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Home > Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(6)

Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(6)
Author: Jim Butcher

Isana looked up, frowning faintly, concentrating on her link with Rill-and suddenly bolted up from where she sat, spilling ink on her most recent page, and not caring in the least. Her heart pounded in a fashion entirely too girlish to suit anyone of her age or her station or responsibilities, and she found herself fidgeting with her hair and straightening her dress. Then she stared in dismay at her ink-stained fingers. Doubtless she had just managed to spread smudges over her entire outfit, and possibly upon her face as well. She felt a blush rise to her cheeks.

Boots hit the ground outside the wagon, and the horse shifted its weight. Someone knocked on the sideboards.

Feeling mildly ridiculous, Isana parted the curtains with one hand and descended from the wagon, emerging into the noonday sunshine of the earliest days of spring in the Amaranth Vale.

A man of average height stood waiting for her, his dark hair shorn to regulation Legion length, his armor plain and showing signs of use. The features of one side of his face were strongly carved, striking. The other half of his face was marred by horrible burn scars centered around the shape of the Legion brand for cowardice, high on his cheekbone. He wore a simple sword at his side, and the scarlet half cape of a Legion singulare.

Isana felt her heart speed up again as she smiled at him. "Araris."

His face turned up into one of his rare, swift smiles, and his eyes all but glowed from within. The sudden warmth of his emotions flooded over Isana, and she felt as if she might float up off the ground. She could feel his happiness and excitement at seeing her, his affection, and a certain, lazily controlled hunger for her that she knew would draw out spots of pink high on her cheeks.

"Isana," he said quietly. She offered her hand. He took it and bent over it, brushing his lips over the backs of her fingers. Isana felt the warmth of his breath as an impact that spread deliciously up her arm to dance along every fiber of her body.

He straightened, eyes sparkling, fingers tightening very gently around hers. "You look..." His eyes wrinkled at the corners. "Inky."

Isana tilted her head back and laughed.

"And beautiful," he said. "I've missed you."

"And I you," she replied, covering his hand with her other one. "What are you doing here? We were to arrive at the Elinarch in another two days."

Some of Araris's smile trickled away. "I bring you word. Can we speak here?"

Isana glanced around them. The carters and their crews were sitting down to a simple lunch at the cook's wagon, farther down the line. There was no one nearby. "I believe so."

Araris nodded once. "I am sent to caution you, of course, to remember that while you may be Tavi's blood kin, you have never met Rufus Scipio. You must take every precaution not to reveal his identity."

"Of course." Isana sighed. "I'm not quite senile yet. What else?"

Araris regarded her with a steady gaze for a moment. Then he said, "When he was a child, it was right and proper that you should make decisions for him." He leaned forward, his fingers tightening on hers, giving his words gentle emphasis. "He is no longer a child."

Isana felt her shoulders stiffening. "What do you mean?"

"I mean," he said, in that same gentle tone, "that he has a right to know, Isana. He has a right to know the truth. He has a right to make his own decisions now."

Isana jerked her chin up, the habit of two decades of worry and caution condensing into a flash of outrage and anger. "Oh? And who are you to decide such a thing?"

Araris's face never wavered. "His singulare, Isana. His bodyguard and protector. I safeguard his well-being and ward his life and freedom, with my own if necessary. And in my judgment, ignorance may prove dangerous to him. Even deadly."

Isana bit her lip and looked down, unable to meet Araris's calm, unwavering eyes, awash in his continued, steady love, acutely aware of his concern for her, his respect, and his absolute sincerity.

He touched her chin with his fingertips, lifting her eyes to his. "Isana," he said. "He's your son. It is your place to tell him. He should hear it from you." He shook his head. "But if you can't-or won't-I will."

Isana flinched a little at the words, if not his quiet, steady tone. "Has it come to that? Really?"

"Yes."

The simple answer held absolutely no room for doubt. Isana bit her lip.

"He'll... Will he understand? Why I had to do it? Lie to him..." She shook her head. "He's grown so fast, Araris."

"He'll understand," he said quietly. "Or he won't. Either way, he deserves to know. He needs to know."

Isana shivered, and without being asked, Araris stepped forward, putting his arms around her. She leaned against him gratefully, closing her eyes. His armor was warm from the gentle sunshine, and he felt steady, immovable, like an obdurate stone in a rushing stream. He was that. He had always been there for her, and for Tavi, had always watched them, helped them, protected them, his presence and his trustworthiness something so elemental that she'd barely thought to question it, any more than she would have tested fire to be sure that it was hot, water to be sure it was wet.

All the same, it was a daunting thought. Telling Tavi the truth, after so many years of hiding it from him. From everyone.

"I don't want to tell him," she said quietly.

Araris nodded, silent and steady.

"But you're right."

He nodded again.

"I'll tell him."

Chapter 1

"My ass hurts," said Antillar Maximus, Tribune Auxiliarus of the First Aleran.

"My ass hurts, sir," Tavi corrected him.

"Hey. Sacred right."

Tavi grunted where he lay prone and peered steadily through the yellow-and-brown winter grass of the Vale at the valley beneath them. "Just imagine if you'd marched here instead of riding."

"No thank you, sir," Max replied. "I'm too busy imagining I decided to take a few more terms at the Academy so that I could practice my earthcrafting with wealthy and beautiful Citizen girls, sir, instead of riding around the back of beyond looking to pick a fight with big, scary monsters."

The two of them lay low, and Max's voice was pitched barely louder than a whisper, for all that it never stopped running. As long as they didn't stand up and present the enemy force marching through the valley below with a beautiful silhouette, they were far enough above them to avoid being seen. Probably.

"I make that four thousand," Tavi murmured after a moment. "You?"

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