Chapter Two

12K 474 142

(Photo source: Ivo by Robert Maschke)

A BATTLE RAGED above the sprawling palace of Whitemount. Wind and sleet dueled flame and smoke. A defiant inferno licked the pristine marble, hissing its frustration into the night. The entire east wing was engulfed in its smoldering fury. And every able-bodied man and woman in the palace strived to quench the unnatural blaze.

Oenghus Saevaldr strode swiftly towards the palace infirmary. He was a hard man to miss—an indomitable mountain that rivers flowed around—and the lords and soldiers of Kambe scattered like so many startled chickens at his unrelenting approach.

He ducked beneath the infirmary door and surveyed the wounded, searching for a tiny girl and dreading that he should find her here. Nineteen people had been injured; nine were already dead, their charred bodies covered with white linen shrouds. Another five wounded appeared to be well on their way to the same end. But there were no children among the dead.

A short, stout woman—firm and solid rather than weak and corpulent—pulled herself from the unfortunate wounded.

"Oen," she breathed in relief.

"What of the children, Morigan?"

"Aristarchus and Sarabian have suffered slight injuries, but it could have been much worse. Would have been if not for their bodyguards' sacrifice." The herbalist wiped her hands needlessly on her smock, a habit Oenghus knew well. The gesture twisted his gut, because it was the only sign of strain she ever displayed.

"And what of Isiilde?" Oenghus asked, bracing himself for the answer.

"Well, that's the problem. I'm sure you've already guessed who they're blaming this fire on. She's run off."

"Where is she?"

"I haven't had a chance to look," she sighed, glancing at the row of patients. "It's a good thing she ran off because the Emperor was in a mighty temper when he found out his heirs were nearly killed tonight."

"Isiilde is his daughter too," Oenghus snapped.

A guard by the door shifted with a jangle of armor. Morigan's eyes slid to the listening guard, and back to Oenghus. When she spoke, her voice was tight with control. "You should remind him of that, because he ordered the guards to find Isiilde and throw her in a dungeon until she's old enough to sell."

An overwhelming urge to pummel Soataen filled Oenghus. He clenched his fists, imagining flesh transforming to pulp beneath his skilled blows.

"I'm sure she didn't mean to start the fire," said Morigan. "After the disaster with the gardens, the library, and the banquet—it's clear she's dangerous. But a dungeon? She's only four, Oen."

Morigan was a stern, experienced healer, demonstrating more courage and mettle than most warriors. He had watched her slog through the muck and mire of battlefields to heal the dying, but he had rarely witnessed tears in her eyes as he did now.

"The bastard is not putting her in a dungeon," Oenghus stated with a voice like a rock and the slow, stubborn rumble of a mountain.

"He's the Emperor," Morigan reminded. "You can't single-handedly fight the army he has. You need to think of something that doesn't involve bloodshed. Otherwise, your head will be on the chopping block."

"It's my head," Oenghus growled.

"Then use it, and stop thinking with your bollocks."

He bared his teeth, and stalked out of the infirmary, growling at the guards as he passed. They reached for their swords for reassurance, but he ignored the men, stepping out into the chilling sleet.

A Thread in the Tangle (Legends of Fyrsta #1)Read this story for FREE!