A tinny buzzing in her ear competed with the wealth of information in the dusty book. She brushed away the buzzing, as she would have an insect, without thought.
Of course, it came back. Stronger and louder than before pushing past heavy strands of gray hair that came with her bloodline. Before Koren could brush it away again, it slipped into her head. Once inside her brain, it unfolded into a hazy cloud that pushed aside all thoughts. It took over her body, directed her movements.
She stood, the heavy tome fell with a thump that echoed through the rocky walls of the Library. Hurried footsteps prefaced the boy’s approach, but he was still shy enough to peek around the stacks rather than run to her side.
The first thing he saw was her slippered foot carefully stepping over the large book that had fallen from her lap. The hem of her skirts almost hid it, but then she stepped past. He breathed a heavy sigh when he saw that the book was fine, closed, and no longer the dusty thing she’d carried to the nook a few hours ago.
The boy continued to watch her, wondering how exactly the Call worked, confident in the time that separated himself from his own time of Calling. She moved differently now that when she’d first entered the library. Hours ago, she’d moved like a mouse, aware of her surroundings, almost afraid to be still long enough for someone to speak to her. Now, she was slow and quiet, but her back was straight rather than hunched and her chin high rather than low.
Her eyes spooked him the most. A white mist swirled through them dense enough to hide any color. He was positive that she could see nothing through that, but she moved as if not only could she see, but she knew exactly where she was going.
So he slid silently out of her way when she passed him, watched her until she turned a corner, then went to pick up the book she’d dropped.
His heart fell when he looked at the spot where the book had been. Nothing but tapestry looked back at him. The book was gone.
The tiny man scurried through the hall, his wringing hands hidden by the folds of his sleeves. Liam’s grief was great and he thought of drowning it in ale as everyone else seemed to be doing. However, his alarm was greater and his purpose drove him through drunken cries of vengeance, kept his eyes on the Prince.
He tried to ignore the women whose tears sparkled in the firelight brighter than any jewel and the dreary aura of every single body dressed in shades of gray. Liam made his way to the High Table and to the side of the Prince who was toying with the stem of his wine glass, oblivious to the meal before him.
Liam bent and pressed his lips to the Prince’s ear. “They are here.”
The Prince roared, tossing away royal decorum as easily as he flicked away the wine glass. He stood as it shattered on the stone floor in front of the table and the Prince pounded his fist on the wooden table so hard dishes danced. Another crystal goblet toppled to the floor crashing loudly in the sudden silence.
“It is not enough for Evil to slaughter my father and mother! The daemons attack during their funeral feast!”
Gasps echoed through the hall.
“Liam, tell our people what the Watchers have seen.”
The man looked even smaller beside the Prince. Even though his voice cracked and wavered, it reached every corner of the hall. “They’ve crested the rise to the East. They are not setting up for siege. Unchecked, they will reach the walls of the Keep within two hours.”
The Prince’s eyes were cold, his smile tight. “We are not unprepared. Fetch Darkin.”
“Here, my Prince,” a tall, thin man called from the fire.
“They are due tonight?”
“Meet me on the East wall.” He addressed his stricken people. “Lords, escort your women to safety, then attend your stations. We will defeat these bastards by sunrise.”
A ferocious cry answered him.
The Prince strode from the hall up to his rooms where he put on his father’s armor. He’d never seen his father wear it to anything other than ceremonies. He saw the irony that he would wear it before the crown officially graced his own head.
His clanks mingled with the many others in the courtyard. His father had settled disputes with words not steel. Until now, there had been no known enemies. It was with great sorrow he heard his people ready for battle.
He didn’t even know who led this invasion, but he would destroy them just for this.