Ventus – Day 4 of 135


The usual bustle of the hallways was muted today, out of deference to Turcaret, whom they needed to impress, if for no other reason than that Castor wanted not to seem too provincial to his rich visitor. The silent summer air weighed heavily in here, as outside, and when he had stopped puffing Jordan headed straight for the back stairs to the kitchen.

“She’s quite a filly, eh?” That was Castor’s voice, coming from behind the wood-inlaid door to the library. “Turn around for Turcaret, Emmy.”

Jordan stopped walking. Emmy. He looked around, then put his ear against the door.

“A fine girl.” Turcaret’s dry, sardonic voice. “But hard to appreciate in all that get-up.”

“Emmy, you hide your beauty too much,” said Castor. Jordan heard a faint whisper of motion as someone walked across the room. “Turn around.”

An appreciative noise from Turcaret. “Clasp your hands behind your neck, girl.”


“It’s all right, Emmy,” said Castor. “Do as the Controller General says. Stand up straight.”

Something about the tone of the voices made Jordan uncomfortable. He put his hand on the doorknob, hesitated, took it away. He had no excuse to be entering the library.

“Emmy, whatever happened to that dress you had last summer? The off-the-shoulder one? That was quite pretty.”

“I-I outgrew it, sir.”

“Do you still have it? Hmm. Why don’t you wear it tomorrow, then?”

Emmy said something Jordan didn’t catch. Dry laughter from the men. Then she gave a little shriek: “Oh!”

“Here comes the lady,” said Turcaret suddenly.

“All right, Emmy. That will be all,” said Castor in a distracted tone. “Remember what I told you about tomorrow.”

Jordan heard the door on the far side of the library open. Castor started to speak, but he was cut off by a strong female voice Jordan had never heard before. “All right, gentlemen, what about our agreement?”

Another door, this one around the corner of the same hallway Jordan was in, opened and closed. He left off eavesdropping and ran around to find his sister leaning against the wall underneath a watchful portrait of one of Castor’s ancestors.

“Emmy!” She looked up, then away. To his surprise, she turned and started to walk away without even acknowledging him.

“Hey! What are you doing?” He caught up to her. He felt a fluttering uneasiness in the pit of his stomach. “I talked to Allegri–everything’s all right. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Emmy rounded on him, grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him against the wall. “Where were you when I needed you?” she shouted. “Everything is not all right. It’s not!” She thrust herself away and ran off down the hallway. Jordan stayed leaning on the wall for a long moments. Then, still feeling the prints of her hands on his shoulders, he slouched back the way he had come. What had happened? It was as if last night some veil had been withdrawn from reality, showing behind it an ugly mechanism.

For just a second, he saw blue sky, clouds, heard the snorting of a horse. “Oh, stop,” he murmured, squashing the palms of his hands against his eyes. “Just stop.”


Jordan’s mother ladled out a thick soup and revealed a spread of cheese, salad and fresh bread. She smiled around the supper table with proprietary kindness, while Jordan’s father talked on about the stone mother and Jordan’s bravery.

“Ryman can’t say a bad word about the boy now. Ha! What a change. But the fact is, when it came to the moment, he panicked, and you didn’t.”

“Thanks.” Jordan found himself squirming. All this sudden fame was strange, and tiring on top of everything else that had happened today. Despite his exhaustion, he was afraid of going to sleep tonight. The nightmare might return.

He wanted to tell his family about Allegri’s idea that he’d been blessed by the Winds. He opened his mouth to speak, but a cold feeling deep in his stomach stopped him. Father kept printed broadsheets detailing the escapades of the inspectors and controllers; Jordan could see several tacked up by the door if turned his head. That was all Mother would allow as decoration, the rest being relegated to a chest on the porch. Father would would be thrilled and proud beyond description if he thought Jordan might be able to gain a government position. But it wasn’t what Jordan himself wanted.

He had always assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps, and was content with that. Jordan’s highest ambition was to have a comfortable home, a family, and to be considered a solid member of the community. What more could a man ask for?

So he said nothing. It was desperately necessary that the peace of the supper table not be disturbed. His mother’s careful preparations, her cleanliness and little touches such as the chrysanthemums in the center of the spread, were talismans, protective as was his father’s way of hovering about all problems without alighting his attention on any, and smoothing all troubled waters with belittling wit.

His father had said something more. “Hmm? What?” He blinked around the table.

“Where’s your head?” His father’s smile was puzzled, traced with a little sadness as it often was. “Have more potatoes, they’re good for you,” he said, but he looked like he wanted to say something else.

What he did add was, “I met a man today, a courier for the Ravenon forces named Chan. You know about the war they’re having with the Seneschals?” Emmy nodded dutifully. Jordan sat up straight, his food forgotten.

“This fellow said there was a battle yesterday. On the border.”

“Is the war coming here?” Emmy asked.

“No. I don’t know if the war is going to continue. It seems the Winds intervened in the battle. Stopped it.

“The Winds are mighty,” said their father. “That’s the lesson; though truth to tell, this fellow Chan seemed more amused by the tale than anything.” He shook his head. “Some people…”

He turned his attention to Emmy. “Your brother did well today, didn’t he?” he asked.

“He did okay,” she said in a monotone.

“Okay? Well, aren’t you proud?” She said nothing. “Well, how about you?” he asked. “Did you get to see our master’s guests? Did you meet Turcaret?”

Emmy glanced up; her eyes met Jordan’s. He looked down, squirmed in his chair. “Yes,” said Emmy.

“He’s pretty grand, isn’t he? I hear his house is twice the size of Castor’s. Mind, that would be twice the work, I expect.”

“I–I don’t like Turcaret,” blurted Emmy.

Their father reared back, raising his eyebrows. “What? That’s a pretty definite opinion to have for somebody you’ve barely met, especially one of your superiors. What brought that on?”

Emmy didn’t answer immediately, hunkering down over her meal. Finally she said, “He got Castor to make me wear my old dress tomorrow.”

“What dress?” asked their mother.

“The canary one.”

“But you’ve outgrown that dress, dear.”

“I told them that.”

There was a brief silence. Jordan felt a familiar tension, and the clamoring need to defuse it. He cast about for something funny to say, but his father was faster. “You still have it? I thought you gave it to Jordan as a hand-me-down!”

Everybody laughed except Emmy. She looked a bit sick, actually, and Jordan’s own laugh died in embarrassed silence.

“Well, after dinner we can try to let it out a bit,” said mother.

Emmy looked at her aghast. Then she pushed away from the table and ran for the stairs.

“Emmy!” thundered their father, then more weakly, “come back.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, then mother got up. “I’ll talk to her,” she said quietly, and padded up the stairs after Emmy.

Jordan and his father completed their meal in silence.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)