spotted a look of concern in his eyes that Talon missed and she turned
towards the boy with hands outstretched saying, “Come here, love. Sit beside me.” He
did and she leaned forward and lifted up the seat he just left.
It hinged on the back revealing a compartment underneath.
“Time for hide and seek.”
He crawled into the compartment and as she laid the seat back
down she said, “And remember you must keep quiet.
That’s part of the game.”
placed her finger to her lips. “Shh.”
She forced a silly smile and added, “Don’t let daddy know.”
But behind that smile simmered the dread that this was more than
a greeting party.
nodded enthusiastically. He
liked these games and wasn’t about to let his father know where he
told herself it was just a precaution.
She looked out the window and counted maybe fifty riders coming
their way. That meant they
were out numbered almost two to one.
She rebuked herself for allowing Trinel to talk her into bringing
Talon. “Some learning experience,” she mumbled.
who now sat on a horse next to the companion captain, turned and saw
Mushina and waved her back. At
first, she was a little put out by his forcefulness and then a wave of
fear washed over her and she sat back rigidly.
She closed her eyes and prayed silently.
the slimmest sliver of light came into Talon’s compartment and already
it was getting hot. But he
held back and breathed little so he could listen.
Despite the fact that he couldn’t understand a lot that was
said and that most of the time he couldn’t tell who was speaking, he
was able to piece together the following.
were exchanged between his father and one who introduced himself as a
chieftain of the Nomar tribe and he sounded a little short tempered.
“Where are you taking such a large company?”
the Ingaray villages along the border,” answered Trinel. “We are bringing them food and basic necessities.”
chieftain grunted, “Did we give you leave to pass through our land?”
drop of sweat slipped into Talon’s right eye and he wiped his brow
with his sleeve.
but safe passage was guaranteed by both the Ingaray and the house
words are useless here.” The
chieftain spat. “You
forfeit all goods to us for this transgression.
Leave the baggage carts and go home at once.”
heard a sloshing clinking sound like someone’s hands going through
coins in a small chest. Then
he heard his father’s voice again.
“I offer this gold to you as a payment for passage but please
do not take the food.”
are not your people. Why do
am I.” Then the chieftain
said, apparently to his men, “Take it all.”
then heard something he didn’t expect: his mother’s voice. “And leave those people with nothing?”
chieftain asked, “Is she yours?”
chieftain laughed. “Will
you offer her to us now too?”
heard a scuffle, coins tossed, swords drawn, battle cries, cries from
wounds, horses neighing, the twang of many arrows, more slashing and
yelling. Then he heard
something in Salmi, the language of the desert tribes, which he didn’t
understand. He heard ponies
ride off, then silence -- a long silence when he barely breathed and it
was no longer a game any more. The
compartment lid opened and Talon saw his father’s wounded servant
beckon him out. Before the
servant could cover his eyes, Talon got a glimpse of the scene that told
the rest of the story. A
contingent of Andril border guards had ridden out from the Fortress of
Carmel and chased off the Nomar raiders, but not before many Nomar and
Andril lay dead or wounded ... and his mother and father lay among the