Chapter Fourteen: Reina



by

Josie Beaudoin







“What I don’t understand,” Paige said, “is how Laric could have gotten to Zamburrha in the first place. Was he a sailor?”

Galen was entering his spells into his new grimoire while Morgan studied the Zamburrhan sections of the Barkarnas scrolls. Paige sat on the bed nearby, nursing Reina, while Ashia hummed to herself as she happily stitched some clothes for the baby. Her own milk had come down soon after Reina’s birth, and she sometimes acted as wetnurse for Paige, but not today.

“No,” Morgan replied. “The Ria used to take him places.”

“Why on earth would they do that?” Paige was shocked.

“Because he wasn’t always evil, and they had no reason to distrust him. They used to be much more open about giving passage to people from here to there and back again. It was only after the abuses suffered at his hands that the Ria closed themselves off from all Landers.”

“Until now?”

“Not even now. We’re a rare exception, Paige, and after this voyage is over I don’t expect Rian attitudes about Landers to change very much. Jasper’s crew is fairly open-minded about Landers - well, Avysh FreeLand Landers anyway - or they wouldn’t be sailing with him in the first place, but they are an exception.”

“Laric is not evil!” Brand insisted from his cot. His wounds were slow in healing, as they were meant to be, and two weeks after his flaying he still spent most of his time lying on his stomache on a cot in Jasper’s cabin. He did not feel strictly safe in Ruby’s care. He was deeply curious as to Morgan’s translations of the Barkarnas carvings, and strove to be civil because of that, but some things required correction.

“He is a great leader and a mighty god, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for defying him. You won’t escape his wrath. Don’t think I didn’t hear the rumours circulating all over the ship, that the man who killed Jasper was sent by the Ya’Sret. He found you once, he can find you again. You have no right to have abducted us, especially his child!”

Brand, as with most of the crew, was enamoured of little Reina. Her dazzling blue eyes were as hypnotic as her father’s, and the shock of black hair, so incongruous against her mother’s auburn, was a sharp contrast to her pale skin. Brand’s cousinly love extended beyond most because of his loyalty to the father, and his genuine grief that Laric could not see or hold his own child. It further served to fuel his outrage at their rescue.

“‘Assassins’ and ‘wrath’ are hardly terms that are going to persuade us of his goodness,” Morgan murmured. “But he was not always as he is now, or the Ria would not have dealt with him. That he was on Zamburrha hardly surprises me. I believe we shall find traces of him everywhere we go, for I have recorded here his writings in nearly every language I know as well as several - such as Zamburrhan - that I do not. I shan’t get any of it translated if people keep interrupting me, though.”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“Thank you.” Morgan returned to his work.

Reina, finished eating, was put over her mother’s shoulder for burping. With the guidance of the other women on board, Paige was turning into quite a devoted mother, and there was rarely much for Ashia to do that Paige was unwilling to do herself. As much as she could, she slept when Reina slept, and spent most of her waking hours cooing over her daughter or hovering nearby while others did.

The tranquil domestic scene was broken by pounding feet on the boards and the sudden crashing open of the cabin door.

“Dolphins!” Jasper said, full of energy. “Come and see!”

“What are dolphins?” Ashia asked.

“What are - oh for heaven’s sake, come and see! Morgan? Paige? Are you coming?”

“Reina just finished eating, I’ll be up when I can,” Paige said.

“They’ll be gone when they feel like it,” Jasper warned.

“Well I can’t just put her down, she’s burping,” Paige said. “And I don’t feel safe taking her above deck just yet.”

Jasper knelt in front of the new mother.

“Paige,” he said solemnly, looking her in the eye, “I will never allow anything bad to happen to Reina, I promise. Please come see the dolphins. There’s a harness you can wear that holds her to your chest, you can use that. Rian mothers wear them all the time.”

“So they say, but I don’t know, it just feels odd when I try to wear one. Maybe they’ll come back later. I’m just going to sit with her for a little while. You go see them before they decide to leave, alright? I’m fine here with my beautiful girl,” Paige smiled.

Unable to contain himself, Jasper bounced to his feet again.

“If you’re quite sure,” he said.

“I am.”

“Very well, but you have to come see them the next time they show up.”

“I’ll remember that,” she said. Jasper bounced out of the room as quickly as he had entered.

“What a handful he is, isn’t he?” Paige cooed to her daughter. “Uncle Jasper’s always so happy, his grin is gonna break his face right in half if he’s not careful. That’s what Nana always said, yes it is. Right in half.”

“Then maybe we wouldn’t have to put up with him anymore,” Brand groused.

“Oh Brand, be nice in front of the baby.”

“She can’t understand me,” he objected.

“No, but she understands your tone. And she’s just the sweetest little thing in the world and nobody wants her to cry, she’s so perfect and beautiful. Would you like to burp her for a little while, cousin?”

“You mean encourage her to spit up on my shoulder? How about you let me sit up first and hold her when she’s quite done? It’ll take me a minute to sit up anyway.”

“Alright,” Paige agreed, “though it’s not as if you have any finery on. You go ahead and take your time. Ray-ray’s not going anywhere.”

It did take Brand a while to sit up. His back was healing well, but still very stiff and sore, and it was hard for him to move. His punishment had done little to change his attitude, but his wounds had at least kept his behaviour in check.

Up on deck the other Landers were having the treat of a lifetime. Sleek, grey animals the length of a grown man were swimming by the ship and jumping out of the water. They were informed the creatures were not fish, were very intelligent and friendly, and were never hunted by the Ria.

“Dolphins have even saved drowning people,” Bartok said.

“They’d be hard-pressed holding you up,” Jasper poked fun at his burly second mate, “but yes, they do seem to care for our lives, so we take good care of theirs when we can. They’re very gentle creatures, and they will play with you if you get in the water and swim with them. They have an absolute loathing for the Mer, and kill them when they can. All in all they’re very decent animals. Sometimes they come alongside a ship like this and swim with us, apparently just for the fun of it.”

“They’re much more playful than the... than the other ones we saw on the lake,” Kemen said.

Jasper threw him a warning glance, but Kemen had remembered in time and did not mention the turtles specifically.

“There are dolphins in Dordokatoki?” Manty asked.

“Probably,” Jasper hedged. “I think I may have spotted some while we were there. Not as friendly as these girls are, obviously.”

“They’re not all female,” Galen said, his senses tuned to the animals.

“No, but that doesn’t really matter. Landers speak of men; Ria speak of women. It’s just the way we are. To us the world is female. Your ways seem strange to us, too,” he said, looking at Galen’s raised eyebrow.

“Yes, I suppose we do,” he said. “Regardless, you’re quite right; these are friendly and playful creatures, and I’m glad to have seen them.”

“We’re likely as not to see them again,” Jasper said. “They come and go as they please, and are generally considered good luck.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Alright, let me see her. Oooh, such a beautiful princess!” Brand said. The baby smiled and reached up to grab his hair. “Be gentle, little Aiyana,” he said, extracting his locks from her grip.

“Brand, I wish you’d stop calling her that. Aiyanas and Sutaris are in our past. She’s never going to set foot in Erlaya, whether she wishes to or not. So she’ll never be declared an Aiyana by anyone but you. Laric doesn’t even know she exists.”

“Which is a horrible thing even to contemplate,” Brand said. “She should know her father.”

“Well she’s got plenty of surrogate volunteers here,” Paige said. “There’s you, Morgan, Jasper, Galen - I don’t think there’s a man on this ship who doesn’t love her all to death. Have you seen Kemen around her? He holds her like she’s porcelain.”

“They’re not her father, no man can substitute for that,” Brand said. “Kemen is a traitor, he should be executed, and you let him hold the Emperor’s baby. There is no suitable father on this entire ship!”

“That may be so,” Paige said coolly, “but they’ll have to suffice, because we’re not going back.”

“Couldn’t you be just a little bit wistful about that, cousin?”

“Not in the least. You can still deny it if you like, but Morgan is my brother, and I would not go back into the arms of the man who brutally tortured my brother for five years. Don’t get me wrong; I loved him, but I loved him in ignorance. I know better now, and that’s all there is to it.”

“It would break his heart to know that.”

“I doubt it. I don’t really think he loved me, looking back on it. Morgan was his purpose the whole time. Please, don’t let’s talk about it, shall we?”

“Aah, there’s that wistfulness I was looking for. You do love him.”

“I did, Brand, yes I did. And it hurts to lose a loved one, for whatever reason. But I have a beautiful baby, and my brother is safe and alive, and we’re all on our way home. I have more reason to celebrate than to mourn. I do wish you could remember and celebrate with us, but one cannot have everything. Hopefully Morgan and Galen will find a spell to revive your memory.”

“To hypnotize me like they have you? I will resist, I will not believe their lies, and no more should you.”

“Oh, Brand, hush! Look, you’ve made her cry. Give her back to me, would you? Please let’s not fight. Why don’t you go up on deck and see if the dolphins are still there? I’ll follow you up if they are.”

But the dolphins had left by the time Brand eased his painful way up top. He hobbled forward to sit in the bow, painfully aware of everyone’s baleful eyes on him as he went. The scabs were slowly transforming into scars, and his back itched nonstop. His health had remained otherwise perfect, with no infection or secondary illness. The Ria were as good as their word. They had taken their vengeance, and though they still held a grudge, there would be no further punishment.

“Have you given any more thought to your situation?” Morgan sat down beside him.

“I see no solution,” Brand said.

“Unfortunately, neither do I,” Morgan answered. “It would take forever to work out a reversal spell for you, and I don’t have the time to spare. As soon as Galen is done with his grimoire we’ll be back to preparing him for war. It’s not that you’re not important - gods, you’re family! - but there’s so much for Galen to learn and so little time to teach him.”

“Just what I was told all my life,” Brand said. “‘Brand, we love you, now go away.’”

“Brand, we never said that to you. Wait. You remember something like that?”

“I rem - no. No, I am the Sutari Erris, no one has ever sent me away.”

“I’d wager no one’s ever whipped you before, either.”

“No one would have dared.”

“Oh, uncle would have dared, he just never would have done it. Brand, you’re remembering!”

“I cannot remember something that did not happen. It’s a trick,” he said. “Something you’re doing, and I demand that you stop it at once.”

Morgan, sensing an excess of emotion on Brand’s face, knew when to stop pushing. He got up and left his cousin to his own mind.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“I want you to pay attention to his feelings,” Morgan said to his apprentice that evening. “Brand was remembering, I’m sure he was, but it agitated him so much that he began to deny it, to push it away. I wish to Vatha I could sense him myself! I’d set this right in an instant. It’s just that you never knew him before, so you can’t. It’s not your fault.

“Damn it all, Galen, we’ve got to try that transference spell again. We have to find someone, and I’m beginning to feel that ‘willing or not’ is a viable option. I can hardly believe I just said that, but this is getting critical. I need to have at least a shred of power, something to work with. I can’t go on like this, Galen, I was so close to him today it just ripped me up. How do they live like that?”

“They don’t know any different, Sir. Don’t you remember what it was like the first time you felt it? Do you remember before that day? You did not miss it then, and they don’t miss it at all.”

“I don’t remember it well, no. I was seven. Normally one would wait until the apprentice is ten, but there was just no time, and so much to do, just like with you and me now. It’s hard to believe that was over twenty years ago. And poor Brand, put in second place again, for the same reason and by the same man - me.”

“I was sixteen, and remember it very sharply. One day the world was ordinary, the next I felt as though the whole world had changed, when really it was just me that had.”

“It was my birthday - Jasper’s too, though I didn’t know him back then. I had just turned seven, and Uncle showed me the Vada. He gave me my first grimoire that day, too. He said I would need it soon, and he was right. Up until then it had all been reading, writing, grammar, science - after that it became the practical application of same.”

“‘Up until then?’”

“I began formal training at five. I was actually reading and writing at three, but only child-level things. My childhood freedoms ended at five when I began to work in earnest on my studies. At seven I was ready enough to be a wizard. I have memories of being as young as two, and I remember the solemnity of the ceremony on my birthday, but I don’t remember what it felt like before the Vada, I really don’t. I adjusted to it fast, and there were so many other things to occupy my mind with at the time. I don’t remember what it felt like without it before, only now.”

“I know it’s horrible, Master. I wish I could do something. I don’t understand why the spell doesn’t work. We’ll try it again as soon as we can. In the meantime, I will keep an eye on your cousin for you.”

“Don’t let him distract you from your studies, unless something powerful comes through. I want you focusing on your work first, Brand second. I’d ask Ruby, but I think she might slap me if I did. She still hasn’t forgiven Brand for his crime and I’m not sure she ever will. Or should. What in Quphic’s name was he thinking of?”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“What in Kail’s name were you thinking? These people can’t help us! Look at them! They’re not smart enough to get in out of the sun, they’re burnt nearly black!”

“Beloved, they are born that way, they’re not burnt. I’ve seen their young. It takes getting used to, but we’re as shocking to them as they are to us, and there are far more of them than of us. I’ve no intention of letting them get a glimpse of you until I’ve established myself here, either. They’re having enough trouble dealing with me as it is. If they see you, there could be serious trouble.”

“You think they might kill us somehow?” she mocked.

“Would you like to be burned on a pyre? I recover from it, painful as it is, but you haven’t recovered from anything since the last potient stopped working.”

“I doubt I’d feel anything. I hardly ever feel pain anymore.”

“You’d feel this. Beloved, why are we even talking about this? I’m not going to let them see you, not going to let them hurt you. I’ve already seen half a dozen plants I’m completely unfamiliar with, and who knows what curatives they might hold? They even have different animals here. Remember the first time you saw a tiger? They have animals here you wouldn’t believe.”

“Probably not, especially if you won’t let me see them.”

“Well eventually, Beloved, but not today.”

Baqeas’ arrival on the Fremerian shores had caused a furor and uproar unlike any he had experienced in Djanara. The peoples were, as Narni said, dark enough to be nearly black, and their hair was tightly curly, unlike any they had seen in the north. They had broad, flat noses. In the heat of the Fremerian sun they needed very little in the way of clothing, even their women going without. Baqeas with his winter-pale skin and blue eyes caused such a stir among the people that some thought him a demon, others a god, but very few looked upon him as a natural man. He was simply beyond their ken.

For his part, Baqeas was shocked at the differences between them, but having traveled with the Ria and having lived in Djanara he was minorly prepared for people to look different. In fact, there had been a Fremerian man serving on the crew of the ship he sailed in, but his parents had interbred with another race, and he was paler than his land-living relatives. Baqeas thought it was the sharp contrast between the dark skin and the eyes and teeth that so unnerved him. Every smile seemed ferocious, like baring the teeth of a wolf.

But he knew they were, despite all the external differences, just people after all, for there was no difference in his Vada between them and the Djanarans or the Ria. Their appearance was frightening at first, but he had frightened them too, and eventually both sides grew accustomed to their different looks.

It helped that he offered himself as a student, seeking to learn what he could from them. If he had tried to dominate them with his power, he undoubtedly could have, and fear would have become worship, but then he would never be able to admit ignorance. The local group he eventually settled with had a magician, a strong man, but nowhere near as strong as the centuries-old Baqeas, who had learned early on how to steal the Song from others to increase his own power. Nevertheless, he presented himself as a postulant to the local magician, which lessened fear of him and gave him a good teacher to show him the local flora and fauna and their magical uses. It was much easier than finding it all out on his own as he had done in Djanara before he met any people there.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Until the whipping, Galen had managed to avoid being near Brand, but when assigned as his healer there was no escaping it. As he had feared, Brand insisted on discussing the fate of the Aiyana Dreyma, the missing grand-daughter of the Ya’Sret himself. Galen considered denying all knowledge of her, but his Vada told him Brand had recognized him from the first and would never accept a straight denial. His next best option was to tell the truth: that he did not know where she was. That he loved her was not mentioned, nor would Brand have cared. That she was missing, and that Galen was somehow responsible for it, were the only things that mattered to the former Sutari Erris.

“Dreyma is gone,” Galen said. “Nothing you do or say will change that.”

“I will find out what happened to her eventually, and you will pay for what you’ve done.”

“What exactly is it you think I’ve done?” Galen asked.

“I don’t know, but it cannot be good. She would be at home if all were well. As would Opari. You and your people seem determined to tear apart the very fabric of Erlayan culture. You abduct Aiyanas and Sutaris, free slaves, and subvert the Eraso themselves. Why this attack on our peaceful land?”

‘My people?’” Galen asked. “I’m a born Erlayan, which is more than I can say for you, Northman. I am no Rian, nor a Northman. Erlaya is my... was my home. None of this would have happened if the Ya’Sret had left well enough alone, let me live out my normal, simple life, left you, Morgan and Paige in peace. If he had left me on my father’s farm I never would have met Dreyma, much less - ”

“Much less killed her?”

“Much less lost her,” Galen said, his soft voice falling to a whisper. “I see no infection here, and the skin is closing up well. Don’t forget to flex your arms back and forward, to stretch the new skin as it grows. You’re healing well, and I don’t think you’ll need my help any further.”

“But I still hurt.”

“As I understand it, you’re supposed to. I don’t have the authority to ease your pain.”

“And you wouldn’t even if you could, right? That’s what everyone on the ship says.”

“No, I would. I’ve seen more than enough suffering in my life to wish more of it on anyone. But considering the mood of the crew against you, they would probably have me whipped too if I interfere with the pain. You’re healing well, and that’s all that matters.”

“I’m going to have scars.”

“Yes. Again, you’re supposed to.”

“I hate these people.”

“The feeling is mutual. Each of you perceives that the other did them wrong first. They have always treated me with kindness though, even when they had no reason to trust me. Even my master is kinder than he thinks he is. And though you may not see it, they are trying to be kind to you.”

“Some kindness,” Brand snorted.

“You are alive,” Galen said. “It is kind of them to have allowed you to live. As I understand it, they were ready to execute you.”

“For peeing.”

“Yes.”

“What did you do to the Aiyana Dreyma?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so why should I?”

“Because I am the Sutari Erris and I command you to!”

Galen shook his head.

“That’s not the way it works anymore,” he said quietly. “You are Brand, full of anger and fire, but not of power. You are tolerated because you are loved by those in power, and that is all. You have no authority to command me or anyone else.”

“Get away from me if you’re done.”

“I’m done, you may go.”

“Go? I may go? Are you dismissing me?”

“Brand shut up,” Morgan said from the table. “Galen and I have work to do, and if all you’re going to do is engage him in idle threats then you can go. I’m dismissing you. There was a time I felt unspeakably sorry for you, but now all you do is irritate everyone, including me. Get out of the cabin, go up on deck, look at the waves, I don’t care. Just get out of here while we work. You’re interrupting Galen’s studies.”

“You can’t dismiss me, you haven’t the authority.”

“Did you ever study history or politics while you were in Erlaya? Do you know who the Shield of the North is, how much authority I wield? I am Laric’s opposite and equal, and I say you may go now!” Morgan stood up as he delivered his last sentence, his voice rising, one hand shaking with anger pointing at the door.

Brand drew a deep breath as though to retort, then, looking in Morgan’s eyes, thought better of it. He stood with a wince and made his way to the door and through it.

“That little pissant,” he heard as the door closed behind him. Tears pricked behind his eyes, but he pushed them back with sheer will. The short hallway was empty, but the ship was crowded. He would not let them see him weep.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Morgan was equally reluctant to allow Galen to see his tears.

“He needed someone to give him an order he’d obey,” he said, turning away from his apprentice. “I’m not really the Shield, not anymore, but he doesn’t have to know that. You’re the closest we’ve got to a Shield at all. At least you’re receiving the training for it. If you actually see battle, Cara won’t be the forty-eighth after all - you will, though only a handful will know it until her coronation, of course. We mustn’t let anyone know otherwise.”

“Magister, no one will know. I’m getting better at hiding the gestures and words-”

“Except where they will most impress,” Morgan interrupted, still bitter over the ‘magic word’ incident at the pyramid.

“-but I am getting better. That was a tricky spell, I needed the word.”

“That spell should have been nothing,” Morgan chided. “You need more practice. You need more everything. Vatha, how am I supposed to turn you into a master magician in a few short months? It’s ludicrous. No wonder Laric didn’t try harder to capture us - he knows how weak we are, how pointless this whole quest of Jasper’s is. Probably the only thing he misses is torturing me directly himself, leaving me to do it on my own.”

“I seriously doubt he could do worse to you than you do to yourself,” Galen offered.

Morgan started at him in a fury. He stopped inches from his apprentice and stared down into Galen’s surprised eyes.

“Don’t you speak to me like that,” he growled. “You haven’t the right. You don’t know, you weren’t there. Do you think sharing a few memories gives you insight into what went on down there? You know nothing. Nothing! Take your grimoire and finish it elsewhere, I’m sick of the very sight of you.”

Shaking, Galen tucked his book and scraps of paper under one arm and fled with an inkbottle in the other hand. He wondered who else he could innocently drive into a rage today.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Kemen, you tracked down Opari,” Brand said.

“Yes, Sir, I did that.”

“Even after you were ordered not to.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Where were you when the Aiyana Dreyma disappeared?”

“I was on campaign, south of the Lake,” Kemen answered. “We were putting down independents refusing to pay their taxes.”

“You would have found her,” Brand asserted.

“Well I would have done my best, Sir,” Kemen said.

“Galen knows what happened to her, I know he does. I just can’t get him to tell me. Did your training cover interrogation?”

“No, Sir, only tracking. One does not become the elite without specializing.”

“A pity. I would have liked to be able to press the information from him.”

“I doubt the Ria would allow that, even if I had the skill,” Kemen said.

“They didn’t have any qualms about torturing me. They treat him like an honoured guest.”

“He is the Shield’s apprentice.”

“The Shield,” Brand scoffed. “As if that pathetic Northern magician could even begin to compare to the power of the Ya’Sret.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“The temple is coming along nicely, Love. You should come out and see it.”

“I don’t want to see it, it’s obscene.”

“You didn’t seem to mind the last one.”

“Shut up, Baqeas.”

“Please, Beloved, it’s Teas now.”

“Why do you do that? Why do you let them keep changing your name?”

“Because it pleases them. Because a change can be pleasant every now and then. I’ve been ‘Keyen’ for three hundred years, it gets a little dull. They’ve decided to elevate me, how better to commemorate that than with a new name?”

“I thought the temple was too much, personally. Your arrogance is overwhelming.”

“It wasn’t my idea, Dearest, it was theirs. Try to look at it from their perspective. I look nothing like them. I have more power than any magician they’ve ever seen. I never age. They took me in as a very strange human centuries ago, but now I’ve gone beyond that in their eyes. It was no different with the Djanarans. To them, who but a god would have my particular traits? It’s not my fault they see it that way, now is it?”

“You don’t discourage it.”

“Well it does make life easier, you must admit.”

“No, it doesn’t. Nothing makes life easier for me, just for you. You get to bask in the adoration of your ... minions ... while I stay behind in a locked room or behind a curtain at best and continue to rot. Nothing you do with your ‘godly’ powers has helped me one bit in the last five hundred years, Baqeas. What do you think they would think of you if they knew the truth: that you’re a bumbling idiot who’s stumbled from one mistake to the next for a thousand years?”

“It hasn’t been a thousand years,” he said defensively.

“Close enough,” she said.

“Well what exactly would you recommend I do? Withdraw from all human contact? I’ll never learn anything that way. I need to continue my studies if I’m going to make any progress.”

“But you haven’t made any progress.”

“Certainly I have. Not perhaps on the main problem, but I’ve learned more than any man alive has ever known.”

“And of what use is it? All this knowledge does you no good, Baqeas. You’re still bumbling about in the dark without doing any good.”

“This isn’t all about you!” he shouted, exasperated. “Not everything is all about you! I have done a lot of good for these people, helped them through illnesses and disease, saved countless lives, led them victorious in war... I’ve done a lot of good. These people have come to depend on me for help, they look to me to protect them and guide them. I am a god to them, why should they not treat me as such?”

“It’s arrogant beyond belief. You’re standing yourself next to Kail and Gesh and Kilsamel, not to mention all the others, and that disrespects them.”

“We had this conversation last time.”

“And my argument still holds. You never answered it sufficiently last time, and you can’t answer it now. You simply are not a god, and have no right pretending to be one.”

“Well, I disagree, as do my subjects.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Reina lay contentedly cradled in her uncle Morgan’s right arm while he wrote with his left. This time it was not his journal, but more lessons for Galen that occupied his attention, interspersed with kisses and coos for the little girl. His ferocious scoldings of Brand and Galen were forgotten as though they had never been, and a gentle smile, the first in a long time, curled at his lips.

Just as Morgan had been a natural student, he found he was also a natural teacher. Though the sheer mass of material to be gone over daunted him, yet he set to the task eagerly, sifting through the knowledge in his mind for the most relevant, the most useful, the most effective spells he could recall. It was like being a student again himself, tested by his own student to give him lessons to learn. He chewed on the end of his quill pen, further mangling the feather, then dipped it into the inkwell once again and continued his writing.

From elsewhere on the ship, Galen reached out for his master, and felt that his mood had calmed. Still, he decided not to intrude on the contentment, working on his grimoire with the care and precision he had been taught, staying in Emmy’s cabin, which also boasted a table.

Brand was only briefly cowed by Morgan’s outburst, but the sense of grief that spread through his small frame was lingering, haunting, and familiar. It made him far more uncomfortable than being scolded by a petty little magician with nothing but his height to make him impressive. When no one was looking, Brand kicked at one of the ship’s many cats. It dodged him with the ease of one long used to children and scampered away out of sight. If anyone saw me do that, he mused, they would probably have me killed. They’re bound to have some ridiculous law about cats.

“Something wrong, Brand? Worse than usual, I mean?” Jasper’s voice made Brand jump.

“Nothing that concerns you, worm,” he replied.

“It’s just that you’re not usually moping around in the hold. Look, why don’t you come above and get some sunlight? The fresh air will do you a world of good. Besides, Paige is up there.”

Brand allowed himself to be cajoled up on deck. He saw Paige deep in conversation with Kemen, and imagined for a moment that she was the Aiyana again, ordering an Eraso to find her the first wild kannaberries after the dry season. But neither was dressed for the part, and the illusion quickly fell away. They were... two people, holding a conversation. He wondered what she could possibly have to say to him, and felt a stab of jealousy. The slave - ex-slave, he reminded himself - was not by her mistress’ side, so she was doubtless below with her ubiquitous sewing, watching Morgan in case he tired of holding the tiny princess, which was unlikely. After Paige, Morgan held the child more than anyone. It was just like him to hog the child’s love as he hogged everyone else’s. Morgan, on this ship at least, could do no wrong, just as Brand could do nothing right. Again, as always, the Shield was more important than anyone else. Brand hated him. He imagined the feeling was probably mutual.

Morgan, whose thoughts of his cousin interrupted his work, was confounded. The spell on Paige which Galen had attested to had worn off immediately when she had seen her brother, yet Brand’s lingered even after all these months, and in the close quarters of the ship. Perhaps he did remember, Morgan mused, and refused to admit it, that one slip the other day giving truth to the lie. But Galen swore this was not so, and Morgan had no reason to doubt him. One of the worst snippets of his memory had resurfaced, and that was all. Perhaps he simply did not want to remember.

“Damn him,” Morgan muttered, setting down his quill. Reina sighed and sucked on her fist, bright blue eyes boring right into her uncle’s brown ones.

“Sorry,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do about your cousin. If only I weren’t so busy I could spend more time with him, talk to him, figure out what was wrong. I just can’t spare the time, though. I tell you what, Little Princess, why don’t you talk to him and report back to me on the situation? You’d probably get more out of him than I would anyway.”

Reina took her hand out of her mouth and reached for her uncle’s face. He bent down to nuzzle her and she grabbed his nose with her wet hand. He tickled her forehead with his hair. Reina giggled and grabbed at it, leaving a trail of spittle across his face.

“Blech!” he said with a grin. “Is that any way to treat your uncle?”

Ashia, sitting on the bed, smiled at her master. She could not stop thinking of him as her master, try though she might. Growing up in a breeding camp, she had never seen a man express love for a child, and the novelty was pleasant. She rose and brought a clean cloth to wipe his face. He took it from her, thanked her, and turned his attention back to the baby in his arms. Morgan was truly unlike any man she had ever met.

Jasper strolled into the room just then. He was much like every other Rian man, each of whom cringed at the sight of her scars and treated her with great respect. He himself bore a pale scar across his face, memento from some doubtless fierce battle. No one seemed to mind his scar, for it had not been gotten through slavery. For some reason her past made everyone on the ship uncomfortable, but none more so than the Ria. Whatever else might happen to her, she knew she could not stay on the ship when her master and mistress left. The Ria would not deny her, but their unease would make everyone unhappy if she stayed.

Jasper stayed only long enough to grab one of his navigational tools from a small chest before heading out again. On the way he chided Morgan.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” he asked. “Where is your apprentice?”

“Still recovering from the tongue-lashing I gave him this morning, I imagine. If you see him, you can send him back in, but there’s no need to search for him. He’ll make his way back eventually.”

“I’ll tell him,” Jasper said as the door closed. Morgan looked over at Ashia, making her heart thump.

“Well, he’s right,” Morgan said. “I really should get back to work. I think I’ve conclusively proved I can’t work and snuggle the baby at the same time, much as I’d like to. Would you take her for awhile, please?”

Inwardly, Ashia sighed. It was yet another thing she was having trouble adjusting to, everyone asking her please and telling her thank you for the smallest of acts. Even Paige remembered to do it most of the time. The only one who addressed her like a slave was Brand, but only when they were alone, which was not often. She was still not comfortable with her freedom. Having someone to serve was what she was used to, and being cast in the role of ‘maidservant’ or ‘wetnurse’ was the best compromise that could be found.

She hurried over and took the baby from Morgan’s outstretched arms. Reina began to fuss a bit, and Ashia wondered if she might not be hungry. She decided to try to nurse for a bit. Blushing furiously, Morgan turned away and tried to continue his writing. Prudery was another thing Ashia found interesting, never having had any personal privacy in her life. No one in Erlaya cared what a slave did or did not wear. She found a tiny thrill of power over making Morgan blush so.

The door opened again. It was Galen.

“Hello, Master,” he said, and Ashia, as always, envied him that right. “Hello, Ashia. Jasper said you wanted me?”

Morgan stayed with his back firmly to the room and the nursing woman. Galen felt his embarrassment as well as Ashia’s amusement.

“It’s time to continue,” Morgan said. “Are you done with your book yet?”

“Very nearly. You said to be careful with the clarity, so I’ve been working slowly, but it’s close to being up to date.”

“Well you can finish it later,” Morgan said. “Right now I want to get back to work. Too many of these we cannot practice at all, but I want to go over the procedures with you nonetheless. Tactics as well. Say for example, that there is a fog, and your men...”

Ashia stopped listening. She had spent many days in this cabin listening to these two men talk, and most of their discussions were about war and magic, neither of which she understood. She did understand babies, though, having borne four of them herself and helped raise many more, and after a brief nursing (Reina wasn’t overly hungry) she put the child down for a nap in the wooden cradle which suspended from the ceiling. She then returned to sewing the shirt she was working on for Morgan, whom she still called master if only in her mind.

Galen shut down his Vada. Ashia’s attraction to Morgan was all too clear, he did not need the Song to tell him that. Morgan, however, did not feel the same, and Ashia might well spend the rest of her life pining for him if she would not set her heart on another. He felt sorry for her, but telling her the facts would not change her heart, only break it. So he stayed clear of the little drama and concentrated on his studies.

Morgan was beginning to work on application of what he had been teaching Galen. It was one thing to know that an ash tree represented war, but quite another to know what to do about it. Some of this was already covered in his grimoire, but Morgan was pushing him beyond what little he knew, asking him questions and posing theoretical scenarios for Galen to work out with his new knowledge. It was far more interesting than the rote memorizing he had been doing before, and he took to it well. Under his former master he had studied many things, as long as they were not about magic, some of which included war and tactics, and these old lessons resurfaced as he was asked to recount old battles and the strategies used then and how they could have been done differently with today’s more advanced technology. Galen actually found it quite fun.

Up on deck, Paige was doing her best to comfort Brand without agreeing with his point of view. His refusal to remember baffled her as much as it did the others, but at least they had the Erlayan memories in common.

“It’s over, Brand,” she said, as she had so many times already. “There is no more Erlaya, not for me, and not for you.”

“Just because we’re not there does not change what we are,” he insisted.

“But it does. Being there, all we lived was a lie. This is the real world, not some fantasy story. We lived in a dream, and now we’re awake. Well, I’m awake, and Morgan’s awake - sort of - and you need to wake up too. You don’t honestly think Laric cared about either of us, do you?”

“I thought you said you loved him.”

“I did, and I’ll stick to that all my life. But I don’t believe now that he loved me in return. What he did he did to hurt Morgan, and it worked.”

“No. I cannot and I will not believe that. Laric was my - is my friend. We hunted together, dined together, banqueted together. You cannot tell me that was nothing but a lie. Even if it were true, how could what we did hurt Morgan?”

“Because Morgan was supposed to keep him away from us. So by being with us, he taunted Morgan, just with the knowledge of it. Our happiness was a weapon in Laric’s hands, a weapon he used to torture my brother. And if you truly love someone, you don’t torture their family.”

“It makes no sense. I am a Sutari. I have always been a Sutari, and you an Aiyana. We are not Northerners.”

“Aren’t we? Do we look anything like Erlayans?”

“Laric doesn’t look-”

“Because he isn’t. He came from the North, just like we did, only much earlier. Can you remember your childhood in Erlaya, Brand? How about growing up? Your parents? Anything beyond six years ago?”

Brand was silent for a long time.

“I was ill,” he said at last. “I remember Laric telling me I’d had a fever, that it would affect my memory. No, I don’t remember my childhood, in Erlaya or anywhere else. My past is empty, there is nothing in it but you and Laric.”

“That illness was a spell,” Paige said. “He put us both under a spell, to make us forget. It doesn’t seem to have broken for you, but it has for me. I remember growing up in Krisadon, I remember being a young girl sitting near Morgan while he studied, just like Reina is doing now.”

“But Opari,” he said, using her Erlayan name, “how do you know that this is not a spell, that these memories you have are not false?”

“Because they’re the only ones I’ve got. Also, they fill up all my life, not just snippets here and there. That’s a pretty good spell if that’s what it is, and if you’re right, who could cast something that good but Laric, and why would he do that? If you’re wrong, Morgan could have done it once, but not now, and Galen isn’t well-enough trained to do it, so who could it be? No, the only thing that makes sense is that it’s real. The only thing that makes no sense in all my memories is thinking I was a goddess, and where does that come from? Laric.”

“Why hasn’t it happened to me, then?”

“Brand, nobody here knows. Not Galen, not Ruby, not even Morgan.”

“But why do you believe them?”

“I’ve already told you: because what I’ve remembered accounts for my entire life. What he told us accounts only for six years. Besides, I feel it in my gut: I am Paige, from Krisadon. My parents are Phaelan and Aleska, my brothers are Morgan and Terrel, my cousin is Brand.”

“Another brother? Why did you never mention that? Where is he?”

“At home, with his wife and children. Of whom there may be more than just the two by now, who knows? Oh, won’t that be exciting, to get home and see everyone again? Brand, I can hardly wait! I just wish you remembered.”

“True or not, I envy you your memories. They make you so happy. You deserve happiness, you really do, especially trapped as we are on this wretched boatfull of enemies.”

“Oh, Brand.”

The cousins sat in silence for awhile, then Paige excused herself to go see her daughter. Brand stayed where he was, musing.

“It’s interesting,” Galen said, coming up behind him, “that Laric, the most powerful magician in the world, who has created false realities for his nemesis just to torment him, has the power to create comforting childhood memories for you, and couldn’t be bothered. Just something to think about.”

“You were eavesdropping.”

“I was paying attention. My hearing is a bit keener than most.”

“You mean your magic.”

“Everyone on this ship worries about you, Brand. Paige is not the only one.”

“You worry about what I might do, you don’t care about me personally.”

“You’re wrong about that,” Galen said.

“Where is Dreyma?”

“Ask the wind,” Galen said, and walked away.














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