The Savior – Snippet 14
As she’d predicted, the fever struck Edgar hard. She bathed him frequently to bring the temperature down and made sure that he did not yank the bandage off his arm, which he tried to do several times in his delirium. After two days, the fever broke. Edgar drank a prodigious amount of tea, and she had to order the servants not to bring him wine because he wanted a bottle of that, as well.
“So you stayed with me through all of this?” Edgar said to her. “I suppose I ought to thank you.”
“I was doing my duty to the house,” Mahaut replied.
“Yes, the house. Meaning the old man of the house.”
“And to you.”
Edgar smiled, closed his eyes, and nodded. “Damn right you were.” He chuckled. “Do you want me to tell you what happened?”
“If it will make you feel better to go into it,” Mahaut said.
Edgar snorted in contempt at her, but apparently his need to talk overcame his petulance, and he began to speak.
It was, as Mahaut had suspected, a dueling wound. He’d fought in Garangipore at the dueling grounds the First Family bravos preferred down by the Canal. The weapons had been blunderbuss pistols. The other had gotten his shot off first, at least according to Edgar. He’d scored the hit in Edgar’s arm, but the shot had not brought Edgar down. To the contrary, it had only made him angrier. Edgar had then taken his time lining up his weapon.
“The bugger stood in place, as a gentleman should, do you believe it?” Edgar said, shaking his head.
Edgar had shot the other straight through the heart.
“I don’t consider myself a crack shot or anything,” Edgar said. “But at twenty paces, I’m rather proud of myself for that one.”
“You killed him?”
“Dead before he hit the ground.”
“And who was this?”
Edgar winced. “I’m afraid that’s the problem. He wasn’t a nobody, and he wasn’t just anybody.”
“Just tell me who it was, Edgar.”
Another wince from Edgar.
This really is going to be bad news.
“It was Walter Eisenach,” Edgar replied in a pained whisper.
“Walter Eisenach of House Eisenach? The firstborn son of the gunpowder baron of Bruneberg?”
“I see you’ve been paying attention to your First Family genealogy lessons.”
Did he think she would not know House Eisenach when she was competing against them every day for shipping space on the barges?
“Curse it, Edgar, do you know what this might mean to House Jacobson?”
“Since when did you start caring so much what becomes of the sons of House Jacobson?”
“Edgar, this is not good.”
“I know that, you idiot,” he said. “He had it coming, though. The bastard challenged me to meet him. I would’ve gotten away, but my exit plan from the town ran into a snag, I’m afraid, and I was forced to confront him. It’s his own fault he’s dead.”
“Do you imagine that’s the way his father will look at it?” Mahaut asked.
“I suppose not.”
“Are you going to tell me what the duel was over? Was it over a gambling debt?”
“Oh, now you want to know the details. No, not gambling,” he said. “Go on, guess some more.”
“It was over a woman.”
“Not exactly,” said Edgar with a philosophical sigh.
“Don’t tell me that you killed him because he made some insulting remark? Even you are not that stupid, Edgar.”
Edgar looked up at her with flaring eyes and snorted from an angry intake of breath. But he was too weak to sustain it, and fell back onto his bed. “Like I told you, he’s the one that called me out. And it wasn’t because I insulted him to his face or anything.”
“Are you going to tell me, or shall we wait for Benjamin to drag it out of you?”
Edgar considered her for a long moment. Then he smiled. Not a good sign. When Edgar smiled like this it meant he was up to no good. “I suppose I could tell you. You’re not going to like it. Are you sure you want to hear about it?”
“I think I must.”
“He believed that I had gotten a woman pregnant. He believed that I had insulted the honor of his house.”
“Who did you get pregnant?” Mahaut didn’t really want to hear the answer, but she knew she needed to if she had any hope to contain the damage.
“It wasn’t even his little bastard! The bugger claimed that I gotten his sister with child. She’s married to his best friend from childhood. Can you imagine that? What if your brother Xavier had forced you to marry me, instead of your choosing to do it of your own free will? What if he’d forced you to have sex with me, instead of your liking it so much you begged for more.”
“Let’s not go down that road, Edgar.” Mahaut shook her head. She would not let him get to her, not ever again. “And did you get her pregnant?”
“Perhaps. Who knows? Somebody did, and I have a feeling it wasn’t her husband, since he was away on business in Lindron for the past five months.”
“I won’t ask why you did it,” Mahaut said. “But I do wonder why her, of all women?”
“You may find this hard to believe, wife, but many women find me difficult to resist. In fact, I had turned the poor thing away several times, but she kept showing up on my doorstep.”
“You know how to avoid making a woman pregnant.”
“Yes. Marry a woman who gets her womb torn to pieces by a bullet while fighting in a battle that she had no business being involved in in the first place.” He finished off the statement with a disgusted smile. “Betta Eisenach is pure First Family. Maybe I didn’t use the sheath on purpose. Maybe I wanted to plant my seed in a whole woman of the finest stock.”
Mahaut sighed. Edgar’s insults were like insectoid chirping to her now. “Edgar, this could be a disaster. Do you know what it means when First Families feud? You didn’t die. They’ll want a price in blood for Walter Eisenach. They may even come after your brother.”
“Oh, my brother can take care of himself,” Edgar replied. “Or at least Father will.”
Mahaut considered him, then leaned back in her chair. She had moved it to be by his bedside and had stayed in it constantly for the last three days.
“It’s time to change your bandages again,” she finally said. “We’ll take a good look at the wound when we do.” She allowed herself to smile wickedly. “There’s still a chance that arm will have to come off.”