Authors: Elizabeth McCoy
I of the Lord Alchemist Duology)
all my English teachers, who would hopefully not be horrified.
2012 Elizabeth McCoy
art by Sarah Cloutier
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(Sitting alone in the dark . . .)
(Kessa ate bread . . .)
(Iathor waited patiently . . .)
(The market square was busy . . .)
(Rom'd not been aware of the arrest, of
course . . .)
(How long can I ignore him . . . ?)
("Barring pillow-licking . . .")
(When Kessa heard the carriage . . .)
(The morning . . . hadn't
("What would you like to see
(". . . it's
cheaper to kill the people annoying you . . .")
("I'm Brague, Master Kymus'
(. . . cornered by
(From the narrow alley across the
street . . .)
("I'm not yours.")
(His office door slammed open.)
(I should've taken Maila's place.)
(The interrogation had gone . . .)
(Kessa woke to banging on her
door . . .)
(. . . Brague
returned, damply . . .)
(Kessa shivered against the
hospice wall . . .)
("She hides a lot,
(Heat was a precious
thing . . .)
(Two days after the regrettable
shouting . . .)
(. . . admitting
to perverse masochism.)
(Iathor hated feeling so
(. . . "closed
("Or are you protecting
(She'd never been so nervous . . .)
("What do you think you're
("Looked ready to beat
me . . .")
(Iasen owned a tall
house . . .)
("I was just
(His candle was a
("How incomplete was that
("I'm investigating a
(Kessa stood before an amber-brick
house . . .)
("Isera said it was fun.")
(The madman had made great
strides . . .)
("Jeck, did we miss
(He can see me.)
(To the eye of Master Kymus,
("That little mongrel dosed
(". . . flirting
with the dramsman?")
("Join me for belated
("She was in your office.")
("There's a woman waiting in
the kitchen, m'lord.")
(. . . Herbmaster
Keli's dubious chaperonage.)
("No, it tastes like fire
(Kessa'd tried clae before . . .)
("I left the rat skull
there . . .")
(How do I get home?)
(Here Abide Spoilers!)
alone in the dark made it easy to tell when someone was coming,
bringing light. Footsteps carried well, too, so far from the usual
prisoners who waited for judging in the underground prison. Kessa'd
had plenty of time to wipe her face, smooth her plain skirt, and sit
up straight on the rough wooden bench.
never been pretty enough to play the helpless child – not with
a half-barbarian's black hair and coppery skin, and especially not
with her eyes the way they were. Proper, stiff innocence, or
dignified guilt, would have to serve.
closed her eyes so she'd not be light-dazzled. There were soft words
beyond the door, before it creaked open.
held her pose, her poise. It seemed a long time, long enough to slit
her eyes open and see shadows upon the glittering-black stone floor,
before a man walked forwards. A black outer robe went to his knees,
and his gray hose and low boots suited high merchants or lesser
was favored by alchemists. Could that wretched moneylender Darul be
important enough that they'd bring an alchemist to question her? Or
was this a rescue to the guild's internal judgment?
I ask your name?" the man said, calm and perhaps the slightest
bit breathy. A light voice for a man, but a grown one. She glanced up
as high as she dared. The tabard was an alchemist's charcoal with
embroidered patterns. He held something in his properly pale hands.
course, anyone could dress in anything, to bait a prisoner to
confess. "You may," she said finally, stalling.
exact politeness, he said, "I'm Iathor Kymus. I would hope you
took a long moment for that to sink in, the name glowing in her mind
like some burning alchemy stone. Her Guild Master himself, the Lord
Alchemist. That was either very good, or very bad. She gripped her
knees, for clutching the bench would be undignified and give her
splinters besides. "Yes," she said. "I'm Kessa. Kessa
conversationally as he'd introduced himself, he said, "I'm told
you're accused of poisoning a man."
what the guardsmen said when they arrested me, yes." She didn't
have to pause. She'd been sitting quite long enough to brew the
words. "Tradesman Darul Reus, the moneylender near North Red
Square. I'd taken tea with him, yesterday. They said he was found a
drooling idiot on the floor."
Guild Master's clothes rustled as he bent. She blinked at the clay
cup he held out. "What is it?"
word, without menace or lightness. Not a dark, heavy
tea that may
Not a blithe
tea, you silly girl.
implication, and hope chased each other in her mind, the way brews
might mix in just-stirred water.
opened her fingers and took the cup, staring into it. Too shadowed to
see any discoloration within.
Guild Master backed away; he spoke to someone, but all she heard was
paid a journeyman's dues honestly enough on each sale. (And if
sometimes she recorded something other than what'd been bought . . .
the proper coins still got to the proper places.) Her training
might've been unorthodox, but was sound enough to back a teacher's
signature despite the smeared parchment.
meant Kessa had two choices. Break with the guild, and have no one of
importance care what happened to her – and the
annoyed with her, like as not. (And that boiled over to questions
about her license, her apprenticeship, her teachers, childhood,
family . . .)
drink, and trust he was . . . fair.
was said to be fair in guild matters.
tea smelled wrong. Too sweet, like honey and roses. Something was in
it. Of course.
touched her tongue-tip to the surface. Yes, the sweet-bitter she
couldn't describe to anyone else, not even other herb-witches.
risked glancing over at the Guild Master. He stood, slight-framed,
with his hands clasped in front of him. Hair cut above his shoulders,
and bare-faced, despite nobles favoring beards and horse-tail queues
this year. No jewelry. He watched her intently, without showing