“He’s perhaps driven more than any other man for this to succeed,” Sylphianna said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he wanted to avenge his honor.”
“…Is that right,” Xavener said, as he suddenly switched his focus to painting the chessboard that Ewain and Norreck had left on the table next to the divan Sylphianna was lying on.
A Portrait Is Worth A
“I do hope I do
you justice,” Xavener said to his subject as he worked on his latest painting.
“I’m rarely honored with such a wonderful opportunity.”
just laughed as she adjusted her position to make herself more comfortable. Her
name of Sylphianna fit her well, as her beauty was comparable to the radiantly
lovely fairy-folk. Her bright golden hair, fair skin and gleaming brown eyes
contrasted well with the bright green sheet she had half-draped over herself,
and the sparkling blue fountain behind her. To Xavener’s delight, the sun was
shining at just the right angle, giving him the exact amount of light he needed.
“It’s the least
I can do after how you helped me,” Sylphianna said. Her family was part of
House Haxx, one of the weaker Celestial Houses. By itself, House Haxx couldn’t
have afforded a large enough dowry to impress Sylphianna’s new husband, Count
Ewain Avack Del Naelax. Fortunately, Sylphianna had a friend in Xavener, who
financed her dowry out of his own personal fortune.
returned her smile. He’d accompanied his father Norreck on a visit to Count
Ewain for one of the social engagements so important in Aerdy high society.
Norreck and Ewain were out hunting, Xavener having begged off with the excuse
that he was ‘too young’ to accompany them. Instead, he stayed behind to paint
Sylphianna, with the intent of making a fine gift for Count Ewain when he
“And how has
married life been treating you?” Xavener asked, pausing a moment to decide on
his next brushstroke. “I hadn’t thought Count Ewain to be quite your type. I’d
have thought he’d be too…”
Sylphianna said. “Too old for me?”
“He’s a good
twenty-three years older,” Xavener said as he resumed painting. “And you’re
Sylphianna said, glowing with pleasure at Xavener’s mistaking her age. “And
what does it matter? You’ve seen us at the balls you host-how many other women
could boast being on the arm of someone so high in House Naelax?”
The Overking’s Celestial House, Xavener thought to himself, but did
“So it’s not
simply about the money, then?” Xavener said.
“If it were, I
might have wedded you,” Sylphianna said, a thin smile crossing her face. “Not
your father, though-being a stepmother wouldn’t suit me. No, House Naelax is
where the potential is at-more than you can imagine!”
Xavener said, glad that his easel and canvas hid his eager expression from
heard about how Herzog Chelor has been chastised by Ivid V for his failure to
regain the lost lands of the Iron League,” Sylphianna said.
“Of course I
have,” Xavener said. “Ivid finished his berating of Chelor by mentioning how
hungry Hextor could get, and how much he enjoyed it when his victims screamed.”
“It was all the
incentive Chelor needed,” Sylphianna said, her smile growing wider. “He’s
hatched a new plot to engineer a rift between Idee and Sunndi. Idee’s Count
Fedorik will be assassinated in what will seem like a failed attempt by Sunndi
to strike at Aerdi agents trying to infiltrate the Count’s court.”
“And what would
that lead to?” Xavener asked, although he already had a good idea of what
Sylphianna would say next.
Sunndi’s relations will deteriorate in the accusations between them,”
Sylphianna said, warming to her subject. “When South Province attacks Idee,
Sunndi will be much slower to answer Idee’s calls for help than they normally
would. Chelor will have a beachhead in Idee, and Sunndi will be easy prey once
it’s cut off from the rest of the Iron League. Chelor can consolidate his
forces before he strikes west into the Headlands. Onnwal will collapse even
with Irongate’s help, and Irongate itself will starve under siege.”
“And I suppose
we’ll then have enough power to take the Lordship of the Isles?” Xavener said,
again thankful that his easel and canvas hid his expression from Sylphianna.
circle,” Sylphianna said. “Quite a few of the Herzog’s courtiers are part of
the plot-the spoils will make them wealthier than House Darmen!”
“So it’s all
for money, then,” Xavener observed.
Sylphianna said. “For others-like my own dear Ewain, of course-it’s about the
glory and honor. Then there’s that knight Caradoc-and what a man he is!”
him?” Xavener asked, managing to repress his smile.
driven more than any other man for this to succeed,” Sylphianna said. “If I
didn’t know better, I’d swear he wanted to avenge his honor.”
right,” Xavener said, as he suddenly switched his focus to painting the
chessboard that Ewain and Norreck had left on the table next to the divan
Sylphianna was lying on.