Read The Falcon in the Barn (Book 4 Forest at the Edge series) Online

Authors: Trish Mercer

Tags: #family saga, #christian fantasy, #ya fantasy, #christian adventure, #family adventure, #ya christian, #lds fantasy, #action adventure family, #fantasy christian ya family, #lds ya fantasy

The Falcon in the Barn (Book 4 Forest at the Edge series) (10 page)

BOOK: The Falcon in the Barn (Book 4 Forest at the Edge series)
6.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Shem smiled. “It’s a letter, Perrin. And a
sweet one, at that. How old is he?”

Perrin shrugged. “Maybe late teens? I met him
twice myself, a few years ago when my father sent me to Pools for
training. Best horses in the world. Shem, what do I do with

You appreciate the
sentiment. You accept the fact that someone else in the world feels
for you. And, when you feel up to it, maybe send him a message back
thanking him for his note.”

Perrin nodded at it. “I guess I could do

Open another one,” Shem

Perrin did so. “It’s from a seamstress in
Vines. Said she saw my mother once, and that she looked so
beautiful. She’s sorry they’re gone. She just felt the need to tell
me that.” He refolded the message. “I can’t . . . I can’t deal with
this right now,” he whispered.

Shem took up another letter and smiled.
“Perrin, look at the writing on this one. Gizzada! It has to

Perrin took it out of his hands. “Gizzada?”
He smiled faintly to see the large looping writing of his former
master sergeant-turned-restaurant owner in Pools.

You have to read that one.
The man bought you a white fur coat with butterflies stitched on
it, remember? Oh, how I wished I could’ve seen you in

Perrin almost chuckled at the memory. Taking
a slash to his back cut three of the poor innocent butterflies in
half and soaked them in blood. His scar itched faintly as he opened
the message. A moment later he closed his eyes and put it down.

What does he say?” Shem
asked gently.

Perrin handed over the note.

Shem read out loud. “‘
Dear Colonel, for
weeks I’ve been searching for the best words, but everything I
write doesn’t convey how horribly I feel about what’s happened to
your family, and now what they’ve done to you at the fort for your
valiant effort to save Edge. This is wrong! You know that we sit
and talk in the back room of my restaurant, and every enlisted man
in Pools and Idumea feels the same way. That’s several hundred
soldiers, sir, who don’t think you deserve to be confined to Edge
like a disobedient child. I thought you’d like to know that my back
restaurant menu has changed. Men now proudly order the Shin
Sandwich: General for a large, Colonel for the half, although I’m
thinking maybe I should reverse that.

Shem smiled. “Leave it to Gizzada to express
his feelings in food. Oh look, he goes on to describe a dessert
called The Peto—”

Perrin shook his head. “They’ve hurt other
people, Shem. Not just me and my family. Three more people in the
world feel pain because of what the Guarders did to my

Perrin,” Shem said
steadily, “that’s not a reason for revenge, remember? Pain is part
of the test of this life. How people handle it helps them grow.
Look at these three—they’re handling their pain by wanting to take
some of yours. They’ve likely been prompted to send you these
messages. Gifts. Accept that, and be grateful.”

Perrin gestured to the other
messages.“Probably the same things,” he sighed.

Shem gathered them up. “You’re going to hold
on to these, my friend. Someday you’ll be ready to respond to them.
I’ll bring them to Mahrree until then.”

Perrin pulled another message out of the pile
that also had familiar writing on it. “Looks like this is from

Shem began to grin. “Open it.”

Why?” Perrin asked,

Just open it!”

Perrin did so, and groaned a minute later.
“He’s got the route for the next Strongest Soldier Race already
plotted out?”

Well, with his wedding
next week, he was worried he’d be a bit distracted for a time, and
he didn’t want to neglect it. Brillen wrote me a while ago asking
if he could still come up to judge it.”

Perrin rubbed his forehead. “I don’t think
that’s a good idea—”

No, it’s a great idea!
Just what we need.
. I have a feeling I’m going to
beat you again this year, Colonel,” the master sergeant goaded, a
bit early this year.

How long have you two been
planning this?”

We do it every year,
Colonel. Just because Karna is in Rivers doesn’t mean we can’t
still run the Strongest Soldier Race. If you turn me down, I just
may have to challenge
mushroom pudding
.” Shem winced
slightly, their new code for Lemuel Thorne.

Perrin smiled ever so slightly. It
a great look. The wince expressed pain, disgust, and plotting all
in one brief expression. “He’s actually earned that title of
mushroom pudding, I hear. Would you make my apologies to the

Already have,” Shem
winked. “And I also told him that mushrooms every day would likely
cause him to go over budget.”

Mushroom pudding would
likely find a supplier all on his own,” Perrin sighed.

Maybe. And I really don’t
want to race Mr. Pudding, Perrin,” Shem whispered earnestly. “The
race has always been you against me. I think this will help. It
won’t help, however, that you’ll likely
to me again,
but . . .”

Hearing the teasing challenge in his voice,
Perrin actually smiled. “I may be getting older, but I’m still very

Shem leaned forward on the desk with that
familiar spark in his eyes. “Not as quick as you like to think you
are, grandpy.”

Oh, don’t you
start that again,” Perrin almost chuckled.

Shem waggled his eyebrows. “Come on,
grandpy—ready to take me on again?”

For a tiny pause of time, everything was
perfect again and Perrin was more than ready to begin another brag
session with his favorite sparring partner.

But then the moment was gone. It seemed
ridiculous to even worry about a race of egos when the world—at
least Perrin’s world—was falling apart. It was a brief glimpse of
joy, of what his life used to be. And the glimpse was agonizing.
But duty was duty.

I’ll do it,” he said
listlessly. “The village looks forward to it. Hycymum makes all
that cake. Who am I to break with tradition?” He tossed the message
on the desk. “Answer him for me, will you? Tell him best wishes on
the wedding. Wished we could be there.”

Shem gathered up the messages. The spark was
fading in his eyes, too, and for once, Perrin noticed.

Sure, Colonel. I’ll let
Karna know,” Zenos said, his voice equally dull. “You know what?
I’ll just take care of the rest of the bag today. If you need me,
I’ll be out at the desk in the forward office.” He flashed Perrin a
fake smile, picked up the bag, and left.

Alone, Perrin sat back in his chair and held
his head in his hands. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.




Two men sat in the dark office of an unlit

Anything new?” Mal

Brisack shook his head. “Still nothing from
Mrs. Shin. Every week, I told her: I need a report. And what does
she send me?”

You really expected she’d
let you in on their intimate details?” Mal chuckled. “My dear
doctor, your naiveté amazes me.”

Brisack sighed. “I thought we’d established
an understanding at The Dinner. And when she wrote to me about
helping Perrin, you could see the desperation in her words—”

I remember,” Mal cut him
off before Brisack could wax worried again about another man’s
wife. “You showed me the letter, several times. Next item—how’s
Captain Thorne’s training coming?”

Brisack bristled at the abrupt change, but
only for a moment. “I’m not entirely sure. He seems to have taken
on a great deal of responsibility while the colonel is ailing, but
as for our Quiet Man nudging him in the right directions?”

Mal pondered that. “The entire situation
isn’t quite what we expected, but workable. I saw in Thorne’s last
biweekly report that Zenos spends an inordinate amount of time at
the Shins. Even all night, it seems.” He raised his eyebrows.

Brisack frowned. “Meaning what?”

Mal held up his hands. “Meaning . . . you’re
the one who knows all things about family life. Figure it out.”

The good doctor folded his arms. “If
anything, it means Zenos is aggravating the situation for us.
Prolonging it. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Shin has been reluctant to
write?” He scratched his chin. “Maybe she’s overwhelmed and even
suspicious, but doesn’t know how to express any of that to me? Oh,
so much that I could—”

That you could what,
Doctor?” Mal chuckled mirthlessly. “Listen to you, worried that
your favorite woman might be suffering.”

I was
say,” it was Brisack’s turn to interrupt, “that there’s so much I
could be learning
from Perrin’s trauma
. It’s been years that
we’ve had such a vivid example of it. At least one that we can
record. Other afflicted men leave the army right after the
nightmares begin and eventually end up suicidal . . .” His voice
diminished to nothing.

Mal leaned forward in his stuffed chair to
see his companion more clearly in the dim light. “Yes, I do believe
you’re concerned about that. Now, the researcher in me would
suspect that you’re concerned because his ending may not be one
that we planned for him. But the man in me thinks that you’re
anxious about his widow, and maybe wondering if she’d be interested
in a balding man in his late sixties, and if so, how you’d dispose
of your own flitting wife.”

Brisack’s eyes flared. “After all these years
you still know so little about me, Nicko.”

Mal sat back and chuckled. “No, what you’re
worried about is that after all these years I know you

Another question,” Brisack
said confidently, knowing he would soon shift Mal off topic in a
most uncomfortable way, “Thorne mentioned the two lieutenants and
Beneff. Who, exactly, is Beneff?”

Mal rolled his eyes. “I wondered where he’d
ended up. Initially we were going to send Shin those three
lieutenants, if you recall. The obsequious one, the inconsequential
one, and the belligerent one. I believe that last one came down
with a fever just before he was to leave. The garrison put in a
substitute—old Beneff.”

Thorne mentioned in his
latest report that Beneff is the most doddering, useless soldier in
the army,” Brisack said. “And considering some that we have in the
army, that’s quite an accomplishment. Shouldn’t someone that old
have been retired by now?”

Mal frowned. “Probably . . . I wonder who put
him in, then?”

I have a good idea,”
Brisack offered.



Mal went motionless, and Brisack smiled to
himself. Oh, very uncomfortable indeed.

So, Nicko, has anyone
tried looking for Gadiman lately?”

Well,” Mal said,
uncharacteristically hesitant, “after the initial investigation . .
. uh, no.”

Not that anyone among the
Administrators seem to care,” Brisack said, sounding almost amused,
“but his assistants have been wondering what they should now.
Genev, Gadiman’s top man, has been bringing me the reports Thorne’s
been sending to their office. I find it interesting that in all
this time, you haven’t once inquired
I’ve been getting
Thorne’s loyalty reports.”

Mal worked his shoulders into the cushion
behind him.

So Brisack continued. “I asked Genev to look
up Beneff in Gadiman’s
files. Genev was surprised to
discover those crates even existed under the floorboards of
Gadiman’s desk, and seemed a bit reluctant to hand over such a
find. However, all of Gadiman’s notes appear to be there, and as
for Beneff, it seems he was one of the first, a long time ago. Even
before Wiles, if you can believe that. He’s never been very
effective, mind you, in anything except for maybe causing a bit of
mischief here or there, mostly accidental.”

Still Mal said nothing.

Gadiman had additional
plans, before he vanished. Apparently
assigned Beneff
even before we made our arrangements. And now, Gadiman has been
missing for quite some time.”

Mal remained silent.

When I spoke to Genev
yesterday,” Brisack went on, enjoying not being interrupted, “I
told him to continue as normal. Those three men did most of
Gadiman’s sniffing around anyway, and they can just continue
recording worrying instances of disloyalty in the world, although
it seems now that
no one cares

Mal picked up on his accusatory tone. “I
care,” he insisted, finally speaking up. “It’s just that . . . we
already have plenty to study right now—”

No, I think it’s just that
you refuse to acknowledge that something’s happened to

They’d been avoiding this point for several
weeks. At least Nicko Mal had been avoiding it. Not that he had any
affection for the weasel-like man, but the fact that Gadiman up and
vanished, after his brilliant success, seemed to Mal a . . . well,
Where was he, anyway? Starting his own group of
Guarders somewhere? Planning his own little projects? With Beneff,
of all idiotic people?

No . . . no he was too eager and skittish to
organize something like that, even though he
together the attack on the caravan, and then the murder of the
Shins with shocking speed—

BOOK: The Falcon in the Barn (Book 4 Forest at the Edge series)
6.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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