Chaos & Flame by Tessa Gratton & Justina Ireland

Chaos & Flame by Tessa Gratton & Justina Ireland

Author:Tessa Gratton & Justina Ireland [Gratton, Tessa & Ireland, Justina]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Published: 2023-03-28T00:00:00+00:00

* * *

By the time I head to the evening meal my mood has improved a bit, but not much. After a bath and a costume change—I swear there is a different gown for each hour of the day—I descend the stairs to dinner. The House Gryphon guard who leads the way is careful to keep the boonlight away from my eyes even though I wear my smoked lenses. And when I arrive to the grand dining room, the space large enough to hold a harvest festival, I find that the boonlights are strategically placed to light the space but also keep it dim so that I can remove my lenses.

“I hope you don’t mind my audacity, cousin,” Vivian says, coming forward to clasp my hands in hers. She wears a simple, fitted sheath dress in a brilliant emerald, and her blue-black skin glimmers in the low light.

“Actually, it’s quite welcome. I know my smoked lenses make some nervous, so I am happy to be able to stow them for our first meal together.” I remove my goggles, the motion made easier by my loose hair. I took Gavin’s advice and left my hair down, still an oddity for me. Even so, Andra had been distraught to find that a number of my hair combs were missing, and I had to soothe her anxiousness by saying they probably fell off the wagon during our travels. Besides, I am still far from looking like a beggar. I wear a buttery-yellow dress with magenta panels hidden within the split skirt, the hem weighted so that when I walk there is a flash of color and bare leg. I was not sure that the dress worked, but I quite like the way it moves around me.

I am the first one to dinner, so while the servants pour bubbly water—I politely decline the wine, my lesson learned—Vivian and I strike up a friendly conversation. I mean to ask her about the First Gryphon, but we end up talking about Caspian instead.

“You two seem quite friendly,” I say, after she relates a story about him and an ill-fated game in the House Gryphon maze when they were younger.

“Oh, he is like the unruly cousin I never wanted,” she says with a laugh. “My mother was quite close with the Dragon consort, and when she passed, we were equally devastated.”

“Ah,” I say, suddenly feeling like I’ve stumbled into quicksand. “I’m deeply sorry. I know that some believe House Sphinx responsible for her death.” It’s a vague enough statement that my etiquette coach would be proud.

“Yes, well, I’m afraid House Gryphon has never held that belief. House Dragon’s evidence was hardly convincing,” Vivian says, her words bland like she is not committing several kinds of treason with such a simple statement. “We even had a few of our members with truthseeking boons question the household. Besides, House Sphinx had no previous history with blood magic, so it’s unlikely they could have engineered the consort’s death.”

A chill runs across my bare arms, even though the room is warm.


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