Thanks for stopping by to read Chapter Sixteen of The Cursed King! It has been a quiet last two weeks on the writing front, as I have found myself hitting a bit of a wall in the transition between the Rising Action and the Climax of the story. Putting all the pieces in place can feel like a slog at times, however this is also the part of the story where you can focus more freely on character development. Shifting into this mindframe has been tough, however I am hoping to get back into my groove. I am currently working on Chapter Thirty, so still roads ahead of this Blog, which is a good amount of breathing space, particularly if I do want to make any minor changes.
Chapter Sixteen follows Nadir in the wake of the events in Chapter Thirteen. Nadir is frustrated and alone as Jerimeh and Effei refuse to speak, and his new duties require him to come face to face with one of the most powerful men in the New World. I hope you enjoy reading and Chapter Seventeen will be posted on October 24th.
Since he arrived in Silver City with Stillius and Sir Robert Talford, Nadir had never heard such noise in all of his life. Ashfirth was only a small village, and had only one blacksmith, but in this part of the city, there were almost a hundred smithworks lining the street on either side. It was not only the noise of the crowd echoing in their heads, but also the thud of steel, the sizzling of water and the gruff grunts of the smiths working the metal. It was so loud that it would have allowed Jerimeh, Nadir and Sir Bethan to speak freely, if the noise did not also drown out their own voices.
As always, Jerimeh and Nadir were hooded figures. An Arkgodson wandering the streets of Silver City drew attention in the poorer neighbourhoods, and Jerimeh had not the time to meet and greet all of the smallfolk, as much as Nadir knew that he wanted to. Sir Bethan had also been stripped of his Royal finery for this venture, and had not stopped scoffing at his boiled leather and tatty surcoat that made him look no more than a wild knight. It was not long, however, before they arrived at the right blacksmith. As soon as the man looked up from his work, he dropped his tools instantly and hurried over to Jerimeh. This blacksmith was a stocky man nearing his forties, with a flat nose, squinty eyes and a bulbous chin. He had two big ears underneath his brown, side-parted hair. The smith’s skin was covered in soot, as were his hands and his hairy arms.
“Your worship,” the man bowed his head.
“Ssh,” Sir Bethan chided and gestured to the surrounding smiths.
“Of course, please come this way.”
Nadir learned that the smith’s name was Jimmy, and seemed an exceptionally kind and humble man. Nadir sipped at the tea that the smith’s wife Doreen had made them, as Jimmy fawned over Jerimeh who rejected his praise as gently as he could. Jerimeh did not like to be complimented, Nadir knew, but since Lorne had been executed, he was even more stern and solemn in his refusals. Before long, Jerimeh had asked to see the girl. When she was brought to them, she immediately froze before them all, and took the seat closest to Nadir, who must have looked the least threatening to her. The girl was exceptionally pretty, Nadir thought, a few years older than him with intense brown eyes and mousy brown hair that barely peaked from her bonnet. Nadir knew her as one of the servants in the kitchens in Harthelm. She was often kind to him and gave him extra portions when he was particularly hungry, though he knew that Jerimeh knew her as the girl that was caught trying to deliver a mysterious note to Queen Lorne.
“How are you feeling, Ellen?” Jerimeh asked.
“She’s fine, your worship. No bouts of illness or nothin’ like that. Ent that right, love?” Jimmy answered for her.
Jerimeh looked to him and placed a hand on his lap. “There is no need to worry, my son. This is no interrogation.” He turned to Ellen and asked her the same question again. She seemed to relax instantly and shuffled to make herself more comfortable on the chair.
“I am well, thank you, your worship. I have done what Master Torvic told me to do. I have avoided taverns, and don’t go nowhere alone.”
Jerimeh smiled kindly. “Very good. Until we can find the persons responsible for poisoning you, it is vital that you continue to do that. Now, do you remember anything from that night since the last time we spoke?”
“I’ve racked my brain hundred times or more, lord, and nothin. Each time is the same. I remember doing my hair all neat like, saying my byes to papa and walking about halfway up Smithsrow. That’s it. Next thing I know, I’m laying in bed with a headache and a belly full of fire.”
“And this note,” Jerimeh handed the girl the parchment that she was given. “Do you know anything of this?”
The girl looked at it for a few moments, she had seen it before, but now Jerimeh’s scattered notes of translation smothered the parchment.
“I don’t. I’m sorry, your worship. I never wanted to cause any trouble. Working in the kitchens means so much to our family, I would never do anything. Anything. To risk it.”
“I know, child. I know. How is your reading?”
“Aye, she’s a fine reader this one. With what books she’s given, she can make sense of em all,” Jimmy beamed.
“Ellen, could you read the passage I have written underneath the symbols please?”
Ellen studied the parchment for a few moments, waiting for permission to begin. Nadir studied her eyes. She was scared of them, as he had been when he had first arrived in Silver City. The girl hesitated and her hands began to shake, and tears began to fall from her eyes. Before Jerimeh could say a word in consolation, Nadir pulled his chair up next to the girl and took a corner of the parchment between his forefinger and his thumb. Nadir’s reading was not perfect, but his lessons with Effei and Jerimeh meant that he had quickly caught up with other children his age.
“Shall we read it together?”
The girl sniffed and nodded.
“When endless terror reigns
When the sky is night in day
When the clouds fall apart and rain
Upon a world of blood and clay
When all that is you is gone
When a mother kills her son
When there is only shade to find
And what lies beyond the crypts and castles come.”
“Do you know where this comes from?”
“Is it in The Book of Life and Death?” Ellen asked.
Jerimeh shook his head. “It is not in any modern copy I have ever seen of The Book. Yet, when I saw this note, I knew that I had seen these symbols before. You see, in order to become Arkgodson, I was required to translate several passages of Old Antinnan and recite them perfectly in both Old Antinnan and The Common Tongue. I never translated this passage, but it does come before the passages that I did translate. The Book of Life and Death has been trimmed and revised constantly to ensure that only the simplest, and easy to understand messages are retained. The more complex the messages, the more they are misinterpreted. There was a time, you see, when The Book of Life and Death was endlessly long, with scrolls upon scrolls of cryptic instruction that only the most learned and practiced Godson could decipher, and his duty was to give its meaning to the people. This passage is found in one of the earliest scrolls that we have. It is only found once. And it is the only passage within all of the works of The Book that is not a guide on moral behaviour, but a prophecy.”
“What is it prophesising?” Jimmy asked.
Jerimeh sighed. “I cannot be sure. In fact, no one can. If anyone had deciphered this in the past millennia, then it would have been simply unravelled by now. But whoever wrote this note not only has a deep understanding of Old Antinnan, but must also believe this prophecy. When a mother kills her son. Between Prince Edward’s death and this note being produced was a little over one month. Whoever wrote this and put it into your daughter’s hands, is a man of the Faith.”
“Why are you telling us all of this?”
“Because it is vital…vital…that Ellen remembers who did this to her. Any detail, any scrap of information that we can use may help us find them. It is my belief that the same person who poisoned your daughter, also poisoned our Queen.”
Ellen began to sob, but as Nadir moved to console her, the girl ran off from her chair and into her bedroom. “Perhaps that is enough for today. You’re welcome back as always, your worship, but she’s a young girl whose had a lot of questions. She needs some time to forget about it all.”
“Alas, Ellen forgetting everything is the worst thing for us… though perhaps it may be the best thing for her.”
Jimmy walked over to his daughter’s bedroom, her sobs still audible from the outside, and closed the door softly. He then flicked his eyes towards the door to the outside and huddled Jerimeh, Sir Bethan and Nadir together. “I found something in her pocket the day she came back home. I took it because I didn’t want anything to frighten her. The girl was tired and terrified as it was.” Jimmy reached into his own pocket and pulled out a gold coin, though the metal was clearly old and unpolished, it was as fine a piece of gold as Nadir had seen since he arrived at Harthelm. On its face, the shape of a raven was engraved and filled in black. “It’s not like no coin I’ve ever seen before. Perhaps you know what it is.”
Jerimeh took the coin in his hand and held it up to the light that came in through the window. “Thank you, Jimmy. This does indeed help a great deal.”
Nadir spent the afternoon back at Harthelm. His lessons with Effei had finished, but his mind was elsewhere. Every time he tried to recite a passage, his mind wandered off and he forgot a word here and there. Jerimeh preferred reward to punishment as an incentive, but Effei was younger, stricter and less forgiving of failure. Thus, Nadir was given a chore for every word he missed. After polishing the cutlery in the kitchens and sweeping the autumn leaves from the God’s Hall courtyard, it was now his duty to take food to the prisoners. Though usually this would mean a trip to the dungeons, Effei was far too busy, and Jerimeh was still investigating in the city with Sir Bethan, and so Nadir was to see to the political prisoners who resided in cells within the East Tower. Nadir had noted that the food was much more generous in portion, and the cells were noticeably cleaner, though he would not wish to spend time in either these cells or the dungeons if he could help it.
He often wondered about the conditions his mother might be in. Perhaps she was being held prisoner somewhere, for some reason. Now that King Aron had executed Queen Lorne, and the Kingdoms were at war, he worried that they might remember that she was from The Blacklands and lock her up. Jerimeh had been less and less helpful as the weeks had rolled past, and now deep into autumn, Nadir had only attained one small piece of information. He knew who raided Ashfirth and took his mother and Anton, but he still did not know where she was now and whether or not she was still alive. The thought was a constant ache that swiftly squeezed his heart like a pincer. He had heard nothing from Stillius, Jerimeh had been too busy with his own work, and Effei was too stern to allow the boy personal conversation with him. Nadir had never felt so alone in the world.
The kitchen servants plated up the food for Nadir to take to the prisoners. Most of the political prisoners did not even look at him as he placed the food plate through the gaps at the bottom of the cell. Nadir, in his role as Oblate, was also there to assist in prayer. Through he was only young, Jerimeh had given Nadir the permissions to guide prayer and be a conduit for the condemned. Some of the more desperate men were not too proud to be helped by a lowborn Oblate, but most did not even look at him as he brought them food, and offered no words of thanks. In this way, Nadir much preferred the dungeons. He found the prisoners crasser in the dungeons, louder and utterly destitute, but they were kinder, more eager for a saviour and appreciative of any good that came by them.
The final cell Nadir approached was guarded by four men. One of whom was Sir Jorund. Sir Jorund wore a constant scowl across his young face. Though still five years from thirty, he had the anger and bitterness of a man three times his age who had only the worst of lives. Yet, Sir Jorund was part of the King’s personal guard, his father the Earl of Dawnmount in the snowy North East of The Hartlands, and had won tournies across The New World. From what Nadir had heard, he was an accomplished knight, and Nadir had only ever known him as mean-spirited and violent. Nadir approached the guards nervously and waited for them to open the doors. Whilst one guard opened the heavy door, Sir Jorund put his arm across to stop Nadir entering. Nadir waited and looked up to see a smirk on the knight’s face. He plunged his hand into the plate and scooped up a handful of crushed potato and shovelled it into his mouth. Then he grabbed the apple, and took an enormous bite, right to the core, and spat it onto the floor before placing the remains back onto the plate.
“Give that to his majesty, and tell him he can eat the rest off the floor by my feet if he’s still hungry.”
Nadir, afraid to argue, walked through the large oak door and it was slammed shut behind him. This was by far the cleanliest cell that Nadir had seen, but though it was clean, it was scarce and lightless. There was an oriel, but this had been covered by slabs of wood that only allowed small slits of light. Beyond that, there were two lanterns flickering in the corner, which gave the room a dim orange glow. All that remained was a single cell in the centre of the room with steel bars that attached floor to ceiling that made the prison cylindrical. It was as if the prisoner was made to feel surrounded at all times, never able to rest their backs against a wall or hide away.
Despite this, the looming presence of King Aedvard stood tall in the centre of his cell, smiling broadly at Nadir who froze at the stare of the King, whom he had expected to be glum and in tatty rags. In fact, Aedvard, though he had been given prisoners garbs that were made of the same material as potato sacks, had managed to fashion them into a pair of hose that covered his legs, but left his taut, broad torso bare. Nadir hurriedly placed the plate at the foot of the cell where the small gaps appeared and rushed to the door.
“Where do you think you are going?” King Aedvard said, and Nadir stopped in his tracks.
“Sorry, lord…your majesty?” Nadir waited to be corrected, but no correction came.
“Your majesty? A boy from The Hartlands calling me that is surely treason.”
It was then that Nadir fully realised where he was. He was in the presence of the man who ran his Kingdom, the King of The Blacklands, a man who knew Lord Tigos personally and may know where he could find his mother.
“I am from The Blacklands, your majesty. Ashfirth, the seat of Lord Tigos.”
Aedvard’s face changed from cordial to stern, and then awash with sympathy. “What these people did to Ashfirth is unforgiveable, lad. I am sorry to hear that you were affected, but you are an Oblate are you not? Surely you know that your loyalty is no longer to Ashfirth. Once you enter the Faith, you are bound only to the Gods and the people you help…not your lands. You must not call me that again, do you understand? You do not want people to question your loyalty.”
“Now, is this what I am to eat?” King Aedvard showed the mangled plate of food to Nadir.
“I did not touch it. I swear it.”
“I know you didn’t. Sir Jorund has always been a particularly nasty man. He is like a Malus Apple, bitter when left in his natural state, but if I were to cook him in a vat of boiling water, he would soon sweeten up. Now, this will not do. I would like you to bring me a more substantial meal from the kitchens this evening.”
“I am sorry. I only have what the kitchens give me, and the guards would not allow me to bring you food any other time.”
“Alas, of course. You would be severely punished if you were caught. So, what are we to do? I cannot keep up my strength with a few molested potatoes and a half-eaten apple.” Nadir thought for a moment, eager not to anger King Aedvard, but finding no way around the guards who were constantly on duty. Suddenly there was a bang on the door and Nadir hurried towards it.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I will come back this evening. I will find a way.”
At dinner, Nadir ate with Jerimeh and Effei. It was a quiet evening. Nadir did not feel like speaking, his mind saddled with different plans to sneak King Aedvard food. He did not know why he feared him. Aedvard said himself that he held no loyalty to The Blacklands. He was a boy of the Faith now, and his duty was to help people. But is King Aedvard not a person? The King was no young man, and the food he was being given was paltry, so was Nadir obliged to help him by bringing him more food? It was a conundrum that Nadir had not expected. He felt sympathy for the King, who he heard was forced to watch his daughter hanged in the King’s Hall.
It had been three weeks since Queen Lorne was executed, and tensions had been high everywhere within Harthelm, not least in the company of Jerimeh and Effei. The secret plot hatched by King Aron and Prince Asher had worked as they had expected, but caused the fury of the excluded Jerimeh. Nadir’s wound was healing nicely, and he had been richly rewarded by King Aron for his role in King Aedvard’s capture, but he felt guilty and responsible for the young Queen’s death. He had only done what he was told to do, but he was told the men would be imprisoned, and instead, they were shot down by Sir Trevon Blacksquire’s crossbow bolts.
“Excuse me,” Effei rose from his seat. “But I feel the need to pray.”
“You will stay.” Jerimeh said dispassionately.
Nadir squirmed in his seat. Jerimeh had grown colder to Effei in the weeks following the hanging. Jerimeh had been excluded from the plan because of his close relationship with the Queen, and Effei was recruited by Prince Asher privately to perform the last rites.
“Your worship…we have scarcely said a word all evening. I would at least like to speak to the Gods on this night.”
“You will. But first, you will speak to me. Sit.”
Godson Effei obliged and Jerimeh took a sip of watered-down ale from his cup. “Why did you betray me?” Jerimeh asked so calmly that not a single drop of anger was present, almost as if he was sad and not angry.
“I had a choice. Either way, Queen Lorne was going to be hanged that evening. They could not have asked you, because you would have tried to foil them. They asked me, because I knew that it was over for Queen Lorne the moment she was discovered with a bloody blade between her fingers. You did not accept it, but I did. And so, I did what was required of me as a Godson. I followed orders, and I kept my oath. I gave Queen Lorne’s soul hope in her final moments. That is all we can do.”
“I could have delayed it. I could have done something if I’d have only known what they were planning. We could have found another way around this. She did not need to die.”
“Yes. She did.” Effei’s face changed from apologetic to cold. “This is not our world, your worship. These politics do not become us. They are not for us to meddle with. Our world is the Gods, the people, the souls that require our guidance. They may dance with each other, but we are not to do the dancing ourselves.”
“You are a fool if you believe that. You think that I would not rather spend my days in the filthy streets of this city, eating porridge and healing the sick like we did when Godsons were no more than monks? If that life were possible, then of course I would do it.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Because without the politics, men of faith would hold no power. We do not wield swords or spears, but we do wield our minds and our hearts. Look around you. The God’s Hall we reside in. This was not built out of kindness or love. It was built from politics. It was built by people who involved themselves and held those they served to account when they opposed the very principles that we stand for. By being here, by being involved, we give the Gods a voice in the dealings of men.”
“The Gods do not care for the dealings of men, your worship. Now. If I may be excused…”
“Yes. Yes. Away with you.”
Effei calmly rose from his seat and left without another word. Nadir walked over to Effei’s place and began clearing his plates when Jerimeh told him to sit down. Jerimeh poured some ale into the boy’s cup and Nadir sipped at it lightly. The ale that they served in Harthelm was much weaker than what he had been used to in Ashfirth. Though he had not had much of it, the taste was stronger and the liquid was far thicker. Though his mother ensured he never drank too much of it, he felt as if he could drink this all day and not get a fuzzy head.
“I am sorry, your worship,” Nadir said.
Jerimeh looked at him quizzically. “What on earth are you sorry for?”
“I am sorry that you and your friend are arguing. And I am sorry for Queen Lorne. I have not had a chance to say it.”
“You are very kind, Nadir. In truth, it is I who should be apologising. I have exchanged letters with Stillius, but I am afraid that we have had little information come back from Lord Garrison’s lands about your mother. Hunter’s Valley is a vast Earldom, and there are many possibilities of where someone could end up when sold as a slave. There are dozens of Baronies and minor lordships there, and we have very few resources dedicated to this search. My influence with King Aron is waning. He no longer trusts me as he once did, and to question an Earl at his court with as large a standing army as Lord Garrison would be suicidal. I am afraid there is little else I can do.”
The words struck Nadir’s heart. What did this mean? Did it mean that Jerimeh and Stillius would no longer look for his mother? Would he be allowed to leave to look for his mother or would they keep him here to serve the Gods? Nadir had learned much since he arrived, but he was here at Stillius’ behest to find his mother, not to serve the Gods for the rest of his days. He looked down at the delicate plate that he was eating from, at the silver forks and the abundance of food that had been left in the serving platters at the centre of the table. They dressed like monks, yet they ate like royalty. Nadir remembered the monks in Ashfirth. He remembered Brother Thantus, and what the monk had said to him about Natos and Jivana, and how the angels fought. He remembered the old man desperately trying to pull Nadir away from the burning village, and wondered where those men were now. Nadir felt as if he had not helped a single person except for Jerimeh and Effei since he arrived at Harthelm, yet all Brother Thantus and the Ashfirth monks did was help people.
Something stirred in Nadir’s stomach. “May I be excused?” The words dropped from his mouth lifelessly, as if nothing at all was present behind them.
“Of course. I do mean it, Nadir. I am very sorry.”
Nadir walked calmly until he was out of view, and then his legs took him to a run. His stomach was a hard ball of white-hot rage that steamed into the back of his throat. There was nothing he wanted more in that moment than to run and keep running all the way to Hunter’s Valley, all the way to Lord Garrison’s castle. He had waited too long now. She could have been sold to anyone in the New World or beyond, but the thought of not finding her was too much to bear. He remembered the last time he saw her, clutched in her arms whilst the fire roared behind him. It had been such a lovely day until Brother Thantus announced Prince Edward’s death. Nadir had eaten with his mother in their home, he had had tea with Enid and played with Anton. He would have even had some rabbits to bring home if the man in the woods had not eaten them. Then a thought struck him and his legs stopped almost instantly.
The man in the woods. Nadir rushed towards the God’s Hall library in the darkness. He remembered his long blonde hair, the tuft of fluff on his upper lip, and his arrogance, all as if he was still in the woods. Then, the emblem on his chest, a pink man holding a longbow on a zig-zagged field of grey and sky blue. So much had happened that he had forgotten all about him. Yet, he was certain he had seen the same coat of arms since. Nadir pulled a torch from the wall and rushed towards the shelves. There were hundreds of books in the library about the lineages of the great noble families of The Hartlands. Nadir pulled a book from the shelf and flicked through it hurriedly. He found Garrison and spun through the pages as fast as he could. Then he landed on the title page, and just above the name, he saw the emblem. A pink man holding a longbow on a zigzag field of grey and sky blue.
Nadir had heard Lord Garrison talk about it, but now he finally had proof in his own mind. Nadir was not caught by the man, the man was caught by him, and he didn’t even know it. I could have told Mother. I could have told Lord Tigos. Even Marc the Reeve. Nadir’s head was a storm of guilt and anger, and before long, he was sat with his back pressed up against the bookshelf, sitting silently and thinking about how surreal his life had become. He was just a boy from a small village, destined to work the fields until his dying day. He liked his home, his townsfolk, the woods, and the long, prosperous summers. Now though, he had nothing but broken promises, fear and for the first time since arriving in Silver City, he felt surrounded by strangers and enemies. This must be how King Aedvard feels, he thought. In a flash, Nadir’s anger returned, but as it did a plan formed in his mind, and he thought of King Aedvard locked in the cell alone. The King had told him to bring him food, and Nadir was found new determination to bring the man his meal. There was no one else in Harthelm that Nadir thought might help, but perhaps he could exchange food for something else. Perhaps King Aedvard knew the man if he were to describe him, and then perhaps Nadir could track him down and find his mother once and for all.
The kitchens were fully stocked and had many leftovers from the many feasts that had been cooked and distributed throughout the castle. It was not unusual for Nadir to greet the servants and cooks and play the role of sweet child to attain seconds. This time was no different, and Mary, the most beautiful servant, piled his plate full of shaved roasted chicken, vegetables and sweet potatoes, and gave him a separate pot of onion gravy. Accessing the cell without the guards’ knowledge would be more difficult than attaining the food, he knew. Nadir spied from around the corner of the cell, but saw only Sir Trevon Blacksquire sat down, seemingly sound asleep.
Nadir thought that this must be a trap, but then soon realised he was no rabbit. He had nothing to offer these people, and he was only being kept there at the behest of Stillius, for reasons Nadir could only imagine now. He no longer thought it was through kindness or for Nadir helping them through the forest, but for what, he did not truly know, and did not want to think on it any further. At best, Nadir was invisible in the castle, and he had now only started to see the benefits of that fact. As he approached Sir Trevon, he saw a flask propped up against the leg of the chair, Nadir picked it up, unscrewed the top and sniffed it. It was a near full flask of rye spirit, the same potion Nadir’s mother gave him when he was younger and unable to sleep. Nadir looked over his shoulder again. There were always two guards on duty, but only a sleeping Sir Trevon was between him and King Aedvard.
Nadir tried to carefully ease open the door, but the old door creaked and echoed through the stone corridors. He winced and his eyes darted towards Sir Trevon, but the old knight did not budge from his slumber. Nadir hurriedly picked up the plate and placed it down in the cell room, before pulling the doors to as gentle a close as he could. Night had long since cast its will upon the city, and only the moonlight and the dim lanterns upon the walls gave light to the cold, scarce chamber.
“I was beginning to think that you forgot about me,” Aedvard’s voice carried around the room, but he never needed to bellow to be heard.
Nadir carried the plate over to the cell and pushed it through the gaps underneath the bars, followed by the separate pot of gravy. “I couldn’t carry anymore. It would have been suspicious if I was caught. I told the cooks I wanted seconds.”
Aedvard took the plate and surveyed it. “This is sufficient. Far more than I have been given in days. You were smart to be cautious.”
“Will that be all, your majesty?” Nadir said as courteously as he could whilst checking over his shoulder once again.
“We have time. I assure you of that. Sit with me whilst I eat, it is a sad thing for a King to eat alone.” Nadir wanted to rush out, but did not want to offend Aedvard who delicately cut a slice of chicken and took only the smallest pieces into his mouth at a time. Nadir could tell that the King was hungry, but even in the presence of a common boy, retained his dignity with every bite. “Now, tell me how you came to be in the service of the Arkgodson of The Hartlands.”
Nadir hesitated for a moment, but then realised that he had no reason to lie to this man. He knew the truth. He had heard it from Lord Garrison’s own mouth, and the emblem of House Garrison confirmed exactly who had taken his mother and Anton. Surely, the truth cannot be treason? “Lord Garrison sent his men to raid our village. They burned down our homes, killed us, and then they kidnapped my mother and my friend.”
“How do you know it was Lord Garrison?”
“I saw a man in the woods the day before. He was a knight, I think. He had an emblem on his surcoat – a pink man holding a longbow on a zig zag field of grey and sky blue.”
Aedvard look inquisitively at him. “That is indeed the crest of House Garrison. Why did you not tell Lord Tigos straight away?”
Suddenly, Nadir remembered about catching rabbits in the woods. Rabbits that did not belong to him, and were not his to catch. Even though Aedvard was behind bars, he could not tell him the truth. “I was afraid,” he replied simply.
“And you found your way here on your own?”
“I met some monks in the woods who looked after me and put me in Arkgodson Jerimeh’s protection.”
“Very kind of them. Very kind indeed. Have you enquired about your mother at all since you’ve been here?”
Nadir suddenly seized up with anger and sadness. He had been in Harthelm for months, and he had not a scrap more information about where she had been taken. He would rather be released from Jerimeh’s service so he could find her himself. “No,” he said.
“Since you have done me a kindness today, and at great risk to yourself, perhaps, I can be of assistance in this matter.”
Nadir looked stunned. “You are going to help me find my mother? But how? You’re trapped here, surrounded by guards?”
Aedvard could barely restrain his laughter. He looked straight into Nadir’s eyes. “I may be behind bars, lad, but I have eyes, ears, arms and legs all throughout this Kingdom, this city…and this castle. Do you think I would have risked you getting caught bringing me food? Sir Trevon will have a mighty headache once he wakes up, but he’ll be none the wiser until morning. I wanted you to come back because I can help you Nadir. That is of course, if you can help me too?”