Guiscard: Chapter 3

by anonymous

Nearly two years had passed for Guiscard in Shem. At the last his father had thrown him a bone and said that he might also study with the wise men of Pelishtim, since his mind seemed to tend more to the book than the sword. But it was a hollow reward. News of the marriage followed him into Shem. Hating himself, he had done as his father suggested and sought refuge in the arms of others, trying to dull the pain.

But through it all he remained empty and alone. The thought of returning and seeing Naenia and his brother married was something he could not face, for all that he distinguished himself for bravery among the asshuri. Not even the news of his father's illness, and later death, could draw him back. It was not until the rumours reached him of unrest in the land of his birth, of intrigues and plots, plots in which his brother was involved, that he found the courage. If it was whispered in Shem that his brother was a traitor to his king, in thought at least, then the knowledge could not fail to be known closer to home. Saddling his horse, he rode hard for home without a backward glance at the comrades he left behind.

It was when he crested the last hill that he knew his worst fears had been realised. The house in which he had grown up was little more than a ruin, the fields despoiled and burned. Leading his horse through the gates he saw a man crucified in the central courtyard. It took him a moment to recognise his brother, as small in death as he had been large in life. Hung about his neck was a sign that simply said 'traitor'.

He looked, hoping that he would not find her. But it was not to be so. She lay, discarded almost, in a ditch. Her body bruised and violated. A soldier himself now, he could all too easily imagine the fear and pain of her last moments. Gently he raised her from where she had fallen, cradling her in his arms as he attempted to return some dignity to her.

How long he remained like that he could not tell. Only the arrival of the soldiers roused him from the blackness in which he found himself.

"Guiscard of Poitain?" said the officer. "I have a warrant for your arrest as a traitor to the king." Guiscard kissed her forehead once more, before setting her down gently upon the earth and rising to his feet. He looked at the officer and the detachment of four men standing behind him, a dangerous fey glint in his eye. He found in himself no fear, only a cold hard fury towards these representatives of the king that had destroyed his house and the only woman he had ever loved.

"Arrest me?" he snarled, reaching for his sword. "I will cut out your hearts for what you have done here."

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