Duke Rendar said with a serious look on his face, “Prince Tamen, Symin reminded me that I might have been remiss in the matter of Terrion's father. He hates too much. While Terrion and I wouldn't be in much danger once we return to Divandia, he might well take revenge on Terrion's little brothers, knowing that would hurt us almost as much as a direct attack.”
Tamen sighed, telling him, “We considered that possibility. Simply stripping Count Wymark of his lands and titles and kicking him out of the country, was as far as we could go, though we would have liked to have gone much further. Knowing him he'll be on his way well before the deadline we set him. What would you have us do, Rendar?”
Rendar told him with a little smile of amusement on his face despite the situation, “Ah, Symin suggested that on occasion you have not been reluctant to send someone who is dangerous to the crown, into the next world, if you consider it necessary. He felt that you might be able to provide me with the name of a suitable... removal agent, so to speak. Actually he was far more direct than that.”
“Yes, Symin seems to have excellent instincts.” Tamen commented. “And we do indeed, as you say, use a removal agent on occasion!” Tamen smiled, but the smile was cold and without humor. “I will get in touch with my contact and explain that you are interested in using his services and that you have my complete approval. He will contact you very soon I imagine.”
Prince Tamen paused for a moment, then he said, “I know that Terrion wishes to visit his little brothers before you go home. Father told me that he intends to give you the authority to choose the Regent for the new Count, whether that be his mother or someone else. And if I were you, I'd ask Symin to accompany you. With his Empathy and all around good sense he will be able to tell you who to trust and who will be suitable as Regent. I'll send a company of soldiers with you as an escort. One troop will escort Symin home from there, the others will escort you as far as Madron's border where you’ll be met by some of your own men.”
Indeed before the afternoon was out, Rendar received a card simply saying, 'The Capital Inn, 8:00. Ask for the back table and I will join you.' Inquiry of one of the palace servants indicated that the inn was of good quality, quite close to the Palace. He and Terrion, escorted by four Palace Guards, arrived at the inn at ten minutes to eight.
Before entering Rendar explained to the Guards, “Unfortunately the business I must conduct is private, I don't know how long it'll take, so you can go to the bar and have an ale or two, until we're finished. Is that all right with you?”
The head of the escort, a burly sergeant, nodded his head, saying, “That's fine with us, M'Lord, as long as we're close enough to keep an eye on you.”
The six entered the Inn and the Guards headed for the bar, where they were greeted familiarly, obviously, this was a favourite drinking place. The owner escorted Rendar and Terrion to the table in the back. It was well separated from the other tables, obviously for privacy's sake.
An older man, perhaps in his late fifties, joined them at precisely eight o'clock. Though he was running a bit to fat, he still showed plenty of muscle, in bare arms and legs. He looked a bit askance a Terrion. “Is the boy aware of what this meeting is about, Duke Rendar?” He inquired dubiously.
Rendar informed him, with a solemn look on his face, “No, I'm going to tell him before we get down to business.” Terrion looked questioningly at the two men.
Ren asked, “Terry. Do you trust me?” The boy nodded his head. “Do you trust Symin?” This time Terrion nodded vigorously. Rendar looked at the older man, telling him with amusement, “Ironic, he trusts an eleven year old boy more than he does me. But understandable.” He took Terrion's small hand and gave it a gentle loving squeeze. “Symin made it possible for Terry to learn how to read for the first time and he worships him for that.”
Rendar looked back at Terrion, telling him soberly, “Symin also said that when your father left the audience chamber there was too much hate in your father, that he'll do anything to hurt us.”
There was alarm on Terrion's small face. Rendar squeezed his hand again. He said soothingly, “He doesn't think we're in much danger, especially since we're going directly home after we visit your little brothers. Symin told me I should worry about danger to them. While we won't be easy to reach, they will be much more vulnerable.”
The expression on Terrion's face hardened. He told the man, *I hate my father, Ren, but I didn't want revenge, but if he's a danger to my little brothers we must do whatever we must to protect them.*
Rendar said to him, “Agreed. That's why this man is here.” He looked at the older man, who had a confused expression on his face. “Terry is mute, but he is a Mind-Speaker, as am I. He told me to protect his brothers whatever it takes.”
The man nodded in understanding. He explained, “It will be expensive, My Lord. To assassinate even an former Count is a dangerous proposition.”
The Duke took a bag out of his belt pouch, “Two thousand golds; if you require more, it can be arranged.”
“No, My Lord that is sufficient. Do you want it done before he leaves the country or after?” the man asked.
Rendar said with a dark look on his face, “Now that it has been brought to my attention, that he is a danger, I want it done as soon as possible. I don't know if he has funds available to him, not confiscated by the Crown, but I wouldn't be surprised and I don't want to learn the hard way.” He took a second bag out of his pouch, “Another five hundred for his Healer, if they are still together.”
The man waved it away, saying, “Put your money away, My Lord, we've already been paid for the Healer.” He smiled coldly, “One who so perverts the trade of Healer deserves death.” He slid away from the table and disappeared.
Cartan dropped back as a King's Messenger Courier caught up with the company of soldiers. After talking to the Courier for a few minutes, the Courier pulled to the side and passed the soldiers and headed for his next post.
Cartan rode up to the front again where Duke Rendar, Terrion, Symin, Maxim and Sinya were riding together. He cleared his throat, “I have bad news, Duke Rendar, I'm afraid that news has come that the former Count of Wymark and his private Healer died in a carriage accident.” His solemn tone was belied by the wide grin on his face.
Of those riding in front only Terrion and Symin did not break out into wide grins. Symin put his hand on the younger boy's bare knee and smiled sadly at him. “It was necessary, Terry. Cry for him tonight, not for what he was but for what he should have been.”
He started to drop back jerking his head at Cartan and Sinya and Maxim to do the same and they left Rendar and Terrion to ride side by side in the lead.
They rode into the courtyard of the castle and on the steps of the great hall were a blond haired woman in her late twenties and two small naked boys. Terrion's little brothers, the youngest five and the elder still four months from his seventh birthday. Since the older boy was now a count when greeting guests he would normally be dressed in formal wear. At least short trousers but possibly also a shirt and a sleeveless vest
By not dressing the eldest, the woman was telling Terrion and the others that she didn't consider this a formal occasion, she simply considered it a family meeting. The resemblance between the three boys and their now dead father was unmistakable.
Not a beautiful woman, Kalli Senson bordered on the plain side, but she had a wide welcoming smile for Terrion and held out her arms to gather in the boy, “Welcome, Terrion FARLEI,” she said, emphasizing the name that was now his.
*Thank you.* he said in gratitude, not expecting her to hear him and intending to ask Rendar or Symin to relay his gratitude later.
*You're welcome.* she replied and he looked up in surprise as she Mind-Spoke in reply. “Boys, say hello to your brother.”
She put her hand on the elder's head, saying, “This is Forsen.”
Shyly, the boy bowed to him and he also used Mind-Speech, *Hello.* Then out loud, “We're very glad to see you.” Then he blushed and ducked his head.
Kalli put her hand on the younger boy's head, saying dryly, “I was surprised that Forsen developed Mind-Speech so early, but this is Kanen. He's definitely still too young yet to know whether he will have Mind-Speech or not.”
Kanen, unlike his brother, was not at all shy. Exuberantly he flung his arms around Terrion's neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then grabbing him by the hand, he started pulling him into the Great Hall, saying, “I'm glad to meetcha. Come on. You've got to see the Castle”
Terrion with a little bit of desperation, grabbed Forsen by the hand, who actually grinned as he was pulled along, leaving the adults and Symin to get acquainted.
The Castle that Kanen referred to was not the Count of Wymark's castle but a perfect miniature; well not quite so miniature, model of the castle down to its smallest details. Of the four boys two of them, Symin and Terrion were crested. The other two Forsen and Kanen, Terrion's little brothers were not.
The two younger boys had been born out of wedlock. Count Wymark as their father under Camron law was obligated to provide for them, until they reached adulthood. However, he couldn't be forced to acknowledge them and he refused to do so.
Unacknowledged illegitimate children, held the same status as their mother. Kalli was not of the nobility therefore the two boys were not of the nobility and were not entitled to a crest.
That had now changed. King Hamar by choosing Forsen as the new Count and Kanen as his heir had in effect, acknowledged both boys making them members of the nobility.
They were all inside the courtyard of the model castle and there was plenty of room for two or three more boys of their size. Terrion had been a naked slave boy for almost a year and still tended to part with his short trousers on the slightest of excuses. In order to be companionable he had taken his short trousers off and was naked, like his brothers. Nudity wouldn't bother Symin either, but since he expected that there would be a talk later, he decided to stand on his dignity and retain his short trousers.
There were exquisite little carvings duplicating many of the occupants of the castle. Of the boys, only Symin could appreciate what went into those carvings, down to the smallest loving details and into the model itself.
Rendar, Kalli, Cartan and Sinya looked on in amused interest as the three brothers fell into easy camaraderie, as if they had been together all of their lives, instead of only thirty minutes. Maxim looked on ruefully feeling himself much too old for such a pastime, but at the same time, feeling a bit wistful at being left out.
“Well, gentlemen and lady,” Kalli said, she bowed to them, “And Maxim of course, perhaps we could go to the great hall to have a talk.”
*Symin,* He looked up at Sinya who had gotten his attention with Mind-Speech. She told him, *Time for talk.* The boy nodded, crawling through the gate of the model castle, which was large enough to take a small adult.
Symin looked back over his shoulder to see three heads with similar curly blond hair close together, not even noticing his absence. He grinned with satisfaction as he followed the adults down to the Great Hall.
A light repast had been set up at the head table. Maxim hesitated for a moment, but Kalli smiled at him and waved him to a chair and grateful, he sat down beside Symin. Once they were served they dispensed with the single servant and after she left, Rendar asked Symin, “Is there anyone close enough to hear us talking?”
The boy cocked his head using both his Sense of Perception and his Empathy, then shook his head. “There's no one within hearing distance, Ren.”
Rendar smiled and looked at Kalli, “You've been informed of the Count of Wymark's death?”
“Yes, a Courier brought the message telling of his death. I... was relieved.” Kalli admitted with no attempt to hide her feelings.
Rendar pointed his finger at Sinya then Cartan telling them, “You're not going to hear the next part of the conversation.”
Blandly Sinya stuck a finger in her ear and wriggled it around. “You know Cartan, that strange problem we've been having with hearing is back. How about you?”
Cartan didn't bother to playact, he just grinned, “Now that you mention it, I think you're right. Oh well, it'll clear up in a few minutes, it always does.”
Rendar chuckled, then turned back to Kalli. He said soberby, “I was reminded of how much the former Count hated and that your children could be in danger. With a little help from Prince Tamen, I arranged for him to be removed. Permanently!”
Symin could feel the savage satisfaction radiating from the woman. She gave a slow smile to Rendar, telling him, “My lord Duke, I think we're going to get along. He showed up here soon after Terrion disappeared and wanted to take Forsen back with him to Camara. I found it hard to believe the stories I had heard about the way he treated Terrion." Kalli scowled with annoyance,. "I tried to get Wymark to send Terrion here, so he and his brothers could get to know each other but he absolutely refused."
She shook her head, saying gravely, "Wymark had never shown any cruelty here, but he did that time. He got annoyed with Kanen and gave him a slap on the face giving my youngest a black eye. I told him to go back to the capital. Alone and not to come back, or I'd cut his heart out with a dull knife.” Her mouth formed a hard grin, but her eyes were cold.
Sinya said, tears of laughter, glistening in her eyes “You banished him from his own castle!! Oh, I love it! But how did you get away with it?”
Cartan's shoulders began to shake, as he tried to hold in his laughter but without success. He bellowed in laughter, which was infectious and soon they all joined.
When they calmed down, Symin put his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hands, looking bright eyed at Kalli. He had not been looking for it but now he was and he found it; the similarity that most soldiers and peacekeepers developed over time. A more organized mind due to the regimentation that was a necessary part of a military organization.
Symin said, "The Company Senson, Kraftin mentioned it to me on our way back from Madron. I heard about you from Terrion. Though he had never seen you, he did know your name. Of course, it's the same name so I asked Prince Tamen if that was your family. He didn't know himself at the time, when we got back to Camara he found out for me and confirmed that you were of the same family."
Symin had a bit of a smile on his face as he said, "Founded in 467 AF, it's the oldest and most powerful mercenary company in the known world. Kraftin also said as a unit of soldiers it's considered the best in either Madron or Camron. At various times in its history it has specialized in light cavalry, heavy cavalry and infantry. Right now it specializes in infantry. What rank did you hold?” he asked Kalli.
Kalli was astonished, as were many others by the way Symin could put together bits and pieces to form a whole. She answered absently, disgust evident, “Sergeant.” taking a closer look at Symin.
He smiled, saying, “I assume, from the way you answered, that you liked soldiering but didn't like marching. What rank did you hold in Count Wymark's guards? I don't imagine Captain, but to get one of Senson's sergeants I would think that you would have been as least offered a Lieutenant's post.”
“Yes.” She said, looking wordlessly at the other three adults. They shrugged their shoulders, Rendar spoke for all of them, “He's only eleven years old, but don't make the mistake of underestimating him because of his age. He's one of the brightest people I've ever met. He's the one who suggested that there might be some danger to your children. That Wymark might hurt them to hurt Terrion and I. He also suggested that Wymark be removed.”
A few months earlier the compliments Rendar was giving, Symin would have been embarrassed by, but he had come to appreciate them when they came from friends. He told him, *Ren, I think you couldn't do better than to make her regent for her son. She's intelligent, she's knowledgeable about military matters and from the way she banished Wymark from his own castle she's got courage and she's probably been running the County for at least a year and possibly longer.*
Rendar answered, by talking to Kalli, “The King asked me, since I was coming here anyway to choose a Regent for your son, until he comes of age. I have no reservations about choosing you for that position.” Picking up his wine glass he gave a toast, “To the Regent of the new Count of Wymark.”
The new Count of Wymark was frightened, sitting in one of the pews in the chapel to Teron, the God of Warriors. It was decided to treat the occasion lightly, rather than make it formal. The only adult present was a Priest of Teron and he was preparing to remove the Wymark crest from Terrion's arm and apply the crest of Farlei. A crest could only be removed in a chapel of the same God in which it had first been applied.
Kanen was leaning forward; chin resting on the pew in front, watching the proceedings with interest, but Symin who was sitting in between Kanen and Forsen could feel that the naked six-year-old boy was trembling.
Symin hugged Forsen against him telling him, soothingly, “Don't worry. It won't hurt. They use a potion that numbs the arm so you don't feel the needle go into your arm with the dye. I've seen crests applied to babies and the only discomfort they have is they can't move their arm while the tattoo is being applied.”
Two hours later the four boys left the chapel, the two naked younger boys admiring the new crests on their arms. Terrion's emotions were very high as he admired the different crest on his arm, symbol of his new status.
Sad as always to leave new friends, Symin and Terrion turned in their saddles to look back at Kalli, Forsen and Kanen and give a last wave. A few minutes later the same sad parting was taking place again as Rendar and Terrion with three quarters of the company prepared to escort them home and the other quarter with Symin, Sinya and Cartan prepared to head north and then back to Ascalon.