The winter skirmishes of the year 493 turned out to be quite successful for Melkin. He had offered his services to count Roderick, feeling that it was only in service to his lord that he felt completely at peace. He drew strange looks from the other men during their time in the field. It was, he knew, on account of the awkward paleness to his skin and dark marks under his eyes, but he had stopped caring. When he was younger, his ugliness had bothered him, especially standing next to his handsome older brother, but now he felt that, in its own way, it offered different rewards, like being left alone to one’s thoughts.
And so, Melkin had time to ponder their surroundings, fully taking in the reports he got from the other men to concoct strategic and unpredictable plans. They did well and so Melkin returned home with the respect of the men he had served with, not a small thing all considered. However, his horse was limping strangely after the last ride.
As he arrived at Hindon he had been surprised to see the household dressed in mourning. Hurrying to his wife in the doorway who was crying openly he took her hand and asked who had died.
“The children were playing by Nadar river,” she snivelled between hiccups, “and as they crossed it on their way home she fell through the ice.”
Melkin had felt the cold in his chest as he drew his wife into his arms.
“Which daughter?” he asked feeling his heart beat rapidly.
“My daughter!” she screamed, “My Indeg!”
It wasn’t until spring that her body was found. It had drifted downstream and got caught by the roots of an old oak. It was the washerwoman of lord Sutton who had first come upon the dead child. Melkin had ridden down to collect the body himself, using one of his spare horses since the charger was still limping.
“It is an ill omen for a child to drown,” said sir Gorfydd as Melkin came for Indeg’s remains.
Melkin had nodded and said: “I am just glad that we can bury her body, so that her mother doesn’t have to worry for her soul.”
“At least she wasn’t taken by the river god,” concluded sir Gorfydd, “that is always something.”
Melkin did his best to comfort his wife as the child was buried. Grief was, as he well knew, beyond any cure, but he hoped that lady Nest would heal eventually. He felt the grief himself and it lay as a heavy wooden log upon his shoulders, but he carried it, as was his duty. As he got word that one of his distant cousins in Bretagne, a grandchild of sir Victus, had gone raving mad after failing one of his missions, Melkin felt grateful that he had not lost his wits completely after the trial in front of the queen. There were many challenges, but he was fit enough to deal with them.