Front pages: maps, illustrations, family trees, etc.
The room was not very comfortable, but it wasn’t a dungeon. Conde Luiz had placed her in what appeared to be empty quarters for a low-ranked officer in a lower level of the main tower. There was one narrow bed and a narrow window high on one wall. After sleeping in a tent for so many weeks, Mara found it adequate. A guard was placed outside the door. When she climbed up to stand on the bed and look out of the window, she found no means of escaping by that route; even if she managed to squeeze herself through the tall, thin slit, a sheer drop hundreds of feet down the outer wall of the fortress and the rock it was built upon awaited her. She wasn’t certain that she wanted to escape yet. She wasn’t afraid for her life or person. Conde Luiz had only threatened her with harm if she wasn’t the Prince. While she hadn’t yet acknowledged that she was indeed Margueryt, she saw that there might come a time when it would be more advantageous to admit it. For the present, she could only wait and see how her friends and her armies responded to the news of her capture. Alyx was sure to arrive before long. Would her captain inadvertently reveal her identity?
Mara had spent a sleepless night, much of it on horseback, and while she sat on the bed and waited, she soon dozed. She woke abruptly, startled by the sound of the door opening, but it was only the guard, admitting a woman in peasant garb, bringing her breakfast. Since it was now long after her usual breakfast hour, Mara accepted this food: a clay pitcher of yeasty water, or perhaps extremely watered-down beer, and a crumbling piece of dry, unsalted blue-grey bread made from ground maize. Mara assumed this was the same diet that the Spanish inhabitants of Iagoburso were living on but, when she asked, she found that the woman didn’t understand a word of Norman and looked bewildered at the question. Mara thought the woman was also a little frightened of her even though she was captive, and dismissed her with a “gracias” as soon as she had finished her sparse meal.
The sun had climbed high, out of the range of her narrow window, when at last Mara heard the sound of boots in the corridor outside. The guards who had come for her spoke little Norman, but enough that Mara understood she was to be brought to Conde Luiz.
The Conde was in his tower room where Mara had left him, but a visitor had joined him. Alyx stood in the middle of the room, flanked by the two Spanish guards who had escorted her up through the fortress.
When Mara was brought in, Alyx bowed her head respectfully, but didn’t salute nor address her commander with the usual obeisance given to the Prince. Mara took note of this, and only said, “It’s good to see you, Alyx.”
“And you. We were frantic with worry when we realized you hadn’t gone back to the camp,” Alyx told her. “I was almost relieved when I received Conde Luiz’s message. I was afraid something much worse had happened to you.”
“You see that your Infanta is unharmed,” said Conde Luiz. “She will tell you herself that she has been treated well.” Mara confirmed that this was so. “If you will agree to my terms, Capitan, then there is no reason why she cannot be returned to you.”
“What are your terms, Conde?” Alyx requested. “I am commissioned to hear them, and I may accept or refuse them as seems fit to me.”
“They are simple, Capitan, and may easily be complied with. I wish no ransom. It is not wealth I seek, merely the continued safety of my people, as you surely wish for the safety of your Infanta. To ensure this safety, you will withdraw all Northland troops from Santiago immediately. This must be done today. When I see that all your men and women, including those riders to the south, have returned to the other side of the river, I will know that this much has been fulfilled. You will then remove your encampment from the eastern bank of the Rio Amarillo and cease all threats to Iagoburso and claims to Santiago. This must be done in seven days. I must have your word of honor on this—both yours, Capitan Alys, and the Infanta’s. When I see that you are breaking your camp and have begun to move, Infanta Margueryt will be set free to join you. Do you agree to this?” He looked from one woman to the other. “Do I have your word?”
Alyx gave Mara a quick glance that warned her something was afoot. The Prince was therefore not surprised when Alyx replied in respectful terms, “I’m sorry to say, Conde Luiz, that we cannot accede to your demands. What you ask is impossible.”
Continue reading “Sonnedragon Serialization, Part 63”