Shadow's End (Light & Shadow)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow’s End

Light and Shadow, Book III

 

By Moira Katson

 

Copyright © 2013 Moira Katson

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Cover art by Zezhou Chen

Discover other books by Moira Katson:

 

The Light & Shadow Trilogy:

Book I: Shadowborn

Book II: Shadowforged

 

The Yeshuhain Chronicles:

Mahalia

Inheritance

Origins

 

For drabbles, sneak peaks of upcoming

works, and more, visit Moira’s website!

 

http://moiraktaston.com

Thank you to my friends and family,

whose support, encouragement, and feedback

have helped me to take this leap!

 

 

 

 

Cast of Characters

 

The Duke’s Household

 

Catwin – servant to the Duke, Miriel’s Shadow

Donnett – a member Palace Guard, who fought with the Duke at the Battle of Voltur

Eral Celys – Duke of Voltur

Emmeline DeVere – younger sister of the Duke, mother of Miriel

Miriel DeVere – niece of the Duke, daughter of Emmeline and Roger DeVere

Temar – servant to the Duke, the Duke’s Shadow

Roger DeVere – father of Miriel (
deceased
)

Roine – a healing woman, foster mother to Catwin

 

 

Members of the Royal Family: Heddred

 

Anne Warden Conradine – sister of Henry, aunt of Garad; Duchess of Everry

Arman Dulgurokov – brother of Isra

Cintia Conradine – daughter of Anne and Gerald Conradine

Elizabeth Warden de la Marque – cousin of Henry, mother of Marie

Henry Warden– father of Garad, former King of Heddred (
deceased
)

Garad Warden – former King of Heddred (
deceased
)

Gerald Conradine – husband of Anne; Duke of Everry

Guy de la Marque – husband of Elizabeth Warden, father of Marie; Royal Guardian to Garad

Marie de la Marque Conradine – wife of Wilhelm; Queen of Heddred

Isra Dulgurokov Warden – mother to Garad, widow of Henry; the former Dowager Queen

Wilhelm Conradine – King of Heddred

William Warden – former King of Heddred, Garad’s uncle, Henry’s older brother (
deceased
)

 

 

Members of the Royal Family: Ismir

 

Dragan Kraal – brother of Dusan, father of Kasimir (
deceased
)

Dusan Kraal – King of Ismir

Jovana Vesely Kraal - Queen of Ismir

Kasimir Kraal – nephew to Dusan

Marjeta Kraal Jelinek – daughter of Dusan and Jovana

Pavle Kraal – younger brother of Kasimir

Vaclav Kraal – son of Dusan and Jovana (
deceased
)

 

 

Heddrian Peerage

 

Edward DeVere – courtier; Duke of Derrion

Efan of Lapland - courtier

Elias Nilson – son to Piter; betrothed to Evelyn DeVere

Elizabeth Cessor – daughter of Henry and Mary Cessor

Evelyn DeVere – daughter of Edward, betrothed to Elias Nilson

Henri Nilson – brother of Piter

Henry Cessor – courtier, father of Elizabeth

Henry DeVere – courtier, younger brother to Edward

Linnea Torstensson – a young maiden at Court; daughter of Nils

Maeve d’Orleans – a young maiden at Court

Piter Nilson – Earl of Mavol

Roger DeVere – father of Miriel DeVere (
deceased
)

 

The Rebellion

 

Aron – a servant of the Merchant; member of the rebellion

The High Priest
(Jacces) – head of the Church in Heddred; leader of a populist rebellion in the Norstrung Provinces

Jeram – a member of the rebellion

The Merchant – a member of the rebellion

Chapter 1

 

On the first night, wrapped in our warmest furs and still shivering violently against the cold winds of the plains, Miriel and I confronted the fact that there was no going back. We had not stopped for hours, desperate to get as far as possible before our guards knew that we had gone. They would follow us—they would have to, they would be desperate to find us before the Duke ever found out that we had slipped through their fingers. Whether we wanted to go to Penekket or not was of no concern to them, and I had no illusions about my skills at combat: if it came to a fight between me and a score of guardsmen, they would likely win. So we pushed the horses as far as they would go and then sought shelter in a stand of trees, vainly listening for the sound of pursuit even as the howl of the wind blocked out any noise but itself.

“Catwin, do you know how to get to the Norstrung Provinces?” Miriel asked, finally, after we had sat in silence for an hour or so. For some reason, the question struck me as incredibly funny, and I laughed so hard, and for so long, that I co
uld not catch my breath. When I looked up, I saw that Miriel was laughing, too, stifling her much-practiced giggle behind a perfectly manicured hand, and holding her side as she shook with mirth. We laughed in disbelief at our own recklessness until at last we had exhausted ourselves, and then Miriel leaned back against a tree and asked simply,

“What have we done?”

The last vestiges of humor disappeared at once. I looked at her and saw her not as she was to me—ally, friend—but as she was to the world: the betrothed of the last King, a young woman of uncertain birth, wearing a priceless gown and cloak and sitting in the middle of a field on an early spring night. A runaway. A woman who could be everything if she chose to work her magic on the new king, or nothing at all if her uncle wished to punish her for her actions.

“We ran away,” I said wonderingly.
We ran away
. I felt the shape of the words in my mouth and, oddly light-headed, wondered if this was a dream. For a moment, I drifted, until the realization that all of this was real slammed down, and I felt a wave of nausea and pure terror. I wondered, wildly, if there was any lie we could tell to go back to the warm, well-fed, half-safety of the palace and the Duke’s patronage. I was ashamed of myself even for wondering, but I was terrified. I was taunted by my own mind, the little voice that said, mockingly,
you said you wanted this
.

And there was no going back. The nausea grew stronger, and from the look on Miriel’s face, she had come to the same realization: this was nothing we could deny or explain away, it was an irrevocable breach with the Duke. We could not pretend that we had done this in his best interests. We had said that we did not want to lie and dissemble anymore, and here we were: honest at last. And filled with fear.

This was a terrible, terrible mistake.

“Oh, Gods,” Miriel said, biting her lip. “We ran
away
.” I only nodded, numbly, and she rubbed her face, then sighed and looked up, “So what do we do now?” The golden light of dawn gleamed in her hair and gilded her face, and I realized that it had been growing steadily lighter. Exhaustion counted for nothing; our rest was over.

“We keep riding,” I said, and with the first decision, my confidence began to return. “We’re not far out of Penekket, so we should start veering south now. We need to stay off the road. And you should change.” I had procured a serving girl’s spare gown for Miriel, but we had left so quickly that she has not yet changed. She was sitting on a pile of bracken, wrapped in her warm velvet cloak and wearing silk and jewels.

“We’re still going south?” Miriel asked, wide-eyed. Even now, with no one to see us, she used her beautiful, practiced mannerisms. She had made her mask so well and so completely that she might never strip it all away. I could not have said how I felt about that—even in our disgust at how our masks and our true faces had become intertwined, at how the twisted darkness had crept into our very hearts, I would have lied if I said that Miriel’s mask was not exquisitely beautiful. It was so finely crafted that it would almost be a shame to see it broken down and destroyed.

“We have to go,” I said, judging by her fear that I should not say,
and there is no other choice
. I understood her fear; I could not revile it. “You’re going to be a great leader for the rebellion, after all.” I was trying to coax her away from her terror, and her face warmed at the thought, though she looked pained.

“I feel a fool,” she admitted, as she took the rough, homespun dress from one of our packs and shook it out.

“Why?” I looked at her curiously, and she took a moment and chose her words carefully.

“Because I’m doing this for Wilhelm.” She
saw my face and hastened to explain. “I know it’s useless. I don’t hope to win him back.” She swallowed and curled her hands into fists, so tightly the knuckles went white. “I shouldn’t have to. He should have waited for me. I know I should be angry and forget him. But when I try to be angry, and cut him out of my heart, I…can’t.” She swallowed and blinked away tears. “I think: I told him that he must do whatever he could, risk everything he had, for the rebellion. I told him I’d do the same. And so even if I think he’s betrayed me…this is to keep faith with him. Even if he’s turned from me, I have to believe that he’s still true to this, or I won’t survive. So I am true to it, as well.”

I did not respond; I had no words to speak of hope, they would have choked me with jealousy. Miriel could still believe that Wilhelm kept true to their cause, and I…

If you meddle again, you will die
. Bad luck to adore the man who had turned me into a Shadow, and worse luck that my love had not disappeared when he became an enemy. When I thought of him now, it was not only with hatred and fear and the sense of a coming fight—it was to wonder what his kisses might be like, it was to think of the body that I knew, after years of sparring, almost as well as my own. My heart betrayed me every day, and it was bitter indeed to have none of the comfort that Miriel took from her hope.

I had the thought, so overwhelming that bile came to my throat, that the prophecy had spoken of betrayal—and who could betray me in this world more completely than could Temar?

“Please tell me you don’t think it’s—what are you
doing
?” Miriel’s voice rose to a shriek and she clapped her hands over her mouth.  I held my braid out in my hand and shrugged. Distracted by my misery, I had not hesitated, only sawed the hair away with one of my daggers; I could feel the rest drifting, ragged, around my head like so much honey-colored silk.

“Better to seem like a girl and a boy than two girls,” I said. “In case anyone sees us.” I had been staring down at my hair, and now I looked up and my voice trailed off. “Gods be good,” I whispered.

“What?” Miriel looked down at her dress, checking for stains.

“You look…”
Beautiful
. I should have known better than to expect that clothing alone could make Miriel less noteworthy. The rough cloth only set off her beauty all the more. In fine gowns and jewels, her looks were only a piece of a perfectly-polished puzzle, but now they were jarring. Her hair seemed darker, her eyes bluer. “Don’t let anyone see you up close,” I advised, trying not to let my envy show. But she saw it anyway, and smiled.

“Beauty hasn’t done me any favors,” she pointed out. “I’m not Queen, everyone hates me but you, and the man I love…” She swallowed. “
And anyway, do you really think
you
can pass for a boy?”

“You’d be surprised,” I said drily, thinking of the dozens who called me, “lad,” or, “boy,” every day, their eyes seeing no further than my britches and tabard
, their gaze moving on before they saw the hint of curves under my clothes. I knew for a fact that no one had ever noticed me at all, for the Court was so mad for rumors of Miriel that if anyone had ever noticed me, it would have been all over that the Lady Miriel was accompanied by a girl dressed as a boy. But their eyes had only ever slid over me; another servant in livery. “Are you ready to go?”

“One moment.” Miriel picked her way over the frozen ground and took my dagger. She pointed to the pile of bracken. “Sit.”

“We don’t have time.”

“We have a moment.” She stared at me until I sa
t, reluctantly, and then she took the locks of my hair in her hands and began to trim the chopped mess of it. Her hands were gentle as they cut it all to evenness, so that my hair no longer stuck out from my head but smoothed itself into a neat, golden cap. She ran her fingers through it, nodded decisively at her handiwork, and then she flipped the dagger about and presented it to me, haft first.

“Thank you,” I said, awkwardly, rising up. I checked her saddle, and then lifted her up and
guided my horse to a nearby boulder so that I could jump up myself. I surveyed the road in both directions, then sighted our direction from the sun. I wished that I had a map, but hoped that I could remember well enough where we were that we would not run into any major towns. Then, seeing our way clear, I urged my horse out of the trees and led the way southeast, away from the road.

We rode until noon, checking over our shoulders frequently, but we never saw any signs of pursuit. We had gotten away cleanly, and I dared to hope that it had been fully light out before the guards realized that we were missing. I tried to tell myself that even if the men rode their horses to exhaustion, they would never think to veer off the road as we had—but still
, I craned my neck to look behind us so much that I developed a crick in my neck.

As the first day drew to a close, we began to search for another copse of trees. Soon, we would sweep south into the fertile marshes and forests of south Heddred, but for now our horses were still picking their way over dormant, half-frozen fields, and cover was rare. At last, we found a few trees on the side of a hill, and I set about gathering wood for a fire. Donnett, whatever he thought of my chances in a fight, had taken it upon himself to teach me survival skills for living in the wild, remarking more than once that if my archery did not improve, I would need all the help I could get.

As I began to build up the fire, a thought came to me, unbidden: Roine, her hair plaited for sleep, her dark eyes worried, embracing me and telling me not to fear my exile.
I’ll see you soon
, she had told me, and I had agreed. But Miriel and I had been so terrified of facing the Duke and the Court, so preoccupied with the fact of running away, that I had not thought of Roine until now.

“We have to tell Roine,” I blurted out, and Miriel looked over at me.
Regretfully, she shook her head, and when I opened my mouth to protest, she held up a hand to quell me.

“We can’t,” she explained
gently. “There’s no way to get a messenger to her. My uncle be having her watched. I closed my mouth and looked down, and Miriel added, “And who’s the first one he’ll question when he knows we’ve gone?”

“He’ll question her?” My voice came out in a squeak.
Panic closed in, and rational thought fled. I could not bear the thought of Roine being questioned for my sake. “We have to go back. Right now.”

“No!” Miriel laid her hand on my arm. “We can’t go back. And he won’t be angry with her, what could she know? He’s smart, Catwin, he’ll see that. And she wasn’t born yesterday, you know—she’ll be alright.”

I swallowed. Miriel was entirely correct. I could picture it clearly if I set my fear aside: the Duke, furious, and Roine sitting calmly, asserting in her low, clear voice that she did not know where I was, she had not known I was missing until the Duke came to speak to her. In the corner would be Temar, watching. I had to believe that he—and the Duke—would see the truth of Roine’s words. And I must believe, or go mad, that the Duke would not think to use Roine against me.

Miriel was right: the best thing for Roine would be to know nothing. Ignorance would be her shield. No messages would arrive for Temar to intercept, no knowledge would show in her eyes. But she would think that I cared for her so little as to go without even telling her; she might not
know how it had been, that we had made our plan in less than a day, and had no chance to get word to her. She would not even know that we were safe.

“You know…they may think we were kidnapped,” I said, struck by the thought, and Miriel nodded.

“They won’t think so for long, but it could buy us time before Temar figures out where we’ve gone.” Her face twisted, as it always did when she spoke of Temar. Not for the first time, I wondered just why it was that they hated each other so instinctively, each of them ready to believe that the other might ruin everything. I was trying to find a joke to make about it when Miriel said,

“He’s dangerous, Catwin. Have you ever thought…
.” Her voice trailed off as she saw my face. She knew this was not something I wanted to hear. As much as I could, I had resolutely refused to think of Temar in our months at the Winter Castle, and I did not want to think of him now. Worse, feeling disloyal, I admitted to myself that I did not want Miriel to speak badly of him. But we did not have that luxury.

“What?” I tried to keep my voice even
, to speak reasonably instead of walk away. I knew I did not want to hear whatever she had to say. But Temar
was
our enemy; I never forgot it.

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