Authors: Rachel Rossano
“Enough.” Rising to his feet with more grace than I expected,
he strode away. “Antano!” A burly man, helmetless and carrying more visible
weapons than the other men in the group, answered the call.
“See that she observes the operation, but doesn’t
interfere. Then escort her to my quarters by nightfall.”
“Aye, my lord.” Antano approached respectfully. “This
way, my lady.”
I watched Lord Irvaine stride away among his men. As
I rose from the dust, I picked up the helmet. It was heavy, but well made. The
leather felt worn and supple. What kind of man hid behind its surface?
I offered it to my escort.
“Nay, bring it with you, lady.” Antano loomed over
me. “You can return it to him tonight. For now, we must go. He wishes for you
to see how your women are treated.”
He crossed the now empty village center toward the
lord’s hall, due east. I followed him, dreading the hours to come. Despite the
fleeting inclination to leave it behind, I carried Lord Irvaine’s helmet with
Word and Deed
An excerpt -
Three days later, I rose from bed. The afternoon sun shone
beyond the lattice, beckoning me. The sight nurtured an already restless spirit
into mobility. I was intent on a turn in the garden, at least a semblance of
freedom for my tortured soul. My body still ached and sudden changes threw my
balance, but I fixed my purpose and pressed forward.
Ealdine, having used two of the three allotted hours on
breaking fast and serving the midday meal, would not return until after
nightfall. That gave me time to creep down the stairs to sit in the sun at
Walking across the warped floor boards proved an uneventful
task. However, upon opening the door to the sight of the steep descent to the
ground two levels below, my grasp of balance wavered. I dropped to sit on the
doorsill and lowered my head into my hands.
“Might I assist you?”
I lifted my head and instantly regretted it.
“Steady, miss, steady. Don’t go toppling on me. I don’t wish
another death on my account.”
I blinked in the sunlight, struggling to place the source of
the voice. Finally, a movement brought my focus to where the stairs spilled
into the garden. He stood, left boot on the first step. Gaining only an
impression of graying brown hair and sun-browned hands, I lowered my head once
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Bryn Wolfe of Ardenstain. And you?”
“I am Verity Favian.”
“Ah, you are the maid in the tower. I was warned about you.”
He stepped off the bottom of the stairs and leaned against the tower wall, his
face still in shadow.
“’The maid yonder has a shrewish tongue.’”
“Hardly a warning since I am already betrothed. If you no
wish to listen, you can leave.”
“Ah, so I heard. It is to the Silvaticus, the crazed.”
Straightening my shoulders, I glared down at him for a
moment. “I will not allow you to speak thus of my betrothed.”
Surprise brought back his head. He lifted his face to the
sun to peer at me. The light revealed tan skin and a cloth patch strapped to
his face where his left eye should have been. It was a countenance one would remember.
I knew almost every man in my brother’s service. This scarred man was a
“You know your husband-to-be then?”
“Then why prevent me from speech when I speak truth born of
“It is not fitting to speak thus of others.” I peered at him
from my perch. “You are not of my brother’s men.”
“Nay, I arrived with the men sent ahead to prepare the way
My back tingled, suspicion bringing my pride to bear. “You
are here to evaluate the goods,” I accused. “Why else would you be permitted to
speak with me?”
“I was not permitted.”
“Then why are you here?” My head ached. I normally enjoyed
verbal play. Today it made me dizzy.
“At the moment? To offer aid. I spotted you at the door and
witnessed your stagger. I feared you would tumble down the stairs.”
“Silvaticus would be sorry to lose such choice coastline,” I
“Nay, I didn’t wish to see you break your fair neck.”
Contrary to my expectation, he didn’t look at me as he
delivered the sweetened line. Despite the fact I believed he did not mean them,
the words still warmed my cheeks and burned my ears. What business did a
servant have speaking such to a maid? The answer was none, yet I was pleased.
I brushed aside the notion without much thought. It was
simply the delusions of a woman barren of the hope of love. Attention starved,
I swooned at the smallest turn of a pleasant phrase.
I intended to give Bryn Wolfe a rebuke only to find him
gone. No sign of him remained. As Ealdine’s voice called to me from within, I
resolved to not mention the stranger.
I rubbed my throbbing temples. I didn’t believe I dreamed
him, but considering the condition of my head, I preferred caution.