It was a little bit later than the end of the month by the time they left Monsilys. High summer was upon them by then, and Rainhart was starting to understand Philomena's warning about the heat.
He twisted in his saddle to look back at the city wall. Monsilys had managed to capture his heart with its white stone and wide avenues, and the smell of salt spray that it was never quite possible to lose. And, he mentally amended, the excellent border pastries produced by the Deusetatsi woman in the lower city.
But as Monsilys sank beneath the horizon behind them, Rainhart turned his thoughts to the more immediate challenge.
At most, there was five months before the snow set in and made moving an army impossible. If they hadn't made it to Breg by then, Valdon would hold the city for the winter. His grip on power would grow stronger every day he sat in throne at Breg castle.
Five months to ride through Gallica with three hundred men, rally the Teuta, ride to Breg and besiege the city, oust Valdon, and restore peace.
Meanwhile, the better part of a legion would set off from Monsilys, commanded by the Empress' uncle Lord Cassius, and march on Breg from the east. The aim was that both armies reach Breg at the same time, but they would be across Cimbra territory from each other, making communication almost impossible.
Rainhart shook his head. He drifted towards Briga's mind and let the hound's simple set of happinesses--warmth, movement, smells--enfold him.
When he opened his eyes sometime later, he realised Philomena was riding beside him. "How long have you been there?" he asked.
"A few minutes. You looked so peaceful that I didn't want to disturb you."
"Just trying very hard not to think about what a task we have ahead of us."
"Have you heard the saying, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof? It means that there's no point borrowing trouble from the future."
Philomena swivelled in the saddle, casting her gaze at the hundreds of legionaries in their gleaming metal breastplates and helmets, deep blue rosettes on their shoulders. "We've done pretty well so far."
Briga dashed to the side of the path and barked three or four times, looking back at Rainhart then down at the ground, then back at him. The horses nearby started and whickered as a screeching bird broke from the undergrowth.
Rainhart tched in amusement and called the hound back to her post by his horse. He shook his head. "She's well trained for wolf hunting. I assure you she's fearsome." He looked down at his dog, whose tongue was lolling out of her mouth. "Unconvincing though she is at the moment."
"Her expression reminds me of Argo."
Rainhart gave her a startled look. "That little mutt?"
"Well, the scale is different," Philomena conceded wryly. "But he gets the same smug expression when he knows he's gotten away with being a little bit naughty."
Since this was exactly the sentiment emanating from his dog, Rainhart laughed. After a moment of silence, he said, "Do you miss Monsilys when you're not there?"
Philomena tilted her head. "I don't think I've missed anywhere since I left Alysia," she said. "It's the funny thing about being uprooted so many times since; nowhere really feels like home anymore."
"Would you go back to Alysia, then?"
"And do what?" Philomena said. She shook her head, then seemed to consider it further. "One day, maybe. To see what remains of my family again. To see where I was born."
YOU ARE READING
Philomena is a child of the empire, traded to faraway Deusetats to seal an alliance and marry a prince: the handsome but arrogant Prince Rainhart. However, politics is never simple. On the eve of Philomena's wedding, the king is brutally assassinat...