|Chapter 18: Doom's Retreat|
He waited until they were beyond earshot of the Warward's camp. Then he sighed wearily, "Mhoram, we're not finished. We can't stop here." Without transition, as if he had not changed subjects, he went on, "What are we going to do about Lord Verement? One of us has got to tell him--about Shetra. I'll do it if you want. I probably deserve it."
"I will do it," Mhoram murmured distantly.
"All right." Troy felt acutely relieved to be free of that responsibility. "Now, what about this--what Tull told us? I don't like the idea of telling everyone that--that the mission--" He could not bring himself to say the words, The Giants are Dead. "I don't think the warriors will survive what's ahead if they know what happened to the mission. It's too much. Having three Giants taken over by Ravers is bad enough. And I'll have to tell them worse things than that myself."
Softly, Mhoram breathed, "They deserve to know the truth."
"Deserve?" Troy's deep feeling of culpability flooded into anger. "What they deserve is victory. By God, don't tell me what they deserve! It's a little late for you to start worrying about what they know or don't know. You've seen fit to keep secrets from me all along. God knows how many horrors you still haven't told me. Keep your mouth shut about this."
"That choice was made by the Council. No one person has the right to withhold knowledge from another. No one is wise enough." Mhoram spoke as if he were wrestling with himself.
"It's too late for that. If you want to talk about rights--you don't have the right to destroy my army."
"My friend, have you--have you suffered--has the withholding of knowledge harmed you?"
"How should I know? Maybe if you had told me the truth--about Atiaran--we wouldn't be here now. Maybe I would have been afraid of the risk. You tell me if that's good or bad." Then his anger softened. "Mhoram," he pleaded, "they're right on the edge. I've already pushed them right to the edge. And we're not done. I just want to spare them something that will hurt so bad--"
"Very well," Mhoram sighed in a tone of defeat. "I will not speak of the Giants."
"Thank you," Troy said intensely.
Mhoram gazed at him searchingly, but through his darkness he could not read the Lord's expression. For a moment, he feared that Mhoram was about to tell him something, reveal the last mysteries of Trell and Elena and Covenant. He did not want to hear such things--not now, when he was already so overburdened. But finally the Lord turned silently and started back toward Callindrill.
Troy followed him. But on the way he paused to speak with Terrel, who was the ranking Bloodguard. "Terrel, I want you to send scouts out to the South Plains. I don't expect Foul's army before midday tomorrow, but we shouldn't take any chances--and the warriors are too tired. But there's one thing. If Foul or Fleshharrower or whoever is in command sends any scouts this way, make sure they know we're here. I don't want them to have any doubt about where to find us."
"Yes, Warmark," Terrel said, and stepped away to make the arrangements. Troy and Mhoram went on to their campfire.
They found Lord Verement feeding Callindrill. As he spooned the broth to Callindrill's lips, the hawk-faced Lord talked steadily in a low, exasperated tone, as if his pride were offended; but his movements were gentle, and he did not abandon the task to Mhoram. He hovered over Callindrill until the warm broth had restored a touch of color to his pale cheeks. Then Verement stood up and rasped, "You would be less foolhardy were you not Ranyhyn-borne. A lesser mount would teach you the limits of your own strength."
This inverted repetition of Verement's old accusation against himself momentarily overcame Lord Mhoram. A moan escaped through his teeth, and his eyes filled with tears. For that moment, his courage seemed to fail him, and he reached toward Verement as if he were groping through blind grief. But then he caught himself, smiled crookedly at the rough look of surprise and concern on Verement's face. "Come, my brother," he murmured. "I must speak with you." Together, they walked away into the night, leaving Troy to watch over Callindrill.
In a wan voice, Callindrill asked, "What has happened? What disturbs Mhoram?"
Sighing heavily, Troy seated himself beside the Lord. He was full of all the evil he had caused. He had to swallow several times before he could find his voice to say, "Runnik came back from Korik's mission. Lord Shetra died in the Sarangrave."
Then he was grateful that Callindrill did not speak. He did not think he could stand the reprimand of any more pain. They sat together in silence until Lord Mhoram returned alone.
Mhoram carried himself sorely, as if he had just been beaten with clubs. The flesh around his eyes was red and swollen, sorrowful. But his eyes themselves wielded a hot peril, and his glances were like spears. He said nothing about Lord Verement. Words were unnecessary; Mhoram's expression revealed how Verement took the news of his wife's death.