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The Hope of Elantris (Page 2)

Still, she said nothing. Dashe was a kind and determined man, but he didn’t have much of a mind for scholarship. That was fine with Matisse-it had been Dashe’s sword, in part, that had saved New Elantris from destruction at the hands of the wildmen. There was no finer warrior in all of New Elantris than her father.

Yet, she did watch with curiosity as Galladon talked about the new line. It was a strange one, drawn across the bottom of the Aon.

And. . .this makes the Aons work? She thought. It seemed like such a simple fix. Could it be possible?

The sound of a cleared throat came from behind them, and they turned, Dashe nearly pulling his sword.

A Seon hung in the air behind them. Not one of the mad ones that floated madly about Elantris, but a sane one, glowing with a full light.

"Ashe!" Matisse said happily.

"Lady Matisse," Ashe said, bobbing in the air.

"I’m no lady!" she said. "You know that."

"The title has always seemed appropriate to me, Lady Matisse," he said. "Lord Dashe. Is Lady Karata nearby?"

"She’s in the library," Dashe said, taking his hand off the sword.

Library? Matisse thought. What library?

"Ah," Ashe said in his deep voice. "Perhaps I can deliver my message to you, then, as Lord Galladon appears to be busy."

"If you wish," Dashe said.

"There is a new shipment coming, my lord," Ashe said quietly. "Lady Sarene wished that you be made aware of it quickly, as it is of an. . .important nature."

"Food?" Matisse asked.

"No, my lady," Ashe said. "Weapons."

Dashe perked up. "Really?"

"Yes, Lord Dashe," the Seon said.

"Why would she send those?" Matisse asked, frowning.

"My mistress is worried," Ashe said quietly. "It seems that tensions are growing on the outside. She said. . .well, she wants New Elantris to be prepared, just in case."

"I’ll gather some men immediately," Dashe said, "and go collect the weapons."

Ashe bobbed, indicating that he thought this to be a good idea. As her father walked off, Matisse eyed the Seon, a thought occurring to her. Maybe. . . .

"Ashe, could I borrow you for a moment?" she asked.

"Of course, Lady Matisse," the Seon said. "What do you need?"

"Something simple, really," Matisse said. "But, it might just help. . . ."

Ashe finished his story, and Matisse smiled to herself, eying the sleeping form of the little girl Riika in her bedroll. The child seemed peaceful for the first time in weeks.

Bringing Ashe into the Roost had initially provoked quite a reaction from the children who weren’t asleep. Yet, as he’d begun to talk, Matisse’s instincts had proven correct. The Seon’s deep, sonorous voice had quieted the children. Ashe had a rhythm about his speech that was wonderfully soothing. Hearing a story from a Seon had not only coaxed little Riika to sleep, but the rest of the stragglers as well.

Matisse stood, stretching her legs, then nodded toward the doors outside. Ashe hovered behind her, passing the sullen Idotris at the front doors again. He was tossing pebbles toward a slug that had somehow found its way into New Elantris.

"I’m sorry to take so much of your time, Ashe," Matisse said quietly when they were far enough not to wake the children.

"Nonsense, Lady Matisse," Ashe said. "Lady Sarene can spare me for a bit, I think. Besides, it good to tell stories again. It has been some time since my mistress was a child."

"You were Passed to Lady Sarene when she was that young?" Matisse asked, curious.

"At her birth, my lady," Ashe said.

Matisse smiled wistfully.

"You shall have your own Seon some day, I should think, Lady Matisse," Ashe said.

Matisse cocked her head. "What makes you say that?"

"Well, there was a time when almost no Elantrian went without a Seon. I’m beginning to think that Lord Spirit may just be able to fix this city-after all, he fixed AonDor. If he does, we shall find you a Seon of your own. Perhaps one named Ati. That is your own Aon, is it not?"

"Yes," Matisse said. "It means hope."

"A fitting Aon for you, I believe," Ashe said. "Now, if my duties here are finished, perhaps I should-"

"Matisse!" a voice said.

Matisse cringed, glancing at the Roost, filled with its sleeping occupants. A light was bobbing in the night, coming down a side-street-the source of the yelling.

"Matisse?" the voice demanded again.

"Hush, Mareshe!" Matisse hissed, crossing the street quietly to where the man stood. "The children are sleeping!"

"Oh," Mareshe said, pausing. The haughty Elantrian wore standard New Elantris clothing-bright trousers and shirt-but he had modified his with a couple of sashes which he believed made the costume more ‘artistic.’

"Where’s that father of yours?" Mareshe asked.

"Training the people with swords," Matisse said quietly.

"What?" Mareshe asked. "It’s the middle of the night!"

Matisse shrugged. "You know Dashe. Once he gets an idea in his head. . . ."

"First Galladon wanders off," Mareshe grumbled, "now Dashe is off waving swords in the night. If only Lord Spirit would come back. . . ."

"Galladon’s gone?" Matisse asked, perking up.

Mareshe nodded. "He disappears like this sometimes. Karata too. They’ll never tell me where they’ve gone. Always so secretive! ‘You’re in charge, Mareshe’ they say, then go off to have secret conferences without me. Honestly!" With that, the man wandered off, bearing his lantern with him.

Off somewhere secret, Matisse thought. That library Dashe mentioned? She eyed Ashe, who was still hovering beside her. Perhaps if she coaxed him enough, he’d tell her-

At that moment, the screaming began.

The shouts were so sudden, so unexpected, that Matisse jumped. She spun about, trying to determine the location of the sounds. They seemed to be coming from the front of New Elantris.

"Ashe!" she said.

"I’m already going, Lady Matisse," the Seon said, zipping into the air, a glowing speck in the night.

The yells continued. Distant, echoing. Matisse shivered, backing up unconsciously. She heard other things. The ring of metal against metal.

She turned back toward the Roost. Taid, the adult who supervised the Roost, had walked out of the building in his nightgown. Even in the darkness, Matisse could see a look of concern on his face.

"Wait here," he said.

"Don’t leave us!" Idotris said, looking around in fright.

"I’ll be back," Taid said, rushing away.

Matisse shared a look with Idotris. The other teenagers who had been on duty watching the kids had already gone to their own homes for the night. Only Idotris and she remained.

"I’m going to go with him," Idotris said, stalking after Taid.

"Oh, no you don’t," Matisse said, grabbing his arm and pulling him back. In the distance, the yelling continued.

She glanced toward the Roost. "Go wake the kids."

"What?" Idotris said indignantly. "After all the work we did to get them to sleep?"

"Do it," Matisse snapped. "Get them up, and have them put their shoes on."

Idotris resisted for a moment, then grumbled something and stalked inside the room. A moment later, she could hear him doing as she asked, rousing the children. Matisse rushed over to a building across the street-one of the supply buildings. Inside, she found two lanterns with oil in them, and some flint and steel.

She paused. What am I doing?

Just being prepared, she told herself, shivering as the screaming continued. It seemed to be getting closer. She rushed back across the street.

"My lady!" Ashe’s voice said. She glanced up to see that the Seon was flying back down toward her. His Aon was so dim that she could barely see him.

"My lady," Ashe said urgently. "Soldiers have attacked New Elantris!"

"What?" she asked, shocked.

"They wear red and have the height and dark hair of Fjordells, my lady," Ashe said. "There are hundreds of them. Some of your soldiers are fighting at the front of the city, but there are far too few of them. New Elantris is already overrun! My lady-the soldiers are coming this way, and they’re searching through the buildings!"

Matisse stood, dumbfounded.

No. No, it can’t happen. No here. This place is peaceful. Perfect. I escaped the outside world. I found a place where I belonged. It can’t come after me.

"My lady!" Ashe said, sounding terrified. "Those screams. . . . I think. . .I think the soldiers are attacking the people they find!"

And they’re coming this way.

Matisse stood, lanterns clutched in numb fingers. This was the end, then. After all, what could she do? Nearly a child herself, a beggar, a girl without family or home. What could she do?

I take care of the children. It’s my job.

It’s the job Lord Spirit gave me.

"We have to get them out," Matisse said, sprinting toward the Roost. "They know where to look because we cleaned this section of Elantris. The city is huge-if we get the children out into the dirty part, we can hide them."

"Yes, my lady," Ashe said.

"You go find my father!" Matisse said. "Tell him what we’re doing."

With that, she entered the Roost, Ashe hovering away into the night. Inside, Idotris had done as she asked, and the children were groggily putting on their shoes.

"Quickly, children," Matisse said.

"What’s going on?" Tiil demanded.

"We’ve got to go," Matisse said to the young troublemaker. "Till, Teor, I’m going to need your help-you and all of the older children, all right? You have to try and help the young ones. Keep them moving, and keep them quiet. All right?"

"Why?" Tiil asked, frowning. "What’s going on?"

"It’s an emergency," Matisse said. "That’s all you need to know."

"Why are you in charge?" Teor said, stepping up to his friend, folding his arms.

"You know my father?" Matisse said.

They nodded.

"You know he’s a soldier?" Matisse asked.

Again, a nod.

"Well, that makes me a soldier too. It’s hereditary. He’s a captain, so I’m a captain. And that means I get to tell you what to do. You can be my sub-captains, though, if you promise to do what I say."

The two younger boys paused, then Tiil nodded. "Makes sense," he said.

"Good. Now move!" Matisse said.

The boys moved over, helping the younger children. Matisse began to herd them out the front door, into the darkened streets. Many of them, however, had caught onto the terror of the night, and were too scared to move.

"Matisse!" Idotris hissed, coming closer. "What is going on?"

"Ashe says New Elantris is under attack," Matisse said, kneeling beside her lanterns. "Soldiers are slaughtering everyone."

Idotris grew quiet.

She lit the lanterns, then stood. As she’d expected, the children-even the little ones-gravitated toward the light, and the sense of protection it offered. She handed one lantern to Idotris, and by its light she could see his terrified face.

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