Angel of Storms (Millennium's Rule, #2)

Angel of Storms (Millennium’s Rule, #2) by Trudi Canavan

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When Betzi had gone to bed before anyone else, claiming to have a headache, Rielle knew she was up to something. Something very dangerous. Something Rielle doubted she’d talk her friend out of.

So she said nothing. Before retiring she slipped into the studio and took two of the weaving combs, hanging them on the old tapestry that served for a door to the room they shared. When the jangle of metal against metal woke her, followed by Betzi’s curse, she quickly sat up.

“You don’t really think I’m going to let you go out there alone,” she murmured.

Betzi turned, her skirts rustling. And I was right about that, too, Rielle thought. She went to bed in her clothes so the sound of her dressing wouldn’t wake me.

“You can’t stop me going,” Betzi replied, removing the combs.

“Betzi, it’s too dangerous for…”

But the girl ignored her, slipping past the tapestry. Rising, Rielle went in pursuit. The faint light of early dawn, penetrating through the seams around the window shutters, sliced the dusty air. The younger woman paused at the top of the ladder to the next floor as she saw that Rielle had followed.

“Why are you dressed?”

“Because I am not going to let you go out there alone.”

The girl’s scowl disappeared. “You’re coming with me?”

“As you said, I can’t stop you going.”

The frown reappeared. “Master Grasch told you to, didn’t he?”

“He may be blind, but he’s not stupid.”

Betzi shrugged, then started down. Her shoes made no noise–because they were slung by their laces over her shoulder. Rielle hadn’t thought of that. Sleeping in her boots had been very uncomfortable.

She followed Betzi down to the living room. The weavers’ workshop contained three floors: the main work space on the same level as the street, the living room above it and the sleeping quarters at the top. “Living room” was an apt description as it was where everything other than sleeping and working was done. Privacy and space were scarce resources in Schpetan homes. Only the front door to the house and the toilet door were solid, everything else was a tapestry or hanging–those above the workshop were almost too faded for anyone to make out the original image.

They sat on a bench next to the stove while the younger woman bound on her boots. Not for the first time Rielle envied her friend’s dainty feet. Betzi was closer to the idealised Schpetan woman than the typical one. Short and shapely with small hands and feet and a pale, heart-shaped face surrounded by a mass of blonde curls, she attracted admirers everywhere. Next to her, Rielle felt big, lanky and dark, whereas among her own people she had been merely “plain”, though Izare had thought her “pleasing” and “interesting”.

Izare. She hadn’t thought about her former love in a long time. The heartache she’d once felt at their terrible parting had faded, and the guilt at what she had put him through had dulled, though it still stung her sometimes, lying awake at night and thinking about the past.

After five years, I expect he thinks of me as little as I do of him–and no doubt would prefer not to at all.

She occasionally wondered what he was doing now. Did he still live in Fyre? Did he still paint for a living, or had she ruined his reputation by association? A lot can change in five years. He could be married and have the children he craved. I hope so. I may not pine for him any more, but I don’t wish him to be unhappy either.

Betzi rose and headed for the small room between the living room and weaving studio where Master Grasch met with visitors. Reaching behind one of the small sample tapestries, she drew out a small bundle tied with a string and secured it to her waistband. She moved to the main door and carefully slid aside the heavy bar across the back. Without a pause to consider what she was venturing out into, or to check if the street was empty, she stepped outside. Rielle followed, and was relieved to find no other people about. Taking the chain attached to the end of the bar, she threaded it through a hole beside the door frame and pulled it when the door was closed, dragging the bar back into place.

It was impossible to do this quietly, and Betzi hissed at the noise.

“We can’t leave them unprotected,” Rielle pointed out.

“I know, Rel, but can’t you do it silently?”

“If you thought that was possible you should have done it yourself,” Rielle retorted. She fed the chain back through the hole. It clattered against the inside of the wall. Somewhere inside, a baby began to cry. Betzi grabbed her arm and pulled her away, across the road and into the shadows of a side street. She paused to make sure they were alone, then let go of Rielle and set off.

Her stride was full of confidence. If Rielle had not known better she’d have assumed it was the na?ve arrogance of a spoiled and pretty young woman who got what she wanted too easily. That was certainly how she had regarded Betzi at first. The boldness was not an indication of weakness and ignorance, however, but of strength and determination. Betzi’s short life had been a difficult one, but every setback had only made her want to seize every moment of happiness she could.

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