Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 28

They were returning to the little town in drips and drabs, from their hiding holes, and their safe places. Caspar smiled to himself.  This was how the people of Ladoegan Isle had survived for so long in the shifting realm of Tintagel--running and hiding when trouble came,and if that didn't work, either knuckling under, or starting to fight as the circumstances warranted.

In this case, Caspar was of course, firmly of the opinion that this most certainly the latter.  But then, as that was the course he'd taken, he freely admitted that he might biased in this matter.

Possibly.

Two Scarlet Shrikes appeared--the slender, dark haired fellow, and the old one.  "So..." said the slender one, "they understand we aren't bandits now?"

Caspar nodded.  "We've managed to convey that to them."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Mind you, they don't trust you much, but then, they don't trust many people much."

The old one gave a laugh at that, while the slender one sighed and rolled his eyes.  "Cheery place," he muttered.

"It's been happier," said Caspar. "That said, we've pretty much always been awful bastards here.  It's just that our recent circumstances have upped the bastardry."

"Well, we've been sent to help by..." began the slender fellow, then coughed.  "Well, some interested parties."

"You mean the Cthoniques?" said Caspar.  "And the Free Cities."

The man blinked.  "How...?"

"Oh, I'm very good at keeping my ears to the ground," answered the Tintagelian.  "That's more or less my job in Lady Lyn's organization."

The man glanced down at his feet.  "Well, then, I might as well not bother talking any further as you already know everything."

"I don't know your name," pointed out Caspar.

"Mosca," he said, offering his hand.

Caspar took it.  "I'm Caspar."

"And they call me 'Ancient Evereaux'," said the old man.

"A pleasure," said Caspar.  He glanced at the man's feet.  "Those are very nice boots."

Everaux nodded fervently.  "The best I've had in years!"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 27

Kessler glanced around the forest, and swore to himself.  This was not going well.  He'd hoped that this tip would pan out, but he was increasingly filled with the idea that it was not.  And that was horrible, for he feared what another failure would cause.

"So, you are certain they are here," stated Bres, appearing quietly at his side, his ratlike face frowning in deep displeasure, as if he were the living embodiment of the captain's fears summoned there by his thoughts.

"That is what I was told," said Kessler. 

"Told by whom?" asked Bres, eyes rolling.

"My sources are confidential," muttered the captain.

"Captain," said the Prince's Men quietly, "these woods are deserted."

"You don't know that," replied Kessler with as much confidence as he could muster.

"Yes, I do," replied Bres. "I know woods, Captain, and I know when woods are not merely presently low on people, but instead actually deserted.  These woods are deserted.  There are no people here, save ourselves.  Especially not the men who are missing."  He glanced around.  "A poacher learns these things.  Just as he learns to recognize marshland."  He paced away.  "I recommend we get your men back to the boats, or to high ground, soon.  Otherwise half of them will fall into bogs, and drown."  Bres gave a savage shake of his head.  "If we are fortunate."

Kessler walked swiftly behind the man.  "Don't be so sure!  Something might turn up!"

Bres gave a sigh.  "No, it won't, you silly drunk.  You've taken half your men across the island on what was at best a local prank, and at worst, an intentional effort by our foes to get us out of the way..."

"I left Cormyr in command," replied Kessler forcefully.  "And... don't forget Piers and Gibbel! Prince's Men, just like you!"

"Cormyr couldn't command a brothel," said Bres.  "As for Piers and Gibbel, well, sir, I am insulted to be considered the same species as that pair on occasion, much less considered a member of the same organization..."

Kessler gulped.  "Things are probably fine."

Bres winced.  "Given my luck of late, Captain, I am now CERTAIN that we are now completely buggered."  He gave a bow.  "Thank you for clarifying that for me."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 26

Nell glanced at her captives, and cleared her throat.  "So, how is the stew?"

"It is delicious, ma'am," said one of them, staring at the bowl with huge sad eyes.  Following which, he burst out crying.

Nell blinked and rushed towards the man. "What is the matter, Soren?"

"Your stew is delicious!" said Soren, sniffling.  "It's good and nourishing, and cooked just right!  It... it reminds me of home!" He buried his face in a hand.  "Mom always used to cook me stew just like this!  It'd be right there waiting for me when I got home!  And now I might never see her again!"

"There, there," said Nell gently.  "I'm sure you'll see your mother again."

Soren looked up at her hopefully.  "Do you really think so?" 

Nell nodded.

Another captive gave a loud snort.  "Oh, like you have it so bad!  I have a wife--and three children!  Now, they'll all be orphans, and my Nora  a widow!"

"Your Nora will not be a widow, Horace!" stated Nell positively.  "You will all be fine, once this war is over.  We will send you all home, and you will be happy, well men.  With cheerful families.  I swear it!"

 Horace frowned.  "Oh, and who are you to make that promise, mmm?"

"The woman who makes the stew you're eating," she snapped.  "I like to think that counts for something."

"It does in my books, ma'am," noted Mauritz, finishing his bowl.

"Thank you," she said with a nod.  "Would you like seconds?"

Mauritz gave a cheerful laugh as he held the bowl out to her.  "As if you need to ask?"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 25

Pell glanced over the platter at his guest. "So, what do you think?  Aren't the flavors exquisite?"  He cut another slice of the pale flesh and chewed it delicately.

Ryke gave a quick nod, even if he felt that the meal he was being served tasted rather like slightly rangy beef.  Pell was a man of Precieuse, that strange twin city of Joyeuse--indeed, a nobleman by Precieuse's own strange standards.  And that made him a very proud man, who it was very important to stay on the good side of.  "Excellent," Ryke managed.  "Excellent."

Pell smiled at Ryke.  "Very good.  I knew you would enjoy this meal, Ryke.  You are a fellow aethsete, cast adrift in this cruel and barren world."  He gave a lofty sigh.  "Ahhh, cruel, cruel world.  I feel it does not deserve me, but there it is.  And my exile in this place..."  He clicked his tongue.  "Most unfair.  Most unfair. Do you realize these savages don't hunt these beasts, but them swim around their harbor, next to their ships?"

Ryke nodded again.  "What do they call them again?"

"Dolphins, I believe," said Pell, taking another bite.

Ryke gave a cough.  "So... about my news..."

"Terrible, terrible," said Pell, holding back tears.  "To think, such treachery and factionalism could take place amongst the Prince's Men!  Oh, what dear, dear Amfortas would say to that!"  He sniffled.  "I hear such terrible things back on the continent.  What a world.  What a world."

"Indeed, sir," said Ryke.  "If you would but give me your viceregal seal of approval to handle matters..."

"Of course, Ryke," said Pell.  "Of course! Are we not in this together?"  He gave an emphatic nod. "We most certainly are.  Why men of good taste must act in concert, for the good of the world!  That is what the Prince's Men is about!  Or should be."  He sighed.  "Frankly Amfortas has let some truly awful riff-raff in of late."  He glanced at Ryke.  "Now--come--come!  Finish your dolphin!"

Ryke forced on a smile, and swallowed another slice.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 24

Bald Ben sat at the table and sipped his drink.

"Do you want another cup?" asked Eirene, from behind the tavern's counter.

"I'm still on this one," he noted, raising his mug.

The witch gave a shrug.  "Right.  Sorry.  Just living out my childhood dream of being a tavern keeper..."

"It's not that much fun," said Gregory as he entered the room.  He gestured behind him.  "Captain--meet Lady Lyn, head of the local Bellringers." 

The young woman gave a curt bow.  "She's also that Gwen girl Gentleman keeps going on about," explained Mosca.

Gregory and Gwendolyn both rolled their eyes at that.  "Captain..."  She glanced at Gregory.

"Braddock," said Gregory.  "But we mostly call him 'Bald Ben'."

Gwendolyn cleared her throat.  "Captain Braddock, your Lieutenant filled me in on the general picture, and of course, I am more than happy to recieve the assistance of your organization, and..."  She glanced around the room.  "Where is everbody?"

Ben sighed and looked dejectedly at his drink.  "Ahh, yes, that," he said at last.  "You recall that distraction we had planned--a random apparent attack that would divert attention from our true purpose?"  He sighed.  "Well, it turns out that over half the soldiers are on the other side of the island, looking for some deserters, I believe..."

"Oh, no," said Gwendolyn calmly.  "They're prisoners.  We're keeping them in closets and sheds at my family's hunting lodge."

Ben and Eirene blinked. The Captain coughed. "Well--what was left wasn't much, and the moment the fighting started, fled to the woods.  Followed by much of the town.  So... it is presently just the Scarlet Shrikes battering around here, and trying to figure out what to do next."

Ancient Evereaux entered holding a pair of boots.  "I tell you, Ben, you have to try these boots!  They're amazing."

"And Ancient's getting new footwear," said Eirene apologetically. 

The old man turned to Gregory.  "You know how it is, Gentleman--my feet ache to buggerment, and I haven't been able to get a new pair of boots that are comfortable for nearly a year now."  He stared at Gwendolyn.  "Who's the girl?"

Gwendolyn crossed her arms.  "The lady," she stated with icy dignity.






Thursday, September 17, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 23

Mosca glanced at Gregory, as they rushed through the woods.  "So that's her, eh?  Your highborn ladyfriend?"

Gregory nodded.  "Uh-huh."

Gwendolyn turned towards them and cupped her hand to her mouth.  "Oy, sluggards!  Hurry it up!  We will leave your corpses behind if you're a burden to us!"

Mosca shook his head.  "What did you do to her, Gentleman?"

"Huh?" grunted Gregory as he rushed ahead.

"To turn a highborn noble lady into... this bitter, mad wild woman?" said Mosca.

Gregory paused to look at his associate.  "She was always like this."

"You know I can hear you," drawled Gwendolyn. "And Gregory Tyne the fact that you tacitly agreed with that description shall bring you untold agonies in the near future."

Gregory gave a slight cough as he reached her side.  "My apologies, Gwen.  I was simply stating that you are... more or less as I left you."

"Oh, he's not all wrong," said Gwendolyn.  "I am far madder, and more bitter than the idealistic young girl you knew."

Gregory stiffened.  "That is a terrifying notion."

Gwendolyn leaned forward.  "Untold agonies."

"We should really get going to the Captain," muttered Mosca.  "Tell him that the plan succeeded beyond our wildest hopes."  He glanced at Gwendolyn.  "To a degree at least."

Gwendolyn sighed.  "You just have to understand--once you get outside of Ys, most Tintagelian nobles like very simple things.  We race around the country, we shoot things, and if they aren't trees or humans, we cook and eat them." 

Gregory nodded in agreement.  "It's truly an idyllic life."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 22

Lady Lyn glanced at the burning warehouse ahead of them. "So... we did not do that?"

Caspar shook his head.  "No, m'lady.  We did not."

Lady Lyn gave a dull nod. "Huh."  She glanced around.  "We scattered the Prince's Men?"

"Mmm-hmm," replied Caspar, eyes darting to the woods.  "Armin and the others are hounding them away to make certain we've got plenty of distance between us and them when we head for the hills..."

"Right, right," said Lady Lyn, as she walked forward. 

Caspar's eyebrow raised slightly.  "Are you walking towards the burning warehouse?"  Lady Lyn did not answer.  "You are.  You are walking towards the warehouse that is on fire, and was set on fire by persons unknown." Lady Lyn continued forward.  "You are really a most exasperating young woman, you know that?" he stated.  "You are most fortunate we are kin!"

"That's never been proven," stated Lyn, as she headed forward.

Caspar grumbled to himself, as he followed after her.  "This is the most awful, most unbearable job that ever a retainer of this great house has ever drawn," he stated fixedly.  "And I include Grandion, who was hung by his feet and lashed due to his great loyalty to the same."  He ambled forward.  "After all, he at least got paid for it.  With his own little palace."

They had just reached the clearing where the warehouse was located.  Two men were hurriedly rushing away from it.  "Hold!" said Lady Lyn, leveling her bow at them.  The pair froze, hands on their weapons.  Caspar fancied himself enough of an expert on body language to suspect that they were doing a mental reckoning of their distance from his mistress, and he suspected, coming to a rather distressing conclusion on that matter.  "Be you Prince's Men, or no?" she declared in a ringing voice.

The pair were silent for a moment.  "Whichever doesn't get us killed," said one, hurriedly.

Lady Lyn blinked.  "Gregory...?  Gregory, is that you?"

One of the men blinked.  "Gwen? Gwendolyn, what are you doing here?"

Gwendolyn Laodegan shrugged.  "Well, for a start, this is my home still, Gregory.  But as for the moment, oh, heading a resistance movement.  You?"

The man looked around sheepishly.  "I'm a soldier for hire now," he explained.

Lyn gave a bright laugh.  "Well, funny old world, eh?" She glanced at Caspar.  "Don't you agree?"

"Quite, quite."  He peered at the man fixedly.  "You're Gregory Tyne, aren't you?"

"That's right, sir," he answered.

"I'm Mosca," stated his companion.

"I was supposed to club your skull in once," explained Caspar.  He gestured at Lyn.  "Her father's orders.  Only you gave us all the slip."

"Like I said," noted Lyn, "funny old world."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 21

"Hmm," muttered Gibbel, as he and his fellows watched the men march forward, carrying their heavy loads of lumber.  "Are you sure about this?"

Piers gave an abrupt nod.  "Sure of it.  You know Ryke--he's all about sparing his own head, and seeing those of others lopped off, when you get down to it."

"And you're not?" said Gibbel with a laugh.  "I'm no fool, Piers.  If you've ever set your neck out for a fellow, I've not heard of it."

Piers gave his  fellow a wounded look. "That's unfair, Gibbel.  I may look out for myself, but I'm no Ryke.  Why, he'd stab his own grandmother if he thought it'd benefit him."

Gibbel raised an eyebrow.  "Men do stab their grandmothers on occasion for totally reasonable reasons," he muttered in offended tones, walking forward.  He raised his lash.  "Faster, lazyfeet!  Faster!"

"Well, at least tell me you'll think of it," shouted Piers, rushing beside the man.  "We need to stand together, damn it!  Who knows what that man is plotting as we speak?"

Gibbel licked his lips and nodded. "I'll think of it, sure.  But that's all I'll say for the nonce."  A smile touched his ugly face.  "But in two nonces--well, who knows?  Ryke and you, you and Ryke--what's the difference to me?  Bugger if I know, really."

Piers took a relieved breath and stepped away from his associate.  Two nonces later, he heard a strange buzzing noise, followed by Gibbel pitching forward in the mud. 

Piers turned to see the man's body lying in the road, an arrow in his throat.  The labourers had already tossed their loads down and were running away, as had most of the remaining soldiers.   Men in cloaks were emerging from the woods.  "Death to Prince Amfortas!" came a high cry.

Piers was debating his response to this, when he saw a plume of smoke emerging from the warehouse ahead.

That had cleared his head considerably, he thought, as he joined those fleeing.  Indeed, he was almost amazed to realize that he had started running before he was even aware of making the choice.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 20

"So, that's our target?" muttered Mosca staring at the dingy warehouse. 

"Your target, yes," answered Gregory, hands in his pockets.

Mosca stared at the ramshackle construction for a moment longer, and sighed.  "I'm almost insulted, Gentleman."

"You shouldn't be," said Gregory.  "Lumber is nine-tenths of what they look for here.  Some of that lumber gets used to build ships.  Which then get taken to Ys, filled with lumber.  To build more ships."

Mosca blinked.  "That has to be the most bizarre construction chain I've ever heard of..."

Gregory shrugged.  "Oh, it's actually how things tended to go around here, normally," he noted.  "Only... on strong-tea." 

Mosca shook his head.  "I know I shouldn't have had a cup of that..."  He pointed at Gregory.  " 'Oh, it's just gives you an edge for a while'!  Ha!  I was jumping around for the entire night!"

"Not discussing that now, Mosca," said Gregory. 

"Well, when are we?" asked Mosca.

"Not now," replied Gregory.  He pointed to the warehouse.  "Now--the finest way to get the trust and attention of the Bellringers is to show we're in the game, same as them.  And the finest way to do that is to start hurting what the Prince's Men are looking for.  So, we burn down that warehouse..."

"Right," said Mosca, stepping forward.  "Give me a moment, and you'll be watching a merry blaze."

"No, no!" said Gregory, placing his arm before his fellow.  "Not now!  We need to do it in a way that really hurts them.  Tomorrow night, they'll put the entire week's worth of lumber in there.  That's when we burn it down!"

Mosca raised an eyebrow.  "Won't there be guards around then?"

"Not many," answered Gregory.  "And there's a plan for that." 

Mosca stared at the lieutenant balefully. "So I'm just to trust in that, when you have me rush out to set fire to this, at night?"  Gregory smiled and nodded.  Mosca stared a moment longer, then turned and kicked a rock.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 19

Armin glanced at Bede, Casper and Nell, all calmly playing cards.  "So," he said at last, "do you think she's going to kill them?"  He gave a slight cough.  "Or something?"

Casper rolled his eyes, and put down a card.  "I play the Fool." 

Nell clicked her tongue.  "You wily man." She placed a card down.  "Four of acorns."

"I've never understood this game," muttered Bede, tossing down his card.  "Five of bells."

"Is anyone going to answer me?" muttered Armin.

"Have you heard any screaming?" replied Caspar, taking the hand.  "I make my chelam," he declared grandly.  Nell nodded, and poured out some lentils onto the pile before her, then pushed the whole thing towards Caspar, who accepted them with a certain noble abstraction, and then began to shuffle the cards again. 

"No," said Armin.

Caspar began to deal the cards.  "Then I would assume she is not." 

"But what are we going to do with these men?"  muttered Armin.

Nell paused from staring at her hand with what looked like disappointment, and stared at Armin.  "Do you... want her to kill them, then?"

Armin shifted nervously.  "Well, no, but..."  He scratched his leg.  "Well, it'll be hard dealing with them."

"Yes," muttered Bede, looking over his hand.  "We might run out of stew."   After a while, he took two cards and placed them in the small pile that lay before him.

"I bid 'Garde sans'!" declared Caspar.  Nell and Bede both glared at him, then nodded, and folded their cards.  With a smile, he pulled the six cards in the pile to the side, and began play.  "Now then, Armin," said Caspar calmly, "I wouldn't be too worried.  Her Ladyship will doubtless muddle through in that way that is unquestionably her own."

Lady Lyn strode into the room, something which should have been ridiculous, given her height, and yet most assuredly was not.  "Right!" she declared.  "Everyone stop what they're doing! We move TONIGHT!"

Caspar blinked.  "You know, we could finish this..."  Bede and Nell threw down their cards and walked away from the table.  He sighed.  "Right.  Right."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 18

Kessler stared at the ruined camp.  "So..." he began awkwardly, and then sighed.  "How did this happen?"

The man before him glanced away. "Well, sir, to answer that, I'd need a witness, but... all the men who were working here fled, and the guards were all killed.  We think."

"You think." The captain rubbed the bridge of his nose.  He'd had a pounding headache when he woke up this morning and coming out to look at this was only making matters worse.  "Why don't you know?"

"Well, sir," muttered the man, "we haven't found all the bodies yet.  So we don't know if they're all dead, or only most of them are dead."  He coughed.  "A lot of them are though."

Kessler decided to let that line of questioning reach an early end.  "And the workers are gone?" he said.

"Fled into the hills," said the man.  "Though they might be dead to, for all we know."

"So why don't you go look for them?" muttered Kessler whose urge for another bottle of the local beverage was becoming quite overwhelming at the moment.

"Well, sir, we really don't have the men to," came the answer.  "If we send them out, that leaves our base in the local town vulnerable, and that means we could lose... well, everything."

"So, we can't do anything more than a cursory investigation," said Kessler with a grim nod.  "And the lumber gathering?"

"More or less stopped, sir," answered the man.  "The workers are all fleeing.  They know we don't dare chase them now.  So, they all run out the woods and hide."

Kessler was trying to figure out how this could get worse, when Bres appeared at his shoulder.  "So... any interesting finds?" he asked.

"You mean aside from the fact that we apparently can't investigate our men getting butchered," muttered the captain, "which is making the situation worse as people realize that we can't investigate our men getting butchered?"

Bres bit his lips.  "Wouldn't dwell on that one."  He coughed.  "Look--I know to you a Prince's Man is a Prince's Man, but there are... levels in our organization.  As I report on you, men report on me, and if their reports and my reports fail to impress the Governor, then it leaves me vulnerable... and you vulnerable..."

Kessler's need for a drink was growing rapidly.  "What are you saying?"

Bres turned away, his little ratlike face looking quite unhappy. "This is an uncertain time.  A time when some seek to advance quickly.   They look for opportunities.  Like the failures of others. You didn't not find the man who went missing in the attack. Now more men are missing, and the entire purpose for our being here is threatened."  He leaned forward.  "Do you catch my meaning, captain?"

Kessler nodded, his throat supremely, horribly dry.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 17

Ryke dotted his head with his handkerchief.  Ys was humid today--awfully humid, the sort of wet day where the air clung to you.  And worse, the city stank, as if it were a swamp, or a midden heap.  Which, glancing at the people lying about the ruined  streets, might be a fairly accurate description.

A hand clutched at his sleeve.  "Sir, great sir, please, sir," muttered his interrogator.  "I've no house.  The fires.  Give... give... give..."  Ryke turned briefly, and saw a scrared face of indeterminate gender.  He swatted the hand away, and went on.

He turned down the path towards the headquarters of Governor Pelle, and then froze.  He stared at the pile of rubble that lay down the way, puzzled, and strangely angry.

"Ryke?" came a voice.  "That you?"

Ryke nodded as he turned.  "Blyss," he said quietly, staring at the bland, blonde head of his fellow Prince's Man.  "What happeed here?"

Blyss gave the sort of pleasant shrug that made him seem like a totally normal fellow--not that Ryke thought for a second.  After all, he knew precisely what charges the man had been facing before Amfortas had recruited him.  "It collapsed."  He yawned.  "So we moved to a new building."  Blyss frowned to himself.  "Lots of buildings collapsing.  It's irritating."  He sighed.  "So... you need to see Pell?" He turned and gestured for Ryke to follow him.

Ryke did so, keeping a hand on his sword hilt.  "So... it was the fires, I suppose?"

Blyss blinked, puzzled.  "Fires?  What fires?"

"The ones all those months ago," said Ryke reminding himself that Blyss was... slightly off.  Blyss gave an uncertain nod, one that indicated that while he didn't quite follow Ryke, he was willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt on this matter.  "They were what's causing all the building collapses."

"Ohh," said Blyss, with dawning comprehension.  "No.  No, it was sabotage."

"Indeed?" said Ryke, slightly puzzled.

"Oh, yes," said Blyss.  He gestured up ahead, to what Ryke realized was a gallows.  "See?  Sabotage.  That's why we hanged those people."  Blyss smiled vaguely.  "For sabotaging us."

"Indeed," said Ryke, doing his best to not sound puzzled at all, but quite impressed by Pell's work.

Blyss gave a vacant smile to his response.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 16

Mauritz stared at the face of the mysterious leader of the local resistance, the woman he knew only as 'Lady Lyn', getting his first clear look at the woman who was holding him prisoner.  It was something of a surprise, really... Lady Lyn was younger than he'd expected--her late twenties at most--and rather pretty, not at all the hardbitten wild woman he'd expected. 

No, instead he was staring at a young woman with a thin delicate face, whose ringlets of brown hair hung down to her neck, and whose large pale hazel eyes seemed more unhappy than defiant. 

But then, what did Mauritz know?  He'd thought joining the army had been a clever enough idea when he'd done it.

"So," said Lady Lyn, "my men tell me your willing to talk..."

Mauritz nodded.  "No reason for false courage in a situation like this, your highness..." he began.

"Your ladyship," corrected Lady Lynn.  "I'm only a countess."

"Ahh."  Mauritz managed a weak cough.  "Well, as I said, I know I'm done for, and so winning your favor's my only hope.  Besides, not like I'm that fond of the Prince's Men."  He looked at her for a moment.  "Is it true that Amfortas... that he killed your Queen?"

"We don't know for sure," answered Lady Lyn.  "But we think so.  He at least drove her to her death."

"I see," said Mauritz quietly.  "That's... I am sorry.  I... I never saw her, but I had heard of her, and she sounded like a nice young woman."

Lady Lyn looked at him interestedly. "What do you hear about her?"

"Oh, this and that," said Mauritz.  "That the Prince was going to usher in an age of glory with her as his bride, at first.  Then that she had been killed by traitors. Or Nightfolk.  It really wasn't made clear."  He sighed.  "Still... it's always good to get another point of view.  Helps one to truth.  Which is the way of the Holy Light.  That's what my da' always said."

"How are they feeding you?" asked Lady Lyn.

"Very well," answered Mauritz. "They make a fine stew, your men."

"That they do," she agreed.