Ventus – Day 65 of 135


Jordan surged to his feet with shout. He was not going to let this happen again.

He shook his head and forced himself to breathe deeply, and look around himself. He was in a small cell in the basement of Brendan Sheia’ home. A single window-slit let in the wan sunset, and a trickle of cold air that teased at him, making him shiver now that he had noticed it.

They had taken his possessions, including Calandria’s golden gauze. He was irrevocably visible to the Winds now.

The sights and sounds of Armiger’s experience began to recede. He willed them away entirely. It didn’t matter how compelling they were. It didn’t matter that he wanted to fall into Armiger like a refuge, the way he had on his long walk south from the disaster of the Heaven hooks. He wished so much that he could be somewhere else right now–be someone else.

“Too bad,” he said angrily. Jordan was furious with Brendan Sheia–just furious enough, for now, not to be afraid. He was also angry with himself, though, and right now that was worse.

After all, there had been a moment in his life when he thought he was going to put aside all the habits of denial and retreat that he had despised in his father. When Emmy ran into the night, Jordan had lain in bed for long moments, waiting for someone else to act responsibly and follow her. He still remembered those few seconds; something had broken in him, setting him free. And so he thought afterwards that he would never fall back into those family patterns again.

He’d been fooling himself. He felt now as if he’d been a leaf in a river these past weeks. Calandria’s abduction, his terror of the visions, the whirlwind visit to the Boros where intrigue, murder and disguise were daily companions–these events had all given him excuses to feel helpless. He had let Calandria lead him, had accepted her stories; he had let Suneil lull him into complacency. He was a blank page on which others had signed their names, and that was just the way his father lived.

It was shameful–but if he wallowed in his misery, he would just be playing the lost boy again. When Galas’ mother died, the future queen had foresworn playing roles dictated by others. There was a lesson in that.

He had been in this cell for a day now. Someone had slid some food under the door that morning; otherwise, he might have been completely alone in the building.

This Boros domicile was not so grand as the manor house the Hooks had destroyed. It stood in the Rhiene high street, squeezed between two even grander mansions. There were no grounds, only a cobbled courtyard in front with a high wall and a gate. The building was tall, he knew, but he wasn’t sure how many storeys it was since his only view of it had been upsidedown as he was yanked off the horse yesterday evening. Four, five storeys? It didn’t matter, there was only one cellar and he was in it.

In the stories he used to read, bad people always had dungeons in their castles. Emmy had scared him for years by spinning tales of a secret level underneath Castor’s manor. There was no such thing there, of course, any more than there was here. He was in some kind of disused storage room. They’d tossed a cot, a blanket and a bucket in after him, and let him set them up himself, in his own dungeon style.

Jordan wasn’t quite sure what Brendan Sheia meant to do to him. Certainly the man had power, maybe enough to make an innocent traveller disappear without investigation.

He shivered again. First on the agenda was to find a way to block that draft.

They’d left him his cloak, so he bundled that up and stepped on a jutting stone in the wall to stuff it in the window. As he did so he heard footsteps passing in the hall outside.

“Hey, let me out!” he shouted.

“Quiet in there.” The footsteps receded.

“I didn’t do a damn thing, you stupid bastards!” He jumped down and gave the door a sound kick.

It felt good, and the crash was satisfactorily loud, so he kicked again. Tamsin would have a suitable insult for an occasion like this, he was sure. All he could think of was the one she’d used earlier today: “Trotting swine!”

He went to kick again but the door suddenly swung wide with a shriek of rusty hinges, and in its place was a huge scowling man with a long stick in his hand.

Before Jordan could react the man butted him in the stomach. Pain exploded in his belly, and he went down.

He curled up instinctively and thus avoided the worst of the kicks that followed. Then the man spat on him and left.

“Bastards,” whimpered Jordan, as he unwrapped shaking hands from his head. “Bastards bastards bastards,” all of them, Calandria, Armiger and Axel, Suneil and the whole stinking Boros clan. “Bastards.”

–And then he was in the flow of Vision, hearing the burr of Armiger’s voice in his own chest, and an overlay of chorusing identities in the walls, in the sullenly firm door and the very earth under his shoulder. It was like he’d fallen in a snake pit, with a thousand heads rising hissing all about him. Jordan grabbed his head and doubled up again with a cry.

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