Chapter Four

Ky rolled out of bed when the knocking became to much to ignore. He pulled a shirt over his gloved hands and unlocked the door. Mayken was wearing dark green riding leathers, his sword strapped at his side.

'Get your stuff together. You and I are going for a ride.'

'What about Thorgrin?' Ky asked, scratching his head as he emptied his pack on the bed. 'I thought he was your bodyguard?'

'It's a little different than that, but he agrees that you and I should be able to handle anything today,' Mayken replied. 'Come on then.'

Ky snatched up his sheath and cloak and hurried out the door, pulling his boots on as he went.

'Most elves would show a little decorum,' Mayken remarked as he led the way down the hallway. Ky glimpsed the kitchen for a moment as he passed. Thorgrin and Matthew were passed out where he'd left them the previous night.

There were two horses saddled in the courtyard. Mayken handed the reins of the closest to Ky, climbing into the saddle of the other.

'We'll have to see about a horse for you before you leave. Would you mind getting the gate?' he asked.

Ky led the horse to the gate and pulled it open. He slid it shut behind Mayken and got onto the horse. The two men who had been watching the gate the previous day were on their feet. Mayken glanced at them.

'You can tell Lord Aramis that I'm going riding with an old friend, and I'll be back in a couple of hours. Oh, and that I'll see him tonight,' he said.

Mayken led the way down the street, the road mostly clear, and within a few minutes they were out of the castle and then out of the city, the green fields sloping downward towards the sea on one side and the forests on the other. Ky watched Mayken visibly relax, a tenseness in his shoulders easing now they were no longer in the castle. Ky laughed, feeling the exact same way, and kicked on, riding past Mayken and leading the way down the road. When they neared the edges of the forest he slowed, allowing Mayken to catch up.

'So you know how to ride. That's something at least,' Mayken said, leading the way along the edges of the forest and away from the main road. 'Can you at least tell me what those two men did after we left?'

'The one's working for Lord Aramis? One stayed put, the other ran off towards the castle. Why is Lord Aramis keeping tabs on you?'

'What? Oh, he's not. It's just that sometimes it's easier to function if the people you work for think they're smarter than you are.'

By the time Ky had gotten his head around the disjointed logic of Mayken's statement, they had circled around the edges of the forest and were now well south of both the city and the sea port. Mayken completely ignored Ky for several minutes, backing away from the forest edge, his attention switching between the handful of riding paths leading into the forest and the city, as if he was judging the distance. Eventually, he settled on one particular path and led the way into the woods.

The silence built for several minutes, as the two elves focused intently on avoiding the low hanging branches that stretched across the path. Eventually the path widened enough that they could ride between the branches, and soon it widened even more into a small clearing, a couple of logs around a campfire in the middle. Mayken eased his horse to a stop and leapt to the ground. He led the horse to the side and tied her to the branch of a tree. Ky tied his up as well, and joined Mayken on one of the logs.

'Why are we here Mayken?'

'We're waiting for someone. But first, it seems you and I need to talk.'

Mayken pulled out the letter and offered it to Ky.

'You're father asks a lot of me, given how long he's been gone. A lot that doesn't need to be asked, to be honest, given how long I've known him. But a few things that will interest you I think.'

Ky skimmed the pages, and was taken aback by most of it.

'The stuff of protecting you like I would him is irrelevant. I would have given my life for him and his family. That hasn't changed. As for the sponsorship for a commission in the Black Dragons, I would only consider that if it was what you wanted.

'The rest, well, most of it is fairly simple. If you are interested in learning, you are welcome to stay in the compound for as long as you want. I don't technically have any duties until an heir is born anyway, other than "staying out of bloody sight", or so Lord Ceris told me,' Mayken watched the emotions play out across Ky's face, but there weren't many.

'Well, now that we have that out of the way, shall we have some breakfast? I don't believe we'll be waiting all that long. Or would you perhaps like to try out that sword of yours first. I would be interested to know how much of your father's talent you inherited.'

He got to his feet, drawing his sword and stepping away from log. Ky put the letter away and drew his own sword, the blade ringing cleanly in the morning air. As soon as the blade was free he was forced to step inside a lunge from Mayken, and the clash of steel filled the air.