The Ravellers Guild (6)

Chapter 6

Tahnner froze atop the pedestal. The other ravellers had already descended their perches, leaving him alone, raised above the near frantic crowd of people still lingering on the Thread Court’s rooftop.

In the six years since he had last seen his father, the only thing about Rhanick Turro which had changed was the expression he wore as he watched his son. Tahnner guessed it to be pride, but having never seen it on his father before, he had little to base his assumption on. Joy swelled in his chest despite everything and his legs were unwilling to move for fear he would cause the look of pride to vanish, perhaps never to return.

His father carved his way through the crowd towards him, making Tahnner feel like a wiry sapling next to an old oak, one with roots so firm they might never be uprooted. He stepped down from the pedestal to stand before his father, the sense of accomplishment he had burgeoned only moments before slipping through his fingers like the Threads after Setting. Years’ worth of questions teemed inside his mind, spilling over one another in his need for answers, too entangled to settle on one for long enough to ask it. He longed to know of everything he had missed since leaving for Pelston. How was his mother? His Brother? How had Turro fared as the war raged around it? Did his father regret the necessity of indenturing his youngest son?

“You’re looking well,” his father said, raking his gaze over him. “I’m glad you’ve made the most of the opportunity I acquired for you. Why are you here and not at the palace?” He glanced around at the other people on the rooftop with a look of disdain. Fedan was still talking with the old woman. His presence causing a stir with the fanatics which the honouri were having to control. He caught Tahnner’s eye, but the excited gleam drained away as he noticed Tahnner’s father.

“So you stay here between the king’s summons? I suppose it gives you more opportunity to keep an eye on that Draeman boy at any rate. That is him right? He has the look of his father about him.” He glanced in Fedan’s direction again, his eyes narrowed in a sneer. “Anyway, I’m not here about that. I have a… delicate situation for which I require your expertise. I’m concerned my -” he paused for a moment, as if searching out the right word, “-business partner has betrayed me. I need to know whether it’s worthwhile my paying for a Reading to discover the truth of the matter. The fee is rather exorbitant, so before I commit, I wish to know the… limitations of what the raveller might discover. You understand my predicament?”

“Do you want me to request the Reading? I could let them know you’re my father. They might reduce the price-”

“No, boy” his father said, laying his hand on Tahnner’s shoulder. “To do so might jeopardise your position. No, I couldn’t let you do that. Instead, perhaps you might explain a few intricacies of Thread reading? Enough to help me decide whether or not I should bother.”

“Of course,” Tahnner said, earning an approving smile from his father. “What do you need the ravellers to find out?”

“I believe my business partner is responsible for spoiling last season’s batch of wine. We found a pouch of something that may have been sprinkled into the casks. If I were to bring the pouch, would a raveller be able to tell if he was involved?”

“Not unless he sabotaged the wines,” Tahnner answered, thinking the matter through as he would do for any patron at a Reading.

“What do mean?” his father asked, staring at him with rapt attention.

“Well… he would have to have handled the pouch at some point for a raveller to track its Threads back to him. Other than that, the raveller could Thread jump from the pouch to those of the saboteur to find who hired him, but there is no guarantee that way.”

His father stared at him, seeming to be trying to work the matter through in his mind. It struck Tahnner once again just how ignorant so many were of the Threads. How different his own would have been had he not been forced to devote his life to their study. He would never have bothered dragging himself out of bed in time for Rising each day were it not for Pelston. Instead, he would probably still be in Turro, spending his mornings tucked beneath the warm bedsheets. He might have happily lived in ignorance of all the wonders the Threads contained. Whether it would have been a blessing or a curse, only the Threads knew. They were like reading the first chapter in a story, consuming him with the desire to learn everything else the book contained. He wanted to know the histories the Threads held, to experience the lives of others through their golden strands. He wanted to answer as many questions as he could before he died and his essence was released as his body burnt upon a pyre.

“Thread jumping?” his father asked, rolling the term about in his mouth as he had used to do when trying a new batch of Turro’s sweet wine, as if tasting the words would help him understand them better. “You mean a raveller can only see the culpability of those directly involved?”

“Depending on the skill of the raveller,” Tahnner said, thinking of Senara. “Unless they know exactly who or when they are searching, then they would have to sift through who knows how many conversations before they found the right one.”

His father nodded, his eyes unfocused. “I see,” he said after a moment. “Yes, it is rather complicated when you put it like that. Perhaps I will have to find another way then. Well then,” he said, half-turning from Tahnner, “I’ll return if I need further-”

“Father- Wait. I…what I mean is, a friend of mine from Pelston was sent to read for the army. She doesn’t belong to one of the great houses, so has no-one to speak for her. Could you use your influence and get her reassigned here? She’s a first rate raveller, the best I’ve ever known. She would-”

“I’m sorry, boy, but there is nothing I can do. From what I’ve heard, the war efforts are not going well. They need every raveller they can get. Listen, I have to go, there is much I must do. Be sure to keep an eye on that Draeman boy. Send word if his father shows up here or if you catch wind of anything they might be up to.”

He bid Tahnner farewell, leaving him with the guilt of having failed Senara. Fedan joined him when his father was gone, but all traces of their earlier comradery had vanished. The honouri had cleared the crowd from the rooftop, so Tahnner and Fedan were alone with the darkening sky.

Fedan broke the silence, explaining that the old woman had been trying to learn what had become of her son, a soldier in the Daenan war who had never returned. Fedan he had found the location of her son’s body so the woman might retrieve it and have it burnt. Tahnner forced a smile, but the conversation with his father had distracted him too much for him to manage more than that.

“Come on,” Fedan said, pulling Tahnner’s robe and leading him towards the staircase. “We shouldn’t be up here now.”

Tahnner flinched at Fedan’s touch and a hurt expression flashed across the other boy’s face. He muttered something, shaking his head before hurrying from the rooftop, leaving Tahnner alone with only the stars for company.

He avoided Fedan as much as he could for the next few days. Kheelan was present for Rising to next day so there was no reason for him to speak with Fedan then.

Almost a week after that eventful Setting, Tahnner was shaken awake by rough hands. He was used to rising early but this time he felt as if he had barely drifted asleep. No gongs sounded through the Court, alerting sleeping ravellers to the approaching Threads and something in him told him Rising was still some time away even as Kheelan treated him to a personal wake up call.

“Get up,” Kheelan ordered, throwing a set of robes upon Tahnner.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” he asked, struggling to find the arm holes in the dim light of Kheelan’s candle.

“The council has requested two ravellers attend them at Rising. I’m taking you. Now hurry up, they never request us for trivialities.”

Tahnner scrambled with his robes, pride burgeoning in his chest at Kheelan’s having selected him to meet with Ilyia’s ruling council. Besides the king, no-one had more power than they did.

As soon as he was dressed, Kheelan marched them from the Thread Court, leading Tahnner across the empty squares of the upper districts and on to the palace. They strode down the long cavernous corridors he remembered traversing as a child, back when he had to run to keep up with his father. This time though, he managed to keep abreast of Kheelan. Instead of making for the throne room, Kheelan led them to another part of the palace, one Tahnner had never visited before. They strode into a long windowless chamber, lit by many burning fires. The room was busy with a flurry of activity despite how early it was. Several people stood shouting over one another near the centre.

“-Good riddance if you ask me,” a sneering man proclaimed, shouting down the others nearby, “He’s been sympathetic to Daena from the start-”

“Be quiet, Evenard,” a woman snapped. She wore the same embroidered, stiff-necked, dark-turquoise robe as the man did, but her hair was scraped back in a hasty bun with strands falling loose, unlike his which was elegantly coiffed as it fell past his shoulders. “If you mention Daena again then there will be more than one body on the Pyre tonight.”

“Threats is it, Tarasien? I want it known that-“

“We shall discuss the matter later, Evenard,” she said, grinding out the man’s name as she gestured to Kheelan and Tahnner, drawing the focus of the room to them. All conversations ceased as faces turned in their direction, filled with expectation.

Through the shifting bodies, Tahnner caught sight of what had dragged so many from their beds that early in the morning. Lying on the floor was an old man, staring upwards with empty eyes and a knife protruding from in his chest. Blood pooled beneath him, clotting in his long grey hair. Although Tahnner was unfamiliar with the old man, he could hazard a guess who he was from the turquoise robes which the pooling blood was currently staining a dark brown.

Kheelan jerked to a stop at the sight of the body. “Councillor Nadien?” he asked to no-one in particular. He turned to the female councillor and demanded, “What happened?”

It was Councillor Evenard though, who answered. In a snide drawl he said, “That is rather the reason for your being summoned here, raveller.”

“Thank you for coming, Kheelan,” Councillor Tarasien said, turning from Councillor Evenard with a look of long sufferance. She gestured to the body of Councillor Nadien, “We need your assistance. I’ve seen to it nobody has touched him since he was discovered, but whoever the perpetrator, they slipped from the palace before an alarm could be raised.”

Kheelan nodded, his attention still fixed on the body. Appearing deep in thought, he ran his fingers through his hair before he seemed to catch himself in the act and snapped into the appearance of the professional raveller.

“We can bring the knife. It will be easier than taking the body. Leave a guard here though, just in case.”

He stooped to take the knife before exiting the chamber, Tahnner and the curious crowd, including all the councillors, following after him. Kheelan seemed to know where he was going as he directed them to a small courtyard with an unobstructed view of the reddening eastern horizon. He held the bloodied knife in his hand, turning it over, his attention elsewhere as the sky lightened about them. When Tahnner asked him what his instructions were, Kheelan jolted and almost cut himself. He held the knife out in front of them and murmured a few directions for Tahnner to follow just before the sun peaked above the horizon.

As the Threads surged into view, Tahnner focused on those of the knife, tracing them back. Councillor Nadien’s murder was upon him almost instantly and what he saw made his stomach twist so much that he was grateful he had yet to eat breakfast.

He had never seen anyone die before and he watched Councillor Nadien’s last moments with fascination as the black-swathed assassin appeared before the old man, crumpling him as she plunged the blade into his chest.

Kheelan had instructed him to follow the assassin’s Threads, in order that he might search out her current location. He knew he should Thread jump to hers before she slipped from the room, but he was unable to tear himself from the sight of Councillor Nadien’s wet, laboured breathing as he struggled through his last moments of life. He felt a pull to linger, to stay with the dying man. Councillor Nadien had died alone, but somehow Tahnner felt he might ease the old man’s pain, even if it was only as a witness to his last moments.

He watched until the end. When it was done and Councillor Nadien had drawn his last, ragged breath, Tahnner retraced the Threads back and jumped to those of the assassin, tracing hers forward just as Kheelan had instructed. He found her current Threads with ease and watched as she jolted about on horseback, tearing through the countryside at an alarming pace. Although he didn’t recognise where she was, he could tell she was travelling south from the location of the sun.

The Threads began to fade about him so he retraced his route. He blinked a couple of times as he pulled his mind free, refocusing on the expectant faces around them. Although some had shut their eyes, protecting their minds from the dangers of the Threads, most stared at the ravellers, their gazes filled with the same excitement as the fanatics who flocked to the Thread Court. The empire’s nobles might view the Threads as they might their servants, something which only existed for their advantage, but even they were not exempt from the excitement which the gold could induce.

“Is she still in the city?” Kheelan asked, his pupils constricting and he shook off the last of the Threads.

“No. We could send riders after her, but she’s travelling swiftly.”

“No, forget about her. This will all be sorted before we could catch up with her. Besides, under guild law it’s the one who contracted her who is culpable.”

Tahnner blinked a couple of times as he stared at the last strands of gold extinguishing about them. He had never before thought to contemplate the legality of the illicit guild, but now that Kheelan mentioned it, it made a strange sense that the crimes of the trained thieves and assassins would be exempt from persecution. They were after all, merely the tool implementing the deed, as much as he was for reading the Threads.

“The Councillor was killed by an illicit assassin,” Kheelan announced to the crowd. “I was able to learn who hired her.”

Tahnner blinked in surprise. Could it have been so easy? He knew little of these things, but the idea that the identity of the orchestrator could be tracked so effortlessly seemed ludicrous to him.

He bit back his question as to how Kheelan had managed it as the raveller continued speaking, “The man has a house in the craftsmen’s district. Councillor Tarasien, if it is your wish, might I lead you there…?”

“Yes, thank you, Kheelan,” the woman said. “I’ll have a guard escort us.” To the others she said, “I request you make your way back to your apartments and keep what you’ve heard to yourselves. I would prefer it if this matter is kept contained whilst the ravellers identify the culprit. If you wish to pay your respects, Councillor Nadien will be burnt at Setting in full state.”

Murmurs met her pronouncement, but Tahnner noticed that there were few amongst the faces who appeared upset by the passing of the longest serving councillor. Indeed, Councillor Evenard looked downright bored as he sidled over to Councillor Tarasien, insisting he be permitted to accompany her.

Two honouri were summoned to escort them from the palace. Their presence increased Tahnner’s nervousness, despite their being there to guard them. They wore the same blank expressions as the ones who guarded the Thread Court, their eyes roaming with relentless assessment as they descended Girona’s levels to the craftsman’s district.

When they reached the small and abandoned looking house, the locked door proved no problem to the honouri. One of them pulled the handle from the door in a single wrench before proceeding to break it until all that remained was splintered wood. An honouri was dispatched to search the residence, but he soon returned to inform them that it was vacant. The rest searched the house for anything which might lead them to the man Kheelan had found in the Threads.

Tahnner stared about the dusty room. Small piles of shavings littered the corners and broken tools lay scattered about, neglected and forgotten. Why a carpenter would want to orchestrate the murder of a councillor was beyond him. He had no idea how even a successful carpenter might be able to afford an illicit assassin, let alone the mediocre one who must have worked in this small apartment.

He said as much to Kheelan, but the raveller only grunted, his attention focused on a small work bench at the far end of the room. Soft rays of mid-morning light streamed in through a small, dirty window, illuminating the papers lying on the desk. Kheelan picked up the letters and began rifling through them, stopping at one in particular and holding it up to the light.

“What is it?” Councillor Evenard snapped, his hungry eyes resting on Kheelan. As he passed the letter to the councillor, Tahnner caught sight of a broken seal and felt a glimmer of recognition before Councillor Evenard snatched it away.

“Well then,” the councillor said after a brief perusal, then passing it Councillor Tarasien. “I rather think this settles the matter.”

“By the Threads…” she said, holding her hand to her mouth as she read the letter. “He would not… it cannot be true.”

“Yet it is, Rennesia,” Councillor Evenard said, plucking the letter from her weak grip then folding it up and tucking it into his pocket. “I suppose he’ll want a trial though.” Turning to address Kheelan, he said, “Prepare the Thread Court. Setting, tonight. I think it only fitting that the culprit be apprehended in the same moment we commit Nadien’s body to the Threads. Lord Draeman must be made accountable for his actions.”

Tahnner had been staring about the carpenter’s shop as the councillor spoke, an uneasy feeling he was unable to put his finger on dancing at the edge of his awareness. Councillor Evenard’s words broke through his musing though.

Lord Draeman was Fedan’s father.

Kheelan bowed his head before dragging a dazed Tahnner from the room and leading him back towards the Thread Court. He hired a carriage to carry them back up through the city. It was rickety and uncomfortable, but Kheelan seemed in too much of a hurry to locate one that was more suited to the luxury Girona’s Thread Court ravellers were accustomed too.

“Fedan is Lord Draeman’s son,” Tahnner told Kheelan as the carriage was dragged up the cobbled streets. He was unsure how he expected the older raveller to react to the information, but Kheelan just said nothing, staring out the carriage window as if Tahnner had not spoken.

Tahnner’s head was a chaotic mess. He knew little about Lord Draeman, nothing of why he might have ordered the councillor’s murder. All he knew was what the accusation would do to Fedan. He cursed the carriage for travelling both too fast and too slow all at once. He wanted to find Fedan, to warn him of all that had happened, but the thought of having to explain it all to him though made him want to heave.

The carriage rolled to a stop outside the Thread Court and Kheelan spoke for the first time as Tahnner made to climb down. “You can’t tell him,” he said, causing Tahnner to sit back down opposite him, trying to find the words to express the silent protests cleaving through him. “By now, the city guards will have been dispatched to arrest Lord Draeman and there is nothing Fedan can do to help him. All you’ll achieve is make him worry for the rest of the day. It would be kinder not to say anything. You will stay with me today and help me prepare for the trial. You did well this morning, Tahnner. Stick with me and I’m sure you’ll go far. Your father was right about you.”

Kheelan climbed down from the carriage and hurried up the steps, leaving Tahnner stunned and unable to move. It was only when the carriage jerked beneath him that he was dislodged from his thoughts, the driver impatient to be off in search of another paying customer.

He entered the guild to find Kheelan issuing orders to the raveller behind the desk before informing those queueing that Setting would be a private event tonight. The crowd groaned but Kheelan ignored them, hurrying towards the staircase.

“Why did you send them away?” Tahnner asked, running to catch up with Kheelan.

“Protocol,” Kheelan said, turning onto the first floor landing where several ravellers lounged, drinking their day away. “When the Court is called upon to determine guilt, all ravellers must be involved. The spectators will all be nobles. There’ll be no room for the usual rabble.”

Tahnner hung back as Kheelan strode into the centre of the room. Fedan was there, sitting near Bertren and looking ill at ease with the lazy antics of the other ravellers. Fedan spotted him and grinned, opening his mouth to say something, but he was cut off by Kheelan.

“The council will be attending Setting,” Kheelan announced, kicking the cushion one of the older ravellers was napping on. “We must make everything ready for them. Bertren, see to it the honouri are informed and have them secure the building for the councillors. The rest of you, begin setting up the rooftop for this evening.”

Tahnner felt Fedan trying to catch his eye but he looked away, guilt slicing into him as he did so. Kheelan kept him busy with tasks which kept him apart from Fedan for the rest of the day. It was only when all the ravellers were called up to the rooftop that he caught sight of Fedan again. The sun hovered above the western horizon in the cloudless blue of estervan. There was little to worry the ravellers that the trial might be called off due to inclement weather, but Tahnner was uncertain if that was good news.

A crowd had already formed atop the rooftop. As Kheelan had predicted, it was made up of Girona’s elite. Tahnner spotted his father at one point before Lord Rhanick was swallowed up by the crowd.

“Do we know what this is all about yet?” Fedan asked, sidling over to join Tahnner.

He was spared answering by the arrival of the councillors. Murmurs of apprehension raced through the crowd at the sight of the man accompanying them, King Sorentien Gallidon. He was the reason everybody stepped as far back as the small rooftop would permit them. Had Tahnner not heard the announcement, then he would not have recognised the weathered face. Although it had been only six years since he had last seen the king, judging from the haggard man before him he could have sworn it had been three times that.

The king twitched as he made his way through the crowd, muttering to himself like one of the ravers Tahnner had seen wandering Girona’s lower districts, too lost in the Threads to know what they did. How had nobody done anything to help him? He had ravellers at his disposal. Why had none of them found a way to extract him from the Threaded cage his mind was clearly lost in? Why were the ravellers permitted to waste precious readings on the petty matters of the nobles when their king needed their attention?

He was about to say something to Fedan when he noticed the man following close behind the king, walking with a long, curved axe in one hand, the wicked blade gleaming as it caught the sunlight.

Fedan’s fingers clenched around his arm in a death grip and Tahnner knew what Fedan had sighted behind the executioner. He dragged his gaze up to see the handsome man he knew must be Lord Draeman. He was escorted across the roof by two honouri, his frantic eyes searching out Fedan’s across the crowd, silently pleading with his son for help.

“Tahnner, what is this-?” Fedan said, but his words were drowned out by Councillor Evenard as he addressed the crowd.

“Lord Ergamon Draeman, you have been brought here to determine your culpability in the murder of Councillor Nadien. You are accused of orchestrating his assassination.”

“You have the wrong man, Evenard!” Lord Draeman called out, straining against the honouri holding him in place.

“As is custom in these matters,” Councillor Evenard said, continuing as if there had been no interruption. “The ravellers will determine the truth of the matter.”

“Tahnner?” Fedan’s voice quavered as he jerked on the sleeve of Tahnner’s robe, his eyes fixed on his father. “What’s happening? My father wouldn’t kill Councillor Nadien. They’ve been friends for years. He wouldn’t kill him-”

Fedan was elbowed by the raveller standing on his other side as another hissed at him to be quiet. A queasy feeling churned in Tahnner’s stomach as he forced himself not to meet Fedan’s pleading eyes and focus on Councillor Evenard.

“The penalty for the murder of a sitting councillor is death. Should you be found guilty, you shall be executed after the Threads of Setting have faded, your body left to rot, your mind never to be granted the release gifted to the dead upon the Setting pyres.”

“What is your evidence?” Lord Draeman called out, straightening himself up and somehow managing to appear imperious despite the rope binding his wrists together.

“You deny your signature and seal are upon the letter arranging the assassination?” Councillor Evenard asked, pulling out the incriminating document from his breast pocket.

The councillor proceeded to read the contents of the letter and Tahnner became aware of a shift in the sentiments of the crowd. Where before they had appeared only curious, now Tahnner could hear the disgruntled mutterings and see the dark looks directed towards Lord Draeman. Councillor Nadien’s assassination had been one of cold calculation and the crowd was eager for justice in the matter.

“I never signed that!” Lord Draeman roared above the murmurings. “That is not my signature! Have the ravellers check, they will see my innocence in the Threads. That letter is a forgery!”

“That, Lord Draeman,” Councillor Evenard said, staring down at him from the raised dais he stood atop, “is exactly what we shall do. If they discover the signature a forgery, then you shall go free. If however, the signature is yours, you shall be executed.” Directing his next words to Kheelan, he asked, “Are your ravellers ready?”

Kheelan glanced at the descending sun before saying, “Soon. It won’t be long now.”

He moved through the other ravellers, instructing them as to which Threads to focus on at Setting. When he was done, he assumed his place as they lined up at the easternmost edge of the rooftop, staring westwards to where Councillor Evenard stood holding the letter to the best advantage for reading its Threads.

“Tahnner?” Fedan whispered in voice too quiet to draw anyone else’s attention. “My father didn’t do this. You have to help me prove his innocence.”

For a moment Tahnner said nothing, all too aware of the eyes of the crowd watching him and the other ravellers. “I can only tell the truth,” he whispered back. “As should we all. The Threads will reveal whether he’s innocent. I can do no more.”

Fedan made a choking sound and doubts raced through Tahnner’s mind as he felt the first stirrings of the Threads about them. There was something which felt wrong. Oddities which, despite the evidence pointing to Lord Draeman, still made Tahnner feel uneasy. Why had a professional assassin neglected to take the weapon with her when she had fled? Surely she had known it might be used by the ravellers to discover who had ordered the murder? Had Councillor Nadien simply disappeared then the ravellers would have had a much trickier time discovering what had become of him. Did the illicits know so little about the Threads that they had not considered the matter?

As the gold solidified about him, his gaze slipped past Councillor Evenard and the letter he held out for the ravellers. He felt the others fix their attention upon it as they had been instructed to do by Kheelan, but something about the sly look in Councillor Evenard’s eyes made Tahnner not trust the slip of paper. It felt wrong to determine whether or not a man might live or die according to one letter. Instead, he focused on Lord Draeman’s Threads, tracing them backwards, pausing every time he found Lord Draeman signing his name to a letter. Mostly he dictated them to his scribe, only signing them upon their completion. He searched through letter after letter, but not one of them ordered anything even slightly nefarious, let alone an assassination.

From somewhere to his left, he heard Kheelan speak the first pronouncement on Lord Draeman’s fate. His heart began pounding as, in an authoritative tone, Kheelan announced “I confirm that Lord Draeman signed the letter.”

As if Kheelan was the first stone to begin the avalanche, the rest of the ravellers began to make their pronouncements in a cascade of condemnation. One after another they repeated the words, sealing Lord Draeman’s fate.

Tahnner had just about given up searching, his mind still entrenched in the Threads, when he noticed the nervous way Lord Draeman’s scribe handed a document to him, a letter Lord Draeman had been dictating concerning a matter of his household. The scribe’s hand shook, but Lord Draeman seemed oblivious to it as he took the letter and scrawled his signature upon it.

Tahnner knew what the letter really contained even before he examined it. A quick check proved it to be the one ordering the councillor’s assassination. That was what the other ravellers had seen, but although Lord Draeman had signed the letter, he had not known its true contents.

As the understanding hit him, Tahnner wished himself still oblivious, suddenly knowing what he would see if he Thread jumped to those of the scribe. Memories of a conversation from years ago rang through his head as ominously as the bell which summoned the ravellers to read the Threads. He knew who it was who paid people to infiltrate and spy upon Lord Draeman’s household.

“Lord Draeman, you are found guilty by the ravellers of having orchestrated the murder of Councillor Nadien.”

With his mind still buried in the Threads, Tahnner was only distantly aware of Councillor Evenard’s pronouncement. He heard the shouts coming from Fedan as he tried to break free of the ravellers holding him back. He felt his body being knocked by the commotion but it was as if he stood surrounded by a wall of water, protecting him from the full force of his reality.

His mind focused on the scribe’s Threads, tracing them back as he remembered the words his father had told him in the carriage all those years ago. He watched as the scribe met with Lord Rhanick Turro, receiving orders for inscribing the incriminating letter and attaining Lord Draeman’s signature.

From some place far away, he heard Lord Draeman’s protests of innocence as Councillor Evenard passed judgement. There were screams from within the crowd too, the cries of a woman. A deadened part of Tahnner’s mind guessed her to be Fedan’s mother. He couldn’t focus on them though, already his mind fumbled in the Threads. He wanted to help. He needed to, but he was unable to do so, trapped as he was by the cold certainty which his mind had grasped even as the rest of his world was thrown into chaos.

If he spoke the truth then it would be his father who would be found guilty, his father’s neck the executioner would severe with his axe.

Senara’s voice filled his head as he grappled with loyalty to his family or the Threads. The Threads are only as reliable as those who read them. Her words caused a burst of shame to surge through him. She would not let an innocent man die because of blind loyalty.

He dragged his mind from the Threads, retracing the scribe’s before jumping back to Lord Draeman’s. His mind was still filled with a golden haze as the Threads began fading around him. He threw himself through them faster, hearing Fedan’s hoarse scream of protest as his mind burst from the Threads. Still reeling, he tried refocusing on his reality as he cried out, needing to stop the evil which was about to take place. His words were drowned out by the loud cheering of the crowd though, and a sudden whooshing sound, followed by a heavy thump.

Tahnner’s eyes fixed on his father from across the crowd, watching the malicious gleam as Lord Rhanick Turro stared at the headless body of his old rival, triumph lighting his face.

***

Chapter 7

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