‘I spoke with His Grace the Erl of Hathering. The rebel Erls include himself, Lockspate and Whitwyn, the Erl of Annesdale being dead, the Erl of Dangloe being imprisoned, accused of treason-’ her voice broke slightly at the thought of Quigley, also accused and imprisoned, but she began again before anyone but Beatrix had chance to think anything of it, ‘-and the Erls of Hannart, Durithar and Otha remaining true to the Crown. The rebel Erls have evidence that His Majesty the Prince Owain is in fact innocent of all charges, but the Regent Aaron refused to clear him without a full investigation, which he also denied to give. It seems that the... the librarian known as Quigley discovered the treasonable letter supposedly written by the Crown Prince was in fact forged, although the forger is as yet unknown.
‘The rebel Erls are summoning an army to oppose the Regent and urge all to join them in re-instating the rightful King - Owain. When I was there two days ago, they had ten thousand men, but hundreds pour in every day. They plan to march on the capital and meet Aaron’s men in battle at Annesdale.’
Keiran snorted. ‘They will never win. Fools! Aaron has over twenty-five thousand men. They lead thousands of men to their deaths. This confirms my judgement - I want no part in this.’
Gideon paused before saying: ‘Keiran, the other outlaws look to your decision. Together we make two thousand men, if not more. We could be a valuable asset to the rebels if we join with them.’
Keiran shook his head. ‘What you say is true, but I see nothing to our advantage. What difference does it make who sits on the throne? We’re outlaws all the same.’
‘Aaron will make a bad king, Keiran,’ Beatrix said. ‘He loves nothing more than power. I fear he will use it only to his own advantage. He things not of others. We must act now! You have seen bad kings in the past, I am sure, but Aaron will be a true tyrant!’
Keiran stared at her. ‘With what authority do you speak?’
Beatrix ignored him. ‘I must go to them. Will you come?’
He shook his head. ‘No.’
‘Once upon a time, I thought you would want to do what’s right. I must’ve been wrong.’ She turned to Carla. ‘Don’t get too comfortable. We leave tomorrow at dawn.’
Carla bowed her head in submission. There was no point in arguing.
‘What’re you doing?’ Keiran asked her. ‘Just letting your ‘friend’ order you around like that? What power does she have over you? Who is she?’
Beatrix turned back to him from the door. ‘Kindly direct enquiries of this personal nature to me, not my servants.’
‘I am the Lady Beatrix, Countess of the Yild Valley and surrounding territories, daughter of the deceased Erl and Countess of the same, ward of the deceased King Roald, and cousin of the Crown Prince Owain and the Regent Aaron. This girl is Carla, my handmaid. I hope this answered your question, sir. Now I shall retire to pack. I have a long journey ahead of me tomorrow.’
And she swept out with her usual practised ease, leaving behind her a whirlpool of conflicting emotions.