quasar273: (yuletide)
[personal profile] quasar273
Fandom: PC Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath
Title: That Which Creates
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~11700
Warnings: mention of gore and torture
Summary: Tori can do anything he has to, even forge a union among the feuding Highborns of the Kencyrath. But he needs the Kendar to keep his secrets, especially from himself.

A/N: Written for [livejournal.com profile] teaotter for the Yuletide rare fandom secret Santa project. This was my official assignment, and I loved it! Story includes a couple of quotes from PC Hodgell's books.



Omiroth, 14th of Autumn, Interregnum Year 20



The first time Adric, Lord Ardeth met Torisen was when he came to the Riverland as a boy.

It had started as another difficult day in a series of difficult days that were only likely to get worse. He was already embroiled in a blood feud with the house of Caineron, kept short of open warfare only by the fact that their respective home fortresses were separated by over two hundred miles along the length of the Riverland. A previous feud with the house of Coman had only been ended by selling one of Adric's daughters in marriage at a ridiculously low price in return for a promise that any male offspring would become heir to the house; the boy in question was half grown, but the conflict between the houses was merely in abeyance, not truly resolved. And now it appeared some of the Kendar from the house of Randir, his neighbors across the river, were encroaching upon farmland traditionally reserved for the house of Ardeth. With arable land so scarce in these parts, it was a provocation that could not go unanswered.

Honor demanded that he respond quickly and harshly, and yet he was beginning to fear for the Kencyrath as they broke into squabbling factions. Ardeth was not the only house facing conflict on multiple fronts; with each year that passed, almost as many Kencyrs died in feuds among themselves as in conflict with other races. For a people who regularly hired out as mercenaries, this was a bad situation to be in. The houses had been fragmenting apart ever since their mad Highlord, Ganth of Knorth, went into exile twenty years ago. Without a Highlord there was no one to arbitrate disputes, and the feuds just got worse.

If Ganth was still alive . . . if he could be persuaded to return from exile . . . if his madness was gone, or controllable, or at least concealable -- but no. The other houses would never accept the return of a lord who'd gotten half the Kencyr Host massacred in a hopeless battle -- never mind that nearly as many had died since then in reasonless feuds.

Meanwhile, the Kencyrs' God-given mission of fighting the spread of Perimal Darkling was all but forgotten. Adric remembered that mission well enough, but as head of house it was his duty to uphold the honor of the Ardeth. How could he act for the good of the Kencyrath as a whole without sacrificing the dignity of his house?

While he was contemplating this paradox of honor, his man Burr was announced, bearing dispatches from the Ardeth serving among the Southern Host. The letters had taken some water damage, despite being sealed in an oiled pouch. Stiffly, Burr described how he'd been attacked by hillmen along the road and had ended up retreating into the river itself to escape the superior numbers.

Adric frowned, checking over the letters. Only the outer ones were badly marked, and of those it seemed only the outermost pages -- bearing addresses and salutations -- were illegible. Almost all the content was still intact. "Relax, man. The letters are well enough. I'm not going to order you to use a White Knife!" Some forms of failure could only be expiated by ritual suicide; this was not one of them.

Burr sighed, and his shoulders eased. "Thank you, lord."

"You say you went into the river? I didn't know you could swim," Adric commented idly as he leafed through the stained letters.

"I can't, lord. I nearly drowned. But I had help from someone passing along the road -- a Kencyr from east of the Ebonbane, traveling to the Riverland."

Adric blinked. There were only a few minor Kencyr houses on the other side of the Ebonbane mountains, and almost no one traveled between them and the great houses of the Riverland. The only Kencyrs who went that way regularly were -- "Is he a priest?"

"No, lord. A boy, looking for . . . well, I said he could speak to you."

Adric sighed. "Burr, you know I can't offer a place to every houseless Kendar who comes seeking protection."

"I made no promises, lord. But he saved me -- and the dispatches -- and scared off the hillmen who attacked me."

"By himself?" Adric's eyebrows rose. "He must be quite a fighter."

"Well, yes, lord, but he . . . I think you'll want to speak to him."

Adric set the letters aside on his desk. "Very well, send in this fearsome fellow."

It wasn't, as he had envisioned, some precociously-large Kendar who stepped through the door, but a slender boy dwarfed by Burr's bulk. As he came into the room and the light from the great windows, Adric's breath caught. The triangular face, the dark curls, the silver eyes: this looked like any Knorth youth from the last hundred years, distilled into one -- with something more ancient still lurking behind that level gaze.

Adric came to his feet slowly, eyes fixed on the unknown yet familiar features. "What's your name, boy?"

"Torisen," he said, and the voice, young as it was, had the same ring Adric remembered. "Torisen of Knorth."

Burr, standing beside the door, choked a little. He must not have guessed; but then, he had only been a boy himself when Ganth went into exile.

"Your parentage?" Adric demanded.

"I am Ganth Gray Lord's son," said the boy, chin raised defiantly.

Adric nodded slowly. "And your mother?" By the look of him, the boy was full-blooded Highborn, but it was always possible he was part Kendar, unsuited to head a house.

Here the boy faltered a little. "She left when I was very young. But I'm told she was a Knorth also."

That was a surprise; there were supposed to be no Knorth females left, after the Shadow assassins had killed them all and started Ganth on the road to madness. But if there were a Knorth lady remaining, she would surely wish to keep her existence a secret for fear the notorious assassins would come after her as well. In fact, the tale of her 'departure' might have been to conceal something far more sinister.

So it was possible . . . but was it provable? Well, the mother's true bloodline was little matter so long as she was Highborn, and properly contracted. "She was contracted to your father, I trust?"

The boy blinked. "Sir?"

"Are you legitimate?"

A flush began to rise up the boy's neck. "I am no bastard, sir."

It had the ring of honesty. "Good. Excellent." Adric considered a moment. "Your father, is he dead? Ah no, never mind -- I can't imagine he'd let you leave if he still breathed."

The Knorth boy swallowed hard. "We lived in a keep up in the Haunted Lands."

Adric knew the place the boy referred to; he'd seen it on maps. But that keep had been abandoned generations ago as too dangerous, too close to the border and their eternal foe, Perimal Darkling.

"It wasn't a nice place to live. We were attacked more than once. Haunts, darklings, strange creatures with no name . . . " The boy ducked his head. "I . . . was the only one that got out."

"Do you have any token of your father's, to prove you are who you claim? His ring . . . his sword, Kinslayer?"

"No, sir. Only myself, and my word." The boy stood straight in the center of the room, looking as if he could anchor the world against all dishonesty. It was impossible to disbelieve him, yet Adric knew there were some who would take the lack of proof badly.

He began to pace as he considered all the implications. So old Ganth was no longer a concern, but against all expectations he'd left them an heir. This could be just what the Kencyrath needed to keep them from falling apart -- if only the boy could live long enough to take power.

"How old are you?" Not more than eighteen, Adric guessed.

"Fifteen, sir."

Adric nearly groaned. Scarcely more than halfway to coming of age! They would have a long wait before them, with the blood feuds growing in number and intensity all the while. Perhaps it would help to announce that there was a Knorth heir ready to take power? No, no; Adric dismissed that thought almost as soon as it came to him. The boy would be assassinated without a doubt if he revealed his existence before a network of protection was ready. Then too, while he remained a secret, known only to Adric and a few select conspirators, he would also be beholden to them. When he made it to power, with considerable help from the house of Ardeth, he would owe this house -- and Adric himself -- a very great debt.

And what if he wasn't fit to be Highlord? What if he carried the Knorth madness in his blood, waiting to overtake him at the least opportunity? He would have to be tested first, then. He would need to face trials before Adric decided whether to support his claim -- though of course, he would make a show of support from the very beginning; honor demanded it, after all. And if the boy turned out to be unstable, Adric would have a hold over him that might prove all the more useful. Or possibly an accident could be arranged, though the idea was distasteful to all sense of honor. No, the Knorth line was too important to all the Kencyrath; better to keep the boy alive for breeding to some more stable line -- one of Adric's own daughters or granddaughters, for a preference.

Adric looked up thoughtfully from his pacing, aware of the boy watching him uncertainly. Burr was watching also: Burr, who obviously liked the boy, and who was a reliable messenger capable of operating independently and writing a fine hand (unlike many Kendar). Burr could be Adric's tool to keep track of the boy from a distance.

"Come," he said briskly, rubbing his hands. "Let's get out of this fortress. It's a lovely day, and there are so many ears inside, have you noticed? Let's go for a ride. There's much to discuss, much to plan -- and I want you to meet my Whinno-Hir mare, Brithany."


Urakarn, 39th of Winter, Interregnum Year 20



The first time Harn Grip-Hard met Tori was on the eve of the assault upon Urakarn when Genjar of Caineron, new commander of the Southern Host, promoted Harn to one-thousand captain and gave command of his old one-hundred unit to a green boy. The first time he really got Tori's measure was during the battle before the gates of Urakarn, and that was ironic since Harn usually didn't notice much during battle.

The hell of being an officer, Captain Harn had learned, was not being able to give in to his berserker instincts. He had to concentrate on what was going on all around him, see where his randons were weakening or overcrowded, issue orders to correct each situation. And now that he had a thousand-command, they insisted that he command from horseback. Horses, even battle steeds, tended not to like it when their riders went into berserk rages.

But beyond all that, it rankled that they'd given his old one-hundred command to a half-Highborn bastard who'd never even laid eyes on the war college at Tentir and probably didn't know which end of a sword to hold, much less how to do justice to Harn's friends and former fellows in the unit. Harn had put this deadweight in the center where he could keep an eye on him. His other one-hundred commands, with less familiar to him personally but with experienced randon commanders, went to either side.

Rather than being house-oriented units, Harn's tenth of the Southern Host was composed of Kendar (and the occasional expendable Highborn or halfblood) from various houses, neither trained nor motivated to work together. Most of them were yondri-gon, threshold-dwellers, serving a particular house without actually being sworn to its lord, in hopes of one day earning a place. They were the misfits and rejects of the Southern Host, often given far longer tours of duty than the sworn Kendar who rotated back to more peaceful service in the Riverland -- an experienced lot, but weary and aging. As a group they were on the right flank of the line of battle, in the front line, a position that promised to be hot.

Harn had seen the child before the battle -- truly a child, since he must be years shy of coming of age -- white faced and shaking, hand clenched on the hilt of a sword too long for him but probably the shortest the armorer could come up with. Just come down from the north, he wasn't bronzed by the sun yet, and he looked all the paler for the black clothes he had chosen to wear. He was right-handed, too, unlike most Kencyrs -- this day was just full of foul omens. Harn wasn't completely devoid of feeling; he was sorry for the boy, but he was more sorry when he thought of the fine randons who would suffer for lack of a better commander.

As it turned out, the boy should have been the last of Harn's worries. He'd listened gravely to Harn's suggestions on deployment and followed every one. He addressed the ten-commanders before the battle in a clear, high voice, holding them back from premature action.

Then the word came for the charge.

Off on the left flank, the elite house units bogged in heavy sand and couldn't hold the line. The Karnides must have known it was there, for they had only placed token forces on their right side, peppering the Kencyrs with arrows and the occasional spear. The heavy forces, pikemen and armored units with battle waggons drawn by vicious horned rhi-sar, were on the Karnides' left, directly in front of Harn's command -- who were attacking in a disciplined line, perfectly arrayed until the crack of that first contact.

After that, everything was tinged with red mist for Harn, but he held on, shouting commands and encouragement he was hardly aware of. He saw his right-front one-hundred overrun by waggons and decimated within minutes; even as he ordered the second rank forward, three tens from the center-front unit moved to assist at the word of the black-clad boy -- had Harn told him to do that? Then the waggons reached him, and Harn gave in to the red tide.

He surfaced once to the sound of a high-pitched cry and saw the slender black form make a Senethari fire-leaping move to clear a pike thrust. Apparently little Blackie did know which end of a sword to hold. And then Harn was swept away to one scene of carnage after another, some of his own making but too many that were not.

He woke with a roaring headache to find himself in chains, his arms slung over the backs of two other Kendar who were also chained. Karnides were urging a line of them along at spear-point toward the buildings in the distance. At intervals they stopped to murder people on the ground -- Kencyrs or their own kind, they seemed not to care. Kencyrs had an honorable tradition of easing the passing of those too badly wounded for care, but some of these needed only a day or two of dwar sleep to recover.

Harn tried to protest the killings, but with little effect until they came to a small figure in dusty black pinned beneath an overturned waggon. The boy was awake, watching with cool silver eyes as the battle-harvesters approached.

"Not him!" cried one of the Kendar in Harn's group as a Karnide stooped with knife in hand. "He's an officer!" The speaker was randon Larch, commander of the one-hundred unit to which the little Highborn had sent aid. "Officer!" Larch repeated in the Karnish tongue.

The religious fanatic looked to Harn, evidently recognizing him as the highest ranking in the group.

"Aye," said Harn. "The boy's a Highborn. You understand?" He didn't have the common Kencyr gift for language, and struggled to remember a few foreign words. He gestured to the boy's collar of office, already stained with blood and dirt after one day on the job. "Officer. One-hundred officer. Very big man." Which was a ridiculous description of a slip of a boy, especially coming from someone Harn's size; but it got the point across.

The Karnide looked at them all skeptically, then gestured to the prisoners to heave the waggon away. Beneath it, they found the boy's servant -- an Ardeth, Harn recalled, and a decent fighter even though he wasn't a trained randon -- stirring groggily.

"You spare him too," the black-clad boy said coldly to the Karnides, and incredibly they held their knives while the servant was hauled to his feet and dusted off.

"Come on, Blackie," said Harn, as their captors doled out another length of chain to bind the two newcomers. "Looks like we're going to Urakarn."


Restormir, 61st of Winter, Interregnum Year 20



The first time Caldane, Lord Caineron heard about "Tori" was in a letter from his eldest son Genjar.

Dear Genjar had finally taken command of the Southern Host, the Kencyrath's largest body of mercenaries. He spent some paragraphs outlining for his father and lord how this command would enable him to promote the glory and power of the house of Caineron, eventually propelling Caldane to the position of Highlord with Genjar, of course, as his heir.

As the first step in this grand scheme, Genjar detailed his plans for a strike upon the stronghold of Urakarn, a city of religious fanatics in the Southern Waste which had been a thorn in the side of their ally King Krothen of Kothifir for many years. The Karnides, who were pitiful cowards and insanely confident of support from their false god, would fold at once under the assault of trained Kencyr mercenaries. Genjar also planned to manipulate the order of battle to preserve the Caineron forces while allowing some of the more expendable yondri units to take the brunt of the attack.

In a hasty postscript to the letter, sent out the night before the assault was to begin, Genjar added that Lord Ardeth had sent along a green Highborn boy -- apparently a bastard of Ardeth's, or perhaps of one of his sons -- with orders that the boy be trained to command. Genjar had given this "Tori" a one-hundred command, enough to show up his incompetence without letting him undermine the entire battle strategy. And he'd promoted a Kendar berserker above the boy; the otherwise capable randon would notice no details once the fight was joined, and so wouldn't be in a position to come to the boy's aid.

It was all most sensible; Genjar was quite the strategist, almost as brilliant as Caldane himself. Ardeth would be distressed by the loss of his protégé -- perhaps distressed to the point of failing health -- and Caldane wouldn't have to worry about interference from that quarter again.

That letter marked the last time that Caldane's glorious plans appeared to be moving forward as expected.


Urakarn, 47th of Winter, Interregnum Year 20



The first time Rose Iron-Thorn met Tori was in the dungeons of Urakarn.

The rest of the prisoners in the cell were experienced randons, Kendar who dwarfed the boy in their midst and dreaded the approach of his torture as much as their own. After they brought Captain Harn back with his chest mutilated and his head dented even worse, and took the young Highborn away, the atmosphere among the remaining Kencyrs in the cell grew even more oppressive.

He was rumored to be an Ardeth bastard -- how else to explain the sworn Ardeth servant (a bound member of that house and not a yondri-gon as Rose was to Caineron), and the letter Ardeth had apparently sent along with him? But he was no half-Kendar, Rose was certain of that. At most he might be one-quarter or one-eighth Kendar blood. Or he might be full-blooded Highborn; bastards were rare among that race since most Highborn women could control conception at will, but they weren't unheard of. The thing was, he didn't look like an Ardeth. If Rose had to guess, she might almost have thought he was . . . something she shouldn't even be thinking about, far less voicing out loud. Better to let it lie, especially if they were all destined to rot in this dungeon.

As a Caineron, she wasn't really welcome in the group tending to the Captain's wounds, so Rose sat impassively in the corner of the cell and watched the boy's Ardeth servant pace. This man, Burr, seemed very fond of the boy even though he'd only been in service with him for a few months. Rose had felt the same pull of that Highborn command presence when she spoke to the boy earlier. That was part of what made her certain the boy -- Tori, he had told them to call him -- was full Highborn; he drew Kendar to him like moths to a particularly brilliant flame. Even the sworn ones like Burr and Harn weren't immune.

There was also the boy's slight build. Rose had teased him that he was scarcely taller than her own five-year-old daughter. Her stories of Brier had seemed to interest him, and he'd let slip the information that he was barely sixteen years old. More than ten years short of coming of age -- what had his parents (whoever they were, or however unwise to have begotten and borne him) been thinking, to send such a child off to war? But likely his parents were gone, or had no say in where he was sent. He had the air of someone alone in the world, and a little lost. But then, they were all lost, here in the dungeon.

A day after he was hauled away, Tori was tossed back into the cell with scorched and bloody hands curled protectively against his chest, and another one-hundred captain by the name of Rowan was taken away instead. Tori breathed in little choking gasps but didn't weep or scream as they pulled his burned fingers apart and wrapped them in what rags were available.

Afterward, Burr cradled the boy in his arms, practically in his lap, but Tori refused to sleep. Captain Harn woke briefly from the depths of dwar, murmured something about "Good, Blackie's back," and subsided again. But still Tori was awake, trembling in Burr's clutches.

Rose was mostly asleep herself, in the deepest watch of night, when she heard his young voice whisper, "Burr?"

"Shhh, Tori, just sleep."

"Burr, if they ask you -- if they ask you to recant, say yes. Say you believe in their god. Say you never liked the Three-Faced God anyway."

"You know I can't do that, Tori. The lie would stain my honor."

"Not if . . . not if . . . give me your soul."

"What?"

Rose caught her breath. Here was proof, if she had needed it; only a full-blooded Highborn could carry another Kencyr's soul.

"I can hold it for you, keep it safe. They won't haul me out again soon . . . I don't think so, anyway. Give me your soul, then you can lie to them and, and it won't touch your honor."

"Tori, I . . . I can't . . . you're fevered, that's all. It wouldn't work."

Rose opened her eyes and leaned closer to them. "Maybe it would work," she breathed. "Tell them you recant and they won't torture you, well enough -- but they might also give you a bit of freedom. Chance to wander around. Maybe . . . a chance to grab the keys?"

Burr's eyes gleamed wide in the darkness. "That's madness. It wouldn't work! The place is crawling with Karnides."

"And a Kencyr with no soul is nearly impossible to kill. We can fight our way out!"

"We?" Burr hissed. "He's too young for this! How many souls do you expect him to carry?"

"I can do it!" Tori insisted, loudly enough that the others in the cell stopped pretending to sleep. Rose could hear him struggling to sit up, and guessed that Burr was restraining him.

"Better we should wait. They'll ransom us back," Burr said.

Rose shook her head. "I doubt it. My lord Genjar is dead." She heard breaths catch and mutters of surprise around them. "Last night. I felt it." Though she was only a yondri temporarily in service to Caineron, the Highborn of that house kept a heavy hand on their Kendar.

"Was he captured?" someone asked from the other side of the cell.

"I don't think so," said Rose. "It must have been the White Knife." Despite her enforced loyalty to the house, she knew that it had been folly for Genjar to use his command of the Southern Host to attack Urakarn -- and it had failed. If Genjar had survived the battle that cost so many Kencyr lives, he could only redeem his honor by ritual suicide.

"They've given up on us," someone said. "There'll be no ransom."

"Even if there were, could we wait for it?" another said.

"No, we can't," said a rough voice that Rose recognized as Captain Harn's. He sounded alert enough, so he must have emerged from dwar some time ago. "We have to try to escape. Blackie's plan is as good as any. How many souls can you carry, boy?"

The answer was simple and immediate. "As many as I have to."


Southern Waste, 50th of Winter, Interregnum Year 20



The first time Rowan Bitter-Shield got Tori's full measure was when he led them out of Urakarn by their souls.

The fight to get free of the dungeons was short, bitter and bloody. The long trek that followed was worse. The sun of the Waste beat down upon them powerfully, though most of them cast no shadows. If it were not winter, they would have had to stop and seek shelter during the day. As it was, they kept shuffling across the sand, but Rowan knew they had little hope of avoiding recapture. It was incredible that they had even made it this far. But the young Highborn told them to walk, so they walked.

She was the slowest of them still upright, with the infected wound she had taken in battle griping at her leg and the burn on her forehead from the torture feeling as if it must eat through her skull. Two others were being carried: a randon with both feet ruined by torture clinging to the back of one-hundred commander Larch; and Burr, the Ardeth servant, who had taken a pike-thrust through the chest and was left by the Karnides for dead. Yet Tori had insisted the man was still alive and started digging through piles of rotting bodies with wounded hands to find him.

When they had disentangled Burr from the carrion, he certainly looked dead. Captain Harn said, as gently as his gruff voice would allow, "Give him back his soul, lad, and let him go."

"He's not dead; he can heal," said Tori, stubbornly denying the obvious truth. "Anyway, there isn't time." He cupped his filthy bandages around Burr's face and ordered, "Sleep." And impossibly, the shattered chest began to rise and fall in the healing rhythms of dwar.

It couldn't be good for Burr to be slung over Captain Harn's shoulder now, but apparently refusing to give him up to death helped Tori, for he kept marching steadily across the sand with his hands curled in front of him. His shadow marched northward before him, deepened and enlarged eightfold, yet somehow not distorted out of shape. Rowan could scarcely conceive the strength that would allow this slender boy to carry seven souls besides his own, all intact and undamaged. It was like something out of the most ancient legends, the ones full of pageantry and tragedy and honor. She wondered, a little distantly, where the tragedy would come in, and where the honor.

Without her soul, she felt strangely light and uncaring. She was aware of the pain in her leg and forehead, but it didn't seem to matter much; all that mattered was walking, as she'd been commanded, and not letting her leg collapse beneath her. Even the sun didn't make her sweat -- though that might have been her fever, rising again. Tori wasn't sweating either.

Then Rose Iron-Thorn stumbled into sink-sand, and disappeared within seconds. Tori, being the closest, clutched at her. He fell prone, his legs on the dry surface and his arms descending into the sink-sand with Rose.

Rowan went after him, catching him by the legs and holding. He was so slight it seemed her hands could wrap right around each of his thighs. Others came to brace her or to reach for Tori themselves.

"I can't hold her," Tori was sobbing, his face almost lost in the sink-sand. "I can't hold on. Rose!"

Rowan sighed and pulled him back onto dry sand. His bandages, filthy with blood and grit, raveled free to show hands that looked like raw meat several days past edible.

"No, she's still in there! I couldn't hold on, she slipped away --"

"She's gone, Blackie," said Captain Harn gently.

"She's still alive!"

Rowan gulped. It was possible; without a soul, it was unlikely a mere lack of breath would kill Rose Iron-Thorn. She might languish there under the sand, suffocating, for days. Rowan began to think how someone might be able to go down after her, with a rope -- but they had no rope.

"She's gone. Will you release her soul now?"

"There isn't time!" Tori panted. "We have to keep moving."

So they marched. Privately, Rowan wondered if the boy was just reluctant to lose whatever consolation their souls brought to him. It was even possible he had some plan for making use of them; some of the old stories whispered of such horrors -- stolen souls, devoured souls, souls turned to evil use. Yet seven tough, experienced Kendar had entrusted their souls to this unknown boy on his bare word, without knowing his history or motives. It hadn't been easy to give her soul up; it had felt like peeling her skin away, except that it was something inside her that pulled free and went with Tori.

On they marched, until Rowan's leg gave out. She tried to tell them to go on without her, but an Edirr yondri pulled her arm over his shoulder and hauled her along. Now there were as many of them being carried or supported as walking.

Near nightfall they found shelter: a boat so ancient that its wood had turned to stone, or something like it, in the strange environment of this dry sea.

"We have time now," said Captain Harn, and Rowan could hear in his voice some of the suspicions that nestled under her own heart. "Will you release our souls now? Or do you have some other plan for them?"

The boy sat straight, flushed with fever. "I gave you my word. Is that not enough?"

Harn grimaced. "We've only known you a few days, Blackie."

"What are we coming to, if you can't trust the word of another Kencyr?"

Harn shrugged and turned away, but Tori, closing his eyes and muttering under his breath, began to release their souls -- Harn first, then Larch, then Rowan, and on down the line. As he'd said, it took time -- more than they could have spared while escaping. Rowan's soul felt so heavy when it was back inside her, weighting her down, that she wondered how Tori had been able to stand while carrying them. She had expected him to release Rose's soul first of all, but for some reason he clung to that one, as he did to Burr's.

Rowan lapsed into dwar sleep and missed what followed. When she woke, they were safe at the northern shore of the dry sea, and a Kencyr scouting party had found them. Tori was near delirious, muttering about Rose Iron-Thorn towing their boat from below the sand (or was it water he spoke of?) His shadow was merely doubled now; he was only carrying Burr's soul in addition to his own. And Burr was breathing more easier, the gaping hole in his chest smaller. He was healing faster without his soul; Tori had been right about that, too. But still the boy refused to sleep.

Rowan, remembering the strange dreams that had haunted her on the edges of dwar, could understand his reluctance.


Part Two
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