Authors: Isobelle Carmody
I nodded. “Do you think he is right about Salamander being Sadorian? Do Bram or Jakoby know?”
“I spoke of it to Bram, and he says that if the tribe leaders accept Daffyd’s argument, it will definitely make a difference, though he believes it is only a matter of time before the tribes agree to participate in the expedition.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. Then I remembered the dreamtrails: Atthis bidding me through Maruman to return to Obernewtyn immediately; the Destroyer shadowing my dreams. “I must return to Obernewtyn,” I thought, and then realized I had said the words aloud.
Rushton’s smile faded. “You are serious?”
I looked into his green eyes, trying to think how to explain why I had to go without speaking of my quest and without lies. But before I could speak, he sighed and the tension in his body seemed to flow away as he reached out to cup my cheek. “You have had a premonition?”
It would have been so easy to nod and leave it at that, but it was hard to lie to him. Yet I might as well have lied, for while I dithered, he took my silence for an answer, saying, “Gwynedd has asked Jakoby to take us all to Sutrium, to drop Dardelan, Daffyd, and Brydda there before going on to leave Gwynedd and his people ashore at Murmroth’s Landing. He is hoping that by the time we get to Sutrium, Shipmaster Helvar will have sent word with the
to agree to take part in this expedition. If that is so, it will mean all parties concerned will be in one place, and the opportunity to have a proper meeting to plan it all out is too important to miss. I feel I must go along for this reason. But that is not the only reason. There is so much that can be achieved now, while the Land and the Westland are being forged anew, that will better the lot of Misfits.”
He was thoughtful for a moment. Then he continued. “Gwynedd has the notion that we ought to set up some
Misfit schools in the Westland and upon Norseland to allow anyone who might have Talent to be tested and to seek training locally, rather than being forced to travel all the way to Obernewtyn. And both he and Dardelan are speaking of there being two beasts apiece on each Council of Chieftains. There will be opposition from the likes of Brocade, of course, but if the practice can be introduced in the Westlands, it will be hard for him to make a strong case. Besides, did not beasts play a vital part in our battle for freedom? Brydda is longing to return to Sutrium to tell Sallah, and I want Guildmaster Gevan to know so he can raise the matter with the Beastguild as soon as possible. Also, you will need to ask Roland to appoint some healers to travel to the Westland to help establish healing centers in the cloisters. Of course, there is still much to be done before the Westland is secure.”
Suddenly he laughed sheepishly. “What I am trying in my long-winded way to tell you is that although I meant to ask you to come with me aboard the
, it being nearly impossible to imagine being parted from you so soon after all that has happened, in truth I would be glad to know that you were at Obernewtyn. Do you know the meaning of this premonition? Is it Dragon’s disappearance? Or Angina?”
“I do not know why I must go back,” I said truthfully. “Only that I must and immediately.”
He sighed. “Well and good. Yet it is hard to let you go, and the coast road is no pleasant afternoon ride.”
“I have been along it before, and Gahltha will not stumble,” I said, utterly relieved not to face disappointment or anger, or worse, hurt at my announcement that I would return at once to Obernewtyn.
“When would you leave?”
“As soon as I have provisions for the journey. If I must go, then I might as well be gone swiftly.”
He sat up, and I did the same, noting dark circles under his eyes. “I feel as if I have been away from you for years and that I have only just found you again, and now we must part.”
“We are not only ourselves and our desires,” I said. “You are the chieftain of Obernewtyn and leader of the Misfits, and I am …” I stopped, shattered at the realization that I had almost named myself the Seeker.
“You are mine whatever else you are and wherever you go,” Rushton said with an intensity that made me want to weep. I kissed him softly and would have drawn back, but his arms closed fiercely about me and the kiss deepened, drawing us both to passion’s breathless edge. Finally, he broke away, his breathing ragged. “If you would go, then you must go now, for I am not made of stone.”
His words summoned to my mind an image of the strange stone sword that Kasanda had left me, which the overguardian of the Earthtemple had called the key to all things.
Rushton touched my lips, drawing my mind and heart back to him. “You have left me already,” he said. His eyes were sad.
“I may leave you, but my heart has ever been in your keeping,” I whispered, and this time I drew the Chieftain of Obernewtyn into a fierce embrace and rained kisses on him as I had so often longed to do until he laughed in delight and gave me kiss for kiss.
HE RAIN SMELLS
of the sea,” Gahltha sent.
“I/Maruman hate the rain,” sent the old cat, sinking his claws into my shoulder to let me know that he blamed me for the weather.
I looked up into the brooding cloud-filled sky and thought of the enormous beast that had flown over Maruman and me, emanating malice on the dreamtrails the night before I had left Sador. The Destroyer, Maruman had named it, yet what had he truly meant? Ariel was far away in the Red Queen’s land, but my communication with Matthew had shown me that it was possible to reach someone over such an impossible distance. Yet Ariel had never taken such a form before. He had only ever been himself, even if he had occasionally projected a younger version of himself.
My eyes sought the gray sea that heaved and churned far below the coast road, the black jagged rocks rising above the froth like dark fangs. I let my gaze run away to the horizon, lost in sea mist and veils of rain, thinking of the
, which was even now sailing to the Red Queen’s land, and of Salamander, its master. Was he a Sadorian? I had felt convinced, hearing Daffyd, but in truth, the man might be a Gadfian, especially if it was true that the slavemasters were Gadfians. I thought, too, of the woman who had slept in a lavish chamber in Ariel’s residence, wondering if she was
Salamander’s woman or merely a woman showered with Sadorian luxuries.
In a few months, I had no doubt four ships would follow the
out into the dangerous sea. And Gahltha, Maruman, and I would be aboard, as would Rushton and Daffyd. And Dragon.
“ElspethInnle gnawing and gnawing,” Maruman complained irritably.
I laughed ruefully. “You are right, Maruman. I do gnaw horribly at things, and I wish I would stop as much as you do.”
“Soon we will come to the end of this weary/narrow way, and we will gallop instead of plodding,” Gahltha sent.
“That gallop will help ElspethInnle, but it will give Maruman pain,” the old cat said grumpily.
“To ride swift is to arrive soon,” Gahltha sent with callous good cheer.
“I fear we cannot gallop, even if Maruman would agree to it,” I told Gahltha regretfully, thinking of the stone sword we carried, wondering again who its rightful owner was.
“Maruman wearies of this long journeying,” Maruman sent, so wistfully that I could not resist reaching up a hand to stroke his head. He stiffened but suffered the caress.
“It is not so far now,” I promised. I glanced ahead as I spoke and was startled to see the faint shapes of mountain peaks just visible through the constant haze of rain. “Look! You can see the mountains already. Our journey will be over by tomorrow morning.”
“The mountains are only the beginning of the journey,” Maruman responded, and his mindvoice now had a fey quality that sent a prickling premonition across my mind and skin.
And somewhere, a wolf howled.
This book was written in La Creperie in Janovského, Prague, and in The Bay Leaf, Seagrape, and Cafe 153 in Apollo Bay, Australia. Thanks to Cathy Larsen for her persistence and generosity in her quest for a new look for the Obernewtyn Chronicles and for the new map, and to Nan for being all that she is, editor and friend. Gratitude to Mallory, Nick, and Whitney for their help in bringing this book to America. And a special heartfelt thank-you to the faithful readers of this series for waiting, patiently and impatiently, for what turned out to be, after all, not quite the last book.
When Elspeth receives the call, will she have the courage to begin her final quest?
and then stopped, for a gap had opened in the mist through which I could see the path directly below the window. On it sat a great, astoundingly ugly dog of the kind bred by Herders. Its muzzle and eyes turned up to me as if it felt my gaze, and I drew in a breath of stunned recognition.
“Darga,” I whispered, and swayed back, all the strength seeming to drain from my legs and arms with shock.
For here at last was the long-awaited sign that I must leave Obernewtyn at once and forever.