Chapter 12 Part 8 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Kenver told Tennoc the moment they were alone. He fell on his stepbrother's shoulder and cried. "How could Father turn on you, knowing how Gwynna and I love you!"
Tennoc held Kenver close. "That's why he wants me dead. He was as my father--no more, but you will always be my brother, Ken, always!"
They parted, and Kenver wiped his eyes. "Shall we tell your mother?"
"No, no," said Tennoc, "I want her held blameless."
"I could take you by reflection to Brunsial."
"Then your father will be angry with you, and I'll look guilty. I've done nothing wrong."
Kenver worried the corner of his mouth. "What will you do?"
"I don't know. Let's see if he really means to do this first--I will give him every chance to repent. I'm bringing Hanni, and you know how skillful is his bow, even if he's not allowed to carry heavier arms."
"You must have another. My sworn man Mycal can hold his own in a fight, and he can keep a secret."
"Well then, we'll be prepared, but perhaps your father will have a change of heart and no attack will come."
"Live or die, we may never see one another again in this life," said Kenver.
And I may never see Gwynna again, thought Tennoc, but perhaps that is a mercy. "No distance will ever be able to break our friendship, Ken. Not even when I'm in the Hill. I'll love you always, my brother."
The next day Tennoc kissed his mother goodbye in the courtyard; he carried Lord Grandfather's letter hidden in his breast. Yellow Hanni and Mycal were to travel with him, along with three guards--six riders in all to Brunsial. Kenver came to him and kissed him as well, and the two friends clung together. "Mycal is a fine swordsman, and you may trust him as you do me. He would die for you as I would," whispered Kenver. "The guards are my father's, heart and soul--show no mercy if it comes to it. Gwynna says to tell you she loves you." Tennoc tightened his grip on his stepbrother's arms. Aloud Kenver said, "I will miss you, brother. Safe journey to Brunsial." Dunnoc clasped Tennoc's arms but no more and refused to meet his eyes. Gwynna was kept from goodbyes, but she and Cariodas watched from the high tower until the little company disappeared over the green horizon.
Tennoc, Hanni and Mycal kept a close watch on the guards; though equal in number, the guards were better armed. Each carried a shield, sword, long dagger and lance, and they wore light armor. Tennoc carried the same kit, but Hanni and Mycal wore leather armor and carried only a sword, dagger and buckler. Hanni had his bow, too; he exclaimed "Is good for shoot hare for pot!" whenever a guard looked at him. Everyone knew Yellow Hanni was a fool--a talented archer but a fool all the same.
Tennoc kept his eyes open. They could not afford to be caught out. The moment it appeared the guards might attack, they must strike.
Two days' ride from Gwyrfal, they approached the Whitehorse crossroads, riding three abreast. Here the road narrowed just enough that two might comfortably ride together. Two of the guards declared they'd take up the rear, but they exchanged too long a look among themselves. Tennoc braced himself; the time had come. The guard on point pulled his sword, but Hanni nocked an arrow, drew his bow and fired before the man could turn around; the arrow pierced his throat. He fell and lay choking in the road under the horses' hooves.
Tennoc and Mycal wheeled their horses round. Though he couldn't work up a good gallop, Tennoc lowered his lance. They charged before the surprised guards could finish withdrawing their lances from their holsters. Tennoc's lance knocked his opponent from the saddle; it cracked in two from the blow, and he threw the remaining haft from him. Mycal suffered a glancing lance blow that brought him down beside Tennoc's opponent. The dazed, dismounted men got to their feet and faced one another down.
The remaining lanceman, finally in possession if not full charge of his weapon, bore down on Tennoc. He raised his shield and hoped for the best, but the lance found his horse's neck. The animal screamed; he threw himself clear and rolled just before it hit the ground and lay kicking in the air. Hanni's arrow flew past the lanceman; a string of Leutish curses followed. Steel shrieked on steel; Mycal grunted and cried out in agony, but Tennoc couldn't afford to take his eyes off the rider before him. He staggered to his feet as the rider swung his sword down at him. Tennoc raised his shield and took a numbing blow to his arm. He slashed at the horse's legs and missed.
An arrow hissed again; armor clattered as the guardsman who felled Mycal fell to the ground himself, the arrow through his eye. Tennoc struggled to raise his shield as the remaining guardsman slashed down at him, but the rider was too close; the swing went wide. Tennoc thrust into the horse's belly. The beast fell, taking his sword with it; a flailing hoof grazed his side. He collapsed, the wind knocked out of him and at least one rib broken. To one side he saw Mycal sprawled in the road; to the other the dying horse pinned its screaming rider beneath it. Hanni strode up, slit the horse's throat and then the guard's. Their blood spattered into the dirt as they died.
Hanni helped Tennoc to his feet. "You saved the day," Tennoc gasped.
"For you, my job it is to be saving days."
The broken rib stabbed at the younger man's side, and he leaned on the Leutan servant until he could stand. Hanni helped him to a nearby rock, where he sat as the man checked on Mycal. "Dead, sir."
"I'm heartily sorry for it," said Tennoc. "Some day I hope to tell Kenver his man died bravely."
Hanni bound Tennoc's ribs, and the two gathered equipment and food from the fallen men and horses as fast as Tennoc's injury would allow. They made sure to take the false Tremontine banners the guards had carried to "prove" treachery, and while they didn't have time to bury Mycal, they laid him out in dignity, his arms folded over his sword and his cloak over his body. They left the guards where they died for the crows to pick at them.
Hanni caught an uninjured horse to replace Tennoc's dead mount. "Riding it is time to, sir. Think you to stay in the saddle?"
"I have to," grunted Tennoc as he swung himself up. Pain barbed each breath, and he winced.
"Where to, sir?"
The dead men and horses lay behind them; the fork in the road lay before them. The straight track led to Brunsial. The other led east to the River Cobb--the border with Whitehorse, and so Tremont. "Dunnoc will move openly against me now, and I would not bring him down on Clan Sial and Uncle Williard for the world. As it is I expect Dunnoc will search Brunsial down to the last mousehole. We ride inland, old friend." Tennoc turned his horse's nose to the east, put the sun behind him, and rode at a gallop toward his unknown grandfather's holding.