Chapter XLV

‘There’s a disturbance at Tidtarna, four days hard riding from here,’ Gideon explained, leaning forwards onto the table, his red hair flopping over his face. ‘An army recruiting farmers and labourers to fight. From what I’ve heard, it’s led by three Erls who want to march on the Regent. They’re asking for men to join them. They’re not picky, apparently. Jules and her outlaws have already signed up. It’s some feud or other - I suggest we stay clear of it. I rode over to their encampment, not ten miles from Tidtarna. It looks like they’ve got about five thousand men.’
Ridley laughed. ‘And they’re going to take on the forces of the Crown? They’re mad.’

‘Any other news?’ Keiran asked. When Gideon shook his head, Keiran continued: ‘I agree with you, though. We’d be suicidal to join forces with them. There’s no point winding up dead for some noble’s cause. If they win, that’s great - maybe they’ll be better at governing the country than this Regent. Somehow, I doubt it. They’re all the same.’

‘Even King Roald?’ Beatrix was shocked - how could Keiran say all the Erls were the same?

He tactfully avoided that question, having more important things to do than argue with some hot-headed girl.

‘We barely have enough food for the winter as it is,’ Jaques admitted. ‘A campaign would double the amount we needed. And then we’d have nothing to come back to.’

‘The rebels have little chance of success,’ said Ridley. ‘There’s no point in joining them just in time to loose.’

‘Did you speak to any of them, Gideon?’ Keiran asked.

The young man shook his head. ‘Didn’t have a chance to. I nearly blew my cover as it was.’

‘You can’t all just sit here, though!’ Beatrix exclaimed. Keiran glanced irritably across at her, but she ploughed on regardless. It seemed that if she didn’t say it, no one would. ‘I mean, Aaron’s not... Well, he’s not a very good Regent, that’s all. I don’t trust him, and I say we should stand up to him, before he gets out of hand. Gods know, he’s already pretty out of hand. We should put Owain back on the throne - I know he’d be better! At least, he wouldn’t execute you for doing absolutely nothing.’

Keiran narrowed his eyes in suspicion. ‘How do you know all this? You speak in very familiar terms towards these people. Who are you, Beatrix - really?’

Suddenly realising she was on thin ice, Beatrix clamped her mouth shut and refused to speak another word.

He sighed. ‘Very well. Don’t tell me. But how can you expect me to trust you, when you won’t trust me? No, I’m not going to join this rebel army. Anyone among my men who wishes to is more than welcome, but I advise them against it. It’s not our battle. I don’t see why we should die for it.’

‘It’s not your battle now, but if you do nothing, very soon it will be,’ Beatrix said, forgetting she wasn’t supposed to be speaking.

Keiran sighed, running a hand through his hair. ‘Then what would you have me do?’

The reply was prompt: ‘The right thing for your country.’

‘I’m doing the right thing for my people. I’m not a saint - that’s the best I can do.’

The End

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