Chapter 21: A Traitor is Pursued
For some time, Brandyé entered into a solitary life in the home of his grandfather, and did not venture forth even to market, tending to the vegetables he had helped Reuel grow in his childhood. Despite his loathing of the bow, he continued to bear it with him on his walks, and it often provided his supper. Always he kept watch for signs that creatures of darkness – or constables from Daevàr’s Hut – were upon him, but in all the remainder of his time there, he saw no fierundé or mounted blue tunics.
Alone though he kept, Brandyé certainly did not lack for occupation; he would spend countless hours in his grandfather’s study, consuming cup after cup of tea, poring over the wealth of material that were contained therein. Many of the letters appeared to be documents of tales told to Reuel by Éalora of the histories of her land, Erârün. The name itself held a power over him, for it rang of a language of old. He felt a tie in it to his own name, and recognized the same sounds within. In a darker way, though, it also brought to mind the strange words of the woman in black, whom he had met now twice, and he began to know she was in some way of the ancient world.
There were other items, also; many of the papers he read were accounts of the folk and lives of the town in which Éalora had been born, which he learned was called Faerâth[Translation: Southend]. From what he could tell, it appeared to have been quite similar to Burrowdown, both in size and isolation. There had been few other villages near it, and it was with a sick heart that he read Reuel’s belief that, had there been refuge nearer to them, the villagers might not have all died in one night at the claws of the fierundé.
Of the greatest interest to Brandyé, however, were the many maps drawn by his grandfather’s hand. It seemed indeed that Reuel had possessed quite some skill at this, and it was with wonder he traced every part of Consolation his grandfather had known, from their own town in the North, to the central Daevàr’s Hut and the Lowfields to the South. Yet more intriguing, however, were the sketches of a land of which Consolation formed only a small part. The land in which he had been born and raised – the land that for so long had been supposed to be the only left in all of Erâth, was but a small region, surrounded and isolated by mountains, in the South of a greater land his grandfather had labelled as Thaeìn. The greater detail of this map was in the lands surrounding Consolation, but in the farthest north was a city labelled Vira Weitor, and he saw it was here that the great city of which Éalora had written must lie. The map was incomplete, though; while the south of the land was bordered by what appeared to be water, there was no end to the north of the land. Beyond the city of Vira Weitor, Reuel had marked a great mountain range, and beyond this, at the very edge of the paper, a single word – a single question: Bridge?
For many months after, Brandyé pondered this, but he could fathom no answers, and found no further clues among the rest of his grandfather’s writings. It was near the end of summer (by the calendar, at least, for the weather had been unobliging) that he finally read and put down the final document of Reuel’s, with one exception. On a shelf in a corner stood three tomes, and when Brandyé had first took them down and read their title, he replaced them at once and did not look upon them again. Travels in the Trestaé, they read, and Brandyé would not learn more of what lay in the mountains and forests of the North.
As days grew shorter and Brandyé began to consider the prospect of his first winter alone, it dawned on him that he had for many months now seen no sign of further pursuit, and began to wonder if he might be left to live the rest of his days, undisturbed, in his home – a prospect that was inviting. He wished nothing further to do with the world outside, nor with the Scythe’s Blood, nor even the Dotterys. He missed the company of the only family he had called his friends, but he could not aid their grief, nor they his, and he wished upon them no further harm than that he had already brought upon them.
Naturally, it was as thoughts of settlement began to come into Brandyé’s mind that a thing happened to bring disturbance once more into Brandyé’s life. Early one morning, as he was upon his knees in the earth of the vegetable garden, a fluttering nearby told him of a visitor he most certainly was not expecting. His heart rose as he laid his eyes upon Sonora, who looked strong and healthy, though he could not deny the hurt of her green eyes, so like the girl’s. She had borne him a note, it seemed, and she laid her head against him kindly as he unbound it. As he unrolled the small note to read it, she pecked at the earth, delighted in finding the worms Brandyé had upturned along with the soil.
They are coming.
This was all the note read, but the simple words brought fear once more to Brandyé’s throat, and for a long time he did not move, and watched Sonora at her breakfast. He had little doubt who was coming, and knew his hope of a forgotten life was not to be.
Finally, he reached out to Sonora, and stroked her head gently. She seemed pleased, and settled near to him. Softly, he spoke to her: “I do not know why Elven sends me this message. It is too much to hope that he wishes our friendship restored, much as I desire it. Perhaps he has merely taken pity on me, and wishes me to have the chance to leave Consolation myself. I have feared I would one day suffer my grandfather’s fate. What do you suppose?”
Sonora looked at him directly at this, but did not answer. With a sigh, Brandyé released the bird, and said, “I have not paper to write upon, but bear my thanks to Elven. I would have him know I hold him yet as a friend, for my part at least.”
Brandyé returned his attention to the potatoes he had been unearthing, and for a moment Sonora stood to the side, observing him. Seeing that he had nothing further to say, she eventually fluttered off, bearing Brandyé’s thanks to Elven.
Brandyé could but guess at when – and if – the constabulary would be upon him (if it was indeed they who were now pursuing him), and he was undecided what he should do about his fate. Though he felt compelled to flee, he was also tired of flight. He had begun to hope that he might remain alone in Burrowdown, and should the constabulary fail to find him, he might yet find that fate.
In the end, he could not bring himself to leave his grandfather’s house, and settled instead for setting in place a warning, if he could. So it was that, the morning following Sonora’s visit, he set out around the town to visit Farmer Tar.
Farmer Tar greeted Brandyé warmly, and though he wished not to accept his cordiality out of shame, he nonetheless was comforted that the man seemed not to hold him accountable for the events that yet haunted him.
“Haven’ spoke with you for a time, then!” he called as Brandyé walked up the path toward his home. He was in the yard, mending the spokes of a cart wheel, and grinned at Brandyé. “Isabella’s been missin’ you!”
“I would see her,” Brandyé said, and Farmer Tar led him to a paddock behind the barn, where the mare came to Brandyé and nuzzled her face to his.
“She is well,” Brandyé said, and ran his hand over her flank. He had returned her to Farmer Tar not long after Reuel’s death, and had missed her greatly.
“Aye,” replied Farmer Tar. “Though I daresay she don’ get the kind o’ workin’ you gave her, goin’ down to Daevàr’s Hut an’ back.”
“She is strong, and bore me well,” Brandyé said softly. As he fed her a carrot he had brought for her, he looked out across her field. From the farm, the South road was visible for some distance, and a person walking upon it would be seen some hours before they were to reach the town. “I have a request,” Brandyé said to Farmer Tar, “though I do not expect you to fulfill it if it does not suit you.”
He spoke then of Elven’s message, and his desire for isolation from the world. Farmer Tar listened without word, and Brandyé found it was a relief to have a person with whom to speak of his thoughts. “I would not leave this place, but I fear I may be hunted from here nonetheless,” he said.
“You think truly they’re comin’ for you?” said Farmer Tar.
“Elven would not speak falsely,” Brandyé replied. “What I do not know is whether it is known where I live, nor how soon they may arrive if it is known.”
“What’ll you do if they do come fer you?” asked Farmer Tar.
“I do not know,” Brandyé said. “I will flee if I must.”
“So then,” Farmer Tar said, and he looked out upon the South road with Brandyé. “What is it you’d have me do, then?”
“Very little,” said Brandyé. “You are in your fields each day; I would ask merely that, as you labor, you might give a glance to the South road from time to time.”
“You want a warnin’,” Farmer Tar grunted.
“If it is of no inconvenience, only,” said Brandyé.
Farmer Tar nodded. “It is not, lad,” he said. “I ain’t to judge you on yer deeds, and I believe yer heart’s in the right place. I’d not see you dragged afore the filth in Daevàr’s Hut fer doin’ what you thought were right.”
“You have been always kind to me,” Brandyé said, “though I have not always deserved it. I hope this may be the last kindness you need bestow upon me.”
Farmer Tar grunted, and invited Brandyé to stay the day with him. As Brandyé helped him mend his cart, and tend his livestock, he thought perhaps he might seek life as a farmer in some distant land, should he be driven from his own home. He dined with Farmer Tar and his wife that evening, and when he returned in the dark to his house, he felt quite settled, no matter what should come.
It was far into autumn before Brandyé spoke with Farmer Tar again. He had spent ever more of his time looking over the maps that Reuel had left him, trying to recall from memory the hills and rivers and forests of lands he had never visited. He began to feel that it was, perhaps, his fate to leave Consolation, whether through his will or not; events had conspired to leave him oddly prepared for such a fate.
The weather, though it had remained dismal throughout the summer, seemed inclined nonetheless to follow the nature of the seasons, and grew ever worse as October came and the light began to fade. Every morning was now enshrouded in mist until midday, and when it lifted it did so only to the grey clouds that had now not parted since Reuel’s death. When Brandyé rose each morning, he would step through the door into the fog, and it was easy to believe he was the last remaining person in Erâth.
It was on such a morning that, as Brandyé prepared a fire in the parlor against the chill, a steaming mug of tea on the mantle, that a rapid knock came at the door, and he opened it to a breathless and distressed Farmer Tar. Without a word he pushed into the house and closed the door behind him. “They’re here,” he panted.
“The constabulary?” Brandyé asked.
“Aye,” replied Farmer Tar. “I only just heard; with this damn’ble mist, I had no idea they’d come in the night! I were on my way into town to visit Miss Dael at the dairy, and I saw ’em all standin’ round outside the Burrow Wayde. Plenty o’ horses, and blue shirts the lot o’ them!”
“Do they know they way here?” Brandyé asked.
Farmer Tar shook his head: “If they didn’, they will soon; no one in town’s goin’ to defy the constables, and most’ve got no interest in seein’ you safe. You’ve get to go now, Brandyé.”
“So be it,” said Brandyé. “I will pass east, into the woodlands of the Far Burrow Hills, and perhaps from there into the eastern Tresté.”
“You’ll be needin’ a horse,” Farmer Tar said. “These constables seem well-used to ridin’, and they’ll be upon you afore you’ve gone five miles.”
Brandyé shook his head. “I will not return. I cannot ask you–”
“You’re not askin’,” Farmer Tar interrupted. “I’m tellin’. You’ll take Isabella, and she’ll bear you to safety. She’s o’ little enough use around the farm these days, anyway; now she’s got a taste o’ ridin’, she’s too proud to haul my plow.”
“I cannot pass through the town to your farm,” Brandyé said. “How shall I obtain her?”
“Do you know a place we can meet, p’rhaps east o’ town?” Farmer Tar said.
Brandyé nodded. “There is a tree – tall, and alone on a hill. It is three miles east of the town, perhaps half a league south of the Burrow. Do you know it?”
“Aye, I’ve seen it afore,” Farmer Tar replied.
“I will meet you there,” Brandyé said.
Farmer Tar held his gaze for a moment, and then said, “Don’ be long, lad; I doubt very much they’ll be.”
Brandyé bid him farewell, and closed the door once more as Farmer Tar set out back to his own home to prepare Isabella for the journey. He was once more glad of Farmer Tar’s kindness.
Brandyé now turned his thoughts to leaving, and it seemed he now saw the house truly for the first time. Every board, beam and window caught his eye, and he was struck quite suddenly that every part of it, from the largest post to the smallest tile, had passed through his grandfather’s hands. He would not lock the door when he left, he thought; he would not have it broken in. If he were absent when the constabulary arrived, they would perhaps do little harm to the dwelling, for that was something he felt his heart could not bear. Even if he were never to return, he would not have his grandfather’s memory spoiled by the ruin of his home.
Swiftly, Brandyé gathered into a sack what provisions he had to hand, leaving all else where it lay; his tea grew cold on the mantle. Carrots, apples, bread could all be brought, and what little salted meat remained he wrapped in cloth and brought also. Into the sack went also several blankets and cloaks, for the weather was worsening and he faced the prospect of living out the winter in the woods, should he pass safely from Burrowdown.
He was soon ready to leave, and paused now only to go upstairs a final time, into both his grandfather’s study and his own room, in which he had continued to sleep even after Reuel was gone. Two items he wished of Reuel’s, and both were maps: that of Consolation, and that of the forests of the Tresté. Though his grandfather had not ventured far to the east, he felt a guide of any kind would be profitable.
In his own room there was at first nothing for him to consider, other than to look one last time upon the room that had been his home since his memories began. But even as he turned to leave, his eye was caught by something on his desk, a thing he had not considered for some time.
He moved to the desk and picked up the black dagger. He had intended to bring his bow, certainly; it was already secure in his pack. But now he was uncertain about this other item; it had in his hands drawn no blood, yet it felt laden with more darkness and death than any other instrument he had held. He recalled what the blade monger had uttered: “This is a bad blade, son. It were used for killin’, once, and I daresay it’s all its good fer.” Yet it had stayed the wolves when it seemed certain they would kill him; it had also driven him to attack a dangerous man in a dark alley of Daevàr’s Hut.
He did not wish to bear it with him, yet now it was in his hand he could not part with it, and he felt drawn to it now as he had never been before. He raised it level to his eyes, and peered long at the keen edge of the blade; unused for anything in the time he had owned it, it seemed yet sharper than any knife he knew. He drew its tip across his finger, and it drew blood without pain.
And then voices could be heard approaching the front door, and he knew he had lingered too long. Blade in hand, he turned and swiftly descended the stairs, pausing in the hall only long enough to grasp his sack. He moved to the door, but before he could open it there was a loud knock upon it, and he knew it was not Farmer Tar.
“If this is the home of Brandyé Dui-Erâth,” a voice commanded (the pronunciation of his name was terrible), “you are ordered to enter into our custody by the power of the Lord Garâth of the Fortunaé. If you submit willingly, you will remain for now unharmed.”
Brandyé did not hold belief for a moment that he would remained unharmed, but knew he could now not leave the home. Becoming now desperate, he turned from the door and saw his only other means of escape: the ceiling-high parlor windows, his grandfather’s pride of the home and the windows over his grave and to the mountains in the North.
With heartache even as he acted, he reached for a nearly chair, and lifted it high, dropping the black dagger even as he did so. He swung it bodily at the window; he wood splintered and the glass shattered with a pop, the music of its shards ringing loud. Without a pause he leapt through the hole, whispering forgiveness as he passed over his grandfather’s grave and into the moors beyond. Even as he disappeared from sight, the front door to his home crashed open, and three constables burst in upon the parlor, and the black knife which stood upright, its tip buried deep in the floor.
Brandyé passed some way north into the moorlands before turning east, so that he might avoid the sight of the constables as they left his home and began to search the surrounding countryside. They did not know the land as he did, and he was confident he would arrive at Soleheart before they sought that far from the village.
The mist held thick as he made his way from his home, and he crossed the river Burrow a mile upstream from the village without incident – it was a crossing he and Sonora had created one summer many years ago by laying a felled tree across a narrow point of the river. He was surprised to find it had not been washed away in the years since, but it held his weight as he passed over it, and continued southeast to Soleheart.
It was late in the afternoon when he arrived, and Farmer Tar, true to his word, was waiting for him. Isabella he had loosely tied to the great oak, and she seemed anxious. Farmer Tar had brought provisions of his own for Brandyé, and passed them to him with a warm farewell from his his wife. “She insisted you have at least some comfort if you’re to be headin’ out fer good,” he said. “She’s made you cornbread, and it’s a treat if I say so meself.” He showed Brandyé a small bottle, and said, “This here is me best brandy. It’ll keep you warm on a cold night, and it’ll clean your wounds if you’re unlucky enough to come by one.”
Farmer Tar had harnessed Isabella with two large sacks hung from her saddle, and Brandyé placed his gifts into these, before fastening his own sack to her. He turned to Farmer Tar: “Once more, you have shown me more kindness than I deserve. I fear this is a kindness I will be unable to repay, and I hope only that my thanks may provide some comfort for the loss of so much.”
“You’ve caused me no loss,” said Farmer Tar. “You’ve opened my eyes to the villainy of our lords, and if I never see nothin’ o’ the Scythe’s Blood again, I’ll know better the truth of our lands. Trust me, lad – things’ll get better, they will. You’ve concerned yourself enough about these matters; concern yourself now with your own life.”
Brandyé had no words, but embraced Farmer Tar and wept as he mounted Isabella and bid him farewell. Farmer Tar waited as Brandyé distanced himself from the hill and the tree, and turned to walk slowly home. He knew not if he would see Brandyé again, but hoped that the boy would find a justice in life to balance what had been wrought upon him.
Brandyé rode gently for the remainder of the day, and as evening drew near he approached the woods of the Far Burrow Hills, a lay of land that rose and fell in gentle hills for many miles east of Burrowdown. The river Burrow passed to the north of these hills, on the other side of which lay the village of Burrowai, but Brandyé steered his course in a more southerly direction, and passed into the woods directly.
The trees here were mainly oak and ash, well-spaced but tall, and the light grew dim indeed as their leaves drowned out the sky. Brandyé wished to have a fire, to keep him warm and to keep away small creatures, and guided Isabella some way into the wood, though she was not happy at navigating such a dismal place at night.
Perhaps a little over a mile into the woods, Brandyé and Isabella came across a small clearing beside a stream, and he brought her to a halt. There was here a very large oak whose roots made a sort of hollow, and he could sleep against its trunk and be unassailable from behind. He bade Isabella not stray far, and though she whinnied nervously he did not need to tie her to the trees.
He cleared a space of leaves on the ground and struck a fire from small branches, and at a little bread. The night’s mist was growing once more, and stilled the noise of the brook and the breeze, leaving him in a fearsome silence. He could hear Isabella’s breath, and the leaves beneath him crackled loud in his ears.
It seemed to him at that moment that his youth was gone; all that he had known, all that he had been raised with, was gone and behind him, and what future lay before him was unknown. He did not know if the constables would seek him to the East; it was possible they might believe him to have passed due north into the Tresté, and would cease their pursuit. He did not know what would come of Elven in Daevàr’s Hut; perhaps Sörhend would allow him now to return to his parents, and he would become a healer in Burrowdown. He did not know what was to become of his grandfather’s home, and he felt great sadness that it would see no more roaring fires, stews and tales.
If this was how life began, he thought, it was a poor beginning. In seeking to do good, he had brought darkness and death upon all those he cared for – all those he had loved. It did not occur to him to consider that it might have been Darkness and Death who had come upon him.