Letters and Lawmakers
The first thing Gray saw was eyes.
Tharsat the highwayman stared back at him—in a perfect sketch of the statue that could be seen from this very table, with the dead rock dragon hanging from its hand. The statue Gray and Tell had just been discussing.
Tell turned and looked at Gray. “What is it?” the boy asked quietly.
“Someone is desperately trying to impress us,” Gray replied, running his thumb across the statue’s head. The ink didn’t smear, and he realized he was scowling. “And that person is doing a surprisingly good job of it.”
Easing the single page free of the envelope, he unfolded it to see words written in an elegant hand—perhaps the same artist who had sketched the statue. Someone had spent time with this letter; it clearly had not been produced in haste.
His name stood alone at the top of the page. Gray H’Adorin. The writer had employed the Theranian spelling, which—at this point—did not surprise Gray in the slightest.
The letter itself was not very long. Only a few lines:
Tomorrow you will meet a thiever who calls himself Koss. He has a fondness for sand spiders, which I know you do not share with him.
Gray shifted in his chair. He didn’t like the awkward sensation of being a painting for someone else to examine, a list of details that a stranger without any ties to him could somehow access with apparent ease. Knowing where they would be sitting when the letter was read? Fine. But knowing Gray did not like spiders—that was personal.
I have made arrangements for his arrest, but the soldiers will not reach you before he tries to kill you. I give you warning of these things so that you may defend yourself and stay alive.
There was no signature, only the emblem of the eye, this time stamped on the paper with ink the color of blood.
As if they were a faint thought, something that barely brushed his consciousness, Gray did not register the sound of Tell’s voice at first. The boy was speaking right next to him, in his ear. A moment passed before he understood the words.
“Well, this isn’t good,” Tell was saying slowly. “I take it that you can actually see something here.”
Realizing what the boy implied, Gray began to groan.
“And whatever it is, you don’t seem to like it. Your pulse has quickened. You aren’t angry…though I know you well enough by this point that I think you will be angry in the next few minutes. You are a little confused, but more than anything else, you are annoyed. Very, very annoyed.”
The twist in Gray’s abdomen grew worse. This was not what he wanted. They were almost home—back with Shel, back with Nari. Tell was the prince of Rak-Min, not a pawn in another man’s game. This was unacceptable behavior.
Gray breathed a sigh. “You can’t read this?”
“I cannot. All I can see is a piece of paper and an envelope.” Tell lowered his voice. “It would seem our letter writer has access to a lawmaker, doesn’t it? Someone has sealed these words so only you can read them.” He paused. “That’s unfortunately resourceful—it means he already knows about the par’salthaine, doesn’t it?”
“So it would seem.”
“We have no lawmakers in Dasken, so it must be a lawmaker from King’s Barrow.”
Turning the page over, Gray checked the back for additional words and didn’t find any. He then examined the envelope once more before answering, “A logical guess, but I don’t believe that’s possible. The lawmaker gift has the ability to change the earth, so here on the continent, it is kept closely under guard. King’s Barrow protects their lawmakers in a convent called Morashan. They don’t allow the gift even to step outside the building without proper accompaniment. Lawmaker children grow up there. The grandparents and great-grandparents pass away there, and many of them never leave. The convent is like a nation set apart, an entire world that keeps to itself. But this?”
He held up the letter and felt his voice tighten as he said, “This would never be allowed. This is…a game to someone, and the lawmaker gift was not made for games.”
“So it would have to be a lawmaker from Theraine, then.”
“No one knows where our lawmakers live.”
Tell looked at him, brows raised.
Gray shrugged. “That is how Theraine has chosen to protect them. Only a handful of people are aware of their location.”
“Are you one of them?”
Gray nearly snorted. “Have you forgotten our recent reception in Theraine? No, Tell. I certainly am not one of them, especially not now. What allows me access to Dasken does not give me access to Theraine, nor would I wish it to do so.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “I don’t see how this particular lawmaker could be from this content at all, actually. It is more likely that he or she hails from Audofek.”
At that word, Tell sank down into his chair slowly. “That…is a very long way to go for a gift.”
“No,” Gray replied, dropping the letter on the table. “That is a very long way to go to play a game.”
Tell nodded toward the page. “What does it say?”
Gray read it to him, and the boy began frowning at the first line.
“So,” Tell said, forming each word carefully, “he—or she, as the case may be—is trying to help you.” He made a face that clearly revealed what he thought about this.
Gray nodded. “But I don’t believe this is a method of help that I will appreciate in the end.”
GRAY PAUSED HIS REPORT and watched Lukas Fao to see how he would respond to this new information. It was no small thing whenever a lawmaker was involved. They founded countries and preserved borders. They could make difficult things simple and simple things difficult, all because of what they wrote.
For a long moment, the prince of Ra-Faal was quiet. He studied Gray before saying, finally, “He has a lawmaker at his disposal?”
“That was my first assumption as well, your highness.”
The silver eyes narrowed as the prince used his gift. All seers had a similar expression when they wished to see something, to look into something; it appeared as deep concentration, intensity, and—depending on the seer—great suspicion. It was certainly suspicion with Lukas Fao. “But you discovered that is not the case?”
Gray took a deep breath, let it out. “I believe he found a lawmaker. I have not been able to prove this theory at this time, your highness, but I believe that the seer is one of the few people from Dasken who have crossed the West Sea and ventured into Audofek. The lawmaker gift is held in high esteem in that distant land, but it is not as carefully preserved—not the way it is here on the continent. For a price, a lawmaker will write for you.”
“A high price,” the prince replied.
Gray nodded, wondering how much Lukas saw, how much he had learned through study—and how much came from Shel Galen, who liked to talk about many, many things. That was especially true when people asked him questions, and Gray could tell that Lukas Fao was a man who asked whatever questions he wished.
When they created the gifts, the gods added a measure of safety to the lawmaker gift: The lawmaker had to believe that what he was writing was good in order for it to be accepted by the earth. If the lawmaker doubted the intentions of the person he was writing for, or the outcome of the writing itself, the “law” was not accepted. Though greatly beneficial, this safety measure was not without its shortcomings; a lawmaker could still be compelled to believe certain things, which was why the gift was guarded so carefully.
Gray looked at Lukas Fao and had no doubt that the prince knew all these things and had known them for years. No wonder Shel considered this man his closest friend.
“Continue,” the prince instructed. One word that held unexpected weight.
Gray quickly did as he was told.
THEY LEFT THE SMALL TOWN of Tharsat the next morning at dawn. The sun was barely starting to cast shadows when Tell observed, “I suppose it doesn’t matter, does it?”
“What doesn’t matter?” Gray replied.
“When we leave. We could leave at five in the morning or we could wait until nine at night, and nothing would change. The prophet already seems to know these details. It’s like he’s watched the entire story already.”
Gray glanced at him. Tell was sitting upright in the saddle and examining the trees along the road like he suspected they concealed pursuers. Perhaps even the one who had written the letter. But he held his horse’s reins loosely; other than peering at the trees, he gave no sign of concern.
“You are taking all of this remarkably well,” Gray said.
“You mean, for a feeler?” Tell grinned.
Gray laughed. “Something like that.” This child had thrown himself off the cliffs of Perg Ekkan not too many days ago. He had insisted his name was Lost, and he still had not told Shel Galen his real name.
Tell shrugged and turned away from the trees he’d been studying. He reached up and rubbed his nose, and a moment passed before he spoke again. “I told you.”
“You told me what?”
The boy’s shoulders lifted and sagged as he filled his lungs and sighed out his breath. He didn’t look at Gray as he said, “I am paying attention to your emotions, not mine, and it seems to be helping me. I am feeling more and more…steady. I believe that’s a good word for it. I don’t feel as discouraged or depressed. I feel annoyed right now—but only because that’s what you are feeling. And oddly, I don’t feel afraid. Of anything.”
Gray didn’t know what to say. The sincerity in the boy’s voice seemed to seize and hide all the words Gray could have said. Finally, because he knew he needed to say something, he replied, “Well, it is fortunate that I’m such a rock, isn’t it?”
Tell started laughing. “A rock? That is how you see yourself?”
Too late Gray realized his mistake. The boy continued grandly, “I cannot tell you how often I find myself thinking of Nari.”
Gray grimaced. “Yes, well—”
But Tell wasn’t finished yet. “I cannot get myself to stop thinking of her, actually. Her eyes. Her smile. Her very strange hair with all its beadwork. I even find myself thinking of the South Islands and when I should go to speak with her father.”
Gray groaned loudly.
“Yes,” Tell said, sounding quite pleased with himself. “You are a perfect rock.”
– H –
Comment below or click here to find us on Facebook. The next chapter will be posted on Friday, a week from today. Sign up for our mailing list below so you won't miss an installment.
Copyright notice: © 2018 by Lauren Stinton. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.