Warrior’s Bride (Pt 4)

Chapter Four

“Of course, however, as with the rest of this province she is now my property.”
Harbin regarded the imposing warrior before him thoughtfully. He had heard many rumours of the ruler of Karok, not a man he ever expected to find himself dealing with. Many of those spoke of his ruthlessness, although others talked of his fairness in dealing with his subjects. Right now however, he was threatening his much-loved niece. Moving forward, his tone was even, “Perhaps we could talk privately, Cadell of Karok. This province and my own have a peaceful understanding which I would like to preserve.” Tialla stared, hurt in her eyes hearing his words as despondency filled her. He had been her last hope for freedom, his willingness to work with Cadell a bitter blow.
Looking up she could see the triumphant smile which filled the brutal man beside her, he nodding before indicating that the two move to a chamber off the throne room. Left alone, she was aware of the lecherous looks of the warriors, all their eyes now focussed on her, many openly leering. Raising her head proudly she turned from them, her posture regal, determined not to allow them to see the way her stomach flip-flopped with fear. Her own uncle, the man she had looked up to her whole life had betrayed her, her nails digging into her palms to stop the tears which warmly stung the back of her eyes. Resolutely, her chin rose even higher. She was a princess and whatever would happen, she would bear it with dignity.
In the chamber Cadell took a seat on one of the many high-backed chairs close to the unlit fire, indicating that the other man take the seat opposite, Harbin complying with a small nod. Seated, both men regarded each other for a few seconds, both sizing up the other. Cadell waited, his stance relaxed before the older man sighed, “We have a problem Cadell.”
The warrior before him raised an eyebrow, “And what would that be Harbin? I believe that I was very clear earlier.”
Harbin’s eyes hardened, “I wished this conversation in private because it is my hope that we can come to a resolution which will be acceptable to us both.”
Cadell nodded softly. “That is a good place to start. However, you must understand that I have already taken the province. So perhaps the time for diplomacy is over.”
Harbin smiled gently. “You may have captured this province Cadell, but that is a far cry from keeping it.”
The younger man stiffened in his seat, his look hardening, “Are you threatening me Harbin, because I do not take well to threats.”
Harbin watched the warrior closely. “I understand why you need this province Cadell. My sources have informed me of your fight with Garel of Drakel.”
Across from him he was aware as the other man stilled, his voice hard, “Do not think to take Garel’s side in this, because you would not like me for an enemy.”
Harbin gave a soft chuckle, Cadell scowling at his show of humour. “My aim here is not to become embroiled in any war. However, if we cannot reach a solution, then I will not take sides with your enemy. I will instead attack you. If your army has to fight my men on one side – and believe me Cadell you will not find my men as easy a victory as Tialla’s – then I would imagine that your enemy will take great delight in waiting to pick you off if you were successful. We both know that such a battle would reduce your fighting capability. You would be an easy target.”
Cadell sat back, his look thoughtful. He had heard of Harbin’s army, their exploits and fighting ability well known, and the only reason he had agreed to meet with the man when he seized power over Leando. He knew he spoke the truth and he had no real wish to take on the man before him. “As you say Harbin neither of us wants a war with the other, however, I am not prepared to leave Leando, you already know its strategic significance.”
Harbin nodded softly, a smile still playing on his lips. “Yes. I am also aware that even if you did leave then it would take little time for Garel to move in. In fact my sources tell me that even now he is moving an army this way”, a sad light entering his eyes. “It would seem that my late brother’s province is now at threat from two warring factions. However, I have heard much of Garel and my preference would be you Cadell.”
The man opposite laughed softly, “I am honoured Harbin… So we seem to be back to where we started are we not?”
The older man tapped his mouth thoughtfully for a few seconds, his words bringing a look of surprise to Cadell. “Tialla is a beautiful woman is she not?”
With a dismissive wave Cadell nodded. “Yes, very”, seeing the way the other man nodded.
“She is very dear to me, and as I have no children of my own, she will inherit my own province one day”, his eyes moving to the cold fireplace, a distant look within them. “However, she worries me. The law of this land states that she cannot become Queen in her own right until she reaches 25. Till then I allow her to govern with my support”, his words pointed, “And by support I mean with all the armies I have at my disposal.”

{next installment December 9th)

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