Knights of Redemption

In the ten years since Gavin had last seen him, Lord Aldred had aged considerably.

His eyes wan­dered to the woman seat­ed to Aldred’s right. A gor­geous mass of auburn curls spilled down the back of Lady Elizabeth’s dark blue sur­coat. ‘Twas almost a sin­ful dis­play of great beau­ty, to have hair unbound in such a man­ner. She sat as roy­al­ty would, with a self-assur­ance and grace that made her all the more attractive.

She chat­ted eas­i­ly with Lord Aldred. The cama­raderie between them was obvi­ous. Gavin lis­tened as she ren­dered sev­er­al judg­ments in a row and real­ized this woman had become the real pow­er at Kent­wood. Her quick and thought­ful deci­sions would make her a for­mi­da­ble oppo­nent in war. He was glad she was a woman, for he would nev­er will­ing­ly tan­gle with the likes of her on the battlefield.

Have we reached all deci­sions need­ed on this day?” Her voice rang out clear­ly through the hall. He admired her pres­ence and won­dered who her sire was.

When no one stepped for­ward, she again called out, “Does any man or woman wish to speak to Lord Aldred or myself before we adjourn?”

A half-dozen stepped for­ward, most prais­ing Lady Eliz­a­beth in one way or anoth­er. It irri­tat­ed Gavin by this point at how this lady seemed more revered than the very mas­ter of Kent­wood. Final­ly, he moved toward the dais.

As he stepped up, the last remain­ing man to speak, he looked to Lord Aldred.

I come to pay homage to—”

Gavin!” Lord Aldred cried in delight. He stood and then stag­gered forward.

Gavin rushed toward him and caught the old man as he fell. He placed the nobleman’s still form on the ground. As he did, he felt the woman’s gaze burn­ing into him.

My lady,” he said, his tone even.

With fire in her green eyes, she almost growled at him, “If you’ve killed him, I’ll see you dead.”

Awake, Kallen? What a pret­ty name.”

She saw the thick band of black encom­pass­ing the earl’s head, reveal­ing the evil that ran through him. Kallen tried to push him away, real­iz­ing her hands were bound.

Why do you want me? I can­not see the future.”

Now­land smiled. “I didn’t say you could. No, I need you for the auras.”

How could he know of them?

What mean you? I don’t understand.”

I sense the pow­er in you. You are the answer to my prayers. Edward rules now, but I shall take his place. You will tell me who will sup­port me and who would betray me. You can shed light on where a man’s loy­al­ties lie.”

Dis­gust rose in Kallen. “Even if I could do what you ask, I would nev­er help you.”

I know more how to help you har­ness your pow­er. You’re mine, Kallen. For all time.”

She blurt­ed out, “Grif­fith will stop you. You can send as many as you want, and he’ll defeat them all.”

’Tis inter­est­ing, these feel­ings you reveal for Som­mers­by. This may be the way to con­trol you. To take pris­on­er this knight who’s so obvi­ous­ly cap­tured your heart.”

Now­land took and twirled a lock of her hair, twist­ing it tight­ly and yank­ing her toward him. Tears came to her eyes.

He sat on the bed next to her, one hand still twist­ed in her hair, the oth­er stroking her cheek. “I can see it now. You, being stub­born and unco­op­er­a­tive. Starv­ing you wouldn’t work. But a trip to my dark­ened dun­geon, with its foul smells and sweat­ing walls, and one look at your beloved stretched across the rack? A twist of one, maybe two turns. You’ll do what­ev­er I ask of you then.” He released her hair and stood. “You have giv­en me the lever­age I need.”

You’ll nev­er take him,” she said stubbornly.

Quentin chuck­led. “I took you, didn’t I? ‘Tis always when you least expect it. May­hap I will let the good knight wor­ry a day or two. Then I’ll send word by mes­sen­ger of a secret meet­ing. Come alone or his beloved Kallen dies. He’ll do it if he feels as you do. And while his heart is trapped, I’ll trap his body and soul.”

Kallen jumped from the bed and ran to the door. She tried to twist the knob, but the restraints pre­vent­ed her from escap­ing. She start­ed beat­ing her bound fists against the mas­sive door.

Behind her, Now­land cack­led as an old woman. “What fun! I nev­er knew hav­ing a daugh­ter could bring me so much joy.”