Family Loyalty (Part 2)

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They were shown into Tancred's tent immediately. He was up and sitting at the table with Konrad. "Good morning," he said. "Sit down. Have you eaten?"

"I could eat again," said Rainhart.

Tancred nodded. To the guard on the door he said, "Send attendants to rouse Lord Cassius and Lady Philomena and send them here when they're dressed. Promise them breakfast if they come swiftly."

"Cervin too, please," said Rainhart, sitting down.

"Oh?" said Tancred with tired curiosity.

Holle sat down beside Rainhart and gestured for a server to bring over the wine carafe. 

"There's a postern gate," said Rainhart.

"Of course there is." Tancred ran his hand through his hair, smoothing it down. "What of it?"

"I know where it is. I've seen the path."

All those at the table sat up straight. Holle pushed cups towards each of them, filled with wine. "You've seen it?" she said, cradling the cup in her right hand.

"In a dream," said Rainhart. He attempted a smile. It felt more like a wince. Lying was not his province.

Tancred shook his head. "You are fortunate that I too met the lesser gods in the forest, Rainhart, or I'd be sending you to Tauber to have your head checked. And then possibly to the priestess."

"I wouldn't rule either option out," said Holle to her wine cup.

But some of the fatigue had vanished from Tancred's posture. "Where is it?"

"I will add it to the map I drew from Idella's memories," said Rainhart. "But it is no doubt guarded." He wondered what Maldwyn had told the guards to convince them to let him sneak out.

Cervin arrived, followed by Philomena and Cassius. "Good morning, my friends," said Tancred. "Breakfast is coming, wine is here, and we have much to discuss."

Philomena sat down next to Rainhart. He shot her a look that he hoped conveyed, let me handle this one. Of course he should have spoken to her first. Unfortunately, impulsiveness was his cardinal vice.

Tancred spread his hands out on the table. "Let us not mince words. We cannot support a long siege. I have no doubt Valdon will continue throwing my barons from the parapet until I acquiesce. What I do not know is how he plans to sequence these defenestrations. Once the barons are all dead, he has no more leverage."

Holle sucked in a thoughtful breath. "If I were Valdon..." She looked up at the canvas above. "Assuming we don't force the issue by attacking him, he will kill another soon, to show he's serious. Then the rest he will keep alive he until has a reason."

"Wonderful." Tancred ran his hand through his hair. "Care to open a book on who will be the next baron flung from the parapet?"

"He was making a point with Baroness Maigret," Holle replied. "He won't want to kill any other powerful barons, because he will want to hobble their kin with fear. Perhaps Enno next. He is loyal, but his house commands few men."

Tancred closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face. "Has nobody introduced you to the concept of a rhetorical question, cousin?"

Holle shrugged and took a sip of her wine. 

"So, we use the postern gate," said Tancred. He paused to thank the servers, who were bringing in breakfast. Taking a bread roll and ripping it in half, he continued, "Sneak a few people into the castle and sabotage the front gate."

"The same tactic we used in Breg," said Rainhart.

"And subject to the same weaknesses," Philomena added softly. 

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