I might have no love for my brother and his wicked ways, but his men had a right to know what lay ahead of them. Leaving Morven to deal with Teague, I mounted my horse and picked between the trees back to the valley. The track was steep and slippery, slowing my progress from the highest point of the clifftop to the path further inland.
At the crossing point, I hoped to see only the hoof prints of three horses at the most; mine, Morven’s and that of Teague’s pony. Instead, I found the mess left behind by a whole host of riders. I was too late. Cador and his men had already passed me by and were headed directly to the bay.
There was no avoiding conflict now. Morven’s father, brother and the whole tribe of Durotriges would be out collecting the loot from the wreckage. Bile rose in my throat and my chest thumped with the thrumming beat of my heart.
Pulling on the reins, I hesitated at the crossing, considering my options. If I went back to Morven, would he agree to run away from both our families and all the obligations attached? In light of his most recent revelation, I decided that he would not. He had his eye set on claiming the Chieftaincy in place of his elder brother. He couldn’t make his play for the title if we ran away.
Had I put my trust in a Duro whose only motive for seducing me was to take control of our tin mines and lands? Shaken by my own suggestion, I leaned into the pony’s neck and kicked him into a canter. Cador might be a brute and a braggard, but his reputation was enough to keep much larger tribes from invading our lands. As the trail flattened out, I hung on tightly and rode like Cernonnus himself was on my tail.
The salt air stung my eyes and blurred my vision, but between the thickets and shrubs I could make out the black carcass of the shipwreck close to shore. Just as the scout had told us, it was aligned with the mouth of the river.
As I tore along the clifftops, churning up sand and gravel in my wake, I saw the mass of Durotriges at the furthest end of the beach. Women and children gathered casks and sacks, jars and broken chests, as their men picked through the drowned slaves washed up on the pebbles. None looked to be preparing for a fight.
Urging my pony up the final incline before the descent to the shingle, I pulled up the reins and surveyed the coastline. My brother and his men were a short way ahead of me, breaking cover from the trees. They were vastly outnumbered, at least three enemies to every one of our warriors.