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A Cat of Silvery Hue by Adams Robert

A Cat of Silvery Hue by Adams Robert

A Cat of Silvery Hue by Adams Robert

PROLOGUE

The shaven scalp of the tall, broad-shouldered young warrior glinted in the light of the rising sun, as did the burnished surfaces of his suit of three-quarter armor and the dolphin-shaped silver goblet in his right hand. Though heavier and squarely masculine, his face bore a startling similarity to those of the two tall, handsome women who stood before him, their hair but slightly darker than his bushy cornsilk eyebrows.

The large, battlemented building, atop the flat roof of which they stood, was known as Morguhn Hall and was the young man’s ancestral home. The hall crowned a gently sloping hill and, to north, south, east and west, as far as the eye might see, the fields and woodlands and rolling leas were all his domain, the Thoheekahtohn of Morguhn.

To their left, a tall column of smoke arose from the rear courtyard, wherein had been laid the funeral pyre of the man who had been husband to the two women and father to the young warrior. Though the man had died of natural causes, the six hacked corpses which had shared his pyre had fallen in battle just hours before their cremations; among them had been a younger son of the two women, Djef Morguhn.

As the hall had but recently been invested, the bailey to their right lay cluttered, and jerrybuilt pens were tightly packed with hundreds of cattle, sheep and goats. The small open space remaining was now filled with above threescore stamping, whickering warhorses, astride most of which were armored and fully armed fighting men. The majority of these riders wore the scalemail hauberks and open-faced helms which identified them as Middle Kingdoms Freefighters or mercenary cavalrymen-armed with broadsword or heavy saber, two-foot hide buckler shod with iron, long, broad dirk and a few short-shafted, well-balanced darts. Ten of the horsemen were alike as peas in a pod, being Horseclansmen but recently arrived from the Sea of Grass,’ thousands of kaiee to the west.

Of the remaining men, all save one were armed with broadswords and spears, and wore three-quarter plate very similar to that of the young man atop the hall. This last man, clad in a flowing white robe, was armed with daggers, a full dozen darts and a doublecurved yaghatan. Where all of the other men’s faces, though tanned by sun and weather, were either olive or fair, his was the rich dark brown of old leather.

One who might have been a younger duplicate of the dark-skinned mounted man stood behind the young man on the rooftop. His name was Eeshmahehl and he was a physician from the Black Kingdoms, far away to the north and east of this land. A rail-thin lad, his own skin almost blue in its blackness, stood by the physician’s side, holding with both hands a gleaming brass bowl. He was but recently freed from an odious bondage to a perverted nobleman and had voluntarily apprenticed himself to the tall, graceful brown-skinned man; his hated master had called him Peeos, but all here used his proper name, Peeair.

Eeshmahehl was placing a fresh bandage over a recent wound in the young man’s scalp. As he performed this task, he talked constantly, explaining to Peeair just what he was doing and why, for so had the master physician, Ahlee, imparted his extensive knowledge to Eeshmahehl. The language he spoke was Kweebehkeekos, for, though Peeair was from an exotic land far to the south, this far-northern tongue was enough like his native speech to be easily comprehensible.

Lifting a thick cloth pad, damp with some liquid from the bowl held by Peeair, the physician briefly held the pad under the lad’s fine-boned nose, slightly canted since a blow of his former master’s fist had broken it “What is the smell, Peeair?”

“Brandy, master.”

Eeshmahehl nodded, placed the pad over the healing wound, held it with his left hand while taking a length of rolled bandage from the compartmented bowl. “Just so, Peeair, just so. And why is the inner bandage so often soaked with brandy, do you remember?”

The boy closed his eyes and knitted his brows in concentration. “To . . . because wounds covered with such dressings seem to heal quicker and cleaner?”

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