04 - Chapter 4 - The Madness of the Wicked By: Martine A. Lynch
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The Madness of the Wicked  



Chapter  4  


The band of MacArdry warriors trotted westward, with Dhugal and Kelson riding lead. "Kel," Dhugal called. "Wha’ do ye think o' your godson?"

"I think that with your example and his mother's fair face, that wee lad will have my lords locking up their daughters in sixteen years or so," Kelson chuckled.

"Sixteen?" Dhugal returned in mock outrage. "Gi'e my son some credit. Fourteen years, at the most!"

Laughing, Kelson pulled at his mail coif to alleviate chafing. The leather underhood Dhugal had loaned him was a bit small, and the mail's metal rings were rubbing at his throat. "I will be certain to lock up Evaine before his fourteenth birthday, then. On a serious note, Ailín appears to be doing very well. She actually jested with me!"

"Aye, she has flown far," Dhugal said. "Transha has been guid for her. All my MacArdrys ha'e been fallin' o'er their feet, ingratiatin' themselves tae their new lady. 'Tis only gotten worse since Caulay was born. She feels safe now, an' her spirit is comin' out. There's still a ways tae go, but she'll do fine."

"I am very glad to hear that, Brother."

"An' how are things with Mairona?" the coppery-haired duke ventured. Kelson's expression turned inward as he smiled softly to himself.

"Very well, indeed," he said.

"Now that's the look of a man well bedded!" Dhugal proclaimed with a grin. He found his blood brother's reaction a bit surprising. It wasn't so long ago that Kelson would have turned bright red at that remark, but now he just tossed his head in amusement.

"I do need a son in addition to my daughter. Last I heard, there is only one way to get one!" he shot back with a matching mischievous smile.

"An' wha' does your wife-" Dhugal started, but faded out in mid-thought as one of his scouts came tearing over the hill just ahead.

"Laird Dhugal!" The man called, yelling his message before he had even rejoined the party. "Th' outlaws are shy a league hence, an' they ha'e prey!"

Dhugal screamed something in the borderer tongue, which Kelson didn't understand, but it appeared to be a battle cry. He dug his spurs into the spotted pony's ribs and the beast shot forward as Kelson thrilled in the excitement of a hunt with much more satisfying quarry than deer or fowl. Here there were no bodyguards, no personal troops, no Lord Protector Alaric Morgans to keep him safely out of harm's way. He might actually get to draw his sword for a change, and use those endless hours of arms practice sweated out under his Uncle Nigel's critical eye.


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