The greatly anticipated auction for Gaminel’s Kornalis resulted in a record-breaking 3.4 million crown bid for the previously long-lost instrument. Bidding went on for nearly an hour before the cello was sold to…
It was one of those days where getting dressed wasn’t an option. Linsan staggered down the stairs in her nightgown. The railing creaked as she leaned on it, the slow noises making her sound like she was a broken woman. Her bare foot hit the ground floor and she hesitated, unsure if she wanted to head to the kitchen for breakfast or the living room just to sit.
It had been a terrible night filled with nightmares. She half expected to dream of fire and fight but most of her dreams were of endlessly rushing toward danger but unable to reach it. No matter how fast she ran or what shortcuts she could, she never reached the vague dangers before it was too late.
Hooking her messy hair over her ear, she turned and shuffled for her favorite chair in the living room. Sinking down, she grabbed a blanket and dragged it over her lap despite the morning sun already warming the room.
Duncan was dead. Someone she knew, someone she had grown up with. She struggled to comprehend it, even though she hadn’t seen him for years. Should she have visited more often? Was there something else she could have done? What if, years ago, she and Brook had become friends instead of enemies, would he still be alive?
Tears threatened to burn her eyes. She wiped her face and struggled to keep the sorrow from tearing into her heart.
Her thoughts drifted back to the fight before. No matter how she looked at it, Brook was right. Linsan had done almost nothing during the battle. She didn’t throw a bunch, pick up a stick, or help at all. She was completely and utterly useless.
The stairs creaked slowly.
Linsan wiped her face again, scraping off the dried tears and clearing her eyes. She lifted her head and watching the opening of the living room to see who was coming down the stairs.
When her mother came to the bottom of the stairs. For the first time in many years, her hair was a messy nest with gray streaking through the pale brunette. Her face looked like it had aged overnight, but it wasn’t the lack of makeup but something deeper. The only color on her face were her red-rimmed eyes.
Without looking at Linsan or the living room, Tisin turned and scuffed her way toward the kitchen.
Somehow, seeing her mother in distress made Linsan’s despair deeper. Her mother had always taken care of her appearance. She was cheerful and beautiful. That was the way things were. That’s the way they should have always been.
Linsan sniffed and buried her face in the warm blanket. Why did he have to die?
Her mother came back after a few minutes. “Lin?”
Linsan looked up.
Tisin stood at the foot of the stairs with a plate of leftovers from the night before. She looked haggard. Then, she cocked her head. “Oh, Baby.”
Setting the plate on the stairs, she came over and sat on the arm of the chair. When Linsan shifted over, she slid her rear down and pulled her daughter into a tight hug. “I’m so sorry.”
“I-I couldn’t do anything.”
“That’s okay.” Tisin kissed her cheek.
Linsan wrapped her arm around her mother and took a deep breath. Even the missing perfume made the experience surreal, too much had broken too fast.
“I could have.”
Her mother said nothing.
“He died, Mommy. He died and I couldn’t do anything.”
Tisin kissed her forehead. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“He was our friend. He’s been helping us for so long. Why did he have to die? Why him?”
“I know. I know.” Her mother let out a soft sob and pressed her knuckles to her mouth for a moment. Her eyes shimmered until she closed them tightly. “This is just grief. He was our friend and we will cherish him, but right now, we just have to let this happen.”
Linsan shook her head. “How? I couldn’t—!”
Her mother silenced her with a finger. “You remember, Tears on a Cat’s Whiskers?” It was an older play her mother had done, about a man who fell in love while training dalpre, the animal people. Her mother had played Filil, the leading cat woman who was tragically murdered at the end of the second act.
“After Filil died, what did Padoris do?”
“He tried to kill himself,” muttered Linsan. “First by drinking and then he tried to cut his throat.”
Her mother glared at her. Then her expression softened. “But, he didn’t succeed. He went out and spent much of his fortune educating the dalpre, giving them a home, and helping them stand on their own. He found something to keep her memory going.”
Linsan nodded slowly.
Tisin reached over and cupped Linsan’s chin. “He was sad, he grieved, but then he did something. We’ll do the same. But we all need a little time to let the tears flow. You can’t rush one any more than the other.”
Linsan froze for a moment. That’s what she needed, to do something about Duncan’s death.
“Lin?” There was a worried tone in her voice.
Linsan blinked and gave her mother a smile. “Y… I understand.”
“Are you sure?”
Tisin sighed and looked toward the stairs. “Your father and I are not really feeling up to cleaning today. Is it okay if we just let the world stop? Tomorrow, I’ll go shopping. We can see if the boy next door will pick up a meal for us.”
Nodding, Linsan hugged her mother tightly. Even as she did, her mind spun through threads of ideas, seeking out something she could do to help. The guards were investigating his death, but she doubted the murderers were still in town. They would be fools to do so. There was also no chance the guards would be able to follow them if they had left; they had to remain in town for the other crimes.
Kamel also said the same men had set fire to the family valley. They meant they were probably after Palisis from the beginning, not Duncan. The violin was worth millions and Duncan probably gave his life trying to stop them.
She tightened her jaw. If she could find the murderers, then she would also find her family’s legacy. All she had to do was find the violin and then she would find the killers.
Linsan looked at her mother.
“Don’t do anything foolish.”
“I won’t,” Linsan lied. Her mind flashed through possibilities. Trying to take on Duncan’s murderers and bringing them to justice on her own was completely foolhardy, not to mention deadly. They killed once, they wouldn’t hesitate for an eighteen year old girl.
However, she had seen enough of her mother’s plays to know that it only took someone in the right place to disrupt a sale or bring attention to criminals to get them to justice. She could do that. Just find them and make sure their crimes were known.
Her mother’s eyes seemed to flicker back and forth as she stared at Linsan. There was the faintest tightening around her mouth but it faded quickly. She sighed and leaned forward to kiss Linsan on her forehead again.
Linsan forced her excitement from her face, her mother would stop her. She put on her most convincing sad expression and nodded. “That helped a lot. Thank you.” She hugged her mother tightly.
Tisin levered herself out of the chair. She frowned before heading over to the stairs. “Do you need anything?”
Linsan fought the urge to be excited. “T-That’s okay. I’m just going to stay here for now.”
Her mother gave her an unreadable look before walking up the stairs.
Leaning forward, Linsan listened to her mother’s footsteps. She looked over her shoulder and into her father’s study. Stacks of papers and essays were heaped up on the table. The thieves had either stolen Palisis for someone specific or they were going to put the violin up for auction. In either case, it wouldn’t happen in a small town like their own. It had to a city known for music or at least had many rich patrons. Her father would have written about them.
Her parent’s door closed with a click. A few steps later, she heard their bed creaked as Tisin settled down.
Linsan surged out of her chair and rushed into her father’s study.