Here is another excerpt from Sword & Illusion, available at all your favorite on-line bookstores:

When the monk saw him, a look of recognition and relief appeared on his face. ʺDuke Emory, I’ʹm glad you haven’ʹt left yet.”

The small man’ʹs eyes grew soft, and he handed the scroll and a book to Varian.

As he unrolled it, the Prince felt the color leave his face, and he dropped into a nearby chair. Anthelme rushed to his side.

ʺWhat is it?”

ʺVioletta is dead.”

ʺMay the Holy One have mercy on her soul.” The monk bowed his head, and Anthelme followed his lead.

ʺMay it be as you say,” Varian replied, blinking back unwanted tears.

He closed the scroll and handed it back. He set the book on the table. ʺWhen did it happen?”

ʺWithin the last candlemark, sir.”

ʺThank you.”

With a bow, the monk left the inn.

ʺJust a few moments ago, Anthelme.ʺ A part of him ached at the lost opportunity to go back and forgive her. Another part was glad that she would face Judgment without it.

ʺI heard. Come back to our table, Sire. You are attracting a bit of attention.”

Varian glanced around to see that several patrons were watching him, while pretending they weren’ʹt. He stood and followed his valet to their table in the corner.

ʺAt least you got to see her before she died,ʺ Anthelme said after asking the serving girl to bring more ale.

ʺI wish I hadn’ʹt.”

ʺYou can’ʹt mean that, Sire. Surely this visit gave both of you some feeling of closure.”

Varian shook his head. ʺI told her I couldn’ʹt forgive her for what she did to our child.” He stared at the table. ʺMy father would be ashamed of me, not to mention that my mother’ʹs heart would break knowing that her son had the opportunity to ease someone’ʹs passage to the next world, and I refused. And my own wife, too.”

Without looking at his friend, Varian took his tankard and emptied it in one gulp. ʺI should have forgiven her.”ʺ However, he wasn’ʹt sure he could have.

ʺShe left your child to die,ʺ Anthelme said, gently. ʺYour reaction is understandable.”

Varian looked at his friend. ʺMy mother cared for the dying. You know that. She raised all of her children to understand that whatever has gone before, when a person is facing that final journey, he or she deserves forgiveness and peace.” He shook his head. ʺI denied Violetta that.”

ʺThe Holy One is merciful, Sire. I’ʹm sure she has received the peace you were unable to give.”

ʺI can only pray that’ʹs true.” Varian considered the book. ʺThis is her prayer book. I
remember how frustrated I would be, seeing her reading this when she could have been talking to me.”

He opened it. A stalk of dried thistle that had been pressed between the pages fell to the ground.

ʺWhy would she save a weed like this?ʺ Anthelme asked as he picked up the flower.

Varian put the dried plant back in the book. ʺWho knows why Violetta did anything?”