Updated: May 24, 2020
Caoinlin shoved the door open. Duff and Carrigan looked up from where they’d been standing farther down the hall.
Carrigan rushed forward to lock the door behind her. He was forced to step aside as she passed him, her axe swinging, a gleaming pendulum at her side.
“Captain,” she said. Duff fell into step behind her. “Do you realize who you have in there?”
His forehead furrowed. “Should I?”
“Arthor’s son,” she said. “He’s under the impression that his father will be coming to his rescue.”
Duff tripped a bit.
“You can’t believe him,” Duff said, hurrying up the stairs after her. “He only said it to throw us into a panic.”
Caoinlin stopped at the top of the stairs. The hall was mercifully airier and drier.
“Is that what happens when you expect an Ulic attack?” she asked. “You panic?”
He drew his shoulders back stiffly. “Of course not. But the weather has cleared these last few days. If any boats are sighted coming inland from shore, we’ll be alerted.”
“How soon do you plan to move the prisoners?” she asked.
“We’re awaiting word from the king.”
“Don’t wait,” she told him. “Move them now. Or kill them.”
“I can’t just—”
Duff stared hard into her eyes. “I don’t know where you came from or who you are, but in Blackstone, we follow the orders of our king.”
She ground her teeth to keep from speaking her true thoughts. “How long will it take to receive those orders?” she asked finally.
“A week, maybe two.”
The end of the axe shaft cracked on the stone floor, stalling Carrigan midway up the stairs.
“You’re right Captain,” she said, barely able to move her mouth for the burning battle memories flaring in her mind, “I have not been here long. But in the little time I have, nearly every last day has been mired in implacable fog. Are you telling me that it is gone entirely now?”
His eyes flicked away.
“From what I’ve seen,” she pressed on, “the shroud of mist that swallows this cursed land has allowed more damage and destruction to befall its shores than the seas that carry the Ulic here or the stars that guide them.”
“Winter has come full upon us,” he hedged, “Arthor has never attacked in the heart of winter.”
“Then why are there five Ulic warriors chained in your prison?”
Neither Duff nor Carrigan answered.
“Your fortifications are compromised,” she said. “At least transport them to an outpost further inland and save these people the misery of being set upon again.”
“Who’s to say that Arthor will not attack us, even if we do move them?” Duff asked. “If he’s coming, which I cannot imagine that he would, even for his own son, how will Arthor know that his son is not here?”
“I’ve been told word travels fast on the water,” she replied. “About as fast as one of their longships, I imagine.”
Duff’s irritation retreated as he contemplated what she’d said. Carrigan came forward.
“Captain, you cannot take this stranger’s counsel into consideration.” He shot Caoinlin a withering look. “We cannot know where his allegiance truly lies.”
“True.” Caoinlin lifted the axe so the head hovered just below her lips. “You can’t know where my allegiance lies, but you can see where my axe falls. If you do not move these men, then I will hack my way through every door and every man that stands in my way and chop the heads off of those marauding scum and dump them in the river myself.
And when Arthor recognizes his own blood flowing into the ocean, perhaps he’ll heed the warning and see that there is at least one warrior on this island prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect our people,”—she let the axe fall, the head thumping heavily against her fist—“without waiting for permission.”