All the way home, I plotted and schemed. There were so many delicious ways to kill my brother from a quick stab through the eye socket to the slow death of hemlock. Every method I thought of brought me a tiny quantity of pleasure, were it not for a gnawing worry at the back of my mind. Not only would his suffering be over in an instant, but our tribe would be left leaderless and vulnerable.
My leggings and tunic were soaked through with the bloody remains of my child. Not one of my brother’s men took pity on me and unbound my hands and ankles. They rode alongside the wagon on their stolen horses staring at the track ahead. Although I couldn’t see him, I knew that Cador would be at the front, leading the procession and deluding himself that we Dumnos were the victors in the unfortunate affair. In truth, there were no victors on this black and sombre day.
The heat of the sun burned the back of my neck as I recognised the last section of the forest near to our palisade walls. I had to decide on a course of action and soon, in case Cador chose to ride back out of camp on another raid.
The warrior closest to me, whistled to another riding behind the wagon. He gestured up ahead. “What’s that kyjyan fool waving for? Can you see who it is?”
“Probably just a new recruit. His first time in the watchtower has addled his brain.” Both tittered and sneered. Curiosity got the better of me. I rolled over and struggled onto my knees straining to see but the glare from the sun was too bright. I couldn’t shield my eyes. We were almost at the clearing next to the northern gate of our compound.
Cador kicked the flanks of his horse, holding his bloody axe high and whooping with their customary calls, signalling to those in camp that he’d returned. His men picked up on the cue, joining in and racing towards the gate. I was thrown backwards as the cart horse was whipped into a canter.
Moments later, I heard the ear-splitting squeals of the ponies. The wagon veered to the left, tipping me and half the contents out on the track. I landed with a thud on soft ground, unharmed. Ahead was the smith’s wood cart coming from the forest path, loaded high with heavy trunks and split logs. His horses reared, kicking out at Cador and buckling his stallion’s legs from under him.
My brother fell just as the wagon toppled over. The front axle fractured, crashing the cart and its load down on top of him. Cador was pinned at the shoulder to the stony track. It missed his head by no more than a hand’s length.