The Flamebearer Chapter Forty-Five

THE FOLLOWING MORNING the winds picked up, blowing fallen leaves over the roads and into drifts and ditches. Evaine set out for Narberth with her brave defenders. She would hear nothing of the convent, of course, and besides, she had an engagement to keep: a tryst with her immortal beloved at the summit of the Sacred Mound.

“Do you really believe he’ll be there?” Dafydd inquired anxiously, his face red and swollen from crying.

They had all watched him burn. The horror of it seared their memories, impressions no one would soon forget. Yet Evaine had to trust her heart; it was the only thing saving her from total despair. “I’ve no choice but to do as he told me,” she replied. “He explicitly instructed me to go to the Mound on the third day at dawn and look for him there.”

“It hardly seems real,” remarked Robyn, who had scarcely spoken since the burning. “I never imagined it would end this way. My own senses tell me he’s – ” He choked as if just saying it would make it so. Scraping sweat-lank hair from his forehead, he paused. “But one thing nags at me.”

“Aye? What’s that?” asked the Bruce.

Robyn let out a long breath. Then in a low, foreboding voice, he invited the question, “What happened to the bones?”

At this, they all retreated into wordlessness. It was a riddle for which none of them had a ready answer.

Evaine’s ravaged heart had scant comfort to offer the sorrowing men. They remained largely mute during the long ride home. Still in shock, the travelers cloaked their private pain in silence as grief’s numbness settled over them.

Narberth came into view by late afternoon, brooding over the autumn-brown hills and casting its dark silhouette against an ocean blue sky.

“Who will tell Tomas?” the Bruce wondered aloud, uttering the thought they all dreaded.

Robyn volunteered. “I’m – I was – Cei’s second,” he uttered somberly. “Duty requires me. I’ll tell him.”

“You’re a decent man, Robyn ap Gryffin,” said Evaine. “And a fine friend, too. Not one of us envies you the task. It’ll break Tomas’s heart.”

The Flamebearer Chapter Forty-Six

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