Imager's Battalion Online

1

In the early summer afternoon, Quaeryt paced back and forth across the narrow stone stoop outside the main entrance to the hold house at Nordruil, occasionally blotting the sweat off his forehead, and glancing up at the worn and graying limestone walls and the single square tower that was likely centuries old. The grounds had received indifferent care, and it was clear that the hold house had been cleaned quickly and received new linens just before he had arrived, along with a few rankers and others to assist the hold staff.

Just for Vaelora and me? That was only one of the things that worried Quaeryt about what Bhayar had in mind.

Quaeryt had been waiting for Vaelora for well over a week. He had mostly recovered from the efforts that had changed the battle over Ferravyl from what would have likely been a bloody standoff into an overwhelming victory for Lord Bhayar and Telaryn—but at the uncounted cost of revealing to Bhayar the scope of his imaging abilities … and the other cost he had not even imagined. He shook his head, not wanting to think about it, or about the icy dreams, along with the bruises and strained muscles, that had kept him from sleeping on several nights.

Before all that long, he’d be recalled to duty on the forthcoming campaign into Bovaria … and yet Bhayar had insisted that Quaeryt recover at one of Bhayar’s less imposing estates and wait for the arrival of Vaelora.

Is that to keep me away from the commanders and the imagers? Why? So he and Myskyl or Deucalon can see if they can do without me? Somehow, Quaeryt had strong doubts that Bhayar’s protestations of concern about him were the only reasons why he had been recuperating in the comparative luxury available at Nordruil, even awaiting Vaelora. Especially since he likely would only be able to spend a few days with her.

He paced back across the stones once again. A courier had galloped up less than a glass before, saying that his wife was some three milles away. Since then, every moment of that Mardi afternoon had felt like a quint, every quint like a glass. He’d even asked the kitchen staff to have a light afternoon meal ready; not that he felt like eating, but she might well after the long ride.

What is taking her so long? He glanced toward the long winding drive once again, then stopped as he saw riders. He forced himself to stand still and wait while they rode up the narrow worn and graveled way. When they were more than a hundred yards away, he could see Vaelora, with Captain Eleryt riding beside her, and a full company following them.

Once more, he was amazed at the grace with which she rode and what a striking figure she was in the saddle. But then, you’ve always found her so.

Their eyes held each other’s as soon as she turned her mount around the overgrown garden that the approach drive circled, although neither spoke as she rode toward him and then reined up.

“My thanks to you, Captain.” Quaeryt inclined his head to Eleryt, then stepped down to the mounting block.

“My pleasure, sir.”

Quaeryt was already looking into Vaelora’s light brown eyes, even before she dismounted and stepped into his arms. For several moments he just held her before murmuring, in Bovarian, as they did when alone, “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” Her arms tightened about him.

“I worried about you.”

“Worried about me? When I heard you’d been injured…” Vaelora eased back. “I didn’t hurt you?”

“It wasn’t that kind of injury. I got caught in the ice storm.” He lowered his voice. “I’ll explain later.”

“You’d better,” she whispered as her arms went around him again, if but for a long moment before she stepped back. “It’s been a long ride, and I was so worried.”

“Would you like something to eat?”

“If you wouldn’t mind, dearest.” Her smile was impish. “If it doesn’t take too long to prepare…”

“Those should have been my words,” he replied with a soft laugh.

“I said them for you … but I am hungry.”

“I thought you might be. I asked the kitchen to have a light meal ready.” Quaeryt turned to Eleryt, who remained waiting. “I do apologize, Captain, for my preoccupation. There are refreshments for you and your men and quarters as well. Lord Bhayar has requested that you remain here until further notice. I trust that will not inconvenience you and them.”

Eleryt smiled. “Sir … that is not a problem.”

Quaeryt understood