The Midsummer Ball was always the best one of the year if you asked any of the bards with a lick of sense. It paid the best, and there was no snow to trudge through. As the leader of the Court Musicians, it was Ophelia’s job to see all the visiting bards in. And check them for contraband, but that was much lower on her list of priorities.
“Davish, how are the kids?”
“Marchelle, you’re married now?!”
“A wild boar you say? Shame, he was always so handsome.”
She missed everything thanks to this contract. Sure, the pay was fantastic, and her rooms in the castle were beyond exquisite….But her blades had grown dull, and her adventuring boots hadn’t seen oil in ages. The itch to learn a new story with her own eyes and ears was no longer satisfied with just a gentle scratch.
“Now now, my sweet Ophelia. Why the frown?”
The next name on the list, and the tall, slender man who came attached to it were always a sight for sore eyes. He signed his name on the line before hugging the woman who threw herself against his chest.
“I’ve made a terrible mistake, Grey. I”m not ready to settle yet. But I have a year left on the stupid paper I signed.”
“Oh my little Ravenwing.” he cooed, running a hand through her dark hair, fingers brushing across a feather that was hidden in the strands. “I told you that before you came up here to the frosty north, didn’t I?”
“I never listen.” she sniffled, releasing the man. “Can you help? I don’t know how to get out of it.”
“I may have something that I can work out…But I won’t do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself.”
“I can do the hard part. I’m not a child.”
“Sure you aren’t.” he chuckled as she fussed and fixed her hair to again lie flat. “Come and find me when you’re done playing scribe.”
“You’re the best, Grey.”
“Don’t I know it.”
“It was the damndest thing. Lord Alaris was healthy as a horse just a few days ago. His poor wife. And the children!”
“Oh don’t think too hard about his wife. She was sleeping with the jailer, didn’t you know? She’s not half as innocent as that pretty smile makes her out to be.”
“The jailer? No! You don’t think that he…”
“The man locks murderers up for a living, you don’t think that he could have learned a few things?”
As Ophelia walked at Grey’s side, she absently twirled a glass vial in her fingers. Green liquid sloshed with each twitch. She frowned as she listened to the little whispers, looking up at Grey.
“You know my way would have been a lot more fun.”
“And obvious considering the man paid you to do the same to his rivals.” Grey patted her shoulder gently. “We’ll make a lady out of you yet, Ophelia.”
“Says the man whose plan ruined a perfect good set of silken sheets and woke half the guard.”
“But we’re leaving, aren’t we? And you didn’t have to do anything but whisper. Much less messy. Words are a much more effective venom than your Nightshade.”
Ophelia rolled her eyes, leaning on him as they walked through the gates. It didn’t matter how she got out of the city. All that mattered was her boots were oiled, her blades tended to, and she could work again. And the Gods help the Northern kingdoms because of it.