Some loose ends are harder to tie than others.
Chapter 14, Part 3
“Oh, I never said I didn’t know who collapsed the overhang. I just said it didn’t matter. And it doesn’t…yet. I did, however, destroy the exit, yes.”
They found Prince Dolan and the other men resting from their efforts at the pit. He gave Marta an odd look.
“We heard what sounded like a rock slide. I’m glad to see you’re both all right.”
“We are. We found where the bandits were getting in, but the crevice has collapsed. A skilled mountaineer could still reach it from that direction, but no one else.”
Prince Dolan looked thoughtful. “Perhaps that is for the best.”
“I thought so too,” Marta said. “Are we ready to leave?”
The three men kneeled by the pit and Dolan began to sing. Marta recognized the song as a hymn to Amatok. When he was finished the three of them went down to the stream to wash some of the dirt off. Marta and Sela waited by mouth of the cave until they returned. Their clothing was a bit worse for wear, but they appeared refreshed, if weary. After they had all climbed back down and rejoined the rest of their party there was still an hour or so of daylight left. Marta suggested they move on and no one objected, there being little interest in sleeping on the blood of the murdered pilgrims. They were not quite out of sight of the cliff cave when there was another rumbling, and a cloud of dust billowed out of the opening before it sank in on itself, leaving just the barest crevice to suggest where it had been.
First Law, Marta thought.
“Also likely for the best,” Marta said, as Prince Dolan looked back.
Dolan looked as if he was going to say something, thought better of it, and said something else. “No doubt you are right. Still, it’s a pity. It was a lovely spot.”
“Yes. Now it can remain that way. And perhaps those unfortunate pilgrims will find peace.”
“May it be so,” Dolan said, and that was the end of it. Sir Kian just looked at the both of them but said nothing at all. They found a place to make camp further up the pass.
While Akan and Devan saw to the horses Sela assisted Kian in preparing a meal. Marta walked a short distance ahead. The walls of the cliff loomed high above, but there were no overhangs in that section. In the pass the light had faded quickly but the stars refused to appear as daylight clung to the mountain tops. She stood there, waiting for the stars or something else. Something else turned out to be Prince Dolan.
“That’s a remarkable ability you have,” he said.
“It’s impressive enough. It’s also the first one an Arrow Path witch learns,” Marta replied. “There’s probably a reason for that. So. Is there something on your mind, Prince?”
“The person who brought down the overhang has the same ability.”
“So you do know we’re being followed.”
“I suspected. Who spotted her first, Kian or Loken?”
“Loken. He has a knack for that sort of thing. Which just goes to show how well the bandits were hidden, if he didn’t spot them first.”
“Neither did Bonetapper, and he has an advantage at that sort of thing.”
“Indeed. What is to be done about your shadow?”
Marta shrugged. “For now? Nothing. She doesn’t intend us harm, again for now. As you saw, I think she tried to help us.”
“Do you know who this person is? What they want?”
“I know what they are, as certainly you have guessed. What they want…I believe she wants something she thinks I either have or will soon acquire, but do not concern yourself, Highness—she is not a threat to anyone but me, and when the time comes she and I will settle things.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“In the matter of Master Solthyr’s swords? Yes. In the matter of my shadow? No, Highness. But please believe that I do appreciate the offer.”
“Well, then. I will trust that you know what you’re doing, Lady Marta.”
There’s a kind heart at the bottom of all that calculation. I do hope it doesn’t get him into trouble, Marta thought.
She waited until the first stars appeared overhead and then followed Dolan back to join the others.
((End Part 3))
©2015 Richard Parks