Chapter 24: Running to Places

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Ber, Day 16 of Melia, Winking Moons, Year 602

"A human will control everything in their power. The more is taken away from them, the more inane their grasping will become." —From the Private Journals of Farax Lucean, Master Alchemist

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Repht felt a little thrill run through her as she took Hodric's hand and let him help her from the carriage.

The last time she'd been to Daitak Keep, it was for The Hunt—and she'd met him there.

This time, he'd sent his carriage for her. The attendant had picked her up from her modest little cottage on the outskirts of town and brought her here—to the very center of Heladrith.

The cobbles she stepped down onto were worn from years of use, and once Repht was steady on her feet, she looked up and gave her love a winning smile.

He looked wonderful tonight. His hair had been recently cut and a few strands fell rakishly down over his forehead. The sides and back were tightly clipped, emphasising his large, masculine form and powerful shoulders. Master of the Horse in Daitak, she thought proudly to herself. How had she ever managed to capture the attention of this important man?

Gripping his forearm, Repht made her way up the steps to the landing. Her constant pain was only a dull throb tonight, tightening her shoulders and the turn of her neck. To ease the ache a bit, she rocked her head from side to side a few times, then shrugged her shoulders. The muscles would not release. They would never release.

The capital was imposing. She'd only ever been in museums or libraries that suggested this sort of pomp, and they were dwarfed by Daitak Keep.

When he'd invited her to dinner, Hodric had told her that since he was in the employ of the empire, he was permitted to use the facilities at the keep whenever he wished. This included the stables, kitchens, and anything she could imagine. They would dine in the hall tonight surrounded by other diplomats, and then the plan was to stroll the gardens outside behind the keep.

There was no telling who they might run into, and he'd teased her and told her to wear her best, for Bryn Beynon himself might be about while they were there.

Repht now owned many fine gowns and a few jewels as well—Hodric was extremely generous and liked to see her well-dressed.

"Hungry?" he asked her casually.

She nodded.

Choosing one of the many double-doors that led into the front hall, they came in out of the soft night air.

It all looked so different from the first time she'd visited Daitak Capital. Before, there had been throngs of people, and the place had fairly buzzed with activity. Now, their footsteps echoed on the polished floor and only a few courtiers moved slowly about inside, reminding Repht of so many ants going steadily about their business.

Far above her, the soaring buttresses hung quietly in the still air.

The delectable smells of food reached the two of them before they'd even gotten to the dining section, and her mouth began to water.

This hall was a bit more active. It was supper time, and a completely random assortment of royals, nobles, courtiers, and keep staff had gathered to dine from the capital's unparalleled kitchens. The ridiculously long tables were only sparsely occupied, and people chose to sit closest to the kitchen, leaving the ends abandoned.

Platters of food had been brought and laid out sumptuously on these tables, and Repht looked questioningly up at Hodric and asked, "Where do we sit?"

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