Tancred rode out of Mullrose surrounded by loyal Teuta. As the high way towards the west wove through the valley, Rainhart twisted in his saddle and looked back at the rows of men marching behind them.
It was nice to be among the men of Mullrose and Reuz, whom Rainhart had grown up with. He fit in well with fighting men and their leaders: they were the same sort of folk as he was, who thought in terms of provisions and tactics and horses and dogs. Knocking a man to the ground and then offering him your hand.
But there was something different, too. Growing up at Mullrose he had believed the world was a simple place where actions had predictable consequences and life proceeded in an orderly way. He knew now that wasn't true. Actions had consequences, not just for him, but for others. And not just at that moment, but for the times that followed. He couldn't just knock people down and expect that they would accept an outstretched hand and thank him for it.
His father was dead, and Milos was dead, and Tancred was locked in a fight for his life and his throne. If they lost, history would remember them as cowards and regicides. If they won, Rainhart was going to live the foreseeable future as a foreigner in Jovan. Philomena was never going to stop thinking he wished her ill. Actions and consequences.
By the time they arrived at Leutz, the town was full of fighting men. Rainhart sensed enough from their minds to know that the tale of Tancred's subjugation of the Cimbra war band had already attained the status of legend and was running ahead of the army like a forest fire. It seemed as if the peasantry of Leutz and surrounds had all converged on the market town.
Valdon would know they were coming. Well, let him shiver and try to warm himself in the bowels of Breg Castle where even in the height of summer the cold seemed to leech strength from bone.
They found House Leutz energised, ordering supplies into wagons and mustering the men at arms. A few days later, they marched onwards with five hundred more men.
From Leutz, they rode to Reuz, the heart of Tancred's power. Reuz was in a state of quiet alertness: supplies stockpiled, sentries swarming the town walls, residents barring their doors and windows. The keep bristled with armed men, ready to fight or defend as called upon.
Although the Cimbra war band had marched well south of Reuz on its way to Mullrose, it was swiftly clear that the progress of the enemy so deep into Teuta territory was a vexed topic between the Castellan and Tancred's seventeen year old brother Louiz, who was notionally in charge of Reuz.
"We were getting men in from the towns," said the Castellan, "but still the Cimbra were twice our number."
"We should not have permitted the usurper's bullies to take a step deeper into Teuta lands," said Louiz, sticking out his chin.
"We would have had to abandon Reuz," the Castellan protested, "without his majesty's permission. And turned Valdon's attention on us."
"I call it cowardice," was the youth's response.
It took a while, but between them, Tancred and Holle managed to calm all offended feelings, and they marched out of Reuz with yet more men and supplies, to the accompaniment of the residents thronging the streets and waving pennants and banners.
However, in Mittelwalde they suffered a check. There was nobody there willing to make the decision to commit men with the Baron captive in Breg. The heir was a boy of five, and his parents hesitated to take command.
Here, Rainhart watched as Tancred faced a difficult decision: use their gifts to force the issue, or waste valuable time on persuasion.
Rainhart knew his own view. They had no time for dithering. It was already high summer, and the year had begun its downhill run towards winter. If his power had been any godsdamned use, Rainhart would have done the deed himself and taken the consequences, but instead he argued with Tancred late into the night, until Tancred had drawn himself to his full height and said furiously, "Prince Rainhart, you will let this matter go."
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...