Lady Nyana Almi sniffed and turned her head slightly, the flowers laced into her jet black hair wavering with the turn, as she caught sight of Lord Sarlik and his daughter. Beside her, her husband glanced at Lord Sarlik and then to his wife. It was Nyana’s family that had been enmeshed in the feud for generations; he had merely married into it. But he had quickly become a willing participant after Lord Sarlik had hospitalized his brother.
“Pay them no mind, love,” Lord Emeri Almi said softly. “We knew that today was a pleasant day and much of the nobility would be out in the gardens. It was inevitable that we would see them.”
“Yes,” she agreed, “but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. This feud has killed everyone in my family except my sister and I. Being the elder sister, the feud has become mine.”
Lord Almi shook his head. Emotions did run high in Nyana’s family, but he couldn’t blame her. Her father and Sarlik’s had both perished in a duel. It was fortunate that that had happened; the survivor would have had no way of avoiding imprisonment. Dueling was against the law and the Needle City Guard enforced that law more strictly than others. That was probably because the nobility were also so consumed with one feud or another and were often overheard calling each other out. Why, the Nirlars were part of three different feuds at the moment and currently had two sons and a daughter sitting in prison for illegal dueling.
They walked along in silence, the back hem of Lady Almi’s pale blue summer gown dragging slightly along the dirt path, creating a faint wavy path in her wake. Lord Almi held aloft her delicate blue parasol and carried her long-fingered right hand on his arm. They didn’t speak further as Lady Almi watched Lord Sarlik and his daughter leave the gardens, her gaze like a hawk’s. Lord Almi knew she was always plotting against the man, and he did admire how her mind worked, but sometimes he wished it would end, for their children’s sakes.
Tyala was in the same academy as Sarlik’s daughter. They were the same age and in the same class. So far, they hadn’t had any instructor reports about them, but he knew it was only time. Nyana was always trying to inoculate their eldest child against the Sarliks, but he was devoted to protecting their children from the feud. His family had been fortunate; the Almis had never been involved in a feud. They had been Sapphire District’s peace keepers until he had fallen in love with Nyana Galton and inherited the Sarlik-Galton feud after her parents died. It was the first time in his family’s history that the Almi name became linked to a feud. His brother hadn’t been pleased and, after making it known, had been hospitalized by Sarlik. He had recovered, only to leave Needle City, claiming he would never return. And he hadn’t. He didn’t know his niece and two nephews, the children who were eventually going to inherit the feud and further tarnish the Almi name.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Lady Almi murmured.
“I’m sorry?” her husband asked, turning his deep brown eyes on her.
She briefly met his eyes and then shook her head. “You have got to stop daydreaming, Emeri. We’re in the middle of a feud. You have to keep a sharp mind.”
“I didn’t want this feud, Nyana,” he pointed out. “You chose to inherit it when your sister decided she wanted nothing to do with it.”
Lady Almi frowned at him. “That doesn’t matter. This is our feud now and we will see it through. As will our children.”
Lord Almi didn’t respond. He knew Tyala didn’t want anything to do with the feud; she’d told him so a year before. Being one of the peace-keeping Almis, he had agreed with her, but had to ask her to not mention it to her mother. Nyana would be furious.
“Come, darling,” Lady Almi said. “We have things to do today. And stop daydreaming. Sarlik can attack us at any moment. He knows where we are right now.”
Lord Almi sighed as he followed here from the gardens. “Of course, love, of course.”