Fr. Barnard sat on his steed on the windy knoll of the island, Desire beside him, her own horse pawing the ground nervously.. In the valley below, the dust of the narrow road floated in the air behind the pounding hooves of the riders.
“Bryantt,” the priest whispered to Desire, although there was no need for whispers. Not here and not now. “What do you think he wants in South March?”
His eyes drifted ot the woman on the horse behind Sands – Karissa. He swallowed, feeling a dryness in his throat, but said nothing.
“There’s only one way to find out,” Desire answered.
He glanced at her and saw her concern. “Let’s eat,” he finally said. “When they return north, I shall seek out his Lordship and find out.”
She shook her head. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
They ate in silence around the small fire, the tension thick in the air as evening approached. Then they mounted their horses and rode down the steep hill, crossed the river and headed south.
It was on their way that they met the old man, walking the path quietly, the brim of his hat pulled down to shield his eyes from the sunset, his large pack on his back. He looked up as they approached.
“You’d best turn about,” he told them, barring the road as they brought their horses to a standstill.
“What has happened?” The priest asked.
“I received word from Drago that the Warden of North March is securing a warrant against you and will demand that his Lordship Maverick present you for trial on Truce Day.”
The priest leaned back on his horse, feeling the tension tighten in his shoulders and neck. He could sense Desire’s dismay even without looking at her.
“I should talk to Maverick, then,” he said quietly.
“No,” she told him.
He glanced at her but didn’t answer, then looked back at Gus. “Thank you,” was all he said.
The old man stepped out of the road and let them pass.
As they approached the tavern, Nathan was on the porch and waved to them. They stopped before him and explained where they were going.
“I’m going with you,” he said, mounting his horse and drawing up next to Desire. They exchanged smiles and the three rode off to the castle.
Maverick was easy to find. It was as if he had been waiting for them. He sat behind the table with his squire at his side, in the main hall. The large room echoed with their footsteps as the priest, Desire and Nathan entered. They stopped at the door.
“May I approach, your Lordship?” Fr. Barnard asked with a bow. His hand rested on his sheathed sword but he clearly had no intention of using it.
“You may,” said Maverick with a sigh.
The priest stepped forward with Desire close behind and Nathan behind her.
“I have heard there is a warrant out for my arrest,” Fr. Barnard said. “Is this true?”
“I have not yet received a warrant,” Maverick told him. “And even if I were to receive one, if I cannot find you, then you are free to go. If you stay in the Debatable lands, you won’t be arrested.”
Fr. Barnard stood there a moment, his brow creased in thought.
“Will you seize me like a common criminal and put me in jail? Or will I be free to present myself at trial?” he asked.
“If a warrant is given me, and I find you on my lands, you will be arrested,” Maverick said.
“I know that if I am not delivered for trial, that will cause a problem to you and yours. You have been kind to offer me sanctuary and I would not wish to bring that on you. If and when a warrant is delivered – and I’m sure one will be – I shall present myself to you and deliver my sword into your hands, to submit for trial,” said the priest.
“No, Barnard!” Desire screamed behind him.
He ignored her. “It is a matter of honor,” he said quietly.
“That’s noble of you,” said Maverick.
“And what of me?” Desire asked, stepping forward. “Will there be a warrant out for me, as well?”
Maverick shook his head. “I do not know,” he said.
They talked quietly a few more minutes, of crimes and punishment and what would happen and when, and when they had finished, Fr. Barnard bowed to Maverick and took his leave, saying to the others, “Come.”
As they rode away from the castle, the priest could barely think straight and his friends, his companions, were lost in their own thoughts.