"My lord..." Miledha licked her lips, suddenly nervous.
"Please," he said. "Call me Roberr. You've certainly earned the right, and anyway I never had the impression that witches much cared about nobility or titles."
"I don't," said Miledha, and looked away over the walls. Roberr was looking at her, and she found it easier to speak if she was looking at something else; the steady movement of animals, vehicles, and people along the road would do nicely. "Very well: yes, I have an offer for you. I know of something that could turn the tide of battle and avenge your father. Except... I can't use it myself, and I can't tell you what it is, and I can't bring it to you. You'll have to come with me to retrieve it." She drew a breath and turned her head to look at him again. "And yes, I know how lunatic that sounds, and no, I don't see how you could fail to be suspicious."
Roberr blinked. "Suspicious," he repeated. "Yes, I suppose it should sound suspicious. Only... this time last year, the biggest threats to Langoish were small troops of bandits, and the occasional troublemaker sent across the border by lord Borilar. It was three months after that when we first heard that Drajindom had been invaded from the west."
He paused and looked away, remembering. "My father refused to credit those stories. No army could be so large, he said. No one in this Age could command such dark and ancient sorceries. He was still saying that when Drajindom fell. I think he only really believed the stories when the Shadir finally reached Borilar. Now they're here: an army powerful enough to overrun an entire kingdom in a matter of months. They've crossed our border. And here they've... stopped. They've offered us five day's grace, in exchange for an artifact that hasn't been seen in a thousand years, if it ever existed at all. That's the part that sounds lunatic."
He looked back at Miledha. "No, the only way this makes any sense at all is if I take them, and you, at your word: the Left Hand of Aribil is here, hidden away in some obscure corner of Langoish."
Miledha blinked twice. Maybe she didn't sound as crazy as she expected. That would be a welcome new experience. "You'll come with me, then?"
Roberr nodded. "As soon as I can. Like it or not -- and I don't -- I'm the Lord of Langoish Keep. With the enemy sitting almost on top of us, I can't just leave everyone here and walk out the gates -- not without making some arrangements, first."
Miledha nodded. She didn't like that, but she couldn't really argue it, either. A loud voice in the back of her mind was ranting that they needed to be moving, they needed to go before it was too late; another voice was reminding her that no, she couldn't force this, he had to help her willingly, and she should be grateful that he was willing. "How soon?" she asked.
"Tonight, if the Seven allow it." He looked thoughtful. "We can leave after dark, and be clear of the keep by moonrise."
Relief flooded through her. "I'll be ready," she told him.
So, with the slightly-spoiler-ish understanding that they won't be able to just walk off and retrieve the artifact as easily as all that, which version do you like better? To be honest, I prefer this one, and that's probably reason enough to keep it... but I'd still like to know what you think, O my readers.