I’ll not sit by and see some infant killed, even if it is some royal sot! Eadweald made his way out of camp. The battle continued, although it was clear that both armies were pulling back to regroup, having suffered the loss of their leaders. He found a ravine that led back to the road he had travelled to the battle. He stood at the edge of the path, glanced back one more time and saw the armies retiring to their hillsides where the day had begun. He turned and faced the road and set his feet purposefully on the weathered stones. To the west, a meandering line of stone and dirt extended towards Duke Brellig’s lands – towards his home.
He turned east, and with the late afternoon sun upon his back, he headed for the capital.
Eadweald pulled his hood close, and habitually dried his hands on his trousers. Although he didn’t expect anyone here to know him, if he were recognized and noted as a rebel, he would be in desperate straits. He couldn’t afford to stay long in the city. He saw a guardsman leave his duty post at the gate and head straight to a nearby tavern. Eadweald straightened himself and followed the man in.
He entered the common room and was pleased to smell stew, warm bread, stale beer and woodsmoke in a pleasing symphony of aroma. In a moment, he spied the guardsman sitting at a corner table. he approached and whispered, “I have information that must get to the king’s advisors.”
The guardsman looked him over and said, “Sure…I’ll bite. Tell me your information and if I believe you, I’ll make sure it gets there. I know the right people to talk to.”
Eadweald spilled his tale of an infant marked for death by the rebels, and how he came to know it. The guardsman fixed him with a stony glare. “So, if I believe your story, then I also believe that you’re a treasonous scumbag and I could probably secure a nice reward for turning you in right now. Why don’t you tell me why I won’t do that.”
The rebel looked at him and said, “You’re a regular guy. I can tell that. And you know that words like “treason” and “traitor” just don’t mean much in our lives. Treason is just one of those words that nobles use when they want to kill some poor sod who’s just trying to make sure his family stays fed. No noble ever let me eat without taking his share of my food first. I don’t think you’re the kind of guy that would fault me for trying to just keep my share.”
The guardsman’s look softened a bit. “You’re right about the nobles. And maybe today I don’t fault you. But who knows what I’ll think of you after I sleep on your story. Get out of town, and I’ll make sure your information gets to people who know what to do with it.” Eadweald nodded quickly, and left the tavern, knowing he was leaving town, but being unsure of his destination after that.
Trystan Aze’mar finished his ale, grabbed up his helmet and shouted to the bartender. “Coll! I left my coinpurse back at home. I’ll catch up on this beer tomorrow.” The tavern owner gave him a sour look, but also knew better than to hassle a guardsman…especially one with the kind of reputation Trystan enjoyed for being on both sides of the law.
Trystan smiled, recognizing the look. Don’t worry, you skinflint. I’ve just gotten the kind of information that’ll settle my tab here easy. I bet the Black Swords will know what to do with this little gem.
“It’s simple, Trystan,” spoke the shadowed figure. “You take this information to the king’s people right away. You tell them the tale, and you find a way to make sure you stay next to that kid. You help find him and you help keep him alive.”
“Simple? How am I supposed to get them to just let me run around with whoever goes to find the baby?”
A chuckle came from the shadowed man. “That’s not my problem. You’re a smart guy, you figure it out. You’re good at that sort of thing.” He threw down a coin purse. “You’ll need travelling money, and I want you to settle up your debts. You need to look like a guy they can trust.”
“You were right to bring this information to us. Ariadh thanks you. Your country owes you a debt of gratitude.” The minister turned as if he were about to dismiss Trystan.
“Then, Your Lordship, I have a simple way for my country to repay me.” For a moment, the official seemed taken aback, but he feigned patience. “You may or may not know, but my father is Lord Aze’mar. His loyalty to the king is legendary, and if the rebels succeed in their plot, my father stands to lose his lands. Everyone knows that he could not be swayed to support just anyone to rule. Anyone who took the crown would surely see him as an enemy. I haven’t been able to prove myself to him before, but if I could help rescue the heir, I would be serving both my country and my father. It would be a way to redeem myself to him.”
The minister smiled at Trystan. “If you would accept the danger as repayment for your loyalty, I’m sure Ariadh would see fit to have your help. It seems that she would benefit greatly from having a man so motivated by love of country and love of family in her service on such an important matter.”