Chapter Eighteen: Recovering



by

Josie Beaudoin







The tree was in the center of a well-kept garden in the back of Yasiva’s house. Morgan made it his goal to walk to the tree every day. Jasper would stand by his side, ready to catch him if he fell. Walking while recovering from a plague sore was an ordeal, but Morgan was single-minded in his goal. After a week of trying, he made it there, and sat in the cool shade that emanated from it. After making sure Morgan was settled, Jasper returned to the house and brought out a picnic lunch for them. Morgan’s throat tightened, but he said nothing. Putting on weight was once again a priority, since for weeks he had been able to hold down nothing more than broth, and not always that.

Morgan picked at his food. The headaches were still bothering him, as was nausea. He pushed himself to eat, knowing he needed it, but there was only so much he could take before his stomache rebelled. Part of it was his weakness from the Plague, but part of it was the constant smell of death, not just in the house, but over the entire city. True, Jasper was keeping the bodies of his own people for proper burial, but it did not seem to make the stench worse. It hovered over Pah Durik like a noxious cloud, blown in on the wind from the pits and exacerbated by bodies lying in dark corners waiting to be found and buried. When the death carts came, sometimes there was no answer at a knocked door, and it would be discovered that whole families had died in the night. Houses full of stenching corpses were not unusual. Hardly an atmosphere to encourage anyone’s appetite, much less a recovering patient.

Yet there was still hope. Morgan had survived, and would not be subject to Plague again. Soon he would be permitted (when able) to wander the streets for brief periods. Already messengers had been sent to the docks, shouting messages to the few ships who kept appearing, telling of the dead and of the living. Jasper received word that the Lady had escaped bringing plague aboard, and sent word that he himself was in good health as well as of Morgan’s recovery. He did not, yet, speak of the dead. The loss of Ruby would be a terrible blow to the crew, and he wanted to keep their spirits high as long as possible.

Morgan continued to improve, but the city itself did not. Obrad died in the fourth week. Yasiva’s servants and door guards continued to sicken and die. Plague continued to ravage Pah Durik. Even those recovered were considered to carry the sickness and be able to pass it to others, so even the healthy were only permitted out occasionally, for short times.

The Eleli Rei remained nearby, coming to port in neighboring towns which did not yet have Plague to buy supplies, and taking fresh water from a clean river. Though she had to travel farther and farther to find plague-free towns, she came to Pah Durik often to hear the news shouted across the water of how the plague progressed and how her captain and landbound crew fared. The plague raged across not just Pah Durik but all of Durikkan and was spreading inland into neighboring countries as well, giving no heed to any of man’s boundaries or borders.

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


“How long will they be there?” Paige asked for the hundredth time.

“Until they are all cured or dead,” Emmy replied for the hundred and first time.

“But your brother is well, so that should please you.”

“Oh it does, very much, but I still want to get him out of that awful place. Just the smell alone... how can any of them bear it?”

“They have no choice, that makes it simple,” Emmy said.

“But how can anyone get better while they’re trapped in there? Surely Morgan would recover faster on the ship than he would in that horrible city.”

“I’m sure he would, Highness, but it’s strictly not allowed. Jasper and Morgan are both healthy and well, and they will return to the ship eventually, but in the meantime we have no choice but to wait.”

“Couldn’t they sneak down to the docks in the middle of the night and we could pick them up and just leave?”

“There are others with him who are still sick,” Emmy said. “Would you have me leave my shipmates behind? I would be removed from my post, the crew would never permit it. I’m sorry, Highness, but this is the way it is. You shouldn’t fret, both Galen and Ruby are with them, and they’re probably better healers than any but the best doctors in Pah Durik. They’re with Yasiva, and this is an extremely good thing. There’s no one who will take better care of them, nowhere safer in the whole city to be.”

“But they’re still in the city,” Paige pointed out.

“Highness, I’m sorry. I truly wish my captain and crewmates could just come aboard and we could all sail off together today, but you must accept the inevitable. The best thing we can do is to stand offshore and continue to check the news as often as we can. When everyone is healed or dead, they can leave the house, but city law forbids it before then.”

“‘Everyone’ meaning the entire city?”

“No, ‘everyone’ meaning Yasiva’s household and guests.”

“Oh. And when will that be?”

Emmy sighed. There seemed no getting through to the young woman who seemed capable of maintaining a low level of panic indefinitely.

“I don’t know, Highness,” she said.

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“Your people are all going to die,” she said. The pustules that had burst on her tongue made her speech a bit garbled, but he could hear her thoughts perfectly well.

“Oh, not all of them,” he told her. “In every epidemic there are always some survivors, and those will have children who are also strong. In a few generations this will be nothing but a distant memory.”

“Distant memory? Not to the people who live through it!”

“I’ve said it again and I’ll say it now, Love: we cannot look at it the same way they do. They’re mortal; we’re not. It will be a distant memory soon.”

“Not to me it won’t. I’m not healing, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“You’ll heal, just give it time. You took more doses of that antidote that didn’t work than I would have given to anyone. You over-did it, but you’ll heal. You always do, I finally got that part right, didn’t I?”

“I don’t know, Telles. I have a bad feeling about it this time. Something’s different.”

“Well of course it’s different. Think about what you did to yourself.”

“What I did? I was desperate, you said it would work.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have listened to me,”

“Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I shouldn’t have married you in the first place. I’m not healing.”

“You’ll heal. Give it time. After all, we have nothing but time.”

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“How long will we be here?” Morgan asked for the hundredth time.

“Until we are all cured or dead,” Jasper answered.

“I feel well enough, and you, Bartok, Galen, Tural, Ashia... you’re all well too.”

“But the others are still sick,” Jasper said, “and I’m not leaving my crew. Would you have me leave my shipmates behind? I would be removed from my post, the crew would never permit it. Don’t worry, the Eleli Rei won’t abandon us, we just have to wait.”

“What if they’re sick, what if the plague got onto the ship?”

“It didn’t. We got that news from the docks. If we go back to the ship early, we risk bringing it with us even though we’re healed. You don’t want to risk bringing this to your family, do you? To Paige, and Reina?”

“But I’m healed, I’m better. And once you get the plage, Yasiva said...”

“I know what she said, and it’s true, but you can still carry it on you and give it to others who have not had it. Just because you’re immune does not mean you cannot pass it on. This cannot be a difficult concept for you, of all people, Morgan.”

“No, it’s not. I just want to get out of here, away from the stench and the eerie silence. Every time I hear a scream, I know why, and it makes me sick up.”

“I can imagine. It gives me the creeps and I only watched.”

The tall thin man glowered at his brother.

“Morgan, it’s not my fault I didn’t catch the Plauge,” Jasper said. “It was sheer blind luck. Can’t you at least be grateful you’re alive?”

“Brother, I haven’t been grateful to be alive since the Picnic. There’s no reason to start now.”

“Aren’t you grateful for Paige, and Reina?”

“I’m grateful that they’re alive, yes. And that I get to spend some time with them, yes.”

“Because you’re alive. You’d never have seen Reina if you were dead. Part of you is a little bit glad to be alive, Morgan, admit it.”

Morgan said nothing, only brooded in silence. Jasper sat for awhile by his side, quietly tearing off bite-sized hunks of bread and handing them to his brother. Morgan ate sparingly. The stench of decay wafted into the garden from the rest of the city.

“Why did they dig the burial pits upwind?” Morgan asked. “Weren’t they thinking?”

“Perhaps it was the only place available, or readily accessible.”

“Well it was a stupid idea. I’m sure the smell is bringing the disease back into the city to infect the healthy. Don’t count yourself safe, Jasper.”

“I don’t. I watch myself for symptoms every day. But they’re burning the air, they’re doing the best that they can.”

“Burning the air?”

“They’ve set out fires every few houses down each street. As I understand it, it’s costing the city a small fortune, but they’re trying to burn the infection out of the air.”

“That’s insane.”

“Probably, but it’s all they can think of. Look, they’re doing everything they can, even if it doesn’t work. They’re at least trying.”

“Are you saying I’m not?”

“No, I’m saying don’t lose heart. It’s frightening to see you withdraw like this, it reminds me of the early days back in Erlaya. I can’t lose you like that again, it’s too frightening a thought.”

“Oh I won’t do that again,” Morgan said easily. “I’m here to stay, just don’t expect me to be turning cartwheels with joy. You’re returning me home, which is right and proper, and I’ll go along with you because it’s what I deserve, but don’t expect me to look forward to it happily.”

“Morgan, just what is it you expect to happen when I get you home?”

“Why, I shall be tried for high treason and possibly executed. That is, if I’m not grudgingly allowed to continue training Galen for the war, and if I’m not killed in the war itself. What did you think?”

“That you’ll be welcomed as a returning hero,” his brother answered. “Morgan, no one blames you for being captured.”

“I do.”

“Well no one else does. When you return it’ll be a celebration the likes of which have never been seen in our lifetimes. The people will have hope again, that their Shield has returned. The army will be strengthened just by knowing that you’re back.”

“‘Returned’ you say. ‘Back’ you say. I was never supposed to be gone in the first place.”

“And that was a piece of bad luck, I’ll grant you, but not your fault. No one expected you to triumph over the Emperor your first time against him.”

“I did. It’s all I’ve ever done, all I’ve ever been. Trained to fight the Emperor, trained to be competent to stand against him. By the gods, it’s what I was bred for! If my father knows what’s right– ”

“Your father will embrace you with open arms, grateful to have his son back,” Jasper said.

Morgan said nothing, only wept.

“Think about it tactically,” Jasper pushed on, “what are his options? Kill you and have Cara take over? She’s only nine. You may not have power of your own anymore, but Galen is our best shot right now, and he needs you. And the people of the FreeLands need you.”

“And when they find out I’m powerless– ”

“We don’t tell them,” Jasper said. “Only a tiny handful of people need to know. For public appearances you wave your arms around and Galen stands behind you as just another retainer and does the magic. No one will know. Go ahead and cry in front of them if you wish, the people will see them as tears of joy. God, I can’t believe you’re even thinking this way, Morgan. Execution, indeed. Punishment? You’re punishing yourself far more than your father could ever devise, anyway. What more do you think he could do to you?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps he can call a truce and ask Laric for some suggestions.”

“Now you’re being silly.”

“Maybe a little. But Jasper, I don’t think you understand exactly what was expected of me, just what my people feel.”

“I know what your family feels. And your people are exactly that: yours. They want their Shield back at any cost. And they’re not mad at you, Morgan, they’re mad at the Emperor, as they should be. I know what your people feel. I walked the streets of Krisadon while you were gone. Not one person ever said that you left, they said you were abducted.”

“But I wasn’t supposed to be abducted!”

“No one is ever supposed to be abducted, brother!”

“Especially me! I’m supposed to be able to protect the entire North, myself included.”

“I think you’re underestimating peoples’ fear of Laric. They don’t blame you for not being able to stand against him.”

“I underestimated him, and that’s why I lost,” Morgan said. “I was trained never to do that. They weren’t. They were told they were safe, that I was their protector, that nothing would get past me. Now he’s free to overrun the North, and with my power combined with his, no army is going to stand against him.”

“Well now there’s the odd thing,” Jasper said. “He hasn’t. Laric hasn’t made a move against the North since you left. Everything has been quiet last I heard.”

“No offense, brother, but the last you heard was over a year ago. The Krisadon you’re bringing me back to may well no longer exist by the time we get there. Your rescuing me could have triggered his attack if he was holding back for some reason.”

“That doesn’t make sense, he didn’t even chase us, he sent Brand to harass us and that’s it.”

“You don’t understand the way his mind works.”

“Do you?”

“No, I don’t. He’s completely mad, and when I say ‘mad’ I mean insane. Oh, he acts sane enough, and has the cunning of a thousand foxes, but underneath it all he’s lost his mind.”

“There must be a weakness there that we can exploit when fighting him...” Jasper mused.

“He can’t be beaten, Jasper, don’t you understand? Nobody in the world has that power now. He doubled his own when he drained mine. He could crush an army like you crush a fly. It doesn’t matter if he’s insane. All I’m saying is that there must have been a reason in his twisted mind to delay attacking, and there’s no knowing what that reason is or when it will change.”

“I’m not going to give up, Morgan, and neither are you. You don’t have it in you to quit, or you would have killed yourself by now. So we’ll see this thing through together, whatever it takes, whatever we can do. If we fail, we fail, but we’ll die trying. It’s all either of us was bred to do.”

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


An equally resolute scene was taking place inside the house. As Morgan had been, and the others before him, Ashia was being tied to Yasiva’s bed in preparation to have her buboe lanced. There was only one, and it was on her neck. After she was tied, Bartok held her head to one side so that Galen could work uninterrupted. Ashia, braced and holding her breath, could clearly hear the sloshing and burbling of the boil so near to her ear. The pain was incredible, and if the others spoke the truth, it would get worse before it got better.

Galen sliced across the buboe with his knife, and Ashia knew the others had not exaggerated. Weakened as she was from the Lung Plague that had preceded her Bubonic attack, she passed out into blessed oblivion. Galen cleaned the wound as he had all the others, dressed it, and he and Bartok untied the unconscious woman, carrying her gently back to her own cot.

Recovery was slow for all of them. Telar, who had been recovering, developed the Lung Plague and quickly died. For every death in the house, the quarantine was extended. Food, at least, was plentiful, for demand had dropped, and prices with it.

“I can’t believe how fortunate I am,” Tural said one day out in the garden. “I was content to have died at sea, only to be rescued by the Lady herself. Now I face the peril of dying ashore, yet I remain healthy as I’ve ever been. It’s truly Divine luck.”

“If you can call having your ship wreck and being caught in a plague-ridden city ‘luck,’” Morgan countered.

“God does not stop bad things from happening,” Tural said, “but She does occasionally prevent the worst from happening. I have been blessed by Her twice now.”

“Well people are still getting sick. You might save your excitement until we’re all back on the ship and have put this city behind us for good.”

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“I’m not healing.”

“I noticed.”

The accusation and acknowledgment hung in the air between them.

“I’ve never been this bad since the beginning.”

“True.”

“Your potients and spells are not working.”

“I’m working on it.”

Aliseas sat and stared at her husband.

“Will you get out of my workshop and let me work?” he asked.

“Will your work work?”

“Not if you keep badgering me, no. What I think I need is leyandrop.”

“That doesn’t grow here.”

“I know.”

“Are you saying we have to go home just to get an herb for your potient?”

“We may.”

“Across the sea again? Baqeas, I don’t– ”

“Telles.”

“Telles, I don’t think I can wait that long. Look at me, I’m falling apart.”

She was right. Ever since the plague had decimated Durikkan and moved inland, Mjarni had not healed from it. In fact, she had not healed from anything, sickness or injury. It was as though the failed plague cure had undone two thousand years of Baqeas’ work in a day.

“What makes you think home will be of any use to us now if it wasn’t back then?” “Because there are items there I’ve never tried using. We’ve never been back at all. I know so much more now, there are all sorts of things I wasn’t able to try in the early years. I’ve exhausted my resources here, but back home is a whole continent of unexplored treasures.”

“You’re seriously considering this?”

“I’ve already talked to a Rian ship which will carry us,” he said. “Have you seen their maps? There are more unexplored lands than you can imagine.”

“Uninhabited?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“So only unexplored by you, you mean.”

“Well, yes, but the people are all mortals, you know that. Beloved, you’re the only one in this world who matters to me. The rest are nothing, they are dust and bones.”

“I’m getting that way myself, again, thanks to you,” she said bitterly.

“I didn’t tell you to drink that potient.”

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It was an agonizing five fortnights before the remaining crew of the Eleli Rei were permitted to make their way down to the docks to signal for the ship. Four of the crew had survived, and, more miraculously, all of the passengers. Five Ria were dead, their coffins dragged down to the docks by porters who charged outrageous prices for the job. There was no one else to do it, and though Jasper drove a hard bargain, in the end they paid a huge sum, but nothing was too expensive to make him leave his crewmates to be buried ashore in a pit full of Landers.

The Lady was not at the docks the day they made their way down to the shore. A message was shouted to the sentry ship to send for her, and the crew returned to Yasiva’s house to await her arrival. The coffins they left on the docks. No one would interfere with a coffin for fear of contracting the Plague that lay within. Every day, Jasper or one of the others went down to the docks to see if the Lady had returned. On the fifth day, she was seen sailing into port, and Bartok, whose turn it was, turned and ran back up into the city to inform the others. They quickly gathered their few belongings and thanked Yasiva extensively for her hospitality in this worst of crises.

“What else was there to do?” she asked. “It was no strain on me, I have enough money to feed you a dozen times over, especially now. You brought your own physicians, and saved the lives of several of my servants. It is I who should be thanking you. May God bless you and be with you in all your endeavors.”

During the long weeks, Jasper had told Yasiva of their quest and the adventures they had had thus far. She had listened, rapt, as the story had unfolded. Jasper spun the tale masterfully, and Yasiva had laughed and wept, been both shocked and delighted in turn. She congratulated him for getting them this far, and worried all the more for Morgan. Now that they were ready to leave, she hugged each one of them and kissed them fondly. Then it was time to go at last, and they set off down the hill, through the still-closed Bazaar, to the docks and the waiting ship.

The funeral of the five Ria was brutal, and had to be done immediately, as soon as they had set sail. Jasper refused to open the coffins to let loved ones say farewell. “You won’t recognize them, anyway,” he said bluntly, “and it increases the chance of an outbreak here. The danger’s already high enough, I won’t risk losing any more of you.”

Because there was no longer a priest on board, the funeral fell to the Captain to preside over. Jasper, unfamiliar with the minutia of the ceremony, had to rifle quickly through Ruby’s books until he found it. He read from it as he went, and sometimes halted, looking something else up, then returning to the main text. It was hardly the most graceful ceremony, certainly not, as many felt, what Ruby and the others deserved, but Jasper could be forgiven for not knowing the funeral rites by heart.

The other four Ria were a hard blow, but losing Ruby was devastating for everyone. The crew of the Eleli Rei had been assembled some twelve years earlier, and Ruby had been there from the beginning. Most of the children on the ship she had delivered, and had treated all of the crew for one ailment or another over the years. She had presided over funerals. She had read potential crewmembers for deceit or loyalty, and had never been wrong. She had been a councilor, spiritual guide, mother, grandmother and lover, and now she was gone.

The only dry eyes at the funeral had been Brand’s.

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“Captain, we’re down nine hands; what are we going to do? Where will we find new ones?”

“We won’t. Not for this voyage.”

“We’ve barely enough crew to run the ship as it is. And now we have no...” Emmy’s voice quavered a little, “... no priest or healer. What are we supposed to do?”

“Struggle through as best we can. Remember we have Galen. He was an excellent healer even before Morgan began training him. He can get us through until my oath is fulfilled and we can restock the ship with crew.”

“Nine, captain. Nine men and women dead, and the voyage half over. At this rate the Lady will sail up Krisadon river crewed by the dead.”

“Emmy, I know you’re upset. Everyone’s upset, but you’re overreacting.”

“Overreacting?” Her voice rose. “You died!”

“That was - no I didn’t. Not really. Well you haven’t lost me, at any rate. And we have Tural and Manty, so that’s only seven. In terms of running the ship, that is. And when was the last time Ruby hauled on a rope or raised a sail? I know nothing will make up for the loss of my crew, but we cannot stop now and take on new people. We’d have to explain the oath to them and make them swear it, and depend on Galen to read them right. It would take altogether too long. We shall have to make do with who we have now, Em.”

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“What was it like, Morgan?” Paige sat next to her brother, who sat dandling Reina on his knee. “What was the plague like?”

The smile drained from Morgan’s face. “Worse than Laric,” he said softly.

Paige went white. “Worse?”

“No matter what Laric did, I knew he would never let me die. The plague did not care whether I lived or died. People died all around me, and I never knew what moment might be my last. I’m still surprised I lived through it at all, weak as I am.”

“Are you... glad you’re alive?”

“At first I was determined to stay alive for Cara’s sake. As long as I lived, she would not be responsible for the North. But the things he did to me, Shadow... I begged him more than once to let me die. Selfish, I know.

“Now that I’m out, now that I’m convinced this is reality - and if nothing else did, the plague certainly erased any doubts I had - now I have things to live for. I lay in that bed, surrounded by the stench of death and I prayed to live. I even prayed to the Rian god, I was so desperate. In the end, Quphic had mercy on himself and let me live. Now here I sit with my family around me, back on my way home. Don’t ask me if I’m glad to be alive, just ask if I am content in the moment. I am.”

“And the rest of the time?”

“Determined to live. Please don’t ask more than that of me, dear sister. I survived - barely - and now all I want to do is get on with the rest of my life. Speaking of which, where’s that apprentice of mine?”

Morgan handed the baby back to her mother and left the room in search of Galen.

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


Galen had been put to work. Emmy decided that since they were short on crew, an able-bodied man should not sit idle simply because he was not Rian. While he knew nothing about sailing a ship, there were always chores that needed no knowledge of seacraft to do: lifting, carrying, cleaning. He was, when Morgan found him, mopping - or as the Ria called it “swabbing” - the deck of the ship. Kemen had been put to similar use, though Brand refused to lift a finger.

“There you are. What on earth are you doing?”

“Working, Sir.”

“Very laudable, I’m sure, but you have more important work. Put that mop down and come with me.”

“Let me just go tell Emmy-”

“If Emmy has a problem with you doing your studies, she can take it up with me, apprentice. Right now I want you belowdecks, moving us into our new quarters. Then we have lessons to resume.”

“Our new quarters?”

“Come with me.”

Intrigued, Galen leaned his mop against a crate and followed his master to a hatch and down into the hold. When they reached Jasper’s cabin, Morgan went to the table they had used during their studies and began picking up all the paperwork. He told Galen to begin boxing up ingredients into a small crate nearby.

“Sir, where are we going?”

“Just down the hall,” Morgan answered. “The Ria may be emotional, but they can also be extremely pragmatic at times. We’re moving into Ruby’s quarters.”

Galen was shocked. “Is that - I mean, won’t they object?”

“It was Jasper who suggested it,” Morgan said, “so if they have a complaint, let them complain to him. Who else are they going to put in that room, hm? Until they find someone else, you are now the ship’s healer by default, and it only makes sense that you work out of Ruby’s quarters. Jasper tells me they won’t be looking for new crew until this voyage is over. Her room is already full of medical and magical texts and supplies, there’s enough room for both of us to sleep, and we can be out of everyone else’s way. Here, let me get that door for you.”

Morgan opened the door, and Galen walked into Ruby’s old room.

It looked mostly the same. Most of her personal possessions had gone, her clothing and a few decorations, but other things were left that Galen would have expected to be gone. Perhaps, he mused, they had mystical qualities he was unfamiliar with.

“Get in, will you? You’re blocking the door.”

Galen started, and put the box on the bunk. Morgan followed him in, and shut the door.

“Well Jasper tells me all her personal belongings are out of here,” he said, “but it sure doesn’t look like it. I suppose some of these things are part of Rian magic. I’d recommend we treat some of them as decorations and nothing more. I know nothing of Rian magic, and this is not the time to begin experimenting. She does have a few odds and ends that we can find use for, but a lot of this is going to need crating up too. I don’t want it to get confused with our things. If you go looking for wolfsbane and end up with seaweed, things could go wrong in a hurry. Or perhaps they’re of spiritual significance. I still don’t want them ending up in our work. I’ll have to ask Jasper which is which.”

“It feels so sad being here,” Galen said. “She was the first soul I ever touched, and was so beautiful in so many ways. I’ll never forget her.”

“I don’t think any of us will,” Morgan said, “but we need the space, and she no longer does.”

Galen was well-used to his master’s brusque and often cold-hearted attitude. He knew it covered up a world of pain, so he said nothing. Morgan grieved the loss of Ruby in his own way. He sent his apprentice for another small crate, and began to sort through the esoteric remains of Ruby’s things.

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“There’s nothing useful here,” she scolded.

He sighed. Perhaps she was right. They had criss-crossed the northern half of Avyn, all the way down to the great southern mountain range, and found nothing to reverse Mjarni’s decay. Besides, everywhere they went they were hounded out. Magic, it seemed, was not a welcome art in Avyn. Every tribe, every village, even the cities, all shunned him or chased him away.

He had managed to stop the decay, though. That was something, at least. She looked no worse than she had five years after her death two and a half thousand years ago. The ravages of the plague left wounds that did not heal, but she got no worse.

“You’re right, it doesn’t seem that there is,” Baqeas said, “But we need the Ria if we’re going to go somewhere else. We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms last time.”

“That was one ship. Surely there is another one somewhere in the world.”

“They do know how to talk to each other, you know,” he pointed out coldly.

“Don’t be an idiot,” she said, “I know that. Just make them take us.”

“Where shall we go next, then?” he asked.

“Where haven’t we been yet?”

“Zamburrha and Tarquan we’ve never been to at all, but there are plenty of places we haven’t seen on continents we’ve already visited.”

“Let’s go to Zamburrha,” she said.

“Why? Do you know something about it that I don’t?”

“No, I just like the name. Let’s go there.”

Baqeas shrugged. It was as good as any other reason. He began making preparations to leave.

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


Morgan walked into Jasper’s cabin. Reina fussed in Brand’s arms. They had bonded fairly well during the two months Morgan and the others were ashore, but once he returned, as always, he outshone everyone else. Reina’s fussing turned to squirming, and Brand put her down. She immediately began crawling across the floor toward her favourite uncle. Morgan stopped and looked down in astonishment.

“When did she start to crawl?” he asked.

“While you were onshore. A lot of things happened while you were gone, and may I say that Emmy is a horrible annoyance.”

“What’s the matter, did she make you work?”

“She tried. Repeatedly. Kept whining about how there were too few people and that I had to help. Too few people, indeed. The ship ran just fine. How do you like my new outfit?”

“Oh, Brand, you haven’t been treating Ashia like a slave again, have you? Forcing her to make you clothes?”

Reina reached Morgan and hauled herself upright grabbing on to his leg. He reached down and picked her up, at which she cooed and giggled.

“Oh slave or servant, it makes no difference to me. Call her what you like, she’s still a worker who sews, and my old wardrobe had become befouled from time spent in the bilge, among other things. I thought it was very noble of me to allow her to finish working on Opa-Paige’s gowns before starting on mine. You really ought not to scold.”

“The Ria provided you with clothing, Brand.”

“What they call clothing is not what I call decent to wear in public. They provided me with the same scandalous outfits they all wear. If you think I’m going to-”

“You wore them when I left,” Morgan said reasonably. “I thought you were adjusting nicely to your future.”

“Of necessity! My robe was ruined, my tunic stained beyond repair, my-”

“Alright, alright, just see to it that you treat Ashia well. She’s not a slave, and she’s not your servant. She’s Paige’s. So it was not noble of you at all to wait, it was noble of Paige to lend you access to her servant.”

“What do you want in here?” Brand asked.

“I think I left my robin’s egg shells in here. They’re rather fragile, and I’d prefer they not be damaged or lost. Galen is going to need them.”

“Well I haven’t seen any eggs in here. Go away.”

“Well I’m not counting on you having searched for any,” Morgan said, “nor to know where we last put them. I’m just hoping little Rae-rae hasn’t found them first. Here, would you hold her, please, cousin?”

“I was holding her before,” Brand muttered, but Morgan did not hear him. He was opening a drawer on a box standing on Jasper’s table, a box he used to store charts and the ship’s log. The drawer underneath was to hold quill pens. After a brief shuffle, he found them with an exclamation of discovery. He took three little blue eggs, carefully wrapped his long fingers over them, and left the cabin, once again leaving Brand alone with the baby, who promptly began crying.














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