“Possibly far less than he deserves,” I told her. I had a sudden desire to comfort her, but was aware it was not likely she would not accept any of what I could offer.
“Where has he gone?!” she asked.
“I honestly do not know,” I told her. “Probably as far away as he can get. And if he has any sense, he will never return.”
Caithness stood silent for a moment, hands clenched, shivered in the cold. She glanced nervously at the man who had brought her, then at me. I accepted her glare.
“What am I going to do? What are you going to do with me?” She asked, waving her hand in the air. “This is my place. Will I be able to stay? Will I be forced to leave? I have nowhere else.”
I looked at her, fearful, confused, angry, alone. And I felt… doubt, sympathy. What was I to do? Did I walk away, abandon her to her fate? Or… I looked down at my staff. Then back up to the girl from County Glavine… Karrick. Omar had taken from her. I needed to uncover who had given him sanction. And perhaps, I could offer the girl a new purpose in life; one that didn’t require the same degree of devotion Omar had required.
“I must return to Council,” I told her. “These men will be returning to their homes in the south. I’m certain I will need some accompaniment, some assistance. I am old, you see. Sometimes, I need someone to carry my staff. It does get heavy on occasion.”
I’d hoped she would recall our first, and far more pleasant, meeting. My words didn’t have the effect I’d hoped for. The courtiere became angry again.
“You sent my master to exile,” she told me angrily. “Why should I want to go with you? I should seek revenge. For his sake.”
I looked into her eyes, so filled with fury and pain and not a little fear. I’d never enjoyed fear. Not even when it was a necessity.
“You have no master,” I told her. “You have nowhere to go otherwise, but perhaps to your birthplace across the sea. We will be leaving in the morning. What you do, what you decide, it will be your choice alone. All I can say is, if you accompany me, I will not treat you poorly. I will ensure you have a home and you will have a purpose. That I promise you”
She still glared at me, the bitter cold apparently forgotten.
“You can go.” I told her, then to the soldier “Let her. She is not our enemy.”
Caithness glowered at the men-at-arms surrounding us.
“Remember,” I told her. We leave in the morning.”
She walked away, arms wrapped around her, shivering again, back towards the thatched roofed, low stone buildings which stood at the base of Tower Blackrock.
“We leave as soon as the Stormguard Arbiter and his men arrive,” I told the soldier. “You will then be free to go home to your lands and families.”
The man seemed happy to hear that. A chill wind blew, and, forgetting for the moment, I tried a spell of warming. It failed, of course, and I shook my head, pulled my robes around me and headed up the stairs. There was a place for a fire in the great hall. I knew how to create a fire without magic; at least I hoped I still remembered.
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