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Home > First Lord's Fury (Codex Alera #6)(10)

First Lord's Fury (Codex Alera #6)(10)
Author: Jim Butcher

"Thank you, Terius," Isana called back. "Would you see to it that a messenger is sent for my brother as soon as we land, please?"

Terius saluted again. "Of course, my lady. Be sure to fasten your safety straps."

Isana smiled at him and closed the coach's window, and the young officer banked up and away, to move back to his place at the head of the formation. The sudden lack of roaring sound made the inside of the coach seem too still.

After a silent moment spent rearranging her wind-tossed hair, Veradis said, "It is possible that he knows, you know."

Isana arched an eyebrow at her. "Hmmm?"

"Aquitaine," Veradis said. "He might know about the fortifications your brother has been building. He might know why you came here today."

"What makes you say that?"

"I saw one of Terius's men entering Senator Valerius's tent this morning."

Valerius, Isana thought. A repulsive man. I'm really rather glad Bernard found it necessary to break his nose and two of his teeth.

"Really?" Isana asked aloud. She mused for a moment, then shrugged. "It doesn't matter if he knows, really. He can say what he wishes and wear anything on his head that he likes - but he isn't the First Lord, and he never will be."

Veradis shook her head. "I... my lady..." She spread her hands. "Someone must lead."

"And someone will," Isana said. "The rightful First Lord, Gaius Octavian."

Veradis looked down. "If," she said, very quietly, "he is alive."

Isana folded her hands in her lap and looked out the window as the valley below began to grow larger, the colors brighter. "He is alive, Veradis."

"How can you know that?"

Isana stared out the window and frowned, faintly. "I... I'm not sure," she said, finally. "But I feel certain of it. It feels to me as if... as if it is nearly sup pertime, and he is about to come in from tending the flock." She shook her head. "Not literally, of course, but the sense of it, the emotion, is the same."

Veradis watched Isana with calm, serious eyes, and said nothing.

"He's coming home," she said quietly. "Octavian is coming home."

There was silence. Isana watched the walls of Garrison, the fortress-town her brother commanded, grow larger and more distinct. They changed from lines to sharp-edged ridges to constructions of seamless, furycrafted stone. The flag of the First Lord, a scarlet eagle on a blue field, fluttered in the breeze, and beside it flew her brother's banner - a brown bear on a field of green.

The town had grown again, even though Isana had been there only two weeks before. The shantytown originally erected just outside of Garrison's walls had been replaced with solid buildings of furycrafted stone, and a new wall had been raised to protect them. Then a second shantytown had gone up at the base of that wall, and Isana had been there the day Bernard's engineers had brought up the third one, another layer of concentric half circles that enfolded the growing town.

The shanties were gone, replaced by more buildings of stone - rather square, blocky buildings with very little to distinguish one from the next, but Isana was sure that they were perfectly functional and practical.

And outside the third wall, still another shantytown was growing, like moss on the northern side of a stone.

Veradis's eyes widened as she saw the place. "My. This is rather a large town for a Count to have in his keeping."

"There are many people without homes these days," Isana said. "My brother will probably give you some perfectly logical explanation as to why they are here, if you should ask. But the truth is that he's never turned anyone away from his door. Anyone who made it this far..." She shook her head. "He'd do whatever he could for them. And he would make sure they were taken care of. Even if all he could do was give them the cloak off his own back. My brother finishes what he begins."

Veradis nodded thoughtfully. "He raised Octavian, did he not?"

Isana nodded. "Especially the last several years. They were close."

"And that is why you feel that Octavian will return. Because he finishes what he begins."

"Yes," Isana said. "He's coming home."

Veradis was quiet for a moment more as the coach soared over the outer walls of Garrison. Then she bowed her head, and said, "As you say, my lady."

Isana pushed away the ugly worry that had been ripping its way into her thoughts since her son had left with the Canim armada.

Tavi was coming home.

Her son was coming home.

Gaius Octavian, son of Gaius Septimus, son of Gaius Sextus, and the uncrowned First Lord of Alera, lay quietly on his back, staring up at the stars.

Given that he was lying on the floor of a cavern, it probably wasn't a good sign.

He searched his alleged memory for an explanation as to why he might be doing such a thing, and why the stars were so brilliant and swirling around so quickly, but he seemed to have misplaced that fact. Perhaps the bump he felt swelling on his skull had dislodged his memory. He made a mental note to ask Kitai if she'd seen it lying around on the floor somewhere.

"A reasonably educational attempt, child," murmured a woman's voice. "Do you see now why it is important not only to maintain a windstream beneath you but a windshield in front of you?"

Ah, that was right. Lessons. He was taking lessons. Cramming for an examination, really, with a particularly astute tutor. He struggled to remember which subject they'd been working on. If he was pushing things this hard, final examinations must be soon, and the Academy had very little sympathy for its students during the grueling chaos of final exams.

"We're doing history?" he mumbled. "Or mathematics?"

"I know that you find it counterintuitive to project wind both ahead of you and behind," his tutor continued in a calm tone. "But your body was not designed for high-speed flight. If you do not take measures to protect yourself, especially your eyes, even relatively minor amounts of particulate matter in the air could blind you or otherwise bring your flight to a... terminally instructive conclusion. Adept fliers accomplish it so naturally that they have no need to consciously think about creating the shield."

The stars had begun to wink out. Perhaps there was weather moving in. He'd have been concerned about rain if he wasn't already in a cave - which again brought up the question about where the bloody stars had come from.

"Ow," Tavi said. His head throbbed as the stars faded, and he suddenly remembered where he was and what he was doing. "Ow."

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