In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind. Katsa ran her hand along the cold walls and counted doors and passageways as she went. Turning when it was time to turn; stopping finally before an opening that should contain a stairway leading down. She crouched and felt forward with her hands.
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In these dungeons the darkness was complete, but Katsa had a map in her mind. Katsa ran her hand along the cold walls and counted doors and passageways as she went. Turning when it was time to turn; stopping finally before an opening that should contain a stairway leading down. She crouched and felt forward with her hands. There was a stone step, damp and slippery with moss, and another one below it. She only hoped that when he and Giddon followed her with their torches, they would see the moss slime, tread carefully, and not waken the dead by clattering headlong down the steps.
Katsa slunk down the stairway. One left turn and two right turns. She began to hear voices as she entered a corridor where the darkness flickered orange with the light of a torch set in the wall. Katsa crept toward the light and the sound of laughter.
She could stop and listen, to get a better sense of how many she would face, but there was no time. She pulled her hood down low and swung around the corner. Katsa kicked and struck at temples and necks, and the four men lay slumped together on the floor before amazement had even registered in their eyes.
There was only one more guard, sitting before the cell bars at the end of the corridor. He scrambled to his feet and slid his sword from its sheath.
Katsa walked toward him, certain that the torch at her back hid her face, and particularly her eyes, from his sight. She measured his size, the way he moved, the steadiness of the arm that held the sword toward her.
He was brave, this one. He cut the air with his sword, in warning. He lunged toward her. She ducked under his blade and whirled her foot out, clipping his temple. He dropped to the ground. She stepped over him and ran to the bars, squinting into the darkness of the cell. A shape huddled against the back wall, a person too tired or too cold to care about the fighting going on. Arms wrapped around legs, and head tucked between knees. He was shivering — she could hear his breath.
She shifted, and the light glanced over his crouched form. His hair was white and cut close to his head. She saw the glimmer of gold in his ear. He was the one they were looking for. She pulled on the door latch. She whistled once, low, like an owl. She stretched the brave guard flat on his back and dropped one of her pills into his mouth.
She ran up the corridor, turned the four unfortunates on their backs beside each other, and dropped a pill into each mouth. Just as she was beginning to wonder if Oll and Giddon had lost themselves in the dungeons, they appeared around the corner and slipped past her. Their torchlight splashed the walls as they approached the cell. The Lienid man moaned and drew his arms in closer. Katsa caught a glimpse of his torn, stained clothing. She would have liked to have waited to see that they opened the door, but she was needed elsewhere.
She tucked her packet of pills into her sleeve and ran. The cell guards reported to the dungeon guard, and the dungeon guard reported to the underguard. The underguard reported to the castle guard.
They would be pursued, it would come to bloodshed; they would see her eyes, and she would be recognized. So she had to get them all, every guard. Oll had guessed there would be twenty. Most of the guards gave her no trouble. If she could sneak up on them, or if they were crowded in small groups, they never knew what hit them. She swirled through the lot of them, kicking and kneeing and hitting, and the castle guard jumped up from his guardhouse desk, burst through the door, and ran into the fray.
It gave her some pleasure to knock him on the head with the hilt of her knife. She grabbed his hair, dragged him onto his back, and dropped a pill onto his tongue. They would all say, when they woke to their headaches and their shame, that the culprit had been a Graceling boy, Graced with fighting, acting alone. They would assume she was a boy, because in her plain trousers and hood she looked like one, and because when people were attacked it never occurred to anyone that it might have been a girl.
And none of them had caught a glimpse of Oll or Giddon: She had seen to that. No one would think of her. Whatever the Graceling Lady Katsa might be, she was not a criminal who lurked around dark courtyards at midnight, disguised.
And besides, she was supposed to be en route east. Katsa ran through the courtyard, past flower beds, fountains, and marble statues of Murgon.
It was quite a pleasant courtyard, really, for such an unpleasant king; it smelled of grass and rich soil, and the sweetness of dew-dripped flowers. Drugged, not dead: an important distinction. Oll and Giddon, and most of the rest of the secret Council, had wanted her to kill them. Heads in the dark room had nodded. If you want them killed, you can send someone else. Oll had smiled and clapped the young lord on the back.
Mostly for her uncle. King Randa thought her useful. When border ruffians were stirring up trouble, why send an army if you could send a single representative? It was much more economical.
At the far end of the orchard she came upon a guard who was old, as old, perhaps, as the Lienid. He stood in a grove of yearling trees, leaning on his sword, his back round and bent. She snuck up behind him and paused. A tremor shook the hands that rested on the hilt of his blade. She struck him once, hard, on the back of the head, and he slumped and let out a puff of air. She caught him and lowered him to the ground, as gently as she could, and then dropped a pill into his mouth.
She took a moment to run her fingers along the lump forming on his skull. She hoped his head was strong. She had killed once by accident, a memory she held close to her consciousness. It was how her Grace had announced its nature, a decade ago. A man who was some sort of distant cousin had visited the court. But you, lucky girl, look better for it. What is your Grace, my sweetness?
Story telling? Mind reading? I know. Some Graces took longer than others to surface. But then his hand had slid toward her leg, and her hand had flown out and smashed him in the face. Ladies in the court had screamed; one had fainted. Frightened eyes — not just those of the ladies now, but those of the soldiers, the sworded underlords — all directed at her.
This one was not safe. But Randa was clever. He could see that in time his niece might serve a practical purpose. He sent her to her chambers and kept her there for weeks as punishment, but that was all. When she emerged, they all ran to get out of her path.
Now there was no pretense of friendliness. Because he complimented her eyes. Prince Raffin was the only one who sought her company. Prince Raffin shook his head. You must, or my father will stop us seeing each other. Raffin considered this. But he also had some imagination.
Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore
This book is: A YA fantasy novel, the first in a series, about a girl with a supernatural gift for killing. Other elements: Right vs wrong, romance, friendship. Where do you draw the line? YA fantasy is comforting — usually good things happen to the good people and bad things happen to the bad people, for the most part. It also tends to be simpler overall, unlike some epic fantasy series which can become extremely, sometimes overly, complex.
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again.
Graceling (Graceling Realm Series #1)