Hyd poked his head back in through the kitchen door.
"Ah," he said, "I thought I heard the wail of a little child."
Sucat's throat tightened. The veins on the side of his neck stood out in twisted chords and his face became a bright red.
"I think our cousin is excited to see us," said Eadward.
"You may be right, brother. He looks over-come with emotion." Eadward nudged Hyd with his shoulder. "Let us relieve the tension by leaving his exalted presence."
While Hyd and Eadward were talking and toying with Sucat, the kitchen staff were quietly sneaking out of the room, looking for a place to hide and hoping Baron Briefadel had not noticed any of their faces.
Sucat moved further into the kitchen and attempted to draw his sword but he stumbled from too much drink and struggled to pull the sword from its scabbard wasting time in his clumsiness. He lost further time when Hyd and Eadward pointed at him and laughed.He began bellowing for his soldiers to join him in the kitchen.
Hyd and Eadward turned and ran.
They ran out of the kitchen and into the court outside its door. John and Stephan stood holding the four horses. Ranee sat on top of Hyd's horse, waiting. When Hyd and Eadward showed up outside running to their horses, the other two men mounted theirs and began heading out, followed by Eadward. Hyd took a little longer because Ranee was on his horse. He attempted to get in front of her but she had moved forward, grabbing the reins like she knew what she was doing. He had no time to think of it now. He jumped up behind her and they both kicked the horse into action as Sucat and a couple of his soldiers ran out of the kitchen door.
Ranee, Hyd, Eadward, John and Stephan rode out of Sucat, Baron Briefadel's keep through the open gate way behind the kitchen area and into the woods surrounding the Baron's holdings. Hyd, sitting behind Ranee on his horse, Standard, led the way through the forest. He had played in the area as a child when Hyd and Sucat's families thought they would be close relatives. Of course, the boys knew they would never be friends let alone close and loving cousins.
Hyd was older than Sucat and Hyd had Eadward as an acknowledged brother, even though Hyd as the legitimate son had no reason to be close to his father's bastard, but Hyd's mother, Lillian, had died of the sweating sickness when Hyd was less than six months old and he was taken care of by Maryn, Lillian's personal maid. Maryn and Lillian were close in age and close as people. They grew up together. After Lillian's death, Maryn and Hyd's father, Allan fell in love but could not marry because they came from vastly differing social levels. Maryn became pregnant and Eadward was born two years after Hyd was born. Allan always acknowledged Eadward as his son and the two boys were raised together as equal brothers and while Allan could not marry Eadward's mother, Maryn, Allan never married anyone else and remained faithful to her until his death. Hyd always considered Maryn as his mother and she runs his household at Stahlheim. When Allan died, Hyd became Count Stahl and therefore higher in status than Sucat, who was only a Baron.
Sucat, the current Baron Briefadel, has many brothers and sisters, all illegitimate and none recognized by Sucat or his and their father, Franck, the former Baron Briefadel, who died from falling from his horse when he went out riding and hunting alone, which he had never done before. Sucat inherited allot of land but no gold so he needed to find a way to get some money. It took him a while to convince Ranee's father, the Margrave, to allow Ranee to marry Sucat because he was of a lower status, but Sucat finally convinced the Margrave by saying he would take the Margrave's name and Sucat's land would go into the Margrave's family.
Sucat only recognizes his half brothers and sisters to let them know they are nothing to him or anyone else. He has them working at most of the worst jobs on his property and he regularly punishes them. They all hate him and have been plotting ways to revenge themselves upon him over the years. There is no big plan most of the time, they just quietly do their best to make sure things do not go smoothly without ever doing anything that will get them into real trouble. Some have occasionally run off to Hyd for protection and he finds new places for them to go. Most do not want to actually leave their homes though so they just make Sucat's life miserable in any way they can.
Like now, when Sucat and his men are trying to chase after Hyd, Ranee, Eadward, John and Stephan, Sucat is finding that all of the horses have been put out to pastures in the far fields because he had told his half brothers, who are grooms for the the horses, that they would not be needed for the rest of the night because of the marriage celebration. The only animals close by were two pack mules. Because he was in a hurry to be after his escaping cousin and new wife, Sucat did not take the time to beat his animal handlers now. He sent them off to the pastures with curses and promises of terrible punishments to come.
Sucat marshalled his men, Ranee's father, the Margrave Uradel and the other guests who wanted to go on a real hunt for desperate prey. At this point, he would be happy to kill all of the escapees and their helpers. He could kill Ranee now because she was his legal wife and therefore his property to do with as he chose and part of the marriage contract was for Sucat to be the Margrave's heir until Ranee had a child, so if Sucat killed Ranee now he would be the one to inherit the Margrave's wealth when the Margrave succumbed to death, which if Sucat had his way, would not be very far into the future.
Since Sucat and Hyd were the last in their familial lines, they only had each other to inherit if one of them should die and since Hyd was now a convicted law breaker and now an escapee and a second time kidnapper of Sucat's wife, with lots of highly placed witnesses, Sucat could hunt and kill Hyd without impunity and Sucat vowed to enjoy every minute of it. Sucat would pay Hyd back for Hyd having a loving father and step mother, even if they were not legally married to each other where Sucat's father and mother were both cruel and brutal and promiscuous, never faithful to each other or their son.
Eadward he would kill just because Hyd loved him as a brother and always treated Eadward as an equal. Eadward always made fun of Sucat in ways that Sucat never understood because Eadward was always smarter than Sucat, not to mention better looking and nicer to everyone so they liked him better even though he never had any money or property of his own.
And the other two, John and Stephan, Sucat would kill just for being friends with Hyd and Eadward. He would do them first so that Hyd and Eadward would feel the pain of their loss, then he would kill Ranee followed by Eadward and last he would torture Hyd, then kill him. Sucat's mouth watered with the thought of revenge, a dribble of spittle rolling down his chin in anticipation of all of the pain he would cause before the night was over.
By the time Sucat had finished with his wonderfully satisfying day dreams of the death and destruction he would create, his men had brought his vicious hunting dogs, leashed with metal and thick leather straps because he starved them between hunts, and the horses had been retrieved and saddled. He was helped on to his horse by his groom because he was a bit short and had a hard time climbing into the saddle on his own.
Sucat had his huntsman give the dogs Ranee's wedding dress to sniff and the shirt he had stripped from Hyd's back before he whipped him so they could get a hunting scent. Sucat was not in a big hurry because he knew his dogs were starving and would not stop until they found their prey so that they could get a decent meal. The dog's were stretching and straining at their leashes, barking and biting at each other to be on their way. Sucat's guests who were joining the hunt were laughing and taking a few more swallows of ale, in a jovial mood from this unexpected entertainment to the party. Nothing was more fun than a hunt for desperate people.
The soldiers and guards in Sucat's entourage were dead serious about this business. They knew that if they succeeded they would receive a reward, however small it may be but they also knew that if they failed the punishment would be painful and severe.
Captain Kennard was the leader of Sucat's guards. He planned on being the one to hand Hyd and Ranee over to Sucat personally. The captain would be the one, as usual, to capture and subdue the escapees. Once the captain had them secure, Sucat would come in and administer the torture when he was sure that the prisoners could do him no harm.
Finally, the search party was ready. Sucat had his fancy sword strapped to his belt and he rode off in the lead, flanked by Captain Kennard on his right and two other personal body guards on his left, all three just back far enough to let Sucat feel like he was leading the charge on his own but close enough to do his fighting for him if it came to that.
Jyll had come out from the kitchens with camping rations for Sucat, meat pasties and fruit wrapped in leather sheets. Sucat's guards gave each other looks because the knew the rations would not survive the trip in any form that could be eaten properly or last the time that would be needed to recapture the escapees. Sucat leaned down in his saddle (almost falling out in the process, to the quickly stifled gawgaws of his guests) gave Jyll a grope and a deep wet kiss, with promises to her that she needed to hear but he had no intentions of keeping.
The group of about twenty men in total left the yard like a parade troupe on faire day, a small core of revelers surrounded by their stern faced body guards. The dogs and their handler were in the lead running down the trail of the hunted. Their scent was easily picked up and the men on horses followed close behind the dogs.
There was a brief point as they entered the woods where the dogs seemed a little confused but the tracks showed that the fours horses split up and each took a different path. The dogs soon got back on the main scent. Sucat was most interested in catching Hyd and Ranee. He knew they were on the same horse because he saw them ride off together. He was very confident that he would have them soon because Hyd, the fool, had allowed Ranee, a woman, to take the horse to lead. What an idiot, to allow a woman to be in charge of a horse in a life and death situation. Sucat would never make such a mistake. Hell, he never would have stopped his escape to free a woman. Woman were easy come, easy go, but his cousin was a dunce when it came to woman and children and the old and the sick and all those kinds of people that just sort of clutter up the world for valuable men like himself. A few of those people could be useful on occasion but mostly he'd just like to kill them all.