For backgound information on the book, click here.
Chapter 1: A Death (Mia)
The hour bells sounded, reverberating through the tower, then faded to silence. Mia and both her husbands were on time. Tella, her co-wife and sister, was late.
Hands folded in her lap, Mia sat perfectly still.
Across the table, Hurst tapped his fingers on the polished wood. Jonnor rose, paced twice round the room, pausing to look through the tower window at the everyday life of the Karning below, then took his seat again. Although they were cousins, the two men were not alike. Hurst’s rough features and plain brown jacket made him look like an ordinary Skirmisher, rather than a Karningholder. Beside him, Jonnor looked like a prince from the old stories, his blue woollen coat enhancing his figure.
Mia forced herself to take her eyes off him. She smoothed away a crease in her russet tunic, then stilled her hands.
“Do you think perhaps we should begin without Tella?” she said.
“Let’s wait a little longer,” Jonnor said. “She’s only just back from the Ring, so she’s bound to be a bit unsettled today.”
“Did she tell you what the Voices wanted?” Hurst asked.
Jonnor’s hands clenched for a moment. “We… discussed it.” Discussed! That was a mild word for the shouting Mia had tried very hard not to listen to. “She wasn’t very forthcoming.”
“I imagine it was just the usual,” Mia said quickly. “She missed her interview last winter, because of the baby.”
“The usual interference, you mean,” Hurst said, one eyebrow raised.
Mia clucked at him, scandalised. “The Voices are there to help us. They have to ask searching questions.”
Hurst grunted, shifting his bad leg to a more comfortable position. “If you say so. I’d just like to know if anything out of the ordinary came up.”
“Gods, Hurst! You do go on. She’d tell us if there was anything to worry about,” Jonnor said, rubbing his eyes. He looked as if he hadn’t slept well, but then he was just back from a difficult skirmish, and that always made him a little tetchy.
Mia wished she could soothe him, but he rarely accepted her help. Still, she knew countless little ways to increase his comfort. She would order his favourite dishes for meat that evening, and have plenty of good northern wine to hand. That always helped him to relax and return to his affable self. ‘Ah, there’s nothing finer life can offer than red meat, red wine and the company of both my wives.’ How often had she heard him say so?
The small bells sounded, and they too faded to silence.
The door flew open, and Mia’s co-wife stood framed in the doorway, her curves clad in shimmering green silk. Read more »