"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.