Sword and Verse

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Book: Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathy MacMillan
hadn’t mentioned that my father was a Learned One, and only now did I realize that I didn’t want to. That secret was so bone-deep that I couldn’t share it, not even with him. Especially not here, in the Library of the Gods.
    â€œYes, I remember them,” I whispered. I flicked through childhood memories like Laiyonea sorting through a pot of quills, searching for one that was safe to share. But so many memories of my father were wrapped up in the sight of his strong hand wielding a quill or his kind face bending near as he gave me my heart-verse. I landed on an image of my mother, singing as she spun by the fire.
    â€œMy mother . . . had a lovely voice. Our cottage was always full of her singing. She used to sing this little nonsense song to me—” Softly I sang a few of the lilting syllables, like I used to sing to Linti to soothe her to sleep in the palace slave quarters. I broke off with a laugh. “I didn’t inherit her voice. Wilel always said I sounded like a strangled asoti.”
    â€œWilel?”
    â€œMy brother.” I paused. “He died in the raid too.” I swallowed against the guilty lump in my throat; I was older now than Wilelhad ever had a chance to be.
    Mati touched my cheek. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
    I shook my head. “You didn’t send those raiders.”
    Mati looked up at the ceiling, his jaw tightening. “No,” he said. “My father did that.” Something grim and steely in his tone frightened me.
    I pushed myself up on my elbow and kissed him, trying to pull him out of this dark mood. “It’s in the past,” I murmured against his lips. “At least . . . we’re together now. Something good came of it.” I couldn’t decide if the idea of our love being born out of so much death was comforting or horrible.
    Mati seemed to be thinking the same thing. He frowned. “Tyasha was right,” he murmured.
    I froze, then turned on my side so that he couldn’t see my face, but I was still within the circle of his arms. “You cared for her,” I said to the dim Library.
    â€œYes, of course I—Raisa, don’t be ridiculous.” He kissed my neck, working his way up to my ear, and when he got there he whispered, “I never have loved, and I never will love, anyone the way I love you.” He pushed himself up and faced me, as though to make sure I believed him. I did. No one could doubt his fervent tone. It lit me on fire and made me forget what we were talking about, so that when he flopped back down and went on, it took me a moment to follow.
    â€œTyasha was like . . . a big sister, I guess,” he said. “I was four when I started in the Adytum. She was eleven then. She loved telling me what to do.” He barked out a laugh. “When I went to see her before she died, I asked why she’d helped the Resistance.She said she did it because no one deserves to die in ignorance, without dignity or humanity. She said that most Qilarites are too weak to see that, and that . . . that I might be able to be better than that, to be less of a coward.”
    I pushed myself up and stared at him. “You’re not—”
    â€œShe was right. I am.”
    If Mati was a coward, then what was I—I, who could not even bear to consider doing what Tyasha had done?
    â€œHere I am,” Mati went on, “making you sneak around, when I should be telling the world that I love you.”
    My heart thrilled at the idea, but I laid a warning hand on his chest. “Mati, don’t be insane.”
    He took my hand. “I wouldn’t put you in more danger, you know that. But I hate this hiding, and I hate—” He closed his eyes. “I wish I could just . . . just free all the Arnathim.”
    Would he? Could he, when he became king? Just like that?
    He looked at me sadly. “I don’t know if it’s possible. But I’ll try.” He sat up

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