Chapter 13: Dying Light
“That looks wrong,” Gemmelon said, squinting toward the distant walls of the minor fortress.
Joranthon frowned, trying to make out the source of his Marshal’s unease. In this part of Travan, Kharshe raids were still a real possibility. They might only happen a few times a decade, but that was far more than enough, in the Earl’s opinion. But the only smoke from the surrounding cabins were the plumes of chimneys and cookfires. Everything looked peaceful. It could have been a scene from home; he could almost envision Adelin gleefully tyrannizing the artisans and shopkeepers into preparing the best Saturnalia Northspire ever had, as she’d somehow managed every year. She’d told him to find another when she was gone, even promised him he would. However, his tentative dalliances had done little to fill the void in his heart.
“I see nothing,” the Earl admitted.
“Further, beyond the walls and over the hill. Do you see?”
Joranthon raised a hand to his brow, against the sun. There was some kind of darkness in the distance, but the haze was too think to penetrate. His vision appeared to be deceiving him, because it looked like movement, but he couldn’t make out any distinct shapes. That was when his heart skipped a beat. “My God, it’s the leading edge of an army, isn’t it? The dust must be tremendous.”
Gemmelon nodded grimly, the planes of his face unmoving while he stared. “Look how wide the column is, my Lord. This must be the big one.”
Many of his men had been heartened that the Travansil brothers hadn’t marched yet, and instead spent their efforts in recruiting. Joranthon knew better. The Southerners were smart, and patient, and that was never a good thing. When they finally did arrive, they would show up fully prepared. Like now. “Are you going to send that pigeon now, my Lord?” Gemmelon asked.
The Earl hesitated, examining the darkness that crested the hill. His duty to Travan was clear - he had already waited much longer than sensible to summon his daughter. On the other hand, on the other hand…
“Have the paper brought to me,” he answered with a calm he didn’t feel. “It’s time. She needs to know.”