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Chapter Sixteen

Bahzell Bahnakson stood on the battlements of Hill Guard Castle, gazing off into the distance and worrying. Brandark Brandarkson stood at his left elbow and helped him do it.

Why do I have the feeling this was a really bad idea? the Bloody Sword hradani murmured.

Coming up here? Bahzell looked down at him and cocked an eyebrow, and Brandark shook his head with a tight grin. It wasnt raining. In fact, the sun shone bright, and clear blue patches showed through fitful breaks in the clouds. But the blustery wind was much stronger up here on the walls, where no obstacles blocked or abated its power, and both hradanis warrior braids blew out behind them.

No, Brandark said. He gestured at the road, stretching off to the east. I meant Tellians haring off this way.

Its not as if hed any other choice, is it now? Bahzell replied, and Brandark shrugged.

The fact that somethings the only choice someone has, doesnt make it a good idea when he does it, he pointed out. Especially not when he has as many enemies as Tellian does. I dont like the thought of his dashing about out there with no more than a score of bodyguards, Bahzell.

First, its only by the gods grace that hes any bodyguards at allwith him, Bahzell snorted. Once Tarith turned up and hed confirmation of all Leeana had done, he was all for heading out with naught but Hathan beside him. Now that, Im thinking, is something as most anyone would think was after being a bad idea.

You know, Brandark observed, youre developing quite a gift for understatement, Bahzell.

Bahzell only snorted again, louder, but both of them knew he was right. Even Tellian had known that much, although both Hathan and Hanatha had found themselves forced to sit on himalmost literallybefore hed admitted it. That had been harder for Hanatha than for his wind brother, but frantic as she was over her daughters safety, she was also the wife of one great noble and the daughter of another. Despite the unmatchable speed with which any wind riders courser gifted him, the Lord Warden of the West Riding had no business at all putting himself at risk by gallivanting around the countryside unprotected. It was entirely possible that one of his enemies might be keeping an eye on his comings and goings with an eye towards a quiet little assassination, assuming he was foolish enough to offer an opening, and not even a courser could outrun an arrow. Besides, as Hathan had grimly pointed out, Leeana had stolen enough of a lead that it was unlikely even coursers could overtake her short of her destination, so there was no reason to dash out like reckless fools.

Second, Bahzell continued after a moment, thats his daughter out there, Brandark. Hes a noble and a ruler, aye. But hes after being a father before hes any of those other things. He shook his head. Hell not give over, no matter what.

But is that really whats best for Leeana? Brandark asked more quietly. Bahzell looked at him again, sharply, and the Bloody Sword shrugged. I know he loves her, Bahzell. And I know he wants her safely home again. But Leeanas no fool. Whatever other people may think, you knowand so do her parentsthat she didnt do this on a whim. If she thought it through as carefully as Im sure she did, perhaps what shes doing is actually for the best.

Bahzell grunted. Hed thought the same thing himself as he remembered the pain, and the fearand not for herself alone, he realized nowin a pair of jade-green eyes. But he knew that even if Tellian had come to the exact same conclusion, it wouldnt have made any difference to his determination to protect the daughter he loved from the consequences of her own decision.

It might be youve a point, he said finally. Ill not deny Ive wondered the same. But in Tellians boots, Id make the selfsame choice, and well I know it. He shook his head again. Its a hard thing, Brandark. A hard thing.

They fell silent again, gazing off into the wind, and wondering what was happening out there beyond the eastern horizon.

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