A high-pitched snicker had them both turning. The young boy holding a polis.h.i.+ng cloth blanched. He was the one who'd stabbed Laird MacKenzie.
"Camden, what are ye doin' in here?" demanded Ramsay. "Ye should be off with the rest of the lads!"
"Pardon, keeper, but I have nay family to go to. I'll guard Lady Kiera. None will think aught of a wee lad at her side." He imitated Ramsay's expression. "I be fierce, Keeper!"
Ramsay scratched his chin as he thought it over. "It could work," he murmured quietly to Duff. "Lady Kiera willna accept a guard, but if we tell her Camden will be her page as a reward for stabbing her father in the a.r.s.e with his waster-"
"'Twasn't on purpose, Master Duff!"
Duff hoped his twitching lip was hidden by his mask. "Did the MacKenzie thank ye for stabbing him in the a.r.s.e?" he asked. Camden hesitantly nodded. "Do ye ken why?" He got a head shake in return. "'Twas a reminder that even those who seem small and weak can still attack, and defend." He clapped the boy on the shoulder. "When ye attacked yer liege lord ye reminded him to watch his back no matter what. Aye, today we'll have ye defend our lady."
"By that Master Duff means ye will stay with Lady Kiera, no matter what," ordered Ramsay. "Dinna go off to fetch something, ye must get another to do it. Can ye whistle loud with yer fingers?" Ramsay waited for the boy's nod. "Good. Do it three times to sound an alarm."
"Aye, keeper," replied Camden seriously.
"Ye may look wee," said Duff with quiet intent, "but yer heart is fierce and that 'tis all that matters. I will trust ye with our lady."
"Thank ye, Master Duff, Keeper." Camden bowed to them. "I willna leave yer lady. Will she have her wee dog with her?"
"Aye, to start, but Chester goes where there's food."
"I'll keep some dried venison in my pouch and give him a piece here and there," said Camden. "Do ye think the scent will keep him near?"
"'Tis a good idea," said Duff. "Ye are a smart lad."
"Do ye have aught else to wear?" asked Ramsey, gesturing at Camden's clean, though well-mended, s.h.i.+rt.
Camden's cheeks darkened. "I have a s.h.i.+rt an auld granny gave me. She put colored thread on it." He shuddered, grimacing in disgust. "'Tisn't manly."
"Did the lads tell ye that?" asked Duff. Camden nodded. "Then tell them sometimes a man wears such things because the la.s.sies like it. Ye'd nay be wearin' it for yerself, mind, but so the la.s.sies will give ye a kiss."
His face showed even more disgust. "I dinna wish any kisses!"
"Aye, ye're too young," said Ramsay, chuckling. "But the grannies may give ye a sweet bun as ye look so fine. Do ye ken that?"
"Och, aye!" Camden nodded eagerly.
"Then go change your s.h.i.+rt, lad."
"Aye, sir." The boy turned to Duff. "Thank ye, Master Duff. I willna s.h.i.+rk my duty." He bowed
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