”Have a seat Yraen”
Amig gestured toward the chair standing on the opposite side of the table. The lord and his squire had spent the last few days in Castle Borders to oversee the affairs of the castle.
Yraen felt a knot beginning to form in his stomach when he saw Amig’s stern expression.
“Have I displeased you in any way Sir? I have attended to all my chores and even helped Sir Laurent with his horse, you know the skittish one with the white blaze?”
“Your chores have been satisfactory, that is not why you are here.”
Amig sighed and leaned forward on the table. This very simple and human thing to do made him seem much older than his actual age. The added burdens and responsibilities heaped on him had aged him in the last few years. He now looked like a man of 60 or 70 rather than 56, which was his actual age.
“You are here because we need to discuss your future. Your father still has not returned from the north even though the men that went with him returned during early autumn. He sent me a missive in which he stated his intent to go to mount Snowdonia to attempt to recover your uncle’s body from the ruins of Vortigern’s tower.”
The young squire seemed to shrink as if shying away from what he was hearing.
“As much as I would like to hope that your father is still among the living, the winter is almost over and no one have seen him or heard anything from either him or the other knights that travelled with him. This forces us to consider the future of your … of our family. If your father and Sir Maelgwyn have fallen in the north, this is as you can well imagine a great blow not to just to our families and the Tarrens but to the entirety of the county.”
Yraen swallowed several times to try to get rid of the sour taste rising in his mouth and to push back the tears threatening to well up in his eyes.
Amig for his part for his part mostly looked depressed. He had lost most of the men he had counted as friends during the year and Sir Cadry had been one of the few confidantes he had left after Lord Elad died at St Albans.
Silence lingered for a short while between the old lord and the young man serving as his squire. Both seemed reluctant to break the quiet but finally it was Yraen who spoke up, which was unlike him since most of the time he was a careful and quiet youth.
“I do not think my father is dead Sir. I think mother would know the very moment his life ended. At times, it is like she knows what he is thinking just by looking at him.”
Yraen’s tone was hesitant but deep down there was a core of conviction that only a son speaking of a father that he worships could harbour. A conviction that would one day die when the father proved fallible but at this point it still persisted.
Amig smiled sadly when he replied
“You do your father and mother honour by thinking so highly of them. That being said we must be realistic…”
Uncharacteristically Yraen interrupted his master mid-sentence
“Sir, the haunter of the night have stopped coming to Tisbury. In the middle of the night just before Samhain his pounding on the gate just stopped and the silence in the forest was suddenly broken. That must mean that father did something!”
Amig stared at his squire, surprised that the soft-spoken young man had dared to interrupt him and speak before being given leave to speak. With a reproachful glare the old knight spoke again.
“Mayhap my boy, mayhap, but the fact remains that he has not returned home since then and no one have reported seeing him or even hearing anything about him.”
The young man looked downcast, both from the reproach but also from his hope diminishing.
“Yraen, we must work from the assumption that your father is not coming back. Should he do so despite everything, we will be all the happier for it. One of your relatives will assume stewardship of the lands for now until you come into your own as a knight. We will have to closely consider who should be given the responsibility. Even more so now that your cunning mother have leveraged favours out of the countess…”
Amig’s words petered as in considering something that bothered him.
Yraen looked confused.
“What favours Sir? Mother hasn’t told me anything about any favours.”
Amig considered briefly if he should keep what he knew for himself, but the lessons Yraen’s grandfather had drilled into Amig when he was a squire had a deep hold. One of those lessons was to always speak the truth.
_“You might not be aware of the fact that your mother is a good friend of the countess even though they don’t make much of a show of it before the court. Your mother managed to secure full hunting rights for forests surrounding your family’s land. In the times before St Albans such a right could only be given by the king. Now… things are different.” _
Yraen could see that Amig wasn’t comfortable with the countess decision.
“That sounds like a good thing? Aren’t you happy for your wife’s family Sir?”
“My personal opinion doesn’t matter in this case. What has me most worried is the fact that some jealous tongues have always claimed that your mother is some manner of sorceress and that is how she won your father’s hand in marriage.”
The young man looked like someone had slapped him in the face and couldn’t at first get any proper words out while his cheeks reddened with anger. Before he could pull himself together Amig continued.
“Both you and I know that such accusations are ridiculous and that what exist between your mother and father is something much stronger that any enchantment. You must however beware that envy will make some people interpret favour or love as enchantment to justify that they themselves have not been as highly favoured. Some will forever find fault with others instead of seeing their own shortcomings. Your father and mother are ambitious people and that ambition will always draw detractors.”
Yraen’s breath came out on laboured puffs through his nose and he looked like he was ready to burst.
“If some incompetent clods tries to accuse my mother of anything I will make them rue the day they ever learned to speak.”
A slight smile reached Amig’s mouth if not his eyes.
“While I admire your spirit boy, you will do no such thing until you are knight. I expressly forbid you to challenge anyone over the matter. You will instead learn to keep quiet and listen and put shackles on your temper. If you hear anything, you will come to me and I will deal with it. We will look after your family, but we will do it properly. Do you understand?”
A hard edge crept into Amig’s voice during the last sentences.
For a short while Yraen looked like he might say something defiant but in the end all he said was “I understand Sir”.