“Is it something that can wait?” Evelyn tried, for the tenth time in an hour, to grab hold of a book slipping out of the stack clutched to her chest. Grabbing at it with a hand that was gone. “Shit! Can it?”
“I believe not, Your Worship.”
If Josephine was using that sort of language it must be important. She wasn’t anything but Lady Trevelyan now. Evelyn nudged the fallen books closer to the half-full trunk with her bare foot. She leaned over the railing and only managed to knock dust down onto her bed below.
At least climbing down the ladder from the loft one handed was easy now. Up and down, up and down until it was done. Keeping busy was all that kept her from dwelling on just what she’d done in the past weeks. She stepped back into her shoes and brushed her damp hair away from her eyes. Josie was hovering at the top of the stairs, chewing her lip and twisting her hands. Seeing the Antivan without her quill and papers was like seeing Thom without a sword at his hip.
“What’s so important you’ve put down your To Do lists?”
“It’s-” Josephine motioned for Evelyn to sit at her desk then called down the stairs. “Please come in.”
She sat, wondering if she needed to be wearing something other than old trousers and a ratty jumper. Packing up was a messy business in an ancient castle. Josephine rushed over and gave her a handkerchief to wipe dirt from her hands - well, hand.
“Josie,” Evelyn whispered. “What’s going on?”
“I didn’t think he ought to wait out in the Hall, already people have noticed.”
“Noticed what?” Maker, she didn’t need any more surprises. Enough for a lifetime already, thank you. The heavy tread on the stairs was quick and bright with the jingle of a sword belt, or maybe spurs. Orlesian, then. Evelyn pasted on a toothy and utterly false smile.
She stood, determined to meet the coming idiocy head on. Josie tried to keep her in her seat but Evelyn sidestepped and came up ready to feign interest in whatever nonsense today held.
Not a Chevalier looking for last minute favors, or a scion from some minor House. Not even a runner bringing bad news. He was young. His boots were scuffed but the silverite caps and - yes, spurs - gleamed. He kept a hand on his rapier, and why in Andraste’s name had the guards let him keep it? Evelyn darted an alarmed glance at Josephine, who was watching her like Evelyn was going to faint.
An armed stranger wasn’t the sort of thing she wanted in her quarters, but she thought she could probably manage if he got any ideas. Sixteen at most. Barely old enough to be traveling on his own, if anyone asked her. He hovered at the edge of the carpet, hat tucked under one arm, staring hard at the spot where her left hand should have been. She took the chance to look him over.
In a few years he would be trouble. Black haired and blue eyed; more cheekbone than any young bloke had a right to. A proper rake in the making, and just look at that mouth.
Oh, of course.
Evelyn stumbled, caught herself on a chair, and tried several times to say something intelligent. The young man frowned, smiled, and then let out a self conscious sort of laugh, waving at himself vaguely.
“They tell me, Lady Trevelyan,” he said in thickly Orlesian-accented Common. “That there is no question who sired me.”