“Until the Son of the Sun stopped her priests from calling evil, the Furies roamed Karse by night,” Talia reminded her. “King Valdemar made a promise to the gods. It may sound silly to you, but Father Ricard has a point. If cultivators say they’re against heaven, we have to ask them what they mean by that.”
Kero straightened, eyes fixed on the glimmers of white-on-white and green on black and brown that had just come into view down the road. “My money’s on translation error. Just wait.”
Talia watched the cultivators and Kellen approach, putting out her hand to rest on Rolan’s nose as he clopped up next to her. She wouldn’t pry at their guests, this was a meeting in good faith… but she listened to her Gift.
Nie Zonghui felt the simplest; the familiar caution of a guard whose noble charge was out of safe territory. But only caution. No trace of malice. “Leave Huaisang alone, Zonghui won’t start anything.”
Kero nodded. “Good.”
Nie Huaisang felt almost familiar, given how many ambassadors and frontier nobles Talia had met over the years. Worried. A bit of nerves at all the strangeness of a foreign land. A touch of casual arrogance…. Wait. That last wasn’t quite the same arrogance as that of most noble heirs she’d met.
Then details resolved enough for her to catch the steel gleaming against Huaisang’s shoulder, and she had to bite her lips not to laugh. Over the shoulder? Seriously? “Alberich would-”
“Be very, very worried,” Kero muttered. “We’ll probably get them to agree to leave the sabers off for the audience. Damn it.”
Talia blinked. “I… thought that was the plan?”
“It was. Only now I wish we could give our Guards the obvious to see as a threat. If they can fight with those things they’re strong enough to strangle a man to death. Or break his fool neck.”
Talia swallowed, glad the cultivators were still too far away to make out faces. Reached out, brushing her Gift over Companion and Chosen.
Oh. He’s so lonely.
White-on-white clothing, filigreed silver hairpiece, black locks pulled back into an unmoving style. Lan Wangji reminded her of the Forest of Sorrows, dark leafless trees glittering with ice and snow. Every movement, every glance, every carefully blank expression; he might have been carved from Winter itself.
On the surface. Underneath?
Companion-warmth. Worry for allies. Longing, aching longing, for one-not-here. Hope, fragile as the first falling snowflake….