Authors: Dave Duncan
so look forward to showing it all to you-the dancing and the balls, the
banquets and the elegant conversation! I was not much older than you when I
first arrived, and I danced every night for months. The music! Fine cooking!
Gentle countryside... you have no idea how green and prosperous the landscape
is, compared to these harsh hills. And the handsome young men!” She
simpered and then sighed.
had heard all that about a million times in the last week. Now was the time of
spring tides, she thought bitterly. There would have been good clam digging
Duke Angilki!” Aunt Kade was in full gush now. “He was a very
striking young man in his... well, I mean, he is a most civilized person. His
artistic taste is quite impeccable.” He is also thirty-six years old and
has two daughters. He has buried two wives already. Although Inos had never met
her distant cousin, she was quite certain that he was utterly detestable. She
was determined to hate him.
will be so happy to see us!” Kade peered into the mirror and patted her
blue-tinted hair where it emerged under the silver trumpet on her head.
always thought that one should not go visiting without an invitation,”
Inos said bleakly; but she had tried that argument before and it had not
worked. It would hardly work now, not with a ship waiting.
be absurd!” Kade said, but without heat. “We shall be very welcome.
We have a standing invitation, and there simply has not been time to write and
wait for a reply. Winter is coming. You will love the sea voyage in summer, my
dear, but it would not be possible later. Ah! The sea! I do so enjoy sailing!”
Master Jalon ready?” Jalon was an infuriatingly vague person, but he
would at least make the voyage bearable. Kade turned to her niece in surprise. “Oh,
did he not tell you? He has decided to go overland.”
crazy!” Inos tried to imagine Jalon wandering through all those weeks of
dangerous forest, and her mind went limp. There were goblins in the forest.
quite possibly. “ Kade shrugged. “But your father seems to think he
can manage; he gave him a horse. He left this morning. I know he went looking
for you to say good-bye.”
expect he was distracted by a seagull, or something. “
dear...” Kade peered around at the trunks and baggage. “Which ones
shall we be using on the voyage?” she inquired of Ula, her maid. Inos had
not been allowed a maid. One would suffice for both of them, Aunt Kade said,
because there would not be room for more on the ship; and they could hire girls
with better training when they arrived at Kinvale.
was short and dark, dull and almost sulky. She was showing no excitement at
all, but then she probably did not understand where she was headed, or what a
month or longer on a boat must be like. Nor, probably, did Inos herself, she
realized. On the charts it seemed simple-west to the Claw Capes, south into
Westerwater, and then east again to Pamdo Gulf-but that also seemed an
unnecessarily prolonged and roundabout torture when the land route was so much
shorter, and so much more interesting! Aunt Kade had sailed back and forth
between Krasnegar and Kinvale several times before, during, and after, her
marriage. Her enthusiasm about the prospect of doing it again was ominous.
Anything Aunt Kade enjoyed would have to be a ghastly bore.
could they not have gone by land? If a nitwit like Jalon could manage it, then
anyone could. That argument did not work, either. Aunt Kade did not like
horses, nor coaches.
and bales and trunks... How could they possibly have amassed so much luggage?
It smelled of soap and lavender. Ula indicated two large trunks and Aunt Kade
began to cross-examine her closely on their contents. Inos did not bother to
listen. She gave herself a last angry inspection in the mirror and stuck out
her tongue at her ludicrous reflection, then stalked to the door. She would
take a final walk through the castle and say a private good-bye to some of her
past frantic week had been so dominated by dressmakers and seamstresses that
she had hardly spoken to anyone else. Since that shattering day when the God
had appeared, she had been lost in a blizzard of silks and satins, of lace and
lingerie. She had not ridden Lightning once, not once! Rap had vanished the
next morning. The sinister Doctor Sagorn had growled a brief farewell a few
days after that and disappeared as mysteriously as he had come. And now Jalon
had gone riding off into the hills. By Winterfest he would probably still be
going round in circles somewhere, she thought-if he had not been tortured to
death by a band of ferocious goblins.
Inos reached the door, however, it opened to admit Mother Unonini, stark in her
black chaplain’s robe, smiling with responsibilities and clutching a roll
of papers. She stopped and regarded Inos with surprise, and then made a curtsy.
On her absurdly short legs it was a clumsy move, but she had never done that
before. Suddenly Inos did not feel quite so hostile to Mother Unonini. She was
another familiar face not to be seen again for a whole interminable year.
returned the curtsy.
look very charming, my dear,” the chaplain said. “Turn around! “
decided she must look like a weathervane, the way everyone kept wanting her to
turn around. She turned around.
does look nice,” Mother Unonini said warmly. Inos felt temptation and
succumbed. “It’s only an old tablecloth. “
frowned, then suddenly laughed and put her arms around Inos and hugged her...
garlic today, not fish. “We shall miss you, my dear!” She turned
hurriedly toward Aunt Kade and curtsied again.
brought the text of the prayer you will be reading, your Highness. I thought
perhaps you would like to look it over beforehand; practice a little.”
dear!” At once Kade was flustered. “I do hate having to read
prayers! I hope you wrote it big? The light is so poor in the chapel. “
think so.” The chaplain fussed with her papers. “Here’s
yours. You will be invoking the God of Travelers. Corporal Oopari will address
the God of Storms. The ship’s captain will be doing the God of Sailors,
of course, and he will have his own text. His Majesty will invoke the God of
Peace... his own choice,” she added disapprovingly. “It does seem
Mother,” Aunt Kade said. “He is concerned with relationships
between Krasnegar and the Impire and so on. “ She held her script at arm’s
length and blinked at it.
the corporal read?” Inos asked. Oopari was a pleasant young man. He and
his men would doubtless do a good job of protecting her on the voyage, but she
could not imagine him reading.
said Mother Unonini. “But he has been rehearsed. You, Inosolan, will
speak to the God of Virginity, and--”
had surprised herself as much as the others. There was a shocked silence and
the two ladies both colored.
Aunt Kade breathed. “Surely-”
of course not!” said Inos, aghast. “That’s not what I meant!”
She was certain she had gone pinker than both of them now. She looked to the
chaplain. “I want to speak to the God who appeared to us that day. They
are obviously looking after me. Well, are interested...”
Unonini compressed her lips. “Yes, I agree that it would be appropriate,
but we don’t know who They were. I should have asked, of course... “
was an awkward pause.
Inos said brashly, “then we shall have to think of a name. They told me
to try harder, so the God of Good Intentions, perhaps?”
Unonini looked doubtful. “I’m not sure that there is one. I should
have to look at the list. I mean, They all believe in good intentions-the good
Gods, of course.”
is so difficult!” Aunt Kade remarked, studying her paper again. “Why
can’t Inos just ask for `the God I saw here in the chapel’? They
would know, wouldn’t They? Is this word ‘devote’ or `devout’?”
`Denote,’ “ Mother Unonini said. “Yes, that is a good idea.
And she can ask for help in trying harder.”
what harder?” a voice asked, and there was the king in the doorway,
looking very grand in a long scarlet robe trimmed with ermine. It brought with
it a scent of the cedar chest in which it snoozed away the centuries. Inos
smiled at him and turned around before he could ask her to.
nice! Charming!” He was carrying his crown under his arm. He did not look
very well. He had been suffering from indigestion a lot lately, and the whites
of his eyes had a nasty yellow tinge to them. “Trying what harder?”
he repeated. Mother Unonini explained and he nodded gravely.
Kade was studying her brother with care. “Kondoral will be saying the
prayer for the palace and those who live in it?”
course!” The king chuckled quietly. “We couldn’t teach him a
new prayer at his age,’and we can’t stop him saying it.”
I,” Mother Unonini proclaimed proudly, “will invoke the God of
Wedlock to find a good husband for the princess.” She flinched under a
think perhaps that would not be in the best of taste, Mother. It sounds rather
predatory. After all, the purpose of her visit to our ducal cousin is merely to
experience courtly life and complete her education. Husbands can wait.”
looked flustered and Inos felt a sudden wash of relief. Both her father and
Aunt Kade has insisted she was not being sent off to find a husband, merely to
learn deportment, but she still secretly dreaded that matchmaking was behind it
all. This sounded like a very firm denial, though, being made to the chaplain,
and hence indirectly to the Gods. Perhaps her father was reassuring her. She
must find time for another private talk before they sailed.
Mother Unonini was at a loss now. “Then which God should I speak to?”
could take the God of Virginity,” Aunt Kade suggested.
Holindarn of Krasnegar caught his daughter’s eye momentarily, blinked a
couple of times, then turned hastily away. Inos stared back blankly. Certainly
that remark of Kade’s could be taken in a very catty way... but surely he
had not thought that Kade had meant it like that? Anyone else...
service in the dank, dark chapel was horrible. Silk was not warm enough. Inos
shivered the whole time. No Gods appeared. The drive down to the harbor was
worse. She tried to smile and wave to the politely cheering crowds while rain
splashed into the open carriage. Her stupid, stupid hat wanted to blow off all
this pomp had been Aunt Kade’s idea. She had talked the king into it.
farewell on the dock was the worst of all, saying formal good-byes to the
notables of the town, being polite, smiling when she wanted to weep. None of
her own friends was there. They were working in the castle, or out on the
hills: Lin and Ido and Kel...
a young man with gray eyes and a big jaw. A young man stupid enough to drive a
wagon through the sea itself when he thought it was his duty.
blinked. The rain must be getting in her eyes, even although Ula was standing
behind her holding a leather umbrella. Aunt Kade was being impossible, chatting
with everyone, taking ages.
captain badly needed a bath, but she was glad when he interrupted all those
interminable polite farewells to announce that they were going to miss the tide
if they did not go soon. His ship was even dirtier than he was. And it was so
tiny! Inos tried to hold her gown off the grubby deck and tried to hold her
breath in that revolting--
is that stink?” she demanded in horror. A month of this?
“ Aunt Kade positively chuckled. “Try not to get your gown dirty,
Inos protested. “We’ll all be pig litter in five minutes. “
why we brought old clothes for the voyage, dear.”
she was being helped-none too gently-down a ladder and into a black and vile
hold. The cabin... These were her quarters? A closet! She pulled off the hat
and she still could barely stand upright. “This is my cabin?” she
wailed at her aunt. “I have to live for weeks in this?”
cabin, dear. And we have two trunks coming, remember. Don’t worry, you’ll
get used to it.”
her father was there, also, and those could not be raindrops in her eyes now
and she must not upset him by weeping. “Safe voyage, my darling.”
His voice was gruff.
tried to smile. “This is exciting.”
nodded. “It will seem strange, but Kade will take good care of you. I
hope old Krasnegar does not seem too horribly small and bleak when you return. “
swallowed a lump in her throat and it was still there. She had things she
wanted to ask him, things she should have asked long since and had not wanted
to, and now there was no time.
Then she blurted it out. “You truly don’t want me to marry Angilki,
were so cramped in that odious little cabin that he hardly had to move in order
to put his arms around her and hug her tight.
of course not! I’ve told you-it might cause all kinds of trouble with
Nordland if you did.”
The Gods were not as cruel as she had feared.
keep your eyes open,” he said.
what?” she asked, and the ermine collar was tickling,her nose.
laughed softly. “For some handsome young man of good family. Preferably a
younger son, and certainly one with some brains and tact. One who pleases you.
One who would be willing to live in this wild, far-off country at your side and
help you keep Krasnegar out of the clutches of Nordland and Impire both.”
She looked up and the laugh was not in his eyes. Even in the bad light she
could see the yellow. He looked ill!