Evaughnlynn sat on one side of her father and Captain Macrath on the other when Beowyn walked into the room with Steward and the messenger from the Freeholds. The three stopped in front of
her father and the young man bowed as he removed his helmet.
“I am Captain Tamir, son of Benami, the Elect of the Freeholds.” He was tall and muscular with strong sun-darkened features hidden behind a neatly trimmed black beard. His long black
hair was held back in a ponytail secured with a silver ring.
Evaughnlynn considered him very impressive, if no more than a score of years old. She wondered how he had achieved his rank so quickly, even if his father was the Freemen’s version of a
“I have come with a request from the Elect that Princess Evaughnlynn visit our lands in our time of need. She is known to be of great ability as a dru and our people are dying of a strange
illness.” He withdrew a scroll wrapped around a polished wooden spindle and handed it to King Ragnon.
Her father set the scroll to one side. “We will give all consideration to the request of the Elect. The Freemen have been allies of the Hawklanders for generations. But we must
discuss this with our advisors. We’ll give you our decision on the morrow. Tonight we’ll hold a feast in your honor, Captain Tamir.”
Ragnon raised his hand and signaled his valet, standing in the corner. “You must be tired, Captain. Cailean will show you to your room. Lieutenant Beowyn assures me your men are
in good hands with his sergeant.”
“We appreciate your kindness, Your Majesty.” Captain Tamir bowed and backed toward the door with Cailean at his side.
After the door closed, Ragnon unrolled the scroll and read it. Then he set in down. “Well, it seems our little fight in the Great Forest last year isn’t totally unknown in the world
after all.” He shoved the scroll to Evaughnlynn, who picked it up and unrolled it. Below the usual greeting between sovereigns, and the request that she come to the Freeholds, the
Elect had written, “The prophet Gamaliel has told me to say that the Lord our God has tested you, and not found you wanting. As you have aided those of Cymru, so will you be aided in your
time of need. Fear not to send forth from your house the aid my people need.”
She looked up at her father. “I don’t understand. The elves wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Milady.” Steward put out his hand from his side of the table. She handed him the scroll and he glanced at the document. “It’s as I thought. Gamaliel has seen it.”
He turned to her father. “You might recall I spoke of Gamaliel when I first returned from my wanderings. He was the youth who fascinated the sorcerer Westram. A young lad who
held no stone of power, but still did great wonders among the Freemen. Westram said that Gamaliel had tapped into some unknown power of the universe which aided him at times.”
Evaughnlynn leaned forward. “He controls this power?”
Steward shook his head. “No, the power controls him. He believes the power is his god, and refers to himself as ‘the servant of the lord.’”
King Ragnon leaned back in his chair. “Do you believe the god of the Freemen speaks through this man?”
“The Freemen do. They call Gamaliel a prophet, or one who knows the mind of a god. Men like Gamaliel have appeared among them from the beginning. Westram studied the Freeman for
years. He said there are two stories on how the war of the Old Ones started, both true. The Freemen believe they started it. The second version is that the love of an elfin girl
by the young son of an Old One started it. Westram said he had found written evidence that the Freemen revolted and fought a war from hiding, because they couldn’t stand against the power
of the Old Ones, who sent sorcerers after them. This fight waged for some years because their leader, Doron, was a prophet like Gamaliel, and he always knew in advance what the Old Ones
planned to do. Then, when the young son of an Old One broke away from the rest for the sake of the elf girl he loved, Doran came to his aid. This caused a fracture between the Old
Ones, which led to all-out war.”
“As interesting as this is,” King Ragnon said, “why mention it now?”
Steward smiled. “To answer your question, Milord, whether the god of the Freemen speaks through Gamaliel.” He turned his palms upward. “Westram told me that all the Old Ones who
joined the war on the side of light rejected the old gods. They did not become followers of the Freemen’s god or his laws, but they never planned a move without the agreement of the
Freemen’s prophet, and they won the war. So, while I don’t know what power the Freemen follow, I know it’s of the Light, and I respect it.”
Ragnon nodded slowly. “Then, to the question, shall Evaughnlynn go the Freeholds?” He looked at her. “I know your mind in this. You have a penchant for sticking your nose
in wasp’s nests.” Then he turned to Captain Macrath. “Before your son has a chance to wheedle you on behalf of his cousin, what say you? Do we aid them by sending her?”
Captain Macrath glanced at Beowyn standing in front of the table, then looked back at the king. “They are our closest allies and the letter does renew their pledge to send aid if we’re
“Not exactly,” Steward interjected. “What Gamaliel said was, ‘As you have aided those of Cymru, so will you be aided in your time of need.’ Cymru does not know, or is ever likely to
know, we aided them. What Gamaliel is talking about is that someone, perhaps their god, will aid us in addition to the Freemen, who will aid us regardless. The more important part of
his prophesy is that we need not fear for Evaughnlynn if we send her.”
Steward leaned back in his chair. “When the princess and you traveled to Anglia she was a stone bearer passing through with the Elect’s permission. Now she will actually be staying
there. Gamaliel guarantees her safety, since the Freeman would not normally allow a stone bearer to stay in the Freeholds.”
Evaughnlynn looked at her father, who raised one eyebrow skeptically at Steward. “And you trust this prophet?”
“I would trust him with my life, Milord. More importantly, I would trust him with the life of the princess.” Steward picked up the scroll and read, “Fear not to send forth from your
house the aid my people need.” He handed the scroll to Ragnon.“He is guaranteeing that any member of your house you send will return safely. Since the princess is of your
house, she will be under his protection.”
Ragnon leaned back in his chair and looked up for several moments before he said, “Beowyn is of my house, is he not? If I send him, will I also get him back?” He leaned forward to
look directly at Steward.
“The wording suggests Gamaliel was speaking about the princess, but, theoretically, yes, Milord.”
He nodded. “And, of course, I am of my house.”
“Yes, Milord. As is Captain Macrath, and your sister Princess Hilda, not to mention a number of cousins. But I think you’re stretching the words beyond breaking. He was
promising to protect the princess.”
Ragnon laughed. “I don’t want to stretch the prophet’s promise too thin.” He looked at Macrath. “You and Steward did such a good job while I was away last time, I’m afraid your
reward is to get stuck doing it again.”
Evaughnlynn leaned forward eagerly. “Then we’ll go?”
“We’ll go.” Her father patted her hand. “The Freemen are our friends as well as our allies. I’ll not refuse to aid them if I can.”
Captain Tamir couldn’t sleep despite his fatigue. After an hour of tossing and turning, he went to the gate tower and asked Sergeant Bullnose about his men.
The sergeant laughed. “They’re sleeping like babies.” He led the captain to the stone barracks in the corner tower where the nine men were, indeed, sleeping on cots.
Captain Tamir smiled. “I’m sorry, Sergeant, but I couldn’t rest until I knew how they were.”
Bullnose nodded. “Can’t blame you, sir. I need to know where my men are at all times. Never know what they’ll get up to otherwise. Fortunately, the worst of them for
getting into trouble isn’t with them anymore, so they’ve calmed down a lot.”
“Lost in battle, was he?”
“No,” Bullnose laughed and pointed at his enameled stripes. “The king made him a sergeant.”
The captain laughed and patted the big man on the shoulder. “I know what you mean, Sergeant. I think my father gave me a ship just to get me to act more responsibly.”
“Well, now, Captain, that’s not what your men say. They speak very highly of you, sir.”
Tamir smiled. “Thank you, Sergeant. I’ve taken up enough of your time.”
Bullnose saluted. The captain returned the salute walked back to the keep. When he entered the great hall, he looked first at the stairs and then the tables where the feast would be
held that night, wondering what the king would decide.
His father’s words flashed into his mind. “Don’t worry, he’ll send her. Just be sure she gets here safely.”
She’s a mere slip of a girl.It’s hard to believe Gamaliel chose her to aid our people. But, for a mere slip of a girl, I’ve never seen one more
beautiful. The windows on the far side of the tables caught his eye, as did the garden beyond them. He glanced at the stairs again, then strode toward the windows.
Prophets see the hand of God in everything. But I’ve never seen God in a fight with pirates or raiders, just mayhem and death.
He barged through the pane-glass door and onto a patio. The princess turned from a rosebush in surprise and he stopped. “I’m sorry, Your Highness, I didn’t mean to intrude.” He
turned to leave, thinking, she’s even more beautiful than he remembered.
He turned back. She has a very musical voice.
“I’m not Evon,” she said. “I’m Roselyn, her cousin.” She smiled. “They say we look much alike, particularly when we’re dressed as dru.” She lifted off the pale blue veil
she was wearing, and golden hair with a reddish tinge cascaded over her shoulders. “Evaughnlynn has black hair, while mine is—as you can see.”
“Yes,” he said, desperately trying to gain control of his thoughts. “Your hair is very beautiful. You—are very beautiful, and I—I am a complete fool for disturbing you.” He
bowed quickly and started to turn away again.
“Don’t leave,” she said, and he turned back to her.
She smiled again and walked over to him. “You’re the captain from the Freeholds, come to ask for Evaughnlynn’s help, aren’t you?”
“I am Captain Tamir of the Freeholds, yes, Milady.”
“Can you tell me about the illness that’s plaguing your people?”
He shook his head. “Regretfully, no. I had no more than returned home from a trading trip when my father sent me on this mission. I only know that few have survived it so far,
and that it’s a vile and painful way to die. We rode two days to get here.”
“Then you should rest.” She put her hand on his arm and a sense of well-being and safety flooded over him. “Trust me, we’ll leave the day after tomorrow. I’m sure my uncle only
delayed telling you so we would have time to prepare.”
“I pray you’re right. My people are sore beset by this illness. My father said we have not been able to contain it with quarantine. Rumors had arrived before I left that it had
reached several other towns.”
“Evon is a remarkable dru. If anyone can help, it’ll be her.”
“Then, I will take my leave, Milady.” He bowed and turned back into the hall. He stopped inside and glanced back. She was still standing there, watching him. He found it
hard to look away, but he did, and strode across the hall to the stairs. Men like me should stay away from beautiful women. The sea and a wife that beautiful are more than a man
can love at the same time, and I do love the sea. But he knew it would not be the sea that crept into his dreams.