A Falcon's Tale
A Falcon's Tale
The Falcon Revealed
Lady Perrin Hawtrey strode purposefully down the castle hallway to her rooms, skirts swirling, Malin on her left shoulder. She was thinking deeply. Dinner had gone well with the prince and the wizard and she was pleased. Plans had been discussed in some detail after she had won the Prince's approval for defending herself against the monocle. However, she had a nagging feeling that it had gone too well, too soon. She knew more than a little of the prince's tactics and knew she should be mindful. Such feelings had kept her alive this long and she wasn't about to ignore them now. She came to the large, wooden doors of her chamber, stopped, and pulled them open. Once inside she turned and bolted them firmly. Malin flew to the back of an impressively carved chair, the air shimmering about the bird’s form. Shapes moved on shapes, feathers changed color, and soon a very large, white and grey falcon was perched in the same spot. It called in a high-pitched voice.
"Oh, worry not, Malin. I haven't forgotten about the witch. Although I am surprised she hasn't made an appearance yet." Perrin moved further into the room, noting the turned down coverlet on the curtained bed and other small touches that indicated a servant had been in while she was away. She scanned the interior for any other changes as she walked slowly around the room. Her leathers, armour and weapons were as she had left them. Satisfied that the room was secure, she walked over to the small window that overlooked the castle's courtyard. Torches burned brightly below, illuminating the area. Perrin noticed the guards at their posts and mentally made note of the number of men and their locations. Malin called again.
"No, not now. There were many more when we arrived. Not that it did Blackpool any good to double his guard." Perrin turned away from the window and sat on the edge of the bed. She drew up the skirt of her dress, revealing two daggers secured in leg sheaths. She unstrapped them and laid them on the coverlet. She kicked off her slippers, then stood.
"I'll need your help, please, Malin." As Perrin removed the belt of the dress, Malin half-flew and half-hopped to the seat of the chair. The air shimmered again around the bird’s form, elongating it, feathers disappearing, a human shape emerging. The woman who now sat in the chair was simply clothed in a gown of white-grey cloth and possessed a fierceness about her. Her age was indeterminate – she had the air of youth and age at the same time. Her features were striking, but unusual, and her eyes were intense. She stood and moved to help Perrin with the laces on the back of her dress.
"You should sleep," the woman said in a high, but human, voice. "You are tired from your journey and the magic you used against the monocle the dark prince wears about his neck."
"Yes, but I'll sleep only if you keep watch, Malin. We can't afford to be unaware of what's taking place in the castle while we're here." Perrin twisted her hair up in her hands and tilted her head forward so her companion could unlace the dress more easily.
"Agreed. I will keep watch. I'll wake you if I sense anything taking place that you will need to know." Malin stepped away as Perrin eased herself out of the blue dress. Standing in her undergown, Perrin unstrapped the two forearm sheaths that the long sleeves of the dress had hidden and tossed them on the coverlet next to the leg sheaths. She walked slowly over to the assorted battle gear and retrieved an elegant black onyx handled dagger from it. Malin blinked in an odd manner and moved to put the dress away in an alcove. Perrin hefted the dagger in her right hand.
"Strange, how easily the prince was won over," she mused. "I don't trust him, Malin. Nor the wizard. Be especially wary tonight, for both our sakes."
"Of course," Malin replied. "Now, to sleep. It is a needful thing and you will be glad of it if there occurs anything of import."
"At Castle Blackpool? There is always something of importance to know here. But I'll heed your advice, Malin – it's well spoken, as always." Perrin returned to the side of the bed, moving the knives and sheaths to the floor. She threw back the coverlet and scanned the bedding, moving the pillows as well. She wouldn't put it past either the prince or the wizard to have arranged some poisonous creature to be lurking there. Nothing. She sighed and got into the bed, slipping the dagger underneath the pillow. She relished the feel of the bedding under her body – not often did she get a chance to sleep in such luxury. She pondered this not long at all before dropping into sleep. Malin had been correct – the defense against the monocle had been strenuous.
After walking to the window, Malin blinked oddly again and peered down into the lit courtyard, tilting her head slowly from side to side. Yes, the lady would sleep well tonight, of that she would make sure. And she would be more watchful than she had ever been before. This was a dark place indeed. Malin could feel it, right down to her very bones.
The General Arrives
The night was wearing on and Geoffrey Blackpool and his small band of men were moving through it. The torches they carried cast barely enough light to ride by. The younger prince was still pondering why Dirk had called for him. Though, specifically, it had been Vector who had sent the message. Why the wizard did anything was a puzzle to Geoffrey anyway. Ever since his brother had gained possession of the monocle, Vector only grudgingly obeyed him and his comments usually bordered on insolence. And he certainly hadn't been very obliging to Geoffrey while Dirk was gone to the Caverns of Chaos seeking a cure for his suspicious case of crimson fever.
"Never did get that cheese sandwich," he muttered.
"General?" asked the trooper riding next to him.
"Oh, nothing. Go on ahead with that torch and help light the way." The prince motioned the man to the front of the group. Either way, he thought, it didn’t matter who sent for him. Vector was only at the end of Dirk's leash and Geoffrey knew better than to keep his moody brother waiting. He still remembered being hung by his boot heels from the north tower like it was yesterday. It must be awfully important to pull him out of Caserne Pass. Geoffrey's men had been keeping Greystone's allies from taking back a section the hard-won vantage point and now they might lose that advantage. He shook his head and urged his horse forward as Castle Blackpool came into view. The horses, glad of the sight of home, picked up their paces. The group cantered easily to the drawbridge, stopped to identify themselves and then crossed over, entering the courtyard. Geoffrey, anxious to get inside and find out what his next mission was, swung down from his horse and handed the reins to a young stable hand.
"Rub him down well. And see to the others, or you'll answer to me for it, lad." The boy stared wide-eyed at him and shook his head up and down, then led the sweaty horse away. Geoffrey straightened his cloak and nodded to his men. Together they entered the castle.
High above, watchful eyes blinked.
Dirk Blackpool sat waiting in his chambers, quietly pondering how he would be able to turn Vector and Lady Hawtrey's plans to his use. Geoffrey and a select group of troopers would be helpful only if the plan he was mulling over could be kept secret, which meant that he couldn't trust Vector or Bethel with a word of it. His eyes glittered in the candlelight as he thought of Bethel. She was infuriating, but she was useful in so many ways. Not that he had seen much of her since her refusal to help him against Erik and Justin Greystone's escape. Perhaps that was just as well, he thought. He didn't think the witch would appreciate his alliance with Lady Perrin. Not that he had anything more than a military interest in her. If he correctly remembered the source of that move she had made while fighting him, he knew he would have to be very careful when she was about. And he hadn't been able to get much more information out of Vector regarding her, even though he cleverly worded his questions to the wizard. No matter, he thought, he knew enough of the history of Lady Perrin's family to be useful, even if he didn't yet know all the details about her. He had noted Vector was quite taken with the hawk – he'd made mention of it several times after Perrin had departed for her chambers. And it seemed that the wizard had no idea of the source of the Lady's magic – unusual for Vector. Very unusual. Blackpool thought that Bethel might be able to help decipher the source. He'd have to go to her, he supposed. Perhaps in the morning.
There was a sharp rap on the door of his chamber and a guard appeared. "My lord, Prince Geoffrey and his men have arrived. Do you wish to receive them here?"
"Only my General. See to it that the others are taken to their quarters. I'll have no need of them till later." Dirk rose from his chair and moved over to his desk. He preferred to sit in a position of power when talking to his brother. He sighed. Hopefully this assignment wouldn't prove too taxing for Geoffrey. It was going to take some strategy and carefully timed maneuvering, but most importantly, absolute secrecy.
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