Banner of the Hawk 59

18.

Melcer sat long after Jor had left, staring into the fire. In the month since Marquart’s death, he had done much to consolidate his rule, starting with Jor’s reinstatement as warden. Tomorrow, he would meet with Dymal to try to enlist his support. Messina would be disappointed that he would not get Jor’s land, but he would he happy enough with Dutta’s. Dutta’s children were too young to effectively complain. Things were going well.

Still, he was uneasy. Tidac had escaped his men, though they had brought back Clevis’ body. The boy was lost somewhere in the hills surrounding the Valley. With winter’s deep snows only weeks away, that would probably be the end of him.

But, he could not be sure. Until he saw the boy’s body, his position would not be secure. He would have to go in fear that the boy would grow up to avenge his father’s death, just as Melcer had avenged Rondor’s.

Melcer’s hands trembled with suppressed rage; if only he could be sure.

He stared into the fire, seeing the sails of a ship, well trimmed, in those glorious hours when a storm had just begun, before the sails had to be reefed and the ship began to wallow in the waves. Those had been the days. Wine and women in every port, the easy camaraderie of the fo’castle. He remembered his old friend Rondor, standing wheel watch with his long hair blowing about him, grinning into the wind. Those were the days.

Rest easy, old friend; you are avenged.

Avenged, but still gone, and the life they had lived was gone with him.

One of the servants was waiting for his attention with yet another detail of the daily administration of the Valley. Melcer stared hungrily at the fire, praying that he would go away, but instead he approached tentatively until Melcer stiffened his neck and shouted, “Leave me alone!”

The servant scurried away and Melcer felt a little better.

He tried to recapture the feel of a ship beneath his feet. He closed his eyes and saw the storm clouds scudding across the damp sky. He opened his eyes and saw the basalt walls of the citadel which had become his prison.

Vengeance had seemed so important, but now Marquart was dead, and it hadn’t helped Rondor at all. Melcer wondered why he had bothered.

He thought of Tidac again. Because he had killed the father, the son must die. It was the way of the world. 

He would have to pass the word that he would pay for the boy’s death, but he would have to be careful not to arouse the High King’s ire. Even though Limiakos was busy fighting back the Dzikakai, he could spare a hundred men to swat a fly.

Again he remembered his nephew’s face and regretted that the boy had to die. Melcer hadn’t really wanted the Valley. But now that he had it, no one was going to take it away from him.

finis

There will be one final echo of this tragedy, Monday and Tuesday.

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