It was on the fourth night that he was awakened. He sat bolt upright in bed, listening. Somewhere he could hear a horse whinny. Given that the stable below him was empty, the horse had to belong to a stranger and what was a stranger doing lurking close to the house at this time of night? Whilst this area was considered civilised, it was still Partann. Swiftly Benor dressed by moonlight. He then moved his bed as quietly as possible. After finding
the body he had taken to sleeping with two of the bed legs standing on the trapdoor. Nobody was going to creep into the room without waking him. Then he opened the trapdoor and made his way carefully down the ladder to the stable. The door was open and Gyp sat quietly by it, obviously without a care in the world. Reassured by this Benor stood in the shadows of the stable and watched, he could hear something but he couldn’t see anything.
Then he saw a man moving stealthily across the stable yard towards the house. Benor glanced down at Gyp. The dog was watching with interest but didn’t seem particularly upset by the presence of the stranger. So perhaps the stranger wasn’t strange to her?
Benor decided to act. In a firm voice he said, “Don’t move, I’m pointing a loaded crossbow at you.”
The figure froze. Then the kitchen door burst open and out ran Winnith. She waved her hands somewhat unnecessarily to attract attention and shouted, “Don’t shoot.”
The man turned slowly to face Benor, the light from the kitchen falling on his face as he did so. “I am Arad Branwit. I have the estate next door. I thought I saw a felon crossing my land and I tracked him on foot, ending up here.”
Madam Grasia now appeared at the kitchen door as well. “Thank-you for you concern Master Branwit.” She looked towards the stable where Benor remained in the shadows. “Master Branwit is the guardian of Ella, who is soon to become my brother’s fiancé. You may return to bed now Master Dorfinngil.”
Having thus dismissed him, Grasia turned back to Arad Branwit. “Perhaps you’d like to come into the kitchen to recover from your ordeal.”
Benor made his way back up the ladder to his room, undressed and got back into bed. “Perhaps,” he thought to himself as he dozed off, “I ought to acquire a crossbow. They seem to be remarkably effective.”
Next morning as he breakfasted nothing was said about the previous evening’s drama. He set to work as usual. He was close to finishing the mapping, and was now working on the fields which formed the boundary with the neighbouring estate. By mid-morning he’d worked his way down to the Tarrant Beck where it left the estate. The young woman whom he’d seen riding previously was standing on the edge of the beck watering her horse.
He bowed briefly to her. “Good morning.”
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