ZIHAEN, The Shadow of the Revenaunt, Book 2


Ghyll lay on his stomach on the sheets, naked and vulnerable. Wide-eyed, he stared at the priest beside his bed.

‘I’ll stay crippled?’

The healing priest’s round face was professional, expressionless, and without pity.

‘I’m sorry, Baron. The chirurgeon and I came to the same conclusion. The damage to your leg muscles is permanent. Not even our combined powers could restore the destroyed tissues.’

As he spoke, he rubbed sour smelling ointment into the scar on Ghyll’s back.

‘This should reduce the swelling.’ His deft fingers placed a linen bandage over the painful area. ‘It doesn’t smell pleasant and I will not tell you what it is made of, but it is effective. You can dress now.’

The priest wiped his fingers on a cloth his acolyte handed him. ‘There’s some good news as well. Your broken nose is almost healed. I will leave off the dressing. You should be cautious; the cartilage is still somewhat vulnerable.’

He paused and looked down at Ghyll. ‘I have one last bit of advice.’ For a moment, the healer’s contempt broke through his mask of objectivity. ‘Keep your sword in its sheath and avoid new honor fights.’ With a nod, he strode from the room with his helper.

Ghyll stared at the carpet, too shocked for words. Honor fights!

The door opened and Olle came in. ‘How is it?’

Ghyll looked at his foster brother’s anxious face. ‘The healer thought I had gotten my wounds in a duel.’

Olle growled. ‘What an idiot. Was that all he had to say?’

‘My nose is almost better.’ Ghyll sat up and leaned his head against one of the bedposts. ‘Only the limp won’t go away.’

‘That bastard Vasthul!’ Olle snapped, his brown skin coloring deep red in anger. ‘You’re a soft fool, Ghyll. You should have cut that sorcerer’s throat when you had the chance.’

Ghyll spread his hands. ‘I know. But that’s not what Uncle Jadron taught us.’

Olle’s eyebrows shot up. ‘No? I’ve always understood differently.’ His dark eyes studied Ghyll from head to toe and he shook his head. ‘You’re not hard enough.’

‘I’m already harder than I was,’ Ghyll said, annoyed. ‘Harder than I ever wanted to be. Let’s drop it. I can walk and ride with this leg. I’ll have to get used to it.’ He touched his nose with two fingers. ‘Leave me be for a while. I have some thinking to do.’

Olle nodded. ‘Don’t worry too much. If you need anything, I’m with the others.’

Left alone, Ghyll stared at the dancing motes in the narrow beam of sunlight escaping the curtains. Crippled at eighteen. All because of Vasthul, that cursed Dar’khamorth sorcerer. In his mind, he saw himself walking around. Step, bonk, step, bonk; like Grogar, Tinnurad’s blacksmith. Only Grogar was as dead as the two hundred other castle folk.

Unwillingly he thought back to that day at the Yanthe Wachter, as he and Olle helplessly watched their castle burn. With trembling fingers he began to dress, his mind filled with images of drakenboats, flames and triumphant firebirds.

A soft knock on the door drove the hateful birds from his thoughts. ‘There is a messenger asking for you, my lord Baron.’ The footman sounded awed. ‘He comes from the palace.’

Ghyll started buttoning his shirt. ‘Let him come in.’

The courier was an older man in the blue-and-silver livery of House Hardingraud. He bowed and took a sealed document from the leather bag on his shoulder.

‘From the hand of His Grace the Regent,’ he said, in a tone meant to bring the recipient into a state of deep humility.

Ghyll thanked him and opened the missive. It contained only a few lines, written in a robust script.

If you wish to meet the Crown Prince of Opit, he is with me. His Highness has information that may be of interest to you. Kyssander.

Ghyll smiled. Clear and concise. The regent wasn’t a flowery writer. He rose and nodded to the courier. ‘Tell his grace I will be with him shortly.’

A slight frown crossed the man’s face at Ghyll’s casual reply. He bowed in dignified silence and left the room.

Ghyll went to the bell rope. ‘Ask the stable to bring my horse,’ he said to the servant who answered the summons. Then he walked into the living room where his friends were gathered, and got his sword from the rack. ‘I’m to the palace. The regent needs me.’

‘You’ll not go alone,’ Olle said. ‘I…’

‘I’ll go with him,’ Torril cried. ‘I can protect Ghyll as well as anyone.’ Challengingly, he looked around the circle.

Olle opened his mouth, but Ghyll was first. ‘Make it quick then, I shall not wait for you.’

Torril jumped up, grabbed his ax from the weapon rack and his cloak from its peg. Shouting for a horse, he ran out the door.

Olle snorted. ‘Young varmint. Why aren’t we all going?’

Ghyll’smouth twisted. On the threshold, he paused. ‘Brother mine, I will be damned ifI’ll hide behind your back. Torril shall be enough.’ He closed the door andlimped downstairs.

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