Within ten minutes, Esmina was fully dressed, shoes and all, outside her father’s chambers. She exhaled, taking pleasure in the last moment of solace as she knocked on the door.
“Esmina,” a low voice from the other side rumbled. “Come in.”
She opened and shut the door in one motion, as silently as possible. The room was tidy, though not by it’s owner’s hand. To her left was her father’s bed, neat and proper since the moment he got out of it. Now, his form was hunched over something on his desk, his silhouette outlined by the bright shaft of light that poured in through the window next to him, which was the only source of light. He wore a bright coat, which was contrasted by the black hair that masked his face. She gulped.“You sent for me?”
He did not look up. “I sent for you hours ago.”
“Gaelin told me–”
“Girl, that Tenshari is nothing more than a servant. It would do you well to remember that.”
“Yes, father.” She had her fists clenched, but her voice was polite. Gentle, even.
She did as she was told. With every step, her apprehension grew. When she stood beside him, he glanced behind and sat up. He held a quill, and on the desk was a parchment. He had clearly just signed it, but Esmina couldn’t recognize it without examining the words.
“May I read it?”
He slammed his fist on the table, causing the inkwell and a few books to rattle. Her heart skipped a beat at the motion. “If you cared more about your education you would be able to recognize it. This is a Night Seal.”
She frowned. Was this some sort of test? “Forgive me, father, but Night Seals aren’t written on parchment.”
He sighed, an angry rumble beneath it. He stood from his chair and pushed the seat in, looking out the window, at the distanct city nestled in the hills. “Night Seals are bought and finalized through a written document. Then, you go and turn it in, where it is traded for the Seal itself. This parchment serves as a temporary Night Seal until I get the official one in my hands.”
“I don’t understand. You forged a document in order to receive a Night Seal?”
A harsh impact against her cheek sent an involuntary gasp of pain from her lips. The stinging sensation only grew worse as she held a hand to her face.
“I will not have my own family slander my own name,” he said, as casually as if he was setting down a cup of tea. “I care not what silly presumptions enter that head of yours, but you would do well to keep them to yourself. I did not come by this parchment by unsavory means. I traded it.”
Esmina was about to ask if he had won it gambling, but held her tongue. One throbbing cheek was bad enough.
“You are coming with me to Tal’Doraken tonight to go fetch the official Seal.”
“Tonight? We’re going after dark?”
“Are you suddenly deaf as well as daft, now? Yes, at night. This parchment will suffice. That is the point of it, after all.”
She held back a retort about how Night Seals were only meant for one person each, and she would therefore be in danger. Instead, she asked, “Why must I come?” Her voice cut short at the end, and she swallowed.
“There are things I want you to see. It’s a long trip, however. Pack your things. We will be staying the night, but we shall return before tomorrow’s Shadow.”