The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(7)

“We would much rather not keep him inside the city, Your Majesty,” I said. “The azi prefers the open air.”

“You must be the Lady Tea. We’ve heard much about you, far away as we are from most.” The king reached out his hand, and I shook it. “Call me Rendor. We share the same teacher, and I would like to think that makes us kinsmen almost.”

Councilor Ludvig snorted again but looked faintly approving.

King Rendorvik was a courteous man, greeting the rest of the group with an informality that was not characteristic of royalty. Kalen and Khalad, he recognized with pleasure. “It’s been a while since you’ve visited Farsun, Your Grace.” He sobered. “And how is your cousin Kance?”

At the mention of Kance, I felt my heartsglass color blue, and Kalen couldn’t hide his wince. “As good as anyone can expect, your Majesty, considering the circumstances.”

“I am so very sorry to hear of your uncle’s malady. I hope His Majesty recovers with all speed.”

It was my turn to try not to flinch. The cause of the Odalian king’s sickness was a mystery to most, and I wasn’t sure how the friendly royal would react if he knew that the reason for Telemaine’s insanity was standing before him, accepting his hospitality.

Khalad was more forthcoming. “Whatever malaise he suffers is his own doing,” he said with no trace of rancor. Khalad had more reason to hate his father than any of us. “Kance would make a more fitting king in his stead.”

“Khalad,” King Rendorvik said reverently. “I did not know the old king’s eldest son was a heartforger until recently, but we hold both your titles in high esteem. Surely your father didn’t deserve this, despite the crimes he committed?”

Khalad bowed. “I speak as a heartforger, Your Majesty, when I say that Kance is a hundred times the king our father had ever hoped to be.”

The king inclined his head as well. “I trust your judgment. As badly as he treated his people and his own sons, I nonetheless hope he finds his peace. May they both find peace.” And you as well, his heartsglass seemed to suggest.

A good-looking boy, only a few years older than Khalad, stepped forward. “My name is Cyran,” he said, clasping his hands around the startled forger’s. Likh was stationed behind me, but I swore I could feel the heat blistering out of his heartsglass without turning around. “The old Heartforger, Master Narel, healed me from the same long illness that His Majesty King Kance suffered from. I am told you were instrumental in the cure as well. I owe you my life. Please tell me how I can repay your kindness.”

“No thanks are needed, milord,” Khalad said politely. “It’s all part of my work.”

“At least permit me to give you a tour around Farsun?”

The blaze Likh was generating behind my back threatened to explode into the fire of a full-fledged sun.

“Perhaps next time? I’m afraid we have pressing duties that we cannot delay.”

“I will hold you to that, milord.”

The azi followed us until we were at Farsun’s gates before taking to the air with one last whoop of farewell. It brushed against my mind, friendly and affectionate, and then was gone.

“Isterans are rather blasé when it comes to daeva, it seems,” Althy noted.

“We have a different way of dealing with them than you Kions, I imagine.”

Despite the trumpets, the procession toward the city lacked the pomp and circumstance I was used to in Kion. There were no crowds cheering us on as we headed to the royal palace. Many citizens bowed to the king and then continued with their work, greeting us briefly and with the same casualness as we passed.

It felt strange to be relatively ignored, but after everything I’d experienced in Daanoris, the Isteran ability to treat their kings like any other Isteran for the most part came as a welcome relief.

“The daeva zarich’s burial mound lies within the Runeswood,” the king said as we walked, “far too close to our city for comfort. But our Dark asha, Sakmeet, tamed it rather well.”

“Tamed it?” Likh echoed from behind us, his emotions more tempered now that Lord Cyran had gone ahead.

“I understand that Dark asha put daeva back into the ground as quickly as possible, aye? Takes quite a toll on them, as I’m sure you know. We don’t have as many asha here in Farsun as you do in Ankyo, and a few of our brilliant asha thought it would be better to prioritize their quality of life rather than ask the Willows for a new Dark asha every twenty or so years when she burns herself out. It was easier on Sakmeet to control the zarich and keep it away from the city than to resurrect it every few years and completely sap her strength while she’s at it. We have found that daeva—our zarich, at least, and your azi too, apparently—prefer their solitude unless threatened. In the Runeswood, the zarich has all the privacy it desires.”

I was stunned. “I didn’t know,” I said. Why would the Willows allow Mykaela to waste her life away with every resurrection when she could have conserved her strength this way?

“It’s because of a policy of the asha association,” Althy said quietly, answering my question. “They decided it was too risky to put one person in charge of all daeva. There is still the threat of darkrot from controlling many daeva at once. The Isterans had their own Dark asha and only one beast to manage within their borders. We have far more daeva to command in our territory.”

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