July 15th - Cagil
Brighdha had barely an hour left before her on the road to Cagil when a jagged plume of dust alerted her to a rider approaching at speed. Here on the open plains she had little chance of avoiding an encounter so she turned her horse and took up a position at the side of the road, waiting. Her squire Anselm looking decidedly nervous as he followed her lead, holding the lead rein of the pack mule in one hand and the mane of his pony knotted in the other.
"Trust your head Anselm, not your heart. One day your life may depend on it. If this man were an enemy he'd approach from behind and with some modicum of stealth."
The distant rider grew ever larger, covering the distance at a frightful pace and the heavy drumming of hooves. A courier perhaps?
"See, there's but one rider and at the speed he's travelling I he's obviously on urgent business."
It seemed the rider was upon them in a heartbeat, slowing his horse to a welcome trot with an ease which young Anselm could only admire.
"The one and the same," she trotted towards him.
"I carry a despatch from your sister, Countess Moira of Oporto," he reached into his saddle bag and removed an oil-skin packet, passing it to her without ceremony.
The courier was gone as swiftly as he'd appeared.
Brigdha studied the seal. The Dubhaine Family crest, stamped into a heavy plug of dark red wax. Breaking it she looked within to find a single sheet of parchment, penned in her sister's strong flowing script. The letters had smudged in places, as if the salty ocean had somehow penetrated the oil-skin during its swift flight across the ocean.
Dearest Sister, I trust this missive finds you in good health.
I have grave tidings from the East Continent and can think of no easy way of softening the blow. Captain Heinman fell today in battle and with him all of the Cagilan expatriots who these past months have fought alongside me. He died a hero's death, unseating and slaying the Perdanese knight who rode him down as we fought against overwhelming odds.
Please break the news to our mother in person, for it would not be right for her to read of his death in a letter. We all know how close they were. Tell her that at the last his thoughts were of her and that he will be interred with honour in the land that he died defending.
She sat stunned as she tried to take in the brief message. Carl Heinman had been the captain of her mother's bodyguard and the tutor in arms of the three Dubhaine sisters, a fearless and cunning warrior of that generation who faced and overthrew the evil of Abington. She could not picture him lying dead, his body broken by lance and hoof. Not Carl.
"We best make haste," she slipped the letter back into the oil-skin packet and placed both safely within her doublet. She had much to consider, not least how to break this terrible news to her mother.