Banner of the Hawk 13

Marquart turned on he heel and strode back toward the entrance. Clevis was waiting around the corner where he could hear everything, but out of Jor’s sight. He fell in beside Marquart and said, “So you put him on notice?”

”Damned fool.”

Clevis chuckled; he knew his Lord from long acquaintance. Jor might later wonder if Marquart had meant what he threatened. Clevis knew that he had meant every word. He said, “I told the portal keeper — his name is Bheren, by the way — to arouse the servants. I figured you would want to review them.”

“Good.” Marquart strode out the entrance, where inner and outer doors were now propped wide. Hein and Conger were standing alertly on either side of the wagon. Marquart rapped with his knuckles on the wagon seat and Dael’s face appeared. He handed her down and said, “Time to inspect your new home.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing much.”

Dael laid her hand on his arm and said, “If I needed a city taken, you would be my choice, but as a husband you still have something to learn. It wasn’t nothing, and telling me it was only makes me more curious.”

He grunted gracelessly, then said, “One of the wardens had set himself up as Lord.”

“That would be Jor.”

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Old Lord Kafi was my g’uncle. He visited Instadt every year or so until he became feeble. Jor and Vesulan were both his nephews, and so distant cousins to me. I have met them both, several times.”

“So why Jor, not Vesulan.”

“Vesulan is a good man, not given to excessive ambition. Jor is a fool.”

Marquart smiled. “Oddly, that is exactly what I just told him.” He reached out to pat her on the rump, just as he would have any other woman who had exceeded his expectations. But this was his wife, not some barmaid, so he shifted at the last moment to embrace her shoulders instead. It was an awkward moment for them both.

They took a quick look around the manorhouse. Every servant had been turned out, and they were hurrying from room to room, stoking up banked fires and setting out candles. Shy glances followed them everywhere; from now on, the quality of the servants’ lives would depend on the humors of these strangers. Dael nodded from time to time, acknowledging the fluttering obeisances as they passed.

Jor met them in the greatroom, touching his forehead in acknowledgment of their Lordship. Dale put out a hand and said, “Cousin, it is good to see you. It was good of you to make things ready for our arrival.”

Marquart’s face was stone as Jor stammered a polite welcome. Then he said, “Go gather up the records of the place. You and I will go over them.”


“Right now. And send for a light meal — meat, bread and ale will do. You and I will be busy all night. By morning, I intend that we should both know where we stand.”

He turned to Dael, but she picked up the moment smoothly, saying, “Also, Cousin, detail some man-servants to unload the wagons and a half-dozen maids to put my things away. I want to be settled into my new home when the sun rises. After all, I will be here a long time.”

She smiled sweetly at Jor as he glowered; then he made obeisance and turned away.

“Aren’t you tired?”  Marquart asked, when they were alone.

“Of course. Just as you are. But your fights are mine, now. By the way, was it just the light, or was Jor’s face stiff and swollen?”

“I didn’t notice.”

“I’m sure you didn’t.”

“If you become overtired . . .”

She touched his cheek lightly and said, “This bride is in no hurry to start sleeping alone.” more tomorrow


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