They didn’t travel far to deliver Princess Christobella to her father. King Federigo was encamped, by arrangement, less than half a day’s walk from the exchange site. Despite patrols their group was not challenged until they reached the camp’s perimeter. There they were stopped by a knight in armour.
The afternoon sun shone on his polished, fluted, pretty, metal court dress. His head was bare and he looked vaguely familiar to Tarrascotti and Edita. Bennoli’s face blanked to an emotional neutral. The princess’ glance at the knight contained recognition and consideration.
“Your Highness,” the man bowed easily and gracefully despite the armour, “Allow me to escort you to His Majesty. These gentles are no doubt eager to see the Chancellor’s clerk and collect the rest of their payment.”
“Sir Piero,” the princess had a kind of tired grace, “You may escort my party and me to my father.”
“Your Highness cannot wish to spend anymore time than you must in the company of such a person nor to introduce him to His Majesty.” The knight was obviously labouring under a strong emotion and somehow it was clear he was talking about-
“We’re half-brothers,” Bennoli said. “He’s legitimate. It’s - untidy.”
“I cannot, in good conscience,” insisted Sir Piero, “Bring him into the king’s presence. It is not to be thought of.”
“Then stay here.” If the princess had any more energy she would have snapped. “I will take them to my father and he will order their reward.” Her glare killed his response stillborn.
Then Bennoli asked quietly, looking directly at his brother, “Is your mother there?”
Sir Piero nodded.
Bennoli pulled his hood up and over his head to overshadow his face. “She won’t know who I am.” He added to the others, “She doesn’t deserve our father’s mess.”