PROPELLED BY SHEER WILL, BREN GRABBED his saddlebags and made it to the top of the stairs. His blood pounded in his temples. The scar on his face burned like a glowing chunk of coal.
Eleanor had a way of stirring his angry blood into a rapid boil. He was tired of listening to her complaints. No matter how much he allotted to Tolone, it was never enough.
Even so, he was used to enduring her gripes. It was her daring that perturbed him most. She should be smart enough to refrain from tempting him, but she had always been even bolder than all of her audacious ancestors put together. If it would have been in his power, he would have released her from her obligations years ago.
He shouldn’t have come, but a man was entitled to a dry bed and a warm meal, especially if he was paying generously for it. The rainy season had made a mess of his camps and his men deserved a proper roof and a dry pallet every once in a while.
There was also the matter of the woman. She shouldn’t have to spend her last days on a wet horse and her last nights on the soggy ground. She didn’t deserve to be murdered coldly in a back alley among paupers and whores or in the forgotten wilderness of a wind-swept ridge.
There he went again, trying to justify the absurd delay. But he was done delaying. Eleanor’s lewd dance had stirred up his wrath. Wrath was good, the ultimate motivator. A stoked up man was the most efficient killer, a hunter worthy of Laonia and the house of Uras.
He had to do it, now, before he changed his mind.
He entered the room he kept at the seed house of Tolone and dropped his saddlebags by the door. The chamber was still warm, but the fire had died down into a pile of glowing embers. The chamber’s gloom matched his bleakness.
Not for the first time, Bren wondered what type of weakness had earned his father the curse that plagued his house. He might never know, because his father was dead and so was the rest of his line.
He wasn’t feeling very merciful tonight, a change that was bound to help. He came upon the bed in two strides. There was no point in explaining, no benefit to warning, coaxing or compelling. He was angry—at himself, at his fate. He clutched the hilt of his sword and ripped off the blankets from the bed.
The woman was gone.
He stared at the empty mattress in disbelief. A most improbable line was neatly written on the sheet, a flowing trail of ink on white linen.
Whether it was kindness, courage or charity, I thank you, my lord. Farewell. L.
Award-Winning Finalist in the fantasy category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News
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Genre – Fantasy/Dark Fantasy
Rating – PG-18