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.“I thought—I feared—I might be the one,” Cazaril said.“Because of the night I tried to barter my life for Dondo’s death.I was terrified that I might be the one.Iselle’s dy Lutez, as Ista named me.But I swear before all the gods, if I thought it would work, I’d have you take me outside right now and drown me in the courtyard fountain.Twice.But I cannot become the sacrifice now.My second death must be my last, for the death demon will fly away with my soul and Dondo’s, and I don’t see how there can be any getting it back into my body then.” He rubbed his wet eyes with the back of his hand.Bergon gazed at his new wife as if his eyes could swallow her.He finally said huskily, “What about me?”“What?” said Iselle.“I undertook to come here to save you from this thing.So, the method’s just got a little harder, that’s all.I’m not afraid of the water.What if you drowned me?”Cazaril’s and Iselle’s instant protests tumbled out together; Cazaril gave way with a little wave of his hand.Iselle repeated, “It was tried once.It was tried, and it didn’t work.I’m not about to drown either one of you, thank you very much! No, nor hang you either, nor any other horrid thing you can think of.No!”“Besides,” Cazaril put in, “the goddess’s words were, a man must lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion.Not of the House of Chalion.” At least, according to Ista.Had she repeated her vision verbatim? Or did her words embed some treacherous error? Never mind, so long as they deterred Bergon from his horrifying suggestion.“I don’t think you can break the curse from the inside, or it would have been Ias, not dy Lutez, who put himself into the barrel.And, five gods forgive me, Bergon, you are now inside this thing.”“It feels wrong anyway,” said Iselle, her eyes narrowing.“Some kind of cheat.What was that thing you told me Saint Umegat said, when you’d asked him what you should do? About daily duties?”“He said I should do my daily duties as they came to me.”“Well, and so.Surely the gods are not done with us.” She drummed her fingers on the tabletop.“It occurs to me.my mother lay down twice in childbed for the House of Chalion.She never had the chance for a third such trial.That is certainly a duty that the gods give to one.”Cazaril considered the havoc that the curse might wreak, intersecting with the hazards of pregnancy and childbirth as it had intersected with the chances of Ias’s and Orico’s battles, and shivered.Barrenness like Sara’s was the least of the potential disasters.“Five gods, Iselle, I think we’d do better to put me into the barrel.”“And besides,” said Bergon, “the goddess said a man.She did say a man, didn’t She, Caz?”“Uh.that was Lady Ista’s account of the words, yes.”“The divines say, when the gods instruct men in their pious duties, they mean women, too,” Iselle growled.“You can’t have it both ways.Anyway, I lived under the curse for sixteen years, unknowing.I survived somehow.”But it’s getting worse now.Stronger.Teidez’s death seemed a fair example to Cazaril of its working out—the boy’s special strengths and virtues, few as they had been, all twisted to a dire ill.Iselle and Bergon between them had many strengths and virtues.The scope for the curse’s distortions was immense.Iselle and Bergon were gripping hands across the tabletop.Iselle knuckled her eyes with her free hand, pinched the bridge of her nose, and sniffed deeply.“Curse or no curse,” she said, “we must make dutiful submission to Orico, and at once.So that dy Jironal cannot declare me to be in revolt.If only I were by Orico, I know I could persuade him of the benefit of this marriage to Chalion!”“Orico is very persuadable,” Cazaril admitted dryly.“It’s making him stay persuaded that’s the difficult part.”“Yes, and I don’t forget for a moment that dy Jironal is with Orico in Cardegoss.My greatest fear is that the chancellor may, upon hearing this news, somehow persuade Orico to again change the terms of his will.”“Attach enough of the provincars of Chalion to your party, Royesse, and they may be willing to help you resist any such late codicils.”Iselle frowned deeply.“I wish we might go up to Cardegoss.I should be by Orico, if this proves to be his deathbed.We should be in the capital when events unfold.”Cazaril paused, then said, “Difficult.You must not put yourself in dy Jironal’s hands.”“I had not planned to go unattended.” Her smile flashed darkly, like the moon on a knife blade.“But we should seize every legal nicety as well as every tactical advantage.It would be well to remind the lords of Chalion that all the chancellor’s legal power flows to him through the roya.Only.”Bergon said uneasily, “You know the man better than I do.Do you think dy Jironal will just sit still at this news?”“The longer he can be induced to sit, the better.We gain support daily.”“Have you heard anything of dy Jironal’s response?” Cazaril asked.“Not yet,” said Bergon.The time lag ran both ways, alas.“Let me know at once if you do.” Cazaril drew a long breath, flattened out a clean sheet of paper, and picked up a quill.“Now.How do you two wish to style yourselves.?”THE PROBLEM OF HOW TO DELIVER THIS POLITICALLY vital missive was a trifle delicate, Cazaril reflected, crossing the courtyard below the royal chambers with the signed and sealed document in his hands.It would not do to toss it into a courier bag for delivery at the gallop to the Zangre Chancellery.The article needed a delegation of men of rank not only to give it, and Iselle and Bergon, the proper weight, but also to assure that it was delivered to Orico and not dy Jironal.Trustworthy men must read the letter out accurately to the dying roya in his blindness, and give politic answers to any questions Orico might have about his sister’s precipitate nuptials.Lords and divines—some of each, Cazaril decided.Iselle’s uncle was fitted to recommend suitable men who might ride out fast, and tonight.His stride lengthened, as he started in search of a page or servant to tell him dy Baocia’s whereabouts.Under the tiled archway into the court, he met Palli and dy Baocia himself, hurrying in.They, too, both still wore their banquet garb.“Caz!” Palli hailed him.“Where were you at dinner?”“Resting.I.had a bad night.”“What, and here I’d have sworn you were the only one of us who went to bed sober.”Cazaril let this one pass.“What’s this?”Palli held up a sheaf of opened letters.“News from dy Yarrin in Cardegoss, sent in haste by Temple courier.I thought the royse and royesse should know at once.Dy Jironal rode out of the Zangre before midmorning yesterday, none knows where.”“Did he take troops—no, tell it once.Come on.” Cazaril turned on his heel and led the way back up the gallery stairs to the royal chambers.One of Iselle’s servants admitted them, and went to bring the young couple out to the sitting room again.While they were waiting Cazaril showed them the letter to Orico and explained its contents.The provincar nodded judiciously, and named some likely lords for the task of carrying it to Cardegoss.Iselle and Bergon entered, Iselle still patting her braided hair into place, and the three men bowed to them.Royse Bergon, at once alert to the papers in Palli’s hand, bade them be seated around the table.Palli repeated his news of dy Jironal.“The chancellor took only a light force of his household cavalry.It seemed to dy Yarrin that he meant to ride either a short way, or very fast.”“What news of my brother Orico?” asked Iselle.“Well, here.” Palli passed the letter to her for examination [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]