Previous: Chapter 4, “Ripples in a Mirror”
Val—properly Valiljos Sturluson—hissed sharply as the tea scalded his mouth. He blew across it to cool it. Blew with too much force, apparently, because the steaming liquid froze into a solid block of ice.
Val sighed and set the cup down on the counter. So much for a nice cup of tea before bed.
As he turned to leave the kitchen, there came a tap-tap-tapping at the window. Val glanced up.
A raven stared back at him. It cocked its head to one side and tapped at the glass once more, demanding entry.
Val looked at the bird for a long moment before cranking open the window, allowing the raven—and no small amount of cold night air—entry into the house. His frost-giant blood let him ignore the cold. The raven was another matter entirely. It let out a hoarse cry and hopped across the counter. It tapped at the ice in his teacup with its beak and made a demanding noise deep in its throat.
“Alright, alright. No need for language like that.” Val glared at the bird and picked up the teacup, holding it upright and looking into the ice as if it were a hand mirror. “What do you want, Gondulrun?”
His sister’s face—fair and white as snow, with no trace of the mixed blood that tinted his features—appeared in the ice. Val’s hand tightened on the cup handle.
“What are you thinking, taking in a sorcerer? Have you gone completely out of your mind? Or has all that coffee just melted your brain?”
Only Gondulrun could be blunt as a war club and sharp as an axe at the same time.
“I don’t see as it’s any business of yours, Gol,” Val said mildly, deliberately invoking his childhood nickname for her.
Gondulrun’s lips tightened.
“You don’t see—” she began.
“I see that you haven’t yet called off your little spies,” Val interrupted. “I thought we agreed that was going to end?”
The raven squawked indignantly.
“He’s not a spy,” Gondulrun retorted. Then, to the raven, “he doesn’t think you’re a spy!”
The bird huffed and puffed out its feathers.
“There are ravens and crows all over that city,” she continued, addressing Val again. “It’s hardly spying if they just happen to notice my little brother consorting with the wrong crowd, and pass the news—”
“So, your defense is they’re just gossiping?”
The raven squawked again, hopping up and down.
“Would you stop that?” Gondulrun snapped at Val. “You’re going to insult him.”
“Him? What about me? I don’t need a keeper, Gol.”
“Obviously you do! You’re being far too reckless—”
“What I’m being is hospitable. And I’m not an idiot. I’m perfectly safe—”
“For three days! What happens after that? You’ve a strange sorcerer sleeping under your roof, spying, prying out your secrets—”
“Secrets? What secrets? You’re completely overreacting—” Val waved a hand in Gol’s face.