Blondel 9

“I did find out that the main road passes within a half day‘s journey of here.”

“Then we can reach it before them?”

“Perhaps, if we move out now and skip sleeping.” Turning to Sylvia, Blondel asked, “Can you do that?”

“I can do any thing you can!”

“See that you do!” he snapped, and Grat bristled. Clearly, he was taking a personal interest in his charge. Well, he could have her; Blondel wished she had never crossed his path.

“What I don‘t understand,” Blondel went on, “is why they are chasing you at all.”

“I should think that‘s obvious,” Sylvia replied icily, stung again by Blondel’s disregard.

He said, “Have you taken a good look at yourself lately?”

She flushed beet red and moved her hands as if to smooth out her skirts, but they were mud clotted. Her hair had come undone and hung in a matted tangle around her ash smudged face.

Grat had been prepared to make an issue of Blondel’s cavalier attitude, but his good sense got in the way. He opened his mouth, then closed it again and scratched his head. Finally he said, “You‘re right. Why work so hard to get something they could — begging your pardon, Sylvia — buy cheaper in any, uh, tavern?”

They both turned to Sylvia and her defiance melted. “I guess it could be for the brooch,” she said in a small voice.

“What brooch?” Grat asked.

“The Tataelian Brooch, of course. It has been in our family for centuries.”

“And they think you have it? How stupid.”

“But I do have it.”

Blondel asked, “Where?” and she flushed again. “How would they know that you are carrying it?”

“They might know. Father did brag it about town that I would look lovely with it at my throat at the Faire.”

“God deliver me from mortals,” Blondel groaned. “Well, you might as well show it to us.”

“I will not. How do I know you won‘t try to steal it yourself?”

“If that were my intention,” Blondel snapped, “you would have no say in the matter. Show us.”

Blondel expected Grat to react to that, but the burly guard was silent. Clearly, he felt demeaned to discover that, rather than guarding Sylvia‘s honor, he had been risking his life for a bit of gold and stone. She turned her back and fumbled with her bodice, then handed Blondel the brooch. He held it up to the light of the fire and examined it with an occasional, “Hmm.” more tomorrow

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