Chapter Six: Her



by

Josie Beaudoin







A woman stood staring at Galen, clutching the hand of a small boy about Willow’s age. She gasped as he turned around and she saw his face, and then it was his turn to gasp.

“Dreyma?”

As her eyes filled with tears, she nodded, too choked up to speak.

“But… how?”

Dreyma shook her head. In Galen’s Vada she flared white-hot with joy. He took that as his cue and stepped forward, arms open. Dreyma rushed into his arms and he held her, rocking side to side. Morgan and the young boy eyed each other curiously.

“Orden,” the boy said.

“Morgan,” Morgan answered.

They nodded to each other, then turned their eyes back to the couple.

For his part, Galen opened his Vada wide and drank in the feel of his beloved – the scent of her hair, the feel of her in his arms, the damp of her tears on his shirt, the shape of her soul, none of which he had thought he would ever know again, and all of which drowned out every other sense he had. The Great Hall disappeared, and there was nothing else in the world but her.

Well, almost.

The singing was still sounding in his awareness, and something else, a bright point of fierce love attached to Dreyma that he did not recognize. Galen opened his eyes, and there, standing beside Morgan, was the small boy. He felt familiar and yet foreign at the same time. Galen looked at his beloved again.

“Dreyma?” He looked once more at the boy.

Dreyma followed his eyes and understood his unspoken question.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, Galen, it’s our son.”

“I never thought I’d…”

“I never stopped hoping, but it wasn’t always easy to believe,” Dreyma said. “But we really are safe here, he can’t find us.”

Galen disengaged from Dreyma’s arms and knelt before the boy.

“Hello, son,” he said with a tremor.

“Hello, Sir,” Orden said solemnly.

“Galen, congratulations,” Morgan murmured.

“You’re him,” Dreyma said, looking at Morgan. “The Northman everyone’s talking about.”

“I suppose I probably am,” Morgan said.

Galen stood and put one arm around Dreyma, the other around his son.

“Magister,” he said, “this is my family.” He felt Dreyma flare with love in his Vada at the words and knew he had spoken correctly. Though there was not yet a formal bond, it was true. Tears of joy found their way out of the corners of his eyes, but he did not wipe them aside.

“So I see,” Morgan said. “I’m happy for you, truly. I guess it wasn’t such bad luck you running into us in the forest after all, was it?”

“I never would have credited it at the time, Sir, but you’re right. Completely right.”

“Alright, apprentice, run along. We’ll talk to – oh, there you are. Keleva, I’m afraid you’ve been inconvenienced. My apprentice and I have questions for you, but he’s just been reunited with his family. Perhaps another time would be better.”

“I don’t care where Galen goes or what he does,” Dreyma said. “We won’t be leaving his side any time soon. Unless it’s something private, now is as good a time as any.”

“Yes?” Morgan slanted an eyebrow at Galen, and he nodded agreement.

“Very well. We were wondering, Keleva, who the singing woman is?”

“No, that is something private,” Keleva answered. “I’d rather not discuss it here. Is she bothering you, Morgan?”

“Not me, I can’t hear her, but Galen can.”

“Please, come with me. Yes, all of you,” Keleva said in response to the unasked question. She led them out of the Great Hall in a direction they had not yet been, again winding through a mixture of plain stone and crystal until they came to a private audience chamber. One wall was the pure crystal like the Great Hall had been, making the whole room shine in full daylight. Keleva seated herself behind a large desk and invited the others to sit as well. The singing came to an abrupt stop when they entered the room.

“New faces!” a voice said. Galen looked around, but no one had spoken.

“Morgan, Galen, allow me to introduce you to Mjarni,” Keleva said. “Mjarni, this is Morgan ap Phaelan, forty-seventh Shield of the North and his apprentice, Galen.”

“I’m sorry, TaRia, I don’t -” Morgan began, but got no further. His eyes followed the woman’s gesture as she pointed to a skull which sat on a velvet pillow in a niche carved into the outer wall.

“Narni,” he breathed. “The Screaming Goddess of Zhamburrha.”

Galen looked as well, recognized the carvings from the stone house on Barkarnas and the carved skulls in the Zhamburrhan marketplace, and his eyes widened.

“Oh my,” the voice chuckled, “I haven’t heard that name in a long time now. Not in a long time.”

“How is that possible?” Galen asked.

“It was a colossal mistake is what it was,” the voice answered.

Morgan looked confused. “Keleva,” he said, “what’s going on?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot you cannot hear her. Morgan, Mjarni is in the skull,” Keleva said. “You’ll need a translator. She said it’s been a long time since she heard that name. Please, dear heart, translate for Mjarni?” A woman sat on the floor below the skull on another cushion, her eyes closed, deep in a trance. She nodded and spoke, her eyes glazed in concentration.

“Actually, I am the skull,” she said. “I mean, it’s my skull, and it’s all that’s left of me physically.” This was spoken aloud by the woman in the trance, and Morgan shook his head in amazement.

“So this is the singing woman Galen heard?”

“I sing to pass the time,” Mjarni said. “After all, I have so much of it.”

“And why,” Morgan asked, “do you have a singing, formerly screaming, skull, exactly? What is she doing here?”

“I didn’t know you were unfamiliar with the story,” Keleva said. “We freed her from the Oathbreaker when we captured him. She’s been here ever since then.”

“The Oathbreaker? You mean Laric? She’s been here since his Rian captivity? But why?”

“Is that the name he’s going by these days? I don’t like it. It doesn’t suit him, I don’t think. But he is always changing his name. I’m his wife,” Mjarni said. “I died millennia ago, and I’ve been trapped inside my physical body ever since. He kept trying to heal me, but it never worked. I just continued to disintegrate as the years went on. Eventually I was down to what you see now, just a skull. Oh, it is nice to have someone new to talk to.”

“I do think Morgan and Galen have more important things to worry about right now,” Keleva told the skull. “Though it’s nice chatting with you, there are momentous things happening in the world right now that require their attention.”

“Hold on a moment,” Morgan said. “This may be more important than you think.”

“How do you mean?”

Morgan turned to the skull. “You’re Laric’s wife? For thousands of years, is that right?”

“Since both he and I were mortal as you,” she answered.

“Then you are definitely someone I want to talk to. Tell me, do you have any magical training? How much do you know of what he was doing?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“I suppose it was too much to hope.”

“I was a magician before I even met Baqeas. We worked together for centuries. I’m responsible for half of the work he takes credit for.”

“You’re his equal…” Morgan breathed.

Mjarni snorted.

“I’m his superior,” she sniffed. “Baqeas really isn’t all that smart, you know.”

“Mjarni,” Morgan said, “how would you like to save the world?”

It had to have been an illusion, but Morgan thought the skull’s grin deepened.

#

The group of Landers gathered together in Morgan’s room, as had been their habit on the Eleli Rei. When Galen introduced his family, Willow shrieked with delight. She rushed to Orden and caught him up in a fierce hug from which it seemed she would never loosen her grip.

“More family for Willow!” she crowed. “Thank you, Pappa!”

She then took Orden off to a corner to play with her new brother.

“Amazing,” said Brand. “I honestly thought Galen had killed you, Dreyma. I am delighted to learn otherwise, of course. But how did you get here?”

“I did what Galen suggested,” Dreyma said. “I made my way to the coast and convinced a Rian priest to read me for the truth. They gave me asylum. I’ve been here on Far Ganel ever since then.”

“Incredible. You know the Emperor turned Erlaya inside out searching for you. He went mad with grief.”

“I know. I’m sorry about that. But I couldn’t stay.”

“I think we shall have to agree to disagree on that, Aiyana, if it’s alright with you.”

“I see no reason to discuss it any further,” Dreyma said. “And please, don’t call me 'Aiyana'. That part of my life is over. But Morgan, please tell me more about your plan with Mjarni. I’m most intrigued.”

“Well if I’m right, and lucky, she will have some information that will be useful to us in keeping Laric where he is, and out of the North. Even if all she has is insight into his mental processes, it could prove useful. If she has any knowledge of specific spells that could help, that would be even better. After all, she is a magician in her own right, quite separate from him. Either way, I think she can be quite helpful to us.”

“Do you not wish to overthrow and defeat him, then?”

“We never have, actually. We just want him to stay away from us. And anyway, how do you defeat an immortal? No, defeating Laric has never been part of the plan. All the North really wants is to be left alone.”

#

“Baqeas will never leave you alone,” Mjarni said through her interpreter the next day. “Don’t you understand that the North is his home? That all he wants is to reclaim that which he considers rightfully his? Yes, you do stand in the way of his dreams of global conquest, certainly, but you are also withholding his own homeland from him.”

“I suppose I always knew that, technically,” Morgan said. “But I never really thought about it that way. I mean, it’s clear he’s a Northman from his physical appearance. I just never thought that he’d care about the North for sentimental reasons.”

“I’ve never met a man as hopelessly sentimental as my husband.”

“How do I use that to my advantage, then?”

“Break his heart,” Mjarni said. “Baqeas can be shattered by taking away something that he cherishes.”

“But I don’t know what he cherishes,” Morgan said.

“Family. Homeland.”

“These things have already been taken from him, though.”

“Not entirely,” Mjarni said. “What would you say if I told you I know how to break his will with a single spell?”

“Is it a spell you can teach me?”

“Oh, most definitely.”

“I’m listening.”

As Mjarni outlined her plan to Morgan, his jaw dropped further and further. When she was finished, he sat staring at her in silence, pondering the idea. Finally, he spoke.

“Absolutely not,” Morgan said. “There’s no way I would subject my apprentice to that kind of risk. Don’t you realize that without Galen, we’re finished? I can’t afford to endanger his life like that. We need him.”

“You can’t afford not to endanger his life. Besides, he’ll be fine. You’ve already told me he knows how to do similar spells.”

“There is nothing in the world that is similar to what you’re describing. I forbid it. I will not allow him to attempt anything that dangerous. It’s foolhardy in the extreme.”

Mjarni sighed.

“We’ll see,” she said. “Someday, someone is going to be brave enough to try it. I just thought you might want to reap the benefits, that’s all.”

#

Jasper thought he was ready for his trial. He was, after all, pleading guilty. But stepping into the Great Hall on the morning of his trial, he found himself shaking and dry of mouth.

“Prince Eosain,” Keleva said. “We are met to hear your case. You stand accused of having broken an Oath Given. Your family and friends have joined this court to find the truth and decide what is to be done. I understand that the ranking officers on your ship are no longer alive to bear testimony. Who speaks on your behalf?”

“I speak, alone, Ta Ria, for my actions.”

“Not alone,” Morgan said from the crowd. There was a murmur as he stood and made his way to the front of the court. “I stand with my brother.”

“The Rian court does not recognize Landers,” Nerak, the prosecutor said. “You are here to observe, not to testify.”

“Your objection is noted,” Keleva said. “This is highly irregular, but not unexpected. This Lander is, in fact, a relevant witness, and an exception may be made to accommodate him in the absence of more traditional witnesses. Does anyone here stand closer to the defendant?”

Zirah stood and addressed the court.

“I stand his sister,” she said, “but I was not present for the crime in question. I cannot stand witness.”

“Do any Ria present stand witness to the event?”

Thele stood. “I stand witness to the event,” he said. “Though I am only a common hand, I am a member of the Prince’s crew.”

Doron stood. “I stand witness to the event,” he added. “I am not a member of the Prince’s crew but was saved by him and travelled with him.”

“Anyone else?” the Ta Ria asked.

In the silence that followed, Jasper spoke.

“The remainder of my surviving crew is upon the Ipar Izar,” he said. “My first and second mates were killed in battle. My priest died of plague in Pah Durik.”

“Thank you, Prince Eosain. So it would seem that this Lander is, in fact, the highest-ranking person who witnessed the crime. He also claims a kinship with the defendant, which any priest can verify as valid. I feel his testimony may be of value today. He will be permitted to speak.”

“My thanks, Ta Ria,” Morgan said.

“You may all be seated once again,” Keleva said. There was a murmur and shuffle as people returned to their seats. When it was silent once again, Keleva told the prosecutor she could proceed.

“As it please the court,” Nerak said, “it is come to our attention that two weeks ago or thereabouts, the defendant, Prince Eosain, did in fact willfully and with premeditation break his Oath Given. Testimony will show that the oath was made freely under no duress, and that the breaking of that Oath Given directly resulted in the death of a Rian child.”

“Prince Eosain, these are the charges against you,” the Ta Ria said. “How do you plead?”

“I am guilty,” Jasper said. A shocked murmur rippled through the crowd.

“Prince Eosain, these charges are very serious. Do you have no defense for your actions?”

“No. I am guilty.”

Again, Morgan stood.

“Ta Ria, with permission?” he said. She nodded, and he proceeded. “I understand that my brother the Prince is in great emotional turmoil because of this event, but there is, in fact, a defense I would like to present you. Eosain is understandably upset by his failure to protect this child, whose death saddens us all, but it does not follow therefore that there are no extenuating circumstances under which he was involuntarily forced to break his Oath Given.”

“You are asserting then that the defendant acted under duress?”

“Very much so, Ta Ria.”

“Please elaborate.”

“I will stipulate the facts in this case, but not without context. Prince Eosain was forced into a situation where two Oaths Given were in conflict, and there was no good choice for him to make. Yes, the child died. No one feels her loss more keenly than myself and her mother, but if he had not chosen to deliberately allow her to die, I would have died, which also would have broken an Oath Given to my parents. Furthermore, he had to make his decision based not upon the solemnity or importance of the Oaths Given, but upon the severity of the consequences of breaking each. Were he to have chosen to allow me to die, the results would arguably be far worse than that situation in which we find ourselves today.”

“Surely that can never be known,” Keleva said.

“I believe it can, Ta Ria,” Morgan said. “A great many things besides the Prince’s Oath depend right now on my survival. While the child’s potential life can never be known with absolute certainty, some things can be known. She was not a mage, for one thing. Granted, at the moment neither am I, but I have been and God willing will be again. A situation where the fate of a nation rests upon her shoulders is unlikely. The fate of mine almost entirely hinges on my life at this point in time. Prince Eosain chose to save the life that more demonstrably showed potential to save the greatest number of additional lives. He chose to err on the side of the known over the unknown. I know there was no way for my brother to keep both of his Oaths, but I feel that it’s clear he chose the only way he could under the circumstances in which he found himself.”

“A very powerful argument,” Keleva said, “but the facts remain. You stipulated them yourself: an Oath was broken and a child has died as a result. This is not to be taken lightly. On an additional note, still relevant though I am not sure how or if it is related, this man had a ship go down under him. Ria under his command lost their lives, and yet he still lives. This court is required to take that into account as well as the charge of Oathbreaking.”

“Ta Ria, how can that possibly be considered Jasper’s fault?” Morgan asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “You tell me.”

“He saved my life,” Jasper said. Everyone in court turned to stare at him, but he seemed not to notice. He stared into the middle distance and spoke without inflection. “Even after everything that happened, he refused to give up on me. I gave up. I did. But Bartok wouldn’t have it. He dragged me back to the surface, back onto the lifeboat. He died saving me.”

“Prince Eosain, you will have a chance to speak at the appropriate time,” Nerak said. “We have a lot of material to cover, please respect the court.”

“I have heard opening statements from both sides,” Keleva said. “Now I would like to hear the story in full. Counselor Nerak, you may begin.”

“Thank you, Ta Ria,” Nerak nodded, and began. “This comes down to a conflict between two Oaths Given by the same man. The first Oath is the very laudable and courageous intent to find, rescue, and return home the Lander known as Morgan, Shield of the North, who is also the defendant’s brother. The second Oath was that the Prince would not permit harm to come to the Rian child Reina, daughter of the Lander Paige of Lyridon. This Lander Paige is sister to the Lander Morgan, which makes her also sister to the defendant. The child in question was therefore his own niece.”

As the story unfolded in all its intricate detail, Morgan noticed that Jasper’s hands began to shake. As it approached the fight with the water dragon, shaking turned to rocking. When the moment of the actual Oath breaking was described, a shudder ran through his entire body, and he curled up in his seat with his head down, shielding his face. At last Nerak drew to the end of the litany and rested her case.

“As you can see, Ta Ria, the stipulated facts – and they were stipulated by the defense – are straightforward and obvious,” she finished. “There can be only one conclusion, that Prince Eosain is an Oathbreaker, and no true Rian.”

Silence descended upon the Great Hall.

“Well, it looks pretty hopeless,” Morgan said, rising to his full height to tower over the audience, “but something comes to my mind as the story was recalled. You see, it may seem like a minor detail, but I submit to the court that it is of utmost importance. On our way here, Prince Eosain was struck down by a blade poisoned with yarogaro and actually died. Ta Ria, I was there, he was blackened and bloating and beginning to smell before we revived him! In the Temple of the Moon, we brought his lifeless corpse to the healing pool and I watched with my own eyes as he was resurrected from actual death. After his recovery, Prince Eosain was, for a time, unusually energetic, even frenzied, with delight. It was during this critical period of time that he made his second Oath.

“I hereby submit to this court that the man who made the first Oath is not the same man who made the second Oath. Furthermore, he was not technically sane at the time his second Oath was made. What I am suggesting here, Ta Ria, is that Prince Eosain died, which released him from his first Oath, which, if you’ll recall, was to return me home or die trying, which he did, and was insane when he made the second one. Neither Oath should therefore any longer be considered valid, the first having been fulfilled and the second being the act of a madman, and therefore no crime was committed.”

The stunned silence that followed this speech was, if possible, deeper than the previous silence. No one dared make a sound and kept looking from Morgan to the Ta Ria and back.

A chair scraped, and Morgan looked behind him to see that Galen had risen to his feet.

“What my master says is true,” he told the court. “Prince Eosain was in a state of heightened excitation for an extended period of time after his revivification at the healing temple. It did not seem at the time to be a malignant symptom, and we let it pass unexamined. We did not perceive that it could be dangerous, but in hindsight, it seems my master has found the truth of the matter. I am deeply sorry for any wrongs that were done by my lack of perception.”

“You… are apologizing to this court for the Prince’s actions?” Keleva seemed stunned.

“Ruby and I were the healers present at the time,” Galen said. “If the Prince’s mind was compromised, it was our responsibility to know that. Ruby is no longer with us, as you know. I cannot tell you with certainty what she did or did not suspect, but she never discussed a concern about his behavior at any time with me. I now believe that both of us were mistaken.”

“I am going to have to give this a lot of thought,” Keleva said, “as the matter appears more complicated than it seemed at first glance.”

“None of this would be an issue if you had not permitted the Landers to testify,” Nerak said.

“True,” the Ta Ria said, “and wouldn’t you feel horrible finding out later that you had condemned an innocent man?”

“A child is still dead,” Nerak said. “The defendant still chose to let her die.”

“No, he didn’t, actually,” Morgan said. “We tried to pull him into the lifeboat after he saved me, but he went after her. He fought for Reina’s life. Losing a fight when you’re exhausted and friends are dying all around you is not a crime, is it?”

“Enough!” Keleva held up her hand. “I will take all of this under advisement, but I am ending the trial here. I will return with my decision when I have made it.”

With this pronouncement, Keleva stood and left the room. When she had gone, the Great Hall burst into dozens of curious, whispered conversations. Morgan slumped in his chair and tears stood in his eyes as he watched Jasper being returned to his cell.

“That was amazing,” Brand said, coming up to his cousin. “Do you really believe what you said, or was it just maneuvering on your part?”

“Does it matter?” Morgan asked him. “Does anything but the verdict really matter right now? I – we – need Jasper, and that’s the important thing to remember.”

“Why?” Brand asked. “Don’t look at me like that, I’m serious. They brought us here, to this island, with a spell, right? Surely they can send us back to Avyn with a spell. In fact, if Jasper is so good, why didn’t he do that from the beginning? Why all this sailing and running, and chasing?”

“Whoa, let me get this straight. You’re blaming Jasper for not being a magician? You have no idea the amount of work that goes into one of those spells, some of the requisite ingredients are hard to come by. If they’re done wrong, you could end up who knows where, or worse, nowhere.”

“Curious how the Rian priest just happened to have those ingredients on hand when we needed to get here.”

“I imagine Ruby had the same ingredients on hand as well. In case of emergencies. But your assumption that we can return to Avyn the same way is a bit farfetched. We have more sailing ahead of us, or my name’s not Mo-”

“Morgan, do you really think it’ll work? That they’ll let Jasper go free?” Paige came up to her brother with Ashia and Dreyma in tow.

“I don’t know, Shadow,” he said. “I tried everything I could think of. I hope for the best, of course. What else do we have, really?”

“You know, he really was kind of odd that day, with wanting me to see the dolphins. Do you think he really was crazy?”

“If it gets him out of an execution, I’ll swear to it on my deathbed.”

“And if it doesn’t…?”

“I can’t let myself think about that right now.”

With a nod, the ladies excused themselves.

“Impressive arguments,” Nerak said. “I was almost persuaded myself.”

“But you know better, is that it?”

“No, certainly not. This is my job, but not something I relish. Do you think anyone in their right mind would choose to prosecute a member of the Royal Family for fun?”

“Whether any of us here are in our right minds,” Morgan said, “remains to be seen.”

#

After a few hours, the Ta Ria re-convened the court.

“The truth is, I am torn on this question,” Keleva said. “I need to examine the defendant myself. I also wish to examine the witnesses. Prince Eosain, please come with me.”

Jasper followed the Ta Ria to her private office while the court fidgeted and murmured speculations. At length, he returned, sweating and shaking, and sent in Morgan. In hope of a verdict, the guards declined to return Jasper to his cell. After Morgan, Galen was sent in, with the same result as the other two – he was shaking when his questioning was finished. Still the Ta Ria kept them all waiting.

Minutes turned into hours, which turned into days, and still there was no answer from the Ta Ria. She took all her meals alone and spoke to no one. Speculation ran high, and tension was the rule rather than the exception. At last, she called the court to re-assemble.

“This case is not a simple one,” she began. “I don’t want anyone to think I came to my decision lightly or easily. The charges are both very serious and very complicated.

“It is the conclusion of this court that Prince Eosain has, in fact, been absolved of his first vow by virtue of his death in Zambhurra. However,” and here she had to raise her voice to be heard above the buzz of the audience, “however, he still behaved as though bound by it, and I think we may all someday owe our lives to that fact. Sadly, it was the mistaken belief in his first oath which led him to break the second oath in question, that of protecting the infant girl. Of this charge, we cannot find his Highness innocent. Prince Eosain made the right choice, but it did not come without a cost.

“We find as follows: that Prince Eosain did willfully and with full knowledge break his given word. He is an Oathbreaker. There is no getting around this fact. An opportunity presents itself, however, for him to redeem himself at least in part, and this court is prepared to accept a new oath from his Highness. If he will swear before this court and God Herself that he will neither attempt nor commit suicide, he will be put ashore in Avyn to fulfill his very worthwhile first oath and there remain for the duration of his natural lifespan. If he will not, he will be put to death. This is the court’s final word on this subject.

“Prince Eosain, what say you? Will you swear?”

“I will swear, but why would the court that names me Oathbreaker accept an oath from me now?” Jasper asked.

“Because this court has looked inside your soul, and knows you still value your word,” the Ta Ria replied.

“I swear I shall return Morgan to his rightful place and people, or die trying,” Jasper said without hesitation. “I further swear that I shall neither attempt nor commit suicide for the rest of my natural life. I may engage in some rather risky behavior, though.”

The Ta Ria smiled. “I would expect nothing less,” she said. “This court has heard and accepted your oaths, and will hold you to them. Any deviation from your given word will imperil your very soul, which will perish in the Depths. May God have mercy on you, Prince Eosain.”

“I feel She already has,” Jasper said.

“I believe you to be correct,” Keleva said. “And with that in mind, we should return you to land as soon as may be arranged. Court is dismissed.”

#

“What I don’t understand,” Brand said, “is why she didn’t cast the spell right then and there. I mean, she is a magician, isn’t she? Why the delay?”

“You mean besides the fact that I’ve told you before that it’s not an easy spell to cast? I think Keleva is giving Jasper a chance to say goodbye to the island. He’ll never be allowed to come here again, and it’s sacred to the Ria. This is their highest temple, if you will, their most holy place. He’s going to be cut off from his own religion forever, and I think the Ta Ria feels he deserves a chance to prepare himself for that.”

“You didn’t give me a chance to prepare,” Brand said. “You ripped me from my home and from the Ya’Sret without any warning at all.”

“Someday, cousin, your memory will return and you’ll thank us all for not giving up on you a thousand times over this last year.”

“I am not your kinsman, nor will I ever be.”

“Well you’re free to worship whomever you want, and nobody can force you to do otherwise, but you’ll have to do it in Lyridon. You’re coming home with us regardless of your identity.”

“Well I don’t understand why you do not recognize his superiority and simply bow to the greater man. All this frantic running and sailing and fighting is quite unnecessary.”

“You will someday, cousin. I promise you will understand.”

“You’d best be careful who you say ‘promise’ around on this island,” Brand said. “They’re like as not to chop off your head.”

“I think we’ll be safe just this once,” Morgan said with a smile. “Now finish up your packing, we’ll be leaving soon.”

“Not soon enough,” Brand said, wrapping the Barkarnas notes in his spare clothing.














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