carried a powerful Horse-blooded composite bow and quiver of arrows.
He opened the
pommel-knob of his old sword. Removing Calundronius from around his neck, he
dropped it into the compartment there. Gil knew that the mystic jewel’s
influence was confined in that manner. The wizard was leaving it in Gabrielle’s
care, deeming that she might have greater need of it if war erupted.
companion appeared, whom Gil greeted with mixed reactions. It was Ferrian. The
Horseblooded had a scimitar secured to his cantle, by his left hand, his cloak
covering the pinned-up right sleeve. Gil wasn’t so sure he was a good choice.
The American couldn’t very well object, however, and assumed Andre had reasons
for picking him.
Gil was about
to ask where the baby was when a last traveler rode up. The newcomer was a
woman in conservative road clothes, riding sidesaddle on a speckled mare whose
trappings were decorated with swatches of bright red bunting. She was erect in
a way suggesting discipline, bearing harness supporting some burden on her
back. She had a kindly, rounded face, so fair that her eyebrows and lashes were
nearly invisible. Her hair, free of its hood, was touched with much gray.
walked to one side to see what cargo she carried. He cursed when he saw the
infant there, in a sort of papoose rig.
He spun on
Andre. “What the hell’s she doing here with that?”
for herself. “My name is Woodsinger, young man; I am to carry the child. Did
you expect me to bear her on my hip for our entire journey?”
“Our journey? No way; that’s out, hear? Out!”
Springbuck intervened. “Gil, there is the matter of the baby’s care and
American roared, pointing at Andre, “let him do it. It’s all his idea anyway.”
entirely,” protested the wizard.
Woodsinger, “can he lactate?”
Gil spat on
the cobbles and glared at the Ku-Mor-Mai. At last he said, “We’re
“I am sure
things will work out well,” Springbuck soothed. “She brought the child from
“First it was
the kid, now a nursie. This is giving me a lot of grief, pal.”
dignity, Woodsinger proclaimed, “I have been on farings to wear down better men
than you, with the heirs of Kings at my paps! Furthermore, I—”
her with a forefinger. “Save it! Just pull your own weight.”
He left her
gaping, outraged, and said farewell to Springbuck, who obviously envied him a
bit, tired of being chanceried at Court.
there came a furor of growling, barking and baying. A pack of dogs burst from
the distant kennels and swarmed toward them, bristling in hatred, bellies low
to the ground. The dogs were big, wolfish-looking hounds, giving a confused
impression of glinting eyes, red tongues behind white, killing teeth and
eleven in all, threw themselves at Woodsinger’s mount. The leader sprang for
the nurse while the others caught the terrified horse’s legs and flanks,
sinking fangs in deep. Woodsinger kept the presence of mind to yank on her
rein, though, and spoiled the lead dog’s first attack, slashing at it with her
riding crop as her horse fought madly to break free. She twisted her body to
shield the child from the dog’s jaws, fighting the horse at the same time.
was in among the pack. He avoided the snapping hounds and tore their leader
away from Woodsinger, closing his fierce grip on its neck. Katya was behind
him, sword flashing in the morning light, downing a dog with her first stroke,
driving the others back for an instant. Reacher flung the body of the leader at
two of its fellows, but another landed on his shoulders from behind. He went
down, rolling over and over while it bit at the chain-mail collar of his armor.
had drawn Bar and leapt in after the royal siblings. Woodsinger’s horse was
being dragged to the ground