The walk to the Cancelers Palace took the better part of the day, and we arrived at the gate in the late afternoon, when the sting of the summer sun began to ease.
Tyrel removed his robe as the day waned, and I took a quick look at his physique, pleased with what I saw, if uninvolved; it would not do for a Canceler to be unfit, given the dangers involved.
Caution, Little Mother.
I smiled and felt my face heat; it seemed the spirit of my deceased familiar was now privy to my thoughts.
The palace grounds were immaculate, attended by women in peasant garb, their hair tied, their gloves tight, and the face nettings stifling and concealing all but their eyes.
“Is this for their protection, Tyrel? It seems a bit cruel.”
“Bees thrive here, Tina. So, yes, in a way, it is, but it’s also for our protection. A cast spell that’s misunderstood because of the netting can go awry; it eliminates the possibility of any threat within the walls.”
They knew what they were doing, these men. I seethed a bit, but as there was nothing I could do to stop it, I refocused on the task at hand.
In other circumstances, I would have asked Tyrel to tour the garden in the late day sun, and also in other circumstances, I would have gladly done so with Tyrel. As it was, Abdiel was holding fast against the approach of the Cancelers’ collective power now that we were close enough, and though I didn’t feel any different, I still inquired.
We are well, Tina.
I was relieved to hear it, but he was subtly, frequently, almost…..reluctantly, shifting inside of me still, restless and agitated. I was having trouble keeping my balance, and let him know.
It can’t be helped, Tina. They’re trying to find us…there are wards here, too.
I walked beside Tyrel. “What did you do, lead us into a trap? Abdiel says there are wards…”
“I didn’t know about these, Tina. I swear.”
I wasn’t ready to take him at his word: “You didn’t feel all this power around us?”
“You didn’t either, save for Abdiel.”
“These are your people, Tyrel. The fact that they deceived you could mean you’ve been away too long.”
“I don’t know. Things definitely felt different the last time I was here.”
My mind almost burst with questions, but I quieted them; too much was yet unknown, and if his people changed things and became unfamiliar in his absence, he was just as vulnerable if not more so.
“Were you gone too long, then?”
It scared me that he considered my question before answering, “I don’t know.”
The watchman was all business, and Tyrel was hard pressed to think on his feet.
“Is this your prisoner?”
“Her hands are bound, but if she has magic, she can still cast. Why didn’t you gag her?”
“I took her magic.”
The watchman oozed skepticism, but Tyrel held his cool and kept his expression neutral. The man was weighing the validity of the response, considering the source.
“You are well regarded here, Canceler, I meant no disrespect.”
“None was taken, watchman. You fulfill your duties well.”
The gate opened. “Enter, Canceler Tyrel. Keep your prisoner silent.”
I kept thinking something was wrong; they should have been able to detect my magic, bindings or not. Abdiel claimed to be stronger than before, and if I could feel him, they should have sensed his presence. Our presence.
I told Tyrel.
“I managed to put a shield around you, Tina. It was the only way to get you inside.”
I hadn’t felt it at all. That concerned me even more; there was a subtlety to the art of Canceling then, one he hadn’t revealed before.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“I have to present you to the Council of Elders.”
“Won’t they know you’re protecting me?”
“I don’t know, Tina. As I said, something’s off, and I want to to stay to see what it is.”
“Won’t they punish you as well?”
He lost his patience: “Dammit, girl! You’re like a toddler with all these questions.” He lowered his voice, regaining control. “I’ve only just returned. I don’t know what they’ll do, but we’ll find out together and face it, whatever it may be.
Abdiel stirred, but it was Zephyr’s voice I heard. I will shield us all, Little Mother.