was an instant of stunned silence throughout the chamber and Toryn used
the moment of surprise to his advantage. He leaped upon Reed, who was
hampered in his effort to rise by the heavy ermine cloak. Toryn locked
his left arm around Reed’s neck and dragged him forward into the open
space before the dais; at the same time he drew his dagger with his
right hand and pressed it against Reed’s throat hard enough to draw a
thin line of blood. A shout went up and the archers drew their bows in
the gallery above.
“Loose a single arrow and he dies!” Toryn shouted. Everyone froze and the music jangled to a discordant halt.
“Very good. Now throw down your weapons. All of them. Bows, daggers,
swords. You, too, priest,” he barked, spying movement behind him. A
hail of weapons rained down from the gallery above, causing the nobles
to shriek and scurry out of the way. Several audience members shouted
angrily, unlucky enough to be hit by the falling arsenal. Nice folk,
Reed’s soldiers. The priest scuttled away, hands concealed beneath his
robes. When Toryn was satisfied that most of the weapons had been
disposed of, he flung Reed away and drew his sword. He tossed the
dagger aside and backed away toward the dais, leading Reed into the
open area before the dais, not trusting the wedding guests. Any number
of them might be loyal to Reed and would happily join the fray
“Now verminous dog,” Toryn snarled. “Fight me as a man, if you can.”
Reed seemed only mildly surprised. “The little Redolian pup,” he said
with a slight smile. “I expected you to be fully cooked over the fires
of Shaitan by now.”
“They found me not to their taste,” Toryn commented. “Shall we begin?”
Reed drew his sword and saluted mockingly. Toryn sneered. They both
stepped forward as one and their blades met with a force that almost
snapped the blades in two. They measured each other over the next few
moves, feinting and thrusting carefully and parrying each other’s
attacks easily. Toryn smiled after a flashing attack scored a red gash
on Reed’s right thigh. The spreading red stain showed clearly upon the
white material. Reed’s eyes spat rage.
“You know, of course, that I am better than you,” Toryn said conversationally.
“I will try to remember that as I skewer your heart,” Reed snarled.
Toryn grinned. He pounced forward, his sword a blur of silver. He beat
aside Reed’s defenses easily and only Reed’s panicked leap kept Toryn’s
blade from impaling him mortally. He parried desperately, but Toryn’s
sword penetrated his side and then flicked back to lay open one cheek.
Reed staggered back as blood poured down his face, spattering red
across his shoulder and chest. He clutched his side, rapidly stained
with the same crimson. The wound was deep, but it would not kill the
bastard, Toryn knew. Panting, he circled the man, still grinning like a
hunting wolf. Reed was, he had to admit, very good with a blade. But
not good enough. He laughed to himself and attacked again. Reed roared
with anger, fighting for his life.
“This ends now!” Reed
bellowed. He gripped the red crystal that dangled from his neck and
held it tightly, then spat a curse at Toryn, who pulled his blade back
for a deadly thrust. The blow never fell.
Toryn howled and
clutched at his head. He reeled backward and barely kept a grip on his
sword. His balance was gone; he staggered two short steps before the
polished tile floor rushed up to meet him.
Reed stood where he
was and looked malevolently down upon Toryn with his brow furrowed in
concentration. Toryn shrieked in pain and arched his back, clapping
both hands to his head, sword and everything else forgotten as pain
such as he had never experienced overwhelmed him.
He saw Reed smile.
Jace prowled the servants’ quarters, searching for any sign of Kerryn
or others hopefully opposed to Reed's plan. His faith in Kerry was not
misplaced and he finally located the "rebellion", such as it was when a
small band of men swarmed from a doorway and dragged him into a dimly
lit room. A dagger pressed into to his throat.
“Kill him—he’s one of Reed’s,” someone said.
“Kerryn,” Jace choked through the pressure of the knife, whose edge was
thankfully dull, though a portion of it began to draw blood.
Some of his captors were thrust aside and Kerryn’s suspicious face appeared before him.
“Jace!” he cried and waved the others back sharply. The knife fell away
and he sat up, coughing and gasping for air.
beside him. “How did you get here?” he asked anxiously. Jace climbed to
his feet and evaluated the rag-tag band before him. There were barely
twenty men crammed into the servant’s room, most of them poorly armed
and unarmored. It was laughable to think that they could take on Reed’s
“By hell, Kerryn,” Jace said in amazement, “You are either very brave or completely insane.”
Kerryn bristled. “There are more of us serving the wedding guests,
waiting to strike. We will not let that murdering bastard marry Shevyn!”
“You are planning to kill him?” Jace asked.
Jace rubbed a temple and queried sardonically, “How?”
He scowled. “We know Reed has demonic powers. All we can do is take out
as many guards as possible while the rest of us rush him.”
sighed explosively. “Things have changed. Brydon is here. He is going
after Shevyn as we speak. Did you plan to use the Gauntlet Knights
encamped in the outer bailey?”
Kerryn shook his head. “I have
tried to reach them for days. Every man I send does not return and
there has been no message. I can only assume the Knight-Priests are
ignorant of what is happening.”
“Have you considered it might be easier merely to open the gates and let them in?” Jace questioned.
“How do I know the Knight-Priests are not part of this?” Kerryn
snarled. “It was convenient of them to ride off to Bodor and allow Reed
free rein here!”
Jace had not considered that angle, but he
pondered it for only an instant before rejecting the idea. He knew some
of the Gauntlet Knights well. They would die for the Kerrick line.
Nothing Reed would offer them would cause them to betray their duty.
Reed’s power would never be enough to subvert the entire battalion of
Gauntlet Knights. Jace smiled grimly.
“We must let them in,” he decided.
“But what about Reed?” Kerryn protested.
“As long as we have Reed's soldiers to content with, we will fight a
losing battle. There are too many of them. We must even the odds,” Jace
said vehemently. “Reed is not likely to panic and flee. Not when he is
this close to gaining everything he has worked for.”
The blare of trumpets drowned Kerryn’s reply. His face was ashen.
“The time is now—Reed is in the Great Hall.”
“Then let us go. For Ven-Kerrick, and for Shevyn,” Jace said.
He quickly laid out his plan, praying that Verana had reached the Gauntlet Knights.
The Knight-Priests of the Gauntlet were mounted and in formation.
Reed’s men watched uneasily from the walls as the armed soldiers rode a
circuitous path along the wall of the outer bailey. A man dispatched
from the gatehouse approached Knight Commander Montyr, who watched his
charges proudly. He felt more calm now that he was back in the saddle,
though he knew that his mare could feel the tension all around her. She
pranced and jangled the chain upon her bit.
The lackey trotted
up nervously, dressed in the livery of Ven Kerrick, which made Montyr’s
blood boil. There was a time—not so long ago—when he had known every
servant in and about the castle, by sight, if not by name. He had never
seen this man before.
The fellow scratched at a pockmarked nose and coughed, eyeing the mare uneasily. “Sir...” he began.
“Knight Commander,” Montyr corrected mercilessly.
“Knight Commander,” the man stuttered and scratched his nose again. “My
captain begs to know why the Knight-Priests are in formation.”
“He begs, does he?” Montyr asked contemplatively. “That is fine. You
may trot back and inform him that we are merely conducting a little
drill. The horses need exercise and the men have been getting restless.”
The man’s head bobbled as though his neck had come unhinged, and then
he quickly bowed and scurried away. Montyr gave him enough time to get
back inside the gates and report. Then he led the Gauntlet Knights in a
thundering charge, racing for the drawbridge and the inner bailey at a
dead gallop. The guards in the towers stared in disbelief at the sight
of fourscore Gauntlet Knights pounding toward them. When the shock
broke, there was a madcap scramble.
Cries of, “Raise the
drawbridge!” mingled with, “Archers! Get some bows up here!” Several
men struggled with the drawbridge mechanism while a few others snatched
up bows and positioned themselves in front of the machicolations.
The drawbridge creaked upward, too slowly and too late. The leading
ranks of horses leaped upon the bridge and their iron-shod hooves rang
like steel upon a forge as they surged forward. Their riders caught the
few hastily shot arrows upon upraised black shields.
band of men tried to pull the heavy gates closed. Those who were not
ridden down in the charge were dispatched with a quick swing of sword
or mace. No one had thought to drop the portcullis and it became clear
to Montyr that Reed had left the walls pitifully under manned. His
overconfidence would be his downfall.
Knight-Priests flooded into the inner bailey. A small contingent
dismounted at a signal from Montyr and charged the gatehouse to deal
with the men inside. Montyr jerked up his shield almost absently to
catch an arrow loosed from a bowman atop the wall. He halted the mare.
“We must get inside!” he yelled, reflecting that in all his years of
training, he had never expected to invade Ven-Kerrick. “Damn it! They
trained us to defend this place—not storm it!” He swore again as an
arrow thunked into the thick leather pommel of his saddle. One of his
men lifted a crossbow and dispatched the archer.
grinned. “My thanks, Raylyn!” he called, yanking the arrow free of his
saddle. “That one nearly unmanned me!”
A few of the men laughed
as they spread out to surround the castle, staying out of range of the
machicolations—they knew exactly where they were. Unfortunately, the
only way into the castle—other than a suicidal single-file run through
the barracks entrance—was through the heavy stone doors Montyr now
faced. Once Reed sealed off the barracks entry the castle would be
inaccessible and could stave off an army for months.
sighed. There was no choice. They would have to attempt entry through
the barrack and hope Reed had not had time to line up twenty archers
with which to massacre them all. He raised his hand to give the
order—and stared in disbelief as the main doors began to slide open.
Upon the stairs outside the Great Hall, Brydon slammed into the wall as
pain exploded into his mind through the link he shared with Toryn. He
had forsaken all attempt at secrecy and had bolted down the stairs,
nearly trampling the nobles who now sought to assist him. He was blind
for a moment as waves of agony washed over him. He clamped down on
Toryn’s link with all of his mental strength, nearly severing the chain
in his urgency to shut out the pain.
When his link to Toryn
quieted to the barest whisper, he shrugged off the concerned onlookers
and pounded down the remaining steps. He feared for Toryn, but he could
help neither of them if he allowed Reed access to his own mind. As he
approached the doors to the Great Hall, he saw Jace and Kerryn appear
from a side corridor, trailed by a group of armed men.
I’ll handle Reed, Brydon sent to Jace in a controlled burst of thought. You get those doors open for the Gauntlet Knights.
Jace blinked in shock for a moment; it was the first time Brydon had
used mental communication on him. He turned to Kerryn. “Signal your men
to take out as many of Reed’s guards as possible and then help me get
these doors open.”
Kerryn nodded. Brydon had not broken stride
as he approached the open doors of the Great Hall. Without a single
pang of conscience, Brydon put the doormen to sleep with brutally
efficient mental shoves and stalked into the room to see Reed standing
over Toryn’s writhing form.
“Leave him alone, bastard!”
Brydon yelled as he walked steadily down the aisle. Reed jerked his
head up and ceased his attack on Toryn, who lay still as death. Reed
stared at him in astonishment for a moment and then backed away a few
steps before eyeing him warily.
“I thought I killed you,” he said.
“You thought wrong,” Brydon spat. He leveled a full force mental blast
that caught Reed completely unaware. The pretend-regent staggered back
with a cry of pain and quickly raised his mental defenses. Before he
could fully recover, Brydon was upon him, sword flashing down, barely
deflected by Reed’s quickly raised blade. Brydon slashed again, but
Reed danced back out of reach.
They circled each other,
glaring. Reed panted noticeably. Was he weakened from his battle with
Toryn? Blood marred the white clothing he wore.
“The Redolian is worse than dead, you know,” Reed taunted. “I twisted his mind into ten thousand knots.”
Brydon, in mounting fury, restrained himself from looking at his fallen
friend. Pain oozed through the tight grip Brydon maintained on their
link, so he knew Toryn still lived.
“Then your death shall be
doubly painful,” Brydon gritted. He leaped forward and attacked with a
powerful move Rakyn had taught him. The blazing maneuver took Reed by
surprise and left him with a bloodied shoulder. Brydon swore inwardly;
the move should have cloven Reed’s collarbone.
Brydon thoughtfully for a moment as they circled one another again,
seeming to realize that Brydon had learned much since last they had
Darting forward, Reed forced Brydon back with a
flashing whirl of his blade, searching for an opening. The action
nicked Brydon’s right forearm and Reed smiled in satisfaction. Brydon
knew that in time the blood would seep down onto his sword hilt and
make the grip slippery. He closed with Reed, forcing them into an
impasse as both strained to thrust the other away. Reed’s dark eyes
glared into Brydon’s and his lips twisted into a grimace. The red
crystal glimmered on his breast.
Without stopping to consider
the action, Brydon snatched the crystal and ripped it from the chain
that held it. He shoved Reed away in the same motion, earning a painful
slice on the ribs for his efforts, but the crystal was in his hands.
Reed’s eyes narrowed and the crystal began to glow. Brydon, startled,
had only a moment to register the effect before a killing mental blast
surged from the stone. Though stunned by the strength of it, Brydon
managed to deflect most of the impact, gritting his teeth with the
effort. He knelt and dropped the crystal onto the floor, and then
raised the hilt of his sword.
Reed, seeing what he was about,
increased the mental force he poured into the crystal. At the same
time, he rushed forward with a shout and lifted his sword for a deadly
blow. Brydon’s sword smashed down on the crystal, shattering the red
stone into a thousand shards. Reed howled an unholy scream and fell
back, clutching his head. The waves of pain that barraged Brydon ceased
so suddenly he actually staggered and caught himself on the floor with
one hand. He climbed slowly to his feet and watched Reed warily; the
man shrieked and slashed about wildly with his sword. Had the crystal’s
destruction destroyed his sanity?
An arrow hit the floor near
Brydon’s feet and gouged the marble before it skittered away. Brydon
ignored the threat and a strangled cry told him one of Kerryn’s men had
dealt with it. Brydon hoped Reed’s soldiers were more worried about the
Gauntlet Knights than their stricken employer.
Reed looked at
Brydon and his eyes gleamed feverishly. He charged forward like a
madman, not even attempting to defend himself. Surprised, Brydon raised
his sword, but Reed’s rush did not slow—he plunged straight onto the
blade, impaling himself and wrenching the sword from Brydon’s hand in
the process. Foam frothed from his mouth. He did not even seem to
notice that he had been mortally wounded as he flailed at Brydon,
growling incoherent sentences. He floundered and fell to the ground at
Brydon’s feet; but even then his malice was strong and he crawled
forward to claw at Brydon’s boots weakly. Brydon’s sword, still
imbedded, scraped along the marble with an unpleasant sound. Blood
oozed over the hilt and left a red trail on the floor. Brydon backed
away, horrified. At last, even that small motion ceased.
glared at Brydon. His eyes cleared for a moment and bloody bubbles
burst upon his lips as he choked out a laugh. “The Dark Master will
have you,” he said with dreadful clarity. Then his head dropped to the
floor and he was dead.
For a moment, Brydon felt he had slain
something inhuman. He shuddered and looked away and his eyes landed on
Toryn. Before he could run to the Redolian, noblemen surrounded him,
holding the weapons discarded by Reed’s men.
“You have slain
the queen’s betrothed!” one cried. They all seemed uncertain what to do
about the fact. Brydon looked at the steel-tipped bolts of death
pointed at him and then a voice ripped through the room.
“Hold! The first man who touches him dies!”
There was a collective gasp throughout the room as everyone turned to
look at Shevyn, who leaned heavily upon Kerryn’s arm. Her cousin had
spoken, but she was the one holding a deadly-looking crossbow. At that
instant, metal-shod hooves rang in the foyer and a dozen mounted
Gauntlet Knights burst into the Great Hall. There was a massive
scramble as the wedding guests strove to get out of the way.
The Knight Commander reared his mare—a dramatic excess Brydon felt was warranted under the circumstances.
“Your Majesty!” he bellowed at Shevyn, who seemed to be using all her
willpower to merely stand. She looked pale, but aware. “Shall we secure
Shevyn gave him a curt nod and the Knight-Priests
spun their horses and pranced out to hunt down Reed’s remaining
soldiers. Jace walked forward to support Shevyn; he removed the
crossbow from her hands.
Brydon turned away and knelt beside
Toryn. He touched the Redolian’s throat; his pulse was weak and
erratic. Brydon slowly released the tight grip he had on their link.
Riotous emotion flooded over him once more—horror, fear, revulsion,
nausea, rage. He fought the tide as it threatened to sweep him away and
struggled to recall his lessons with Rakyn. He sensed no conscious
thought from Toryn, only frantic emotion. He steeled himself and
entered Toryn’s mind, hoping to follow the link to its end point, the
very essence of Toryn. He entered a maelstrom. Normally an ordered,
calm place, Toryn’s mind was a chaotic swirl, a fog of alternating
darkness and color. Images with no pattern assaulted him—barely
glimpsed faces, landscapes, shadows and objects. The thin silver cord
was only vaguely visible, stretching into the chaos. Brydon pushed
forward, using it to guide him. Abruptly, there was a disorienting
shift and he felt a moment of panic. Everything went black for an
instant and then the fog was gone.
Brydon looked down,
surprised to find himself in corporeal form. His body seemed solid
enough—was he a figment of his own mind, or of Toryn’s? He shook off
the bewildered thought to take in his surroundings; he stood at the
edge of a blood-soaked field. Spears with impaled bodies stretched
across the plain to the horizon like a grisly crop. Before he could get
his bearings and pull himself out of the vision—to go where?—there was
a foglike swirl and he stood in front of a hide-covered hut, watching
helplessly as five rough-garbed soldiers dragged a dark-haired girl
from the building. My sister, he thought in anguish and then gasped. No, Toryn’s sister.
He struggled forward, but his feet were heavy, as though attached to
lead weights. The more frantic he became, the slower he moved. He
watched, moving as though through cold molasses, as ropes were bound to
his sister’s hands and feet. The ends of the ropes were tied to the
horns of four snorting, pawing cattle, held fast by a number of men and
then released. The girl was torn to pieces, screaming in agony.
“Caryn!” Brydon screamed. Oh please no, not her, he thought in anguish, oh Adona, not my sister!
He tried to shake off the image and the nauseating horror. He didn’t
have a sister. It was Toryn’s sister; and it wasn’t real. He had to
find Toryn. Fog swirled again before he could hold onto the thought. He
saw Alyn hanging from the edge of a high cliff by bloody fingertips.
She screamed and Brydon leaped forward, able to move once more. He
touched the cliff and found it solid, so he climbed valiantly and tried
to reach her, ignoring the rocks that tore at his flesh. Her blue eyes
were wide and frantic as he neared—his fingers brushed her arm as she
fell. Not real, he reminded himself. It’s not real. Mist again.
Brydon struggled against invisible bonds, trying to reach a burning, twisting man. Morgyn, he knew instinctively. My brother. Toryn’s brother. Brydon felt his sanity start to slip as he realized he was not only with Toryn—he was Toryn.
He felt a moment of panic as he realized he could be trapped in this
nightmare forever, unless he discovered a way to pull them both out of
it. Rakyn had never taught him how to handle anything like this!
Brydon blocked out everything and concentrated solely on Toryn, trying
to separate himself from the Redolian. A lurching sensation wrenched at
him and he caught a brief glimpse of Toryn before a billow of black
smoke obscured the image. Brydon felt calmer, more centered. He fought
his way through the smoke, surprised that it felt completely real. It
burned his throat and stung his eyes. He coughed and struggled not to
inhale, wondering if it was possible to die of smoke inhalation in
someone else’s subconscious mind. Better to operate on the assumption
that it was, indeed, possible. Just when his lungs felt like they would
explode, the smoke dissipated and Brydon fell forward, sucking air
He looked up and was momentarily stunned when he
beheld his own face. A second Brydon flailed in a pit of hot tar,
slowly sinking while Toryn stood on the bank, frozen, unable to save
him. Toryn yelled hoarsely and Brydon looked away from his own dying
image. He forced himself to concentrate on Toryn. It unnerved him to
hear his own voice calling for help. He ran forward and grabbed at
Toryn, who turned to stare at him through maddened eyes. Toryn gaped,
looking from one Brydon to the other.
“This is not real, Toryn!” Brydon yelled and shook him roughly. “Come out of here!”
Toryn turned his gaze to the Brydon in the tar, whose mouth filled with
the thick, black substance as he continued to scream until silenced by
the tar. Brydon felt a distinct chill, watching the sight.
“But—Brydon!” Toryn protested, gesturing at the dying figure.
“I am Brydon! That one is not real! None of what you have experienced
here is real! Do you remember your battle with Reed?” Brydon shouted.
Toryn’s eyes, red-rimmed with horror, burned into Brydon’s, but
revealed no comprehension. Brydon sighed. Though he doubted it would
have any effect, he slapped Toryn hard. “Wake up!” he yelled. The Redolian’s head snapped back and then he glared at Brydon with perfect clarity.
Brydon grabbed his shoulders and shook him slightly. “Lead me to the
center, Toryn. Show me what Reed did. I need to fix it.” Brydon was
instantly enveloped in blackness, unable to see or feel anything at
all. He kept both fists clenched tight, instinctively sensing that he
still held Toryn in his grasp. A torch flared. His hands still grasped
Toryn’s shoulders; the light was in the Redolian’s hand.
“I can’t hold it back for long,” Toryn said grimly. “Even now it’s clawing at me. Follow me, and hurry.”
Brydon nodded, sensing that Toryn referred to the nightmarish visions.
Toryn took Brydon’s hand and pulled him along. They trod for what
seemed like eternity and the blackness seemed to go on forever.
Occasionally things would brush Brydon’s legs or whir by his head.
Though unseen, they made his blood freeze. He wondered if Toryn was
simply leading him into another nightmare. Eventually, though, he began
to envision brightness, glimpsed through the corners of his eyes and
dismissed as illusion. The light increased gradually until he knew it
was not his imagination.
Finally, the darkness gave way to a
featureless gray plain where patches of light and color would
occasionally flash—brief as lightning bolts. Brydon was glad to see
that he still held Toryn’s hand and not the flesh of some creature, as
he had begun to imagine. Toryn looked exhausted—he was shaking with
effort. He halted and said nothing, but gestured upward.
Toryn’s mind was an infinite landscape to Brydon at this perspective.
He concentrated for a moment and saw patterns in the grayness,
something like a complex net made of light. Sparks of brightness raced
along the lines, lightning-quick, like fireflies. Brydon had never
envisioned anything like it. Toryn’s mind was laid out like a
convoluted map. After a bit of effort, Brydon found that he could trace
the pathways. Toryn gestured again impatiently. Brydon looked closer
and discovered the damage Reed had done—there were frayed snarls of
light where complete strands should have been. In that area the sparks
were not traveling on the netlike lines, but leaping randomly into the
grayness and disappearing.
“I can’t fight any more,” Toryn
said. “I’m too tired.” His hand vanished from Brydon’s and in the same
instant a black shadow leaped from the blankness and swallowed him.
Brydon saw a flash of white fangs and a fetid stench washed over him.
he yelled but Toryn and the black shape were gone. Brydon shook off his
stunned horror and turned his attention to the damaged neural net.
There was only one way to help Toryn now. But how was he to fix it?
“Well, I can braid, can’t I?” he muttered. The strange landscape had
not changed with Toryn’s disappearance, so he set to work. He carefully
reached into the tangled mass of twisted light and marveled at the
sensation. Sparks raced up his arms and made his hair stand on end, but
it was not uncomfortable. He felt energized and realized he was
immersed in the very essence of Toryn—every thought, every action,
every word originated here. Feeling humbled and almost reverent, Brydon
carefully grasped and separated each gossamer filament. Next he
crossed, braided, and wove the individual strands and prayed that he
was making the proper connections and not making matters worse. Every
link he made fused back into a smooth, undamaged strand, though he had
no way of knowing if it was correct. He had to rely on Toryn’s mind’s
ability to heal itself. It seemed an arduous, time-consuming task, but
at the end, it looked flawless. When he was finished, he checked
carefully to make sure he had not missed any. Reed’s damage had not
been confined to one area.
Finally satisfied, he looked around
and wondered how he would get out again. He noticed a faint golden cord
back stretching back into the darkness and assumed it was the lifeline
that tied his consciousness to his own body. He turned and followed it
until he could see nothing but glaring whiteness. He held up a hand to
shield his eyes, but a physical likeness was longer evident. He felt a
wrench, as though something had grabbed his forehead and yanked him
into the air. He cried out as vertigo assaulted him, but gradually the
awareness of his own body returned to him.
His limbs were stiff
and cold. He opened his eyes and blinked at the brightness; he still
knelt beside Toryn on the marble floor. He slowly focused on Shevyn,
who sat next to him with an anxious expression. Brydon was relieved
that the effects of the drug seemed to have worn off—her blue eyes were
alert and watchful. Pins and needles of returning circulation assaulted
Brydon’s limbs and a pair of dark hands helped him recline into a more
comfortable position. Verana rubbed his legs skillfully as she
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“I think I’m fine. Toryn?”
“There is no change.”
“How long was I… gone?”
“Over two hours,” she replied. “We were afraid to disturb you. Jace
told us not to touch you, other than to make certain you were both
breathing. What... did you do?”
Brydon shook his head, unable,
and too exhausted, to explain. “I’m not sure, yet. Move him to a bed
and I’ll try to awaken him as soon as I can think clearly again,” he
Jace sat cross-legged near Toryn’s feet and Kerryn
occupied a nearby bench. His features reflected confusion. A handful of
Gauntlet Knights stood behind Shevyn and their expressions were equally
disgruntled. Brydon supposed someone had broken the news to them about
the Gauntlet’s disappearance. He wondered if a contingent of the
Knight-Priests had already been dispatched to find it. The wedding
guests were gone—herded back to their rooms until their questions could
be answered, no doubt.
Shevyn gestured. One of the larger
Gauntlet Knights moved forward and carried Toryn out of the room as he
would a sleeping child. Brydon struggled to stand and Shevyn held his
arm, assisting him. His eyes met hers and she smiled. Brydon smiled
back and would have kissed her if not for the presence of the others.
The enormity of what they had done suddenly dawned on him. They had
defeated Reed! Shevyn draped his arm over her shoulders and forced him
to lean on her as they made their way from the room, followed by Jace,
Kerryn, and the remaining Knight-Priests.
Brydon noted that
Reed’s body was gone and had little doubt that the Gauntlet Knights had
displayed it in some grisly fashion as a lesson to others, though the
gesture seemed empty next to the fact the Shevyn’s family was dead.
“What about the priest conducting the ceremony?” Brydon asked.
“Imprisoned, along with the rest of Reed’s men,” Verana replied. “Only
two of the Gauntlet Knights were killed in the onslaught. Three of
Kerryn’s men are dead and one is wounded. I will tend the others now,
if you think Toryn will not need my assistance.”
as the procession made its way up the stairs. “We will soon know,” he
replied. Toryn was placed in the room next to Shevyn’s. Brydon sank
down beside him on the bed. Pulling forth the last of his energy
reserves, Brydon mentally nudged the Redolian into wakefulness. Toryn’s
green eyes opened and blinked for a moment before they settled on
Brydon. A weak smile cracked his face.
“I’m glad you came,” he rasped. “It wasn’t very pleasant in there.”
“I noticed,” Brydon replied quietly.
“Do you think you could fix things a little sooner next time?”
“There had better not be a next time.”
Toryn closed his eyes and his tongue touched dry lips. Brydon helped
him sit up and Verana held water for him to drink.
“Reed?” Toryn asked after his thirst had been sated.
“Dead,” Brydon answered. “How do you feel?”
“I feel like a castle was dropped on my head.”
“Rest. You need it.”
“As do you,” Verana said.
Brydon needed no further urging. Without bothering to even remove his
boots, he sprawled next to Toryn on the huge bed. He gave Shevyn’s hand
a quick squeeze and fell asleep.