Here’s part 8 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy for your afternoon ride home!
Bran the Betrayer Pt. 8
They refused to explain any more than that.
Despite his protests and furious demands for an explanation, they forced Bran to go with them. His captors hobbled Kraeya’s front legs by force, so that she wouldn’t be able to land easily or run far, and instructed her that she would carry Bran and Laela and fly with them.
‘Where’re we goin’?’ Bran demanded.
‘To Withypool,’ one of the three griffiners who would guard him along the way finally answered. ‘Where you will stand trial.’
‘For what? What’d I do?’
‘You’ll be told when we arrive,’ was the terse answer.
‘But I ain’t even ever been to Withypool,’ Bran persisted as they gestured at him to climb onto Kraeya’s back.
‘Your accusers are from Eagleholm,’ came the reply.
That was the best explanation he got, before or during the journey to Withypool. Kraeya flew patiently in formation, constantly tailed by the three guard griffiners and several unpartnered griffins as well, who could manoeuvre more easily in the sky than her since they were riderless.
When they landed to rest, the hobbles stayed on Kraeya’s legs and they would add more to her wings during the night. Bran was allowed a tent to sleep in, so he could keep taking care of Laela, but with Kraeya restrained and under guard he had no opportunity to escape. Not that he wanted to; if he ran away now he would become a fugitive. At least if he went to Withypool as they wanted he could clear his name. He was certain he could do that; the charge of high treason was preposterous. He’d never broken the law in his life. His whole adult life had been spent enforcing it, for gods’ sakes. They had to have him confused with someone else, surely.
But assurances like that couldn’t stop his apprehension from growing as Withypool got closer.
Laela seemed to sense his fears, or maybe she just disliked travelling, because she was just as restless as him. Fortunately, though, his captors didn’t pay much attention to her and allowed him to take care of her. But he had no idea what they might do with her when they arrived at Withypool.
He and Kraeya got almost no chance to speak during the journey; in the air it was far too noisy for talk, and on the ground they were seperated. He could tell, though, how angry she was.
‘It is a lie,’ she was finally able to say to him when they landed atop Withypool’s Eyrie. ‘We have not committed any crimes, and we will prove it and be freed.’
‘Let’s hope,’ Bran said grimly as he dismounted. ‘Hey-!’
Two of his guards had just grabbed him by the shoulders. A third took Laela away, and before he could reach out to take her back they had twisted his arms behind him and shackled his wrists together.
Bran struggled. ‘Lemme go!’ he roared. ‘Don’t you dare take her off me, you bastards!’
‘You’re going to be locked up,’ said the griffiner holding Laela. ‘The child will be given to somebody to look after until the trial is over.’
‘Oh no she won’t,’ Bran snapped back. ‘Nobody looks after her but me.’
The woman looked slightly taken aback. ‘You’re going to be in a cell, Lord Redguard.’
‘Then put her in with me if yeh have to,’ said Bran. ‘She stays with me.’
‘All right then,’ the woman shrugged.
Kraeya had already tried to come to Bran’s aid, but the other griffins there surrounded her and herded her away from him.
‘What’re you doin’ with her?’ Bran asked, trying to go to her and failing as his guards held him back.
‘Your partner will be locked up in the fighting pits,’ said the woman, ignoring Laela’s whimpers as she reached out for Bran. ‘Normally she would stand trial with you, but she is not accused of anything.’
‘Dammit, let her go!’ Bran yelled.
‘We will, after the trial,’ the woman said blandly. ‘We can’t risk her interfering. But rest assurred; she won’t be harmed.’
Kraeya snarled. ‘You will not hurt my human!’
The woman ignored that completely, and despite her protests and threats Kraeya was forced away by the other griffins.
‘Bran!’ she called back. ‘Do not falter, do not surrender! I will see you again soon.’
‘Don’t worry!’ Bran called back. ‘I’ll be fine! You take care of yerself, right?’
‘I shall!’ Kraeya took off and flew away down over the city, following her captors. Bran watched her go, and hoped she would be all right. But at least she wasn’t accused of anything. She would be fine.
Now it was just a question of whether he would be fine as well.
The woman who was in charge of his own guard gestured impatiently at her underlings. ‘Take him below. I’ll follow.’
Bran went down into the Eyrie, flanked by two men and followed by the woman. ‘Can yeh tell me what I’ve done?’ he asked.
‘My master will come and see you some time today,’ said the woman. ‘She will give you the list of charges.’
‘Who’s yer master, then?’ Bran persisted.
‘Lady Della, Master of Law,’ said the woman.
Bran already had her own name, at least. ‘You’re Isleen, right?’
‘I am,’ the woman said briefly. She was young; younger than himself, and had a round, bland face.
‘You don’t reckon I did anything, do yeh, Isleen?’ Bran asked, hoping to find at least a little support.
But Isleen’s reply was flat and compassionless. ‘My family burned at Eagleholm,’ was all she said.
‘I didn’t do that!’ Bran protested.
Isleen ignored him.
But she did, at least, keep her word. Once Bran had been taken to a small cell under the Eyrie and his arms had been unshackled, she gave Laela back.
‘Food will be sent down soon for both of you,’ she told him briefly, and left as the cell door slammed behind him.
Bran sat down on the bench provided, and groaned to himself. Laela clung to his arm, confused but clearly happy to be back with her adopted father.
Bran gave her a hug. ‘It’s all right, Laela; I got yeh now. But I’m damned if I know what’s gonna happen to us next.’
‘High treason?’ Bran repeated to himself. ‘What the blazes is goin’ on here? What do they think I did?’
Laela, naturally, didn’t have anything to add to this, so Bran answered himself. ‘Whatever they think I did, I know it’s gotta be a lie, or some kinda mistake. It’s gonna be all right, Laela. We’ll sort it out.’
The cell, at least, wasn’t too bad. Bran had seen plenty of cells during his time as a guard, and this one was more comfortable than most. It had a bench, and a small bed, and even a chair. He guessed that this must be a high class cell, meant for griffiners. He’d never seen one himself, but he knew griffiners got better treatment even when they were in prison.
The food when it came was good too; a bowl of hot stew for him, with bread on the side, and boiled carrots and milk for Laela.
Bran fed her before he ate his own meal, and cleaned her up as well as he could with the jug of water provided. He did his best to neaten himself up as well, hoping to make a slightly better impression on the Master of Law when she arrived. After that there was nothing he could do but wait, and hope.
We’ll post up Part 9 next Friday 20th April!
K.J Taylor is the author of the Fallen Moon Trilogy: