Irmin: Of Hunting Kings

Arden is cool-- It is always cool, no matter the season. Something about the age and youth about it keeps it from ever becoming balmy or stifling. The forest is usually peaceful, but today, there is a tenseness about it that only a seasoned Ranger can feel...

Irmin stands off to the side of a woman who stands slightly shorter than him. Her hair is done in hundreds of braids down her back, and her face and clothes are dusty from weeks of living in the trees. She is the woman who gave him life, and she is named Lledra. The two of them lead a shadow regiment in Arden, large, and unknown by any of the Amberites, save Julian.

The guard has grown increasing nervous over the past few years. One dark night, Julian left Amber and Arden, and has not been sighted since. Brief absences were common, but he always came back... Arden was his heart. A man cannot live without his heart.

Lledra paces in front of her men, lining out a plan of attack. She's lured an Amberite to the forest, the one she is convinced drove Julian off, and perhaps even killed him. They will get their answers today, Blood Curse or no.

Irmin turns to his mother. "Do you think Uncle Corwin will have back - up?" Irmin reaches down and scratches the top of Vlar's head.

She laughs. "He has a guard, all right. Jebin and Dale. My men. They all feel so safe here... They _think_ it's their land. Don't worry. We've been watching him for an hour now... He doesn't have anyone else with him."

Irmin smiles. "Good. For I will know what has happened with my father. If I have to go through the whole family to do so."

She nods at his resolve, then draws out her crossbow, keeping an eye on the road below them. "We'll have to get his sword and deck off him immediately. You don't want to get close to a Pattern blade, and he's deadly with any weapon. He's better than your father, Irmin.

Don't try to go one on one with him."

Pulling out his longbow "Fear not mother. Father was wise to let me be raised hidden away from the family. He has also warned me about many of the family." Irmin looks around to make sure everyone is in place. "Though I do have the best chance to get his items away from him."

"I agree. I'll cover the sword, you severe the deck. Are you ready?" She tucks a black cloth in her belt, and nods to the men surrounding them, and they leave, moving to secure the road.

"As ready as I can be. Lead on mother." Irmin responds as he goes to follow her.

The climb down from the post, and Lledra keeps her eye to the path that Corwin chose that morning. In the distance, a man on horse appears, trailed by two more mounted soldiers. "On time. Just like a king."

Notching an arrow Irmin takes aim on the strap to Corwinís saddle. "King or not I will have my answers today." Then waiting till Corwin is within the perimeter of the trap he lets fly. Immediately he drops the bow and pulls out his sword. "Lets go mother."

The sword falls, and Irmin sees Corwin turns his horse tightly... Only to see two arrows pointed at the centre of his forehead. A hand goes to his deck, but is hit as Lledra looses a quarrel, knocking it to the dirt.

He holds his hands up as Lledra approaches, another quarrel already loaded.

"Dismount, or I'll kill the horse." He slowly moves to the ground, his eyes locked with hers.

Quickly retrieving the dropped items Irmin pockets the deck and passes the sword off to one of the rangers standing by him. "Keep this thing out of sight." Then walking back to his mothers side, he turns towards Corwin. "I believe my mother asked you to dismount."

Corwin's feet hit the ground. "What's the meaning of this?" His voice is steely and hard. Lledra moves forward, a black cloth in her hand. She passes her bow to one of the other rangers nearby, and ties it around the king's eyes.

"You'll not be shifting away, will you?" She stands back and retrieves her crossbow.

"Where's my husband, cur?"

"Mother. I think we will be safest talking about this back at the tree in Saxony. With him blindfolded like that he can't discern where we are going." Irmin says as he binds Corwinís hands and feet.

She nods. "Leave his feet. He won't run if he knows what's good for him." She turns her gaze to the blindfolded king. "And the second I see a rainbow around that head of yours, your family will be pulling back a king with an arrow through his forehead, understand?" Corwin

nods stiffly, seething, but resigned.

Lledra leads them to a side camp, a few miles off from the main one. The men from their regiment are everywhere, faded into the brush and trees. At the camp, Corwin is seated and bound to a tree.

Irmin makes all the preparations for the journey before reporting back to his mother. "We are ready to move out when your are mother." He then turns and snarls at Corwin before spitting on his boot.

"We won't be going far." She looks at Irmin. "The more we move out of Arden, the more we're compromised. And he's not moving. You know what Amberites can do when they move." She paces in front of the bound king.

"As I asked before, where's my husband, cur?"

Corwin raises his head to where he thinks Lledra is. "And who would that be?"

"You know we speak of Julian. Now answer my mother before I lose myself and hurt you" Irmin snarls at him.

He straightens as much as he can, and when he speaks, his tone is even and calm.

"I haven't seen Julian in several years. I had thought he was simply in Arden."

Lledra narrows her eyes and paces again. "I know what your murdering bunch are like. Julian's told me enough to fill me for a score of lifetimes."

"YOU LIE! TELL US NOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE WITH MY FATHER BEFORE I

START TAKING PIECES OFF OF YOU!" Irmin yells, as it is obvious to see that he is short tempered.

"Irmin!" Lledra's voice cracks like a whip. "Calm yourself!" She puts a hand on his chest and pushes him back slightly.

"I won't have you living out a blood curse, boy. You heard what it did to that brother of his." She turns her gaze back to Corwin, and he seems to sense it.

"I did not even know Julian was married," he says, "Or that he had a child. He was a private man, and we left him to his forest when he seemed to wish it."

The obvious strain used to keep himself under control is evident in Irminís tense muscles and popping veins on his forehead. Then in as calm a voice as he can muster. "This is the exact reason why he did so. My father wanted me kept away from all of your bickering and infighting. He raised me off in shadow to be his replacement should the day come. Well that day seems to be upon us a little to soon." Pausing to take a deep breath. "I will find out what has happened to my father, if I have to go through every last one of you to do so. So for everyone's sake here. Tell us what has become of my father or in the very least everything you might suspect or know so that the correct person can be found and made to pay for what they have done."

"I've told you-- He left, and we had assumed that he was in Arden