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. ÊºDuke Emory, I’Ê¹m glad you haven’Ê¹t left yet.”
The small man’Ê¹s 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.
ÊºWhat is it?”
ÊºVioletta is dead.”
ÊºMay the Holy One have mercy on her soul.” The monk bowed his head, and Anthelme followed his lead.
ÊºMay 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. ÊºWhen did it happen?”
ÊºWithin the last candlemark, sir.”
With a bow, the monk left the inn.
ÊºJust a few moments ago, Anthelme.Êº 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.
ÊºI 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’Ê¹t. He stood and followed his valet to their table in the corner.
ÊºAt least you got to see her before she died,Êº Anthelme said after asking the serving girl to bring more ale.
ÊºI wish I hadn’Ê¹t.”
ÊºYou can’Ê¹t mean that, Sire. Surely this visit gave both of you some feeling of closure.”
Varian shook his head. ÊºI told her I couldn’Ê¹t forgive her for what she did to our child.” He stared at the table. ÊºMy father would be ashamed of me, not to mention that my mother’Ê¹s heart would break knowing that her son had the opportunity to ease someone’Ê¹s 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. ÊºI should have forgiven her.”Êº However, he wasn’Ê¹t sure he could have.
ÊºShe left your child to die,Êº Anthelme said, gently. ÊºYour reaction is understandable.”
Varian looked at his friend. ÊºMy 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. ÊºI denied Violetta that.”
ÊºThe Holy One is merciful, Sire. I’Ê¹m sure she has received the peace you were unable to give.”
ÊºI can only pray that’Ê¹s true.” Varian considered the book. ÊºThis 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.
ÊºWhy would she save a weed like this?Êº Anthelme asked as he picked up the flower.
Varian put the dried plant back in the book. ÊºWho knows why Violetta did anything?”