A plan. Storm god’s nether regions, if I had a plan I wouldn’t be in that predicament. The Owl gripped my shoulder, urging me to speak.
“There is a plan,” I said. Everyone cheered. “It is being refined,” I added in an attempt to find a way out of this mess. I doubted my voice could influence them all, especially the Nord. Zat was in the other room and there didn’t appear to be anything he could burn – other than the lantern oil from the hanging lanterns. The room seemed otherwise empty of furniture or fire.
I looked out at the 50 or so expectant faces and bit my lower lip.
“You have questions? There’s a room full of answers,” my mother’s voice came to me. She’d been referring to the library, at the time, but…
“Before I can give you any more details,” I said, taking a deep breath, “I would like to review, for everyone present, the ‘why’ behind the plan. Who can tell me why we want to attack the Grand Council?”
The Owl gave a soft laugh, but one of the group – the young boy who had taken care of the bird/horse – stepped forward.
“The Grand Council does nothing to help the people.” Several adults grunted in approval. The boy continued, “When my father’s farm dried up, they sent us a rude sentinel who didn’t help.”
The man with the scar on his face put his arm around the boy, adding, “My son is right. Our Council of Elders prayed to the weather gods and nothing happened. We send to the Grand Council hoping to get an answer, but their sentinel only asked about missing people. He didn’t bring us ideas on how to get water to our crops or our cattle. When we demanded answers, he rode away on his strange horse. So I say bugger the Grand Council. We want our King back.”
This generated a greater cheer.
“And Grand Councilor Fadreel?” I asked when they’d quieted down.
“A council is made up of equals,” Dreanan said in a calm voice. “Fadreel is the ‘head’ of the council. How can a circle have a head? He wants to rule the country and ignores the treaties made with Elidyr.” More grunts of agreement.
“Fadreel is a monster,” someone shouted.
“What about the Dvergr?” A sudden silence met my question. The Owl cleared his throat and changed the subject.
“Fadreel is a monster,” he said, “And he will be put down like a rabid skunk. Take heart, friends, our King has been found.”
Everyone cheered and The Owl lead me away with a strong arm around my shoulders.
Once we arrived at a mostly private spot – a room with pallets and a makeshift fireplace that served as a source of heat and a place to cook – I turned to him.
“I know you believe that I’m the son of King Myrik, but I don’t remember that. I barely remember my mother – and what I remember of her is in bits and pieces. She was the village witch – in middle-of-no-where Oakvale. She was married to Dorn the Miller. She died,” as I said it, a sense of loss and guilt covered me. “And I did her no honor.”
Zat appeared in the fireplace and zoomed over to hover around my head. The Owl held up a hand and Zat permitted him to stroke it. He let it free and sat down next to me.
“Angestirian, your mother took the memory of your childhood from you in an attempt to save you from Fadreel.”
“Why? The Grand Council happened after the king died, right?”
“Fadreel was your father’s closest councilor.”
Perhaps Sentinel Vytar was incorrect and The Owl wasn’t a murderer.
“Did he kill the king?”
“No. I did.” The way he said it, so cold, so matter of fact, made my skin crawl. I leaned away from him and crossed my arms. Zat settled on my shoulder and purred in my ear.
“Understand, Myrik was not a nice person. What I did, I did to protect your mother and you. Fadreel encouraged Myrik in certain,” he paused and looked at the ceiling. “pursuits.”
“Such as?” I asked after he didn’t go on.
He shook his head.
“So you killed him? Why not kill Fadreel too – if he encouraged whatever it is that made Myrik bad?”
“Would that I had – then we wouldn’t be in this predicament, would we?” He flashed a grin at me that made me get up and walk to the other side of the table.
“So the other things that I’ve heard about you are true too?”
He puffed out his chest and nodded. “I am The Owl, I swoop in silently, take my prey, and swoop out. No one knows when I will strike.”
I considered this.
“And these ‘followers,’ what are they?”
“Loyalists. I’ve taught them to fight.”
I thought of Torgood’s uncanny fighting ability.
“Were you ever in Oakvale?”
“Of course. I came to help your mother when you had your terrible accident and lost your son. I am so sorry, Angestirian. So sorry.” He shook his head.
I didn’t want his sorrow or his pity. Anger, the need for vengeance, or some combination made me start to pace.
“Did you teach my friend how to fight?”
The Owl raised a snowy eyebrow. “That tall fellow who should have been a bard?”
I nodded.
He shrugged. “It amused me.”
“Teach me.”