Banner of the Hawk 38

Marquart turned to follow Tidac. He did not know that there were three of them walking down the hall. Baralia walked at Marquart’s side. She always did, but he only knew it when she let him know it. Tidac, who saw auras and read character in colors, felt the unseen presence of that one who hated him, hated his mother, who both loved and hated his father. He could not yet see her form, but he felt the stark, desperate emptiness of her soul. And he feared her.

# # #

The manorhouse had only minimal defenses and Marquart put no faith in it. Now, with his son and heir at his right side and Clevis at his left, he led the thirty new soldiers across the just harvested fields of his direct holdings to a bluff overlooking the menhir and its village. There the stonemasons he had brought in to dam the Gull were working to build a keep. It was being constructed of black basalt, four stories above the ground with cellars and dungeons below. The only entrance was at the third level, with a ramp that could be withdrawn in time of siege.

Those in the village below could see it going up. Dymal could see it from the Menhir. It was Marquart’s final stamp of ownership of the Valley, and his statement of defiance toward any who would oppose him.

Marquart saw the progress that had been made, and was pleased. Baralia saw it as a sign that she had wrought well in smothering kindness and nurturing Marquart’s natural distrustfulness.

# # #

There was feast of welcome for the new soldiers, with much drinking. Marquart set it in motion, then withdrew. The Lord does not drink with those who serve him. As he made his way up the stairs, he felt a pang for the simplicities of the past, before he was a Septaur, or a Commander of a Thousand, or a Lord. It surprised him that the pang was so small. Even when he was young, ambition had pushed him upward; even when he was a new warrior, his face had been set toward advancement. Now he was Lord and, however dissatisfied he might be, he had no desire to return to what he had been.

Marquart walked the upstairs hallway, deeply aware of the door frames which were still naked of doors, four years after Dael was no longer here to hide behind them. He paused at Tidac’s room, listening to the boy’s even breathing as he slept.

“Will you be great?” he asked himself. “What will you become? I have been remiss; I must get you the tools you need for greatness, if you wish to pursue it.”

He said those words to himself, on the boy’s behalf, but he did not say them aloud. Tidac never heard them. Baralia never heard them, though she stood at his shoulder. Marquart’s silence was the only thing that defeated her.

As a boy, Marquart had not dared to speak before Melcer, who would taunt him. He had not dared to speak before his mother, who was weak and might betray him. He had not had the opportunity to speak before Beshu, for Beshu had never been there to hear him.

He looked one last time at his sleeping son, then withdrew. He did not say, “I love you,” even in the secrecy of his silence. He did not quite know how.

He moved on up the hall, pausing at the open doorway of the room that had been his and Dael’s. So Tidac could feel her presence here? Marquart remained quiet, listening, but he could not hear her. He knew that he probably had never heard her, although he had tried. more tomorrow


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