The corpse’s heart juddered and then began to pump fresh, slow blood through its decaying veins.
“Not decaying any more,” Kaede murmured.
“What was that, witch?”
Kaede ignored his lord’s question. His eyes stayed with the body on the altar,
watching as the blood flushed the exposed skin not covered by its simple white funeral shift. “Nothing, lord.” His fingers dipped into the liquid gold, sweeping intricate symbols over her face and neck. The symbols writhed and Kaede snatched his fingers away. He winced. These were the final rushes of power. She was almost there, almost returned to bright life. Almost. He risked a look to the arched entrance of the ancient cavern. Light edged over the sky in a soft pale grey. It was only dawn. That knowledge had tiredness eating into his bones.
Had he only been bonded to her for a few hours? It felt like forever.
For the hours of darkness, he had stood over the Lord Tarou’s dead wife and worked his skill. A skill he shouldn’t have, and certainly not one his lord should know about. The shadows cast by the twisting patterns covering the woman’s skin danced over the cavern wall. Kaede kept his gaze fixed on his gold-smeared fingers. Tarou knew what he was and that scared him more than bringing a dead woman back to life.
How had his lord known?
Kaede’s jaw tightened. He knew his mother had to have talked in her final hours. Tarou had presided over her interrogation, obviously wrung secrets from her. The old soured anger swelled again, tasting bitter on his tongue, but he cut out those thoughts. They had no place in his head. He had a job to do.
He forced his gaze back to the woman’s face—her features calm and delicate even as she fought her way back to life. He hoped the Lord Tarou knew what he was doing. His wife couldn’t be that vital to him. The rumours ran that she was only a bartered woman from a wealthy Northern family. She had no connections, no special talents. To risk a resurrection was insane. Kaede said a silent prayer for his own soul.
Her lips parted. Dry. Cracked. With a cry, her spine arched away from the cold slab of the altar, her limbs twisting. Kaede grabbed at her arms, and held her down as her soul clawed its way back into her body. The witch willed all of his strength into keeping her still. Her soul had to settle. That fact the scrolls had stressed, stressed in blood and bone.
“Witch, what is happening?”
Kaede gritted his teeth. “She is almost back with us, lord.”
She shrieked, the cry piercing Kaede’s heart. That hadn’t been in the scrolls. A soul
was supposed to crave the touch of its body. But he couldn’t panic. Not now.
She fell limp to the stone in a sudden rush. Kaede fell forward, pushing hard against her arms. She groaned. He released his tight grip and took support from the raised lip of
the stone dais.
Her breathing was slow, even and there was a slight, living flush to her cheeks. The
Lady Annaliese was the most beautiful woman in the king’s court. Kaede’s eyes flicked to the hovering lord. He stood taut, grim, his stark face intent in the candlelight. Tarou wanted more than just his pretty wife. It was there in his narrowed, black gaze, the whitened fingers that gripped the dagger at his hip.
Kaede stared back at Annaliese, watched as her eyelashes struggled to release the oil clogging them. He’d assumed that she was just the vacuous smile gracing Lord Tarou’s arm. He’d seen nothing special in her. Nothing at all.
Kaede rubbed gently at the muck and oil the ceremony required, erasing it from her skin in the reverse of how he had drawn it. With a final Word, the ash circle protecting them both swirled into the air and vanished.
Her eyes flickered open. They were a dark blue—evidence of her Northern Clan. There was no focus, just wild fear. Kaede blinked. He had never seen that before, none of the lords’ wives showed any emotion other than perfect serenity and happiness.
“Lady?” Kaede whispered, bending to catch sound from her parched mouth. His hand gripped the dais, helping to support his exhausted body.
Her lips moved and there was a rush of nonsensical syllables. She searched his face for understanding and her panic grew.
Pulling in his control, Kaede pressed his thumb into her forehead and forced out tired Words, grimacing at the pull of them in his flesh. He murmured a silent prayer, needing his final spell to work. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe—
“What is this place? Who are you? Why...” She reached up to tug at his thin, silver robe. Kaede lurched over her as she caught him by surprise. He stared at her as her voice faded away. A knot tightened in his stomach. What had he done? He’d failed. That failure would see her dead again. And him right along with her.
“Is she well, witch?” Tarou demanded, pushing forward to stand beside his silent wife. Annaliese simply stared at her moving fingers, examined her palm, ignoring her husband.
“Yes, lord.” Kaede pushed back the hood of his robe and held the woman’s staring eyes. “The resurrection was successful.” The lie soured his mouth.