Chapter Thirteen: The Report

Kah’len woke up early to work on the villa accounts. He liked to rise before the sun, when the villa was quiet, the only sound the occasional cough from a guard patrolling the grounds. Before going to his office, he checked in on their injured soldiers. He entered the designated bedroom, wrinkling his nose at the reek of old blood and sweat, and closed the door quietly behind him. The healer was poking at the logs in the fireplace. He rose and turned when Kah’len entered.
“Good morning, my lord,” Ethon murmured.
Kah’len bowed. “Good morning, Ethon. How are my men?”
“The most lethally wounded has developed an infection,” Ethon replied. “It is deep and I have cleaned it as best I could, using my gift to scour it, but it lingers. He’s developed a high fever, which tells me his body is fighting it. I have done all I can, my lord. Now it is up to him.”
Kah’len walked to the bed where the young guard lay. The man’s eyes were opened and glittered in the lamplight and the light from the fireplace. He lifted a hand and Kah’len grasped it gently.
“How are you, Toler?”
The young guard swallowed. “Hurts, Warlord.”
“Be brave, Toler. It will pass. Make sure you do all the healer tells you.”
Toler swallowed again and gave a tentative nod.
Kah’len sat at the edge of the mattress. “I wanted to let you know, Toler, how proud I am of you. Once you are well, up and about, we will talk about a promotion for you.”
The guard’s eyes widened. “Truly, sir?”
Kah’len smiled. “Truly, soldier. Don’t you think you deserve it?”
Toler shrugged. “I only did what was required of me, sir.”
“So speaks a hero, Toler,” Kah’len murmured, eliciting a blush from the other.
“Thirsty,” Toler murmured.
Kah’len reached for the decanter on the bedside table and poured some water into a mug. He picked up the mug and lifted Toler’s head, feeding him the water. Toler sipped slowly until the all the water was gone. When Kah’len laid his head back on the pillows, he sighed and closed his eyes.
Kah’len set the mug back on the bedside table. “Rest, Toler.”
The young guard was already asleep.
Kah’len rose and went to the other two guards, who were awake.
“How are you both?” he asked.
The guard on the other bed nodded. “Well enough, Warlord. My wound was not serious. I’ll be able to get to work soon.”
“Your body was pierced,” the healer reminded him gently. “You must wait until the wound seals before you return to work. Or have you forgotten I sewed your wound?”
The guard grimaced. “I’ll never forget that, healer.”
The guard sitting on the cot, back against the wall, gave Kah’len a weary smile.
“How are you, Somae?” Kah’len asked.
Somae grimaced. “It’s tight and hot, my lord, but not too bad.”
Ethon stood next to Kah’len. “He has a shallow infection, but I should be able to kill the infection with pastes.”
Kah’len nodded. “That is good to know.” He looked into each guard’s eyes. “Your greatest battle will be boredom. If you want something to do, we have a library. I can bring you books to read.”
Somae brightened. “Can you bring us a Holy Soulkah, sir?”
Kah’len smiled. “Of course. Consider it done.”
“I’ll bring it,” Ethon murmured.
Kah’len looked at him. “There is a shelf devoted to holy tomes. They are on the shelf closest to the fireplace.”
“I’m on it,” Ethon said and turned, striding from the bedroom and into the hall.
Kah’len smiled at Somae. “There are tomes of poetry dedicated to Atana.”
Somae blushed. “I’m not good with lofty things like poetry, my lord.”
“Lirtah dung,” Kah’len stated. “This type of poetry was written for the common man, Somae. Give it a chance. I’ll come later with a book and I’ll read it to you.”
Somae ducked his head shyly. “Thank you, sir.”
Kah’len nodded. “I’ll be back later. Listen to Ethon.”
“Yes, sir,” they chorused.
Kah’len made his way to the kitchens, where he ordered a pot of mjish to be brought to his office. He then strode down the hallway to his office near the library. He parted the brocade curtains and pushed open the glass paned windows to allow fresh air into the room. It was musty from disuse, although Sa’nia and Tebo had removed the sheets from all the furniture. There was already the blush of sunrise to the east over the ocean. The air was cool and fresh, smelling of berries from the vines. He took a deep, bracing breath. A guard walking past murmured a greeting and Kah’len raised his hand in return before turning back to the room.
He sat behind the desk and picked up the villa accounts. Undisturbed, except for the time Tebo brought in a tray with a teapot and mug, Kah’len was able to finish balancing the accounts within two hours. By then, the house rang with the shrill laughter of children. He smiled. Kahla’s children could be hellions. He recalled when they were children, he and Kahla had been equally adventurous and stubborn. When he had his own children, they were bound to be just as rambunctious. Rising from behind the desk, he stretched his stiff muscles and turned back to the window. The smile slid from his face when he saw Kolihn Doran talking to one of the guards. His spy must have felt Kah’len’s eyes, for he turned his head and winked at Kah’len. Kah’len snorted and shook his head, waving his employee over.
Kolihn approached the window and gave a jaunty bow. “How is the Warlord this fine morning?”
“Come inside, Kolihn, and tell me what you’ve learned.”
Kolihn bowed again. “Can I beg breakfast from you, my lord?”
“Of course. We’ll break our fast together. Come to my office while I order us some breakfast.”
Kah’len found Sa’nia in the kitchen and asked her to send two meals to his office.
He then returned to his office. He clasped Kolihn’s forearm. “I hope you have interesting news for me, Kolihn.”
Kolihn gave a shrug. “When is it ever other, my lord?”
“Have a seat.”
Kah’len walked around the desk and shut the window before he sat down behind the desk once more, resting his forearms on the desktop. “Go ahead and give me your report.”
“Well, I’ve been busy bribing courtiers left and right,” Kolihn began. He reached into the inner pocket of his tunic and withdrew a report, handing it over to Kah’len. “You were right, my lord.”
Kah’len raised an eyebrow. “Right about what?”
“Your uncle, the Prei-Serren of Draemin City is funding Deirohn.”
Kah’len sat back. “And violating the edict separating church from state.”
“Just so,” Kolihn agreed.
They grew quiet as Tebo hurried in and set a tray with their breakfast on the desktop.
“Thank you, Tebo,” Kah’len murmured. “We’ll serve ourselves.”
The head servant bowed and hurried out, closing the door quietly behind him.
Kolihn served himself without preamble, and Kah’len pursed his lips to keep from smirking. The man was an admirable spy but had the manners of a dosi in heat. Sighing, he unfolded the report and perused it while his spy stuffed his face.
“How did you find out my esteemed uncle Kaelo is funding Deirohn’s exploits?”
Kolihn swallowed and waved a fork around. “His spy is in my pocket. I can’t divulge his identity to you, of course, for such is how it goes with counterspies.”
Kah’len sighed. “And I hope you are not one of those, Kolihn.”
Kolihn smirked. “One is a counterspy usually for the gold. You pay me very, very well, my lord. Your uncle is cheap, thus his entire staff is in my pocket. Or, rather, your pocket.”
Kah’len snorted. “You don’t mince words, do you, Kolihn?”
“When have I ever, my lord?”
Kah’len nodded and returned to the report. “Is your source who says there will be an assassination attempt on the King credible?”
“Solid, my lord,” Kolihn replied. “Do you wish me to take a missive to the King?”
“Yes. Deirohn must be impatient or insane.”
“Greedy, as is your Uncle.”
Kah’len frowned and took out a clean sheet of paper. He wrote a quick letter to his father.
“My King,
My spies have uncovered a plot on your life. Double the guards about your person. I cannot divulge who is behind the plot until I see you in person. I should be back no later than end of week. We do not have the time line for the plot. This could be old news or new, we cannot be sure. Know that close persons to you are behind the plot.
Yours,
Kah’len Ys’teis-Thalmar
Warlord of North Torahn“
Kah’len poured fine sand over the ink and set the page to one side to allow the excess ink to be absorbed. He prepared the wax and unlocked the top drawer of his desk, where he kept his office seal. When the ink dried, he poured the excess sand back into the pot then folded the letter and sealed it with wax. Handing the letter to Kolihn, he locked away his seal again. They rose as one.
Kah’len eyed the tray. “Did you get enough to eat?”
Kolihn smirked. “For now, my lord. I’ll get this letter to the king right away.”
Kah’len walked his spy to foyer and walked him outside to the driveway, where a guard held the reins to Kolihn’s lirtah. Even though Kolihn was wealthy, he did not advertise his wealth by owning a bahil. He dressed modestly and did not stand out as anything other than a commoner. There was nothing remarkable about his looks or person, so he was able to melt and disappear into crowds. He was the finest spy Kah’len had ever employed. Despite his affable character, Kah’len knew nothing about Kolihn’s private life. Kah’len had had him investigated years ago, when Kolihn was a street urchin, already on his way to a life of crime. Kah’len had taken him in and had him trained in the military before enrolling him in the diplomatic corps. In the diplomatic corps, Kolihn had learned the ins and outs of espionage. He had returned to Kah’len five years later, fully trained and ready to begin work. Kah’len had had Kolihn’s record expunged, changed Kolihn’s name and effectively disappeared Kolihn from North Torahn.
Kolihn turned to Kah’len and they clasped forearms.
“I’ll see you in the city,” Kolihn murmured.
“As soon as I get in,” Kah’len agreed and watched the other mount the lirtah.
Soon Kolihn was cantering towards the paved road.
Kah’len turned back to the house. He saw his mother watching from the sitting room and cursed under his breath. Lady Oona was one of the most intelligent people Kah’len knew. She would be curious about Kolihn. With a sigh, he entered the villa and went to meet her in the sitting room.
“Is ought alright?” she asked at once
He hugged her and pressed a kiss to her temple. “Just a missive from Father telling me he received Bhne’s report.”
She sighed. “Do you think Deirohn was behind our attack yesterday?”
“You have your spies, Mother. What do you think?”
She nodded. “I believe he was. He’s getting reckless.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Have you eaten, Mother?”
She wrung her hands. “No. My stomach is in knots. The babes were with us in the carriage, Kah’len! He’s putting my grandchildren in danger!”
He hugged her again. “Calm down, Aya. The babes are safe.”
She pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Are you aware that Kahla is with child again?”
He raised an eyebrow. “She said nothing to me.”
“She was so upset, she could have lost the child!”
She began to pace. “I’m sick and tired of both Deirohn and the Queen.”
“I know you are, but we must proceed in these matters with care.”
She glared at him. “Why? He does not have the majority on his side.”
“He has a good amount of support.” He considered telling her about Uncle Kaelo’s involvement. “Uncle Kaelo is Deirohn’s strongest supporters.”
She grimaced. “That vaunted tash-tash! He’s the real power behind Deirohn.”
“He is,” Kah’len agreed. “Now, let’s get you fed, shall we, Aya?”
She sighed as he took her hand and led her to the informal dining room.
When she sat down at the table, he went to inform Sa’nia to serve breakfast.
Kah’len returned to the dining room and sat next to her.
She was quiet for a few minutes before raising glassy eyes to his. “You don’t trust me, do you, child?”
He let out an exasperated breath. “Of course I trust you, Aya! Why would you say that?”
“You tell me nothing!”
“Don’t work me, Mother,” he growled. “You have had your spies since you were a child in court. Or, rather, you were never a child, were you?”
She crossed her arms under her generous breasts and looked away in irritation. “I couldn’t afford to be a child. That bitch of a Queen wanted to kill me from day one. She poisoned me right away, but I survived. Then I began to give myself small doses of poison to build up an immunity. So, she attempted to undermine me in Court, using that uncle of yours. I don’t understand what hold she has on him.”
“He is greedy, Aya. He loves money more than beauty.”
“He already has more than he’ll ever need!”
“He has his brood of bastards to provide for,” Kah’len muttered.
Sa’nia and Tebo entered carrying two trays with breakfast. They set the trays on the sideboard and placed the platters on the table. They bowed and left.
Kah’len served his mother then himself.
“I’ll tell you this because the King will tell you anyway,” Kah’len said. “Deirohn is plotting against his life.”
She gasped. “That damned–”
“I agree,” Kah’len interrupted her. “I am doing all I can to keep you and Kahla safe. The King, too. I wonder if Deirohn has guards under his employ.”
“He must have,” she replied. “We must proceed under the assumption that the King’s personal guard might be compromised.”
He sighed and rose. “I should go back to the city.”
She wiped her mouth with her napkin. “And that wouldn’t look suspicious at all. Sit, please.”
He sat down.
She took his hand in both of hers. “Roseir is a smart King, Kah’len. He has always had his detractors. He is immune to most poisons and he was a soldier first before he was King. He knows how to protect himself.”
He shifted in his seat as she released his hand. “If Deirohn succeeds, it will mean civil war.”
“If you get the chance, kill him and his mother and your uncle. That will cut the head of the viper.”
He nodded grimly and picked up his mug of mjish tea.

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