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:: Keep Your Friends Close by K.G. McAbee
Keep Your Friends Close by K.G. McAbee
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Prince Vayel has a lover's spat the month before his wedding, so he flees to his old friend and teacher, Cala Greyraven, for advice and support. His betrothed isn't standing for this; she follows him, finds him and confronts him, demanding an explanation. But is it too late to overcome their problems?
Friends are our dearest possessions and should be held close, always. But what about enemies? Isn't it safer to hold them even closer, if only purely in self-defense? Vayel finds out that sometimes the hardest thing is to tell friend from foe.
A short story from our Orbits sci-fi/fantasy line.
The sound of loud knocking broke through Cala’s reverie. Though the front door to her rambling manor house was at the bottom of the stairwell that led to her tower study, some trick of acoustics had always made any knock sound as though it originated just outside the room.
Cala looked up from the dancing flames that had been engaging her eye while her mind wandered.
Beside her in a chair piled with cushions was her partner and consort Ronen, chin on chest, eyes closed, unabashed snores buzzing about his balding head like somnolent bees. Even in sleep his stubby fingers held straight a goblet balanced on his broad belly.
Ronen had never been known to spill wine, awake or asleep, save down his own gullet. Cala reached for the goblet, set it beside Ronen’s chair on the rug-piled flagstone floor. Ronen grunted once as if in protest at the loss, then settled back against his cushions with a spluttering sigh.
In the deep chair across from Cala, her guest muttered, “Late for a visitor, and on a nasty, stormy night too. Shall I—?”
A resounding salvo of knocks again rained on the heavy door and echoed up the stairwell. “—see who it is?” finished Vayel. His dark eyes held a glint of curiosity. It was the first emotion of any kind that Cala had seen in their murky depths since his arrival on her doorstep almost ten days ago.
He had come for a visit to his old teachers, he had said, his eyes focused above her head. A visit oddly timed, Cala had thought as she smiled up Vayel’s lanky body to his solemn face.
Prince Vayel of Carleone was to be wed after the Feast of Whitleine, a scant thirty days away. That was the rumor that Cala had heard, at any rate. But since his arrival they had talked of many things, she and Ronen and Vayel, of days long past and of plans for the future when the prince would succeed his father, King Arin B’har. But Vayel had never mentioned his betrothal, nor the real reason for his visit.
“Lon or Finia will get it,” Cala shook her head at her old pupil. “My dear boy, what else are new students for?”
“If they’re anything like me, they’re sleeping like gravestones by the kitchen fire and won’t even hear it,” Vayel replied with an attempt at a smile that was gone before its birth. “Too exhausted by study, not to mention running up and down those damn stairs all day and half the night.”
Cala laughed. “They’re getting harder for me as well,” she admitted. “And Ronen seldom even makes the effort any more, poor dear old thing. I don’t think he’s been outside in weeks; he prefers to stay here and read his musty books and mix his nasty-smelling potions. We’re getting old, Vayel, Ronen and I. The new world and the new ways are galloping away from us.”
Magistra Cala Grayraven stretched, winced when a shoulder joint popped audibly in the quiet study, and stood up. Her sturdy legs were encased in thick red leggings and short soft boots. A voluminous shirt of the same color draped her from neck to knee, cinched in at the waist with an old loose belt, which bore faint indications of a slenderness lost in the distant past. Snowy hair streaked with black hung down her back in a thick braid that reached past her waist.
Vayel smiled his stillborn smile again.
“Mature,” he said, then added with a solemn glance of appreciation at her full figure, “ripe.”
“Ancient. Fat,” she corrected with a grin. “Don’t think to use that well-documented charm on me, Vayel. I’ve known you too long to be taken in by it as others are.”
Vayel’s face went dead white. His eyes jerked away from Cala’s face and focused on the far distance.
More knocks sounded.
Ronen stirred, muttered in his sleep.
Vayel stood up, topping Magistra Cala by a head and a half.
“Asleep, I tell you, Lon and Finia both. I’ll go.”
“And I’m not so decrepit that I can’t go as well,” Cala said as she seized a candle from the mantle and stooped to light it at the fire, then handed it to Vayel to light their way.
Published by: Untreed Reads
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