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YOU MAY be sure I related the exchange to Delaunay. It was never my practice to tell him everything that occurred in an assignation; there were things, I had learned by then, best left unsaid. He saw the marks, and knew enough. Of the things which left no marks, I did not speak. But I never failed to disclose any piece of information or careless conversation which might be of interest to him.

In this, I was not mistaken. He frowned and paced, pondering what I had told him.

"Baudoin thought it was a Skaldi war cry?" he asked. I nodded. "Did he give any sign that the words Waldemar Selig meant aught else to him?"

"No." I shook my head, sure of it. "He spoke in jest, and meant nothing by it. But it meant somewhat to Melisande."

"And he gave no sign of knowing that you were a... what did she call it? A farewell gift?"

I shook my head again. "No, my lord. There was no hint of it in his manner, and Melisande was careful to speak of it only when we were alone." I gazed at him, and thought of how he had brought her to see me, when Delaunay's anguissette was no more than a well-kept secret. "Every artist craves an audience, my lord, and she has chosen you. Whatever is to occur, it is her desire that you know she is its architect."

Delaunay gave me one of his deep, thoughtful looks. "You may have the right of it," he said. "But the question remains: What is to occur?"

We found out in less than a week's time.

It was Gaspar Trevalion who brought the news, stunned into dismissing any thoughts of a quarrel between himself and Delaunay.

The clatter of many hooves rang on the paved courtyard with unmistakeable urgency. I had known the Comte de Fourcay since my earliest days in Delaunay's household and, even during their disagreements, I had never heard him so much as raise his voice. This day, it echoed off the courtyard walls. "Delaunay!"

If anyone doubted that the household of Anafiel Delaunay was capable of moving quickly, they would have been hard put to prove it that day. Delaunay was out the door in a trice, pausing only to snatch up his seldom-used sword where it hung in his study. Guy appeared from nowhere, twin daggers in hand, shouldering two liveried servants out the door ahead of him, and Alcuin and I were but a few steps behind.

Surrounded by ten men-at-arms, Gaspar Trevalion sat his black horse, oblivious to our presence and the sword in Delaunay's hand. His mount, lathered and blown, snorted and shifted its weight; Gaspar tightened the reins and gazed down at Delaunay, a terrible look on his face.

"Isidore d'Aiglemort has just accused House Trevalion of high treason," he said grimly.

Delaunay stared and lowered his sword. "You're joking."

"No." Gaspar shook his head, his dreadful expression unchanged. "He has proof: letters, addressed to Lyonette from Foclaidha of Alba."

"What?" Delaunay was still staring. "How?"

"Messenger birds." The black horse danced under him; Gaspar quieted it. "They've been corresponding since the Cruarch's visit. Delaunay, my friend, what do I do? I am innocent in this matter, but I have a home and a family to think of in Fourcay. The King has already sent his fastest riders to the Comte de Somerville. He is mustering the royal army."

Behind Delaunay's face, the wheels of thought began turning. "You swear you knew nothing of it?"

Gaspar's spine stiffened in the saddle. "My friend, you know me," he said softly. "I am as loyal as you to House Courcel."

"There will be a trial. There will have to be a trial." Delaunay rested the tip of his sword on the paving stones and leaned on it. "Send your three best men to Fourcay," he said decisively. "Tell them to turn out the guard, and admit no one unless they bear orders in the King's own hand. We'll draft a letter to Percy de Somerville. There's time to intercept him before he can make the border of Azzalle. He knows you, he won't move against Fourcay without orders from the King. It's Lyonette who's at the bottom of this, and not House Trevalion. The King won't take after your whole line."

Some of the stricken quality eased in Gaspar's expression, but not all. "Baudoin has been implicated."

I drew in my breath sharply at his words, and Alcuin's fingers closed on my elbow. I glanced at him and he shook his head, cautioning silence. Delaunay, frowning to himself, gave no sign that he had heard it.

"You'd best come in," he said to Gaspar, "and tell me what you know. Get your men en route to Fourcay. We'll devise a letter to de Somerville, and you'll petition the King for an audience. Ganelon de la Courcel is no fool. He will hear you."

After a moment, Gaspar nodded curtly, and gave the orders to his men, tossing them a purse for the journey. We heard the sound of their mounts' hoofbeats recede through the streets of the City. In the distance there was shouting as the news began to break like a wave through the D'Angeline populace.

"Come in," Delaunay repeated, holding out his hand. Gaspar Trevalion grasped it wordlessly and dismounted.

Once in the house, Delaunay ordered food and wine to be brought. I thought him mad to entertain at such a time, but once Gaspar had eaten a bite of bread and cheese and taken a long gulp of wine, he sighed and seemed to grow calmer. Since then, I have seen it is true, that people are reassured by the act of taking sustenance in time of great trauma. Alcuin and I hovered in the background, endeavoring to make ourselves either useful or invisible, and Delaunay made no move to send us away.

"What happened?" he asked quietly.

Over the course of the next hour, Gaspar laid out the story for us, as best he knew it. He had got it from a friend who was one of the King's lords-in-waiting, so it bode fair to be accurate. Gaspar had gone directly to Delaunay with the news, not knowing where else to turn for advice, but he believed his friend had spoken truly, being concerned only for his well-being.

The story he had heard was that Isidore d'Aiglemort had learned of the matter through the careless boasting of one of Baudoin's Glory-Seekers, deep in his cups after a fruitless patrol of Camlach's borders. D'Aiglemort had investigated, and upon obtaining proof of it, gone straight to the King with the matter, riding day and night to reach the City in all haste. With typical Camaeline bluntness, he hadn't even bothered to request an audience, but gone directly to a public hearing and made his accusation: Lyonette de Trevalion had conspired with Foclaidha of Alba and her son, the new Cruarch, to join forces. Backed by a Pictish army, she planned to seize the regency of Terre d'Ange and place Baudoin on the throne. In exchange, she would put the forces of Azzalle at the disposal of Foclaidha and her son to hold the kingdom of Alba against the disposed heir and his allies among the Dalriada. To accomplish this, the Azzallese fleet would sail directly against the Master of the Straits. While they had little hope of defeating him they could perchance distract him long enough to ferry the Pictish army across the Strait at its narrowest point. Once they had secured the throne, they would have the whole of the royal fleet at their disposal to achieve their return.

"It was a clever plan," Gaspar concluded, wiping his brow with a velveted sleeve and holding out his wineglass for a refill. "Dangerously clever. If d'Aiglemort hadn't proved loyal... Baudoin was his friend, after all. He might have stood to gain."

I thought of Melisande Shahrizai's smile, and the dark glitter of the Duc d'Aiglemort's eyes behind the jaguarondi mask. I was not so sure he did not still stand to gain.

Delaunay had to ask; he did it gently. "What about Marc?" There was no love lost between Gaspar and Lyonette, but Marc de Trevalion was his cousin and his friend. Gaspar shook his head somberly, eyes shadowed.

"My friend, if I could answer you truly, I would. It is in my heart to say that Marc would never do such a thing, and yet...he is at odds with the King over the matter of Quintilius' fleet, and there is a question of pride at stake. He has long disapproved that Ganelon will not see his granddaughter wed and the fate of the realm settled. If Lyonette presented her plan to him all of a piece...I do not know."

"I understand," Delaunay said, and pressed the matter no further. "How did d'Aiglemort get the letters?"

Gaspar gave the answer; it was one he had at the ready, and one we already knew. "Melisande Shahrizai."

I opened my mouth to speak. Delaunay gave me a look, warning me not to divulge what I knew of her involvement, but I knew that well enough. It was another question that puzzled me. "Baudoin was in her thrall. Why would she give him up, when he stood to gain the throne?"

"I would like to say it is because House Shahrizai is loyal," Gaspar said, and gave a short laugh, running a hand over his salt-and-pepper hair, still disheveled from his ride. "But I think it more likely that Melisande knew full well that Lyonette would never allow Baudoin to wed her. Lyonette seeks a biddable daughter-in-law, preferably one who brings a formidable alliance with her. If Baudoin has not defied his mother in this yet, he would surely not do it when she had it in her power to win him the throne. Melisande Shahrizai is formidable in her own right, but she's no match for the Lioness of Azzalle."

The former rang true enough, but as for the latter...If I had not been her farewell gift to Baudoin de Trevalion, I might even have believed it. But Melisande Shahrizai had known long weeks before Isidore d'Aiglemort had supposedly gained his "proof." That the treachery was real, I had no doubt, nor the proof of it. But I had no doubt, either, that the plans for its exposure were laid with more cunning and subtlety than the treachery itself. There was naught we could do; an ambiguous word spoken carelessly to a Servant of Naamah was proof of nothing. Only I knew for certain what Melisande had meant by it—Delaunay, Alcuin and

I. No, we would hold our silence on this, I thought, and Melisande Shahrizai would gain praise for having done the right thing.

And the young Duc d'Aiglemort, already a war hero, would unexpectedly rise again in prominence. Someone had said, I remembered, that all scions of Camael thought with their swords. I did not think this one did.

In the days that followed, matters fell out in accordance with Delaunay's prediction. Parliament was convened, and a High Court trial summoned. While the royal army, under command of the Comte de Somerville, swept through Azzalle toward Trevalion, the King heard Gas-par's petition and granted clemency to the estate of Fourcay provided Gaspar place himself under the aegis of the Palace Guard until the trial was called to order.

Nothing travels faster than gossip. A full day before de Somerville's messenger arrived, we had learned that Trevalion had surrendered after a short, pitched battle, headed in the main by Baudoin and his Glory-Seekers. It was his father, Marc de Trevalion, who had ordered the surrender. Percy de Somerville accepted his sword, left a garrison in charge of Trevalion and set out for the City with Lyonette, Marc, Baudoin and even his sister Bernadette in his custody, along with their entourage; all the principles of House Trevalion.

When they arrived at the Palace, the trial began.

Because Delaunay would be called to testify on behalf of Gaspar Trevalion—for his loyalty remained in question—we were able to attend, Alcuin and I, somberly attired in Delaunay's colors. No seating was allocated for the retinues of attending nobles, but we found standing room at the sides of the Hall of Audience. At the far end, a great table stood. The King sat in the central seat, his granddaughter Ysandre at his right hand, and flanking them were the twenty-seven nobles of Parliament. Members of the Palace Guard lined the hall, and two Cassiline Brothers stood mo-tionless behind the King, grey shadows in the background, only the glint of steel at their wrists betraying their presence.

There are individuals who relish a spectacle, and who dote on seeing those on high brought low. Though I am not sorry to have witnessed this trial, I am not one of them, and I took no relish in the proceedings. Lyonette de la Courcel de Trevalion was foremost among the accused, and the first brought for questioning. I had glimpsed her only once, from Cecilie's balcony, but I had heard tales all my life of the Lionesse of Azzalle. She swept into the Hall of Audience attired in a splendor of blue-and-silver brocade, the colors of House Courcel, reminding anyone rash enough to forget it that she was sister to the King; and bearing, prominently, the shackles of her confinement. At the time, I was surprised to see that Ganelon de la Courcel had demanded his sister enchained. Later I learned that this dramatic touch came at Lyonette's insistence; but it mattered naught.

Never let it be said that the Lioness of Azzalle lacked for pride. Of her part in the scheme, she denied nothing. The evidence was brought forth; her chin rose, as she stared defiantly at her brother. He was a full twenty years her elder—she was born late and they are long-lived, the scions of Elua—and it was plain that neither bore each other a great deal of filial affection.

"How do you plead to these charges?" he asked her, when the matter had been laid before Parliament. His voice strove for sternness, but nothing could hide its tremble, nor the palsy that shook his right hand, though he held it down at his side.

Lyonette laughed, tossing her greying head. "You dare ask me, brother dear? Let me charge you, and see how you plead! You cripple the realm with your lack of resolve, clinging to the ghost of your dead son in a murderess' get, without even the decency to make her an alliance through marriage." Her eyes flashed, dark-blue, the same color as the King's. "And you dare question my loyalty? I admit it, I have done as I saw fit, to secure the throne for the D'Angeline people!"

The crowd murmured; somewhere, there were those who would voice approval, if only they dared. But the faces of the King and the lords and ladies of Parliament remained stern. I chanced a look at Delaunay. He stared at Lyonette de Trevalion and his eyes burned, though I could not say why.

"Then you plead guilty," Ganelon de la Courcel said softly. "What part did your husband play in it, and your son and daughter?"

"They knew nothing," Lyonette said contemptuously. "Nothing! It was my doing, and mine alone."

"We shall see." The King looked to his left and his right, his expression sad and weary. "How will you sentence her, my lords and ladies?"

It came in a whisper, the answer, accompanied by the ancient Tiberian gesture. One by one, they lifted their hands, thumbs extended, and turned them downward. "Death," came the answer.

Ysandre de la Courcel was the last to give her vote. Cool and pale, she gazed at her great-aunt, who had named her a murderess' get before the peers of the realm. With slow deliberation, she lifted her fist, rotated it downward. "Death."

"So be it." The King's voice was as thin as the wind rattling the autumn leaves. "You have three days to name the manner of your choosing, Lyonette." He nodded once, and the Palace Guard came to escort her from the Hall of Audience, accompanied by a priest of Elua.

She offered no struggle, and went with her head held high; and her husband, Marc de Trevalion, was called onto the floor.

The Duc de Trevalion looked much like his kinsman Gaspar: older, a trifle taller and more slender, but with the same raven's-wing hair streaked with grey. Lines of age and sorrow were engraved on his face. He made a gesture, before the accusation was read, holding the King's gaze and lifting his empty, shackled hands.

"In the writings of the Yeshuites, the sin of Azza is named as pride," he said quietly. "But we are D'Angeline, and the sin of angels is the glory of our race. The sin of Blessed Elua was that he loved too well earthly things. I have sinned against you as they do, brother, in pride and love."

Ganelon de la Courcel's voice shook. "Do you say you aided my sister and conspired against the throne, brother?"

"I say I loved her too well." Marc de Trevalion's gaze never wavered. "As I love my son, who shares your blood. I knew. I did not countermand her orders to the admiral of my fleet, nor the Captain of my Guard. I knew."

Again the vote; again the thumbs turned downward, and it came at last to Ysandre de la Courcel. I watched her, and her face showed no more emotion than a cameo on a brooch as she turned it to her grandfather. Her voice was like cool water. "Let him be banished," she said.

I grew up in Cereus House; I knew well how to reckon steel beneath a fragile bloom. That was the first time I saw it in Ysandre de la Courcel. It was not the last.

"What say you?" asked the King of his Parliament. None spoke, but with judicious nods, their hands opened, turned palm outward. The King spoke again, his voice stronger. "Marc de Trevalion, for your crimes against the throne, you are banished from Terre d'Ange and your lands are forfeit. You have three days to clear the border, and if you return, there shall be a bounty of ten thousand ducats on your head. Do you accept these terms?"

The once-Duc de Trevalion looked, not at the King, but at his granddaughter, the Dauphine. "You jest," he said, his voice trembling.

She made no reply. The King drew his chin into his beard. "I make no jest!" His voice echoed in the rafters. "Do you accept these terms?"

"Yes, my king," Marc de Trevalion, murmured, bowing. The Palace Guard closed round him. "My daughter knew nothing! She is innocent in this matter."

"We shall see," the King repeated, weary again. He waved his hand without looking. "Begone from my sight."

A whispered consultation took place at the table. They had planned to call Baudoin next, I knew; Delaunay had had it from a friend who drew up the lists. But they changed their minds, and called instead Bernadette de Trevalion, his sister.

I would have known her for Baudoin's sister, for they looked much alike, but her manner was as shrinking as his was wild. It was not easy having the Lionesse of Azzalle for a mother, I thought, if one was not the favored cub. Within several minutes of questioning, it was obvious that she had known as much as her father, and done as little. I watched closely this time, saw the old King look to his granddaughter, saw her faint nod. The vote fell out the same: banishment. Father and daughter would survive, albeit cut off forever from the land that nurtured us, whose glory ran in our veins like blood. I thought of Thelesis de Mornay's poem, and wept. Unseen in the crowd, Alcuin put his arm about me and steadied me.

Baudoin de Trevalion was summoned.

Like his mother, he made the most of his chains, letting them clank as he strode into the Hall. He was beautiful, and magnificent in duress. A sigh echoed through the room.

"Prince Baudoin de Trevalion," the King said aloud. "You stand accused of high treason. How do you plead to these charges?"

Baudoin tossed his hair. "I am innocent!"

Ganelon de la Courcel nodded to someone I could not see. From the wings, Isidore, Duc d'Aiglemort, approached the floor.

His face was like a mask as he inclined his head to Baudoin, then bowed to the King and gave his testimony before the High Court. Only his eyes glittered, dark and impenetrable. It was the same story Gaspar had told: a soldier's drunken boast, a loyal Duc's investigation. Baudoin flushed, and stared at him with hatred. I remembered that they had been friends. Isidore d'Aiglemort withdrew, and Melisande Shahrizai was summoned.

It is so clear in my memory, that day. How much of it they knew, I am not certain—nor have I ever known—but House Shahrizai had come out in her support, and Melisande was surrounded by her kindred. As so often happens in the old lines, they bore the stamp of a common heritage, and the Shahrizai made a splash amid the Hall of Audience, with their blue-black hair and their long, brocaded coats of black-and-gold. All of them had the same eyes, too; set like sapphires in pale faces. In none did Kushiel's flame burn as fiercely as it did in her, but it burned in them all, and I was grateful for Alcuin's arm.

I do not think Melisande Shahrizai could ever manage a true semblance of modesty, but she came closer than I would have reckoned. With downcast lashes, she answered the questions of Parliament, laying out a tale of an ambitious Prince in the thrall of his powerful mother, allies to be made, and a throne to be won. The letters, she said, he had showed her in boast, to make good on his claim.

Whatever the truth of it, she spoke naught he could dispute. If Baudoin had glared his hatred at the Duc d'Aiglemort, it was nothing to the rage that purpled him as he listened to her litany. In the end, it was enough and more. With stern remorse, the nobles of Parliament voted. One by one, while Baudoin stared, incredulous, their thumbs turned down.


It came at last to Ysandre. She looked at Baudoin, unmoved as ice. "Tell me, cousin," she asked him. "Would you have wed me off to a foreign potentate, or killed me outright?"

He had no answer at the ready; and it was answer enough. Her hand moved, thumb pointing downward. There would be no reprieve for Baudoin.

There was too much evidence; no sighs echoed the King's. "So be it," he said, and no one doubted that he grieved to say it. "Baudoin de Trevalion, you are sentenced to death. You have three days to name the manner of your choosing."

He did not make as good an exit as his mother. I watched him go, and his feet stumbled, disbelieving. Thus the fate of the son of too fierce a mother, whose ambition outpaced the law. Perhaps it was not so easy, I thought, to be the Lioness' favorite cub.

The trial of Gaspar Trevalion went smoothly; there was no evidence, and no accusation save his bloodline. I watched Delaunay give his testimony, saying how Gaspar had known naught of the plot and brought word straight to him, heeding his advice to make a clean breast of it to the King, and I was proud to be a member of his household. In the end, Gaspar was absolved of any wrongdoing, and his title and estate affirmed in public forum.

Delaunay had regained his composure; his face gave nothing away. But I marked, all the while, how Ysandre de la Courcel hung on his every word, and there was a hunger in her gaze I could not name.


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