Chapter 15: I Knew Him
I looked from the turner, to the chemist and back. What I wanted to do, what I truly wished to do, was run, as fast and as far as I could from this place, from that thing in the box, from Afali...from Dylana.
But I already failed to do that, and failure had its price.
"Is this side effect, for someone who has no family history of serum, is this well-known among serum takers?"
The chemist considered the question and shook his head from side to side. "It's no secret, but nor is it commonly discussed among the families of the north. When there isn't this risk, there is no reason to bring up an unfortunate outcome."
"Would Lady Afali know of it? Or Lord Aspertin? Why would they make me take serum, if it's such a risk to my life?"
"I don't know the answer to that, Lady Tvereman," replied Mr. Gastiv. "You are right to assume it is odd that a man like Lord Aspertin wouldn't be knowledgeable about such matters, but..."
"But perhaps that's the point..."
The chemist, wisely, said nothing.
The turner was still crouched by me, and moved to my side. His proximity should have been disturbing, but he smelled like pine needles and pure wind in the hills, and his body transmitted heat as soft as spring sunshine. "Are turners always like this?" I asked the chemist.
Mr. Gastiv was frowning. "I have never known a turner to behave this way, especially one as ancient as he."
I turned my head to look at the turner who was still watching me. "So, does that mean I'm special?" I asked, not expecting an answer.
"Yes," he replied, grinning. I could see from the corner of my eye how Mr. Gastiv's expression was changing from irritation to bewilderment.
"And you think I should take the serum?"
"My Lady, turners are incapable of opinions—" began the chemist.
"I think," said the turner. "I think you can take it." Then he leaned in, just enough to whisper in my ear. "It's not true. We have names. We hide them well, so the maidens cannot reach us."
I shuddered as his breath tickled the side of my neck. Did he know I was hiding my name too? How could he know that?
"I don't want to take it," I said.
The chemist breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, then. That settles—"
"I didn't want it, either," said the turner. "I never want it."
"What do you think would happen if I leave here without taking it?" I asked.
I was asking the turner, but the chemist replied, "Why would anything happen, my Lady? This should be your choice."
"It should be..." But it wasn't. Afali wanted all to know that Dylana was a scion of the north. She had serum-taking heritage. She was here to stay. The more I considered it, the more apparent it became, Afali wished to marry Lord Waryn, who was heir to the Eloroan branch of the Fel. She could give up her own position, but to whom?
Could it be that Afali wanted to make Dylana Lord Aspertin's heir instead of Lady Golia's children? And that Lord Aspertin shared in this desire.
No, that was too far-fetched. Afali desperately wanted to keep her right to inherit. Even if she married Lord Eloroan, they could live apart when she came into inheritance. It happened many times in the past.
Perhaps they wished to test Dylana's heritage. There would be doubt if she were truly Lord Aspertin's daughter. They would leave it up to the serum.
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