Caelum couldn’t believe his luck. He was riding next to Yarrow and she wasn’t trying to stab him.
And she doesn’t hate me. She’d said so. How amazing was that?
He still had more to tell her, of course. There’d be plenty of time on this trip, and he’d already made a large first step. She’d listened. He was so happy.
And so glad he’d listened to his Uncle Pieter, whose lessons had been invaluable. He was a new Caelum, now – smarter and a little more suave, he hoped.
“Caelum,” Yarrow’s voice cut through his thoughts.
She’s speaking to me! “Yes, ma’am?”
She sighed, and gave him a look that said she was already regretting speaking. He kept his expression neutral and held his breath.
“I need to know why. I know there’s no point to knowing, that the reason doesn’t really matter, but…I still need to know.”
He let his breath out in a long sigh, and nodded. “You deserve to know.”
He told her everything – starting from the day Saul deSelena had come to his family’s farm. Caelum had been visiting for a brief time, and he’d seen Saul fencing with Pieter, whom he’d easily bested. Caelum had fenced with the newcomer and been defeated within minutes. He watched Saul intently, and knew he’d never seen a swordswoman his equal.
Saul said he was looking for something. He didn’t know what, but he’d been on a quest to find it for several years, beginning in his hometown of Atton.
It hadn’t been in Mudflat, nor Harbourtown. It hadn’t been across the Three Sisters, the rivers that led from the sea to the Blood River, and it wasn’t in Southland. He continued on his trek, to Smoke, he said. Caelum guessed he didn’t find it there either, for a little while later Saul was Consort to Queen Zanny, and then was called Lord Saul. Caelum could hardly believe Zanny was what Saul sought but to each his own. Besides, the expert swordswoman could only be good for the then-Queen.
Then he left, and Zanny became worse. Eventually he ended up in Nucalif, where he married a young woman named Lyra Timor, poised to inherit the ruling seat in the city-state, and Saul became Seigneur Timor of Nucalif – the once-prosperous friend of Athering that had since fallen on hard times.
Lord Timor had softened those times, and stayed with his lady husband – apparently the soft flower of the girl was what he’d been seeking. Or perhaps it had been life in Nucalif period, and Lyra was just an extra benefit. Whatever it was, he was happy – or so all gossip said. When that gossip reached Zanny’s ears, well….
Caelum did not need to say all of this. Yarrow knew most of the story herself, for she’d been there for a lot of it. He filled in what she didn’t know, rounding out her understanding of the tale so she would know the whole truth. As much of the whole truth that anyone but the late Saul or Lyra could know.
“When I’d heard our orders,” he continued, trying to keep his voice from catching on the lump in his throat, “I knew you would take him alone, out of pride. I knew that he’d kill you, for I knew he was better than you were with a sword, and he had more to fight for.”
They both knew that was true. Lord Timor had a family to protect, whereas Yarrow and the rest only had orders to follow. It was a battle of passions, and it was obvious which was stronger. “I couldn’t let that happen, Yarrow. I’d let Umbra take my soul first.”
He fell silent. That was it. There was nothing more he could say. He hoped what he had said would be enough.
“I see,” she said at length, and he accepted it, for he knew she could give him nothing else.