Ahh, here’s the rest of Chapter 11 of Ismene & Othniel!
If you missed any from before, here is a list of links to previous chapters:
Chapter 11 Part 2
He relaxed his arms and let the men tie him. When the one doing the work cinched the rope tighter than necessary, Othniel chanced a glance to see Sir Wilen, his expression anything but grim as he took pleasure in giving the ropes another solid yank.
“Wilen. Why?” Othniel could think of nothing else to say. The ropes burned the exposed skin at his wrists, but it was nothing compared to the burn of betrayal this once-loyal guardsman now committed against him.
Wilen’s face lost the amusement, and an angry glare took its place. He shoved Othniel. “Tis naught but the payment I’ve waited these eight years to give you and yorn father. My da was no soldier and when the mine collapsed, ’tis on yorn father’s hands that rest his blood and that of the six men who died with him. And leaving me, my brothers, and sister without ma nor da.”
Othniel wanted to deny it, but he couldn’t ignore the heartache so obvious in Wilen’s voice. Othniel hadn’t been there, but he remembered hearing of the tragedy to which Wilen referred. The king had ordered them to leave the mine and the men within. Othniel also remembered how his father had agonized over that decision for months afterward.
What Wilen didn’t seem to remember was that the collapse had been done on purpose to trap a band of robbers within who’d been pillaging, murdering, and raping all along the northern border for months.
The king had gone there with a unit of guardsmen in an effort to locate and either kill or capture these bandits, but when they’d arrived at the little village and gone to the mine, there had been one man escaped who was severely injured and would not live the night. But he’d told them of the deaths of all his friends within the mine and how that very moment the bandits were inside, stealing the stores of diamonds. The king decided the best way to stop the raiders for good would be to trap them, buried alive. But Wilen would have been nothing but a child at the time, and he must have believed that his father wasn’t already dead, that the king had purposefully left him to die.
Wilen must have also forgotten that the king brought him and his siblings here to be taken in by castle servants. Wilen himself was even offered the ability to move through the ranks to knighthood, something he’d never have gained otherwise.
Kendric stepped out the door before the prince and motioned for Wilen to lead him out. The other men filed out and closed ranks around the prince, blocking Othniel from view. No one would see his bound hands, but it was doubtful anyone would miss the trickle of blood staining his neck if the shadows did not work to hide it.
Othniel could see Jorel, safe and sound, standing guard at the mew door. He shot the lying bastard a glare and hoped it stung like the slice of pain that seemed fused to Othniel’s chest where his heart beat. The other man’s face gave no hint of his feelings, and this served to anger Othniel further.
They marched him to the keep, and in the silent procession, he looked at the other men, all dressed in Castle Taisce colors. He recognized only one other: Sir Callor of the house of Noren, the son of Lady Grentich’s brother-in-law. He was not related to Othniel by blood, but he’d seemed like a friend. Could the insults become any worse? How could he have trusted so many deceitful people? Othniel couldn’t help but think he’d been blind and the stupidest of stupid fools.
“Kendric,” he finally said, attempting to sound unconcerned, “is your father behind this?”
Kendric halted and turned, leaning toward Othniel with menace written across his face. “No.” He growled the word. “Don’t dare to insult my father. He had nothing to do with this.”
Othniel, not easily cowed, even while surrounded by a band of hostiles, squinted at Kendric in the dark. “Then why are you?”
Kendric deflated and sighed the sorry acceptance of a man trapped by fate. “I told you, I had no choice.” He offered not a syllable more and lead the short trek to the keep in silence.
Othniel could not think what or who was at work here, but they’d obviously been planning this for quite some time. They arrived at the stairs to the entrance of the keep and Othniel stopped, forcing his captors to do so as well. Kendric made it to the top of the steps before he noticed. He turned and looked down at Othniel, the shadows making the stern look of his face seem sinister and sorrowful all at once.
“Kendric, before we go in, I need to ask something of you.”
Kendric glanced at the darkness of the entrance then descended the steps. “What?”
“Lady Ismene is innocent in all of this. Whatever happens, I can’t . . . . Protect her. Please.”
With the horde of betrayers standing around them, Othniel did not expect much response from Kendric, but relief washed over him as a silent look of acknowledgment passed between them. Ismene’s life had become the most important one to Othniel in such a short time. He didn’t know how it had happened in a flash, but he’d fallen in love with his wife and would do everything in his power to protect her, to his dying breath—even if that meant giving her up to Kendric, no matter how much it hurt. The physical pain of the silent admission made him want to buckle at the waist, but he stood firm and followed the other man inside to face whatever fate lay before him.