Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The King's Challenge #198 and #199

TKC 198 and 199

There are five hundred of us for four hundred spare horses. The children will ride with an adult each and some of the lighter women will double up. It means, as the sun climbs into the sky, we are all mounted as we set out.

I know I am not the only one relieved to be off my feet. I shy away from the sobering fact that only five hundred made it out of Arc again, when one hundred thousand plateau dwellers went in. And more from the west.

Around midday the heavens begin to darken as clouds roll in. It is still the wet season, given the size of the rivers. Although not much rain usually falls out here, that is about to change, by all appearances. A downpour or two will soon drench us.

As the air grows ever moister, a woman nudges her mount into position alongside me. “Alyssa?” I murmur. I have not seen much of the noblewoman since we entered Arc. She kept away from the main discussions, not doubt to spare Lyra’s feelings. I wonder now if she knows Damin and Lyra are wed. “Where is Emily?” Her sister is ever by her side, but I do not see her.

“Hello, Siri. Emily went south with the work teams … and was not there when the portal opened for us.” Alyssa swallows convulsively.

“I am sorry.” I am sorry, but how is it possible one sister was Glonu and the other is Ilfin?

“We are nor biological sisters,” Alyssa says quietly. Clearly she sees the direction my thoughts lead me. “They are dead, aren’t they? All those sent south?”

Kay did not explain about Damin and Mirlin’s mission to the south; he merely repeated what Lyra said on her boulder – Arc attacked them. Blinking, I admit, “They are dead, yes.”

Alyssa releases a pent-up breath. “I was right. Damin separated us and the Glonu went south, but it was not Arc that attacked them. Damin killed them.”

“While I do not expect you to understand, know that the Glonu sacrifice allowed us to move through the barrier.” I stare at the woman. “Alyssa, my brother is not a killer. He did what needed doing and I swear he did not like doing it.”

Her eyes harden. “You do not know your brother very well.” Fury erupts in red spots upon her face, but she holds it in. “I assume you prefer the others not to know of your murder campaign? I will not say a word, but know this, Siri Mur. Your brother is marked.” Alyssa then turns her horse aside and vanishes into the massed riders.

My brother was marked the day he left Grenmassin, I understand, and he has as many enemies as he has supporters. Alyssa better watch herself, though. Damin is my brother.

Kay shifts in alongside. “Women bear greater grudges than men do. Do not laugh her off.”

Grimacing, I mutter, “I intend to watch her, do not fear.” Then, looking at him, I ask, “And you, Kay? You lost someone close to you as well. Is Damin on your hit list?”

He is silent so long, I wonder if he has any intention of answering, but eventually he says, “I have no quarrel with Damin.”

There is something more in his tone. “But?” I prompt.

He sends me a dead look. “Mirlin needs to explain himself.”

I look away. We all carry so many emotional burdens now; much of who we were weeks ago has been smothered. “I hope you can forgive him.”

“Yes, I hope so as well,” Kay utters in a grim tone.

The rain arrives then, a deluge.

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