The Mountain Baron

Fog loomed thick on the mountain’s slope. The rider could see nothing past twenty yards. Rocks and desperate shrubs loomed suddenly in front of him to then fade away as quickly as they had appeared. His horse’s hooves echoed dully off the mountain path. The leathers beaded with moisture, but the oil protected them. There were no spare bits of harness to make extra noise, but he had no fear of being attacked here.

The Cardic Mountains were full of outlaws and mercenaries, castaways just like him. And he ruled them all. The Mountain Baron they called him, lord of the Dragon Keep situated high in the Shang Pass between Alsaya and Gedrin.

He adjusted his seat as his horse slid a step down an incline. The shaggy black mountain horse snorted in irritation at losing its footing. A glimmer of sunlight broke through the fog before it was swallowed back up. The clustering pines and spruce began to spread further from the path. They were getting closer to the lowlands.

He tugged at the high collar of his leather jerkin. He’d been content to remain in the mountains, carving out his own form of justice. But the message had upset the fragile balance he’d maintained for seven long years. His horse jerked at the sudden tightness of the reins, and he apologized with a light tap to its neck.

“MacDuffy’s Seer has been taken.”

The words came back to taunt him. The chieftain of the seven northern clans was playing a dangerous game sending a message to him of all people. The one person who couldn’t do anything.

“Chieftain MacTavish requests you return to speak with Laird MacDuffy, and gives you permission to return to the Seer’s family.”

He hadn’t yet decided if that had been a taunt or something of a peace offering. He just wasn’t sure if he wanted to see the Seer’s family. Or if they would even want to see him. He reined in, ready to turn back up the path and return to the keep.

This is a mistake. He rubbed at the scar that traced from below his right eye to his jawline. But Sean’s been taken.

He nudged his horse back up to a walk with a curse. Apparently he’d still do anything for his…He’s not my brother anymore.

The fog lifted by the time he made it to the end of the mountain trail and into the lowlands of Alsaya. The sun was well on its way into the sky. His horse shook any remaining moisture out of its mane and obediently picked up its pace to a trot.

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