Captain Bernard peered about at the landscape of Cwm Eryr, wincing here and there at recollections as his massive march streiciwr brenhinol stepped carefully amongst the tumbled armor and bones, staying abreast of Queen Minuet on hers. "I can't believe her grit," he thought, pretending not to glance aside at her. "She's almost serene, all decked out in her gleaming armor astride Vindicator's snow-white twin sister."
"Captain," said Minuet. "look yonder, by the dead tree. Could that possibly be...?"
"Ol' Brutus?" he said with a grunt, as he dismounted to go see. "Oh, you got that one right first try, Your Majesty. Has to be, head and all. Right where King Hebraun left him, though someone's been along in the last day or two and smashed him up pretty good. And that someone probably knew him, don't you reckon? Well, I mean Brutus was one of those as never could get beat up enough to match what he had a-coming to him..."
Minuet dismounted and removed her helm, letting fly her fiery red hair in the breeze. "Did you think to pick out a bivouac on the way down here, Captain?" she said as she thoughtfully rocked back and forth Brutus's smashed hauberk, gorget and breastplate with her toe. "I realize it's early."
"I'm afraid not, Your Majesty, for as you said..."
"Well what I need for you to do is to position them out of sight over that rise, yonder and come right back here without them. It doesn't matter how you do it."
Bernard left her where she was and set about at once getting the troop beyond the rise. Presently he returned to find her carefully examining the smashed skull and helm.
"Well," she said, standing up and brushing her hands as he dismounted, "guess what? There are some person's tracks all over, which I think you already noticed, but did you see the bird tracks? Big ones and little ones. Come look. Couldn't they be crow and sparrow? And here's a nice big black feather."
"Oh, that's them. I'm surprised that this amount of smashing up Brutus's remains is all..." Suddenly he had lost track and was gaping at what Minuet was doing.
She knelt and slapped the helm, leaving her coronary seal glowing and smoking in the metal. She set it beside the rest of the armor and smacked breastplate as well, leaving her seal to glow and turn blue as it cooled.
"My!" said Bernard, shifting to his other foot. "That's..."
"Ffwrdd a ni!" she roared, springing to her feet with a fling of her arms, sending the armor leaping into the sky to shoot away south beyond the horizon.
Bernard looked wide eyed and pale.
"I didn't mean to alarm you, Captain. I just thought Brutus should return to his queen. Do you think she will be pleased?"
"You sent those bones and armor clean back to Castle Goll?"
"They're already there."
"Oh!" he said with a spreading grin. "I think that was a right noble gesture, Your Majesty."
"Yes. And it's between us. That's why you moved the troop."
"I always knew you were Razzmorten's daughter, but I swear I never knew..."
"I vowed not to use my powers as queen, Captain, but their time has come, and I don't want it known, yet. Did you give the order to bivouac?"
"Then let's go. This is no place for us to be. We might actually have enough light to stop at Ash Fork and pay our respects to Hebraun."
Ch. 22, The Burgeoning
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps