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Milord Champion!

Bahzell looked up in surprise. The delicious odors of one of Talas dinnersrich, hot curry, chicken, beef, and potatoesdrifted tantalizingly upward from the bowls and dishes on the table before him, and evening was busily giving way to night outside the window. Hed invited Gharnal and Hurthang to join him and Brandark for supper, but he hadnt expected any other visitors this night. And he certainly hadnt expected to see Sir Jahlahan Swordspinner turn up in his quarters in person.

Aye, Sir Jahlahan? he said mildly, setting down his knife and fork. And how might it be as I could be of service?

He waved at a chair on the other side of the table, inviting the human to be seated, but Swordspinner remained standing.

I apologize for interrupting your supper, Milord Champion. And yours, Milords. He nodded with abrupt, almost spastic courtesy to Brandark and the two other Horse Stealers, and Bahzells ears pricked as the jagged edges of the other mans voice registered. Sir Jahlahan was the seneschal of Hill Guard Castle. In Tellians absence, he commanded the garrison not simply of Hill Guard, but of Balthar itself, and Tellian Bowmaster hadnt picked someone who was prone to panic for that post. Yet at this moment, that was what Sir Jahlahan appeared dangerously close to doing.

Theres no need to be apologizing, Sir Jahlahan, Bahzell said after a moment, glancing at the other hradani. Ive no doubt only pressing need could have caused you to.

Youre not wrong there, Milord Champion, Swordspinner agreed in that same, jagged voice. Weve just received a messenger from Lord Warden Edinghas of Warm Springs, he continued. Thats one of the West Ridings smaller holdings, up on the northeast border. Up between the west fork of the Spear River and the shore of the North Ice Sister.

He paused, and Bahzell nodded his understanding of the geography. That meant this Warm Springs was almost as far north as the southern edge of Hopes Bane Glacier, about as far as you could get from Balthar and remain in the West Riding. Yet even as he nodded, he had the odd feeling Swordspinner hadnt paused to be sure Bahzell was following him. It was more as if the seneschal needed to pause. As if whatever had brought him here was terrible enough that he needed time to steel himself for the actual explanation.

Sir Jahlahan drew a deep breath, then looked Bahzell in the eye.

Milord Champion, Lord Edinghas message isWell, its one I dont have the least idea how to answer. I doubt Milord Baron himself would know! But this much I am certain of: if any man can know what to do, its a champion of Tomanak. Please, Milord. I need your helpbadly.


Chapter Sixteen | Wind Rider's Oath | * * *