Banner of the Hawk 11

Marquart continued to hammer the door with mounting fervor and rapidly decaying patience.

Clevis said, “I’ll talk to her,” and dropped from his mount. He ambled over to the wagon. On kakai, he was without peer, but a sword slash had deprived him of three of his toes, so on the ground he was held to a rolling gait.

He palmed his forehead and said, “Lady.”

“What is happening?”

“Your father sent a messenger two days ago to let the wardens know we were coming, so they should have set a welcome. Maybe the messenger didn’t get through.”

She laughed without humor and said, “And maybe he did.”

Clevis did not reply. It was not his place to talk policy with his Lord’s new wife.

“Oh, I know these people,” she said. “Old Lord Kafi was my father’s uncle. He visited from time to time and I know what kind of wardens he had. And how Jor planned to take over when Kafi died. Who could guess that Limiakos even remembered the Valley of the Menhir, or that he would trouble himself to appoint a new Lord?”

A tiny window in the door opened and a face appeared. Clevis turned and lurched across the forecourt, his hands going instinctively to sword and lancette. But Marquart’s threats were apparently sufficient. By the time he reached his kakai, Conger was dismounting, and the door had swung open. Marquart pushed the portal keeper ahead of him, and his three companions followed close at his heels.

“Who is in charge here?” Marquart demanded, and the portal keeper replied, “Lord Jor.”

“There is no Lord Jor, ‘keeper! Look at me. See this face? Remember it. Remember it well. From this moment forward, this is the only face you need to serve, or fear. But fear it well!”

The portal keeper dropped to his knees, his head bowed. Marquart waited through five long heartbeats, then said, “Take me to Jor.”

“I will announce you at once,” the keeper said, and moved to rise. He never got the chance. Marquart grabbed him the the hair and lifted him to his feet, dragging him forward to that they were eye to eye.

He said, “Do not interpret my orders. Hear what I say, and do what I say. Jor is not your master. You need not fear him any more, and he will not protect you. He will be lucky if he can protect himself. Now — what did I say?”

“Take you to Jor.”

Marquart released him and nodded. The keeper turned and padded away. Marquart snapped, “Hein, Conger, go to the wagons. Guard the Lady.” Then he followed the ‘keeper, with Clevis limping along behind. They hadn’t gone fifty feet when Jor came around the corner, tugging at this tunic. He had heard the pounding — there was no possibility he hadn’t — but he had taken the time to dress. He was a rat-faced little man, full of anger and self-importance. He demanded, “Who are you and what do you mean pounding on my door?”

Marquart reached into an inside pocket and drew out a document, which he handed to Jor. Jor waved it aside, and said, “I don’t have time to read that.”

“Read it.”

“Look . . .”

Marquart held his hand before Jor’s face, finger and thumb an inch apart, and said, “Do you see this? This is how close to death you are. Read the document.” more tomorrow

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