Suckling Squaretoe gave a convulsive shake as he stood in the great field by the River Skadh. A cold wind was blowing over the assembled Mamelukes. "I tell you, I wished we could have just taken an airship."
"Shut up, Suckling," hissed Hearn.
"Well, we could," noted the younger Mameluke.
Hearn gestured ahead, where an Erl on a horse had rode to the top of a hill and had now turned to address them all. "The old man's talking."
Suckling stared ahead. "The Seneschal? Pinabel Maganza isn't old."
Hearn turned to hush him, then saw the Serjeant glaring at him, and kept quiet. Turning his attention to Pinabel, he watched the one-eyed Erl begin to speak. It seemed to Hearn that the man looked tired, but then, Pinabel Maganza always looked tired to him.
"Honored servants of House Maganza," said Pinabel, his voice carrying over the evening air. "We thank you for enduring this grueling march. Truly, you are the sons of honor, and carved of the same ebony as the throne."
Suckling gave a cheerful nod. "Heh. That's nice. Always did like the Seneschal. Knows how to make a man feel appreciated, he does."
"And as you have not stinted throught this, I ask that you not stint in the days ahead," continued Pinabel, his customary frown growing deeper. "For now--now the House of Maganza has great need of you, great need of your loyalty, and your strength. Do not fail us, sons of honor. Hold your heads high, in the days ahead!"
Hearn felt troubled by all this, somehow, though he was not sure why. "Hey, Hearn," hissed Suckling, pointing across the Skadh, "why's the Seneschal telling us this now? Outside Tremisona? We're still in the Shadow Woods!"
Hearn realized why he thought something was wrong then, staring at the flag of House Mongrane flying over the city.