13-1

“Man with in the gray suit and bowler hat reading the newspaper,” Raulin said, turning in his seat and leaning against the window of the train.

Anla craned her head to look past the trirec. “But he’s sitting alone.”

“For now. He has a lady with him. When she returns, I want you to tell me how they know each other. Points for an early correct guess.”

She waited until a young woman in a dark gray dress moved down the aisle of the train, then took a seat across from him. He looked up for a moment, then returned to reading for a little while longer, then set the paper down. “Did you speak with him?” the man said to the young woman.

Yes,” she said. “He said ‘no’.”

That’s…disappointing. Perhaps you should be more insistent.

Anla turned to Raulin. “Employer, employee.”

“Did you gather that from the conversation or the tone?” he asked.

“Tone, more so. What they’re talking about could be anything.”

“What are they speaking about?”

She listened a while longer. “He needs something from someone else on the train who is reluctant to give it to him. She argued that she doesn’t think she’ll be successful if she persists. While he seems almost bored, he’s…irritated by her response and said as much. She…she just stood up after she muttered ‘Yes, sir’.”

“Well done, then. You figure it out…almost.”

“Almost? But, she just called him ‘sir’. That must mean he’s her superior.”

“I’m not denying that. You got that part correct. But, there’s more to it than just he’s her boss and she’s his secretary. They’re lovers.”

She arched an eyebrow, turning to look at Raulin. “Wait, how do you know that? They didn’t give any indication that there was anything more between them than their profession.”

“Would you like me to tell you or do you want to figure it out?”

“We’re just doing this to better my tone reading,” she said, crossing her arms. “I’ve already failed, so you may as well tell me.”

“Ah, you didn’t fail. There were just two answers when you thought there was only one. And I only know both because her lipstick is on his collar. He should definitely have someone take care of that before he gets home to his wife.”

“All right,” she said, leaning her chin into her hand. “It seems like I should have been able to pick up more.”

“Anla, you’re just starting out and you have no guidance. There’s no book, no teachers, no school for what you can be. You have to figure out how to teach yourself.” He turned to face her and clicked his tongue a few times. “Maybe we’ve been going about this wrong. Maybe we need to find you someone feeling a particular emotion, then have you get familiar with what that sounds like.”

“Where will we find someone like that?”

“You have three people you know that you can nudge in that direction. I don’t know how the wizard feels about it, but you don’t have to tell him you’re including him in your training. Just ask him about something that should illicit a reaction that you want.”

“May I start with you?”

“Sure. I’ll do my best.”

She rubbed the tops of her fingernails on each other. “What’s…what’s something that’s sad to you?”

He folded his hands and sat back in his seat while he thought. “My mother is dead and I can’t ever see her again.”

She could tell there was a shift, but not how it was different. “What was she like?”

“Quiet, I suppose. She wasn’t very outgoing, but didn’t mind being around people. Very talented; she played the spinet beautifully and painted gorgeous paintings. She and I were close; my older brother was my father’s favorite, but I was my mother’s. She coddled me, which irritated my father.” He looked over to her. “Did that help?”

“A little. Your tone changed the more you talked about her, from something cold and thick to something warmer.”

“Yes. I think I was sad at first, but I remember her fondly. It makes me happy to think of her in that light.”

She reached across and squeezed his hand, then stood. “Let me try Tel.”

Tel was actually not helpful, though he wished he could be. His tone changed little when he described his family and fiance and therefore she couldn’t get much from him.

Anla found Al in their room, laying down on the bottom bed. “Hi. How are you doing?”

“Good,” he said, putting his novel down. “I feel a little nervous going back to Whitney.”

“You think there will be trouble?”

“Not trouble, just returning to things after so long. It’s been a half-year and I don’t know what’s changed.” He gave a quick laugh. “Marnie’s birthday is coming up. I should get her something.”

“Who’s Marnie?”

“My…step-daughter, I suppose, though she’s always felt like mine.” He sat up and gave her room to sit. “I don’t think there’s any reason to keep this from you any longer, though I don’t think I want Raulin to hear about it, if you don’t mind. He’ll just probably make fun of me for it.”

“He probably won’t. What is it?”

“Burdet, my wife that you played, broke her wedding vows years ago. It wound up being with my best friend Aggie. She had Marnie and I helped raise her.”

She was so shocked that she almost forgot to listen for the quality of what he was saying. That cold, thicker tone wasn’t strongly present. Al must have felt differently than sad about the whole situation. “And you still think Aggie is a good friend?”

“He didn’t know that Burdet was my wife. I never invited him to my house and I never took her to a place that they would bump into each other. He’s not the greatest of people, but he is a good friend.”

“You seem very loyal to him, and to Burdet. I’d be angry in your position, but you don’t seem upset.”

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “Maybe I should be, but I’m not. I no longer loved Burdet and maybe should have broken it off with her a long time ago, but I wanted to do the right thing. And I knew that it wasn’t making me happy. It’s one of those things us Br’vani men have pounded into us: we don’t ask for a divorce. That’s a woman’s choice. Some things I hold onto and others I don’t.”

“Does it make you sad that you’re away from Marnie?”

“Sad? A little. I miss her. She’s adorable and fun to take care of, but ultimately I have no right to her. She’s Burdet’s and Aggie’s daughter. I just hope her mother is doing right by her.”

Again, only a little of that coldness was present. “You don’t seem like someone who gets sad.”

He shrugged. “I do, it’s just not for me.”

“Then for what?”

He leaned forward and thought for a few moments. He cleared his throat before he began. “I read…I read an account once that brought me to tears. It was one of the servants at the Arvonnese court finding Prince Caudin’s body.”

She was beginning to understand why Raulin was so frustrated by Al’s obsession. He felt more emotion about a boy he’d never met than he did about what the terrible people in his life had done to him. “What did he say?”

“The night after the Coup, the servants were told to ‘take care of the palace grounds’, which meant to find and identify the bodies of the dead and to clean up the mess. One of the king’s clerks had the job of entering the bedrooms first before the maids. He spoke of opening the door and bringing the candle over to the prince’s bed. He said he laid there so peacefully, it was as if he were only sleeping. It was a few tiny drops of blood on his chin the gave away that something was wrong. And when the duvet was moved back, the clerk had to turn away. The prince’s throat had been slashed and all his blood soaked the sheets underneath. The clerk’s breath caught in his throat; for a few moments, he thought there was hope that the boy could be awoken and snuck to safety and the future of Arvonne could be secured. But Prince Caudin was the last of the four children they found, and with that sight the clerk mourned the loss of not just the Alscaines, but the nation.”

Anla blinked. The sadness in his voice was so thick, there was no way she could think it was anything other than that emotion. It drenched every one of his words in a chilled heaviness, sometimes with a wavering pain that felt like a primal connection to something deep and destructive. He truly cared strongly for a prince he’d never met. “I thought you read those books because you held on to the hope that he was alive.”

“Yeah,” he said, clearing his throat again, “I still hope, it’s just unlikely. Maybe the clerk was lying. Maybe they found a different person and pretended it was Prince Caudin. ‘Doubt breeds hope, however a folly.’”

“And what would you do if you happened to find one of the princes?”

His tone shifted immediately to something clear, strong, ringing as his spine straightened. “Oh, I’d pledge myself to his service. I wouldn’t even hesitate. He’d need help to retake the throne and I’d be there for whatever he needed.”

Anla had never understood how clearly Al felt things. “Tell me more about the Alscaines,” she asked, realizing that, while she would appreciate the practice, it was also important to get a stronger glimpse into a man who wasn’t just a wizard, or an Arvonne enthusiast, but someone who surprised her. She had claimed to be his friend, but now she wanted to actually be one.

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