He may have been too hasty in asking her to come and she may have needed time to mourn, but if he hadn’t asked her to come this night, she may never have had the opportunity for which he was allotting her.
She walked on stiff legs, her face, painted white which gave her a ghosted look.
On her approach, he looked around then rose. There was no point in hanging around. The sooner they got this done the better.
‘Are you ready for this?’ he asked as he stepped down.
Her eyes, with lashes in full black, snapped to him. ‘You try and stop me. Those men need punished for taking my, Locklin, from me,’ her voice rose when she added, ‘And you and me both know our king’s idea of punishment, comes nowhere close to what they deserve.’
‘This is why I asked Daykkor to put them in the storage cellar, not a cell. Anyone has the opportunity to do what I believe you will want to do to them.’
She nodded satisfied with his response. She was more alert than he’d given her credit.
She walked in step beside him as he led her to the north of the castle.
Unworried, he took her past the boulder and into the tunnel without looking to see who, if any were watching.
The space beneath the castle was not a place for secrets. Any voices within echoed from the walls and were channeled up through the tunnels. One sounded as they got to the halfway mark, it was Bartta’s. He stopped Cherine by placing an arm in front of her and then gestured her to be quiet.
Bartta’s voice was muffled and they crept forwards until it became clearer.
‘You weren’t supposed to kill anyone. Just throw each other about.’ There was a pause and then Bartta continued. ‘I went through a lot of trouble getting that green cloak to disguise your true worth as a magician. And what do you do? You end up killing a boy.’
Again a pause and Gwendalin could imagine the pair whimpering for mercy as their king bore over them. It had been a ruse and at the head of it Bartta. Not that this surprised him, he’d never quite learned to trust their appointed king. Ah, Runcorn, what were you thinking naming him your successor?
One of the men spoke up. ‘Get us out of here. We did what you asked, yes it is unfortunate that a boy died, but I told you, I tripped, and, Lanos, had already thrown his magic. It was an accident.’
‘You know I cannot. I have to put you through a trial. It’s not like you’ll go hungry and Daykkor left you with enough rope for you to piss and shit in the bucket. You will just have to suffer. You deserve this for your accident. Whatever the majority vote be, you deserve this, but remember why I asked you to do it in the first place. You just button your lip and talk nothing of it while you are here. You never know who may be in the tunnels at any one time.’
How right you are, King.
He’d heard enough and needed to get out of here save Bartta see him, and gestured Cherine back away. She shook her head and stepped forwards. He placed and hand on her shoulder and whispered, ‘Go in there now and you’ll not get what you wish,’ she stopped, ‘come away and we’ll come back when we know Bartta has retired.’
It was enough and she turned and they slipped up and out of the tunnel.