Brother Knobu entered the rooms Brother Drogo had rented in Bar Elam on the Adara River and looked around. “This hovel is the best you could arrange?” He centered on Brother Drogo
standing by the window. “No matter. Explain your failure with those accursed Dwarves in Hollow Mountain. You cost us our strong point on the border.”
Brother Drogo’s mouth slammed shut and his head went back at his superior’s words. “As you will recall, you ordered me to check on Brother Banag and his raider allies. That necessitated
leaving my goblins and the bar scum you gave me on their own. It left them unprotected. Had I not been ordered to leave, the outcome would have been our complete victory.” The
tall, thin brother turned so that he was fully facing his superior. “This failure has been all yours.”
The muscles of Brother Knobu’s face twitched. His wand slid out of his sleeve and into his hand. “You dare accuse me of failure?”
“Go ahead and try,” Brother Drogo growled. His wand suddenly in his hand. “I spent years raising and training those goblins. I deserve a chance to see you grovel.”
“ENOUGH!” Darkness filled the room, then condensed into a tall, shadow-cloaked figure. “Your squabbling solves nothing. Despite my orders the Witch of Hawkland still lives, our
goblin and raider allies have been destroyed, and the sickness I spent years preparing has been countered by a mere dru with a simple stone of power—IN A LAND THAT WILL NOT TOLERATE STONES WITHIN
Both Brother Knobu and Brother Drogo went to the floor writhing in pain. “If I had more time, you two would learn what it means to fail me. Do so again and I will make the time.”
Brother Knobu went still while Brother Drogo rolled over onto his back, panting. Then he looked up at the dark figure towering over him. “Master, you need to know who killed my
“Who?” The dark figure turned to regard the supine figure.
Brother Drogo took a deep breath. “The warrior from Hawkland who destroyed our efforts against Cymru last year.”
Brother Knobu rose to his knees. He glanced at Drogo and then looked up at the shadow figure. “He’s also the one who protected the Swineland prophet and killed Brother Banag.”
The shadowy forn turned to him. “How is this possible?”
“Master.” Brother Knobu rose to his feet. “A tall, young warrior rode from Bar Krouth to bring the prophet there. My men were at the gates and saw him leave. He must have
arrived before Brother Banag and prevented him from killing their so-called prophet. Banag’s acolyte told me that a tall, young warrior rode with the giants who attacked our raiders and that
he blocked Banag’s curse, then killed him.”
Brother Drogo also rose to his feet. “I know the Hawkland warrior was with the dwarves of Hollow Mountain and said that Princess Evaughnlynn would cure the disease in Bar Krouth. How
could he know this unless he knew she’d survived our trap?”
The Master turned to Brother Knobu. “How could a mere warrior turn a wizard’s curse back on him?”
Brother Knobu shrugged. “How did a mere warrior defeat us in the pass leading to Cymru? There were two full sorcerers in that force, both killed. By whom?”
The Master reached out and squeezed Knobu’s heart for a moment. “Be careful, Brother, or your arrogance will be your downfall. While the warrior was there, he was not responsible for
our loss. That was an old enemy whom I am closing in on now, which made your failure, and my need to repair it, all the more troublesome.”
Brother Knobu took a deep breath. “I saw a tall, young man riding on a wagon with a dwarf going into Bar Krouth as I left. He wore no armor, but his aura was that of a warrior.”
The shadow regarded Brother Knobu for a few moments, then turned back to Brother Drogo. “They were your goblins, Drogo. To you I give the opportunity for revenge. Go to Bar Krouth
and find that Dwarf. He’ll lead you to the warrior.”
“Brother Drogo, I sense a certain reluctance in you to face this foe. I advise against casting a curse or approaching the warrior directly.”
“Then how, Master?”
“Poison or an assassin’s arrow in the back. But the decision is yours—as are the consequences of failure. This man has troubled me enough.” The master’s image became smoke and the
room brightened as his shadow quickly dissipated.
Brother Knobu turned to Brother Drogo. “How did you know the warrior who killed your goblins was the one from Hawkland?”
Drogo smiled. “A young lady I spoke to while arranging for this room. I met her several years ago at her brother’s home when I went there to hire him. She thought I was a merchant
from Cymru. She told me that she met the warrior at Hollow Mountain. He told her the Hawkland witch would soon cure the plague. She’s looking forward to seeing him again in Bar
Krouth, which is where I’m headed now.”
Brother Knobu stepped between Brother Drogo and the door. “Have you planted the sickness and the rumors?”
“Yes. At least twenty primaries. It’s spreading nicely. As for the rumors, we’ve told a tale of how a foreign dru with a stone of power was brought into Cymru to treat a sickness
in the past. She was very successful, but when she left those she had cured became ill again, as did all those she treated to prevent the disease. It would have wiped out the town if
some men had not tracked down the fake dru and slain her. Once she was dead, the curse collapsed. We’ve also played up the idea that a stone of power in the land is an insult to the
laws of Doran. That should give the Swinemen something to think about.”
“Very good.” Brother Knobu nodded. “Just be sure you spread the disease again in Bar Krouth before you go after the Hawkland warrior. That way you won’t fail both missions if your
encounter doesn’t go as planned.”
Brother Drogo waited for Brother Knobu to step aside, then opened the door. He turned back. “You’re not returning to Bar Krouth?”
“No,” Brother Knobu snarled. “That fool witch won’t cast a curse to drive away the crowd. Instead she’ll block the stones they throw. That will quickly drain her strength.
When she weakens, I’ll cast a paralyzing curse. I intend to watch them tear her apart.” Brother Knobu turned to the window, ignoring his subordinate. “Take Banag’s acolyte.
I have no use for him.”
Evaughnlynn stopped pacing when Nadab, the mansion caretaker, entered the preparations room. “Master Nadab, I understand that Freemen, unlike in other lands, can be any profession they wish,
and not just follow after their parent’s trade. Is that correct?”
Nadab stopped short and his brows came together. “Yes, Madam. That is our way.” He put his hands behind his back and stood regarding her.
“That’s a good thing. My father made that the rule in Hawkland when he became king. He greatly admires your customs. However, I must admit that even so, most people in Hawkland
follow their parents occupations. Is that true here as well? Like Captain Tamir being a sailor like his father?”
Nadab nodded. “That is common among us. Children honor their parents and copy them in many things.”
“But not always?” Evaughnlynn cocked her head to one side.
“As you say, not always.”
“And is it also true that girls are allowed in your professions and not restricted to menial and domestic roles?”
Nadab’s brows were now drawn so close that they were nearly one. “That’s correct.”
“I bring this up because your daughter has been helping us treat the sick and brewing the potions we need. She is very talented.” She stepped close to him. “Your god is very
strong in her. When she walks into the sick room, those most ill rally and grow stronger. I ask you to consider letting her train as a dru. She would be a great one.”
Nadab’s eyebrows now went wide and his head jerked back slightly. “You wish to train her as a dru?”
She touched his shoulder. ‘I know you dislike the fact I am a stone-bearer. But I’m foremost a dru, and I’ve met and worked with a number of your dru since I arrived. Several of
them are working here with the sick, as you know. They have also noted her healing talent. Several have offered to continue her teaching after I leave.” She dropped her hand from
his shoulder and folded it with her other hand in front of her. “I mention this now because we leave tomorrow for Bar Elam and I would like to take her with us.”
“Take her with you?” Nadab took a step back.
“Yes. Her presence in Bar Elam will be very helpful.” She waved her hand to the side. “But if you object to her going, please let her continue to help the dru who will be here
treating the sick, and please consider letting her be trained as a dru.”
Evaughnlynn smiled. “I have not mentioned any of this to Neima, and will not, unless you approve.” She let her expression become serious. “But for Neima’s sake, and the sake of
your people, please let her train as a dru.”
Nadab remained still for several seconds, then nodded. “I must speak of this with my wife. Since you’re leaving for Bar Elam tomorrow I will give you our answer before midday.”
Evaughnlynn returned to the large sickroom filled with children and began her rounds. Neima was waiting and moved to her side carrying a tray full of potions they had prepared earlier.
A few minutes later a young maid entered and whispered to Neima. The girl nodded and continued handing out the potions. When she was done Neima stood quietly beside Evaughnlynn, who was
examining one of the children from Bar Elam. Evaughnlynn turned to her.
“If I may be excused for a while, my father wants to see me.” The now-empty tray in one hand fluttered.
“Of course.” Evaughnlynn returned to her examination of the boy, concealing a smile.
Sorcha spoke softly in her mind, “So, you think you won because you asked her father?”
I think I won because he loves his daughter, and I’ll soon be gone. But I think he’ll let her go to Bar Elam because I didn’t have her ask, but asked him myself.
“And why did that change his decision?”
“It put him in charge. It gave him control and showed him I didn’t think I could do anything I wanted. I don’t think he cares for people who think themselves superior.”
Evaughnlynn touched the child she had examined on the forehead and smiled. “You’ll be better in a day of two. The medicine is working.”
“Your wisdom continues to grow as does your power,” Sorcha whispered. “But you have been distracted for the past day. Seeing Faolan has altered your view of events.”
Only long range. Right now I have to worry about keeping us all alive over the next few days. By the way, you were wrong when you told me I only had to keep track of the boulders in the
flow and not every pebble. Some pebbles can affect the flow.
“Ah, you remember my comparison of a river’s flow to events in this world. You have found such a pebble?”
I think so. She moved to the next child. I think I just turned one into a boulder.
Evaughnlynn finished examining the children and then returned to her preparations room where she began brewing their next round of medicines and adding her findings to each child’s record.
The two other dru working in the mansion would review them later.
Evaughnlynn turned to find Nadab in the doorway. It was the first time he had ever used the address of nobility to her. She turned, letting her arms hang straight down with her hands
together in front, her fingers interlaced. “You’ve made your decision?”
“We have, Milady.” He smiled. “My wife and I agree that Neima can train as a dru.” He was almost vibrating as he added, “And she may go with you to Bar Elam.”
He was not done. Evaughnlynn stood still, waiting, watching his lips quiver.
His head went back slightly. “Although you will leave once the sickness is over—my wife and I ask that you continue training Neima while you are here.”
“I will consider her training an honor.” She smiled. “I said earlier that your god is strong in her. That is true, but it is more than that. The first time I ever felt such
power was when your High Priest touched her. Since then I have felt glimmers of that power when I went about the city. But it is strongest when Neima is nearby. I will teach her
the knowledge I have for treating the sick, but she has no need of a stone of power, as I do, to heal.”
“Milady, we have a saying—a very old one—that comes from our days as slaves. I never completely understood it until you came to Bar Krouth. It is, ‘that only a peasant knows what true
nobility is.’” He smiled and bowed. “You are a true noble and I, and mine, will always address you as such, Milady.” He turned and left the room.
© Copyright 2019 R. M. Keegan. All rights reserved.