Valgard looked down over the valley, arms crossed over his broad chest. It had taken them three days after the goblin ambush, but they had at last caught up with the Cardinal. Janne stood at Valgard’s side and peered down through the trees to where Rorik rested. He was alone, his horse drinking from a nearby stream as the young man reclined by a campfire.
“Why is he alone, Your Grace?” she wondered as she turned to face the Archbishop. “When I saw him at the Reach, he had a full parish.”
“That is an excellent question, Bishop.” Valgard looked down at the hospitalier. “You’re clever. You tell me.”
Janne furrowed her brow in thought for a moment. “He knew he’d be followed?”
“If it was just that, he’d have kept his soldiers nearby.” He gazed back towards his son, shaking his head gently. “And he did know. So why would he separate himself from people that would loyally protect him?”
“Because he knew he’d be caught, and he didn’t want to risk the lives of his men.” Janne nervously smoothed out her frayed tabard. “That’s unnecessary, though, since you’re the one who came for him. You’re his father. Whatever he has done –“
“Justice comes before mercy.” The anger in Valgard’s voice caught Janne off guard, freezing her in midsentence. “He broke his oath to the church by abandoning his duty. There is only one judgment to pass.”
“That’s not right, though!” Janne spread her arms pleadingly. “You’re his father!”
Now Valgard turned, a slow and deliberate movement. “You forget your place, Bishop,” Valgard growled as he glared at Janne. “You are in no position to tell an Archbishop of the church how the locking key is to be used.”
Janne faltered for a moment, then fell to one knee and made the sign of the sword over her chest. “Forgive me, Your Grace,” she whispered.
“I forgive you for your disrespect, as you have asked,” Valgard answered. “Now come. I intend to speak with my son today.”