RHYERS - The Return
Marshall Manse, Mane Country
Rhyers had returned from WaterRose feeling deeply saddened. “I’m not sure we helped at all.”
Elsabet had been achingly quiet for days.
Even the breaking of furniture has stopped.
And he’d heard from the Captain after he’d left, that she’d tried to kill herself.
That had to have destroyed Bast.
“Bodin!” Ebony lurched to a stop in the doorway of her Parlor. “When did you get here?”
“I’ve been here most of the night. Your butler let me in.”
She rolled her eyes Heavenward. “He always does.” She walked over and pinched the toe of his boot to move it off her tea table.
She loves it when I put my feet up on it. He thought wryly. Probably why I do it.
“There was a time I practically resided here.” He said almost sadly.
She gnawed her cheek. “Well, your room is still kept tended upstairs if you’ve a need of it.”
“Ebony!” He declared. “That was nearly polite! Are you feeling well?”
She glowered. “I revoke the invitation.”
“Too late.” He turned his head away and sniffed haughtily.
“Why are we here today?” She dropped onto the chair across from the settee.
Sam’s chair. Rhyers felt a burning pang low in his gut.
“Avoiding cloying mistresses, nasty rumors or…” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “A mission?”
He looked around furtively. “I’d not have come here for that. I’d have sent you word.” He paused. Gaze narrowing on her. “Then left my house so you couldn’t ambush me at my residence.”
“It was one time, Bodin.” She groaned and slumped back in the chair. Black hair flowing over the gray muslin dress. Making her hazel eyes seem lighter today.
“I wasn’t prepared to go to my home yet.” He said thoughtfully.
I wanted company. He could admit it to himself.
The peaceful silence of his house seemed a horrendous prospect this moment. Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard an echo of Sebet’s laughter. Immediately envisioning the little girl playing in the afternoon sunshine.
I miss her. She’d made everything seem brighter. Rhyers knew it was painful for all of them because so many of the knights had come to terms with the idea of never having young for fear of Radix hunting them down.
As he did Mardichi’s little Liam.
So we’d all lived for time with Little Sebet. She was nearly like a daughter to all of us. And Rhyers’ chest tightened. Dampness flooding his eyes.
“Bodin!” Ebony cried. Lurching forward. “What’s wrong?”
“I lost a friend recently.”
Little Sebet. She had so much potential. She was going to be stronger than any of us. And so smart…
“Oh, no!” She gasped. Scrambling around the tea table to sit on the white settee next to him. Putting a concerned hand on his knee.
He gave it a quick look and his green gaze returned to her face.
“I’m sorry. Were you close?”
She was like a niece to me. No, more like a daughter to all of us. Rhyers had often gone to WaterRose with presents for her. Kneeling to welcome her tight hugs.
Not many people are so happy to see us.
“She was wonderful.” He said brokenly.
“She?” Ebony reared back.
“No, Ebs. A child.” He corrected.
Ebony’s sympathy returned full force. “I’m so sorry.” She pressed along his side, rubbing his shoulder soothingly and patting his knee. Clearly wanting to wrap him in a hug.
Heaving a sigh he surrendered and caught her narrow waist to pull her across his lap. Setting her back along the armrest so he could hold her. Dropping his head to her shoulder. I need her warmth just now.
She didn’t miss a beat. Unpinning his wig and tossed it to the tea table so she could rub his head comfortingly. “I’m so sorry. What can I do?”
“You’re doing it.”
The front door opened.
Both of their heads popped up.
“Jimmy didn’t open that.” Ebony remarked.
She’s right. The butler hadn’t come through. Who else would just walk in? Then Rhyers caught the smell. The dirty, filthy stink of Cimmerii.
Just as a man rounded the corner and stepped into the doorway of the parlor.
They both stared in shock as Samuel Marshall remarked. “Gone for only a year, and this is what I come back to find?” Humor warmed his voice.
“Sam!” Ebony cried. Casting Rhyers a confused look a moment before she leapt from his lap to rush across the Parlor and throw herself into her brother’s arms.
“No!” Rhyers cried. Jumping to his feet and outstretching a hand. But his movements were stilted with shock and he was unable to get to her in time to stop her.
Sam caught his arms around her and hugged her tightly to him.
“Where have you been!” She sobbed. “Bodin, said you were dead!” She shot him a betrayed look over her shoulder.
Sam looked around in confusion. “I was healed.”
No. You were tainted. Rhyers’ heart sunk.
Radix did this. It can’t be a good thing.
“What’s happened?” Rhyers asked. Afraid to know the answer.
“You look awful!” Ebony said sorrowfully as she noticed the gray tint to his skin and the dark shading around his eyes and mouth. His shaggy brown hair, was loose hanging over his face.
He looks Firoque.
“I remember waking up on the floor of the Iron Hide. With my belly gaping.” He gestured. “Then the old man saved me.”
“He didn’t save you…” Rhyers murmured.
“What?” Ebony spun to glare at him.
“Whatever he’s done, it bodes ill.” Rhyers said sadly.
“That’s why I stayed away so long. I was up in his lair.”
“Where’s that?” Rhyers took a step forward with renewed interest.
I always get as far as the Netherlands then there’s too many Cimmerii tracks for me to pin down where he vanishes to.
“I don’t know. It was a cave on a hill…I could see the Paladinian Mountains.”
Dammit. That could be anywhere. There’s hills all over this country.
“Cimmerii always led me in the dark. I didn’t really see much.”
Radix didn’t trust you yet. Maybe that was a good sign. Rhyers hoped.
“I’m so glad your back.” She hugged Sam close. “I missed you so much!”