As soon as this bubbled up during breakfast one morning, I realized that I now have to go and read that biography of Don Juan of Austria that I’ve been ignoring.
The green and ripening-gold land stretched as far as the end of the world. Haglun imagined that he could see farther, to the two great port cities that brought so much wealth and had given him most of the sprinkling of gray in his brown hair. Wind rushed up the slope, blowing his cloak back like a wing. He smiled at the old wish. If he could fly, he’d not have to spend so long on the road. But people would probably say things about the king’s winged half-brother, even more than about the king himself. That the king looked exactly like his great-grandfather’s portrait in the temple, even down to the width of the stripe in his hair, seemed to pass unnoticed. The watcher snorted a little to himself as he studied the land.
“My lord, this could be yours,” Arish said from Haglun’s left shoulder, shield side. “You are the leader, the warrior, the one who upholds the law.”
“And that is why I am not king. His majesty was born to the throne. I was born to be his hands.” He knew if he turned to look, Arish would be making the sign for confusion and no.
“Your ways are strange.”
“Passing strange,” Haglun agreed. They’d had this not-argument for ten years and more, and each knew his part at least as well as the priests knew the dawn and dusk rituals.
“And anyone with a bow and a grudge or bad-eyesight could kill you.”
Haglun turned. Yes, standing on the top of hills, silhouetted for all to see, had led to more than one man becoming an object lesson for men-at-arms in training. “I fear anyone who mistakes me for an elch would be sorely disappointed in the results of the hunt.”
Arish smiled, revealing the gaps in his tusk-like teeth. The wind flipped the two small braids of pale hair hanging loose from under his round hat. Both men carried helmet and shield on their saddles, but here and now they could go with only light, leather armor. “Truth indeed. You’d be poor fare compared to a good autumn buck elch.”
One of the royal servants made a shocked noise and the two men smiled even more. The servants still could not, or would not, understand the men’s ways. Haglun wondered if it came from his father or his mother. Probably sire—King Hagorn’s other left-sided children shared the same energy and odd sense of life. “Come. Mistress Richildis will be praying a plague of fleas on us if we don’t get her supplies to her.” Another servant, younger than the others, frowned. Arish frowned back and the slight, balding youth ducked, looking away. Haglun made a mental note of the boy’s disapproval. He’d learn why Richildis had succeeded her dead husband as keeper of the manor soon enough.
Once mounted and on their way, Haglun said, “We’ll be here until the next full moon, unless something changes.”
“Good, my lord. If the Shapers had wanted men to live in marshes, they’d have made them with webbed feet.”
(C) 2017 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved.