Once, early on, Marquart had begun to love Dael; but his suspicion had wounded that love and his execution of Dutta had killed it. Clevis had held him in respect, affection, and trust, but that had now turned to a brittle loyalty. All his wardens feared him. His men thought him narat. He had refused all of Dymal’s attempts at unsentimental fellowship.
There was only one human tie left to Marquart now, Tidac, and he did not understand his son at all.
# # #
Midsummer of the following year, in the evening after the day’s main meal, Tidac and Marquart stood watching the sunset on the rimwall of the manor house. Far out, miles southeastward, the Citadel was a black mass growing up against the sky. Marquart had spent the day there and now Tidac asked about it.
Pleased at his interest, Marquart replied, “It will only be a few months now until it is completed. The floors were finally pegged in last week, and the slate tiles should be up in another two weeks. The cook’s crew is filling the pantries. He says he will start his first cooking fires shortly.”
The boy nodded but made no reply. Marquart forbore comment. Tidac was approaching the ninth anniversary of his birth, but he looked years older. His skin and hair were dark, like his father’s. He was short and his body was massive with muscle — like his father’s. He was taciturn to the point of silence, like his father. But for all their similarities, the boy remained distant, ignoring Marquart’s attempts at camaraderie.
Like his mother.
What Marquart could not know was that he and Tidac were never alone.
Since that night at the Inn of the Falling Griffon, Baralia no longer made herself visible to Marquart. She had done all she could; it would have to be enough. Still, Marquart was her only tie to humanity so she was ever at his elbow though he never saw her.
Yet Tidac saw her. She was no longer a vague presence to the boy, but a fully fleshed, brown skinned, brown eyed woman, ever dressed in the same robe her body had worn as she lay waiting for enreithment. Tidac saw her with his eyes, heard her groans and sighs with his ears, and felt her malice and loneliness to the depths of his soul.
He recognized her uniqueness. He knew that there had never been another like her, and that her existence represented a terrible wrongness.
Whenever Marquart thought he and Tidac were alone together, and reached out to his son, Baralia stood with them radiating hatred. And Tidac, whom Marquart had taught to, “speak little, listen much, and confide in no one,” never told his father what he saw.
# # #
Marquart asked how Tidac’s studies were progressing.
“Well enough,” the boy replied. “Weikata taught me the Firestarter spell last week and I have mastered it. I can bring up flames even from wet wood.”
Marquart smiled. “A good trick. I could have used it many times.”
“I could teach you.”
Marquart shook his head.
“I have memorized the Ved arcanus,” Tidac said. “It isn’t very long. Not like the Comanyi scriptures.”
“Has Weikata shown those to you?”
“Yes, but we don’t spend much time on them. What is the point of learning the genealogies of Gods who left a thousand years ago?”
That was a clean and honest lie. Baralia had nothing to do with it. It was the kind of lie any boy would tell his father. more tomorrow