A sleepless night gave way to a tense morning. Philomena sat with the others--Tancred, Konrad and Lord Cassius--at the table in Tancred's tent. Cervin stood at the door, leaning out periodically to check for news.
Sometime a few hours after dawn, they heard the shouting from the edge of camp, moments before a guard came rushing in. "The Prince and Princess have returned," he said.
Tancred was on his feet. "What is the shouting?"
"They were attacked," said the guard. "Some men were injured. The medics are being sent for."
"Thank you." Tancred led the way out of the tent, striding in the direction of the disturbance.
Philomena recognised Rainhart's voice a moment before he came into sight, shouting, "Konrad, Konrad, I need your help."
Sharing a quick look with Tancred, Konrad broke into a jog, closing the gap between him and Rainhart. "What is it? Are you all right?"
Rainhart was leading his horse and there was a blanket tied to its rump, lumpy as if it were wrapped around something. Rainhart beckoned Konrad over. His face was very white. He ran his hand across his forehead and left a smear of blood.
"She's badly hurt," was all Rainhart said, lifting the blanket to show Briga's shaggy head, lolling against the horse's flank.
Philomena felt herself go cold. She picked up her skirt with one hand and ducked around Tancred.
"Oh, Rainhart," said Konrad. "I've got a couple of men who've a way with dogs. We'll help her if we can."
"Thank you," said Rainhart.
Rainhart glanced at Philomena as he followed Konrad towards where the Mullrose men were camped. His expression locked on hers, but under the grime and exhaustion it was unreadable. Philomena took a couple of steps towards him, then stopped. She bit her lip and looked around. "Where's Princess Holle?" she said.
Cervin answered: "The men say she was grazed in the arm by an arrow," he said. "I understand she has gone on to the medics to have the field bandages changed."
Tancred nodded. "Send the guard captain to me in my tent to give a full report, and give word to Prince Rainhart and Princess Holle that they're to join us when they're available. Philomena, will you hear the report?"
Still looking in the direction Rainhart had gone, Philomena said, "If you wish me to be there, I will."
"Your views would be useful," said Tancred, "and yours too, Lord Cassius."
The guard captain arrived a few moments later and was shown into Tancred's tent.
Standing with his hands behind his back, he delivered his report to the tent wall behind Tancred's head. "We followed the hound as your majesty instructed," he said, "but we struggled to keep up with her. The paths taken by a hound seeking her master are, well, sometimes difficult to follow on horseback."
The captain dared quick glance at Tancred, who nodded understandingly. "A short while after dawn we heard the sounds of a fight and changed course. We found the Prince and Princess and their two guards being set upon by a troop of Traumwald men and dispatched the majority of them. Two survivors escaped. We took one prisoner, but he died a short while later."
"I see." Tancred nodded. "I thank you for your service to my cousins. What were the casualties on our side?"
"Three men dead," said the captain, "and one walking wounded. In addition, her highness Princess Holle was hit by an arrow before we arrived."
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...