57. The House of Rebels
“There will be a battle,” said Gordie. “Soon.”
“Not if you agree to be Mai’iro’s ally,” I pointed out. “It could all be avoided.” We sat side by side before this house of Mai’iro and his men. The House of Rebels I had named it in my mind.
“I fear to make any decision until I have word on Malee,” my companion replied. “I do not wish to lie either.”
Meaning he might? “He will wish to fight the smaller force, Aranu’s men, before anyone else arrives,” he said, continuing his first thought. “Maybe we can get you away during it. You must promise to care for Malee if you do and — and I don’t.”
“You must escape too,” I said. “That will take care of everything.”
“I agreed to stay, remember?” Would he stay true to that promise still?
“At his camp. Not here.”
Gordie laughed rather loudly at that. “Ah, what an excellent little sophist you are, Ranadi!” I did not know the word so I took it as a compliment. “I don’t think that is quite acceptable.”
But he was tempted, I could tell. “Then the only other solution is to kill our host,” I informed him. “You never promised not to do that.”
“This is so.” He was quiet for some time. Perhaps he was thinking of ways to murder Mai’iro. Then he looked up, as if something had caught his attention.
I followed his eyes. The tall gates of the stockade were being swung closed. “Aranu and Bafa must be here,” I whispered.
One of Mai’iro’s lieutenants approached. “You two. Inside,” he ordered. I could see he was a man of mixed blood, as many of those who served Gordie. Had he been promised the life of a Mora warrior? Maybe even nobility? Mai’iro would probably promise anything — and I would believe none of it.
We returned to what passed for our room in the structure, an open spot with a pair of sleeping mats. A woven mat, with many holes, hung on one side to afford a slight illusion of privacy. It had been assumed Gordie and I shared a chamber. “So we wait,” was all he had to say.
We had too much of that, I wanted to reply. I held my tongue. Instead, I asked my fellow prisoner, “Do you think Lady Ma’ave will come to live at the House of Gordie?”
“She would have to visit, at least.” He chuckled. “The real question is whether I would go live at the House of Pua.”
“The House of Naio,” I corrected him. “It is her husband’s house, officially.” I now became a bit serious. “Both of you would be welcome at the House of the High King, I think. And, of course, at Marareta’s home.”
“And you will live by A’auwa, won’t you?”
“Perhaps,” was all I was willing to answer to that, for truly I did not know.
“And Ma’ave and I are also still ‘perhaps,’ are we not? I shall worry about that when we are gone from here.”
Surely the Mora woman would not reject him! But then, I had — and there was no going back on that. The house was almost deserted for all the warriors were at the walls. Where the few women I had seen might be, I had no idea. A shadow approached, moving through the dim-lit spaces, moving from the concealment of one roof post to another.
“Master,” came a throaty whisper.
“Pahe?” Then the immediate question. “Malee?”
“She and Lady Ma’ave are safely with Lord Beka, who was coming north with warriors. His scouts came upon us, hurrying south.” He squatted beside us and continued. “And then I was the one to hurry back north again!”
“How did you get in here?” I asked.
“I simply walked in earlier with some of the men who serve here. They are very lax.”
“Never had reason to be cautious before,” felt Gordie. “Now you are trapped here.”
Pahe answered cheerfully. “Only until Lord Beka and Lord Ponu bring their men to climb over these walls.”
“Mai’iro will surely take his own warriors out to attack those already here before they come,” Gordie said. “He greatly outnumbers Aranu’s force. And I fear he has more men coming, maybe from beyond the hills.” The next words came reluctantly. “Some of them men who once served me.”
The familiar scowl returned to Pahe’s face. “Traitors,” he spat.
“But I can not blame them too much. I never made clear my intentions.” He smiled thinly. “I do not think I was sure of them myself. Now I am.”
“That is good, Lord Gordie. What do we do?”
“For now, wait. Opportunities do arise and we must be ready to make the best of them.”
That sounded like Gordie, indeed. I hoped he was right.
Maybe we could get out when the gates were opened for Mai’iro’s warriors. Or get out over the wall while they were occupied. These thoughts came and went in my head. But Gordie would again refuse to escape with us. Of this I was fairly sure, and I suspected it was not just because of a promise.
“I need a weapon,” he said after a while. “You have only a knife, Pahe?”
“Yes, lord,” came his reply. “It should be easy enough to find some here. Possibly lying about in this house.” With that he slipped away.
“You must keep out of the way when there is battle here,” Gordie told me. He sounded certain there would be. Pahe returned in a few minutes with what implements of war he could find.
“I managed a spear,” he told us, holding it up. “A knife for each of you. The edges are not too good.” I was glad he thought of me, even if I was supposed to stay out of the way. “A club in the Mora style. Would the Taona Marareta were here to wield it!”
“You will have to do, Pahe. The spear is probably the better choice for me,” said Gordie. He gazed toward the sunlit yard. “We can get closer and see what is going on. No one will pay attention to us now.”
Probably true, as long as we did not leave this house. As I stood beside him, gazing out at Mai’iro’s gathering warriors, he leaned down and whispered, “Now I know Malee is safe, I do not fear to act. Maybe I will not live past this day. I do not know, Ranadi. Remain safe.” He kissed me then, the first time and the last.
“They are ready to march out,” he said. “When the gate is closed behind them, we act.”
Pahe nodded. I am sure he had no more idea what his master intended than did I.
We watched as the the heavy gate of split logs was closed and barred. Lord Mai’iro came walking back from it with a handful of retainers. I was not too surprised that he had not chosen to go out and fight himself.
Gordie stepped out into the way. “Mai’iro!” he cried out, brandishing his spear. “Face me!”