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Montaigne In Barn Boots PDF Free Download

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Ash just looked at her and said nothing. He was no wordsmith, but experience had taught him that silence was often the winning hand where Lila was concerned.
“Well? What the hell are you doing here?” She held his gaze for a moment or two, as if that might get her a response, then began pacing back and forth next to the bed. “What were you thinking, using magic in the middle of the courtyard? I know you’re a rum healer, but you couldn’t let somebody else be the hero this one time?”
“If I had, Hamon would be dead,” Ash said evenly.
“That’s beside the point,” Lila said, likely because she knew it was true. “Nobody expects you to sacrifice yourself to save somebody else.”
“I’m the reason he got burned,” Ash said. “I had a certain obligation to fix him.”
Lila stopped pacing and swung around. “What are you talking about?”
“Never mind,” Ash said. The less information he divulged to Lila the better, until he figured out her game. “Why are you here? Aside from badgering me, I mean?”
“I’m supposed to ask you if there are any herbs or remedies you might need beyond the standard sort so I can be on the lookout for them.”
“I mean, why are you in Ardenscourt? Is this where you’ve been spending your summers? Cozying up to the king of Arden? You could’ve mentioned that the two of you were friends.”
For a moment, Lila had no comeback. “We’re not friends,” she said, avoiding Ash’s eyes. “I’m here on business.”
“What kind of business?”
“None of yours. I’m not accountable to you.”
“Who are you accountable to?”
“Myself,” Lila said.
“Maybe you’re the one that gave me up to the Darians at Oden’s Ford.”
“Right,” she said, staring up at the ceiling. “And then I turned around and rescued you. You know women—changeable as a day in April. Sometimes we just can’t make up our minds.”
“Maybe you figured you’d collect twice—once from the Darians, for outing me, and once from my mother, for bringing me home.”
Lisa went back to offense. “You’re not planning to do something rash, are you?”
“Such as—?”
“Such as trying to kill Montaigne. Do you think nobody’s thought of that before? Do you think professionals haven’t tried? You’re an amateur, sul’Han. Don’t let the fact that you’re a wizard make you overconfident. This king is surrounded by mages, and he wears a clan-made talisman night and day to protect against magical attacks.”
Bellamy was right, Ash thought. Good to know.
“He employs a taster, and takes antidotes against common poisons on a regular basis.”
What about uncommon poisons?
“Where does he get the antidotes?”
Lila released an exasperated breath. “I should save myself a lot of trouble and hand you over to the king. I’m sure he’d offer a rich reward. Instead, I’ve got to find a way to get you out of here, which won’t be easy now that His Majesty is all smitten with you.” She began pacing again. “I don’t have time for this.”
“I missed the part where I asked for your help,” Ash said. “Why do you care so much? You don’t have anything on the table, as far as I can see. All I want is for you to go about your business and leave me alone.”
“I would love to take care of business,” Lila muttered. “And I don’t need an entitled runaway wizard blueblood princeling mucking it up.”
“No problem,” Ash said. “Stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours.”
“Huh,” Lila said. “We’ll see. You’ll find it’s hard to stay out of anyone’s way in this place.”
22
HOMECOMING
To Jenna’s surprise, Karn and his blackbirds didn’t bother to bring in a healer to treat the wound just below her ribs. Karn treated it himself, packing it and wrapping her middle in linen bandages. It stopped bleeding almost immediately, and turned icy.
At first, she worried that it wasn’t deep enough to kill her, but the way Karn barked orders at everyone told her that he thought it might be. They left her in her bloody fortunetelling clothes, wrapped her in furs, and bundled her into a closed carriage, with three blackbirds and Karn inside, and more up top and riding alongside. It was snowing heavily, and bitter cold.
They’d taken her dagger, but she still had the pendant, at least. Nobody seemed to notice it in all the fuss about her wound and the magemark. She’d tucked it inside the lining of her coat when nobody was looking. She slid a finger in and touched it now and then, wondering how long before that was taken away, too. With any luck, she’d be dead before they took it.
At first she struggled and kicked, and once almost threw herself out of the carriage while it was moving, but she gradually grew weaker and then slept most of the time, conscious of a creeping chill that gradually took over her body. Karn tried to give her soup, and tea, but she resisted, and he spilled more than he got into her.
It was like she felt every bump of the journey. Once, they had to stop to put runners on the carriage to come through the deep snow. Karn swore and pounded his fist on the frame of the carriage.
She heard soldiers over her head, shouting travelers off the road. She felt the pressure of Karn’s eyes, as if by watching her he could keep her from slipping away. As if he could look into her soul, and see what was hidden there.
As her body grew colder, the air grew warmer, moister, and filled with the scent of growing things.
She didn’t know how long they were on the road, but finally one day as she lay between sleep and waking she could hear sounds outside the carriage that told her they were in a city. She heard the horses’ hooves striking cobblestones, and dogs barking. The familiar stench of coal fires burned in her nose, and people were shouting at each other the way they do when they are packed close together. She heard the sound of temple bells overhead.
It must be almost Solstice, she thought hazily. Perhaps they’re taking me somewhere for the holiday. The thought made her smile.
It was a large city, because it was another hour before they clattered across a bridge and into the stable yard at the palace. When they opened the door to the carriage, she could smell horse dung. Or was it the river? She knew she must be in Ardenscourt, the city of her birth. Or, at least, the city where her grandmother had handed her over to the only parents she’d ever known, along with a ruby-hilted dagger and a warning.
She wondered if she would find any answers here.
She was surprised that they would bring a Delphian Patriot this far south to wring answers out of her. Maybe with Clermont gone, they were short of help when it came to torture.
They wrapped her up again and Karn himself carried her into the palace. His face looked haggard, furred with a stubble of beard. On her back as she was, she could see the frowning stone façade stretching above her as she passed beneath it, and the night sky beyond, stained sallow by the lights of the city.
23
THE KING’S HEALER
Ash had no idea what time it was when they brought in his breakfast, but it seemed that he’d just laid down his head when he was awakened by the bang and clatter.
He took the arrival of the servant as a sign that his audience with the king was scheduled for an early hour, so he reluctantly rolled out of bed. He ached all over, and he still had his cuts and bruises, but he was clean, and alive, and he could see, even in the dim light of the banked hearth. That was something to be grateful for.
Despite his weariness, he hadn’t slept well. Lila’s words kept running through his head. You’re an amateur, sul’Han. Don’t let the fact that you’re a wizard make you overconfident. He’d been ready to attack the king in the barn after Crusher went down, without knowing that he wore a talisman. And then he’d all but lost his temper in the courtyard after healing Hamon.
He’d have one chance at the king, if he was lucky. He had to make it count. Now that he was in the palace, with so many eyes on him, he n
eeded to play it smart.
He washed his face using the basin and the mirror. The sunburned look was fading, and his eyes were a little clearer. He pulled his new boots on, being careful of the gash in the back of his leg. They fit perfectly. He ran his fingers through his hair, roughly distributing it, and he was ready.
Breakfast was porridge and sliced fruit. There was no bread. He supposed the destroyed kitchen might affect meal preparation in the palace for a while. Ash thought of Hamon, wondering how he was doing, and where they had taken him. What had the baker seen? Had they asked him any questions?
Despite his worries, Ash was ravenous, as he always was after a difficult healing, and he ate heartily.
All through breakfast, he gripped his amulet, feeding it the trickle of power that was all he could manage. Soon, he’d have enough to do some real damage.
He was just finishing eating when he heard a commotion in the corridor. His door flew open and six blackbirds poured into the room. They were all mages, all collared, and they seemed to be on a mission. One of them shut the door and put his back against it, while the other five surrounded Ash. He grabbed for his amulet, but two of them pinned his arms before he could touch it.
Panic flickered through him again. Had the Darian brother survived after all? Had they come to take him down to the dungeons?
Worse, had Lila betrayed him?
“Relax, boy,” one of them said. “There’s no point in fighting it. You’ll get used to it after a while.” He dug in a carry bag and pulled out a silver collar, inscribed with runes. Ash recognized it as one of the flashcraft collars made by the clans during the wizard wars, now used by Arden to enslave the gifted.
Maybe it was useless to resist, but Ash refused to go quietly into bondage, so it took all five of them to pin him to the floor and fasten the thing around his neck. If he’d had more magic on board, maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. By the end, one of the gifted blackbirds had a bloody nose and another a purpling eye and Ash had a collar around his neck.
He crouched in a corner like a wolf at bay, exploring the thing with his hands. He found the catch, which seemed to be welded shut now. He could feel the engraving under his sensitive fingers. It was a wide piece, and he found he had to keep his head upright or it would bite into his chin or his collarbone.
The blackbirds watched him with varying degrees of sympathy, depending on how they’d fared in the wrestling match. Some wouldn’t look at him at all.
The mage who’d brought the collar extended a hand to help him up. After a moment’s hesitation, Ash took it and stood. “How does it work?” he asked. “Does it make it impossible to use magic or what?”
The mage shook his head. “They want to take advantage of magery—that’s the whole point. So they need us to be able to do spellcasting. Here at court, the collars prevent us from using attack magic and killing charms. That’s the main limitation.”
“Do they work on their own or does somebody have to activate it?”
“They work on their own. General Karn has some magemasters who oversee the program and can change the settings when we go into the field.”
“What triggers it—the nature of the charm or the intent?”
“Trying to figure out a way around it, are you? Good luck.” The mage stuck out his hand. “I’m Marc DeJardin. Call me Marc.”
“Adam Freeman.” Ash paused. “You’re a southerner, right?”
Marc nodded. “There are mages in the south, though the Church of Malthus would like to pretend otherwise. For centuries, we’ve been able to survive, as long as we keep our heads down and our magic to ourselves. Until King Gerard found a use for us.” He tapped his own collar with his forefinger. “Out in the field, these can be used to track our movements, to control our use of attack magic, and to direct our behavior in battle. They’re also used to torture or kill a mage that misbehaves.”
“Define ‘misbehaves,’” Ash said.
The mage snorted. “A mage who doesn’t follow orders, who tries to escape, who fights back. As long as you do what you’re told, they pretty much leave you alone.”
Ash saw then that the flesh around Marc’s collar was thickened, rough, and badly scarred, as if it had been repeatedly burned in the past.
Marc noticed him staring. He smiled crookedly and ran a finger under his collar. “I used to misbehave a lot,” he said. “We’d better go. The king is waiting.”
They walked back toward the center of the palace, the council chambers and the king’s apartments. The guards had to slow their pace to match Ash’s faltering gait. Despite the hour, there were many people about, most of them servants. He didn’t draw as many stares as before, because now he was clean and clad in the bark brown of the healers. It seemed the king of Arden liked to sort people by colors.
His escorts stopped before a door that looked much like any other, except that there was a brace of the king’s guards standing in front. “Prepare to kneel to the king, healer,” the outside guard muttered, giving him a rough push through the doorway. Marc followed him in.
He found himself in a small reception room, sumptuously decorated, with tall windows overlooking the gardens. The king sat finishing breakfast at a small table by the fireplace. Eggs and ham, not babies and kittens, as Ash might have expected.
He’s just a man, Ash told himself. He can die, like anyone else.
There were four blackbirds in the room, plus Marc. All of them were gifted. He was definitely outnumbered, even if he hadn’t been collared. Even if the king didn’t wear a talisman.
But you’re in the same room with him, he thought. That’s a start.
This morning, Montaigne was clad in rather plain clothing, black trousers and a black doublet edged in gold, sturdy boots, his gold necklace with its seal of office. An elaborate dagger was belted at his waist.
“Your Majesty, here is Adam Freeman, collared per your command.” Marc took a few steps back, so that Ash stood alone.
Ash went down on his knee before the king. He didn’t rise until Montaigne told him to do so. When he did, Montaigne was leaning back in his chair, toying with the hilt of his dagger, studying him.
“You look much more presentable this morning, healer,” he said. “I trust you suffered no ill effects from your night in custody?” This spoken with the bite of sarcasm.
“No, Your Majesty. It was very comfortable,” Ash replied, chin up, eyes straight ahead. With some effort, he unclenched his jaw.
Montaigne’s lips twitched. “Shall I assume that you were reluctant to take the collar?”
“Do you blame me?”
“A necessary precaution. It shouldn’t interfere with your abilities, as long as they are employed in the interests of the crown. Should you stray from that, you will be punished.”
“So I’m told, sire.”
“Since the clothes appear to fit, ask DeJardin to have another set made so you can wash them now and then.”
“Thank you for the clothes, Your Majesty. They are much finer than the ones I had.”
Montaigne raised an eyebrow and straightened his lace cuffs. “It appears a night in the palace has improved your manners as well as your appearance.”
“I apologize for my behavior last night. I wasn’t myself, as often happens after a difficult healing.”
The king’s eyes narrowed, as if he weren’t entirely convinced by this performance. “I am glad to see that you have recovered your good sense.” He paused. “I was impressed with what you did with the baker last night. I have a number of skilled healers at court, and I’ve never seen any of them heal a man so damaged so completely, and without the use of herbs or tonics.”
“Herbs and tonics are helpful, Your Majesty,” Ash said. “But I hadn’t any.”
“No. You hadn’t.” The king pulled at his earlobe. “Mages have been an integral part of our military for years. Until now, I had not considered the advantages of using them in the healing service—selectively, of course. So. I’m offering you a
new position, beginning today. I would have you join my guild of healers.”
So after weeks of waiting, Ash would finally have the access he’d sought in the beginning. But it came at a price. He brushed his fingers over the collar. It was already becoming a habit. Sometimes he imagined it was cutting off his air.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” he said.
“Merrill is my master healer. He’ll put together a kit for you, any supplies you will need, any herbal preparations and tonics you favor. We ought to be able to provide most anything. If there is a specialty item you need, not commonly available in the realm, address it with Barrowhill.”
“We’ve already had that conversation, Your Majesty,” Ash said.
“DeJardin will explain what we expect from mages who serve the crown.” King Gerard gestured to Marc, standing just behind Ash. “Escort Freeman to the healers’ quarters and introduce him to Merrill. Tell him to find the boy space with them.”
The healers were housed in a quiet part of the palace that opened onto the service gardens. There was a small library just off the hallway as well, lined with herbals and apothecaries and surgical texts. Ash made a mental note to return there. He had seen more new books to tempt him in two days in the palace than he had seen in the last six months.
As they walked, Marc filled him in. The infirmary served mostly the palace staff and lower level officials whose quarters would not function well as a sick room. The nobility who fell ill usually insisted on being treated in the privacy of their own quarters.
The infirmary was small, but bright and airy, with a tiled floor and whitewashed walls, and six beds lined up against the walls. Everything looked clean, to Ash’s critical eye. He found most hospitals to be deadly places, to be avoided at all costs.
Only one bed was occupied. Ash could see the bulk of a large man under the blanket, apparently asleep.
The attendant went to find Master Merrill. While they waited, Ash made a wish list for his healer’s kit. It turned out that he had plenty of time. The master, when he finally appeared, was a tall man with thinning hair and a weak chin, clad in the same drab colors as Ash. Although he was not especially heavy, there was something soft and yielding about him, as if he never did any significant physical work. He made no attempt to hide his irritation.
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Montaigne In Barn Boots Pdf Free Download Windows 10

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