Unsurprisingly, blue bloods bled as red as anyone else. The shade got darker with time, as it dried and tucked on her skin. Kayla didn’t care about her appearance, but she felt in dire need of a bath. The duchess had even puked blood in her boots, by the Gods’ mercy!
She pulled the saddle off of Alba and hanged it. At least her mare had stayed where she’d left her and no one had bothered the poor animal. She started brushing the brown and black, running a hand in the horse’s mane.
Alba moved a little closer. War trained, the blood on Kayla didn’t bother her. The mare appreciated her mistress’ kindness and always returned it.
Kayla accepted a stableboy's offer to clean her saddle with a nod.
Aleander appeared a moment later. He had traded his traveler’s clothes for his blue and white livery. The man moved clumsily, with a bent back, but he had enough confidence to eclipse such pesky details. Combat may have ruined his leg, but it hadn’t left a dent on his pride. And even if it did, it was the kind of battering that made a shield’s edge sharp enough to cut through flesh.
“The Duke wants to see you and your brother,” he said. “Where’s the boy?” The seneschal looked around, surprised to see them separated.
“Tom’s performing an autopsy – he’s examining the corpse,” she added when she saw the confusion in Aleander’s eyes. If it weren’t for her brother, she would have never known that word either.
“That’s a bit morbid.”
She agreed. “Our work’s a grim one. We don’t make a lot of corpses, but we deal with a lot of them.” A deep sigh came out of her. She wasn’t sure which part desolated her the most. The amount of death or the lack of fighting? Being covered in blood without even drawing a knife was an inconvenience in her eye.
“Where exactly would he do that?” Aleander wondered.
“He didn’t move the body. Fear should keep away the curious from the room below the Duchess’ chambers.”
“It won’t. Information is more precious than gems at Court. We’d better get back to him.”
“I was planning to,” Kayla answered. “I just have to get our bags to our room first. Can the Duke wait?”
The seneschal seemed displeased at first, but he soon relaxed. “The highborn do not send people like me around when there’s time to waste. I am not a page bringing you an invitation, girl. You’ll have to learn new ways while you’re here.” Although he did poorly, the man was apparently trying to explain things calmly.
She shrugged. “I still won’t leave our things in the stables. We’ve got good weapons and things that the mages would like to get their hands on.”
“You see, this is the sort of things you don’t want to say out loud,” Aleander replied. “This fake town’s filled with hired ears and eyes. Don’t speak your mind too often.”
He limped outside and gestured at a couple of men. Most guards around here seemed to be battle-hardened. While most castles had boys of fifteen watching over the stables, the palace town used men worthy of commissions to protect just the horses.
Kayla focused on the guards, when she noticed one watching her with an appreciative look, despite the blood splatter on her clothes. She responded with an equally interested glance, surprising the sentry. He wore leather armor painted red. Kayla liked the fire of his hair, ginger curls tied behind his head. She matched the sharpness of his eyes, bright blue shining in his face. She appreciated the confidence of his smile. And once he walked passed her, she continued to enjoy watching him.
“Gent Kayla wants her bags carried to her room,” Aleander replied.
The other guard – the one she hadn’t given much of a look at – crossed his arms. “Where are you staying, girl?” he asked her bluntly.
Kayla could have taken offense if she didn’t see the opportunity his rudeness presented her with. She looked down at him as he did with her and replied: “None of your cursed business, boy.” She saw the redhead smile from the corner of her eye but didn’t look away.
Aleander stepped in and the disgruntled guard looked down. “You can stay here, Miles.” He turned towards the cute one. “Come with us, Aedan.”