Kiss of the Dragonfly

20. Risen One

Petra sat in the shelter, in the dark, crosslegged and straight-backed. If she didn’t sit straight, her shirt pulled in the ointment and made the cuts itch. There were no bandages now, because Jess had said the wounds should breathe.

Godshade had fallen, but Petra didn’t care.

Outside, Bane barked once and the sheep bleated.

Bane knew his job and didn’t need her. That’s what made him valuable—more valuable than she’d ever been. Sipe and Basta had known their jobs too. Petra shook her head. She was thinking again. There was no point to thinking. She was dead, and dead people shouldn’t think, or care.

For two days it had been easy not to think. She only dimly remembered the time. There had always been someone with her. Her mother, or Tegan, or Tegan’s mum, or Elder Jess. Always someone to give her water when she woke, to help her with the pot, to massage ointment into her back. Tegan had slept on the floor beside her.

She’d not thanked them, or said anything.

Her mother, who had to say something every few minutes, had explained. Jess had made the ointment from supplies in Genna’s tent. Instead of the angry welts they would have remained if left untreated, the cuts had dwindled to sprays of fine red lines, like cat scratches. But they would never entirely disappear. Petra would bear the mark of the silk all her life. Her mother had wept, saying that.

Petra had said nothing and felt nothing. She was dead, and the dead don’t care.

Today, Jess had ordered her up to a nearby pasture with some sheep. She’d gone meekly, not looking at the kids who watched and whispered, nor at Gench who grinned insolently from Sten’s seat at the gate. Why had she been allowed to accompany sheep to pasture at all? It was like the Broks feared Jess and let her have her way.

Petra suppressed the thought.

Just after godshade ended, Tegan entered. Before she closed the shelter door, the light showed a different Tegan than the lively, cheerful girl she’d been before Grapple’s arrival. This Tegan looked haggard. She sat beside Petra.

After a while, she spoke. “Petra, you don’t have to say anything. But I need to talk.”

More than her words, the tone of Tegan’s voice made Petra forget that she was dead. “I’m here, Tegan,” she whispered.

“Canuut said the valley scouts haven’t reported back. Senna’s dad is one of them.”

The deadness in Petra twisted into something cold and sick. Mollos. Mollos Brok, the camp guard who moved like a scout—like a hunter. That’s why he’d slipped out of camp.

Tegan continued. “Gronnor’s done things since you were punished. They were council decisions, but not really, because the Broks always vote as he says, except Elka Brok didn’t, and Gronnor had her thrown out, and Canuut as well, to keep his majority. Jess says the council is a sham and Gronnor just rules by decree.

“He had your mum struck off and gave the treasury to Borak’s mum. And he said that kin like Legless Cob will be left to the charity of downlanders after Winter Camp. He says the clans can’t afford to have them drag along.”

Petra listened, and despite being dead, anger bloomed. Drakhorns had always looked after their own, especially the men who’d been crippled in a raid.

“And while the whole camp was assembled to hear that, his men took the weapons from the Drakhorn tents. I guess he thinks we’d revolt.”

Petra’s fists and jaw clenched. We should have done that long before.

“Cort had a big row with Gronnor and was banished from camp. I think he’s been sleeping in a shelter. And Petra, Gronnor announced …” Tegan’s voice cracked.

Petra watched her profile in the dimness.

“He announced that Dinan is to marry Clem Brok, and Elsa Brok is to marry Fallon, and I’m to marry him.”

“What?” gasped Petra.

“I’m betrothed to Gronnor. I’m to become his wife when I turn fifteen.”

The ground seemed to drop away. “But … but Tegan, he can’t … your mum …”

“Mum says that under clan law the council has the power. The marriage is to be in five weeks, on my birthday.” Tegan’s voice didn’t sound like hers at all.

Petra put her arm around her cousin and pulled her close. Tegan was trembling. Every part of her was trembling.

Seeing Tegan like that dismayed Petra. This was her soulmate, her gentle mentor in the ways of life, the girl who was so much wiser and braver than herself. Tegan faced life bravely every day, not just in dreams. She was the one who’d comforted Petra after Tarran’s death, the one who’d helped at the births of three babies and countless lambs, the one who’d held Elder Gillan’s hand while she died. She wasn’t afraid of getting married or leaving home or having children or growing old—things Petra dreaded to think about.

“Tegan, he’s mad—he’s insane!  When Ward’s back, he’ll overrule all of it—”

“Don’t you see?” croaked Tegan, “Ward wouldn’t just overrule him—he’d kill him. So would my dad, or yours. Gronnor wouldn’t have done what he did to you, or any of it, if he thought they were coming back. He must be sure they’re never coming back.” Tegan curled around her knees and began to sob.

Petra held on tight and said nothing. She couldn’t cry the way Tegan did. She’d never been able to do that. But she wasn’t dead any more, or if she was, she was a risen one. And she knew what she had to do.

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