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Chapter Ten

I apologize for intruding, Milord, but someone has arrived to see you.

Indeed? Baron Tellian paused with his glass half-raised and looked up at his majordomo with a slight, inquiring frown. Who is it, Kalan? His tone added another, unspoken questionAnd why is his arrival important enough for you to disturb my lunch?

Its Sir Yarran Battlecrow, Milord. He says he carries an urgent message from Lord Warden Glanharrow,the majordomo said, in a calm, unflustered voice, and Tellians eyes narrowed. Then he nodded.

Thank you, Kalan, he said. Please have him shown into my study. See to it that hes offered a chance to wash up first, if he so desires, and that refreshments are available to him. Tell him Ill join him there as soon as I can.

Of course, Milord,Kalan replied, then coughed gently. In fact, Id already given those instructions.

Youre entirely too efficient, Kalan, Tellian said with a smile. Certainly more efficient than I deserve.

Its kind of you to say so, anyway, Milord,Kalan murmured, and withdrew with a slight bow.

Tellian gazed down into his wineglass for several seconds, then took a sip and set the glass on the table. He wiped his mouth with a linen napkin and looked around the circle of his family and guests.

Fortunately, I think we were about finished here, he said.

And if we werent, Baroness Hanatha said, wed all pretend we were, anyway.

Of course you would, my dear. And so cheerfully and so well that I would never even suspect how Id trodden on your enjoyment of the meal for reasons of state.

The two of them shared a smile, but there was more than a hint of anxiety behind the baroness jade eyes. Tellian saw it, and reached out to touch the back of her hand in brief, wordless reassurance. Then he looked at Bahzell and Brandark.

It doesnt take a wizard or a mage to divine the reason for Sir Yarrans visit. I think it might be as well for the two of you to join us in the study, if that would be convenient.

Im thinking it would be convenient enough for the pair of us, Bahzell rumble. But its in my mind that Lord Festian and Sir Yarran might be minded for him to have a word or two with you in private without such as us listening in.

It might, Tellian agreed. On the other hand, the Gullet opens on Glanharrow. That means your father, and so you, Bahzell, have a legitimate interest in anything that happens there. Especially if it concerns the man who was named to replace that idiot Redhelm. Dont tell me you havent been expecting a messenger like this for weeks, man. Just as I have.

Well, as to that, Ill admit as how Im more than a mite surprised hes waited this long to be sending for help. Ive no sources to match the ones youve no doubt got, but those I do have have been telling me as how things have been getting steadily worse in Glanharrow. And just as youand, no doubt, Lord Festian and Sir YarranIve no least doubt as how its the doing of some of your folk who werent so very happy to be seeing Festian replace Mathian.

Who would just happen to be the same people who arent too happy about the novel concept of Sothoii and hradani living in a state which resembles peace, Brandark added dryly.

Exactly. Tellian nodded. You have both the right and the reason to know what sorts of problems your neighbor might be experiencing, if only so that youre forewarned if unanticipated changes require you to protect yourselves. More to the point, and selfishly, from my perspective, you may be able to offer some additional insight, Bahzell. Bahzell twitched his ears questioningly, and Tellian chuckled. I happen to know that your sister Marglyths agents in Glanharrow considerably outnumber my own, Bahzell, despite that rather diplomatic comment of yours on our relative sources. Which is as it should be, really.

I suppose it is possible Im after hearing the occasional tidbit, or rumor,Bahzell conceded with a grin.

Im sure, Tellian said dryly. But whether you have anything to add or not, I want you there. And you, too, I think, Trianal, he continued, looking at the dark-haired young man seated at the foot of the table.

Sir Trianal Bowmaster was the oldest son of Tellians younger brother. Garlayn Bowmaster had married very young, but, then, Garlayn had always been the quintessential, impetuous Sothoii. Hed also died very young, in a training accident which had resulted largely from that same impetuosity, leaving three young sons and a daughter behind. Tellian had accepted Trianal for training in the military arts when he was only ten, and hed just turned nineteen only two months before. Despite his youth, he was a thinker, unlike his father, whod already demonstrated an insight into tactics beyond his years. Hed earned his knighthood, not simply had it handed to him, although he was still short on experience in the field. But for all of his good points, Trianal was considerably more conservative than his uncle. It had taken him quite a while to come to terms with Tellians surrender to Bahzell, and Bahzell suspected that he still harbored some prickly resentments.

Me, Uncle? Trianal sounded surprised, and Tellian nodded.

You know as much as any of my officers about the situation in Glanharrow, and I trust your discretion. Besides, I think Id like to get you more actively involved in supporting Lord Festian.

Yes, Milord, Trianal said, and his face flushed just a bit.

So hes after noticing his uncles tone, Bahzell thought, and hid a mental chuckle as he recalled times his own father had done the same sort of thing to him. Whacking some wit into him, as Prince Bahnak had described it. And I never enjoyed it at all, at all, Bahzell thought, so more power to the lad that he can be taking his whack without so much as a wince.

Good, Tellian said, giving his nephew a nod, then folded his napkin. He set it beside his plate, pushed back his chair, rose, and kissed his wifes cheek. Then he glanced at Leeana and smiled crookedly.

Im not inviting you this time, daughter of mine, he told her. Brief disappointment flickered in her eyes, but it came and went so quickly it was more imagined than seen, and she returned his smile. After all, he continued, Im quite sure you have your own sources. Come to the library before bed tonight. Let me know what youve been able to pick up about Sir Yarrans visit on your own.

Yes, Poppa, she murmured in her most dutiful tone, green eyes glinting wickedly, and Tellian laughed. He stroked one hand over her gleaming, golden-red hair, then returned his attention to Bahzell and Brandark.

Such a submissive child, he said, shaking his head regretfully. Not a spark of spirit, not an ounce of spunk anywhere in her.

Aye, Bahzell said, smiling as Leeana stuck out her tongue at him. Ive noticed as how all of your womenfolk seem to be beaten down, Milord.

Every one of them, Tellian sighed, and then twitched as his beaten down wife poked him shrewdly in the ribs.


* * * | Wind Rider's Oath | * * *