That girl. Gandrik thought, stroking his greying, once nutmeg brown beard. She is familiar. I have seen her before, I know I have. No, not before. I have seen her afore, but not yet.
The Keeper of Wands stood on the slope leading down from the great hall. He was surrounded by a swarming mass of bedraggled peasants caked in soot. They ran in all directions with buckets spilling water over their rims. To his surprise, none of the water seemed to make it onto the crackling fire which had been King Utter’s hall.
Was it so surprising? The king had been an unpopular man, especially amongst his Briton serfs. With that in mind, the real mystery was why the people had not already begun to rejoice. Likely, they were waiting for permission from King Utter’s charred corpse. Once under a Saxon heel, forever downtrodden. He thought.
“Is my pa dead?” the girl asked.
Gandrik had forgotten her, but that was understandable. She was very small, easy to miss. No tears speckled her grubby cheeks, that was as well. The Keeper of Wands knew nothing of comforting small girls.
Was her father dead? That was without a doubt. Why had Gandrik killed him? There was the real mystery.
The trouble with having spent so many lifetimes wandering was that certain grains of information slipped his grasp. He knew every track and hedge between Hadrian’s Wall and the southerly sea. Which god’s day it was, he did not know. Who this girl was, he had almost forgotten.
A higher power had demanded the killing, or else recommended it. That might have happened even before King Utter was born. How could Gadrik say for sure? The king was an inconvenience to… Who?
“I remember you, Arta!” Gandrik cried, picking the girl up in his arms and grunting as her small fist clipped his wrinkled cheek.
“We’ve never met. Put me down.”
Not yet, but I remember you from memories yet to be forged. Time is a meandering, tricky thing after all. You’ll remember me yet and I’ll not forget you.
Gandrik dropped the girl to the ground so that Arta landed on her backside and rolled a short way down the slope. By the time she had struggled to her feet, the old man was shuffling away down the broken track leading out of her village. A black column of smoke swirled up behind her from the hall of King Utter, who her Briton mother had called Uther.
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