ryker get rid of Radon. Ryker cares more for the title and the prestige. Bayvlad can easily get him to go along with anything he suggests. It was Bayvlad’s idea to gather orphans and force them into service.”
“But who is he going to start a war with?” Faiza asked again.
“He doesn’t want Minaria to start the war. He wants the Dakshen to start it.”
I couldn’t imagine the tall, grey skinned race taking orders from Bayvlad. “He can’t make them fight a war for him.”
“What’s the reason for having someone else start a war?” Ethan asked.
“He doesn’t want them to attack Minaria, does he?” Rachael’s wide blue eyes went even wider.
Tallis held his hand up to keep us from asking more questions. “He isn’t going to make them fight. He’s only going to feed them the right information to make them want to fight. At the moment, the Dakshen have refrained from attacking Hashna only because of the treaty that Minaria made with them after Radon helped protect the dwarves. Bayvlad plans to leak the information that the treaty is broken and the army of Minaria won’t come to Hashna’s aid.”
“The treaty was broke three years ago,” Faiza said. “That’s plenty of time for them to have heard.”
“Maybe for most countries,” Rachael said. “But the Dakshen are cut off from the usually gossip of the other nations.”
“They aren’t really even a country,” Ethan said. “They’re a bunch of clans busy warring among themselves.”
Rachael nodded at him. “They don’t have ambassadors or anyone that would represent them among other countries and bring back news.”
“The only time they stop warring against each other,” said Tallis, “is when they decide to attack another’s land. Like Hashna.”
“But why would Bayvlad want them to attack Hashna?” I asked.
“What did we ever do to him?” Samel asked, looking like Bayvlad had personally insulted him.
“It’s a chain reaction that he’s hoping for,” Tallis said. “Once the Dakshen take over Hashna…”
“If they take over Hashna.” Samel crossed his arms.
Tallis gave a humoring smile. “If they take over Hashna, they won’t stop there. High off their victory, they will attack Nalam.”
“How does he know they’ll attack Nalam?” I asked. Nalam bordered Hashna, so once the Dakshen had it, it would be easier for them to invade Nalam, but Minaria also bordered Hashna. “What if they decide to attack us instead?”
“They might,” Tallis said. “But we are a bigger nation that Nalam and have larger armies. Besides, the Dakshen have already fought us and lost.”
“With our help,” Samel added.
Tallis nodded. “We were with the dwarves, but I think the win was enough that the Dakshen will be hesitant before striking us.”
“How does a war with Nalam benefit Bayvlad?” Ethan asked.
“Like I said, Nalam is small and doesn’t have a very large military…”
“He’s going to offer to let them use our army,” I said thinking of all the orphans drafted into the army over the last three years. “But he’ll make them pay to use them. Like mercenaries.”
“Perhaps,” Tallis said. “But Nalam also lacks the ability to do magic.”
“He’s going to get them to pay him to use magic to protect them?” Rachael’s forehead wrinkled.
“Not him. The orphans he’s been training.”
“What?” I asked.
“Before the orphans are taken to Commander Serun they are brought to Bayvlad. He works with them for a while to see if they have the aptitude to learn magic. If they do, he continues to train them. If they don’t, he sends them to be trained in the army.”
“Now he has his own little army of sorcerers,” I said. “And he can loan them to Nalam for a price.”
“A very high price.” Tallis nodded.
“That doesn’t explain why he wants the Hahsna Stone,” Rachael said. “He won’t be the one going to battle.”
“He’s hoping not to, but he can’t be sure that he won’t. The Dakshen may still choose to attack us instead of the Nalam, or maybe if the Dakshen do conquer Nalam in spite of the help Bayvlad offers them, they will try to invade us as well. Or maybe Ryker will order Bayvlad to help protect the Nalam knowing they will pay a high price for his help.”
“He’s alright with sending those orphans out there,” Faiza said darkly, “but he won’t go himself unless he has a stone around his neck to keep him from being hurt.”
“The last Royal Sorcerer died in the battle between the Dakshen and the dwarves,” Tallis said. “Bayvlad isn’t one for taking risks. And, who knows? Maybe he does have some plan to overthrow Ryker and take the throne one day.”
We were silent for a moment, taking it all in. Then Tallis said, “But if Ryker wants the Hashna Stone by tomorrow…” He looked deep in thought.
“Should we leave?” I asked. If Bayvlad decided to send the grimulin out in search of the stone, it may be better if I were farther away when they found me. Then I could kill them without anyone from the castle seeing.
“Leaving would look suspicious,” Tallis said. “Give me a moment to call a meeting with the supporters of the true king. I’ll see if they have any more information about this matter, and discuss options with them. In the mean time, all of you stay here. I don’t know how Bayvlad plans on getting the stone, or how much he truly suspects us of knowing.” He gave a look to Samel. “It will be best if you all stay out of sight.”
After Tallis left we sat in tense silence, so it wasn’t a surprise that we all jumped when there was a knock. I gripped the hilt of my sword with one hand as I opened the door with the other. A servant girl only about 11 or 12 stood in the hallway, looking up at me with frightened dark eyes.
“Please sir, Master of Relations Tallis sent me to get you.” She looked past me to the others who’d gathered around. “All of you.”
Missed some chapters? No problem! They’re all at the Hashna Stone Page .