“Does he distress you that much?” Baralia asked.
“You! You have almost cured me of talking to myself.”
“And yet you still do speak aloud when alone. If you did not, I would not hear you. I don’t live inside your head.”
“Aye.” He walked on in silence now.
“You have never told me about him. Your half brother?”
“About whom you don’t want to talk.”
Marquart raised his eyes to the Banner of the Hawk, black on a blue field, that snapped in the spring wind above the manorhouse. His kladak. That personal symbol was also tattooed on his son’s wrist, as his own father’s kladak was tattooed on his. Since his hands were clasped behind him, Baralia did not see when Marquart’s fingers momentarily touched the eagle tattooed on the back of his left wrist.
Among the teniai, that tattoo proclaimed him a legitimate son of his father. There was no such tattoo on the back of Melcer’s wrist, nor would Melcer ever have the privilege of putting his kladak on his own son’s wrist. Melcer was Beshu’s son from an illicit coupling before he gained nobility. Marquart had been born three years later, after Beshu had become teniai and married the daughter of a teniai. It had made all the difference during their childhoods, and when Beshu lost the land Marquart would have inherited, Melcer was there to grind his bootheel into Marquart’s hurt and confusion.
She said, “He will come for you, to destroy you.”
“How do you know that.”
“I could read it it what Clevis said. I could read it it what you did not say. You both know that he will come.”
“Was I wrong when I said that Jor and Dutta would move against you?”
“No. You were not wrong, but I anticipated that myself.”
“Was I wrong when I said Dael would leave?”
If Baralia had had a physical presence, he would have struck her.
“Did I not tell you that she would betray you?” Baralia persisted.
“Aye,” Marquart growled, “but would she have left, if I had not anticipated betrayal? I sometimes think that my actions fulfilled your prophecy.”
That, Baralia thought, is exactly what I intended. For Marquart’s hearing, she said, “She left because it was in her to leave, and I saw that it must happen. Melcer will come against you because of the hatred that is within him. I see that clearly. He will come, and he will destroy you unless you take action against him first.”
After a long silence, Marquart said, mostly to himself, “If I had not killed Dutta, Dael would not have left.”
At first, Baralia’s only goal had been Marquart’s death, to bring about her own release. Yet while she hovered half way between life and death, he was her only link to the sensate world. She could not hate him, nor love him. Her need for release was too great for either emotion to develop fully within her. Yet she could be jealous.
Baralia flickered. For a heartbeat, she disappeared from Marquart’s perception as she fought to master the burning hatred that the mention of Dael’s name set flaring within her.
“I miss her,” Marquart said. “She filled a part of me that I didn’t even know was empty.”
And then he was alone.
It startled him; only when she left him did he realize how accustomed he had become to Baralia’s presence.
For hours Baralia hid from his perceptions, wrestling with her soul, fighting down the volcanic rage that poured out of her at Marquart’s suggestion that he could even begin to know the meaning of loneliness. more tomorrow