"Here is where I leave you, lady," said Fearghill, and Clara startled and looked around. She realised they had passed through a portcullis; there were so many gates and checkpoints, and buildings overhanging the way, that she hadn't noticed.
"Are we in the castle?" She said.
Enrico sniggered. "Of course we are, you stupid girl," he said. "Did you not see the Princeguards?"
Now he said it, she realised there were pairs of black-and-purple robed men striding around them. She felt the heat rise into her cheeks.
"I am flattered to have been able to hold your attention so deeply," said Fearghill, half-bowing in his saddle. "I've no doubt I'll see you again." Clara nodded gratefully to him. If nothing else they were allies in their desire to deny Enrico any satisfaction.
"I intend to keep her far away from you," said Enrico. He reached over to take Clara's bridle. "Come on."
"In the meantime, I'll ask my sister to look in on you," said Fearghill as if Enrico hadn't spoken.
Enrico pulled up sharply on Clara's horse's bridle. "Do that, and I'll have her thrown from a window."
Clara felt herself go cold. Was she to share quarters with Enrico? He would take the first opportunity to return her slights with interest. Would she still share with her aunt? And would the doors to her sleeping chamber lock?
Something lit up in Fearghill's amber eyes. "I beg you try it, my lord," he said.
* * *
Clara had once said of Samioch, It's dangerous there.
Duncan half-smiled. She didn't know the half of it. Samioch, one of the southern provinces of Teleahn, had once been an autonomous country. The last rebellion had been crushed twenty years earlier. But now there were rumours of a new fight.
When Enrico had captured him, Duncan had been bound to Samioch to fight for Samioch's independence against Teleahn. Because he believed that no man should be subject to another against his will. Because in a free Samioch, perhaps he could have a life that wasn't tainted by his mixed blood.
Tucking the money from selling the Vallebrion horse into his jerkin, Duncan turned his steps towards the district of High Rock known as the bankside, where the houses sloped over the Innest as if they were about to dive in. Aithne had told him about a meeting house in High Rock. A meeting house where others who felt the same way would gather, ready to go to Samioch and fight.
The streets were narrow and stinking. Smells Duncan knew well. He wore the guise of an ordinary People man, following Aithne's directions through the twists and turns of the poor quarter until he found the house with the green door halfway down Tanner's Alley, which was permeated by the stench of rotting flesh and urine.
He shed the disguise and knocked on the door. After a moment it opened, and a women with her hair in a head scarf answered. "Good morning, stranger," she said.
"Is Aithne there?" said Duncan.
"Who wishes to know?"
"Duncan! Come in." The woman stepped back and shut the door behind them. She pulled off the scarf, revealing light brown hair woven through with spider-strands. "Aithne isn't here, but should be back this evening. Edan and Conall are upstairs. And I'm Laira."
"What about the others?"
"Most went on to Samioch," said Laira.
"I'm surprised Aithne didn't go."
YOU ARE READING
The Forest's HeartFantasy
Vallebrion is one of the old places -- a forest where the old and new worlds lie side by side. Clara has grown up walking its shadowed paths and green glens, and one day the man she takes as husband will be Master of Vallebrion and the mysteries tha...