Terms Of His Honor
Chapter 9 - Part 3
and Hugh walked back toward drapers' lane, licking spiced honey from
their fingers and lips. The hot cider and roasted nuts coated in sweet,
sticky cinnamon cheered them nearly as much as watching a pair of
sloe-eyed Forcinn dancers shed scarves as they writhed to the
accompaniment of flute and drum.
"Was there ever a more incredible pair of ---" Ivo mimed the shape of one of the dancers as he walked. He smacked his lips in appreciation.
Hugh choked with laughter. "An' the way she twirled that sword! Never seen that in Derry."
"There's a couple of girls in the kitchens I'll have to introduce you to." Ivo nudged Hugh's ribs with a friendly elbow. "They could teach you a thing or two. Me too, come to think of it."
Some sixth sense made Hugh pause. The hair on the back of his neck rose in alarm. Ivo stopped a step later and glanced at his companion.
From a dark space between two shops a hooded figure stepped and beckoned to the boys. The two squires looked at each other.
The cloaked man glanced up and down the street, clearly uneasy. Then he moved a few steps closer. "A word for yer master, lads."
Ivo and Hugh glanced at each other again. Hugh rested his hand on his dagger. Both of them were armed, and he was confident they could handle one man should he decide to be trouble for them.
They followed the stranger into the narrow alley. As soon as they were out of sight of the street he pushed his hood back. A scarred and weather-beaten face topped by a mass of shaggy gray and silver hair grinned at them.
"Ye're servin' His Grace o' Tolan, ain't ye." This was not a question. "Been watchin' ye for better part o' a day now, since ye come back. I've a message for yer master."
"We can deliver it." Ivo held out his hand for a scroll.
The stranger chuckled. "Do ye thin wi' what's been goin' on since His Grace left us we'd risk puttin' anything in writin'? Not ye, boy." He turned to Hugh. "Ye'll carry the message an' deliver it yerself."
Hugh wished he could turn into a mouse at that moment. All his courage and most of his bowels seemed to turn to water.
Before he could escape or resist the stranger grasped his shoulder. A force of will like a sea-spawned hurricane crashed into his mind. The message it imprinted there was urgent, important and somewhat comforting.
The stranger then set controls in Hugh's mind that would wipe the message and all remains of this encounter away should any save Albion try to read them. When Hugh again came to himself he was staring at Ivo, who stared back as if he'd been hit over the head by one of old Jack's iron kettles.
The stranger pulled up his hood. "Now off wi' ye. I'll be here when yer master wants to reply. Remember that."
Flames shot skyward from the burning manor house. Brandonn watched with satisfaction as the roof collapsed in a shower of sparks. There would be nothing left for the hated invader to salvage from this, even if some of them survived.
His men made short work of all resistance, and were now enjoying the fruits of their labor. He smiled. His own reward had been perfected in the death of the lord of Sheele, his wife and children.
Let the Deryni monsters suffer the same fate as they had given the Haldane king and his family. Brandonn felt no pity for them. Mercy was for the weak.
The raid proved fruitful for more than vengeance. The manor house held wealth, now spoils of war, that would be put to good use. The sacks of gold and silver candlesticks, coin, jewels and rich clothing gave him a fortune to fund his cause.
Better yet, his timing had been perfect. A merchant was at Sheele, hoping to interest the wealthy lord and his lady in spices and perfumes. The luckless fellow now lay dead near his cart. His wares would bring more wealth than they had looted from the small chapel.
Brandonn's lieutenant appeared before him, grinning and sooty from the destruction of the manor. "What are yer orders, m'lord?"
A gesture at the sacks of treasure spoke volumes. "To the Connatti with half of this. We should have more than enough to buy the weapons we need. And more of that poison that works so well on these demons. As much as can be had."
The man nodded. Brandonn could not remember his name at the moment, but that mattered little. What was a name in the midst of a war?
"I'll see it done, m'lord. Where will I meet ye?"
"We travel to Rhemuth. These invaders have become too comfortable. I intend to teach them the meaning of fear." Brandonn smiled, thinking of the revenge he planned for all those who accepted the conqueror's rule. "As soon as I've done giving my schooling, I mean to meet again with my whore of a sister. She too needs to learn obedience."
The man flinched, but held his tongue. Brandonn decided it was time to replace him, but he could not think who else would serve so well. He would use the intervening time to consider the matter.
He patted his lieutenant on the shoulder and smiled so the man would not suspect his doom had been sealed already. Not that the stupid fellow could see Brandonn's face, nor would he wish to. If he pushed back his hood, Brandonn knew he would horrify and sicken even the most hardened of his men.
That was the price he'd paid for survival. He would never forgive it.
"Get you gone. There are good horses aplenty. Take two, you'll travel faster."
His lieutenant gave him a short bow and left to do his bidding. At times, Brandonn thought, not much had changed.
He turned back to his men. Fortunately they seemed to be tiring of the sport gained in conquest. "Gather up. We ride!"