Ambrosius and Arturus sat in grieving silence long after Megisa left them. Though Ambrosius stared at the gifted blade, glinting in the light of their only torch, he did not move to retrieve it.
“Perhaps, it’s not them,” muttered Arturus.
“We both know it’s them.”
“But you told them to go back to Badon!” cried Arturus, a tear rolling down his cheek.
With a deep sigh, Ambrosius replied: “Yes, my friend, but this is Inga and Ishild we’re talking about. I’m sure they thought about what I told them, before completely ignoring it…”
“But they had Ferox with them,” said Arturus. “If they’d been taken, we’d have heard him making a fight of it, wouldn’t we?”
“Now that, I can’t explain,” agreed Ambrosius.
“So, we have to go and get them, Dux, surely?”
“And we will. But one knife and two men won’t be enough. Curse that cunning, old bitch! She’s been playing her game with us all along.”
“But she said there were some who might help us.”
“Perhaps there are, but no-one’s going to help us while Hargotrix lives – his death is at the heart of her little plan.”
“Why not just kill the bastard then?” cried Arturus.
“Oh, I will, if he touches our women,” declared Ambrosius, “and that scheming old woman knows it – which also means she knows what Inga is to me.”
“But she could only know that if… she had spoken to them.”
“Indeed,” growled Ambrosius. “So, she could have told us they were here before now – that much is certain. But she didn’t, because she knew that we’d have just tried to free the girls and escape. And Megisa wanted a whole lot more from us than that.”
Finally, Ambrosius picked up the knife with his bound hands and, wedging the hilt between his boots, he worked the ties on his wrist back and forth against the blade. Once free, he swiftly cut their other bonds and the pair crept closer to the doorway.
“What first?” hissed Arturus.
“We find the girls.”
“But Megisa said they‘d likely be with Hargotrix…”
“Yes, but we’ve no damned choice now but to sing that old crone’s song,” snarled Ambrosius. “And she knew it! We’ll have to make straight for Hargotrix to free the girls. Damn the woman! We’ll end up doing her murderous bidding after all.”
“There’s only one knife,” Arturus pointed out.
“Yes. So, first problem… do you think you can cut a man’s throat in silence?”
“Don’t you want the knife?”
“Can you do it – or not, Arturus? Be certain.”
“Yes,” answered the youth.
“Have you ever done it before?”
“Well, no,” said Arturus.
“Only one piece of advice then: cut hard – a man’s throat is tougher than many think. As soon as I take on the first guard, you must silence the other.”
Handing his young comrade the knife, he whispered: “Are you certain you can do this?”
Arturus nodded and Ambrosius prayed the soldier’s son from Gallia could carry it through.
Brushing aside the cloth, he stepped out fast, though his victim was already turning towards him when he seized his head and gave it a savage twist. Hearing a low groan from beside him, he swivelled on the balls of his feet, but faced only Arturus, grinning wildly and waving the bloodied blade in triumph.
Ambrosius merely nodded. “Well done, but don’t enjoy it too much, Arturus. That’s still a man’s life you’ve just taken – someone’s son, eh?”
Though Arturus looked crushed, Ambrosius had learned long ago that the youth would not be subdued for long.
Between them, they dragged both bodies into the hut before relieving the pair of their weapons. With a spatha and knife at his belt, Ambrosius felt much better and he knew that Arturus was handy with a spear. Now, at least, they had half a chance.
“Where do you think Hargotrix will be?” enquired Arturus.
“That’s the easy part: we just listen and follow the noise!”
When Ambrosius peered out into the night, there was no-one else about and all seemed quiet in the neighbouring buildings. But, as he expected, somewhere in the settlement there was at least one place from which shouting and laughter emanated. It took little imagination to guess who would be holding raucous court at this time of night. Nudging Arturus to join him, he set off into the alley between houses, and followed the noise.
Too late, he heard the footsteps and a voice from the darkness warned: “We’re all around you; lay down your weapons now.”