“There is only one Null practitioner in Vaanal.”
“There is only one.” His shoulders slumped. “The others have been done away with.”
Her hands grew cold. She had only ever known one other Null practitioner. Mother. She had disappeared years before; long before the blight. But Yarrow was certain there were others. It was possible sometimes to feel the pull of energy being turned to different purpose. Possible, but she had not felt any practice save the King's in many months. Nor years even. “They are dead?”
“Null-practice is a power that turns quickly to abuse. Silencing them was for the good of the kingdom.” His voice was low and hoarse.
“And yet the King -” She stopped as his hand dropped to the hilt of his belt knife.
“Saying such a thing is treason.”
“It is truth.”
The leaves whispered overhead, trembling under the touch of destiny.
Yarrow didn't move, hoping there was still a glimmer of the boy her father had loved inside the jaded warrior. She had seen a future in which Murdoc was already too far gone, his conscience grown dull from years in the service of a king who had none. And that path ended under the willow with warm blood spilled on damp ground.
Murdoc sighed. “There is still good in him.”
She had her doubts, but she did not wish to break his heart further. “Then we will find it.” She set the mug to one side and laid her hands over his. “But first, the dragon.”
He nodded. “There, at least, is a beast we can slay.”
Her heart pattered, fast and nervous. Had the King moved beyond death?
Against her heart the ash-baby turned and sighed. Perhaps not undying, but protected. She took a slow breath. First the dragon. Then the king.