Western Watch — Chapter 5

Honor Bout“Is it true?” The question hangs in the air like an obscenity slipped into a Temple prayer. Merreth stands looking out the window, feet apart, hands behind her back. A breeze flicks up a few dry leaves and carries them off towards a distant field. To be one of them right now, she thinks. Perhaps I am.

They’re in an outbuilding of the new Watch Hall, by the look of it, a scribes’ dormitory. Sawdust still covers floor, the walls are freshly paneled, desks and bunk-frames are draped with painters’ drop sheets. Rhekhell’s office at the busy inn will not serve for this conversation. Too many ears. As it was too many eyes had seen Merreth ride up from the riverside surrounded by constables and the Red Hand. Instead, the High Mistress had met them here, at an unfinished building still skeletoned with scaffolding.

“I asked you, Lady Merreth, is it true?” Rehkhell paces along the far wall.

“Does it matter?” asks Merreth.

Rehkhell crumples the summons in her fist. It hasn’t left her hand since Merreth saw her snatch it from an infuriated Tiandraa. “If you’re guilty of what’s written here, you’ll be hanging from a silk rope before year’s end!”

“I doubt it would come to that.” Merreth watches another leaf flutter off to the field, as if chasing the others. She’s numb, her heart dusted in frost. Her fear is distant, a storm on the horizon, now that the crisis has arrived. She hopes it stays there. She needs time to think, to figure a way out this trap. There’s one way. All it would cost would be two years and a tacit admission of guilt, unless …

“The accusations are false?”

Merreth nods at the balled paper in Rehkhell’s hand. “I’ll be dead before I come to trial. Conveyed to ‘secure and appropriate lodgings by representatives of the aggrieved party’”, she says, quoting from the summons. “It’s unlikely I will arrive breathing, however.”

“Don’t be absurd, Lady Merreth. Such things may happen in the surrounding patriarchies, but inside our borders the law rules.” Rehkhell pulls a drop sheet from a chair and sits down. “You’ll arrive unharmed.” An edge creeps into her voice. “There will be a trial and a verdict rendered.”

I notice you didn’t say I’ll be found innocent, thinks Merreth. There’s a noise outside the window. A couple of horses come into view. Two Red Hand couriers, mounted, joined by a Watch constable on foot. She knows Sarrit is out there somewhere as well, no doubt pacing back and forth and chewing his lip. Tiandraa and Lyadkell will be watching him with bored disdain when they aren’t studying the building and trying to guess what’s going on inside.

“You’re not here to help us,” says Rhekhell. “and your sister didn’t send you.”

I should be cautious, thinks Merreth. Rhekhell holds her fate in her hand and could crush it just like the crumpled summons. And yet … “I never said she did. You assumed my reasons for being here.”

“Reasons which are now clear,” says Rhekhell. “You were to stay at Sable House Hold, Lady Merreth, yet you chose to violate the ban and flee here.” Her gaze flicks westward, towards the unseen river. “Not surprising, where else would you run?”

“I didn’t run,” snaps Merreth. She reigns in her temper. She’d been worried about fear. Anger is a more dangerous enemy right now. “What will you do, High Mistress? Send me to my trial?”

Rhekhell stuffs the summons into her pocket. “Tell me the accusations are baseless lies! Tell me you ran because you were frightened! If all of this is true, you’ve spat on your mother’s memory, turned her generosity into nothing more than a foolish, selfish act.”

“Generosity?” asks Merreth. “What the blazes are you talking …”

“Is it true?” Rhekhell is up and standing inches from Merreth, glaring into her eyes. “Answer me!”

Merreth remembers the warm crimson running off her fingers. The sensation was exhilarating. “I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t remember.”

“You don’t remember,” repeats Rhekhell. “No Wechtan noble would act as you have. Blood will tell.” She shakes her head. “Blood will always tell. Your mother was warned and she followed her heart instead of her head.” Rhekhell walks to the door pauses and glances back at Merreth. “My hands are tied by our traditions and our laws. You leave with the Red Hand within the hour.”

“And flout a Watch tradition, act as no other Watch noble would?”

Rehkhell’s eyes narrow. “What are you talking about?”

A way out on my terms, Merreth thinks. “A duel.”

#

There is a light knock on the door as Merreth pulls on her boots. She can barely hear it, but then again, it is a very stout door. “Yes?” she calls.

A metallic rattle in the keyhole and another knock, this time louder. Merreth gets off the bed and pulls the door open. “Good morning, Sarrit. Come to fetch me have you?” She keeps her voice light. Sarrit is the closest thing to a friend she’s likely to see in the near future.

Sarrit stands, solemn-faced, key in hand.

Merreth looks down the short hallway. “What, no armed constables to stop me from butchering you and making my escape?”

“They’re downstairs.”

“You hardly flinched when I mentioned butchering. You’re getting braver.”

“Well, you don’t have your sword, or your dirks, so you’d have to butcher me with your bare hands.”

“I’m good at that. Ask the Red Hand.” Merreth cocks her head and smiles at him.

Sarrit drops his eyes. “I don’t believe that.”

“Thank you. Why?” asks Merreth.

“We should go, Lady Merreth. They’re waiting for you.”

Sarrit turns, but stops short when Merreth grabs his shoulder.

“Answer me, Sarrit.”

“Because you said you didn’t know,” Sarrit says quickly, “when the High Mistress asked you yesterday.”

Merreth releases him. “She told you that?”

Sarrit shrugs. “It came out when she questioned me about you. She was quite angry with you, and your answer. She still is.”

“She made her disappointment known,” says Merreth. “That convinced you that I am not everything that the Red Hand claims?”

Sarrit meets Merreth’s gaze. “The guilty would claim innocence, so would the innocent. There would be little profit in professing uncertainty if one was guilty.”

“Slender reasoning, Sarrit.”

“That, and I consider myself a good judge of character.”

“You’re sure I have character? You mentioned my sword and my dirks. When will those be returned?”

“You should ask the High Mistress,” says Sarrit, “even if you win today, the answer is likely to be ‘never’”.

#

“Quite a reception,” Merreth says under her breath as she rides Winddancer through the armoury gates. Across a large, sandy courtyard is a low stone building with few windows and fewer doors. Beside it are viewing stands, hastily erected, workmen still bracing the joists even as scores of commoners clamber onto the benches and jostle each other for the best view. A smaller stand, with awnings, has been provided for Watch nobles. The stout logs of the wooden palisade surround the courtyard. Vending carts are arrayed along the walls, their owners hawking wine, sausage, and pastries to the spectators. The whole place has the look of a market fair held in a hastily built fort, something thrown up by the old Karthian empire at its high water mark.

The sun has scarcely cleared the palisade’s eastern wall but already Merreth feels sweat-sticky, her hair heavy and matted under her hat. She stretches in her saddle and glances at the retinue that accompanies her: young Watch nobles sitting stiff in the saddle, excited but loathe to betray the situation’s gravity, and the Red Hand couriers, eyeing her with icy contempt.

A shout goes up from the crowd as Merreth is spotted. She sees Tiandraa and Lyadkell look her way from in front of the nobles’ stand. A half dozen constables jog towards Merreth, carrying sword catchers. She smiles grimly. She has no sword. At least not yet.

Merreth swings out of her saddle and ties Winddancer to a hitching post. A carriage rolls up, its wheels crunching through the sand and gravel. Sarrit jumps down from the box seat while Duggel carefully steps out and sniffs at Merreth before striding off towards a knot of officials across the courtyard.

“Should I go over the procedures for you again?” asks Sarrit.

“I’m a slavering blood-crazed butcher, Sarrit, but I’m not forgetful.”

Sarrit’s mouth opens, snaps shut, then opens again. “As you say, Lady Merreth.”

“Where’s Rehkhell?” she asks. The words have left her mouth before she realizes she’s dropped the honorific.

“The High Mistress came out earlier to confer with the City Armourer.”

“Without you, or Duggel, it seems,” says Merreth as she watches Rehkhell’s Chief Scribe in deep conversation with several of her former escort.

“Duggel was somewhat put out by that,” says Sarrit. He points to the center of the courtyard. “They’re preparing the circle.”

Two servants dressed in grey tunics use hoes to mark out a circle in the sand, precisely thirty paces in diameter. Three more carefully rake a wide path outside the circle’s perimeter. If Merreth or Tiandraa step out of the circle, their footprints will be instantly visible.

The constables reach Merreth and Sarrit. “Lady Merreth, if you would please accompany us.”

Merreth shrugs and starts off towards the nobles’ viewing stand. The constables and Sarrit hurry to fall in on either side. Bunting, thinks Merreth. By the Goddess, they are actually putting bunting around the stands! “Such elaborate preparations,” she says. “Especially in light of the fact there’s been less than a day to prepare.”

“The rumour, Lady Merreth,” Sarrit lowers his voice, “is that Lady Tiandraa has been spending freely to attract a crowd of both the commoners and the merchants. Those local nobility have come out of curiosity. The High Mistress suggests that Lady Tiandraa is seeking to make a point.”

Rehkhell emerges from the armoury accompanied by scribes and several nobles. Tiandraa and Lyadkell hasten towards them. All eyes turn in Merreth’s direction.

Her stomach flutters. She comes to a halt. The constables join Rhekhell’s group, though Sarrit remains at Merreth’s side. Rehkhell purses her lips and studies Merreth. Her scribes nudge each other and stare. The nobles wear expressions of cold disapproval and stand nearest to Tiandraa and Lyadkell.

“Well?” asks Merreth. “Now what?”

Rehkhell frowns at the question, as if Merreth has spoken out of turn, violated some tradition.

Duggel draws himself up and thrusts out his chin. “Lady Merreth,” he says, pitching his voice to carry. “Lady Tiandraa seeks redress for a most grievous insult offered by yourself, yesterday.” He stresses the words ‘most grievous’, his eyes glinting.

“Skip the formalities and get to it,” says Tiandraa. “Protocol is wasted on criminals.”

“Lady Tiandraa!” snaps Rehkhell to the sound of surprised murmurs, “I’ll not let you turn this into a riverside brawl. Bad enough that you’ve contrived this,” she waves a hand around, “carnival. We all know you’ve been in the circle many times. Lady Merreth has not.” She nods at Duggel. “Continue, please.”

Duggel clears his throat. “Lady Merreth, do you offer apology to the one you have wronged?”

“Well, if I did that, there’d be no point to a duel, now would there?”

Duggel stares at her. “Do you offer apology and seek forgiveness from Lady Tiandraa?” His gaze flicks over Sarrit. “Didn’t Sarrit speak to you of this?” he asks under his breath.

“Of course he did,” says Merreth. He hadn’t, or rather Merreth hadn’t really given him a chance, but Duggel’s smirk is just too poisonous to ignore.

Tiandraa crosses her arms. “A clear, unambiguous answer. Now, Merreth.”

“Do I offer apology and seek forgiveness?” Merreth scratches her chin. The audience is quiet, sensing that things are not going as they should for an honor duel. Something pitch dark in Merreth tests its strength, urges that caution be cast aside, asks what had she ever gained through prudence, wariness, or deliberation?

Tiandraa’s icy gaze fixes Merreth.

Merreth walks up to Tiandraa, takes a breath, then her fist arcs up and cracks into Tiandraa’s jaw, snapping her head back. “No, I do not apologize. Is that clear enough?”

The commoners stomp their feet, the filling the air with shouts and whistles, their grandstand shaking.

Nobles gasp as Tiandraa staggers back, off balance. She recovers and wipes her lip, fingers coming away bloody. “I will take you apart, piece by piece, dulled blade or no,” she snarls.

“Be silent, Tiandraa.” Rehkhell waves the constables forward and signals for more to take up position nearby. “Merreth, you’re no better than a common thug! By the Goddess you are truly not fit to wear the leather!” She glances at Tiandraa before continuing. “Let’s get this finished. I want you both on your way out of the Watch as soon as this is over.” She raises her voice. “Take your positions!”

“That was certainly dramatic,” says Sarrit as he and Merreth walk towards her position on the edge of the circle.

“Why are you with me, again?” asks Merreth.

“I’m to be your second, Lady Merreth. The High Mistress felt that I would be the best choice.”

“I don’t need a second. It may surprise you to know, Sarrit, that I’ve been dressing and feeding myself for years. And butchering helpless men, although that’s a more recent skill.”

Merreth halts on the line marked for her. Across the circle Lyadkell glowers at her while Tiandraa paces with long, easy steps. An amoury official stands with them, holding a sword. Another joins Merreth carrying a similar weapon.

“Remember,” says Sarrit, “the sword edges are blunt except for the last two inches. First duelist to be forced out of the circle twice loses.”

“I remember.”

“Or if first blood is scored, the unfortunate may choose to forfeit.”

“I remember that as well.”

“Thrusts or cuts to the face are not allowed, and …”

“Sarrit, stop fussing.”

“I’m merely executing my duties as a second,” he says.

Merreth could swear his cheeks are now tinged pink, but it’s probably just the sun. “You’ve done this before?”

“No.”

“Make yourself useful anyway. Take this.” She hands him her hat, then ties her hair into a loose horse-tail.

The armoury official offers Merreth the sword. She hefts it, swings it, tries to get a feel for its weight and balance. Heavier than her mother’s and the grip feels wrong, the hilt being quite short. Her hand tries to slip off as she sweeps the blade around. She steps up to the edge of the circle. Across from her Tiandraa stands, feel apart, sword point in the sand, right hand resting easy on the hilt.

Rhekhell raises her right arm, holds it there until the crowd sounds die away, then drops it. “Begin!”

Merreth moves into the circle and finds her footing in the soft sand. A breeze flicks a few hairs over her face but does nothing to slow the sweat trickling down her neck. Her grip on her sword tightens and she slides to her left. There’s a dark, slick eagerness surging up in her. She fixes her gaze onTiandraa. What an arrogant popinjay! Look at her prancing forward like some dilettante. If she’s bested Westhold’s City Armourer, there’s little wonder that the Watch is faring so badly across the Saskanna.

Take me apart, piece by piece will you, thinks Merreth, licking her lips. I’m going to hammer you flat. She’s spent entire seasons being schooled by the Sable House Sword Mistress. And, she had crept away from Sable House Hold to bribe and browbeat local rogues and bullyboys into showing her how they fought to win, their tricks, maneuvers, deceptions, and treacheries. She’s tough, she’s fast.

She’s in trouble.

Tiandraa’s blade drives straight for Merreth’s stomach. No wary circling, no narrow-eyed appraisal of her style and likely abilities, just a snake-quick attempt to punch the sword point right through her mid-section. Her block is awkward. Merreth winces, her arm thrumming from the crash of Tiandraa’s sword on hers. She staggers sideways, off balance and exposed, the crowd whooping with excitement.

Tiandraa draws back. “Sloppy, Merreth. You could be holding your guts in right now, but I want this to last.” Her sword snaps around in a showy flourish. “Let’s go again, shall we?”

A flock of sword points stab towards Merreth. Tiandraa repeatedly thrusts at her chest with a few faints coming dangerously close to her throat and face.
Merreth barely jumps out of the way, the commoners filling the air with catcalls. She dodges where she can, blocks where she can’t, ears ringing from the shattering noise of steel on steel, while trying to work out some tactic, some trick to ward off the flashing sword Tiandraa wields so effortlessly.

Each parry comes a little slower than the last while Tiandraa is tireless. Merreth heaves aside another thrust that comes from the end of an arm seemingly rippling with muscle. Her fingers are numb from the constant hammering her sword takes. Step by step she’s forced back. She’s long abandoned any attempt to strike back, having to focus on keeping Tiandraa from staving in her ribs.

Merreth sees the telling blow coming a mile away but there’s nothing she can do. With her heels on the edge of the circle, she lifts her weary arm to block a low sweeping strike, but she’s too slow. Tiandraa’s sword cracks into hers, slides off the blade and hits Merreth in her side. The lancing pain rips a gasp from her throat. She tumbles out of the circle, sprawling over the carefully raked sand.

“First force to Lady Tiandraa!”

Merreth lies in the sand, her sides heaving, her breathe bellowing in and out of her mouth. Her cheeks burn from the heat, the rough sand, from shame.

Sarrit bends down beside her. “Lady Merreth? Are you all right?”

She spits out a mouthful of grit and rolls up onto her knees. “Do I look all right?”

“You look weak, beaten, and pitiful,” comes Tiandraa’s voice.

“Lady Tiandraa! Resume your starting position, if you please,” calls Rhekhell.

“I’m really going to enjoy the next round, but I’ll have to work some to make it last as long as I want it to.” Tiandraa spits, hitting Merreth’s boot before turning and sauntering away.

Sarrit’s face hangs slack with shock. “Her behavior …”

“Shut up, Sarrit,” says Merreth. She regains her feet and bends forward, hands on her knees, breath no longer rasping through her throat. She stares into the sand. All she can see is a rope around her neck. And that only if I’m lucky, she thinks.

A growing chorus of jeers comes from the commoner grandstand. Merreth has no idea who the favourite is; perhaps they’re just thrilled to see two nobles trying to gut each other. It isn’t as if I’ve given them anything to cheer at, she thinks.

“Take your position, Lady Merreth.”

She scoops up her sword and eyes Tiandraa across the circle. The Red Hand noblewoman stands easy, flourishing her sword and acknowledging the odd shouted compliment with a confident nod.

Merreth wipes the sweat from her brow and brings her sword up. Her hair is a damp rug, her leathers slick, and her mouth is dry. But I know how you move now, she thinks.

“Begin!”

Merreth goes straight towards the center of the circle, sword and guard up.

This time Tiandraa steps forward with short, careful footfalls. She still wears the same imperious, mocking smile. “Come Merreth, make me work a little. I want the peasants entertained.”

Tiandraa sweeps her sword back and forth in lazy arcs that Merreth avoids with little effort. She feints and finds her sword rattling off Tiandraa’s steel. What the blazes is she playing at, Merreth wonders.

“You can do better than that, Merreth. Last chance to face anyone with a sword in your hand.”

Merreth comes on hard, slashing away as if scything wheat. There’s no style, no finesse, just savage hack and cut. A surprised look flashes over Tiandraa’s face. Merreth presses Tiandraa back, dodging an illegal riposte that would have taken her head off. She hears shouts, catcalls, insults, and bellows, but there’s nothing from the officiator.

“Cheating bitch,” she says. “Paid for more than the crowd, did you?”

Tiandraa replies by flinging her sword forward and hooking it upwards. Any closer and the tip would have torn Merreth’s cheek open. Tiandraa’s blade continues to arc upward. She’s become careless, too disdainful of Merreth, and has left her mid-section undefended.

Merreth is sure she’s gotten through, that Tiandraa will either will either back-peddle or be gutted. Her confidence is back, along with the slick anticipation. But Tiandraa chops down, blocking Merreth’s thrust at the last possible second.

A feral growl rips from Merreth’s throat and she charges, catching Tiandraa’s blade with her own and carrying them towards Tiandraa’s edge of the circle. Steel grates on steel as Merreth’s blade rides up Tiandraa’s to the hilt.

Their two swords lock together, their faces just inches apart. Merreth’s teeth are bared and finally there’s worry in Tiandraa’s eyes. Merreth summons her strength and pushes. Tiandraa retreats a step, then another.

“Take me apart, will you?” grunts Merreth.

Tiandraa spits in her face and shoves, stomping on Merreth’s foot and sending her sprawling onto her back. She sits up and grasps for her sword hilt, hand closing around the dulled blade instead.

“This is too easy,” says Tiandraa. She brings her sword up. “We’re going to have a lot of fun on the ride back to Red Hand …” Tiandraa’s gloat changes to a howl of pain as Merreth’s sword hilt hammers into her knee.

“Less talk, more pain, you fucking weasel,” says Merreth as she watches Tiandraa stagger away.

“Tiandraa!” Lyadkell screams. “You’re too close! Watch the edge!”

Too late.

“Second force to Lady Merreth!”

Merreth regains her feet and walks over to Sarrit. “We seem to have everyone’s attention,” she says.

He offers Merreth a water skin. “No one has seen anything like this before,” he says. “We should speak to the High Mistress and have the duel called off. I’m almost certain Lady Tiandraa’s strike to your head was no accident.”

“Almost certain? Everyone saw Tiandraa, including Rehkhell. If she wanted this thing ended, it would be.” She glances at the knot of scribes and nobles around Rehkhell. “I don’t see her making any great haste, though. Which suits my purposes, Sarrit.” She strips off her gloves, wrings them out, and works her hands back into them.

“Take your positions!”

Merreth hefts her sword and stands at the edge of the circle.

“Begin!”

Tiandraa is much more careful this time, her imperious smile replaced with a tight-lipped grimace. But for the odd catcall or whistle the sand-dry air carries very little to Merreth; her ears are filled with her thudding heart and laboured breathing.

Tiandraa approaches, appearing as fresh and composed as she was at the start of the match, though she ever-so-slightly favours her left leg. She recovers damned fast, thinks Merreth, faster than I do.

Suddenly, Tiandraa comes on swinging, her sword splitting the air in a blur. One cut, then another, and a final aimed directly at Merreth’s neck. Merreth blocks them all, her arm starting to numb by the third parry.

“I’m going to beat you bloody, grind you into the sand,” Tiandraa says. “Throw you into a wagon like a sack of dirt and cart you back to a gallows.”

Merreth doesn’t reply, saving her breath. It worries her that she needs to do so. She thrusts low, using a trick she picked up in a dark little tavern years ago. At the last second Tiandraa’s blade cracks it aside.

She’s good, thinks Merreth, her heart pounding. Better than me. And she’s going to try to kill me.

A furious series of lightning jabs forces Merreth to dodge, to block, to retreat. There’s no time to go over onto the attack; all her skill, strength, and stamina is consumed warding off the steel storm flying her way. She’s running out of room.

Across the circle Lyadkell shouts her glee. “You’ve got her now! A little more, Tiandraa!”

Tiandraa’s sword snaps up through Merreth’s guard and smashes into her ribs. She sucks in air and staggers back. Tiandraa lunges again. Merreth barely blocks and there’s a crash of steel on steel as Merreth’s sword is ripped away from her. It spins into the sand.

She stands there, wheezing, water streaming from her eyes at the pain. There’s nowhere to go.

“Beg me.” Tiandraa moves her sword in lazy flourishes. “Beg me, and I’ll not hurt you too badly. I’ll even let you walk out this circle with some pride. Or run out now. Prove that your mother birthed a coward as well as a killer.”

“‘Too badly’?” asks Merreth. Her voice comes out dry, harsh, defeated.

“I’ll let you get your sword and I won’t break too many ribs. Choose, or I’ll choose for you!”

Merreth shuffles back a pace and Tiandraa advances, staying close. Another pace, and Tiandraa’s sword point floats in front of Merreth’s chest. “Well,” she says, “I don’t beg.” Her hand snaps up and seizes Tiandraa’s blade well back from the sharpened point, and pulls. It’s half out of the Red Hand noble’s grasp as her eyes widen. Another savage jerk and it comes free of her grip.

“And I don’t lose.” Merreth tosses the sword aside and slams intoTiandraa, bowling her over. They sprawl onto the sand, Merreth on top. She ignores the throbbing pain in her side as she brings her fist down on Tiandraa’s face.

Tiandraa’s arm snakes up to grab Merreth’s hair. Merreth brings her fist down again, breaking Tiandraa’s nose and ripping a scream from her. Her ears fill with a roaring sound as her fist crashes down, again and again, Tiandraa trying to cover her face and howling at Merreth to stop, please stop!

Merreth rolls off her, struggles to her feet and reaches down to grab Tiandraa’s arm. She hauls Tiandraa to the edge of the circle and drops her hand over it. “Two for me, you sack of shit,” she says. She blinks as she realizes the roaring in her ears is the excited shouting of the commoners. The Watch nobles are stone-still, shock etched in their faces. Rhekhell’s expression is unreadable. A pair of constables, sword catchers drawn, move to flank Merreth as Sarrit runs over.

“That was …brutal,” he says. “But if you sought to humiliate Lady Tiandraa, you’ve certainly scored an unqualified success.” He eyes Lyadkell and several of the Red Hand couriers who cluster around the injured woman. Movement draws his gaze to behind the constables. “Oh, my,” he says.

Rehkhell, Duggel, and several additional constables march towards them. The High Mistress waves her hand and those with her halt while she strides up to Merreth. “Leave,” she says to Sarrit.

“You’re not one of us,” she says to Merreth in a voice of quiet steel. “If there was any doubt, you have removed it. The summons contains only the truth about you, Merreth. Were your execution not assured, I’d try you right here for your savage, gleeful assault on Lady Tiandraa. You’re going back with the Red Hand, animal.”

Merreth rubs her face to remove the sweat. Her arms and legs feel like lead, her ribs stab her with pain every time she moves, her knuckles throb, and she can feel raw skin in her boots where blisters have formed and broken. “No, I’m not. For that ‘savage, gleeful assault’ I’ll take the mark. For that and nothing else.”

Rhekhell blinks, then her eyes narrow. “Very well,” she snaps. She lowers her voice, “but you won’t be back in two years if that’s what you’re thinking, Merreth. You’ll never see this side of the river again. The Red Hand will demand nothing less.”


More Lady Merreth

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About the Artist

Max Forward (yes, that really is his name) is a professional storyboard artist and illustrator living in Los Angeles with his wife and two cats. He is the artist on the comic 3 Minute Max.  Max was the very first artist I hired to depict Lady Merreth and his work is top-notch.

His blog can be found here.

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