Jura could do nothing but gape. The legend was that when the true king of Lanconia arrived the gate would open for him.
She recovered herself. “No one has tried to open that gate in years; it must be rusted through. No doubt the battering ram knocked it loose, then when this Englishman pushed on it, it opened. Surely everyone knew that.”
“Xante went on his knees before the prince.”
“Xante?” Jura asked, eyes wide. “Xante? The one who laughs whenever the Englishman is mentioned? The same Xante who sent back messages saying what a fool the man was?”
“He bowed his head and called him Prince. All the guard and all the people who were there bowed before him.”
Jura looked away. “This will make it harder. The peasants are a superstitious lot, although I had hoped better of the guard. We will have to make them see that they were just a pair of rusty gates. Has Thal been told?”
“Yes,” Daire answered. “They are with him now.”
“Prince Rowan, his sister, and her son.”
Jura toyed with her javelin and began to feel overwhelmed. It felt as if she were the only sane person left. Was all Lanconia willing to throw away what it knew to be true merely because some rusty gate opened after being hit with a battering ram? Surely at least Daire did not believe in this usurper. “We must convince Thal that Geralt should be king. Tell me, are they very English? Do they look and act foreign?”
Suddenly, as quick as a snake, Daire’s arm shot out and grabbed the thick braid of Jura’s hair and wrapped it about his wrist and forced her face close to his.
“Daire!” she gasped. She had not been prepared for his movement. When she was with him, her guard was down; he had her complete trust.
“You are mine,” he said throatily. “You have been mine since you were five years old. I’ll share you with no one.”
The light in his eyes frightened her. “What has happened?” she whispered. “What has this Rowan done?”
“Perhaps you can answer that better than I.”
She recovered from her fear. She still held her javelin in her left hand and now she pushed the point against his ribs. “Release me or I’ll put a hole in you.”
As abruptly as he had grabbed her, he released her hair then smiled.
Jura did not return his smile. “You will explain yourself.”
Daire shrugged. “Cannot a lover be jealous?”
“Jealous of whom?” Ju
ra asked angrily.
He didn’t answer her and she didn’t like the way his lips were smiling but his eyes were not. They had been together too many years, for he was able to read her thoughts. Somehow he had been able to see through that first kiss of hers, and her talk of the Englishman had not led him from the scent. She had betrayed herself in that kiss and let him know that something was wrong.
She smiled at him. “You have no reason to be jealous. Perhaps it is my anger that makes me—” she hesitated—“seek you out.” She looked at him and silently pleaded with him to not press her further.
At last he, too, smiled. “Come,” he said, “don’t you want to meet your new prince?”
She breathed a sigh of relief that the tense moment was over and lifted her javelin again. “I’d as soon walk into the Ultens’ camp alone.” That odd look returned to Daire’s face, but this time she was not going to ask its cause. “Go on, go back to him,” she said. “Thal will want you. Everyone will be needed to bring this soft white Englishman his sweetmeats.”
Daire stayed where he was. “I’m sure there will be feasting later.”
Jura threw her javelin hard and hit the target in the red center. “I don’t think I’ll be in the least hungry tonight. Go on, get out of here. I need to train.”
Daire was frowning at her as if something puzzled him, and without another word he turned back toward the walled city.
Angrily, Jura jerked her javelin from the straw-filled target. So much for a lover’s return, she thought. She threw her arms about him and he pushed her away, yet a moment later he pulled her hair and told her he was jealous. Why didn’t he show his jealousy with a few kisses? Why hadn’t he done something to erase the memory of the man by the river?
She threw her javelin again and again. She planned to spend the day in hard exercise so that tonight she would be too tired to remember that man’s hands on her legs, or his lips on hers or—She uttered a curse and heaved the javelin and missed the target completely. “Men!” she said in anger. Daire stared at her, pulled her hair, and another man caressed her thighs, while an Englishman threatened all of Lanconia. She threw her javelin again and this time hit the center perfectly.