Thursday, March 31, 2016

The King's Challenge #257 and #258

TKC 257 and 258

Damin launches up as well, dagger to hand. Together we face the attacker.

A man comes rushing towards us covered in twigs and leaves. His camouflage is extensive and it halts my forward movement briefly. One will swear he is a bush. I almost burst into laughter, but this is no time for amusement.

Damin does, however.

He suddenly slaps his thighs and starts chortling. The next moment he convulses in a full belly laugh.

I admit. I stop dead in my tracks.

Iniri wanders through us, pushing both our blades down. She is smiling.

What is this? Who is this?

“You made your point, Artur,” Iniri laughs.

Peering at the ‘bush’ I realise it is the big man from Grenmassin. Artur has been a godsend in keeping everyone moving and motivated and … my eyes narrow. Why this get-up?

Shifting my stance, I notice Damin has lost his smile. Perhaps he is asking himself the same question.

Artur fumbles his betwigged headgear off, and bows. “Forgive me for bumbling in like this, but something needs saying and I intend to say it.”

My sister frowns. “Artur, I am not feeling the love. Why are you hiding out here? And why are you decked out for ambush?”

The man glances over his shoulder. “I saw six of them head off into the trees and it did not sit right, so I followed. You know I hunt; always I blend with the terrain. It’s as natural as breathing for me.”

Yes, I recall he was ever the one to bring back fresh meat after a foray into the hinterland north of Grenmassin. I have never seen him in camouflage, but I have heard the men of our village discussing his expertise. Well, Horin did. These are Horin’s memories.

I sheath my sword. “Who went off into the trees?”

“Soldiers. They seemed about less than honest business to me.”

Damin’s dagger vanishes. “Scouts, Artur. Standard practice.”

The big man shakes his head. “Not these. I saw the scouts head out, three each in five directions. This lot left after.”

Damin demands, “And?”

Artur straightens his shoulders. “Damin, you have to be more aware. Not every Ilfin is to be trusted.”

Iniri steps closer. “Artur, what is it?”

“They went off to talk, carefully avoiding the scouts. I could not hear everything, for I lost some ground while I became one with the surroundings, but what I did hear is not good.”

Damin swears under his breath before saying, “Tell us.”

Again Artur glances over his shoulder. “They will come this way soon, so I will be brief. They plan to overthrow the rulers of Makaran.” His gaze flicks to me. “I guess that is where your family name comes from and I guess that means you are a target.”

Artur has not been privy to the secrets, or truths, I have shared with Damin. Few know Makar is, in fact, the ruling house. Siri and Kay know, having spent time with Gennerin, and so do Hal and the woman Messenger – I do not recall her name right now – but neither of the latter two have had opportunity to speak with the others. Siri and Kay know to be silent on certain issues.

Sucking at my teeth, I nod at Artur. “Go on.”

“Something about the king being close to death …”

“What?” Iniri bursts out. Simultaneously, I say, “Cannot be!”

The village man glances from me to Iniri and back. “I assume you know of him?”

“He is our father!” Iniri states, a hand going to her cheek.

Artur blinks. “You are brother and sister as Makar also?” He abruptly stares into my eyes with intent. “They said it is time to negate the heir to the throne.”

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