For your reading pleasure: Here’s a little bit of what’s coming up in GWIII.
Five men ranged in front of their employer. They were scruffy, muddy, but capable; their weapons were clean, their hands dirty, as they were advertised. They were scuffed up. The lord took in the bruises on one, scrapes on another. He shook his head.
“You couldn’t keep hold of one puny boy?” His voice was full of disgust.
The leader of the men ticked off his reasons on one weatherbeaten hand. “You wanted him alive. You wanted him unhurt. You wanted it to happen unseen. You didn’t tell us there was still plenty of traffic on the road in and around Terrick. I made a decision to abandon the plan, try again after dark.”
“So first, you take flight when one man shows up who just happens–”
“You wanted us to be unseen–”
“Who just happens to know which end of the sword to hold–”
“He was better than that–”
“He was one man!” He roared it.
“You wanted it to be unseen!” The gangleader roared back, and they stood nose to elegant nose. “You said you wanted the boy to disappear!”
“Well, he didn’t, did he!” The lord took the paperweight off his desk and threw it at the door. The men ducked reflexively as the carved stone paperweight hit the oak so hard it splintered.
“He didn’t disappear,” he said more quietly. “He got away. And when you tried again, he got away again. Only this time, the whole household got to see it.”
The men all glanced among one another sulkily. He knew they were debating whether to remind him that it wasn’t the whole household, just the strange traveler, who could use a sword for sure, the baby sister, and the householder girl.
I was so close to having Terrick in my fist, he thought. Instead, now he’s Salt and Kennery’s, tied up right and tight. Soldier’s god. What does a man have to do to become High King around here? He composed himself.
“So, you missed,” he said. “Do you still want to be paid?”
The leader looked calculating and eager. “We can make it right. We can go back. There’s a lot going on. The news of the wedding between Kennery and Terrick has the smallholders buzzing with the news. They might be distracted enough…” he trailed off when the lord pinched the bridge of his nose.
For a second he sustained the fantastic notion of another go. Third time’s the charm… but no. The roads were closing. His men would not be able to get in and out before winter set in in earnest. It had been a good plan, too, if a bit more bald-faced than he was used to. He wouldn’t have sent a ransom to Terrick, oh no. But he would make sure the man knew who was responsible for the disappearance of his son. Now, the boy’s usefulness was over. Time for another plan entirely.
The lord’s gaze went out the window. Snow fell outside the small panes, and he could see the faint pinpoints of light from the candles reflected in the glass, floating in the air. Winter was a time for planning, not action. By the time the thaws came, he would set other events into play, and he had long nights and dark days to plan.
“No,” he said. “No, we’re not going after the boy again. But I still have use for you. You have lodgings?”
The leader nodded. The lord waved a hand in dismissal. When he was alone, he stood in front of the fire, thinking. Kenery and Salt were kingmaking, for sure. And it was the only thing that could entice Terrick to lose his gods-forsaken honor and throw in. He hated both of them, but he had crowns in his eyes, and that made a man open to strange bedfellows.
I don’t need anyone to crown me, he thought. I’ll make myself my own king. And he had all winter to set the wheels in motion. He just needed to know one thing.
Who had sent the traveler with the sword to defend Terrick?