TWICE: the serial
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The Lady sat by her cheerful fire, shuffling painted cards and listening to the patter of rain across her inlaid stone floor as it fell gently through the open ceilings of her elegant chamber—more the idea of a room than any practical structure. No drop fell on her, of course, nor on the candles that floated around her. Somewhere in the glistening darkness beyond her chamber’s leaded-glass windows, an owl began to hoot soft inquiries of the night.

These late hours were her favorite time, after all the business of her day was done, alone at last but for the company of her sweet, silent page. After so many, many years, she had finally begun to feel her age. To wish for, or at least to imagine, something…else.

Grant his wish.”

The Lady twisted in her chair to gape over a shoulder at her page. “Jordan?!…” Never since birth had the poor boy uttered so much as a sound to anyone. “Did you just speak?”

He offered nothing in reply but the same untroubled gaze he’d worn ever since his infant eyes had first learned to focus. Then, “Provide him aid, if asked to. But do not try to steer.” The baffling words seemed to touch nothing but his lips.

“Aid…to whom?” she asked, rising to face him in something like alarm—a state she could not recall experiencing for a century or more. “Where have you found…this voice?”

Let him go. And keep him close. But never interfere,” the boy intoned, his face and body as still and empty of expression as those of any ventriloquist’s puppet.

A chill ran down the Lady’s spine. “Jordan, dear, please answer my questions.”

Tonight we forge.

Tonight we plant.

Tonight we mend the hole.

She placed a hand against the back of her chair, light-headed with…disbelief. Ventriloquism. Yes. But… “We…who?” she asked, half breathlessly.

IF…” said Jordan.

“If…” she echoed faintly when nothing more followed. “If what?”

You lie to none, but of our part, you tell no living soul.

“Jordan…dear. I want to understand you. But I… Can you…help me to?”

In his eyes, she saw tears begin to gather. Despite the horrifying circumstances of his birth, she had never once seen Jordan cry. Not even as a baby.

“Is there more?” she asked, as uncertain of whether she wanted the answer as of who her question was actually addressed to.

A single tear escaped to trickle down Jordan’s cheek.

“Oh, Jordan,” the Lady moaned, crossing the short space between them to gather him in her arms. “It’s all right, child. This is none of your doing. I can see that. Nor any of your concern. Come sit here by the fire with me. Be warm and safe. I will make sense of this—for both of us.”

The boy came, as docile as ever, to sit at her feet as she reclaimed her chair. When she reached down to stroke his soft, pale hair, he leaned in to press his cheek against her dress. A few tears still sparkled in his lashes, but none welled up to replace them.

This startling intrusion on his lifelong muteness had been no trick of Jordan’s. That much seemed clear. And just as clearly, she knew no one must ever learn that Jordan had uttered words at all—no matter whose they’d been. The child’s muteness was two-thirds of his protection here.

Only twice in her many centuries had the Lady encountered even credible report of what she was all but certain had just occurred. If her assumption was correct, then something was about to happen. Something large enough to justify this miracle. But what? ‘Tonight,’ they had said. And not until it had already come would she have any way of knowing just how frightened she should be.

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