He likely was, being a mason’s apprentice. “I’m not lookin’ to mess wi’ you. Just got a word for the wise, is all. Heard you talkin’ back at the Miners’ , y’know. Couldn’t help it, cos you were a bit loud, ’n all.”
The lad was still poised for flight. Peveril could flatten him right now and take the fragment of jewellery, but there was bigger game to be had here. And Peveril was nothing if not ambitious. “That was an interesting tale you had.”
The lad didn’t relax his vigilance one iota. It would take a great deal of finesse to reel this one in. As a rule, Peveril thought such niceties a waste of time, but for once, this time, it might pay dividends. He smiled in what was meant to be a winning style but the lad took another step away from him, clenching his fists.
“No need to take on, lad. Don’t you recognise the uniform of the palace guard when you see it?”
The lad’s frown deepened, but he looked Peveril up and down and his stance relaxed ever so slightly. Peveril saw the line he must take. “There are those at the palace who’d be keen to hear that story you told tonight. Wealthy, like, an’ keen enough to pay you well for it. An’ if’n you’ve proof of it, they’ll pay a deal for that, too.”
“An’ what’s it to you if they would?”
Peveril gestured to his uniform once more. “I work at the palace, too. The way it is there, if’n a man serves well and is useful, he gets remembered, an’ he gets rewarded. If’n I take your story to my master, I’ll be rewarded, an’ you’ll be rewarded. But only if you can prove it.”
The lad’s chin jutted out again. “I can prove it.”
“Well then. Come to the palace tomorrow mornin’ and ask for Captain Peveril. Bring your proof an’ we can do business. Mind you don’t go blabbin’ all over town about it though, or there’s them as is low enough to take the tale to the palace themselves, an’ help themselves to what you’re carryin’. If’n I was you I wouldn’t give them the chance. Jus’ keep your lip shut and be there tomorrow mornin’. Me, I’ll deal fair wi’ you. Ask for Captain Peveril.”
“Cap’n Peveril.” The lad nodded. “I’ll do it.”
Peveril smiled. This was too easy. “An’ watch your step on the way home. You’re lucky it was only me overheard.”
“Aye, I’ll do that.” The lad waited for Peveril to turn and walk away before he resumed his journey, the stagger a little less evident than it had been before.
“You are awake? Good.” The bright-eyed woman moved over to Alwenna’s side. “I have rarely seen such power as yours before – and I have seen a few in my time, believe me. Rogen fears it of course. I can understand if you do not have it in your heart to forgive him.”
Forgive a man who had spoken so coldly of putting a knife between her ribs? When she was guest at his campfire… Alwenna’s head ached and her mouth was dry. But she could recall everything so clearly… There was none of the fog of waking from the sight. She pushed herself up to a sitting position. That was because that had been no vision of the sight. That had been a… what? A thing she had done. It had been real. She had torn a boulder from the cliff and brought it careering down the slope to their meeting place.
Goddess, was she running mad? She could remember every detail so clearly. The slow but inexorable descent of the boulder. And the glee in every fibre of her body as it sent showers of small stones cascading before it. For a moment that same glee coursed through her veins at the recollection of the ensuing chaos, but she damped it down ruthlessly. The bird-woman still watched her, eyes bright and curious, belying her years.
“You have a forgiving nature, I think, Lady Alwenna?”
“I believe I did, once.”
“But no more?”
“I was brought up to believe forgiveness was a strength. But the more I see of the world, the more I am convinced it is a fatal