Over the next few days, I’ll be posting more of these little missing scenes, which introduce some of the supporting cast of Reawakening, just before the start of the book. Today, meet Ianthe Battlewitch, who is finding retirement increasingly dull…
There were few sounds in the world quite as piercing as the shriek of an excited teenage girl, Ia thought sourly, glowering at the nearest airheaded idiot. You’d think that they would get hoarse after a while, but she’d been at this job for a week and they just seemed to be getting louder.
“Lord Marcheen? At your dance? Oh, Tilia!” one of them squealed now. Ia hadn’t bothered learning their names. She knew Tilia, her employer’s daughter, but had renamed all of Tilia’s friends with what she considered to be more fitting monikers. The one currently squeaking was hollow-cheeked and always wore too many feathery ornaments in her hair. Ia thought of her as the dandelion.
“Oh, I’m so lucky,” Tilia said, in a monotone, rolling her eyes. “How can I sufficiently express my glee and rapture? Oh, joy of joys.” That was the real sting of this job. Tilia, unlike her friends, was as bright and sharp as any of the swords her father sold throughout the river cities. She had been educated at the finest schools, polished until she gleamed, and yet her father insisted on wasting all that cool intellect. Instead of putting her to work in his company, he was parading the girl in front of any eligible noblemen he thought might offer for her hand. A title was useful in business, Ia thought, but a clever daughter should be valued more.
“Tilia?” the dandelion said, barely bothering to lower her voice. “Is Ianthe going to come to your dance?”
“Yes,” Ia said flatly. “I am.”
“She is my bodyguard,” Tilia pointed out, and turned her glinting smile on Ia. “Although I’m sure we could order you a new outfit. Something a little less drab.”
“Drab is functional.”
“I’m sure you could be functional in purple,” Tilia said. “Or yellow, perhaps. What do you think, Lionne? I think Ia would look dashing in yellow.”
“If you insist on color,” Ia said, grinning nastily enough that the dandelion blanched, “make it red. It hides the blood better.”
Tilia went off in a whoop of laughter, and Ia shot a crooked grin at her. The dandelion looked between them, her eyes wide and worried. “That’s not funny!”
The job paid well, Ia thought, but that alone would not have kept her here. She’d come to Reth Stela because so many roads met here, and it was a good place to listen for gossip or strange stories from the outlands. That, and the fact she liked her charge, made it tolerable, for a cushy retirement job. All the same, there was part of her that missed the road.
A knock on the door saved them from having to explain the joke to the dandelion. A footman came in with a platter full of sealed letters, offering them to Tilia with a bow. She grimaced faintly, but took them. “Oh, how lovely. More replies to our invitations.” She flicked through them quickly, and then paused. “This one’s for you.” She passed it to Ia, and then split the rest of the pile in half. “Lionne, help me answer these, will you?”
Ia opened her own letter, recognizing Sethan’s flowing and ornate handwriting. It was short enough that she could skim it and watch the door at the same time.
Are you bored yet, dearest? If so, how about one last trip across the Alagard? I’ve got seven traders already committed to the trip and am waiting to hear from a score more. Get here in time for the spring hiring fair and I’ll let you pick your own guard company, best of captains.
LATER, once her bags were packed and her resignation tendered, she took the time to slip directions to the nearest Myrtiline cloister under Tilia’s pillow. The sword sisterhood would challenge the girl, if she chose to take that path. Everyone deserved to have a choice.
Whistling, Ia strode out into the bustling streets of Reth Stela, her steps light. Retirement could wait.
Reawakening at Dreamspinner Press (where you can now read the opening chapter!)