Text copyright © 2007 by Rachel N. Hatch Illustrations copyright © 2007 by Rachel N. Hatch All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. Hatch, Rachel N. The Code Breaker / by Rachel N. Hatch Summary: Marin, a child prodigy and master code breaker becomes the center of an international struggle for control of Mykolia. Book Three: Houses of the Star Printed in the USA First edition, November 2007

HOUSES OF THE STAR

THE CODE BREAKER

Rachel Hatch

ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NINE TEN ELEVEN TWELVE THIRTEEN FOURTEEN FIFTEEN SIXTEEN SEVENTEEN EIGHTEEN NINETEEN TWENTY TWENTY-ONE TWENTY-TWO TWENTY-THREE TWENTY-FOUR TWENTY-FIVE TWENTY-SIX

9 25 40 53 69 84 94 107 125 147 159 170 184 205 225 233 251 261 271 286 306 318 328 338 351 368

for Richard

.

calling her to breakfast. After she had washed and dressed. at the untimely death of his mother. Marin passed her morning meal in silence. whose life had been worn thin after her husband was killed in a riding accident. The servants. Rosings had taken over the estate and renovated the way it was run. Rosings rose at six and after bidding a good morning to those that happened to cross his path. as did many of the others. It had come to him. Elizabeth. and took pride in ensuring that it was well-run.he Rosings kept thirty-four servants. hitherto allowed to rise when they please. descended to the grounds of his tentacular estate to take the morning air. Rosings was proud of his estate. he had told Marin. Mr. At five o’ clock. went down to the kitchens and warmed her hands around the fire the newly-hired boy had made moments before. Mr. when he was only twenty-two. Too tired to think of worthwhile conversation. Sandhill Park. Marin descended to the kitchens where she breakfasted with most of the thirty-three other servants employed at Sandhill Park. Rosings’ personal valet. Elizabeth put her hands into the flour bins and began to mix the dough for the bread that would be baked that morning and that would serve the family throughout the day. Marin Lindrine heard a sharp knock on her door and the voice of Patrick. and be engaged only when they were called were now tightly leashed to a schedule that had been handed them the very day the Mr. of which Marin Lindrine was certainly not the least. who had been employed the longest and whose pay was the envy of all who served the Rosings. After only five minutes before the warming flames. Mr. Each morning at precisely four o’ clock. T . Mr. At five o’ clock the Rosings were still in bed.

wrapped in a blanket. were carefully manicured by a staff of seven gardeners. Marin and her twin sister Robin were transported that night by carriage away from the ocean-side town. Even now. hardly hearing her tell him to have a good day. 10 . giving her something other than fear to think about. and only the thought of the full day of work that lay before her pulled her from lapsing into a melancholy stupor. while Robin dreamed peacefully at their side. healthy from the swift sea air that blew north over the country from the South Sea only miles from the estate. At seven o’ clock Mr. dropped a kiss on Mrs. She had only been seven at the time. Rosings clapped a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. Rosings’ lips and hurried to his study.Rosings had moved in. and that was all. Mr. and the woman that had given them a room for the previous week quickly and eagerly surrendered the two girls over to his care. Rosings brought into line. Rosings was the first of the Rosings family Marin had met. Mr. and relived the scene of her “rescue” over often in her mind. these were flowers grown for a purpose: they ornamented the paths. but she still remembered the way that he had grasped her hand when they had met. The flowers that grew alongside the stately paths were not the kind that one would place behind the ear of his beloved. Mr. Rosings returned from his morning promenade to find his wife and daughter Estella dressed and primly seated at the oak table in the dining hall. who each had their own specific duties and staff. Mr. The gardens. Rosings himself had held the trembling Marin in his arms. Rosings had made for him. the terror of losing both her parents was fresh in her mind. as neatly trim as the suits Mr. Marin had never forgotten that day. The trees were tall and majestic. But the servants were not the only thing that Mr. After chatting lightly over toast and coconut milk. Rosings had offered her and her sister a place at Sandhill Park.

making her the envy of most adults. She had her dresses made for her by the same tailor that came every month to measure the Rosings women for their clothing. Marin had spoken Mykolian at home. but she did enjoy certain privileges that the other servants in the house could only covet. Marin quickly gained a native command of the language. her twin. Marin spoke Alikan without an accent and was studying Felsen and Quinian intently. But this was not the real reason Marin was so invaluable to Mr. After several years. at seventeen. and with a little guidance on the part of Mr. a small apartment on the second story that was cleaned every second Friday by a maid named Maurice. nor was she ever considered a member of the family. Rosings was too busy to pen them in his own hand. Now. but only because Marin had demanded it. was given the same care as Marin. Because her mother had been from Northern Mykolia. Rosings had employed Estella’s tutor to continue Marin’s education. he hired the best language teachers to come to Sandhill to teach Marin. Once she had perfected her Riventalese spelling. Rosings himself. and although the product that she received was never as expensive. and her progress was promising enough that Mr. she was put to work at the desk of her beloved Mr. translating important documents and dictating letters when Mr. It was discovered that she was gifted for languages. Marin was content. She was well-dressed. wellfed and well-cared for. Rosings had looked disapproving when the seven-year old Marin 11 . Mrs. She had her own room. she had proven herself prodigious in her ability to learn. Rosings. as beautiful or even as well made as those that fell into the hands of her masters.Mr. Marin was a bright girl and learned quickly enough to astound her tutor and all those that were told of her progress. Batten. Marin had never been invited to dine with the Rosings at dinner. Rosings invested in it. Robin.

Marin had made one of her rare fusses. Mr. but she held a certain presence of her own that made a mark on every social circle upon which she inflicted her company. It was barely March the last time Marin had donned her winter coat and the flowers had long since started to dot the borders of the stretches of lawn that quilted the Rosings’ Estate. Rosings. Marin was built very differently from the Rosings. Rosings approved neither of Marin nor of her influence over Mr. Rosings was not as tall as her husband. Mrs. Marin was a dark brunette whose locks were straight and fell half-way down her back.had demanded that first night to know where her sister was being kept. she spent much of her day indoors. just now she 12 . who had the same bright green eyes and round cheeks. In general. Rosings’ major interests. her friend of five years at least winking at her from behind the silver tray that she carried. His dark complexion set off his starched which shirts very nicely. and her dresses were quite simply the envy of every lady within fifty miles of Sandhill. “I missed you at breakfast. She had clear blue eyes and olive skin. Rosings was tall with dark hair. Her long auburn hair was always piled in severe curls on her head. and her twin had been relocated to a small bedroom just across the hall from Marin’s own room. She was light and thin while Mrs. and his neatly trimmed black moustache made him look just as severe as his wife. there was nothing that she could do about either problem.” Marin turned to see Caron. She had transferred much of her looks to her daughter. Estelle was quiet and tall for sixteen. while not plump. Caron worked mainly in the kitchen. But as Marin was one of Mr. Rosings and Estelle were. Spring had come early that year. Not that Marin had much time to admire their blossoms. Mrs. certainly a great deal more solid than Marin. When she was told that the girl had been bundled off to the servants’ quarters.

wield a sword and run as fast as any boy her age. “Where’s Robin? She wasn’t in her room.” “Don’t be ridiculous.” Caron said. Robin was certainly more athletic than Marin.” “She’s fast on a horse. while Robin could ride a horse. 13 . Robin was encouraged in her abilities. This wasn’t true. where she would bestow tea and cocoa upon the hungry recipients upstairs. Robin delivered important messages to important people of Mr.” Caron said.” Caron said scornfully. Rosings that it’s dangerous. “It’s not dangerous.was on her way to the Rosings dining room. especially when their abilities were compared by spectators. Rosings’ acquaintance both in Rivental and across the Mykolian border. a fact that had caused Marin several moments of pause. “I don’t like it when they send her on trips like that. “I think you’re just jealous. Rosings had told her time and time again that acting as courier was good for her. “I wasn’t hungry.” Marin frowned.” Marin said crossly.” “Robin’s been sent to South Fork. and Mr.” “I’ve told Mr.” Marin said nothing as her friend waltzed up the stairs without so much as a backward glance. But Marin knew that the reason Robin was sent was not purely to give her an opportunity to breathe the fresh air. whipping her head so that her blond braid fell back in place behind her.” Caron said confidently. “Anyway. she had been tired and wanted to enjoy a few extra moments in bed.” Marin said with a shrug. I don’t want to be late.” “It is dangerous. If you had been there you would know. Marin had to catch her breath after mounting the stairs too quickly. Marin shook her head. “She was talking about it at breakfast. See you around. “She gets the messages there in good time.

raw country. The richest estates were near the borders. Only at its northernmost shore was there any real large city. For several years now tension had grown between Rivental and the great land mass to the north: Mykolia. was a rough. keeping the borders free of disturbances. but as that of cultivator. a country even older than Rivental. he had been chosen by the Counsel of Governors to serve as ruler of Mykolia.The truth was. and was known to be traveling at the head of the Rivental forces. Its forested plains were quite empty of any indications of life. Mykolia had a king as well. There were few to rule even though Mykolia was large. but King Castillo was not a member of any royal house. Kieran had claimed many of the eastern lands and Kendir on the west had taken others. sandy banks and hundreds of towns. The Mykolians had rebelled when Kieran had come 14 . but they intended to do it in a way that would be the admiration of the known world. Mykolia was exactly the opposite of everything that Rivental was. but throughout Rivental the standard of living was high. but from the little she had seen and heard about the country. the capital of Rivental. The only problem with this approach was that the Mykolians did not like it. on the other hand. Rivental had a king. its rolling hills were covered with rainforests. already well-established in government. Mykolia. His son Prince Martin was heir apparent. Rivental was just as eager as Kieran and Kendir to have a part in the settling of Mykolia. Many countries already had taken their share of the lands. King Philip lived in the spired palace in Julon. Kenyon was rumored to be as large a city as Julon. The word throughout the noblesse was that it was time that Mykolia be colonized. Marin was worried. Rivental was small. not as that of conqueror. Rivental saw its role. the standard of civilization just as rich as that of Quinier. Marin had some difficulty believing it.

Mr. Rosings would have called her to his office at such an early hour. “Mr. Mykolia would cease to exist.” Marin said. Many doubted whether Mykolia’s integrity as a country could withstand one more invasion.” Marin turned.” he said. now. Certainly the Rosings would not have finished 15 . Many said that if the southern border were crossed. “What is it?” Marin asked. her sister may not return.and had planted colonies in Rousse and other provinces that bordered their own lands. her mind mulling over why Mr. pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. Patrick was there behind her. his rough brown moustache sweeping back and forth as he spoke. however: unorganized and half-hearted. Rosings wishes to see you. “Now?” Marin asked. Now Mykolia’s southern border was the only land border that remained unmolested and the one that had attracted Rivental’s eye. Then she would be completely alone. and the Kendir colonists hadn’t minded covering their ears. “Yes. waiting for a worm to immerge from the ground. Rosings rarely wanted to see her in the morning.” Patrick said with a nod. Mr. touching his hat and waiting for her full attention. Marin. Kendir too was met with opposition. Rosings was somehow all tied up in this business of conquering. His dark eyes blinked once and then he cocked his head in a way that made him look like an impatient robin. but it had been an opposition expressed only vocally. He touched his had again. Their rebellion was weak.” “Good day. Marin feared that this task was a dangerous one and that one day. He often was visited by important looking men dressed in dark suits that came from the king of Rivental or from other courts. “Good day. He often sent and received important encoded messages that Robin was sent to recover and deliver. “Marin.

The sharp angles in the glass distorted the picture. Even the concept of family was something foreign. The lanterns here were made of shiny crystal. The manor had been designed by the same engineer that had taken upon himself the planning of the king’s palace in Julon. only colored light blinked out from the windows. something that she did not really like to do. The windows were vaulted and the glass in them cut so as to make it impossible to see the world outside even when standing with one’s nose pressed to them. One would have thought that the pillars holding the arched ceiling up above were made from the same trees that lined the walks in the garden. She had lost them far too long ago. The architecture was hundreds of years old. but surely they were very different from Mrs. tried to remember their faces and then sighed as she realized the impossibility of the task. Marin put her hand on the banister. and then looked behind her to see how deeply her feet had sunk into the red mass. Marin thought often about her own family. Family had long since ceased to mean something that cared for you. adding a brighter glow to the lanternlit hallways that snaked through the building. Marin’s slippers shuffled softly on the polished marble tile that lined the hallways. Marin sighed and began the walk toward the family’s apartments. which 16 . She would have to pass before the family. She stepped out onto the carpet. it now meant something that you had to care for.breakfast. Rosings harsh glances that seemed to lay Marin’s heart naked every time she was under them. There were other feet that were adding the clicking of their shoes and boots to the muffled noise that was always present in the corridors. and took the dark wood stairs up two flights until she came to the floor where the family lived. She could not remember her mother’s gestures that must have been gentle as she dressed her as a very small child.

A man stood at the door holding a dark bag. and she was too shy to say anything. and the chairs were upholstered with thick white fabric whose fibers came off on ones hands when rubbed too hard. “I’m looking for Mr. Her tray was empty now. The man nodded once. “Oh. For some reason. “Excuse me. The table was made of dark cherry wood. “Goodbye.” she said. Marin saw that there was a small scar above his left eyebrow. a large room painted in pale green and hanging with several floating pieces of white material and lace.” the man said. Marin stopped once she reached the door to Mr. Rosings. “He would like you to go and see him there.” Caron said. Marin was bowed into the dining room. taking the monocle from his eye and polishing it on the lapel of his suit. 17 . eyeing the stranger for a fraction of a second. so the two observed each other in silence for several moments. she felt uncomfortable under his gaze.” Marin nodded. The light waltzed into the room and bathed the diners with a soft heavenly light. there you are!” Marin turned to see Caron coming toward her. and folded his arms. which made Marin smile internally. “May I help you?” the gentleman asked.refracted the light of the candles and sent flecks of flame shooting around the room.” she said to the man.” Marin nodded once and looked down. she always felt as though she were in a house where the very building and its ornaments were alive. Marin turned and walked further down the hall. Rosings is in the dining room. He wore a monocle. “I too am waiting for his arrival. Rosings’ office. She did not know who the man was. Marin liked watching them move as she walked. Rosings is not here. replacing his eyepiece.” “Mr. “Mr.

Rosings’ lips. “whether you are happy here. placing his napkin in his chair. I would have –” “Nonsense. and I wanted to see you right now.” Marin nodded once and took the chair that Mr. Rosings looked up from her plate and fixed Marin with a look. I wanted to see you. Rosings. eager to get out from under Mrs. setting down his fork and pressing his napkin to his lips.” Marin was surprised. “I want to know. “I’m here. Marin quickly walked toward the door. having found her voice at last. “I’m sorry to interrupt. “I thought that perhaps you would talk to him about the farming agreement that has been in place for some time and that –” “Mr.” “Mr. Rosings interrupted curtly. Rosings motioned Marin toward the door behind him. Rosings cut her off. “I have finished.” Mr. She matched the room perfectly.” Mrs. Rosings extended her. Rosings’ burning glance. once the two had been closed into the small room. 18 . “So you are. This was the last question that she would ever have said would have come from Mr.” Mr. Rosings stood. She clearly wanted to say something. “I called you here. Mr.” Mrs. He took good care of her. Rosings said in protest. “Good day. Madam.” Mr. Rosings said.“Mr. Estella continued eating as though there had been no interruption. but could not decide what. taking a cigar from his pocket. her dress exactly the same shade as the wallpaper behind her. Rosings looked very put out as Mr.” Marin said quietly. Rosings said. Rosings said.” Mrs. “You haven’t even finished breakfast. Rosings protested again. “If I had known you were eating. Evanston can wait until later in the afternoon. that was for sure. darling. “I am going to talk to Marin now.” Marin said.” “Ah!” Mr. Evanston is coming from the village today.” Mr.” Mrs.

“I asked you whether you are happy. sir. sir. Rosings said with a hard stare. She had not expected Caron to repeat her words.but he had never taken any interest in what she thought of what he gave her. do you understand me?” “Yes. 19 .” Marin said quickly.” Mr.” Mr. although she didn’t. capable of following instructions. I want you to answer my questions when I ask them.” Marin was surprised again. “I know precisely where she is going and what she is doing. Rosings took a long puff on his cigar and blew a ring toward the ceiling. Marin watched the smoke rise. “Yes or no. still not certain as to what he might really be asking. sir. you’re a bright girl. is that clear? No hesitations. Rosings said. Mr. “I don’t need anything. He gave and she was expected to receive. “Now. She was sure that her friend would have had more discretion. “Caron tells me that you were not pleased that I sent Robin to South Fork. I want you to tell me the truth.” Marin was still perplexed. Now. “No need to look so puzzled. but was not able to do it before Mr. “I asked Caron if you were happy and I was told what you said. why are you not pleased with Robin’s errand?” “I’m afraid for her.” “Your sister is perfectly safe. She tried to think of a satisfactory answer.” “Yes. “I did not ask you whether you needed anything. She is in no danger. “I don’t want her to get hurt. Rosings said confidently.” Marin said quickly. “Yes or no. She can outrun anyone that tries to come after her. Rosings lost some of his patience.” “Yes.” Marin said quietly.” he said stiffly.” Mr.” Marin said. feeling slightly foolish as she spoke.” Marin said.

This was Mr. one that Marin knew very well. “This is Marin Lindrine. 20 .” Mr. startled at his grave demeanor. sir?” “No. “Robin’s safety concerns you. “Sit. Marin swallowed. come in. sir. a room where Marin spent many hours each week.Mr.” There was no need for him to think her weaker than she was because she wanted more comforts. Herring. Rosings said. “Will that be all then. “Very well. “Mr.” “You have the comforts that you wish? Is there anything that you would desire?” Several thoughts sprang immediately to Marin’s mind.” He stood. Rosings office. I understand that.” said the man. “Leave?” “Has anyone here talked to you about leaving?” Mr.” Marin saw the tall man with the monocle enter the room. sir. He cast a glance at Marin. Rosings paused.” Mr. “Very pleased to meet you. “You haven’t told anyone that you want to leave. He went to the door. Mr.” Mr. raised his eyebrows and then came toward her.” Marin looked up at him.” Mr. Mr. Marin stood and shook the hand he extended. Rosings gave her a look and then nodded. “That is all I need to know. Rosings led Marin into another adjoining room. That was all that she needed. Rosings asked. but she shook her head. Rosings reminded her.” Mr. Marin shook her head. Rosings said. “You will come with me. Rosings gave her a long look and then nodded again. “There isn’t anything. his dark eyes penetrating. and opened it. have you?” Marin was stunned. “I told you to answer me at once. Rosings ordered. Is there anything else that does not make you happy here?” Marin frowned. “Nothing. She was well taken care of.

” Marin. Marin diverted her eyes from those of Mr. Herring. Mr. “Break the code. Rosings said slowly and deliberately.” Marin felt very uncomfortable with this man standing next to her. putting a paper before her and a pen.” Mr. Rosings’ mouth. She took several steps backwards. “Yes. Rosings said. “U – Y – L – L – M – A – L – S – Y – C – E – L –S – Y – Y – L – F – J – Y – Q – C. and managed a small smile. Rosings was motioning her. “Her abilities greatly interest the court.” Marin’s heart leaped. “Marin was brought here several years ago. She was famous? How could that be? “You say that she works quickly? This is very important to his Majesty. Rosings said. Marin. She felt like she was in a world that she suddenly knew nothing about. and sat down in the chair at the desk toward which Mr. Marin wrote the letters and then looked up at Mr. Herring.“This is Mr. Herring noticed her smile and gave her a slightly oily one in return. Rosings said. and has since done much to help me.” Mr. “Take down these letters. turned back to 21 . Marin. “Do as you always do. placing a warm hand on Marin’s shoulder.” Mr.” Marin. Rosings questioningly.” Mr.” said Mr.” Mr. reading from a piece of paper in his hand. I am very eager to see the girl in action. Fame? Marin’s heart was pounding hard in her chest.” Marin nodded slowly. Rosings said. Herring which had suddenly become mocking. “He has come because he has heard about you and wanted to see your talents. Rosings. still trembling with confusion swallowed and wrote the letters as they fell from Mr. eager to please Mr. What were the men talking about? How could it be that her name had become famous enough that even the king could have heard about her? “Here.

” the man said. He looked down at Marin and ran his hand through her hair. “It’s not like any of the others.” Mr. “Don’t touch her. you mean. “This girl can be of obvious help to his Majesty. Herring brusquely.” Mr. ‘Green bears wear red hats.” Marin gave a start. “The king will take good care of her.” Mr.the sheet of paper and began immediately to write. “You do work quickly. and there is nothing that you can do to refuse what he wants. Rosings said quietly.” He was trying to buy her! “To Rivental. but it’s the only thing that works. Herring. “Yes. thought a moment and then after just two minutes had passed. You will. Marin?” Mr. she turned around “It doesn’t make any sense. Rosings insisted.” Mr. of course. Rosings said with a slight curl of his lip. “Very well. 22 . “We’ll take her. crossed them out.” Marin again diverted her eyes. “Well done. “She belongs to the king.” Marin said. Rosings said.” Mr.” “She is being help where she is. “It doesn’t make any sense. Take her? What could that mean? Mr. Rosings said without looking at her. puzzlement in her voice. She wrote more letters.” he said. Rosings did not look disturbed. “He wishes to have her.” “What does it say. be well repaid for your contribution to the well-being of the country. Herring gave her a smile that Marin did not return. “Take her?” he repeated almost coolly.’” Marin said. “It’s a simple letter substitution.” said Mr.” Mr. substituted letters.” said Mr. Herring pressed on. “Very good. Marin shivered and pulled away.

Pack clothes for her.” Mr. his voice growing angry. I do not know. not smothering her outcry in time for the two men to look at her.” Marin said.” “Your threats have been heard. “What is it.” said Mr. Herring asked with a disdaining smile. Rosings. “It doesn’t matter. “I won’t surrender her unless she wishes to leave. I have done all I could to keep her safe here. I will not give her up unless she desires to go. her throat tight with emotion. How you learned of her.” said Marin. “Who the devil is Robin?” Mr. Rosings answered shortly. Rosings said. “Her sister. “If you do not let me take her. Rosings asked calmly. Now am I only to learn that the king wishes to take her as he has no right to do?” 23 . He’ll destroy Sandhill to get at her. and enough for her to eat for the journey to Julon.” “I don’t want to!” Marin exclaimed. now stern.“I will take the girl with me this afternoon when I leave. Herring. Rosings said. Marin?” Mr. “I won’t leave Robin. “I brought her here and nourished her mind and body for more years than the king has power to recompense. the king will have her by force. She belongs to me as much as though she were my own daughter.” Mr. “I don’t want to go. She wanted at that moment more than anything to rush into the arms of Mr.” ordered Mr. She wanted him to protect her from this monster of a man that had come to take her away from the place she had learned to call home. standing.” Marin said.” Mr. “I won’t go. “She will go. Once I learned that she would be in danger if her identity were discovered.” Mr. “Now you have fulfilled your mission. Herring said. Herring. “No!” Marin said. Rosings. You know that he will not hesitate to destroy your house and even your family if he has to in order to get at her.

Herring practically screeched. “And how do you think that he ought to treat a Mykolian brat?” Mr.” said the man in a silky voice.” “Get out. Don’t do harm to yourself or your reputation.“No right?” Mr. Herring snorted. Rosings said. You are in my world here. “You think that he has no right to have what he wishes? He will have her.” Mr.” said Mr. Mr.” “He would not treat her as he ought.” said Mr. Herring shrugged. Rosings said. Rosings. Rosings. You must do as I wish. Rosings. “Be careful.” Mr. you will find that you are in the minority here. “You will leave now. gave a mock bow and then left the room in a rush. If you don’t. Rosings with finality in his voice. “That’s why I will do what I can to keep her out of his hands. “She is a prisoner of the conflict. “You are treading dangerous waters.” Mr.” “She’s Mykolian!” Mr. Herring jammed his hat on his head and put his monocle back into his eye socket. there is no decency that has to be paid a Mykolian!” “That will do. 24 . “He would not know how to be decent. The king’s guards aren’t here to protect you. Herring scoffed. You know that.

” she said almost desperately. At last Marin cried: “Is it true that just because I’m Mykolian –” “Silence!” Mr. And why would the king have heard of me?” Mr. Marin’s mind was racing.” Marin was not comforted by these words. is that clear?” “Yes. Rosings said.” he said. She settled for a small cry. you know. She was breathing hard. Rosings would not – was it possible that it could happen? – be harmed because of her. however. Rosings was thinking. wiping a hand across his brow. “You are safe here. She did not want trouble! She hoped that Mr. Rosings gave a long sigh. sir. but the words to all this were lost somewhere in the back of her throat.” M . Rosings said. “Please. Rosings said nothing to one another for several minutes. A stale silence hung in the air. “I don’t know how the king found out about you but I am surprised. “Why did he want to take me to the king? I don’t understand.arin and Mr. and Mr. I was afraid of this all along.” Mr. She wanted to thank him for what he had just done for her. Mr. sir. “You will not repeat what you heard here today to anyone. in fact.” Marin stopped. laying a hand on her arm. Her mind. Rosings interrupted violently. Marin rose slowly to her feet.” Mr. that this was the first time something like this has happened. “Why?” “Because of what you can do. “Get up. “There is nothing to worry about. the blood racing hot through her veins. Rosings looked down at her. Marin.” she said automatically. was elsewhere. “Someone told him about you.

” said Mr.” Mr. she might have had no one to prevent the man from carrying her away to Julon to work in the palace of the king. “They would not even take the time to ask my permission before they took you away. Rosings pulled his pocket watch from his pocket 26 . He must have known all this time that someday someone would come to take her away. She had been kept mainly indoors. “It’s a great thing that you do.” Marin was quiet and still.” Marin said slowly. of any king. many horrible things in order to get to you. If Marin had met Mr. Marin. where Mr. “The king is not the only one who would be interested in you. “I don’t understand. Herring by chance and he had known who she was. like something embarrassing or something shameful. Rosings said. Marin never thought about the fact that her parents had come from Mykolia because it made her feel base and stupid. She thought back though the long years that she had spent at Sandhill and for the first time realized why she had never been allowed outdoors without someone there with her. Rosings could keep an eye on her. There are many. People think it gives them the right to do whatever they want to you.” Marin was quiet. “I don’t understand why the king wants me to go to the palace. She didn’t like thinking about the fact that she was Mykolian. many people that would do many.Something at last fell into place in Marin’s mind. Marin. Rosings asked wearily. Rosings somberly.” Marin said. “What don’t you understand?” Mr. The fact that you are Mykolian doesn’t help matters. Luckily he had had the power to protect her when the time had come. Mr. It was something that had been mentioned to her when she was very young and then kept hushed up. “You would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of any army.

“I have a meeting with my wife and a certain Mr. “This is something that was recovered just a few miles south of here.” Marin took the envelope. my dear?” Mr.” Marin said suddenly. closing the door behind him. Rosings had never called her “my dear” before. The parchment inside was visible through small tears in the envelope’s side. But first. In fact. lighting the little lamp that sat on the smooth surface of the wooden desk before her. Be ready to go at three this afternoon. “There is no rush.” Marin nodded and watched Mr. Mr. Marin’s heart almost melted. clutching the envelope. Rosings asked gently. Rosings give her a slight bow of the head and then leave.” Marin waited while Mr.” Marin nodded and went to the desk.and glanced at it. Mr. Rosings pulled an envelope out of his lapel pocket. It was dirty and tattered. I leave on the hour.” said Mr. Evanston in just a few minutes. Rosings had never asked her something like that before. She went to the desk and sat down. Rosings hesitated and then said: “I am going to the village later this afternoon.” Marin said. Alert Patrick should you want something to eat. “Very well. she had never before heard those words escape his lips when speaking to anyone. “What is it. I have something for you. she wasted little time getting to work. Mr. waving a hand toward the desk where Marin was used to working. Is there something that I can get for you while I am there?” Marin was surprised. I suspect that it was a message dealing with the war. Rosings. Once Marin was alone in the office. “I would like to go with you. “Take as much time as you need. She opened the envelope and 27 . Rosings smiled. Mr. “There is nothing at all that you want?” “Yes.

and she took great care in separating the meaning from the words that she decoded. of course. Her eyes were the only indication of the whir of thought happening inside of her head. She was able to calculate extravagant sums and products in her head without the 28 . Most of the time. depending on the complexity of the code. The training that Mr. She frowned and spread the paper flat. and give a reasonable estimate of how long it would take her to crack. letting the processes in her head work out the puzzles.spread the contents out before her. picked up the pen. There were some codes that Marin had to break using a great deal of arithmetic operations. written in code. sometimes it took her just a few minutes. Over the years she had seen almost every kind of code that had ever been invented. and began to write. in Alikan. She found pleasure in coaxing the messages she was given to exhibit their secrets before her. intermittently jotting down thoughts that came in the form of characters and numbers. It was a message. Marin had been deciphering messages like this for years. smoothing the creases under her fingers. But Marin had no trouble there either. Kieran or in any other language that she knew. She needed only to glance at a message to tell what sort of code it was. Sometimes the task took her hours. It was. Rosings gave her in languages ensured that Marin was no slower in deciphering letters written in Quinian. and the dust that puffed in her face as she turned the pages was like a muse of wisdom that whispered the answers to her questions and led to the unveiling of the message. written in characters completely unknown to Marin. the tricks and the turns hidden in the message before her. She often used Mr. dipped it in the well before her. she was completely still. Rosings’ large dictionary on the shelf in the corner when she came across words or expressions that were unfamiliar to her. Marin wet her lips with her tongue.

They knew about what she could do with numbers. neither of which was sandy. There was still much more to be deciphered. one to the north and another to the east. when the codes that she encountered required a good knowledge of numbers. as she discovered the meaning of the first line in the letter. They knew that she could break codes. Marin’s pen flew across the paper. He often caught her in the hall and threw problems out at her of his own making. she could perform the operations with breath-taking speed. her hand to her chin. and she wanted to have the code broken by the time Mr. What would be so bad about going and living with the king. would it not be a great adventure to go live with the ruler of Rivental? But then she remembered the jeering of Mr. and if she was sure that the two of them would be well-looked after. thinking. Herring and stopped.” The answer always fell from her lips a second after the problem was given. of real importance to him or simply to “keep her mind sharp. Rosings was ready to go into town. much to the delight of Mr. People wanted her to do that for them. She wrote what she had discovered and then sat back. Rosings.” What did that mean? What could the king do to her? What would he do? Marin shook her head and went back to her work. In fact. Rosings had said that the king would not treat her “decently. The king wanted her to do that for him. Sandhill Park was nestled between two hills. The road led down from the door of the manor and lost itself in the rigid rows of trees planted to allow travelers welcoming shade from the Riventalese sun as they 29 .use of scratch paper. Marin was most at ease. People knew about what she could do. Mr. after all? If she could take Robin with her. Marin thought some more.

She had been to the village only a handful of times in her life but she enjoyed the noise and the voices and the feast that the shops offered her eyes. She smoothed her dress uncertainly. dowsing the sun from view as the verdant trees took their guard of the path. The shingles on the roofs reflected the light from the sun. Marin cast a furtive glance at Mr.entered the Rosings’ estate. The sight was even more marvelous than Marin had ever remembered it to be. Children were running and playing in the street. the open countryside stretched out in endless array of well-cultivated fields and small farms. many of which belonged to the Rosings. the village that lived in Sandhill’s shadow. He knew that she liked the shops. Over the rise on the west one could see the roofs of the tallest buildings in the village out in the distance. She realized that her hand was sweating around the piece. Marin felt the small piece of silver that he had slipped into her hand just before they had left Sandyhill. pulled her hand from her pocket and wiped the moisture from her palms on the lap of her dress. Not wanting her hand to smell like metal. Rosings. Marin shielded her eyes with her hand until the carriage plunged its way forward. Marin could not keep her eyes from the street as they rolled into town. young women were 30 . Rosings and Marin left for Hullberry that afternoon. there was little to see: the shops and homes rose up on the right and on the left all along the main thoroughfare. staring straight in front of him at the back of the buggy driver. others of which were owned by prominent members of Hullberry. Once one had reached the end of the pebble-littered road. the sky overhead was a coral blue. When Mr. all bustling with voices and hurried feet. He sat motionless. Once in Hullberry. and rickety fences lined both sides of it. The road to the village was windy. separating the common road from the fields.

apparently doing shopping for their families. She stopped for a moment. I have need to ask a favor of him now. As they passed the center of town. The chaos gave Marin a strange feeling in her stomach.” Mr. remembering that she had had strict orders to stay with Mr. which turned around a stone pedestal upon which speeches were given. “I have to pay a visit to Mr. His dark hair blew in the breeze. “Who’s Mr. Rosings ordered. and he has willingly obliged. Golden?” Marin asked. “I have often asked him for favors. Then. pressed her nose against the glass and enjoyed the cloud her breath made on the cold pane. baskets on their arms. straightening her skirts and scurrying to catch up with Mr.” Mr.” Mr.walking together. he had no physical condition that cumbered his walking. pulled herself away from the sugary confections and continued on down the sidewalk with her 31 . Golden. Rosings said. removing his cane from the floor of the buggy. “Mr. and he looked up only when the noise of the playing of the children around him crescendoed to an intolerable level. “You will stay with me. He used the cane only for show. public displays made and criminals were executed. Mr. Rosings who had started trotting briskly down the sidewalk. Marin’s gaze rested on a young man reading on its steps. and the boys were skulking in the shade. Horses were trotting in every direction and the sun was beating down on the entire scene. Rosings. Rosings said over his shoulder. as the two descended from the buggy. their brown faces dripping with sweat. Rosings offered Marin his hand and she lifted her skirts with the other and jumped to the ground. Golden is a long time acquaintance of mine.” Marin’s head was turned by the joyous colorful displays in the candy shop window that caught the corner of her eye as they swept by on the walk. but it was a feeling of excitement that she enjoyed rather than feared.

the 32 . The room testified of a certain misery. Rosings said. There was a dingy sort of light coming in through the window panes outside.guardian.” the woman replied. A stairwell immediately presented itself to view. “I have come because I wish to speak to your husband. Marin wanted to ask what they were doing in a place so incongruous with Mr. removing his black hat. “He is out. “Good afternoon. motioned to the silent apartment behind her and shrugged. Rosings said turning abruptly into a recessed alley and pushing open a creaky door with his hand.” Mr. Marin was astounded to see that they were old and even musty. “This is Marin Lindrine.” Mr. waving a gloved hand in Marin’s direction. looking down uncomfortably under the woman’s gaze. Rosings up it. taking care not to soil her gloves on the grimy grey banister that spiraled upward. Rosings. Cecile.” The woman. Marin looked around her in distaste at the dirt and refuse that littered the alleyway and quickly followed Mr. Golden is not here.” Marin said. who was apparently Mrs.” Mr. “Good afternoon.” Marin looked behind the woman and took in the grayish tint of the furnishings in the room. although the windows were so dirty Marin could see nothing of the lively scene she knew to be playing out in the street below. Rosings stopped and knocked smartly on the door before him. They were let inside by a woman with brown hair twisted into an untidy bun and a worn face. Golden. and Marin followed Mr. She had never been inside a house like this before.” said the woman through her paperish lips. The more Marin took it in. looking at Marin instead. “Mr. “Good afternoon. said. Rosings inside the small entry way. Rosings fresh black suits and Marin’s pressed dress when Mr. “This way.

The liveliness of those running in the street came like a refreshing breath of life to Marin’s face. Rosings took Marin’s arm with his immaculate gloved hand and steered her towards the door.” said Mr. Rosings extended to her. “Tell your husband that the matter is urgent. “The candy shop.” Mr. She diverted her eyes. then. I assume that it should be more than enough for the favor.more sinister the cobwebs hanging on the old lanterns on the walls looked. There is payment there included with the specifications of the job. Rosings.” 33 . “Then will you be so kind as to give him this?” The woman took the envelope that Mr. Marin smiled wider. as though humiliated but unable to protest. Golden is very busy these days. The sooner it is taken care of. the more pleased I will be. Golden of the important nature of the business.” Mr. “I see. Rosings said. “Very well. There was no end to the places that she would like to go. Marin turned away and found the woman staring at her once more. Good day to you.” The door closed sharply behind them. He touched his hat and said toward the door that closed behind them: “Remind Mr.” Mrs. and without even looking at it said: “Mr. Golden sucked in a deep breath of air. Rosings. Rosings. She sucked in a deep breath of air and smiled.” said Mr. Marin. “Come along. cutting the woman off rather rudely. her cheeks red in shame. Rosings asked. pulling something from his lapel pocket. “Come along.” she said at once. The shop takes up all his time and –” “Yes. very well. Coming back into the busy street was like descending from winter back into summer. “Where to?” Mr. She thought a moment and then looked up at Mr.

as usual.” said Robin with a dismissive laugh. “You made good time. “Very well. “Hello there. Rosings did not seem to be bothered by them.” “Thank you. Rosings’ first choice as courier. “They thanked me for the message and said that they will send a reply as soon as they know how the situation will unfold. Rosings asked. galloping up quickly to the side of the buggy.” Robin said. She had been given her own horse when she had turned fifteen and spent much of her time in the 34 . Robin. Rosings. because of her speed. Marin looked down in her lap at the large paper sack full of candy that her piece of silver had managed to buy her. she could hardly imagine that anywhere in it there might be someone suffering. “Hey. “Mr. Mr. on horseback.All the way home Marin could not keep from emitting sighs of contentment at regular intervals.” said Robin with a nod. Marin!” “How was your trip?” Marin burst out. Rosings. always Mr.” Robin smiled confidently and Marin noticed her curl her fingers proudly around the reins.” said Mr. shielding his eyes from the hot sun as he spoke. The world was good. touching her hand to her cap in a rather masculine way.” “How did you find the masters of Silver Fork?” Mr. and kept his mind on the driving. Robin was an able rider. there!” Marin wrenched herself around in her seat and looked back to the voice that had called. however. even in the slightest degree. It was Robin. The air was still fresh and the thought of the blissful hours yet to come relaxing alone in her room with the bag of sweets was almost more than she could bear. “I was fine. “Were you safe?” “Of course.

Robin could often be found in the stables rubbing down King’s silky coat with a corncob. Robin’s body lolling up and down with the rhythm of King’s hooves. She wondered yet again if someday Robin might leave on a journey and never come back. As much as she looked up to Mr. Mr. She couldn’t have been dressed differently from her sister. but he also received the most royal treatment a horse could ask for. “I’m going to ride on ahead then. Marin woke at the usual time.stables with the sturdy animal. if that’s agreeable. patting his neck and talking to him. “Between the two of you. which made Marin’s dress seem all the more feminine in contrast. But it was not only for this mission that she was dressed in this manner.” said Mr. The horse lived up to its name.” Marin looked up the road to where her sister had disappeared. your sister. You’re good girls. communication from Sandhill simply could not be faster. which she had named King. Rosings. for not only did he carry Robin on her important journeys. and Marin’s imitation of the Rosings’ immaculate style was often the subject of Robin’s persistent teasing. The next morning. The first inklings of dawn were beginning to creep up over the 35 . Robin wore a pair of dark riding pants and a smart forest green jacket. both of you. Rosings nodded. Rosings’ touching her rider’s cap again. she couldn’t help but wonder if he cared enough about her sister to make sure that the errands he sent her on were safe. Robin preferred pants to dresses.” Robin waved to the buggy’s passengers and King pranced on ahead.” Robin said to Mr. “Thank you. Rosings mildly after Robin had ridden out of sight. “Good rider. Marin gave Robin’s clothes another glance.

“Page?” Robin said sleepily. “What do you mean?” “There was a page that knocked on my door this morning.” 36 . but Marin still felt as though she were asleep and could sleep for hours. thinking no more of the incident. There was no one there. But the call was not Patrick’s usual deep voice that woke her every other morning. She lit a candle and set it down on the nightstand. though. In the shadows she could make out the sleeping form of a body.” said Robin. She cautiously opened the door and peeked in. It was time to get up. Odd.” Marin said.” “Maybe. she thought.horizon of trees. “It wasn’t Patrick. going to the old wardrobe in the corner and pulling on her clothes. “I’m up.” she called back. Marin noted the lack of movement and guessed that her sister was not yet awake. Maybe the page didn’t know that he was supposed to wake you too. As she walked past Robin’s door. and she waited in bed patiently until she heard the usual rap on the door and the voice calling to wake her. After a quick run of the brush through her hair. After a moment Robin’s dark eyes fluttered open. She went to the door. opened it and peeked out. Marin pulled her locks into a thick ponytail and left her room. Marin entered the room approached the bed. “Let’s see. “Is it morning already?” “Didn’t the page wake you?” Marin said. sitting up and rubbing her eyes. as she usually did. It was the high-pitched voice of a young page. holding up a couple of shirts. pushing the blankets aside and getting to her feet.” she said in a pretentious voice. “Shall I take the Quinian cut collar or the Felsen lace? Both are so fashionable. She pushed her hair over her shoulder. going to her own chest of drawers and digging out a simple outfit.

“He didn’t come wake us as usual…” “Last night he was sent on an errand to the village. the grin remaining on her face until they had made their way to the bottom of the stairs and arrived in the kitchen. “Robin! Marin! There you are!” Marin and her sister turned to see Elizabeth running toward them. “No. sensing that the woman was upset. “Is he all right?” Robin asked in concern. Elizabeth’s eyes brimmed over with tears.” Robin said.” Robin pulled on her clothes. he would have said something…” “Where do you think he is?” Marin asked. I’m hungry. “It’s Patrick.” said Marin. squeezing her hands in obvious anguish. “Hurry up. stop it.” said Elizabeth.” Elizabeth said.” Marin exchanged a look with Robin and then said: 37 . her eyes immediately filling with tears. “What’s the matter?” said Marin. her hands white from flour and her grey hair escaping from the bun that tied it back behind her head. very upset. “I expected. but I haven’t heard a word…” Patrick was Elizabeth’s son. “He never stays in the village.” Elizabeth explained. even when his business keeps him out late. shaking her head violently. clearly trying to calm the woman. but her behavior clearly communicated a firm “yes. who understood that Robin was making fun of her. at the very latest.” said Robin slowly. “and he didn’t come home!” “Maybe he decided to stay in the village. “I don’t know!” Elizabeth said.“Oh. “You’re afraid that something’s happened to him. She didn’t answer. to see him this morning. so her concern for him was understandable. Besides.

ever since he moved in. Rosings rescued us. “You can’t think that I’ve never taken a peek inside them. And not everything that he’s done has been free of suspicion. “We won’t tell him. Rosings. Not only that.” “But –” “Stop it. She felt as though suddenly her world had been tipped upside down. “He brought us here because we had no other home. asked: “Why don’t you trust him?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t trust him. but I agree with Elizabeth. Marin and Robin looked at her. I’ve seen a lot of things.” said Robin.” “How can you say that?” said Marin. “It’s okay. Marin. surprised.” Marin said firmly. but no one mentions them – it’s as though they’ve simply disappeared. She pulled the two girls closer and looked over her shoulder as though making sure that the other servants would not be able to hear was she was about to say. troubled. “I’ve been here at Sandhill for many years. Marin.” she said to Elizabeth.” said Robin. “I’m sorry. “I’ve carried messages for him. Robin. “I don’t dare ask him. completely stunned. putting her hands over her mouth.“We can tell Mr. “What is it?” Robin asked. many years.” “Be quiet.” said Robin. He’ll be able to send someone out to look for him –” “No!” said Elizabeth. I have. And then people sometimes appear – take the two of you –” “Mr. I’ve watched Mr. People disappear sometimes.” she said. “Why not?” Marin said. starting to get upset. Elizabeth pulled them closer.” Marin looked stunned. “You think he’s a saint. just 38 . Rosings.” Elizabeth said in a hiss. more pragmatically. and never come back.

” said Robin shortly.” said Robin.” 39 .” said Robin firmly.to see what I’m carrying. “Her son is missing and could be in real trouble! Don’t you want to help find him?” “Of course. She turned back to Elizabeth. “and we’ll help find him if it’s the last thing we do. with a worried forehead. “We can talk about this later. And the people he sends me to…well. Suspicious stuff – that’s exactly the word for it. “But –” “Then it’s settled. “I don’t want you to get in trouble –” “It’s Patrick who’s in trouble. “Do you want us to go look for him?” “Robin! We can’t –” “Will you knock it off?” Robin said angrily. it makes me wonder…” “What sort of people?” Marin asked.” said Marin. Elizabeth looked worried.

“We’re almost there. Marin didn’t answer. and once they were deep in the foliage. This was all madness. Why did everyone suddenly hold him in suspicion? She had only known him to be wise and kind.arin clutched Robin’s back as her sister drove King through the thick trees. Soon they would discover that Patrick had simply spent too long at Hullberry’s tavern and hadn’t been able to get himself home in time for his duties. She knew her cheeks were turning red. Marin dismounted too. anyway. as her ribs were rattling uncomfortably every time one of King’s hooves pounded the ground. no. however. looking around at the trees. M . But then. although a great deal less gracefully than Robin and her feet landed on the ground with a thump. The hot humidity that Marin was used to seemed to be gone for the moment. The air whistling past her ears. the air became suddenly cool and crisp.” Robin yelled back at Marin. “Why are we stopping here?” Marin asked. bringing King to a halt. Marin closed her eyes as the cool air rushed past her face. “We’re not quite in the village. Rosings knowledge. Patrick didn’t seem like a drinking man… “Whoa!” Robin said. dismounting. made her to realize that Robin would have a hard time hearing her if she spoke. “Are we in Hullberry?” Marin asked. Marin said to herself. Marin would have liked to tell Robin to slow down. although it was true that he was often firm with those he interacted with. She was still a bit angry at her sister for dragging her away from Sandhill this early in the morning without Mr.” Robin said. The trees were thick.

” Marin did as Robin suggested and followed her from the path. Marin’s heart began to pound hard against her chest. “Do you think it’s…” Marin stuttered. There was a strange sort of hush that emanated from the forest. Then – “Marin. handing Marin a length of twine. her heart now beginning to pound. but the air was still cool and the forest shaded. Marin looked around wildly for whatever it was that could have caught Robin’s eye. She saw nothing until they had been walking for a few more seconds. The sky was beginning to look more and more like day. “There’s nothing we can 41 . looking around at the thick trees around them. A brisk breeze ruffled her hair and she had to push it out of her face so she could see.” Robin said. There was a body lying face down not ten steps from where they stood. “Here. “I suppose we should go see if there’s anything that we can do.” Her lips were white and she looked frightened.” Marin looked at Robin like she was crazy. She swallowed hard. Robin said nothing. “There’s a horrid smell. “I…I thought I saw…” “What?” Marin asked sharply. moving off of the narrow path that King had been following. “Tie it back.suddenly quiet.” said Robin in a strange voice. “I don’t know. “He’s dead.” Marin said.” Marin said. her eyes glued to the body. She stopped suddenly and pointed ahead of her. “I thought I saw something. Robin shook her head. She tied King to the nearest tree with a quick half-hitch and then patted him before looking at her sister.” said Robin. The foliage on the ground curled up loosely around their legs as they walked. The rustling of the trees gave Marin goose bumps up and down her arms.

“There was a lot of blood in the dirt around him. stopped. “Then we have to find out who it is. “And he’s definitely dead. looking down. “What?” “Hooves. I don’t know how we’re going to tell Elizabeth.” Robin. I thought I saw a large wound on his head. Marin touched her sister’s arm as she moved cautiously toward the body. “It’s Patrick. her face looking whiter than ever. Marin looked back at the body.” Robin said. “What?” Marin pressed. “We shouldn’t be here. still looking like she was trying to be brave.” said Robin. “I mean. frightened again. Robin.” “How could this have happened?” Marin asked. Robin stoically replaced the cap and slowly stood. “Well?” Marin said. Patrick.” Robin said.do. dead? Who would have wanted him dead? He was just a servant… “Marin!” Robin exclaimed suddenly.” “Killed?” Marin repeated. If it’s Patrick…” “Come on. She knelt cautiously at its side.” Robin said stonily.” “I have to know. She walked back to where Marin stood and took a deep breath.” Marin said. lifted the cap from the head and then took a long look. “By whom?” “I don’t know. who didn’t seem to be in any great hurry to approach the body after all. “Someone’s coming. her stomach twisting.” Robin said. Quick – into the trees!” Marin stumbled through the bushes into the trees. dry mouthed. did he just trip and fall? Was he run over by a horse?” “He was killed. 42 .

43 . “Don’t you dare. Rosings said again. He marched meaningfully toward the trees. At last he said: “Are you alone?” Marin hesitated only a moment. Marin lifted a branch before her eyes and looked out into the small clearing where they had just been. at last. Rosings looking displeased. spinning around. Robin. She watched Mr. His face was expressionless. Come out. “Come out.” Mr. He dismounted.” Marin said. Ignoring Robin’s protests. Rosings. frightened to see Mr.” “Don’t you move. Rosings called almost lazily. Once they had both disappeared into the shadows.” Mr.” Robin hissed threateningly. looked at the corpse and then stood again. noticed the body. Marin pulled herself free of her sister and stumbled back into the trickles of light pouring through the ceiling of leaves above them.” Mr.” Robin whispered. all at once. Marin smothered a gasp. Rosings gave Marin an appraising look. Mr. “I told you to get on the horse. he turned around. Rosings barked.” she said. and –” “Get on my horse. and then patted his horse thoughtfully. prying Robin’s fingers from her arm. with a flash of silver at his side. And then. “Come out. He advanced quickly toward the body that the two girls had recently stumbled upon.” Mr.” Marin implored.pulled by one arm. Marin couldn’t see who the rider was. We hid because we thought that the person who killed Patrick might come back. Rosings interrupted firmly. “Robin’s here too. “No. “Marin. A dark chocolate brown horse stopped near King. and then. his voice now sterner. He bent down. It was Mr. “He knows we’re here. “Robin. Rosings as he looked around. Marin’s heart raced.

I don’t want to hear another word until we’re back at Sandhill. She clutched the reigns nervously as she watched Mr. Mr. “No bickering. Rosings: how she hadn’t wanted to leave Sandhill without his permission. “We –” “That’s enough. and Marin was acutely aware that she was dirty and sweaty. Robin had a disgusted look on her face as she took King’s reigns in her hands. without the aid of even a comb. Mr.” said Mr. “I can’t believe you. Neither had been given the time to get cleaned up. turning from them and cutting the end off a cigar. she might not be visible to him.” said Mr. He turned to look at them again as he lit the end.Marin. once the sisters had been escorted to Mr. placing himself behind Marin and took the reigns from Marin’s hands.” Robin said acidly to Marin. He gave them a tight pull and turned the horse back to the path. Rosings office upstairs. Rosings pull Robin out of the trees.” Robin shook her head angrily and mounted quickly. startled. Rosings. But she said nothing. Marin thought of everything she wanted to explain to Mr. “Get on your horse and follow us home. and how confused she was about Patrick’s death. She simply watched the ground fly by below them and waited for them to return to Sandhill. Rosings sharply. Marin looked down. Rosings. how the servants doubted his honor. still looked smart and crisp. girls. “Now. Rosings. 44 . taking Robin by the arm and pulling her toward her horse. rather hoping that if she didn’t look at Mr.” Mr. Rosings said firmly. Rosings brown mare. “What were you doing?” continued Mr. Rosings. turned and climbed onto Mr. however. Rosings mounted the mare.

Rosings interrupted sharply.Marin gave Robin a look.” he said. if you would give us a few minutes. “Please. “Let’s be honest.” said Marin timidly. “Robin. do I need to speak to each of you separately?” Mr. It’s just that this morning when we went down to breakfast –” “Marin. sir!” Marin exclaimed. pulling up a chair. Why didn’t she tell him what she was thinking? If he knew why she had acted as she did. a bit louder than she had anticipated. She gave Robin a lengthy glance. her heart jumping. Rosings lightly.” Marin took a deep breath. and when we went down to breakfast. Rosings turned his glance on her. clearing her throat. Kindly wait for us in the small room on the east. sir. “I…I don’t know why she’s so angry. you and I. We didn’t mean to cause any trouble. “I’m sorry for what we did. suddenly coming to life.” said Marin. Marin thought how much she would like to tell him everything.” Robin looked livid as she left Marin and Mr. Rosings alone in the room. perhaps he would understand and not be angry.” he said at last. Rosings. but her sister’s eyes seemed to be defiantly planted in the carpet before her. sir. Mr. Rosings said. and then the thought suddenly came to her. “Robin. Tell me what you were doing. who was watching her intently. “Very well. causing Marin to look down again at once. “Come now. Marin turned her glance to Mr. Robin scowled. “Well. Thank you. please. “What were you doing?” Once again. how can you –” Robin said coldly. Elizabeth was so worried 45 . “I’m sorry. “Well. “Oh.” “Don’t you?” said Mr. this morning Robin and I weren’t woken by Patrick as usual. Marin?” Mr.

She didn’t want to get Robin or Elizabeth in trouble. Rosings. I wanted to do that. “We found Patrick. “why didn’t you ask me?” Marin stopped suddenly. “I can’t imagine why anyone would have wanted to kill him…” “Marin. Rosings very sharply. “Sir…I…I didn’t think to ask…” “That’s not true. and I didn’t know where and I didn’t know why. “They don’t trust me. “When I discovered that you had left Sandhill. “I only knew that you were gone.about him – she said he hadn’t come home last night.” “But…but didn’t Elizabeth –” “I didn’t speak to Elizabeth.” said Mr. of course. “Why didn’t you ask me?” Mr. And so Robin wanted to go find him – she made me promise to go with her. do they?” Mr. Rosings said unexpectedly. Rosings. Marin’s mouth went dry.” said Mr.” said Marin hopefully. “Never. Marin looked up in surprise. “Sir –” “It’s the only explanation.” Mr. Rosings cut her off. She hadn’t anticipated having to tell him about how he wasn’t trusted. “When I found your sister’s horse and discovered 46 . I was frightened.” said Mr. but I didn’t want to leave without asking you first…I mean. do you understand?” Marin stopped. I thought that someone had taken you. Rosings repeated. “Doubtless.” said Mr. I thought that you might be in danger.” Marin looked down. Marin’s lip trembled.” said Mr. Rosings absentmindedly. I knew we shouldn’t –” “Marin. Rosings coldly. Elizabeth and your sister.” said Mr. looking her in the eye. “You must never do that again. though. Rosings. “I wanted to ask you!” Marin burst out. to help Elizabeth. putting up his hand.

” Mr. Marin quickly got to her feet and closed the door. “People like him would not hesitate to take you away if he found you wandering around alone in the countryside. just like he didn’t.” she said. I would have taken a strap to both of you right then if I had had one on hand. either. Robin. “So what is he going to do about Patrick?” Robin said. “I don’t know.” Robin said. “How should I know?” Marin snapped. “Run along. You didn’t shout or anything. Call your sister in as you leave.” Marin nodded and left the room. “Shhh!” she whispered angrily in Robin’s direction. did he?” Robin said hatefully. 47 . Robin marched across the room and plunked herself down on Marin’s bed. very angry.” Marin nodded. “He didn’t even seem surprised.the two of you.” Robin returned. “Very well. “Do you want people to hear? And frankly. annoyed at being interrupted. “Do you remember when Mr. not knowing what else to say. “I’m sorry…” she said. “You’re in his office three hours a day. But both of you -” “I want to know what he’s going to do about Patrick. Rosings said.” Marin swallowed hard. bursting into Marin’s room. You have to be careful. Herring came to see us?” Mr.” she said again. “I won’t do it again. “I’m sorry. Rosings gave her a long look and then nodded. putting the book down.” he said. Marin looked up from her book in surprise. I was very angry. you didn’t look too surprised. Marin.

“But Homed is the part of Mykolia closest to us.” Robin said disgustedly. If Mykolia declares war on Rivental –” “Wait.” Marin asked. But mostly.” “But who’s he going to fight?” “I don’t know.” Marin became angry. So you tell me – what is he going to do?” “He doesn’t talk about things like that in the messages. Robin shook her head. Lord Trivetum. “War?” “It sounds like he’s going to be doing the fighting.” Robin said. There’s this man that he’s often sending letters to.” Marin said.” Marin swallowed. “He’d be mad to do it even if he were a traitor. “He’s sent me to Homed several times.” “What do they say. alarmed.” Robin said. “They haven’t got anybody to fight for them!” She shook her head. as though she couldn’t believe that Marin could be so ignorant. “This is 48 . Marin gave a loud scoff.“That doesn’t mean that he tells me everything. “I’ve never even seen any of those messages he sends with you. “Really?” said Marin. too. “Lots of different things. “I wouldn’t put it past him. “Then what does he talk about? What are in those messages?” Robin gave Marin a sideways glance and then looked down. You’re more in the know than I am. Rosings would collaborate with a Mykolian lord to declare war on his own country?” Robin frowned. “Rivental’s much richer than Mykolia –” “Mykolia’s bigger and richer in resources. “You really think he’s a traitor to Rivental?” Robin didn’t answer.” she pointed out. it’s about war. do you think that Mr. “Who cares?” Marin burst out.

” “Don’t be ridiculous. or kidnapped –” “No. and they’ve protected me – they’ve protected both of us! We’re not ever going to go back to Mykolia. “You’ve always pretended you’re not Mykolian.” “It’s dangerous. scoffing once more. he wants us for himself. “I know I’m Mykolian!” “You dress up like you belong to this Riventalese family. He doesn’t much care about what I do. Because you left without permission. Marin. both of us are!” Marin was now furious. Robin stood up.” said Marin.” “I bet you he does. They’ve raised me.” protested Marin.” she said. Marin. “Anyway. or hurt. Robin. Marin. but you are. “because the Rosings wouldn’t let us if we wanted to. Mr. Robin shook her head and left Marin alone in her room. Robin! They educated me. but you don’t.” “No. were Mykolian! We’re Mykolian!” “I know that!” Marin shouted. “And that would make you happy I suppose?” “It just might!” Marin snarled back. If he were going to declare war on anyone then it would probably be against Mykolia. “He wouldn’t want us to get lost. Robin snapped. Not because I did. That’s why he was mad this morning. “Actually. “But I belong more to them than to anyone else.” said Robin.” said Marin. Mother and Father. was the one who was right. he just wants you for himself. of course. And I bet you he’d win!” Robin’s eyes flashed. “I bet he doesn’t give Patrick a decent funeral.” Robin said. She paused and then said. Robin. Rosings 49 . whoever they were.crazy.

Marin didn’t stay for long – she’d never liked funerals much. a man named Richard whom Marin liked a lot. removing it only to give some praise of the servant that had done so much in the household. Robin took her dress and gave Marin a scowl. There was a new valet hired. Rosings kept her busy nearly five hours a day now. Rosings called the two into his office to present them with the dresses he had had made for the two of them for the funeral. however. and the two became good friends. deciphering messages that he had intercepted. There was a great deal of crying at Patrick’s funeral. life returned more to normal at Sandhill than Marin could have anticipated. as though Marin were somehow consorting with some sort of enemy. Marin became busier and busier decoding messages. From 50 . Rosings an apologetic look. that were very uncomfortable. Marin didn’t like the atmosphere at funerals. Marin tried to give Mr. and most definitely too poignant to be dealt with in public. and Robin made it her personal duty to see to it that the woman was kept supplied with fresh handkerchiefs and strong pats around the shoulders. which was held in the Rosings’ home. Everyone she knew at Sandhill was clutching a handkerchief to his or her face. He seemed to enjoy her company.would no sooner have deprived his closest servant of a funeral than eaten a bushel of unripe persimmons. of course. After the funeral. she sent dark looks in their direction. Mr. They reminded her too acutely that her own parents were dead. but he had already turned his attention elsewhere. She took it upon herself to show him around the estate and let him know how things were run at Sandhill. There were feelings that returned to her. was inconsolable. especially about her mother. Whenever Robin caught Marin with him. Elizabeth. Marin gave her sister a superior look when Mr. Although she did not recall that there had ever been a funeral for them.

She squinted out at the shadowy forests below her and frowned. Rosings’ evening meal (which he always took alone in the study). Marin. Now Robin seemed openly jealous of Marin and rarely spoke to her. Marin couldn’t help miss the camaraderie she had shared with her sister before Patrick’s death. Rosings that she was. The stress of her work and the loss of Robin as a friend seemed to slowly be taking its toll on her. and she sometimes complained of a stomach ache when no direct cause could be pinpointed. and yet. He needed her to decode. she was very tired. taking her on walks with him while he surveyed the gardens and helping her prepare Mr. Marin assumed that they were probably Mykolian – probably from Homed. was determined to believe him benevolent and well-meaning. she couldn’t tell Mr. If it weren’t for Richard’s attentions. 51 . and in this time of his need. however. Rosings’ motives. She picked up the message that she had decoded and read it out loud to herself: ENEMY FORCES MOVING NORTHWARD. there was no one else who could do it. Marin didn’t feel that she could let him down.whom. she wasn’t hungry often. in contrast. Marin got to her feet and walked to the window. She was tired. Robin was determined to think him evil. Although Richard’s company had done her good. sending bright orange rays through the wispy curtains at the floor length window on the west wall. She felt thinner. REBEL ATTACK PROBABLE TONIGHT AT NUMAN. or from Alika. Marin might have lost interest in life all together. since Robin had been there so often. Marin pushed back her chair one evening and yawned. he did not say. the province that was flexing its muscles against the rule of Mykolia. Marin sighed again and turned back to the desk where she was working. unless it was to argue once more about Mr. The sun was going down.

Rosings really on? 52 . Marin didn’t know where Numan was. Marin began to wonder: what side was Mr. But what? And as much as she claimed to trust him. Somewhere people were fighting for something. just as Robin had said.FORTIFICATIONS STRONG. but the note told her that war was indeed going on somewhere.

Rosings nodded and made for the door. The sky was streaked with pink and gold and the clouds looked like long rolls of cotton that someone had somehow managed to light on fire. but there was a definite hint of impatience.” Marin said. Rosings standing behind her. Once T . The sun was dipping low again. It’s something new – something I haven’t seen yet. “I haven’t cracked it yet. I could be on the right track – I hope I am – but…it’s also possible I could be way off. but this time. “But I won’t know until I work the calculation all the way out. it looked as though Rivental was going to be the proud recipient of a magnificent sunset. Perhaps he thought that she had been doing nothing but stare out the window all afternoon. Rosings took another sip. She wiped a river of sweat from her face and turned to the window.” said Marin truthfully. “I think so. Marin’s cheeks got even rosier as she held up in testimony of her work the three or four pages that were marred with hundreds of what must seem to him like random numbers and equations. Rosings bent over a message. This one was being particularly stubborn about revealing its secret.” “Are you making any progress?” Mr. “Well? The message?” He did not sound angry. perhaps to calm his nerves. He had removed his dress coat.he next afternoon found Marin once again in the office of Mr. “I’ve been working non-stop. which Marin found wise considering the heat. and Marin’s brow was furrowed. a glass of something dark in his hand.” Mr. “Do you have that message done yet?” Marin spun around in her seat and saw Mr. He took a sip from his glass.

She turned back to the code before her. not upset by Marin’s excitement. “Prince Martin. right and perfect. which aspired to be even. This helped a great deal. but I am in somewhat of a hurry to have that message. she usually was faster deciphering.” “I’m working as fast as I can. Rosings nodded calmly. I’m sure. Mykolian. It looked as though it had been placed there purposefully. To her surprise. Alikan and Riventalese codes were generally so different from each other that if she knew the source. It was a sword – a sword that represented the power of the prince in governing the country. was a very vain man – and this meant two things. She shook her head. First. he stopped and turned back to Marin. his secret signature as well. dividing it in two. “You’re doing marvelously. If only she knew who had written this – that might give her a clue. Mr. Marin’s eyes scanned for the hundredth time the single line of numbers that ran across the slip of paper that held the code. The square represented Rivental. “Perhaps you have noticed. realizing at once from whom the message had come. Marin turned the paper over and examined it. and obviously. The line down the middle was the prince himself. not really expecting to find anything. They seemed harmless and nondescript. it meant that Prince Martin himself had written the message before her. It was a square with a line down the middle.” Marin said. it meant that Prince Martin often used his own name to encode his messages. the prince of Rivental.” Marin watched him open the door and leave.there. Prince Martin. Marin’s head bent 54 . The divided square was the prince’s symbol. There was so little here…hardly any code to break. Second. clicking the door shut behind him.” Marin said feverishly. there was a small mark in the corner.

Rosings back to life. Prince Martin was a warrior. so he was likely abroad with his army somewhere. “Are you all right. trying to take a house. “Surround the house. Marin looked at the message she had just decoded: SURROUND THE HOUSE. With a snap of his fingers. then?” Marin handed him the paper. Marin’s voice seemed to bring Mr. wondering if something were wrong. who stepped into the room just a few seconds later. Rosings’ dark eyes scanned it quickly. What had she done to make him so angry? Or was it the message that had troubled him? 55 . Richard’s dark head bowed low and then his kind mustached face came back into view.” he whispered once under his breath. and Mr. “Now!” he barked. Rosings had come rushing into the room. and within five minutes. With whom had he been corresponding? Marin called and Richard came into the room. WE HAVE HIM.” Mr. “I want you to take Marin to her room. Marin was startled. And keep her there. Rosings and Richard gave her a smile. sir?” Marin asked. Rosings said briskly. using an “M” as the first letter in the complicated decoding process. she had beaten the message out of the code at last. “You have it. Marin wondered what the message could be about.furiously down over the paper. Marin told him to fetch Mr.” He made another quickly glance toward the window as though he expected to see something there. he called Richard. Within moments Mr. After a second he turned back to Richard. and left the room. He looked toward the window where the sunset was now fading into darkness as though Marin were no longer in the room. bowed. “Richard.

apologized and looked around. as the halls around them began to erupt in pandemonium. The next moment Marin found herself on the ground. They walked briskly through the long halls together. tripping her. There was something moving out there… She pressed her nose to the glass and squinted out into the shadows. what –” But there was a loud crash from somewhere. He didn’t seem to be looking at her… “Richard. Richard grabbed her arm and began to run. and Marin heard several screams coming from the floors downstairs. Marin’s eyes fell suddenly upon the tall windows on one side of the hall. Marin could see an odd pink tinge to his cheeks. The grounds of Sandhill were completely swarmed in people. framed with dark velvet curtains pushed to one side. what’s going on? What are you doing?” Richard didn’t answer. dragging Marin along with him. She felt that her lungs were going to explode and was about to tell Richard that he had to slow down when her leg hit something hard.Richard took Marin gently by the arm and led her quickly out of the room. “Richard!” Marin yelled. Marin looked up at the servant that was leading her down the hallway. but kept running as though his very life were in danger. Marin jumped up. Richard was nowhere to be seen. 56 . sometimes passing people that were hurrying this way or that. People were running everywhere.” Marin said. “That one took me longer than usual. Her eyes widened in shock. on top of someone who had fallen. Marin had a very difficult time keeping up with him. “Did it?” said Richard mildly. “Richard. by way of conversation.

what’s going on? I’m scared. as though he were telling her that Mrs. “In here. “The house is being attacked. What if it was this house they had been talking about? But who were they after? Why were they “Marin!” Richard had come up on her left side and grabbed her by the shoulders. He pulled a key out of his pocket and looked the two of them into blackness. Marin felt very much as though she were in a nightmare. What it looked like. Marin told herself. Marin’s heart began to pound in fear. What’s going on?” 57 . yanking open Marin’s door and pulling her inside. sounding even smaller because of the darkness that closed in on all sides of them. her stomach turning to lead. “Look! People everywhere – I think they might be Prince Martin’s soldiers…” “Come on!” Richard said. tearing her from the window. trying to match Richard’s calm.” Richard said calmly. What was going on? Who were these people and what were they doing? Marin’s mind suddenly flicked back to the message she had just decoded. Rosings would like a cup of tea.” Marin exclaimed in panic.” Marin’s voice trembled. “Richard. “Richard. Their flight was punctuated by loud crashes and screams of terror. Marin forced herself to swallow. was like there was a battle going on right on the front lawn. Surround the house. pointing out the windows. Marin could hear the continued frightening noises of the house being broken into. The two continued to run through the house toward Marin’s room. We have him. She caught sight of a bright orange light through one of the windows as they past and realized that something outside was on fire.” Marin said. Below them.It looked like they were fighting. “I know.” Richard said. “But I don’t understand why.

“Precisely. isn’t she. She grabbed the banister and 58 . There was Elizabeth there. But there seemed to be nothing.” said Richard and last. seized the key from his hands. searching for any sign of her sister.” said Richard in a low voice. clicked it in the door and flung it open. At last she stumbled to the stairway that led down into the entrance hall. “That is why we need to get Marin out –” “Get me out? Where’s Robin?” Marin asked suddenly.” Elizabeth gave a derisive snort. “We’re all huddled safely in here and she’s out somewhere in the house where she might be killed…” “Marin. Marin realized that their meeting in her room had been planned. They all sat. Elizabeth looked away when Marin gave her a searching look.” Richard said to the others. She looked wildly down the halls that she passed. swallowing hard. and Marin turned around to see that she and Richard were not alone in the room. “She’s out there. “Sit down. He spoke to me beforehand in case this happened and he said that we should use the emergency escape-ways should we need to. You need to –” But Marin had already leapt upon him.” Marin said. realizing that her sister was nowhere to be seen. “I have her. as well as Caron and several other servants that Marin knew quite well. twisting their hands in their laps as they listened to the noise of destruction around them.There was the sound of a match being lit. but we are to keep Marin safe. She burst from the room and fled down the halls. “Safe! Hah! Just like he kept my Patrick…” She broke off sharply as though she wanted to break into tears. Richard stopped. “Rosings wants us to hold her here for as long as we can. She could hear shouts from her room calling for her to come back and she could hear footsteps that must belong to Richard pursuing her down the hallway.

laughing raucously. “NO!” Marin yelled as loudly as she could. She could hardly believe her eyes. Robin was in the hands of men that Marin did not know. Marin struggled hard to get to her feet. but Richard held her firmly. afraid again. Marin tottered to her feet. “Let me go!” Marin shouted. and I can’t just let them –” There was a small pop and then Richard’s hands moved to her mouth.” Richard’s voice floated to her as though from a great distance. “But…” Marin said. and there were men everywhere…they were breaking things…there was fire…she took a step back. “There’s nothing you can do. Marin. tried to pull away. Then he released her. plugging her nose with his other hand until he drained the contents down Marin’s throat.” Richard’s voice roared in her ear.looked down. Robin – she knew she must find Robin…but Robin had gone out that door. but Richard’s arms were like iron. Marin felt a hand clap over her mouth and strong hands drag her around the corner and out of sight. “I hope they didn’t see you. They were tying her hands together and pushing her roughly toward the door. frightened again. “They have Robin. holding her down on the floor. her mind suddenly foggy. Robin was down in the entrance hall. forcing a small bottle of something between Marin’s lips. but there she was. What was going on? What was she doing? She forgot about the shock she felt at what Richard had done as she remembered her sister. At nearly the same moment. Stunned. She could feel him rummaging around in his pocket for something. She felt Richard take her arm and drag her back down the hall toward her room. suddenly feeling as though the 59 .

” The voice was insistent. but found that she could not. “Be quiet. this time more desperately. you’ll be quiet. Marin heard: “Don’t say anything. “Be quiet. “Where is Robin?” Marin asked suddenly. Marin’s heart did not stop pounding in her neck. “Shut up!” Caron said. It was Caron. Marin slowly opened her eyes. ever so slightly. She saw her breath as she spoke and as her eyes adjusted to the dark. as she tried to move her feet. Marin’s heart began to race. Her hands were bound tightly at the wrists.” “But –” “If you want to live. her eyes rolling back into her head. It was almost completely black. Caron moved her mouth close to Marin’s ear and with her hot breath on Marin’s neck. she realized that she was outdoors and that there were stars high above her in the sky.strength had left her body. where is Robin?” Marin asked again. and. illuminating. and she soon saw the shadow of her friend as Caron rose to a sitting position. her surroundings. “Shhh!” “Who’s there?” Marin’s voice echoed around her. She moved to sit up. Marin realized.” “Caron.” the voice hissed. Where was she? What was going on? For several moments she couldn’t remember the last events for which she had been conscious. “You don’t want them to know you’re awake.” Caron said 60 . collapsed onto the floor. “But…she’s my…my sister…” Marin took just one more step forward and then. all at once she remembered everything. she discovered that they too were tied together. Marin could hear her shifting beside her. Then.

that’s for sure.” the man with the lantern said.” said the man with the lantern. and she was terrified about what they might do to her. “She’s awake.” the man with straight teeth said. Marin stopped short and squinted into the trees. In an instant Marin was pulled roughly to her feet by invisible hands and she was dragged away from Caron. She was blinded by the lantern light and could not make out the faces of the men that were taking her away from her friend. Marin was stunned. “This is the girl?” Marin noticed in spite of her fear that the man had very straight teeth. The man had a strong southern accent. and from the sounds that were accompanying the approaching light. A man with a lantern was approaching. “You’re Marin Lindrine then?” the man asked. who made a noise in protest that was immediately silenced by the night. Marin was too frightened to speak. shaking his head. Marin didn’t say a word. She did not know what they wanted. the man was followed by several others. He turned his gaze on Marin. Why had that been? Was it important that 61 . “Here she is. grabbing her arm away from those that had previously held her and shoving her face nearly into that of a man with dark hair and eyebrows.” the man with the lantern said in Mykolian. once he was close enough to make out Marin’s blanched face. “That’s her. “Not much to look at.sharply. Where was she? What was going on? Why was she here alone with Caron and why were they both tied up? What had happened to Robin? To Richard? To Sandhill? “Why –” There was a flash of light several feet away and then the sound of leaves crunching. Caron had told her not to say anything.

“My name is Charles Simmerman and the man behind you is Bernard Himmel. Marin looked at him and then shook her head ever so slightly. So far he hasn’t hurt me. “I suppose that introductions are in order. half-carried toward a large tent set up only a few feet away. So far. Marin was pushed inside. still held firmly by a man whose arms were around her chest and stomach. his voice growing hard.” Marin’s chin was suddenly grabbed in a vice-like grip and forced upward.” he ordered.” Marin shifted her feet.” Simmerman said.” the man repeated. I’m still okay. running a hand through his smooth hair. The tent was made of a thin material that let light from the lanterns that shone inside penetrate the cloth.” the man with straight teeth said. removing his jacket and seating himself on a large pile of clothing. “The bloody girl doesn’t even know how to talk. the light playing mischievously on his cheeks.these people not know who she was? “I asked you if you were Marin Lindrine. “Don’t be so modest. “It’s her.” said Charles Simmerman. “Bring her into the tent. Marin thought to herself. “That’s her. “Look at her face. Marin was shoved forward and then half-dragged. Marin did not say anything. Marin didn’t move. I’ve seen her before skulking about the place.” the lantern-man said again. bestowing yet another strange smile on her.” the man before her said. 62 .” The man that was apparently in charge gave her a downward glance and then nodded once. partly out of fear and partly because she was not sure that answering him honestly was the best course of action. with a small smile. But Robin… “I suppose you know why you’re here.

“Give me five hundred and seventy-four times thirteen. Marin’s heart began to pound in her ears. Simmerman shook his head and gave the man holding Marin a look. “If I didn’t know any better. “Five hundred and seventy-four times thirteen. Her throat felt very dry. “Answer him!” Marin felt her arms being twisted behind her and the ropes began to cut at her wrists still bound before her.” Himmel snapped. These people knew what she could do. her voice still sounding hoarse. then they likely had her sister. this is the right one.” Marin blinked. “Them 63 .” Simmerman repeated. I’d say you picked up the wrong girl.” Marin was breathing hard. “Robin. “Five hundred and seventy four times thirteen. Prince Martin knew about her. Something suddenly clicked in Marin’s brain. Marin remembered. or at least knew where she was. She gave a stiff cry and Simmerman rose to his feet. She didn’t want to answer.” Simmerman said. “That will do.” “No. Why were these people wanting math problems solved when Sandhill had been destroyed. Marin swallowed hard. They knew somehow about her talent with numbers. her sister was lost and she had no idea where she was? “Where am I?” Marin choked out.” Marin said. probably the result of the serum that Richard had poured down her throat to knock her out. “Where is my sister?” “Give me the answer!” Simmerman barked. she felt that she shouldn’t. “Answer my questions first and then I’ll consider answering yours. What was going on? She felt as though she had awakened to yet another sort of nightmare. Were these Prince Martin’s men? Had they taken her? If so.” Simmerman said raising his hand. For some reason. Himmel. but didn’t say anything.

” Marin swallowed. you think?” Himmel said triumphantly.” Himmel said. “One hundred and sixty-eight times four hundred and fifty-six.” she said immediately in a very quiet voice.” Simmerman gave him a disbelieving look. Himmel immediately released the pressure on her arm and Marin let out a gasp of relief. “Two thousand eighty divided by thirty-two. her face turning red. but Himmel simply twisted Marin’s arm again hard and Marin went rigid. “She’ll do it. “What do you think she can do?” Simmerman said.” said Simmerman. clearly more at ease now that Simmerman seemed to be enjoying himself. Before Himmel could touch her arm again.” he said 64 . “She can do it. Marin responded. watching Marin. no longer able to stand the pain. I’m sure of it.” Marin’s lip trembled.” “It’s too big. “Seven thousand four hundred and sixty-two. Simmerman smiled broadly.” Simmerman didn’t laugh. Sweat was pouring down her face. Marin could hear the grin in his voice. “I can’t even do that one on paper. exhibiting a line of pearly teeth.” Marin gasped out suddenly.” Himmel said.” he said to Marin. “Impressive. “I told you we’d got her.” Himmel said. “Give me the answer!” Simmerman said quietly. “Do you think anyone’s ever tested her limits?” “I’ve got one. as though he didn’t believe that he was really going to get it. “Sixty-five. “Too big for her. “No. Simmerman nodded. Simmerman exchanged a meaningful look with Himmel.Rivies got the other one.

His eyes were glowing.” Simmerman said. six hundred and eight. Marin gave him a look but didn’t say anything. Simmerman gave a slight chuckle. three hundred and fifty-eight point five.” Simmerman said.again. sir!” “Square root of eight thousand four hundred and sixty-four?” “Please.” “But –” 65 . “Now please. “Where do you come up with these numbers?” Himmel asked. “Sixty-three thousand. taking a step closer to her. Who are you? Where is my sister?” “She’s a miracle. “Stop it!” Marin cried. “She could be making things up for all we know. fourteen million.” Marin said very quickly.” Marin said quietly.” Simmerman said. I want to talk to her alone. she couldn’t. “Say it!” Simmerman shouted.” “No. “Can you do square roots?” “Stop it. eight hundred and fifty-eight point one?” Simmerman pursued. “Please. don’t!” “What is it?” Simmerman demanded. “Why are you doing this to me?” Marin asked. “Square root of four billion. knowing he wasn’t listening. I worked them out before hand. “Put her down there.” Marin said.” Simmerman said in a hard voice. “Ninety-two. her voice breaking.” Marin said. “You…you aren’t with Prince Martin?” “Give me the answer. his voice taking almost a reverent tone. “It’s not quite as impressive when you make us wait. breaking into tears. three hundred and five thousand. “Seventy-six thousand. ignoring Marin’s questions.

Prince Martin will have gotten lucky.” she said in a dull voice. If she can.” “Do you know where my sister is? Some men left with her –” “I’m not interested in your sister. some Alikan. all after the same thing. She was lost and captured. but the fire from the grounds spread to the house and it burned down fast. Then we came across one girl dragging another through the woods. And Himmel recognized you. Marin looked up. “Answer me.” 66 . some Riventalese. “I don’t even know who you are. Mr. “I introduced myself –” “I don’t know where I am or who you are or where my sister is.“Go.” Simmerman said. a whimper in her voice.” His voice was less commanding and seemed to actually hold a real hint of interest. He thought for a moment. “Sandhill’s gone. pointing to the door. Marin thought miserably.” said Simmerman coolly. “I wasn’t there up close. “I told you that I’m Charles Simmerman.” Me. “What happened at Sandhill?” Simmerman raised an eyebrow.” Marin’s whole body felt numb. “Not unless she can break codes like you. Himmel grunted and set Marin down on a heap of flour sacks in a manner that was none too gentle and left the tent in a rush. and her captors were not even the same people who had taken her sister. There were soldiers all over the place.” interrupted Simmerman. Simmerman cocked his head.” Marin said. and then said: “How do you do it?” Marin returned his look and then dropped her gaze to the floor without saying a word. “We hunted around the place for a long time and never found you. I’m the head general of the Alikan armies.

“Letters were intercepted. Rosings was a traitor. Hundreds of soldiers were tearing the place to pieces looking for you. But don’t mourn him too long. but closed it again quickly. You’ll be helping Rivental by helping us. “But anyone could have told you that. But he’s seen you around.” “That’s because he was trying to protect me!” Marin broke in. “You cannot tell her 67 .” Simmerman snarled. “Mr.” Simmerman said.” “Caron . her voice trembling. He’s against Prince Martin and so against his country. There was mention of your name.” Marin shook her head. “and so is Sandhill. “That’s how we found you.” Simmerman retorted.” Marin trembled under his fury and was silent. There were rumors that Rosings had sworn to fight Rivental if Prince Martin tried to take you from him. working for us. actually. Rosings can’t be dead -” “He can’t have survived. Rivental and Alika are united in their cause. Simmerman gave her a look and then said: “I’m going to let your friend go now.” Marin opened her mouth to talk. He meant that he did need her. And you can feel like a patriot. “We’re going to let your friend go.“How could he have known that…” “That it was you? Simple.” “Can I –” “No. “Rosings was working against his own country. Friends with one of the gardeners. which is why his home was attacked. Your friend kept saying your name. And he wasn’t going to let her go. Simmerman was wearing an ugly expression on his face.” said Simmerman shortly.what are you going to do to her?” Marin asked. “Rosings is gone now. Hopefully she finds her way to some village. Don’t need her.” “He wasn’t a –” Marin stopped short.

” With that Simmerman turned on his heel and left the tent. You will stay here in the tent and keep quiet if you want to keep from being gagged. 68 .goodbye.

She had been dreaming. they were back. and very black. It was the nightmare that she had often had as a child. There was a woman holding her hand. but her lungs were filling with water and no sound came out… Marin closed her eyes and tried to forget the dream. glad to have found a new subject to occupy her mind. Marin M . She looked around at the dark. It’s only a dream. wildly trying to remember where she was when it came to her. Marin tried to fight for the surface. It had been many years since these frightening images had crossed her mind. But there was a strong gust of wind and suddenly Marin and the woman were submerged in the sea. Just a dream. she had a hard time keeping the tears from her eyes. Simmerman thought that he was dead. Rosings. Rosings care that the dream had gone away. sweat pouring down her face. And now. It was still night. It was only after months in Mr. sleeping with one of Simmerman’s men just outside the door guarding the entrance. Marin knew that she had to stay away from the water. and Marin was on board a ship. It had been night. and the sea was raging with the force of a violent storm. she told herself firmly. that only death waited for her there and she tried to pull the woman back away from the edge of the boat. The water had seemed so real. Marin turned over under the coarse blanket. in the height of her terror. but was being pulled downward by something. Her hand slipped from the woman’s and she screamed silently. As real as it had when she had had the dream as a child. Mr. All the same. She was in a tent.arin gasped and sat up. Marin wiped her face and lay back down.

The tent flap was flipped aside. At least Simmerman had let Caron go. Mr. Before many of them were campfires. Marin still didn’t understand how she had come to fall into Simmerman’s hands. Whatever horrors were in store for her at the hand of Simmerman at least would not be hers to share with Marin. obviously. Had she done this of her own accord? Had Richard told her to do it? Where was he? Why had he not come with them to protect them? Marin sighed shakily. Caron had been there. Marin waited until there was a noise directly outside her tent before scrambling to sit up. And they had. Mr. Rosings was a very clever man.refused to believe it. Certainly he had devised a way to escape should his home be attacked. Rosings had suspected that something was going to happen. some smoking as though recently extinguished. all those people fighting. and the noise outside the tent grew louder and louder as the minutes past dawn slipped by. For some reason. according to Simmerman. It was as Mr. All that screaming. she was worth killing for. The day came more quickly than she was expecting. had been the one to drag her away from the estate. and others in full flame as brown-clad men busied themselves around 70 . She blinked into the cool morning light and was astounded at the sight that lay before her. the damage to the house and the destruction of Sandhill’s grounds – all of that had been for her. Somehow someone had taken her out of Sandhill. and. and a man beaconed for her to come out. She was valuable. Marin gulped and ducked out of the tent. There were hundreds of tents very much like the one that she slept in that spread out over the field in every direction. Rosings had said: people would do horrible things to get at her. From what Richard had said to the other servants back in her room. Marin shivered with the recollection of that night.

walked inside. Inside there had been a makeshift table constructed from some old stumps and lashed branches. pushing Marin forward onto a small dirt path that connected many of the tents. He fiddled with something in his pocket as he took Marin in with his large blue eyes. maps. some looked at her with interest and some cat-called her. They approached a large tent and Marin recognized it as being the tent into which she had been dragged the night before. Alikans. The trees seemed a bit sparser than she was used to and the ground harder. “Sir. Marin refused to look at them. his eyes marked with crows feet on both sides. it not quite being day. she had no idea where they were. She looked around in every direction. He wore a long brown jacket over his open throated shirt. The sky was a hazy gray. Simmerman looked up. Nothing more than rebel Mykolians. “Get out. They passed many busy tents.” said Simmerman shortly to the man that had brought her. Over all of them was bending Simmerman. A guard on the outside lifted the flap with a dirty hand and Marin and the man that was directing her. Over the table were charts.them fixing breakfast. Some laughed. but it seemed that they were some distance away from Sandhill as it was nowhere in sight. the men that occupied them looked up as she walked by. a few of his men at his side. “Very well. They were already sore from their bondage during the night. she thought with disgust. It seemed as though he too had not slept well. The man that had called Marin from the tent bound Marin’s hands behind her as she took in the scene.” grunted the man. and a few loose pieces of parchment bedecked with writing. “This way. In fact.” 71 . She yelped as the rope dug into her wrists.” the man who held Marin’s arm said.

unfolding the paper 72 . She had never been north. She hesitated and took it. Marin’s attention was brought roughly back to the much less-pleasant man before her. In fact. He was a tall man with a graying beard and. Marin’s heart leapt .” Simmerman said.” said Simmerman grimly.” Marin corrected. presumably to make sure that there was no one near to overhear what he was going to say. They want Alika for themselves and would prefer that we stay put. “We’re traveling northward. “We’re heading toward Little Springs at the moment. unless Marin had imagined it. “I’ve got work for you to do. “It’s not going to be an easy journey. his battered hat nearly falling from his head as he did so.The man bowed low. That explained why her surroundings looked unfamiliar. He went to the tent door and looked out. At least. There was one man that caught Marin’s eye as he left.” “It’s a cipher. reached in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled bit of paper which he smoothed in his hand and examined. not for many years. “The Mykolians don’t want us to press northward. turning to Marin. they’re willing to fight to make sure that we don’t pass our boundaries. When the ropes fell to the floor. Simmerman made a brisk gesture to the rest of the men that were present and they too nodded and quickly filed out. a twinkle in his eye. He threw it on the table and pulled a knife from his belt. Simmerman took the small paper from the table and extended it to Marin. coming behind Marin and cutting her bonds.she could have sworn that he had winked at her as he left the tent. “It’s a code.” Simmerman said finally.” Simmerman said.” He smiled sinisterly. “We recently recovered it from a branch of the Mykolian army. and then quickly exited the tent.” Marin said nothing.

“Why do you want to go north?” she asked. “What do you mean?” Marin asked. drawing 73 . smiled as though he were amused. She looked up from the code to Simmerman’s square face.” Marin said.” the man said. “Rivental wants to colonize Mykolia and Mykolia doesn’t want Rivental in their country.” Simmerman said. as though the taste that the word “Mykolia” left on her lips was distasteful enough to quell her explanation. “Do you know anything about what’s happening in the world. She wrapped her legs around the rough columns that supported the seat and gave Simmerman a serious look.” said Simmerman with a condescending nod. offering Marin a chair. “War. miffed that she’d been laughed at. Marin?” Simmerman asked.and peering at its contents.” said Simmerman with a nod.” Simmerman repeated with a slight chuckle.” “Rivental and Mykolia are at war.” Marin stopped. Simmerman began to draw. “Yes. Simmerman gave her a look and then at last. not taking her eyes from Simmerman’s face. miraculously. “But this is not the real cause of the fighting. Simmerman pursed his lips. running a hand through his shiny locks. Marin carefully sat down. Marin looked down at the paper and frowned. “Yes. “Yes.” “You want me to break it. “The real war is between Mykolia and Alika.” Marin said slowly. Dunking the tip of a pen into the inkwell. “I know that everyone’s at war. “This is Mykolia.” Marin continued. “A cipher.” “Not the real cause?” Marin repeated skeptically. her eyes racing lightly over the letters.” said Simmerman. there is war. “Rivental and Mykolia are at war. Simmerman took a deep breath and pulled a piece of loose parchment toward him.

She felt a little braver since Simmerman had stopped acting so frightening. Alika was part of Mykolia. This to the south east is Rivental. “Good. shaking her head.” “That’s not true. Mykolia wishes to adjoin Alika to itself. throwing down his pen and showering an arc of black ink over the table in the process. Did you ever hear what happened at the battle of High Point when an Alikan citadel was besieged by the enemy?” “No. but it has no right to do so.” “Alika has its own kings and is in no need of any help from the Mykolian crown.” Marin said. “From Mykolia’s point of view.” “I know that. he retracted Alika’s loyalty. “You’d better hope that we Alikans stay one up on the Mykolians.” said Marin.” Simmerman cut her off. “Why not?” Marin challenged. startled. “When Prince Esper’s father was not elected king of Mykolia. “This section near the bottom is Alika. “And that is why we are at war!” “I don’t want to help Alikans! They’re nothing more than Mykolians –” Simmerman suddenly seemed to lose his temper.” Simmerman said. Alikans have never recognized the Mykolian king. yes!” said Simmerman.rapidly. “But they are Mykolian. “They burned all their food and then killed all their 74 .” Marin contradicted.” Simmerman said shortly. Alikans have governed themselves for hundreds of years without Mykolian interference. “Governors from the provinces all over Mykolia met together thirty years ago and agreed to unite .” said Simmerman. but he had already agreed –” “Mykolia has no right to Alika. “Now.” Marin pointed out. if only to save your own neck. “But it agreed to become part of Mykolia!” Marin exclaimed. “Because Alikans have no desire to be Mykolian.

you will be in trouble. “I’m very serious about this.” Marin looked away. The contents of the paper were written in dark ink: GTTI JKRN NRFF SRFS BBMK KIIV EXBN TUOQ UFRL MRQM NLQP XZYC XYPK YJWK PTFC FAXY LNTE CCAF OZWZ AKQI TNDRM OEVLL “I need a pen. You notice also that the last two sets of 75 .” Simmerman said in a low voice.” “How do you know?” Simmerman asked. “Yes. “Those aren’t words. “It’s a way for the encoder to organize the letters in a manageable way.” Marin said. Marin. Although he wanted to make sure that she did exactly what he wanted.” Marin said after several seconds had passed.” Marin said. His excitement was palpable. “I want that message translated. He was curious.animals. he was interested in what he had heard about her and wanted to see if it was true. that much was clear. Simmerman swallowed hard and moved closer to Marin. “Do you know what to do?” Marin smiled inwardly. “If the Mykolians take us. a sick taste in her mouth. “They aren’t. “It’s a simple organizational tool.” said Simmerman dangerously. starting with their prisoners and slaves. Marin frowned and looked down at the parchment that had been given her. “I have a few things I can try. Marin licked her lips. And then they killed themselves before the enemy could take the city. her stomach relaxing for the first time since she had come into the tent.” “Why do you suppose all of the words are four letters long?” Simmerman asked.” Marin swallowed and unfolded the paper.” she said.

six. Marin bent over the parchment and began to write furiously. “Yes. After a moment he shrugged. five.” “There are ninety. and three and thirty seems too cumbersome as well.” “Actually it does. That’s important.letters are in a group of five. The pattern didn’t come out even.” said Simmerman. “If each letter stands for another letter . nine. since that wouldn’t make much of a rectangle.” “Doesn’t help much. “If we factor ninety. very pleased.” said Simmerman.” “Actually. three.” said Marin. two and one. Or it could be 9 X 10. “The number of letters doesn’t matter anyway. ten.” Marin continued. thirty. The pattern is important. The letters are arranged. “I’m fairly sure that the letters are simply 76 . “A very neat number.” “So that gives us…” Simmerman’s voice trailed off as he attempted to make a calculation. fifteen. “Those numbers are forty-five. That leaves us with 18 X 5.” Simmerman said nothing. Encoders like their grids to be as square as possible. 15 X 6 and 10 X 9. “It gives us a clue as to how the cipher was encoded. we can safely eliminate forty-five and two.” Marin said. although it is not necessarily so – then it is useful to know how many letters there are.” Simmerman said. “Too many possibilities.which I assume is the case. not understanding the source of Marin’s pleasure. “Ah. Thus there are twenty groups of four and two groups of five. so I’m quite certain that it’s 10 X 9. her eyes scrutinizing the paper.” “Why?” Simmerman asked. we get the smallest number by which the numbers could have been organized into a rectangle of some sort.” Marin said. eighteen. “These letters are arranged in a pattern.” She smiled. remember.

“We don’t need them anymore. “They’ve served their purpose. “What are you doing?” “Look.arranged vertically and were transposed by being read across. I’d say that we have a safe bet that the rectangle of transposition looks something like this:” Simmerman bent over the paper once Marin’s nose rose up from it: G R M N M Z W Y O N T F K T R Y K L Z D T F K U Q C P N W R I S I O M X T T Z M J R I Q N Y F E A O K F V U L P C C K E R S E F Q K F C Q V N B X R P Y A A I L N B B L X J X F T L “Rewriting the letters as they appear vertically will give us:” GRMNZMWYONTFKTRYKLZDTFKUQCPNWRISIOMXTTZMJR IQNYFEAOKFVULPCCKERSEFQKFCQVNBXRPYAAILNBBL XJXFTL “The groups are gone.” said Marin dismissively.” said Simmerman.” “And now what?” Simmerman asked. GRMNZMWYONTFKTRYKLZDTFKUQCPNWRISIOMXTTZMJR 77 . She studied the code for a moment before she began to underline. shoving the parchment toward Simmerman. If we assume that nothing incredibly technical was used here.” murmured Marin. “A pattern!” Simmerman bent over the letters and looked and what Marin had spotted. “And now we think.” Marin said.

“It means that each letter of the message was encoded using a different system. probably about four percent for every letter of the alphabet. It’s much more complicated than simple letter substitution. There’s a certain frequency at which most letters are used in Mykolian. the percentages drop off sharply. Here. “First of all. six percent are ‘R’.” Marin said.IQNYFEAOKFVULPCCKERSEFQKFCQVNBXRPYAAILNBBL XJXFTL “The same letters. A could stand for T and later for G and later for X in the same message. but after that. “Do you think that it’s a word? Is it ‘the’? I know that one way to break codes is to look for hidden words. because that would be far too easy to decode. getting excited.” Marin said. six 78 . I don’t think so. there is a very common distribution.” “No. There’s also the issue of letter frequency. All I’d have to do is look for obvious word patterns and I’d have the message. “I’m fairly sure that it was done using a polyalphabetic substitution. A different code is used for each letter.” “What does the pattern mean?” Simmerman asked.5. “It tells us something about how the message was encoded. There are a few more letters that are just about as common.” “How do you know that it’s not just a letter for letter substitution?” Simmerman asked. for example. With polyalphabetic substitution.” “What does that mean?” Simmerman asked. where A always stands for L. No. Or I always stands for D.’ At least. Generally ‘E’ should be used 12 percent of the time.” Simmerman said. “It’s not ‘the. it’s a pattern! This is really great. six percent are ‘N’. on average! Six percent of the letters are ‘K’. ‘T’ about 9 percent and ‘O’ 7. The frequencies here are all off. Whoever wrote this code didn’t take much care to guard it from being cracked.

” “I see. “So in the ‘R’ row. feeling quite sure of herself. Basically the first row of the Vigenere square is the alphabet written out normally.” Marin said. I count the distance between the repeated letters that I spotted a moment ago…” “Ten. “A Vigenere square is run off of some code word. “I have the square memorized. This is the ‘A’ row. T is H. his mind apparently hard at work. Underneath. I know how many letters long it is.” said Marin offhandedly.percent are ‘T’…” Simmerman looked like his mind was reeling. T is encoded as K. while in the ‘O’ row. “How are you going to crack it then?” Marin smiled. Basically you have 26 different simple substitutions.” said Marin. “Yes. 79 .” Simmerman stared at the paper. named after the guy who perfected it.” said Simmerman slowly.” “Do you know the phrase?” Simmerman asked.” “How do you know that?” Simmerman asked.” Marin said. “but thanks to the pattern I found.” Simmerman said. the alphabet is written beginning with B and ending with A under the Z of the ‘A’ row. Simmerman stared. “No. “Ninety also is divisible by ten. but it would take too much time. Then the ‘C’ row begins with C and so on. “There’s a key phrase or word that will tell us which row was used to encode each letter.” Marin continued. Polyalphabetic substitutions are done using a Vigenere square –” “What’s that?” “It’s a sort of codebook for poly substitutions. “I’d draw you one. “The key phrase is ten letters long.” said Marin. “A bit at a time. in the ‘B’ row.

for instance.” Marin thought a moment. There is a Y repeated in the same place. or S and T.” “So the L is not encoded?” “It is. “Look in the second column of letters.” said Marin. “It is the L position on the ‘A’ row of the square. “The last letter in the last group is L. We must assume that they are letters that are frequently found next to one another.” “Which means…” “Which means that the last letter in the key word that encoded all this is A. “If a pattern of encoding was used where the pattern doesn’t come out even – for example if there had been 83 letters in the message instead of 90. “Is that important?” Simmerman asked.” “Which means…” “Which means that I am going to rewrite the code now in groups of ten to make it easier to work with:” GRMNZMWYON TFKTRYKLZD TFKUQCPNWR ISIOMXTTZM JRIQNYFEAO KFVULPCCKE RSEFQKFCQV NBXRPYAAIL NBBLXJXFTL “This makes some things quite clear. and exactly nine times. then the rest of the spaces are often filled with the word ‘null.” she said. “Yes. Maybe T and H. We can assume that it is the same letter since the same letter row of the Vigenere square was used to encode it.” Marin said. Simmerman frowned and sat back.” Marin said.” Marin said. The last two groups of ten both begin with the letters NB. “Isn’t this a lot of guesswork? How do you know that the message didn’t take all ninety letters?” 80 .’ And here we end with an L. putting the feathered end of the pen in her mouth.“Therefore we can conclude that the pattern was used nine times. There are also other patterns visible.

“I don’t,” said Marin serenely. “I do a lot of guessing. But I have been doing this for so long, I know what to expect. Military codes don’t change all that much.” Simmerman pursed his lips. “We can now decode the last letter of each group,” said Marin, “now that we know that they were all encoded using the ‘A.’” “You’re the one who has the square memorized,” said Simmerman with a wave of his hand. “I don’t have to have the square memorized to do it,” Marin pointed out. “Since it’s the ‘A’ row we’re talking about, we know that all the letters at the end of the groups are already decoded.” GRMNZMWYON TFKTRYKLZD TFKUQCPNWR N D R ISIOMXTTZM JRIQNYFEAO KFVULPCCKE M O E RSEFQKFCQV NBXRPYAAIL NBBLXJXFTL V L L “I’m going to decode the last four letters assuming that they stand for ‘null,’” said Marin. Simmerman watched as she scribbled. “O, L, I, A,” said Marin. She thought only half a second before she looked up. “Mykolia,” she said quietly. “That’s the key word?” Simmerman exclaimed. “It’s the last seven letters of it,” Marin said, her nose already back to the paper. “So now you can decode everything except the first three letters of each group,” said Simmerman. Marin nodded without looking up. After just a few moments, she had produced: GRMNZMWYON TFKTRYKLZD TFKUQCPNWR 81

ANCINGN

HTOWARD

ISSABOR

ISIOMXTTZM JRIQNYFEAO KFVULPCCKE CONFIRM EPORTSO INFORCE RSEFQKFCQV NBXRPYAAIL NBBLXJXFTL TSARRIV FROMPAL ULLNULL Simmerman practically wrenched the paper away from her. “Toward,” he said under his breath. “Issabor? Confirm! Confirm what? Eportso…” “Reports,” said Marin softly. She pulled the paper back. “This gives us the third letter in the key word…” “Misspelling,” said Simmerman with a laugh. “Enforce, not inforce.” “Reinforce,” corrected Marin. “Reinforcements. They are talking about soldiers here.” “From,” Simmerman read. “But from where? Pal…” “That third B in the last group is an N also,” said Marin, “which confirms my suspicion that the third letter in the key word is R.” “Issabor…that doesn’t make any sense,” said Simmerman. “It’s part of a word,” Marin said. “It won’t make any sense without the other part.” Her eyes flew over the code again. “But the word ‘reinforcements’ gives me the rest of the letters I need in the key word,” said Marin. “You can finish it, then?” Marin was already writing: GRMNZMWYON TFKTRYKLZD TFKUQCPNWR ADVANCINGN ORTHTOWARD ORTISSABOR ISIOMXTTZM JRIQNYFEAO KFVULPCCKE DERCONFIRM EDREPORTSO FREINFORCE RSEFQKFCQV NBXRPYAAIL NBBLXJXFTL 82

MENTSARRIV INGFROMPAL INNULLNULL “Advancing north toward Ortissa Border,” Simmerman read, clearly suppressing the excitement that he felt. “Confirmed reports of reinforcements arriving from Palin.” Marin smiled slightly and put down her pen. Simmerman looked at the parchment once more and then at Marin. “It’s true what they say,” he said in almost a reverent tone. “You are a miracle.” “That was an easy one,” Marin said frankly. Simmerman folded up the message and put it in his pocket. “Well done,” he said shortly. He clapped his hands and in a few moments a soldier with a fringy looking beard stepped into the tent. “Take Marin back to her tent. Get her something to eat.” Marin watched Simmerman turn on his heel with the message and leave the tent. The soldier advanced toward her and pulled her toward the tent door. Quite stealthily, Marin snatched up the piece of scratch paper that she had used while decoding and crumpled it up into her hand. Once she was safely back into her tent, she opened the paper and read the key word the writer had used when encoding the message. She felt a strange feeling course through her as she read it. FOR MYKOLIA

83

They did not stay long in the small valley in which Marin had been captured. She learned from listening to the men that walked past her tent that it was called Hart Valley, and that camp would be breaking soon. In spite of the fact that she would be moving further from home, Marin was glad to be leaving. During the few days that Simmerman’s men had been in the valley, Marin had been cooped up in her tent. It was very boring spending long days alone with nothing to do, but she much preferred staring at her canvas walls than the hours when she was forced from her tent to the tent of the Alikan general where she decoded intercepted codes under Simmerman’s watchful eyes. Marin scrambled out of the tent at dawn the next day, hearing her name called and no one appearing at the tent flap. The day was cool compared to the rather stifling temperature that naturally built up inside the tent. She let the cool breeze play with her hair and dry the perpetual layer of sweat from her face. She looked around and saw that everyone was busy packing his things away, hanging pans on the backs of full packs that they strapped to themselves and filling the saddle bags of their horses. A long-haired soldier near her pointed to the tent and told her to begin packing it up. Marin nodded once and turned to the task of dismantling the frame and rolling up the canvas. After a large chunk of bread for breakfast, Marin was hurried down toward the place where Simmerman’s tent had once stood. Simmerman was mounted on a horse, and he looked down at Marin as she was pushed toward him. “Tie her hand,” Simmerman said to the long-haired soldier who still accompanied her.

The soldier obeyed orders and tied a length of thick rope to Marin’s wrist. She looked down at it as he did so. It was dark from built-up dirt. Marin sighed. It had been too long since she had been able to wash. She knew that she must smell as badly as the soldier who was tying her wrist. “Give me the end,” Simmerman said. The soldier placed the end of the rope in Simmerman’s hand and Marin looked up at him in question. “You’re too valuable to entrust to just anyone,” said Simmerman coldly. “You’ll walk along beside me and my horse, Stamilon.” Stamilon paced, making tiny clouds of dust appear around his hooves. He snorted loudly, as though asserting his authority. Marin didn’t bother to nod. She knew it didn’t make any difference whether she agreed with Simmerman’s orders or not – and she knew that he didn’t care whether she did or not. The camp left Hart Valley just a short time later, the camp having miraculously dissolved in just a short time. Only the charred remains of campfires testified that there had ever been anyone camped there. It was not difficult to walk next to Simmerman and his horse. Simmerman walked Stamilon slowly enough that Marin was able to keep up a comfortable pace with little trouble. She was surprised about how happy she was to be walking. After having been kept for so long in the tent, she was grateful for the chance to be outside. They walked and camped for several days, mostly hacking through the jungle of lush trees that made up the landscape of Alika and occasionally crossing large open plains. All in all, the scenery that they passed was breathtaking and Marin wondered that no one had ever mentioned how beautiful Alika was. The trees were tall and thin, but the ground was becoming less and less flat 85

as they progressed. One day, after about three hours of walking , Marin discovered that they were walking along the rim of a very impressive granite canyon whose walls jutted sharply upward from a series of rivers and waterfalls that intermingled with each other below. The company took their journey down into the canyon and Marin was in awe at the incredible echoes that beat off the canyon walls as they descended. At last the company slowed down. When they came to a small plateau built into the side of the canyon, Simmerman pulled on the reins of his horse, and the company stopped for lunch and rest. Simmerman jumped down from his horse, still holding the end of the rope that was attached to Marin’s arm. A soldier took his horse and led it away. “Give her something to eat,” Simmerman said to the first soldier who crossed his path, not looking at him or at Marin but around at the scenery. His eyes lingered on a small cave that hung toward the back of the plateau. He dropped the rope and left Marin in the possession of the rather young looking soldier. The soldier rummaged through his sack and pulled out a few carrots. He handed them to Marin who began to gnaw on them, trying to ignore their limpness. After she had finished, the soldier gave her more of the same sort of bread she had eaten that morning, and then some water. Once she had finished, Marin felt reasonably full. She looked around at the grayish rock on all sides of her. It was amazing to her that there was country that looked this beautiful and this wild. All she knew were the cultivated grounds of Sandhill and the little forests that marked its boundaries. Here there was such diversity that Marin felt as though she were being awakened to something wonderful. Something strange, but wonderful nonetheless. Simmerman suddenly appeared at Marin’s side and 86

pulled her roughly to her feet, tearing her from her reverie. “I need two strong men to come with me,” Simmerman said shortly. He grabbed the rope that held Marin’s wrist and used it to tie both her hands in front of her. Two soldiers sitting near a pair of brown horses got slowly to their feet. They were burly and both had large brown curly beards. Simmerman pulled Marin away from the edge that looked out into the canyon and toward the wall where he had discovered the cave. Marin saw that there was a flickering light coming from it, almost as though it were on fire. Simmerman led Marin into the cave where there was indeed a small fire burning near the mouth. There seemed to be something long like a pole sticking out of it. Simmerman’s bag lay next to it. He bent down and began to look through it. The two men ducked into the cave after Marin. “Take her over there,” Simmerman said, pointing to the far end of the cave. “Hold her.” Marin was dragged to the other end of the cave, and the two men grabbed her arms. Marin thought this was a fruitless gesture. She wasn’t about to try to escape. Still, she had a very uneasy feeling in her stomach. What was going on? Certainly if he had another code for her to break, he would know that she would need the use of her hands to break it. “What are you doing?” Marin asked, her voice quavering. Simmerman got to his feet and turned around, looking at Marin and the men who held her. “Turn her around,” Simmerman said, and the two men obediently turned Marin around to face the back of the cave. Marin’s heart began to beat very fast. She heard the fire give a few angry pops and the sound of 87

making it impossible for her to move. The men. What was going on? “Hold her still. She screamed as loudly as she could. She didn’t even bother turning her head away from Simmerman as she vomited violently onto the floor of the cave. “Why did you do that?” Marin spat. angrier than she’d ever been in her life. and it 88 . But the moment of relief did not last long. “I need her shoulder exposed. Her shoulder still hurt. his voice coming nearer. and the men’s arms clamped around her entire body. sobbing. as though to steady himself. Marin started to shiver. One of the men reached up and pulled Marin’s tunic down so that her left shoulder was showing.” Simmerman said. She had been burned. at a nod from Simmerman left the cave. Marin both heard it and felt it at the same time. The burning quickly returned and Marin started to scream again. the men off of her… And then suddenly the thing was gone and Marin let out a great wet sob. twisting around to see what had they had done to her. however. Simmerman came over and pulled Marin to her feet. held her so tightly she was not able to remove it. The two men. After just a few moments.something metal being lifted from the ground. trying to get the thing away from her. She could see Simmerman walk away from her and throw a long metal rod back into the fire. She gasped and sat up. What had happened? The men released her. and Marin fell. and saw that there was a very red S emblazoned on her shoulder.” Simmerman said. Simmerman had burned that S into her shoulder. to the floor. There was a nasty hiss and then a violent burning began to eat at her shoulder making her buck her head back involuntarily. He laid a hand on Marin’s right shoulder. Marin felt suddenly sick. She turned away. trying to get whatever was tearing at her shoulder off.

Marin stifled a scream. miserable. After the terrifying and disturbing experience in the cave. if ever you run away. Simmerman had probably realized that the long day’s journey the night before had been taxing on the men and had allowed them to sleep later. not stopping until the sun fell. “Why did I brand you?” Simmerman asked simply. in the shadows. She wasn’t used to physical exercise.” said Simmerman coldly. You have my mark on you now. Simmerman had pressed his men on faster than he had in the morning. “Because you belong to the army. It also meant that she was extremely tired and hungry when at last it was time to make camp. Marin’s mind flashed back on the horrid day that had been yesterday. dragging her out into the light. This way.filled her with angry venom. The fabric touching Marin’s shoulder stung it badly. She had sat alone. Simmerman replaced Marin’s tunic.” In spite of her pain. This resulted in Marin’s legs hurting from having to jog to keep up with Simmerman’s horse. her hands still bound together while she waited for Simmerman to remember that she still had not eaten and to give orders for a soldier to give her something to eat.” Marin shivered with anger and pain. Marin continuously 89 . “Don’t be ridiculous.” Marin said. Her shoulder continued to burn. she knew it was very late. once she could talk again. “You’re far too smart for that. Marin paused to think about what he had meant. you can be easily identified. When Marin’s eyes fluttered open the next morning. “I…I wouldn’t have run away.

The noise from the waterfalls also made it easier to fall asleep. had her hands tied just as she had the previous morning and choked down her small breakfast. She didn’t like the feeling in her stomach that took over when she looked at the deep water for a long time. Marin forced herself to her feet.felt a burning in her shoulder. With the sound of rushing water. a process which took a lot less time now that she was over the initial shock of having been captured. She was ever conscient of it. At times the sting was so bad that she pulled her left arm from her tunic and tied the sleeve under her armpit. She stumbled out of the tent. as though a phantom poker were constantly being pressed up against her left side. The sensation never left her. still a bit sleepy. the dream about the ship and storm came more frequently. the canyon had seemed almost sinister. She hated how they used to talk about her. and she often awoke screaming and in cold sweats. but also attracted a disturbing number of insects that buzzed around the oozing burn. They were approaching the bottom where the waters from all the waterfalls and rivers pooled. Marin looked up at the sky a little wistfully as they began that day’s march. She was easily lulled to sleep. Marin had gotten progressively uneasy. as the nightmare had kept her awake several hours that very night. She was tired of the water and of its sounds. The pounding water from the waterfalls seemed to have made her quite deaf. She was a little tired of seeing nothing but cold rocks all around her. as though she weren’t there. As they had pressed farther down into the canyon. This abated the pain that the rough fabric made. 90 . She missed the sky. Yes. it was the water that bothered her most. the problem was staying asleep. Since yesterday especially. She appreciated not being able to hear the voices of the soldiers that had so disturbed her before.

“I won’t go. “What’s going on?” The voice from the rider of the horse that had just approached was soft and concerned. It didn’t look very deep.” Marin said. “No!” Marin screamed. There was a very sick feeling in her stomach that she couldn’t quite explain. The horse’s hooves were now several inches deep in the dark water. She forced herself to tear her eyes away from the water and look straight into Simmerman’s.” Marin said. Marin closed her eyes and shook her head. as Simmerman drove Stamilon forward a few more steps. “I won’t…” Simmerman drove Stamilon still farther into the water and Marin felt cold water wash over her toes as she was forced forward by the rope tied to her wrist. Marin began to scream uncontrollably. one afternoon. It was the man that she had seen in Simmerman’s 91 . Marin stayed her ground.” Simmerman snarled. but that didn’t matter. The rocks towered above it on both sides and there was the sound of rushing water coming from somewhere to the left.” Simmerman said cruelly. Simmerman looked back at her as though she had just sprouted two heads. He wanted her to forge the pool on foot.“No. She fell to her knees and felt as though she were going to pass out. “I won’t. Marin looked at it again.” Marin said firmly. Marin tried to scramble away from the water and looked up. “Come on. “I won’t. her throat closing off in panic.” “Then I’ll drag you through it. coaxing his horse forward a step. looking out over the pool that they had come to. her voice hard as iron. The water was glassy clear and it shone with the little sunlight that was able to penetrate the canyon from above. Marin heard the sound of more hooves crunching in the rocky sand beside her. I can’t.

“to serve the daughter of Tenara Lindrine. not even Mr.” the man said. The man whose name was apparently Elian coaxed his horse (a pretty gray one) forward.tent the morning that she had decoded that message. stopping just next to Marin. “Please don’t make me. her face white with shock. The man put a finger to his lips. his voice a touch harder. “You keep track of her. General. and heaped the length in Marin’s lap in front of him. “How do you know my mother’s name?” she demanded. Understanding. rubbing her nose and getting to her feet. pointed toward Simmerman and smiled.” Elian said.” Marin said.” Simmerman said angrily.” Simmerman shouted as he spurred his horse and charged across the pool. “Whoa. “She’s making a scene. Elian. “Deathly afraid. “Don’t make me go in the water. it will be your head.” She turned her pleading eyes to the man that had just approached. “She seems to be afraid of the water.” the man said as his horse’s hooves began to slap lightly against the water. The elusive man that she was sure had winked at her.” “Thank you. no one at Sandhill. Marin turned around once more.” Marin said to the man once he had started out. Simmerman released the rope and Elian grabbed and gathered it. Belia. her mind spinning.” Simmerman frowned hard. “It is a pleasure. Rosings had known her 92 . “If she goes missing.” Marin spun around and looked at Elian. “May I?” He extended his hand. This man knew her mother! No one. He tilted his head down and let his twinkling eyes fall on Marin. Simmerman scowled as Marin accepted his hand and climbed up onto his horse with him.

parents. this unlikely companion of her captor had mentioned her name. 93 . Even Marin herself had let it get buried somewhere in the back of her mind. But now this man had brought it very much to the front. and now this man.

“Time to go already?” Marin muttered. the man who Marin now considered her rescuer disappeared and she was sequestered once more in the tent. nodded and crept after Elian to the door of the tent. That night.All that day Marin looked for opportunities to speak to the man Elian. but none presented itself. Marin was shaken awake. After sleeping for what only seemed a few moments.” Marin started. reminding Marin of how sleeping had been before the lulling sound had been there to make her fall quickly asleep. I want you to follow me.” Marin. “Elian!” Marin exclaimed. the guard outside. Simmerman had decided to try and leave the canyon as quickly as possible. “Don’t make a sound. Marin was almost too exhausted to care whether she got a chance to speak to the man named Elian again. The sounds of the waterfalls were dying away. “Shhh!” Elian whispered shortly. She recognized the voice immediately. it had been a hard journey upward out of the canyon. Someone laid a hand on her arm. her heart pounding very hard against her chest. Once the pool had been forged. Apparently. Now it was the insects once more that serenaded the evening hours and accentuated the quiet that otherwise prevailed. “Marin. After two days of early rising and late camp-making in the evening. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. blinking up to the darkness around her. She ducked out as soundlessly as possible and stepped past the shadowy figure of her guard lying crumpled in a . even if it meant a grueling march with little rest for the men and horses.

His beard was flecked with gray. but the first one that crossed her lips was: “How did you get past my guard?” Elian smiled.” Elian said. Marin stared into complete blackness for a few moments before there was a sharp sound and Elian lit a match. “My name is Edric Elian. extending his hand. Marin did so. “I think introductions are in order. “Here. even that of the stars. remembering suddenly back to the day that she had been taken from Sandhill. wondering where he was taking her. A million questions were swimming around Marin’s head.heap on the ground.” Elian said. into a small cave that closed off completely all light.” Marin said.” Marin slowly sat down on the ground and Elian set the lantern down between them. Marin could see that Elian was actually quite a bit younger than she had supposed him to be. The tents that they passed were colorless shapes rising up silently against the black canyon walls. Marin supposed that he could not be older than fifty. He lowered himself down onto the rocks and motioned for Marin to do the same. From the light that now filled the cave. Once they seemed to have reached the wall. Elian led her further into the side of the canyon itself. but his face was youthful. once they had come to the end of the cave.” Elian said at last. Elian motioned for Marin to follow him deeper into the cave. Marin saw his bearded face come into view and saw him stick the match inside a lantern which immediately began to burn brightly. 95 . “I drugged him. There were no stars. leading her past the tents and toward the canyon wall. Marin opened her eyes as wide as she could to help her see better in the night. bringing her back from her reverie. “Sit.” “Oh. however. Marin stumbled and Elian reached back and took her hand.

taking his hand and shaking it.” he said. “At least all my life that I can remember. Now I’m beginning to believe it. but it’s still incredible. “From where? What do you mean?” Elian cocked his head and gave her a searching look.” “You don’t remember your mother.” “It is indeed.” Elian nodded.” Elian said. when you were very young.” said Elian.“Marin Lindrine. “But then. “He lives near Sandhill. “How old was I?” “I knew you from your birth until the moment you and your mother disappeared.” “You knew me?” Marin exclaimed in astonishment. Rosings?” “Mr. Rosings told me that people knew about me. “No one knows about her. then?” Elian 96 . “And I knew you too. “But you knew that already. “Mr. Rosings took care of me all my life. I don’t remember anything before that. “That’s where I lived until Simmerman captured me.” Marin said. who does not?” “I don’t know. “I see.” “Indeed I did.” Elian said. Rosings and he had never been able to tell me anything except her name.” “How very kind of him. I discovered this from General Simmerman. a twinkle in his eye.” Marin continued. “You don’t remember? You don’t remember anything?” Marin shook her head.” Marin said.” Marin said truthfully. I’ve asked Mr. Rosings.” “How do you know my mother?” Marin burst out suddenly. intrigued. “Disappeared?” Marin said. “I don’t remember anything before I came to live with Mr. You’re the first person to have said it to me in a very long time.” Elian smiled reminiscently.” Marin said. “I guess I was seven. That I did not know until most recently. “I knew Tenara many years ago. but I didn’t know that it was really true.” Elian said. “And who is Mr.

“We disappeared. He gathered his troops and rallied the armies that Alika is famous for producing and launched a campaign to conquer Mykolia and crown himself king of the entire country by force.” “Interesting. “And Rivental?” 97 . “What do you mean?” “I mean that you have not been told the real reason that Alika and Mykolia are at war. and so he retracted Alika’s allegiance from the alliance. Thirty years ago the lords from the provinces of Mykolia met to discuss uniting the country.” Marin frowned.said. “Yes. “Simmerman explained it all to me. I was old enough to remember. “Not at all. I can’t remember anything. My friends can all remember things from when they were very small. don’t you?” Elian said. the lord from Kenyon. Prince Esper’s father. “How?” “You know what the war is about. “I know I should be able to. was angry that he was not chosen. then?” Marin asked. but he was not content to simply return to Alika without doing something. “Your story is very much tied up in the war that is consuming the country at the moment. and the vote favored King Castillo.” Elian said very calmly as though they were discussing the weather. wanting to know more.” “Why are they at war. suddenly frustrated.” Marin’s forehead wrinkled.” Marin said. “King Anjute was indeed angry that he had not been chosen as king.” “Really?” said Marin. “That is the version that you have heard from an Alikan.” Elian smiled again. “I suppose I’d best start at the beginning. then?” Marin pressed. Now Mykolia wants Alika back and is fighting to get it. King Anjute.” said Elian.” Marin said. There was a vote to elect one of the nobles king of Mykolia.

Marin squeezed herself between two rocks. “I hear footsteps. though!” Marin exclaimed. “Mr. Elian nodded.” said Elian politely.“Rivental has agreed to help Alika because it knows that Alika has a much better army than Mykolia and is likely to win.” “So they think that Alika is going to win this war. Rosings of working against his own country. “Who are you talking to?” “No one. approaching Elian.” a rough voice that Marin did not know bellowed from the entrance to the cave. it is likely that Rivental will take over all of Mykolia. it was strange to consider that Mykolia.” Marin was silent. shrinking back into the shadows as far as possible.” “That may be. “Ah yes. Rosings was fighting against them. “He accused Mr. suddenly remembering what Simmerman had said. On the other hand. she trusted him inherently. “But what does this have to do with –” “Quiet!” Elian hissed suddenly.” Marin concluded. the country that she had long considered uncultured and rough compared to the thriving Rivental might be the victim in a war that she had up until now misunderstood.” Elian said.” the voice said. “They want to come out as allies to the victor. “Rosings may have ties to Mykolia. She felt sure that what Elian was telling her was true.” said Elian. What they do not understand is that Rivental is the more powerful country.” explained Elian. “I was simply having a nightmare and probably talking in my sleep. Your 98 . He seized Marin’s arm and thrust her into a corner. If Alika wins.” Marin squeezed her eyes tightly closed and tried not to breathe. trying to get farther out of the way. Marin could hear the smile on his face. “I heard voices. “Elian.

” “Why aren’t you in your tent?” the man demanded.” The man grunted.footsteps awakened me. “You’d best get back to your tent. He will be punished for having gotten drunk while on the march.” The man grunted again. her heart sinking.” Marin realized at once.” Elian said. I’d have a good three hour start before they realize that I’m gone –” “No!” said Elian firmly. You must go back to your tent. “Yes. Your guard will remain asleep for a few more hours at least. Elian was coming back from the body of a very large soldier. “I am quite frightened to sleep in dark caves.” said Elian smoothly.” Elian promised quickly. The lantern light helps me to get to sleep. Once it was quiet again. “I could run away. “Too stuffy. “but it’s not safe for us to talk now. You should be able to creep back in without much trouble if you are silent.” “But I don’t have to go back. This man will be asleep until morning when it will be discovered that he is missing. “You must go back to your tent.” “You have a lantern lit. “You’ve been marked. I’m afraid. and then Marin heard Elian get to his feet. “You still haven’t told me about my mother!” “I will tell you everything as soon as I can. “I much prefer the open air. Marin stumbled out of her hiding place to see what had happened. don’t you remember? You would be quickly found and 99 . and you know that Simmerman will have us up for the march before dawn. “There are only a few more hours until sunrise. I apologize for the noise. some scuffling and then the thud of a large body falling to the ground. face down on the ground.” Elian hissed quietly.” the man pointed out.” Elian said. “No!” Marin exclaimed.

You know the way to your tent. you do not know what that mark will mean for you…you can not know. Marin thought about what Elian had said about the mark she had received on her shoulder making it impossible for her to run away. If you are caught. The next day Marin could think of little but trying to find another opportunity to speak with Elian. She was so curious to know what Elian knew about her mother that the burning was almost more unbearable than the red mark on her shoulder. Marin walked on at the side of Simmerman’s horse. however. her bound left hand keeping her from making any kind of escape.returned to Simmerman.” Elian said. and you will follow in five minute’s time. and he would not treat you kindly. I will leave now. heatedly. say you were going to the bathroom. You must go back to your tent. Use caution. and use the fact that you are returning to your tent as evidence that you were not running away. Simmerman wakened everyone early and set out once more for the top of the canyon. “Marin. Elian blew out the lantern and disappeared. The next day.” With that. You must return to your tent. As her legs brushed through the few patches of tall green grass that indicated that they were reaching the rim 100 . Be silent. He had seemed honest in the way that he had looked out for her so far that she figured that she should trust him even though she did not understand. Why would the mark matter? Elian had seemed insistent about the danger she would run if she did run away. “And I hope that you never really find out.” “Who cares about the mark?” Marin said. his face suddenly white.

“We crossed Ortissa Gorge. Marin frowned. The three of them looked 101 . Marin’s mind was on something else. Just another day… Marin heard a sudden shout and then a growing sort of roar around her. She thought about what Elian had told her about the war.of the canyon. and saw that the two soldiers that stood guarding her were doing the same thing. which puts us very close to Little Springs. Marin perked up her ears. then.” Marin put another sausage in her mouth. It was not. and with a pang. Marin took one last look behind her as the massive mouth of the canyon passed out of view for the last time and the green of Alika’s forests once again overtook the landscape. “How long until we get to Little Springs?” Marin heard the soldier that had handed her her lunch say to another. Marin munched disparagingly on her lunch (a chunk of bread with a length of sausages) and continued to think.” the second soldier said in reply. She got hastily to her feet to look around. Noon found the company at last out of the canyon. Instead. Was that their destination? Would they at last stop their march once they got there? “Just another day or so. wondered if she would ever see her again. Little Springs. What did all this have to do with her and her mother? How were they tied up in it? And how did Elian know them? Had he also known her father? Marin knew she should try to hide the fact that there was something on her mind. as Simmerman had made it out to be – a valiant effort on the part of the Alikans to keep their country from the greedy hands of the Mykolian king. it was an attempt by the Alikans to conquer Mykolia for themselves. but the idea that someone knew something about the parents of whom she had no memory was intoxicating. She wondered where Robin was.

bolted from the clearing. the wind whistling in her ears as her feet pounded the solid ground. She looked down. some on horseback and some on foot. “We’re being attacked!” yelled one of the soldiers over his shoulder as he raced by them. Marin ran to the bags that the soldiers guarding her had left behind and rummaged through it. Marin ran as fast as she could. “Simmerman’s called us all to arms!” The two soldiers flew to their bags and to their horses. The rope lay harmless on the ground. She jumped aside as several more soldiers came pounding by. and jumped over fallen trunks on the ground. Her hands were not tied. and grabbed their swords. but saw nothing. Marin wiped the sweat from her forehead and took a deep calming breath. She looked behind her occasionally. “What’s going on?” cried the soldier that had given Marin her lunch. Marin grabbed what food she could carry in her hands and fled from the clearing. There were a few apples and some bread. No one knew where she was. She weaved through the trees. The noise grew louder. No one knew she was here. Marin’s head was spinning. Both mounted their horses without a second glance at Marin. She ducked out of the way of their swinging swords and hid herself in the trees. And no one seemed to care. Off to her right she could see a great mass of soldiers in the distance dressed in shiny armor with navy blue overlays rushing themselves at Simmerman’s brown 102 . Without another thought. and there was a sudden rustling noise and several of Simmerman’s men burst into the small clearing and rushed past.around the trees and their eyes raked what little they could see of the horizon.

She looked up and stifled a scream. Marin marveled. “We’ve been looking for you for a long time. “Run.” said the soldier. right?” Marin gave one look at the sword in the man’s hand and nodded slowly. Kill her? Her mind began to spin. “Faster. Marin very slowly got to her feet. He pointed with his sword. “I can’t believe it was me that caught you. to her surprise.” the man said. his sword drawn. There was a navy-clad soldier hovering above her. “Since you disappeared.” the soldier answered.” Marin started into a run.clad men. “This way. Marin nodded and began to walk. Marin tripped suddenly on something hidden in the tall grass and fell heavily to the ground. the soldier was easily able to keep up. Her head was spinning. Marin swallowed hard and ran in the opposite direction. for several seconds. frightened. He must be in amazing shape.” said the man in Mykolian. She lay there in the grass. I’d have killed you when I found you. The soldier prodded her from behind. “You’re Marin. but then. “Get up. and the apples and bread seemed to have been lost somewhere in the labyrinth of foliage. with which. He had a rather large face and a spiky moustache. Marin frowned and got herself to her knees to look around. He wasn’t even panting. how would I have proved that it was you?” Marin’s back went cold. But this man was so fast and so powerful…how? 103 . Her side hurt and she was breathing hard.” Marin heard the soldier say behind her after a few moments had passed. stunned. “Where…are we going?” Marin asked between large gulps of air. She must get away.

“You must not run away! Do you understand me? You would have no where to go! You would die!” “I got some apples. I am going to return you to Simmerman now. noticing that the footsteps had stopped. but they were too far away from where the camp had been attacked. “he tried to take me. “That man.” Elian told her. “Now. “They spoke Mykolian. “They wear red. stopping suddenly and spinning Marin around to face him. she felt Elian’s hand on her arm. “I don’t know.” “Marin. trying not to look at Elian’s face.Marin heard a string of curses fly from the soldier’s mouth and then a very heavy thump. will you tell me about my mother?” “Not now. He said that these people want me dead and that he would have killed me.” Marin said in a shaky voice. wiping the sweat from his face and looking behind him. red faced. “I thought I told you not to run away!” Elian said. pulling out a knife. Then “Who are those people?” Marin asked. and tried to stopper her ears from the terrible shriek that proceeded out of the soldier’s mouth. Elian looked at her sharply. his voice earnest.” Elian said. but they –” “Marin!” Elian said. “You don’t know what you were doing!” There was an uneasy silence. “Get away!” Elian yelled. suddenly. Marin turned away. He’s 104 . pulling her away from the fallen soldier.” Marin said.” Elian said.” said Elian firmly. In a moment. now shouting. “This is not the place. She turned to face Elian again. Marin spun around. but he wanted to prove that it was really me that he’d caught. He sounded angry. The soldier was down on the ground and Elian was on top of him.” Marin squinted out as though to see if she could see any of them. “It’s not the Mykolian army.

” Simmerman said.” “No. “You caught her then. He rushed up to them and clamped a hand down on Marin’s arm. I’m taking her at once on horseback back to Little Springs. “No. grabbing her arm and dragging her back toward the camp. Let me do the talking.” Elian said.probably furious.” The pair of them stumbled into a deserted camp area.” “Who are they. I’m going to leave you in charge here. “Elian. they grabbed their stuff and left me. Of at one side of the vast camp among the trees. sir?” Elian asked. as though he had been searching for something. as though making up his mind about something. Elian took her firmly by the arm and pulled her toward the general. I immediately made chase.” “Where were her guards?” Simmerman said suspiciously. You follow with the men as soon as you can. wondering where you are.” Elian gave her a hard look that reminded her that he had told her not to speak. One of them snuck into camp and grabbed her just as I was coming through the clearing where she was being guarded. Simmerman squinted hard and then threw a glance behind him in the direction of the ensuing battle. Simmerman heard them coming and turned around. a flash of relief crossing his face. “Don’t. “shaking his arm.” said Simmerman. the fight having taken the soldiers elsewhere. “Don’t breathe a word.” said Elian. Marin saw the tall figure of Simmerman. “When the first of the soldiers came rushing by.” said Elian.” Marin said desperately. looking in the 105 . She shrank back involuntarily.” Marin pleaded. “That’s the truth. I could…” “You can’t run. He looked sweaty and feverish. “It’s too dangerous for us to dawdle our way back to Little Springs with her. “They were no where to be seen.

He was leaving – the one man who knew her and her family…he was leaving. but he was nowhere to be seen. giving Marin a sharp slap to the cheek. He gave Simmerman a salute and turned and walked away. “What is she saying to you.” Simmerman said distastefully.” she said. His eyes told her to close her mouth immediately. Elian turned around and gave her a look that bordered on horror. Why had she spoken? “What were you saying?” Simmerman demanded. He had left to join the battle. He grabbed her around the waist and put her on the horse just behind the saddle. Simmerman turned his narrowed gaze first on Marin and then on Elian. Elian –” Marin had burst out before she could contain herself. “I…I didn’t mean anything.” “Yes. trying to lie easily through her pain. he put a foot in the stirrup and mounted in front of her. her cheeks very red. Marin cast a look toward Elian as they bolted from the camp. Elian?” Simmerman said suspiciously.” said Elian. “I just…wanted to tell him thank you for rescuing me from the Homed men…” Simmerman snorted impatiently.” said Marin. Then. “Nothing.direction of the battle and pulling out his sword. “They are a weak Mykolian faction with their own agenda. Marin reeled and clapped a hand to her face. “Men from Homed. 106 . You should make short work of them. sir. she might never see him again. She realized suddenly that she had made a very foolish mistake. he might die and she might never know – “No. grabbed her arm and pulled her toward his horse.

Before he reached it. The hall was lit with great torches that made an eerie light dance off everything that moved. built of granite rock. Lord General!” the voice returned. outlined against the starry sky. she would have an infinitely harder time escaping. Stamilon’s hooves made hollow clomps against the solid wood of the drawbridge as Simmerman rode into the fortress’ antechamber. When she was out in the countryside. with Marin clutching his waist from behind. The large round towers seemed to reach the heavens. T .hey made Little Springs by nightfall. “Welcome to you. Little Springs was situated around a large citadel that shared its name. Now. hands from the inside had pushed aside the doors and Marin and Simmerman were admitted into a larger chamber. Simmerman dismounted and pulled Marin down from the horse. cupping his hands around his mouth. and there was a loud creaking noise as the chains to the drawbridge were unrolled. Marin felt quite frightened as the drawbridge was hoisted closed behind them.” cried Simmerman. “Who goes there!” came a voice from one of the highest ramparts as Simmerman rode up to the fortress. He didn’t bother tying her hands as he dragged her toward the doors at the far end of the hall. “Lord Simmerman. she felt trapped. and the monstrous bridge lowered itself down over the large black moat. this one better lit with strong fires going in two fireplaces opposite each other. and knew that should she ever need to get away now. the possibility of escape had presented itself often. formidable-looking ancient thing. It was a large.

“Good evening.” With that. There were many seafood dishes. “It’s Kimmick.” said one rather overweight woman at the far end of the table.” said Kimmick excitedly. isn’t it?” “Yes. which Marin appreciated immensely. “Very well. “Everything was prepared for your arrival. Kimmick. a tone of finality in his voice. The meal was sumptuous. “The rooms have been heated. then. and the people seated at the table with her remarked on her healthy appetite.” said Kimmick excitedly. Kimmick. doesn’t she.” Simmerman said. he rushed from the room. Marin had enjoyed few meals that were more appetizing than the one set before her.” said Simmerman. She wore a flashy red dress and had red lips to match.“Good evening.” He looked down at Marin. won’t she?” 108 . running up to them. obviously less than pleased to see the man. “She’ll fit right in.” said a squat man. a feast has been prepared – your coming has been much anticipated! Long has it been since the halls of Little Springs –” “Thank you.” I shall alert the cooks that you have arrived. Simmerman’s hand still firmly clamped around her wrist. She had had nothing to eat since those sausages at noon. I’m sure. until Kimmick returned and bowed them into the dining hall. who nodded enthusiastically in spite of herself. his bald head shining in the light from the fires. He wore a blanched beard that clouded the lower half of his face. They stood there in silence. “We could use something to eat. Alfred Kimmick. Simmerman gave her a simpering smile. Simmerman looked around the walls of the large hall as though it had been a long time since he had seen them. “She does like the seafood. milord. He was well-dressed in a gold trimmed green velvet robe.

” said Simmerman. sir?” Kimmick said. and she was being allowed to eat as much as she liked. Marin found she couldn’t stifle a yawn. she’s tired. “Yes.” said Kimmick. It was frightening not knowing the meaning of his newfound kindness. All of this seemed very strange.” pointed out one of the other ladies. but I don’t know who you are. “I’m afraid you all seem to know who I am.” said Simmerman. Marin looked at him in amazement. wiping her mouth with her sleeve. though. Marin. It didn’t really make sense. After a few more mouthfuls.” said Simmerman. nodding enthusiastically. confused.” “Are you tired?” Simmerman asked. “Take Miss Lindrine to her room.” “Oh.” “She’s tired. Why was Simmerman suddenly treating her like a normal person and no longer like his captive? She was eating at the table like his equal. “Yes. “I assume there has been one prepared for her. “Sorry. 109 . this one with a very narrow face and a pointy chin. And now he was making excuses for her. a bit too excited to have been called. “I just don’t know what to say. taking courage. she knew that he could not be acting from the goodness of his heart.” said Marin truthfully.” “They live here at Little Springs. “Do let her go to bed. yes.” said Marin. “They are my counselors and advisors and my friends. Simmerman clapped his hands and Kimmick appeared again. “Rather quiet. cleared her throat and looked around. isn’t she.” said a man with a dark mustache and beard sitting next to her.” Marin nodded once and turned her attention back to her meal. From what she had previously seen of Simmerman. by way of excuse.Marin looked down at her plate. “Charles.

She shook her head and looked around the tiny room. Marin merely waved and followed Kimmick from the room. There was a long white nightshirt folded at the foot of the bed. a dresser. “If you need anything.“Oh. She followed him up a long flight of stairs and emerged on a long corridor with doors flanking both sides of it. she remembered. “Goodnight. yes. and several extra blankets piled in the corner.” said Kimmick. dear. Marin awoke very late to a soft rapping at her door. 110 . a lamp. a mirror and a large tapestry pinned to the opposite wall. call! Good night.” Marin stood and walked around the large-backed wooden chair she had been sitting in and followed Kimmick to the door. Come with me. and fell asleep very quickly. She amused herself counting them and wondering what was going to happen to her here. dotted with stars. Miss. Marin blew out the lamp. There was also a desk. as well as a green dress. She lay down on the bed and directed her gaze out the small window. pulled off her filthy clothes.” Marin watched him close the door and turned to the bed. Miss Lindrine. The next morning. Kimmick opened one on the right and Marin walked inside.” said many of the ladies. “Here you are. and in a moment. but there was a comfortable looking bed pushed against one wall. and pulled the nightgown over her head. not unlike the ones that she had worn at Sandhill. Where was she? She saw her clothes in a heap on the ground. It was a small room. Sunlight flooded Marin’s eyes as she opened them and sat up. wished that she had someplace to wash the dirt off of her skin.

He said that eventually I’d see you again. “I mean.” “Caron.” “How are you here?” Marin asked. “Of course. “I just…what are you doing here?” “It must be quite a shock. “Are you all right?” Caron asked.” Caron shook her head. And I trusted him. narrowing her eyes. I wondered why he never let me see you.” Marin repeated. He kept me well-hidden from you. I’m not sure why he told you that.” said Caron. he 111 .” Marin said suddenly.” Marin said. to your shoulder…he didn’t…” “My shoulder?” said Caron.“Come in!” Marin said. “He’s the one that was put in charge of keeping me secret. frowning. we haven’t seen each other for quite some time.” “Captain Elian. Him telling you that he had let me go must have been the reason he separated us. We got back very early this morning. And yes. that’s not true.” Caron said. “No. did he?” “What do you mean?” Caron asked. “You know him? Is he back?” “Of course. her long braid swinging as she rushed forward. pressing a hand to her face once she had recovered the power of speech. as the rapping became more insistent. astounded. “Simmerman didn’t…do anything to you. “Simmerman told me that he released you the same night that he captured us. Caron walked into the room and closed the door behind her. Marin screamed. “I mean. At first I wanted to do everything I could to make you realize that I was there – I thought maybe we could escape or something together. But Elian told me that the best thing to do was to obey Simmerman. I came back with Captain Elian. “No. he’s back. but I was with the company. bewildered.

” Caron took a deep breath as though she really didn’t want to relive that night.” Marin said. and Simmerman’s been treating me nicely…” Caron shrugged.” “Yeah. How could she be so accepting of what had happened to them? “Caron. “I don’t know.” Marin said. someone taking Robin away and then I woke up in the middle of the forest tied up next to you. but was still troubled.” Marin said.” “Caron. her mind turning to something else. I barely saw him. She’s the daughter of one of the ladies here.” 112 . then. unconscious. Richard brought you back. “What happened the night we left Sandhill?” Marin burst out. be grateful.didn’t do anything. not paying attention to what her friend had just said.” Caron said.” Marin sighed and sat back. Don’t be too worried about it. Rosings wanted us to keep you safe somewhere on the estate – anywhere – until after the attack had passed. There’s another girl.” “What is it. who’s going to be helping me too. Adara. Caron. He said Mr. “A few minutes after you ran out of your room to try to find Robin. “I broke a code that told him. “All I remember is Richard drugging me in the hallway. And now I’ve got two servants of my own. “What happened?” Marin pressed. “It’s strange what’s going on. “Simmerman said that I’m going to be your helper while we’re here. Why had he done it to her and not to Caron? “Anyway. had not been branded with Simmerman’s initial. I mean. If it’s better than what you had to live through on the plain. Marin?” Caron asked. apparently. He knew there was going to be an attack. it’s great to see you again.” Marin nodded. isn’t it weird that they’re treating me like this? When I was out on the plain he treated me like dirt. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a long time.

stunned. Rosings was seen going to visit a certain Mr. so I thought they must be Mykolians.” “Marin. Rosings had told Richard about and we left Sandhill. and that it was time that we left Sandhill. They must have been Simmerman’s men. who was carrying you. At least. I don’t know who made it out of there alive. He said that that’s how the prince found out about where you were.” “What happened to Richard?” Marin asked. “Mr. but they spoke Mykolian. “That’s not true! Robin and Elizabeth thought that –” “Marin. Golden one afternoon. “Mr.” said Caron uneasily. We used one of the secret exits off the fourth floor that Mr. “I was with him that day. It was really dark. until we got off of the estate. hard to see anything. “So Richard said that if Mr.Caron nodded. that’s what Richard told us. we decided to get you away from Sandhill altogether. Golden is a known assassin. He had him killed to stop him from doing something like that again.” said Marin. There were soldiers everywhere. “Anyway. Rosings said for me to stay in my room. Rosings could kill Patrick.” Marin was still too shocked to say anything.” “And Richard? What happened to him?” Caron took a deep breath. 113 .” “Marin. We all went in different directions. I followed Richard. looking highly distressed. recalling. “We hadn’t gone for more than an hour. Rosings had Patrick killed. Mr. when some men surprised us.” “But why?” asked Marin. Caron looked away.” “Yeah. I thought they were Prince Martin’s men at first. he could kill any of us.” “What?” Marin exclaimed. Rosings had been afraid that Patrick was an informant for Prince Martin. So all of us left Sandhill that night.” Marin stopped. “But…” “Richard said that Mr.

Marin. it’s a good thing that we got away from Sandhill. thinking. aren’t you?” Marin said. Marin felt very plain next to her. sickened.” said Marin. standing up. It’s been my home from before I can remember.” Marin looked off into a corner. the pained look falling from her face. I don’t remember them though.” “So you don’t know if Mr. Caron following close behind.” said the girl with a formal bow. Richard did try to kill them first. “Well. looking up suddenly.“They killed him and took both of us prisoner. “I don’t know. Her dress was a bright shade of orange and she wore a gold necklace. “Yes.” Caron answered. “How could they?” Marin hissed. He said that I could take you to the baths on this floor so you could get cleaned up. “It’s strange. “My parents were from Neail. Rosings is alive?” Marin said. Once they entered the baths. finally. Marin saw the girl that must be Adara filling one of the baths with a tub of hot water. “I didn’t see him at all that day.” Marin was quiet. She had very long black hair and a thin face. It only took a few minutes under the two girls’ hands before Marin was clean again. She turned around and smiled at Marin.” Caron said. The girls oiled her hair and 114 . They had killed Richard? She was suddenly angry. “I’m Adara.” Marin looked down.” Caron said gently. in their defense. carrying the green dress that had been set out for her. shaking the girl’s hand. “Anyway.” Caron said. “You’re from Quinier. looking a little frightened.” Caron said.” Marin let herself be led down the hall. “Marin. “Marin. “General Simmerman wanted me to come and get you dressed.

It was all very boring. Caron and Adara gave little bows and swept themselves out of the room.” said Caron with an admiring smile once they were done. Her cheeks were red. Once she had sat. Marin accepted it and sat down. said she was glad that she was safe and told them about what the country was like near the Rivental border. she wasn’t sure what she should say. Marin couldn’t help but think that they must either all be deceived or trying to keep alive the illusion of the grandeur of Alika they must think that she had. the others in the room sat. twisting her hands in her lap.adjusted the waist on the dress to make it fit perfectly. “Simmerman’s going to want to see you. now more confused than ever. until – “They tell me that you can add numbers very quickly. Nothing much happened after that. Marin sat quietly while the men and women talked of the war and of their hopes for the brave Alikan soldiers.” said a man with a balding spot on the back of 115 . all the men and women in the room stood when they saw her. Marin nodded and followed Adara and Caron from the room. Marin looked around uncomfortably. The fireplaces were burning brightly. Marin tried to give an appreciative smile. She nodded politely. To Marin’s surprise. “You look lovely. Simmerman was sitting with a group of well-dressed people in the large room at the foot of the stairs.” Caron said. The stone floor was covered in a thick red rug that muffled the footsteps of the girls as they walked across it. Marin. but her mind was still on what Caron had told her just a few moments before. Simmerman got slowly to his feet and offered Marin a chair.

” explained Kimmick. I can. breathlessly fingering the needlework. Marin stared at them. Marin sighed. very much like a father would ask his daughter if she liked the present he had bought her. sniffling loudly. yes. how fortunate!” said another of the women. “What dress?” Marin asked. “Shall I fetch it?” “Oh yes. “She should have it now. once he had gone. very expensive-looking dress.” said another.” said Marin in what she hoped was a dismissive voice. “This is for me?” Marin said.” said one of the women with a silly simpering laugh. “He had it made especially for you. “Yes. hardly believing that he could be this generous. I suppose. didn’t you. “The one you were talking about?” “Yes. She had secretly been wondering when this would come up. “Those are such interesting qualities to have!” “And she’s pretty as well.” said Simmerman. Everyone nodded in agreement. Charles?” said one of the men. “Oh. It was a bright blue with intricate embroidery covering the hems and sleeves. 116 . He scratched his graying mustache and smiled thinly. get to his feet and leave the room.” said Marin reluctantly. “Do you like it?” Simmerman asked. “Some better than others.his head. who had just stumbled into the room under the weight of a very beautiful. She had sleek black hair tied back behind her and a flashy diamond necklace.” Marin watched Simmerman smile. Marin looked up at him. don’t you?” said a woman seated near Simmerman. Why were they so interested in her “interesting qualities?” “You did get her the dress. “But –” “And you speak several languages.

She could not believe that she had been given this astonishingly beautiful dress. at least to see how it fit. contentedly watching her skirts billow around her as spun. Marin pulled off the green dress which was shabby in comparison to the blue wonder before her. “Go try it on.” Simmerman said. “It’s beautiful. who always was dressed in the latest fashions. even on Mrs. she went up the stairs and to her room. Trying to ignore the eyes that followed her tirelessly. He gave her a wide smile and left the door open behind him as he went. but the dress fit tightly against her skin. The workmanship on in was beyond anything that she had ever seen at the Rosings.“Yes.” “Then. Rosings. Kimmick was leaving her room. Marin went inside and closed the door behind her.” Marin nodded and stood. Marin looked once more at the dress and then decided to put it on. She went to the bed where the dress had been laid and touched the fabric with the ends of her fingers. “Kimmick. it’s yours. will you?” Kimmick nodded and stumbled out of the room and up the staircase. She pulled the dress over her head and enjoyed the crackle of new fabric brushing against her skin. and it too was embroidered with silver 117 . Marin looked after him as he left. I’ve had some books placed in your room that may interest you once you’re done fawning over the dress. and after a few moments she forgot about them. The seams were rough on the inside of the dress. There was a white underskirt that peeked out from the slit in the front of the dress when she moved. As she did so. yes.” Marin said honestly. following her eyes. take it up to her room. all the ladies and gentlemen got to their feet and gave slight bobs of their heads as she moved toward the staircase.” said Simmerman. “And you needn’t come back down again if you don’t wish to. She twirled around.

Marin sat down on her bed with one of the books that Simmerman had left for her. catching her friend in her arms as Caron rushed toward her. and began to read from a page in the middle. Caron had come into her room. Reading foreign languages always put Marin to sleep. Why had she been given this? Why had Simmerman suddenly become so benevolent toward her? Marin puzzled on this for a moment and then decided that Simmerman must simply have been under a great deal of stress while out in the countryside and that he was only now getting a glimpse of his true character. “Shhh!” Adara hissed. what is it?” Marin said. Marin’s eyelids began to droop and she fell asleep. several hundreds of years old. It seemed like just a few moments later when Marin was awakened by voices in her room.flowers. never… But a thought crossed Marin’s mind. and after a few moments. “If they so much as know that you heard anything. “Caron. She had never had something like this. be quiet!” Marin looked up to see Adara stride into the room and wrench Caron around to face her. It was a book of old Quinian epic poems. Marin couldn’t believe how beautiful she felt. looking very upset. The sun was brighter and lower in the sky. Marin flipped through it. “Caron. Marin realized that it must be nearly evening. It was easier than she might have thought to make herself believe this. looking very much like she would like to slap Caron across the face. you will be beaten to within an inch of your life! You haven’t lived here long enough to know what you are risking!” 118 . “Marin!” It was the insistency in the voice that made Marin sit up and look around.

“Does he want me to break codes for the king? If the royal family lives in Numan.why…how can he do this?” 119 . Marin stopped. it would be the center of a lot of social activity. “What’s going on?” Adara gave Caron a long look and then turned to face Marin. “What are you talking about? What did you hear?” “He’s going to…he…he wants to…” Caron stammered.” Caron said. Probably the best place for the exchange of –” “It’s the perfect place for an exchange. “Be quiet!” “Why?” Marin said. Her eyes narrowed suddenly.” “To Numan?” Marin repeated slowly.” Marin still felt that she didn’t quite understand what was going on. “Simmerman’s taking you to Numan. “Simmerman is taking you to Numan to…well. her long tanned arms hanging at her side. her shoulders slumping. “What…. to marry you to Prince Esper.” said Adara. you’re right. “What?” asked Marin timorously. Adara sighed. hotly.” “What!” Marin shouted. “But…why?” asked Marin. taking a step closer.” she said at last. the ruler of Alika. “But what’s in Numan?” “Numan is the capital of Alika. feeling her cheeks redden as she spoke. but had enough presence of mind to close the heavy door. “The royal family lives there. She stood with her back against the door and looked at the two girls. Did she really want to get to the bottom of this? Caron took a deep breath. “Shhh!” Adara said. “Am I to leave immediately?” “Very soon. “What is it?” Marin asked quietly.Marin was confused.” interrupted Caron hotly. “She overheard something. her brows furrowed. a bewildered look on her face.

Simmerman wanted to marry her to the prince of Alika.“He can’t do it. he’s already arranged all this with the prince?” Marin said numbly. She looked down at the dress she was wearing. “Will start thinking reasonably?” Adara said. The prince will see to the rest. I heard them say that 120 . although her head was still swimming as though she had just been dealt a hard blow to the head.” “How can you be like that?” Caron said in disbelief. “There’s nothing you can do to stop him. it all fell into place. which meant that Simmerman and his court were forced to treat her like a princess. Why would the prince want to marry her. she was a nobody. why would he have bothered… “From what I heard. because she would soon become one.” Caron said desperately. “Who’s going to stop him?” “We have to. She turned suddenly to Marin. “He can do whatever he wants. looking up for the first time since the horrific announcement had been made.” Adara contradicted sharply. He’s got his entire court behind him. But why? It didn’t make any sense. Simmerman was a businessman.” Caron said. Marin gave them a glance and then took a shuddery breath. “This has been in place for some time now. If you refuse to go.” Caron said quietly. and somehow was going to profit from it. trying to reason. Caron and Adara stopped arguing and looked at Marin. and suddenly. Besides her ability with numbers. “We have to stop him!” Marin didn’t answer. Otherwise. “I suppose it was the result of some business trade.” Marin said. when he could simply employ her as a servant in his house in order to benefit from her talents? “So. he will just truss you up and take you with him by force. He must have been offered something for her surrender to the prince.

What was he like? Was he old? Was he as cunning and mean as Simmerman? It was impossible to think when her pulse was running so fast it threatened to burst her skull. It was her only weapon against Simmerman.” Marin gave both of the girls long looks and then turned and wrenched the door open. eyes at her feet. Simmerman…how dare he do this to her? He couldn’t just marry her off to some prince in hope for a hefty payment… “That dress. “Alone. but she didn’t know anything about him. “Good evening. They had been discussing her suitability as a wife for the prince. Marin lifted the hem. Perhaps she was a good match for the prince. she could not let him… Her dress was dragging on the stairs. crashed into someone at the bottom of the stairs. She mumbled an apology and looked up.they were very glad that you turned out to be pretty enough -” Marin closed her eyes and tried to tell herself to good breathe. And yet. I suppose that you’re hungry. “Ah. It was the only way to win. “He bought it for you so that you would look your best when presented to the prince. There’s a dinner that’s just now being prepared -” “I have to talk to you. At last he made another nod with his 121 .” Marin said stiffly. she had to use her head to get out of this.” Carol said quietly. Marin ignored Adara’s protests as she strode into the corridor and rushed down the staircase.” Simmerman’s manner turned hard. ran a few more steps and. hardly trusting herself to speak. and he gave Marin a long look. giving Marin a slight nod.” said Simmerman. Preoccupied. Her mind flashed back to the conversation she’d had downstairs earlier that day. It was Simmerman. Her mind was racing. She could not let him do this to her….she could not let him.

“I don’t want her to have to…that is…” She broke off. Marin swallowed hard. “You can’t take me to Numan.” Marin repeated resolutely.head. her voice strangled.” Simmerman said. “I know why you are taking me to Numan. his dark eyes bored holes into Marin until she spoke again. if I’m not mistaken. and led Marin into a side room. As upset as she was.” He paused. she should be there now. You are lying. please. realizing for the first time that she could very easily betray her friends and get them into trouble. he said. She was cleaning in the adjoining room at the time.” Marin lied. He held the door open for Marin. where they could talk in privacy. In fact.” “How do you know I’m taking you to Numan?” Simmerman asked. dismissed the servants and closed the door behind him. Instead. “I would give 13 altans if it wasn’t your friend Caron.” Marin said in a strangled voice. 122 . “What is it?” he demanded harshly. Simmerman’s face became even stonier. she had no desire to do that. “I…overheard. and I won’t go. “You didn’t overhear that.” Marin said. After a short pause. “Stop. all pretensions of politeness slipping from his voice. His face glowed in the candlelight of the room and the dark shadows behind his back lengthened as she approached Marin. She didn’t want him close to her. “I beg your pardon?” “You can’t take me to Numan. Someone else told you about what they overheard. “You were in your room when I spoke to my advisors about this today. I can send for her and –” “No. Simmerman said nothing.” Simmerman blinked. shaking her head.

You are one very small person. don’t worry about that.” Marin said passionately. but what does that matter? Handsome.” Simmerman asserted calmly. You are a legend. as though teaching a child her lesson.” 123 . a few years older than you it’s true.” Marin felt a strong protest flame up inside of her once more. my dear. you are.” she said.“You want to use your friend’s information without taking the consequences for how you got it.” “I don’t want to!” Marin protested.” Simmerman said. You profit from someone else. then someone is going to have to pay the consequences. “Careful. ” Marin frowned. and I have many men at my command. He shook his head. I suppose they told you that. changing the subject rapidly. they say. “I won’t marry him. “That’s really beside the question. “It’s all been arranged. tsk. “You can’t force me!” Simmerman’s eyes flashed. and the dream of every young girl who knows him. Marin. It’s a part of real life. “You can’t make me marry someone I don’t want to.” Simmerman cut her off.” Simmerman said. You should know better that that. “Yes. Do not anger me. my girl.” “How can you make me do this?” Marin burst out. You are lucky. “You can’t do this.” “I’m not going to Numan. suddenly amused. “You are going. “Why.” Marin shouted. Marin. “I don’t want to marry him! And why on earth would he agree to marry me?” Simmerman looked at her. Responsibility.” Marin made a noise of frustration and shook her head. He could not do this to her… “You will go to Numan. “You will meet the prince. too. “Tsk. He is a very nice man. indeed. and you will marry the prince.

” Marin turned and walked from the room. understanding. But I can assure you that I take very little pleasure in it. He didn’t want her to disillusion them of the image that they had of her as a quiet.“Oh. I will have Kimmick bring you up something to eat.” “But –” “Now I want you to be silent. my dear.” Simmerman said. I want you to go back to your room. I don’t understand. Marin shook her head. albeit pretty. “But. Adara had warned her that Caron would be in real trouble if Simmerman found out what she had done. princess. “Your concern will be to make yourself ready to leave for Numan tomorrow morning. is not your concern. submissive. Why are you doing this? What good will this do you?” “That.” Marin swallowed hard. He didn’t want her around the men and women of his little court.” Simmerman said sharply. her heart racing with anger but fell silent. yes I can. “You’re being treated like a princess because those men and those women out there enjoy doing having a pet to pamper. Wasn’t it her duty to protect Caron? “Now. I can send you down in the dungeons for a night with the rats if that is what it would take to calm you down. Caron had tried to protect her. 124 .” Simmerman said quietly. tears coming to her eyes.

Marin mounted the stairs as slowly as possible. asked her if she wanted to get up. how they would have given anything to have their daughters in the position that she was in. She reached her room at last. and then. Edric Elian sat on her bed. rising to his feet as she came in the door. Marin didn’t answer. “Marin. General Simmerman does not know that I am here.he next day. “Elian!” Marin nearly cried.” Elian said politely. Just think of it: marrying a prince! Marin didn’t respond and was only too happy when Simmerman sent her upstairs after the meal to fetch the few things that she had accumulated while in Little Springs and pack them away in a trunk. So she slowly eased herself out of bed. They make incessant comments about how lucky she was. Breakfast was a loud affair. but she didn’t want to get Caron in trouble either. as each of the members of Simmerman’s little court seemed to be bursting to exclaim that Marin must be delighted to travel to Numan to marry Prince Esper. Marin gasped. “please close the door. since Caron had obviously been ordered to make sure that she got ready. as I am supposed to be off in the Alikan Islands checking out the sentiments of our brothers in the Sea of the South. Marin didn’t bother getting up until Caron came into her room and with a pleading look in her eye. realizing T .” Marin stared for a few moments. and pushed the door open with one hand. as if she were walking to her own funeral. casting a dark look at the blue dress that hung on a nail across the room as she did so. and it would be most unfortunate for him to find me with you.

” Marin continued. making room for Marin on the bed beside him.” “Where did you grow up?” Marin couldn’t help breaking in. dear friend of mine. Very green.” she said at last. She didn’t know what her 126 .” said Elian.” said Elian.” Marin stopped and tried to compose herself.” Elian said.suddenly that Elian had just told her to close the door. she and I. “Do you have time for a quick word?” Elian asked. “Of course.” “I know. wanting to break down into tears at her own words. and I see now that it is imperative that you know. We were inseparable. She had momentarily forgotten her anxiety about the Alikan Prince. “Marry Prince Esper…” Marin couldn’t tell whether Elian was surprised or not. but…” “Packing?” Elian questioned. “We grew up together. Very open. “I don’t know why he’s making me do it.” Marin said. She sighed. I’ve meant to all along. It was difficult to imagine. you know.” Elian began. Simmerman’s taking me to Numan to marry Prince Esper!” Marin burst out. taking Marin’s shoulders. “Elian. “In the province of Rousse. “Your mother was a dear. Lovely little place. “It was a little town nestled between two hills.” Marin swallowed in anticipation. “I told him I wouldn’t do it. but –” “Marin. “I came to tell you how I knew your mother. actually. “I’ve wanted to know since the moment you mentioned her name. a dark cloak laid across the bed at his side. turned and pulled it closed with a thud. “and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to tell you earlier.” Marin tried to conjure up the image of a young girl and boy running together through the fields. “Tell me. “Are you going somewhere?” He was dressed in a simple brown traveling costume. “I’m supposed to be packing.

“Wait. not sure if she should ask the question. “She said that I was free to go. but I was arrested. then. “I did love her. but I owed her so much.” Elian paused. “We’re getting 127 . Elian smiled sadly and looked down. deeply indebted to her. no matter what happened. got into a spot of trouble. in awe. “Eighteen altans! That’s more money than I’ve ever…” Another thought struck her. I won’t tell you the details.” said Elian. It was the letter “T”. “But marriage was always out of the question. “You really belonged to her. she paid money for your release and she became responsible for you? Isn’t that like buying you as a slave?” “That’s exactly what she did. There was a raised letter that had obviously been burned there just as her own had been. Her family was of very good standing in the village and so they allowed her to pay eighteen altans for my release. She became responsible for me. But in any case. I swore to myself that I would always protect her. I was. “One day I when I was about eighteen. It was serious enough that they wanted to send me away for good. Elian looked away. and for the first time. “But that means…” Elian rolled up his sleeve and showed Marin his right forearm. “Your mother stood up for me. in view of the laws governing marked slaves. I wouldn’t leave her.” “Why?” Marin asked. I knew I could never repay her.mother looked like and she didn’t know how to imagine Elian without his beard. “But that was a virtual impossibility. he looked as though he did not want to be completely honest with Marin. of course. and I thought…” “Did…did you love her?” Marin asked quietly.” said Marin.” said Elian simply.” he said at last.” Marin started.

Although most of us thought that it was just the 128 .” he said.” “What did she look like?” Marin asked after a moment’s thought.too far from what I came to tell you. then. and –” “You deserve to know. “Yes. Your mother was very gentle.” Elian said. “Much like you. but I’ve always wondered. “He had his own fleet.” “And my mother?” Marin asked. “Sorry. But most people think that the pirates got him. Quiet. Your father was commanding. and so her family supported the match. and she was very thin. tracing a dusty pattern on the floor with her toe. “But her hair was finer. but the sort of person that people always obey. Too clever perhaps. Unfortunately his cunning and greed took him a bit too far. Some think that he went into hiding to protect his family.” “He was a sailor?” Marin asked. “So she married my father. Your father was a very interesting man. Not like your mother at all. “But to answer your question. He was from a very good family of Homed. your mother picked up what she thought was your father’s trace.” Elian said firmly. “Your father was a very clever man.” said Elian. It cost him his life.” “How…how did they die?” Marin asked. I was a slave. “Yes. I know it sounds sordid. smiling brightly as he looked at her.” Marin prompted after a few moments of silence. He got into a skirmish involving the Muttyl pirates in Jarina and disappeared just after the news got to Homed that the pirates wanted blood in return for your father’s offense. “A few months after your father disappeared.” His voice trailed off and the smile fell from his face. Revenge for all the gold that he had managed to steal from them over the years. That in and of itself completely obliterated my chances to marry her or any free woman for that matter.

“Tenara took a ship from Kenyon and sailed west through the Sea of the North. “Perhaps. “I suppose so. She would have sent word. I had promised…” “There was nothing that you could have done. men came on board. her heart leaping hopefully.” Elian said. She had a sudden picture of a terrible storm out on the open sea flash through her mind. naturally. to protect her. they killed her. We hadn’t been on the water for more than two days when the ship was attacked. gently.” Marin’s heart sank again.” 129 .” “And. “For so long I thought that you were dead too. then?” Marin asked. “It’s my fault you know. I had promised to protect her. So.” Marin licked her lips. you see. In any case. “We would have heard something. and several other sailors aboard our ship survived too. some said.” “By the pirates?” Marin asked. making it back to shore in lifeboats.pirates trying to lure her out into the open sea where they could complete their revenge on the rest of his family. and in the confusion I lost sight of your mother and of you and your sister.” said Elian. They had survived and been found…” “Then my mother might have survived too!” Marin exclaimed. Then the terrible sensation of sinking she knew so well from the dream overwhelmed her. Elian smiled sadly. She shook her head and tried to clear it. her mouth dry. Miraculously. Tenara was determined to find your father if she could. She had known that it was hopeless. “No one really knows. his voice a bit raspy. I went with her and her children. She saw that recounting this memory was painful for him. They were still alive. but somewhere after all these years there began to be a whisper in Alika about Lady Tenara’s twins. but for just a moment she had thought… Elian paused and looked down at the mark on his forearm. I survived.

There was more? “That night in the cave I was beginning to tell you about this. trying to reassure him. and Marin noticed for the first time that he had light brown eyes. “He doesn’t. At that meeting of the lords of the Mykolian provinces – you remember the meeting I’m talking about?” “Yes.” said Elian calmly. “Which means that you are 130 . “That’s a mystery I have yet to figure out.” “Yes.” she said.. Lord Samuel. “But that means…” Marin’s voice trailed off. was the lord from Homed. “And my sister and me…someone brought us back?” “No one knows how you two were saved. should King Castillo die without an heir. “King Castillo doesn’t have an heir!” “No. King Castillo was the lord from Kenyon.” Elian said. King Anjute was the lord from Alika . and your father. Marin looked up in surprise. looking up suddenly.Marin said quietly. of course.” said Marin.” Marin said hastily.” Elian assured her. This was why his disappearance caused such a panic. but he was elected second in command. “That meeting was called the Council of Governors because it was a meeting of the lords from the provinces of Mykolia. replacing his sleeve.” “Second in command. “Yes. “But. “That’s not all I came to tell you.” He looked at her. “My father was…” “Not only was he one of the seven lords present at the Council of Governors.” “Thank you for telling me this.” Elian said. her heart racing. “The one where Prince Esper’s father refused Alika’s support of unification because he wasn’t elected king.” Elian continued. She couldn’t believe what he was telling her. Her head was full to bursting. She had learned so much.” “What!” Marin burst out.” she said. an oddity in the southern countries.Prince Esper’s father .

Rosings known? Did…Simmerman know? And then it hit her. “But what about my sister?” “No. “At least. her eyes wide. Marin nodded. Just as he was about to sneak out.” Marin said.” Elian said. yes. their daughter. And now she. remember.” Marin said.” “I will do what I can. shaking his head. “If I marry Prince Esper.” “Yes?” Marin asked.” Elian said. I was never here.” he said.” Marin nodded solemnly and opened the door for him. her voice very flat. “Surely they would have thought of this too.” Elian stood suddenly.the heir to the throne. I just hope they haven’t already succeeded in killing the poor man. slightly panicked. thinking.” Elian said. bewildered. than Alika will get Mykolia without even having to bother with this war. Elian looked at her. Rosings said. We don’t talk about it much…” Marin sat still. moving toward the door.” she said under her breath. was next in line… Who knew about this? Was it common knowledge that the Marin Lindrine that was so famous for her numerical genius was also the heir to the throne? Had Mr. I’m pretty sure that’s what Mr. Prince Esper will get Mykolia the moment…” Marin looked up at Elian. I think Prince 131 .” “Heir?” Marin repeated. their eyes met. “Marin. “The moment King Castillo is dead. “I know why Prince Esper wants to marry me. “You are the oldest. aren’t you?” “Well. Her parents had been the heirs to the Mykolian throne. “I must go at once to Kenyon. “And Marin. fingering his cloak. “One last thing. “I don’t think Simmerman knows.

a thought that made her skin crawl. and the citadel had become very still. She heard nothing.” Marin whispered. Elian continued to stand in the doorway. Marin. She wasn’t sure how she would act toward the men and women that buzzed around Simmerman like a hive now that she knew that she was simply the means Prince Esper was using to ensure that Alika gained control of Mykolia. Although she had not wanted to leave her room during the day. although she couldn’t really believe that it was true. she had to do it. “Your parents would have been proud.” “You’re a brave girl. Both of them. Marin nodded slowly. who knew how she might be treated by the Alikan prince? She would likely be forced to respond to his every wish. she knew that he must be in 132 . and having a mark of his own. as though not sure that he could leave her.” said Elian.” He laid a hand warmly on Marin’s cheek and then disappeared into the hallway. the onset of night had brought a heavy feeling of fear into the room. He seriously believed that something would happen to her because of the mark if she left.Esper has not told him everything. Marin put her ear to the door. the normal sounds of people walking and talking through the halls had long since died down.” After a few seconds pause. Marin had been sequestered in her room the entire day. As a prisoner of Simmerman and hence of Alika. If she could possibly escape. and had not been invited to descend into the main halls of Little Springs. It was late at night. “I’ll be all right. This had not bothered Marin much. “Go. She thought momentarily of the scarred “S” that had been emblazoned on her shoulder and of Elian’s warnings about leaving.

” said the voice. Marin slammed the door as hard as she could. although it sounded somewhat disappointed. startled. Marin shuddered. “Get back in yer room. She was on her own now. and was immediately grabbed around the waist by a strong arm. After a few moments. Marin eased open the door a bit and peered out into blackness. and pulled sharply away from the person that had caught her.most deadly earnest. She pulled herself from the windowsill and fell 133 . She seemed to be alone. was more frightening to her than whatever might happen to her on the Alikan plain. She had heard that they had been called back into the north country by the prince. “That’s a gel. but he was sure that tonight they had all been informed that she might try to escape and to make sure that she did not accomplish anything of the sort.” said the voice. Musatei. thinking about the man outside. She took a step out into the hallway. “What do you think yer doing?” a coarse unfamiliar voice rasped into her ear. Marin panted for a few minutes.” Marin swallowed hard and put her hand back on the doorknob and slid back inside her room. just in front of her. But the thought of what would happen once she was locked in the castle at Numan. The courtyard was full of the soldiers with whom she had marched to Little Springs. Marin moved to the window a looked out. She sighed. “Lord Simmerman’s not keen on yeh leavin’ this place. Of course Simmerman would have realized that she wanted to escape and had taken measures to keep her within the walls of the castle. holding the door closed as she caught her breath. Elian had left her to figure this out for herself. She shuddered. He giv’d me permission to use all means nec’ssary to keep yeh from leavin’.

” This. Simmerman gave both of them a nod and then spoke aside to one of the men near him. feeling her wrists which had just begun to heal after having been incessantly tied on the journey to Little Springs. but didn’t. “No. She was shaken awake by Caron and then dressed. pushing Marin forward. and prepared to spend a long.down on the bed. Marin looked away. He trussed her wrists together tightly in front of her. Once Marin had been dressed in the exquisite blue dress that had been brought to the castle especially for her. of course. her hair tied back behind her head in a rich blue ribbon and a small silver tiara placed above her forehead. She felt very much like crying. Caron was called roughly from the room and a fat man that Marin did not know entered. listening in case the man stationed outside her room decided to come in. In the morning. Then she was grabbed roughly and forced down the stairs where Simmerman and a small cortège of men were waiting.” the fat man said. “I won’t try to run away. carrying a length of rope. was entirely false. She lay instead awake on her bed.” Marin said. causing her to wince with pain as he tightened the knots. Marin found that she had not managed after all to stay awake the entire night. as she could not hear what they were saying and was not interested by what was going on around her. 134 . sleepless night alone. as she didn’t know what good it would do. The man wore a tall green hat and bowed when he was addressed. “Here she is. don’t. she didn’t know what she would say back to Caron should she have chosen to speak. Caron did not look at Marin during the process and Marin was rather glad for it. and the man did not seem to pay any attention to it.

“Go on.” Simmerman said. Marin understood. Marin stepped into the blinding sunshine and blinked. Sitting beside him. A thin dark man was hitching a pair of horses to the carriage. and the horses made 135 . Simmerman nodded to the men behind him. she could be grateful for that. Three men on horses rode up beside them as Marin and Simmerman pulled themselves into the carriage. The courtyard was all in an uproar around her. How long ago that seemed. Marin saw that an open carriage. and how different circumstances were now. Their hooves pawed the ground impatiently as Simmerman took up the reigns in his hands. and began to walk toward the carriage. The journey took three days. Marin soon became tired of the sun and wished that she had something to shade herself with. She had not been outside since she had come to the castle. All three were fine white horses. hired boys and maid girls. and she welcomed the warmth of the sun on her face. She thought of mentioning this to Simmerman. They set off under the warm sun. but quickly dismissed the idea. which elaborate bridles and hangings. who immediately left the entrance hall and disappeared out the front gate. Rosings. was sitting in the middle of the courtyard. Rosings used to drive. Marin was suddenly reminded of the trip to Hullberry that she had taken with Mr.Simmerman finished speaking to the man. very much like the one that Mr. his face hard. At least they weren’t walking. This was how they were getting to Numan. In the midst of running men. since Simmerman’s brown face was continually twisted into an expression that said he would as soon hit her in the jaw as listen to her requests. and made her walk in front of him out of the castle. grabbed Marin by the arm.

her mind was so overwhelmed with emotion that she had no eye for the marvels of architecture and culture of which the grand palace just north of Numan was the center. Marin next to Simmerman. their wrists tied together every night. and although she was glad that no one was angry with her. But no one talked to Marin. Marin often looked up at the starry sky and tried not to cry. thinking that she was getting her last taste of open sky. not free to do anything that she wanted. No one seemed to even notice that the girl that was to be married to the prince had just arrived. splitting at the top into a myriad of arches and buttresses spidering across the ceiling. Soon she would be under close surveillance at Musatei. all was rush and bustle. It was late afternoon when the carriage rolled at last into Numan. loaded down with bags of flour. They slept under the stars. At eye level. No one took any more notice of them then of the poor peasant driving a donkey away from the front gates. she began to feel very lonely. the palace at Numan. Marin could only watch the self-satisfied manner with which Simmerman’s gloved fingers directed the horses in through the entryway into the interior courtyard of the castle. Great pillars shot up in vertical columns above their heads. Marin was not crying when she passed under the vaulted ceilings of Musatei for the first time. but at the same time. The men on horseback talked amongst each other almost constantly. and Marin sat very still next to Simmerman who began to fume every time the carriage was forced to make a detour to avoid falling off the road and into the ditches on either side. In some places the roads were in very bad repair. as there were stone roads that connected Numan and Little Springs.good time. and often with Simmerman himself. 136 .

‘He’ll expect me to leave. There were fewer people here. her back pressed against the 137 .Marin suddenly perked up. Without a second thought. and was thrown to the ground by the shove of the woman’s son. no one. fewer places to hide. Marin as far from his thoughts as Little Springs itself. Marin did not know if anyone was pursuing her. toward the courtyards that spanned the grounds between the outer and the inner walls of the castle. She stopped. This was it. and. but she didn’t care. But Simmerman was no fool. and quickly jumped back to her feet. pushing through people and racing toward the outer gate. not even Simmerman was paying attention to her. Marin sprung from the buggy and landed square on her feet on the dusty ground. Marin looked around desperately and found a crevice built into the side of the castle wall.’ Marin realized. and the dress made running awkward. cupping his hands to his scratchy chin. “Stop that girl!” he yelled. received a kick from its rider. She dove into the darkness. and panted. Although her hands were still tied in front of her. She crashed into a woman carrying a basket of clothes. realizing that no one here knew who she was and for the moment. “Theif! Stop her!” Marin set her jaw and ran harder. He was basking in the beauty of the castle. Marin coughed up the dust that had rushed down her throat in the scuffle. before reaching the gate. threw an apology over her shoulder. to Marin’s dismay. doing anything to get away from Simmerman and from the horrific fate that awaited her inside the castle. She ran as though the devil himself were after her. pushing wildly through the crowds. and ran to the right. she quickly caught her balance and then began to run in the opposite direction of the press of the crowds. slammed into the side of a horse.

She looked behind her and then without a second thought. The voices were loud. the only light filtered in through a couple of cracks several feet above her. She heard her name. It was very dark. When there were no more steps. Marin had difficulty reaching the bottom. Marin stifled a cough as she descended. She felt forward with her hands. and after just two steps forward. went down. Now that she was still.wall. For some reason. Marin had the distinct impression that the space in which she stood was very small and cramped. The air was cold and damp. bolted the door behind her. Marin felt hastily for the doorknob and turned it. Marin would have expected them to be kept under lock and key. Marin turned and realized that there was actually a small staircase built into the tiny room. Once out of the sunlight. waiting for her breathing to return to normal. She sunk back further against the wall and moved further into the space in the wall. however. People now knew that she was here. The chalky stone fell away when her clothes brushed against it. Marin wondered how she had been able to so easily make it into the cellar. the door had been left open. 138 . Marin pushed away from the stairs and took a step forward. since wine and ale were valuable. Although it was now pitch black. She opened the door and light suddenly poured into the tiny chamber. where crates packed with wine and ale were stacked along each wall. Marin quickly turned and. her hands still bound in front of her. shouting to each other about where they had searched and where they planned to look next. as quickly as she could with tied hands. felt the hard wood and iron of a door. She had come upon a cellar. which made her heart catch in her throat. Marin could hear that her escape had indeed managed to shatter the comforting chaos of the inner courtyard.

“Are you a lady?” Marin looked down at herself and sighed. I need your help. holding out her hands to show that they were tied. She was certain that Simmerman would search the outlying areas of the castle before any searching was done on the inside. “Thank you.” Marin said. although she felt like she was lying even as she said it. come here!” The girl hesitated and looked up toward the top of the stairs. staring at her. “Uh. The dress that Simmerman had insisted that she wear was covered in dust. “Please.” she said.” Marin said quietly. I…please. and the fine embroidery no longer shone. “Hello. “Who are you?” the girl asked again.” Marin said. her dirty dark hair falling around her thin face. The girl took one look at Marin’s clothes and her eyes widened.Marin took a deep breath. “I’m in trouble. hoping the girl was sensible enough not to call anyone. frightened suddenly. deciding to tell it like it was. one that clearly marked Marin as unusual. Please come. “And I need your help. “Please. But there was no mistaking it.” Please don’t let her call… The girl gave Marin a long look and then took the stairs two by two to the bottom. “Who are you?” Marin froze and searched the room rapidly. “Yes. She was sure that no one would look for her here.” Marin said. She sighed. Can you help me?” 139 . feeling suddenly fairly safe. Marin’s heart sank. it was a fine dress. “Are you the girl that brings the wine?” Marin swallowed. among all the faces she had seen mulling about the castle. At last she saw a girl of about twelve years perched on a small staircase at the far end of the room.

“I can’t wear this. “My father keeps the prince’s wine cellar.” “Badice. “I’m not supposed to touch this.” the girl said. “Take it.” said Marin. which she brought toward Marin. suddenly remembering that the girl was still there. She turned and climbed toward the shelf. They’ll recognize me in this dress. She gulped in a mouthful of fresh air.” Badice said. “It’s for the girl that brings the wine. She glanced at the stairs and hoped that no one came down them while she was taking to the girl. I have to hide from them. as though trying to figure out why anyone with the clothes that Marin had would be tied up. “Do you have a knife or something that you could cut these ropes with?” Marin asked.” “I need something else to put on. “What for?” “I’m in trouble. “What’s your name?” Marin asked. I help him. and then cast her eyes around the room. as though she had been underwater.” Marin confided. “I’m Badice.” “But you –” “I’ll get another. trying to talk normally despite the pounding in her ears. She rubbed her wrists and arms.” the girl said. taking down a large knife.” Badice nodded. They landed at last on a shelf. “Some bad men want to hurt me. “Take it off. just like that…” The ropes fell from Marin’s wrists and she was free.” Badice said. blushing in spite of herself. staring at her.“What do you need?” the girl asked. I need new clothes. you know. The girl looked at Marin. She needs to cut ropes on the barrels of wine when she brings them” “Can you cut the ropes – careful now! – yes. then. “I have more 140 .” Marin said. “My dress is too large for me.” Badice’s eyes widened.

“There’s not much to do here when you’re the only girl. Marin nodded and Badice pulled off her dress and flung it at Marin. turning for the door. she looked very much like the other people who continued to flow into the castle.” Marin said. when you’re safe. after a moment said: “And after a while. can’t I?” “Yes. but the pleasure of being free did not last very long once the sun had gone down.” “Thank you so much. “But only after a long time has passed. thrown it into the well along with all her rings and rubbed her face and arms with dirt. I can have it.” Badice said wisely. “I wish you could stay.” Marin smiled sadly.upstairs.” “I can say I found it somewhere else.” Marin said. No one can know I was here.” Marin said in a rush of gratitude. who pulled it neatly over her head. She was alone.” Badice nodded. More than a week. Bad for you. unbolting the door. smiled at Marin.” And that was the last Marin saw of Badice. She was invisible. suddenly mournful. It would be bad if they found me here. “I’d like to stay.” she said. She had nowhere to go. no one will find it down here. It’s best if I go. “Just stuff it somewhere. “But people are looking for me.” She looked around and then.” Badice said. “Where should I put the other one?” “Anywhere. now just in her dirty petticoat. “My name is Marin. Once Marin had pulled the golden chain off her neck.” Marin said.” said Badice dismissively. “What’s your name?” “Marin. Badice. I don’t want to endanger your family. and the longer she stayed 141 . “Thanks.

pushing his way to the door. Who was to say that she was not in more danger outside the castle walls than in the grip of Simmerman himself. if she left. “and I’ve come such a long way. She would risk. Prince Esper would not know her from any of his subjects and might give her at least a few coins to help her survive a few days. “Take her in.” Marin frowned. Besides. “I have only a small request to ask of him. What harm will it do?” “Very well.” said another man. especially with the mark that marred her shoulder? Her other choice was to enter the castle. Marin considered leaving Musatei. Marin thought this over for a moment and then decided that she could do as all the other peasants were doing and seek an audience with the prince.” The man with the purple hat smiled in a way that was not very nice at all. of course. she was probably safer inside the castle than out.around the castle.” Marin smiled gratefully at the man who had 142 .” said the man with the hat impatiently. since it was the only familiar thing to her for miles. “I doubt that he will wish to take away from his dinner by conversing with a dirty brat such as you. she was surprised to see that the crowds of people had sorely diminished. No. the more gazes she was going to attract.” she said. She rushed to the door and asked to see the prince. where would she go? How would she eat? She had no money. but she believed that he would not have dared present himself to the prince without the girl he had promised to bring. “Let her have two minutes. running into Simmerman. but she felt strangely attached to it. He took a look at Marin and then sighed. “The prince has dinner in fifteen minutes. “Visiting hours are over. no means to provide for herself. Once Marin made it back to the gate to the inner courtyard.” the tall man with a plumed hat at the door told her haughtily.” “Come on.

sweeping open a large pair of cherry wood doors. Her heart began to pound inside of her chest like a hammer. He had a rather unruly crop of dark hair and a square face.” said the man. her eyes falling to the floor as she lied. Marin squinted as she looked at him. “Your name?” “Uh…Adara. and she wondered if everyone was noticing her red cheeks. leading her through another hall whose sides were covered in portraits of the royal family of Alika. “This is where he holds court. The prince turned toward her and fixed his blue eyes on her. This time she did notice the furnishings.” Marin murmured. but his face was turned into a smile as he ceased conversing with his courtiers. “Your Majesty Prince Esper.” Marin nodded taking in the intricate detail on the chandeliers. Simmerman was no where to be seen. “It’s beautiful. Marin suppressed a gasp as the golden glint of the throne room met her eye. His long ermine cape trailed down the steps to 143 . The columns seemed to tower even higher above her in this room. I present you Adara. Marin couldn’t help but indulge in a curious observation of the prince. The prince was medium in height with a sharp chin and straight nose. The man nodded once and turned to the throne. The prince of Alika has traditionally held court here for hundreds of years. They were piercing and hollow. The prince was seated on the throne on a pedestal at the far end of the room. Marin took a few hesitant steps forward and walked toward the throne. really impressed.” the man explained.intervened for her.” Marin said.” At a nudge from the man at the door. and followed him in through the entrance hall whose walls were glowing with brilliant candlelight. “It’s the prince’s palace. “Here he is.

a slight giggle of mirth rising in his throat. She felt suddenly very uncomfortable. Marin got slowly to her feet. my little urchin?” said the prince. Marin felt his eyes upon her as she stared at the red carpet on which she stood. She did not dare raise her eyes. He would simply continue to mock her if she were silent.” said the prince. I…” Marin said. She felt her knees go weak.the throne before him. Surely she would be able to hide herself away in the castle for a few days and then go on her way once Simmerman was unable to find her. She simply could not do it. speaking at last. “Where’s home?” Marin sighed. “I don’t know. She should never have come. “I…I can’t get home…I am alone and have no place to stay –” The prince gave her a long look. a rush of gratitude filling her chest. “Your highness. “Rise. “Your Majesty. Somehow. Marin looked up and met the prince’s eyes. Marin swallowed.” The prince nodded curtly.” the prince continued in his 144 . The prince watched her stop at the foot of the throne and sink to her knees. Standing in her miserable state in front of such majesty. Marin felt very low and very dirty.” “Furthermore. She felt a strange churning in her stomach as she realized her incapacity to beg. “Thank you. She had to speak. Marin felt her cheeks go red. “What can I do for you.” Marin said.” he said loudly. “Adara. “How can I help you?” the prince repeated. did you just come to catch a glimpse of my majesty? Or to attract my curiosity to a maid that asks to see me just before dinner and says nothing?” At the mention of the name that was not hers. “Give her a room. she could not articulate what she had come to say.

” “Your Majesty! What is possessing you to do this? You do not seriously pity the brat? What if people ask questions? You are supposed to be meeting your wife tonight! You know that –” the lord at the prince’s side. sensing a great dissatisfaction emanating from the courtier.” “Your Majesty.” said Marin.” “Not another word. “Your Majesty. Lord Bendel had turned a strange shade of purple. “You shall sit next to me. She did not want to be in the eye of the court. “I can’t.” said the prince.” “No!” said a lord stationed a the prince’s side.” said the prince shortly. Lord Bendel spluttered. now sincerely regretting that she had come to see the prince. once they had reached a room several stories above the throne room level. see Adara to a room and furnish her with all that she needs to prepare herself for the meal. Marin and the lord looked at each other in surprise. now somewhat irritated. Please. “A maid will be here shortly with something presentable for you to wear to dinner. trying to speak calmly. Someone from Simmerman’s party might be there at dinner and recognize her. but he bowed and took Marin from the room. Lord Bendel. “I must decline. I appreciate your kindness.” “I’m sorry about this. “No!” said Marin simultaneously. but –” “I insist. “I want you to accompany me to dinner tonight.unnaturally loud voice. Then all would be lost. Marin tried not to betray any emotion in her face as she listened to this violent rush of words spew from the lord’s mouth.” said Lord Bendel. “I don’t want to go to dinner at all –” 145 . Marin blushed. “This will be your room.” Marin said.” said Marin. “Silence. Get her a maid to dress her and see that she is led to the dining room in time for dinner.

Before she could decide whether to run again or stay and fill her aching stomach.” With that the noble turned on his heel and left Marin alone in front of her room. who could only be her appointed maid. 146 . and a silver chain was fastened at her neck. a girl. dreading what could happen in just minutes. “The prince does not need to be embarrassed by the peasantry at this stage in his career.” said Lord Bendel curtly. might someone suggest that she looked as though she could be the girl that was supposed to marry the prince? And what if Simmerman had thought to tell someone about her mark? She could be so easily identified. Her hair was oiled and scented. appeared at the end of the hall and rushed Marin into the room. Marin sighed as she looked in the mirror. In fifteen minutes Marin had been scrubbed and clothed in a dress that was every bit as luxurious as the one that she had worn to the castle just that afternoon.“Say nothing at dinner unless you are spoken to. Even if no one from Simmerman’s party was there.

Instead. There’s no fear of that.” the prince said. Lord Bendel had made it all too clear that she was far from welcome at the court. As she did she wondered what she would do once morning came. Her stomach was done up in a tight knot that not even the scent of freshly roasted beef could untie. Marin watched a servant hand the prince a message and read it. however. She hesitantly returned his smile and then busied herself staring at her silver plate and goblet. Lord Bendel took his place near the prince and held up his wine glass to be filled. ate in relative silence. Marin clinked her fork against the side of her plate and let out a melancholy sigh. speaking to Marin for M . Where would she go? She certainly could not stay here any longer. she occupied herself with looking inconspicuous and pointedly avoiding looking toward the other tables of guests present at the meal. he threw a meaningful look in Marin’s direction. Marin thought. asking only for more wine when his goblet was empty and so Marin was spared the task of providing any conversation. She dared not look around her for fear that she would see Simmerman – or see anyone . “I would like you to join me in my chambers once dinner is through. She was led to the head table. As he did so.arin was led into the dining hall by a servant who had been sent to fetch her and bring her to dinner. since he had shown enough interest in her to invite her to dinner and to sit at his right side. Marin worried that she would be spoken to by the prince.and be recognized. and the prince had taken a dangerous interest in her. and seated at the prince’s right. The prince. which clearly was a threat to not open her mouth.

Whatever it was he said caused lines of annoyance to sprout on Lord Bendel’s face like weeds in a garden. It was clear that Lord Bendel took great pride in his job. not wanting to give the prince the idea that she wanted to spend more time with him. What could the prince want? Could he possibly know who she was? Did he know that she was his intended bride? After the meal was through. “I would prefer that you let me return to my room. Her heart pounded hard in her chest. Marin followed him sullenly to the prince’s chambers. He had 148 . telling the prince who was already comfortably installed there that he would make sure they were not disturbed. But Lord Bendel did nothing to stop her from entering and only opened the door to the prince’s rich apartments and closed them behind her. “Thank you. Marin’s heart leaped into her throat. Lord Bendel practically pounced on Marin and pulled her from the dining room. “It was very good. who was seated on one of his magnificent couches before the warm fire. Marin could eat no more. Marin stoically sat.” she said in a trembling voice. your Majesty. “Your Majesty.” Marin said. hoping each step of the way that Lord Bendel would forbid her to enter and force her to return to her room.the first time since the dinner had begun. He turned to Lord Bendel and spoke softly to him. Now that she had the chance. He offered Marin a chair near him. I’m very tired…” “That’s an order. “How did you like dinner?” asked Prince Esper.” said the prince in a voice that was far from angry. It was one of the best meals of her life. He looked over in her direction and handed the message to Lord Bendel who began devouring it with his eyes the moment his fingers touched it. wondering how honest she should be.” she added tactfully. she took a long look at the man that was destined to be her husband.

she would not be considered important enough to warrant the prince wasting a thought on her. there is something that I must say. “I’d like to help you. She did not know what to say. “I was supposed to meet my wife today. Marin pulled her arm back quickly.don’t think me bigheaded for this. and he would have difficulty believing that she did not want to be. and you rejected a spot of prominence that . The prince seemed to find this funny. I simply know it’s true – a thousand girls in my realm would die to have at my side while I ate.” the prince reached out and his finger brushed Marin’s arm. I am right. You’re very unusual. “This has been the oddest day. I can’t put my finger on it. “I sensed it the minute you walked in the door. am I not?” Marin swallowed. “And then you didn’t want to eat dinner with me. Marin realized that she did not feel comfortable in his presence and that if she married him. “There’s something about you. She would be his.” said the prince.dark curly hair and a rather thin lithe body that slouched easily and made him look younger than he was. You don’t want to be found. but there’s something about you that makes me want to talk to you. and waited for the prince to speak. tried to paste a smile on her face. He picked up a bottle of wine from the table and uncorked it. The prince took a glass from the table and began to fill it. I don’t think that you want to be seen. She raised her eyebrows and tried to find a non-committal response.” Marin felt a strange knot form in her stomach.” Marin froze. “Do you mind?” Marin looked from the bottle to the prince’s face and shook her head blankly.” the prince said. but there 149 . “Now that we’re alone. He had sharp eyes and a strange manner about him that was spoiled and self-centered.

isn’t it?” Marin didn’t know what to say. “Really?” she said uncomfortably.was some sort of disturbance where they lost track of her. wasn’t it?” Marin said hastily. Maybe that’s why my mind is on women. She hitched another smile on her face. “This man.” the prince interrupted. product. “Uh. Here. a half-smile on his face.” He shoved a glass into Marin’s hand. She settled instead. “But why shouldn’t she want to marry me?” Marin watched a thin line of dark wine run down the prince’s chin and said nothing. They say that she is so smart…” He stopped and leaned forward. Incredible.” Marin had never really considered that point. her face now almost as red as the prince’s.” said the prince. Simmerman.” He took a long drink from his glass.” said the prince dismissively. for: “Did you ever consider that this girl might not want to marry you?” Her voice sounded upset and strangled. Marin said nothing. “but this girl was supposed to have been astounding. “I mean. “Simmerman doesn’t realize it. “Yes. She sounds most interesting. but this girl could knock Prince Alder off the throne if she went to Prestani. The prince took another long swig and said. “Yes. smelling his wine. was commissioned to find Marin Lindrine and bring her here to be my wife. “They say she can tell you any mathematical sum. “No matter how large or complicated. difference or dividend in a fraction of a second. The prince gave her a very surprised look that made Marin wish she had said nothing. this was a political marriage.” the prince continued. I don’t dr –” “Normally I wouldn’t mind. 150 .

” said the prince triumphantly. “Is there someone after you?” the prince asked with great interest. 151 . They’re very interested in making sure that I’m well-married.” said the prince swirling the contents of his glass. “There always are!” “Anyway. “But enough about me. If the prince could talk so casually about his potential marriage to the heir of the Mykolian throne. That’s why I decided to come see you.” Marin was surprised about this. she said: “There is.” The prince smiled. and he couldn’t catch me. it’s really no disaster. eyes shining. it was a perfect place to blend in. If one bride doesn’t work out.” “Hope I was of some help. Marin reasoned.” Marin assured him. Marin was quiet for a long time. Someone must have told him. they find you another. I hardly need to worry about the affair at all myself. but it looked as though he had forgotten the reason why Simmerman was bringing her to Numan. “I ran away from someone and then came here to get away…there were so many people here in the afternoon. “Why did you run away?” the prince asked. I changed my clothes and then felt somewhat safe…but I realized I didn’t have anywhere to go. But the prince still seemed interested in her. At last. then he must not realize what the marriage would give him. Marin smiled in spite of herself at the prince’s naïve excitement and dropped her eyes.” Marin turned away. You still haven’t told me what it is that made you act the way you did earlier this evening.” “I thought so. I ran away.“Anyway. “You were. although she desperately hoped that any minute he would tire of her company and send her away.

I don’t want to go back to him.Marin gave him a long look and then took a deep breath.” said the prince suddenly.” Prince Esper said. “Thank you. “You can just live in a little apartment next to mine – I’ll make sure you’re kept well and watered. but I don’t know where to go.” she said at last. “That’s why I had to get away. “Yes. “I ran away because the man I was with…” “Does he mistreat you?” the prince asked. It was probably the effect of the wine he had just drunk. He looked back up at Marin and a quick smile flashed across his face.” “I can hide you. I can’t even tell you.” said the prince. but she didn’t have a better plan so she nodded in agreement. “But I can’t. staring forlornly into 152 . You like books?” “Oh.” Marin said. You can stay here. the prince seemed to accept this. Somehow she didn’t think that this would work out. “Once word gets out that I’m here. “Very well. I trust him completely. “That happens a lot. you know.” he said.” “Who would see you?” asked the prince. stifling a hiccup. the man who brought me here will come and get me.” Prince Esper took a deep breath and leaned back.” Marin said. Marin blinked.” said the prince simply. And there are books for diversion. Surprisingly.” said Marin shaking her head. “Will he be back soon?” Marin asked.” she said. your Majesty. “She also ran away. “someone would see me. “Simmerman left to go find my wife. “Who do you want to be hidden from?” “Your Majesty. For tonight I can have a small room set up very near here – I’ll have my lord chamberlain get you installed in the side bedroom. Marin closed her eyes. “Most likely.” His mind seemed to be working even slower than usual. I really have no home anymore.

revealing in all certainty his highly drunken state. and when the subject turned to her. drinking in the information. The prince came to visit her often. was still looking for Marin. Marin cringed each time Prince 153 . After a few days of this. She passed the time alone pouring over the languages and stories that the books afforded her. True to his word. Marin grew tired of reading and had to do something else. He also talked about the girl that Simmerman was bringing him to marry. but other times she was surprised to see the amount of calculation that was behind his words. sometimes in a mood so silly that Marin was embarrassed for him. “what happens?” “And then what happens? Then I marry her and I live happily ever after!” The prince gave a loud belch. Marin shook her head and let the prince lead her from the room. She took up drawing. Marin felt very uncomfortable. as he had not returned to the palace and no one had any recent word from him. He talked much of his country and how Alika should be free from Mykolian rule. the next day Marin was given her own small room next to the prince’s apartments where she was kept entertained by the books that completely covered one wall. Simmerman. just to cover her tracks. Before she walked into the room the prince offered to her. Prince Esper leaned forward and planted a sloppy kiss on her forehead. however.” Marin forced herself to ask.his empty glass. “And then. which diverted her for a day and a half. afterwards she was forced to wonder how long she could stay locked up in this cell she had made for herself. it seemed. Prince Esper spoke of her only in connection with subjects of power and politics. Then he laughed.

It was odd to be able to read as fast as she could. and Marin began to feel more and more secure and less and less comfortable hidden away in the prince’s apartments. Soon it seemed to Marin that her life with Simmerman was no more real than a story she had read a long time ago that had frightened her. thinking that she should have said something else instead – like that she had not found them interesting enough to read. “Oh. “I’ve read all the books in this room. as though proud that he could have provided her with such finery. “Well. She lost the fear and anxiety she felt. and she had forgotten that it was not common to be able to read an entire bookshelf full of books in a little over a week. But no such news came. “Really?” Marin blushed and looked down. Marin was given a delicious wardrobe full of dresses that Mrs.” Marin told the prince one day when he asked her how she was enjoying her reading. and that sooner rather than later she was going to have to leave the palace if she was going to regain her dignity.Esper came to see her. She had bright colored gowns and silky skirts that floated attractively around her thin waist.” Prince Esper said thoughtfully. The first week passed uneventfully and eventually Marin began to relax. The prince raised his eyebrows in surprise. Only the brand mark on her shoulder reminded her of the danger she could face if Simmerman found her again. I suppose that I could take you to my personal library. Rosings would have given her left arm to posses. Alder smiled whenever he walked into the room. “No one 154 . fearing that it he brought news that Simmerman was returning to the palace. Marin began to feel like she was somewhat of a pet for the prince. but if someone should see –” The prince waved his hand dismissively. But life had become easy. but left no lasting traces.

“You won’t be disturbed. however. “Do you like it?” the prince asked. There are some very valuable things in there that we wouldn’t want everyone putting their dirty hands on.” said Marin fervently.” Marin blinked. If ever someone has to use the library I shall make sure that you are hidden away safely in your room. Marin walked to the shelves and began to read the titles. The Reign of the Seven Brothers. because the prince took there down just a few minutes later. It was a very large rectangular room whose vaulted ceiling was held up by magnificent blue marble pillars. The Kingdom of Alika: An In-depth History. The walls were lined with shelves. 155 . “Then you can come here whenever you like. did nothing as the prince withdrew. closing the doors behind her. Marin couldn’t help being impressed as she walked into the room.” Marin read. letting in soft blue light. her hands were deemed “clean” enough to enter the library. Apparently.ever goes in there without my express permission. many of which were obscured by ladders that granted access to the highest shelves. A vast skylight panned overhead. I can promise you that. “Numan is my Home. not sure what to make of this speech. She stepped out onto the marble floor and her slippers clicked mutedly against the polished stone. tilting her head sideways as she scanned the books before her.” said the prince. There were large squashy looking chairs for enjoying books as well as large tables that could be laid out with many different materials if a subject was being studied in detail. enjoying herself more than she could ever remember. proud that his library had made such an impression.” Marin nodded and. “The Tale of the Prince. “It’s magnificent. As if in a dream.” These books seemed to be all directly connected to the royal family of Alika. still entranced by the shelves and shelves of books.

Marin squinted at the writing. “The tale of the sheep who in far fields did roam. and Marin much enjoyed reading about the people that had first figured out how to crack them. She set the 156 . in fact. but had never actually held a real manuscript covered in it. and noticed that to her left. It was Old Mykolian. she thought that she could have written a far more comprehensive text had she been given the task. She smiled. With a great degree of curiosity. She was familiar with every one of the ciphers that the book presented.” Marin translated under her breath. Marin replaced the book and continued on. She picked one of the manuscripts from a stack and saw that it was made of vellum. She looked around her. At last she pulled Known Ciphers from the shelves and took it to one of the large plush armchairs. but enjoyed the read nevertheless. older than anything Marin had ever seen. Marin replaced the book and began once again to scan the shelves. noticing the pictures of small animals that could only be sheep wandering around the borders of the page. written centuries before her birth. as well as several columns of writing. Marin approached the shelves. The book contained anecdotes about cases where certain ciphers and codes had been used. There were descriptive pictures of weddings and instructions on how to choose the best bride or husband for the heir to the throne. under a large bright window. She flipped it open and began to read. there were what looked like shelves of parchment and old scrolls. a sort of parchment made from calf-skin. She had studied Old Mykolian under her tutor at Sandhill. After about an hour. They were very old. There were vibrant drawings over the page. It seemed that whomever had come up with the scheme to wed her to Prince Esper must have been familiar with its contents.She passed several more shelves and stopped at one to pick up the book Pathways to Power.

Marin put chin in her hands and began to read. and scanning a few lines of each text. turned the manuscript over. and then. but they were not clear. The Chronicle continued on the next page – it seemed that this manuscript had been hidden inside the Chronicle. she lifted out the manuscript. There were too many for Marin to have time to read even if she had a solid month to dedicate to them. since the current ruler of Mykolia (if he was still alive. There were pictures here too. She read for several minutes.manuscript down. There was a large circular shape floating at the top of the page. The parchment was darker. she thought. She didn’t mind though. She went to the large table and sat down in a chair. though what the circle represented. There was a figure drawn underneath it that looked very much 157 . Besides this. as though it had survived much longer than the manuscript that she was currently reading. The back of the first page clearly continued the tale that was begun on the first side. It didn’t seem to belong to the Chronicle of How Kenyon was Made at all. Marin took a few pages that declared themselves to be A Chronicle of How Kenyon was Made. It was very old and the ink was very faint. she quite enjoyed looking at the pictures. reading the titles. With interest. after having finished the first page. Marin was interested in learning more about Kenyon. It seemed to be a completely different text entirely. the copyist had a very unique style of forming letters that made Marin have to squint to make them out. Marin did not know. She stopped suddenly. Was this done on purpose? Marin examined the manuscript more closely. her stomach taking a sudden dive) King Castillo represented Kenyon. but the second page looked very different. and shuffled through the rest of the pages.

and rolled the other text into a scroll and stuffed it down the neck of her dress. She would need a lot of time to decode this. especially if some old cipher were used that she did not know. For some reason. and then replaced the Chronicle on the shelf where she had found it. Her heart began to pound as she realized what it was. she was very glad to have stumbled across this text – it would give her something to do to pass the hours. Marin frowned. and she was strangely curious about the picture of the girl under the large circle. she moved her gaze to the words and let out a small gasp as her eyes scanned the first line. Intrigued. which was several times larger than she was. There was no indication whether the text was complete or whether she would have to look elsewhere for a continuation. What could it be depicting? 158 . Marin turned over the sheet of vellum and noticed that the text continued on the other side. She would examine it at more leisure when she was back in her room. It was a cipher.like a girl. and if the language were difficult to make out anyway. She hesitated a moment. Marin licked her lips. it wasn’t any language that Marin knew. It did not seem to be Old Mykolian – in fact. The girl was dressed in a very simple robe and was looking up at the circle.

She felt that it must be a clue as to how to decipher it. The series of letters looked as though perhaps it might have been encoded in a different way then the rest of it and that it must hold some secret about how to decode the rest. “Good morning.” the prince said. This was surprising. “Good morning. “Oh yes. The text was made up almost entirely of numbers.” said Marin. She had never seen a cipher where the numbers were written out in long form.he cipher proved strangely difficult to break. but to her surprise. setting down a tray of food before her. if T . a little surprised that the prince himself was bringing her breakfast. but excited. “Did you like the library?” asked the prince. and still. The next morning.” said Marin. Marin spent that evening going over all the methods she knew of breaking ciphers. not one of them worked or even gave her any clues that a similar technique might be used to decode the text. Prince Esper came into her room. She had never failed at breaking a code – never. and they were the first characters in the text. but the numbers were spelled out. Marin went to bed that night frustrated. There were letters in the manuscript however. but she was unable to make any progress although she thought long and hard. somewhat frustrating but very interesting. and Marin was just able to stash the manuscript out of sight before he entered. the text was a mystery. it had been more than six hours since the text had come into her hands. And now. “I plan to return today. Here was a code that she had not been able to easily break. which confused Marin greatly.

She glanced down at the rest of the text and 160 b c d e . It could be anything. she had constructed a kind of table: a a b c d e The letters “ac” had to be a letter that was repeated four times. The letters were in groups of two.” Marin nodded and waited for the prince to leave.” said the prince vaguely. caacacdcddacacbd Marin frowned. Marin seized a pen near her desk and began to scribble furiously. taking one of the rolls from Marin’s tray and biting into it. She looked at the first letters again and thought hard: caacacdcddacacbd There were so few letters there – only a.c and d figured in the short line that seemed to be the title or clue to the rest of the text.” “You may have it for the day. Marin pulled the manuscript out from under her pillow and examined it again.b. Once he was gone. Marin thought. “No one else has any desire to get near those books. There was also quite a bit of repetition: the pattern “ac” was repeated four times.that’s agreeable. that two letters stood for one decoded letter… Enlightened. This meant. disappointed. In seconds. she realized.

161 . She was stuck for the moment. then the first line must tell her what book would help her break the code.. trying to remember how it worked… And she remembered. She scanned the titles. looking for something with two O’s in the first part of the title and the word “book” in the second.took in the numbers again. The texts seemed to be contemporaries to the manuscripts. many years..” Marin said out loud. She squeezed her eyes shut. taking up her pen again. She found them. What she needed. Rosings telling her that sometimes people encoded things by using a book as the source of words. They used numbers to indicate the page. She remembered Mr. She looked down at the numbers and smiled. What book… “Two O’s. both being written at about the same time. The numbers on the text were in groups of three. “ac” meant “o”. was to go to the library. right next to the old manuscripts. caacacdcddacacbd was now caoodcbook Marin set down her pen excitedly. They were written out… They were in groups of three… She thought again and after a few minutes something crossed her mind that hadn’t for many. Marin burst into the library and began to search for the sections of old books. the line and the word. Surely this was what this was. And if this was a book code.

the King’s Book. None of them fitted the title she was looking for. “I can tell him that you’re a scholar 162 . “One from the Foundation of Things?” “Do you really believe in that?” Marin asked the prince skeptically. “I’m simply looking for a book that was written a long. “No.” Marin nodded. in the most casual way she could think of. I’ve had to read them all. She had a hard time believing that Mykolia had simply begun to exist.” “But I don’t want anyone to know I’m here. It seemed to her as though it had always existed. “There is a scholar here who might be able to help you. “Most of the epics have ‘book’ in the title. as though he were shocked. centuries ago.She searched and searched.” “An old book?” the prince said. “A book is missing?” the prince asked.” Marin said evasively. seeing that he held firmly to this belief. There’s the Waterbook. that has the word ‘book’ in the second half of the title.” she said in a voice that clearly displayed her disappointment. long time ago. she returned to her room.” Marin reminded the prince desperately. This was a story that she had known since she was a child.” Marin said hastily. “Thank you. “But have you heard of any books –” “There are many. no. That evening when the prince dropped in for a visit. Disappointed. “He’s been my tutor since I can remember – a very clever man. The prince waved his hand in his characteristic gesture of dismissal. “Of course.” said the prince solemnly.” said the prince.” the prince said thoughtfully. his mouth making a large O. the story that told how Mykolia came to be. Marin. “Don’t you?” “I don’t know. but found nothing. decided to ask the prince if he knew about the book she was looking for. the Gardenbook.

my dear.” Marin said.” The tutor was a tall man with graying hair that stuck out around his face rather wildly. as though she had just told him that she did not believe that two and two made four. getting right down to the point. “I don’t know. “It’s a book – an epic. On the other hand. He had a pair of grave eyebrows that weaved themselves together over his crooked nose. 163 .” said Marin.” “Oh.” “How do you think they came. “I’m Adara. “All right. then?” the tutor asked.” Marin said.” “What book are you looking for?” Saylor asked.” said the man in a raspy voice.visiting from somewhere – anywhere – oh. “Good morning. “Let me see him. swallowing hard. One slip and she could risk revealing who she was. “Yes. I am Marcus Saylor. I think – that was written way back in the beginning – at the Foundation of Things. “It’s hard to believe that things simply came to be. if you believe in that. “Good morning. “I’m looking for a book. but don’t you?” the man answered. looking a bit puzzled. His Alikan accent was so thick it was almost difficult to understand his Mykolian. An old book.” She shifted nervously on her feet. somewhat amused. she would never find out about the mysterious circle unless she asked for some help. let’s say Palin. He was dressed in a long dark robe that swirled around his feet as he entered the library where Marin had agreed to meet him.” Marin considered. giving him the same evasive answer she had given the prince.” the man said.” Marin returned politely. “His Majesty Prince Esper tells me that you have a question for me. The man did not seem overly convinced.

” Saylor reassured her. thinking hard. “Anyway. “It deals with things that are very ancient and things that are not understood. “Things have not always been here.” said Marin.” she said. “What does that mean?” “I assume it’s a book about a moon.” Saylor said.” Marin blinked. “But many believe it to be this large circular thing you mention.” “What do you know about it?” Saylor asked. “I don’t know what it is –” “Two O’s. “Oh.” Saylor blinked.” Marin nodded. no.” said the tutor. “No. And there is mention of this large circle you mention. And the title has two O’s in it before the word ‘book’.” the tutor said. The world does have a beginning.” repeated Marin in confusion. putting a hand to his chin. and it will have an end. “A moon? What’s a moon?” “I don’t know. I think it has to do with a large circular thing. I just don’t know the name exactly.” repeated the tutor. and there was only one copy ever made.” “What is it?” Marin asked. Marin waited patiently until he spoke again. “Only what I’ve told you. this book I’m looking for came from that time at the beginning. a bit confused.” “Moonbook.“I think they’ve always been here. “There is one book that might be what you need. “Where is it? Where can I find it?” 164 .” Marin said. her heart leaping into her throat. “A large circular thing?” “Yes.” “There was only copy ever made?” Marin asked. no. “Is it going to end soon?” she asked in spite of herself. “But. “It has only just begun. “It’s called the Moonbook.” said the tutor at last.

who gave her a slight bow of the head. they’re not.” Saylor conceded. So many mentions of this large circular moon. “And it’s not as though the language is too old or that the words can’t be made out.” Marin’s heart skipped a beat. when the tutor spoke once more. her cheeks red. “Good luck.” Marin nodded.” the tutor said.” said the tutor. “It is believed to be some sort of story that has to do with them alone. people have tried. “You look too much like her. “Thank you. her heart pounding hard. 165 . Mykolian bloodlines aren’t well established.” Saylor said. She was beginning to believe that she was somehow connected to this Moonbook and that she had to find it in order to read the manuscript. “You will be in danger if anyone sees your face.“I believe that it is in Prestani. She walked slowly back to where the tutor stood in the middle of the room.” “Will you –” Marin asked. It’s the meaning that isn’t understood.” Marin whirled around.” Her head was spinning. “I’m staying here in the palace. “Oh.” said the tutor. and –” “No. “I see. daughter of Tenara. “Royal bloodline? But didn’t the royal house of Mykolia just come to be? I mean. “But from the beginning they have believed that someone would come along and understand the Moonbook and be able to do whatever instructions are provided for the heir of the Mykolian royal bloodline. She couldn’t simply go to Prestani… “It is there because its story is deeply tied into the Mykolian royal bloodline. and Marin’s heart sank.” “So no one’s ever read it?” Marin asked. “But I don’t know how long I can stay hidden…” “I would leave as soon as you can.” Marin confided in him. “How did you…how did you know…” Marin stammered. still excited.” the tutor said.” she said to the tutor. She turned and walked to the door.

“Of course.” Marin froze.” 166 . milady.” said the prince.” said the tutor.” said Prince Esper suddenly. wiping his mouth with his napkin after a few moments of silent eating. “I will say nothing. looking longingly toward the window.” Marin nodded and with mixed feelings. “You know. She suddenly wished that she were free.” Marin looked up from the book she had been reading (The Foundation of Things: How History became Story) hoping to learn more about the Moonbook.” Marin marked her page in the book. “It doesn’t seem to make any sense. The prince let the servant nearest him pull out his own chair and he flipped his long coattails behind him and sat. turned and left the room. “I thought I might eat with you today. The prince pulled out a chair for her. set it on her chair and came to the table which the servants were quickly setting. “Good morning.” said Marin. your Majesty. one morning. Simmerman can’t find her anywhere and it’s been quite a while.” said the prince. laying a hand on her shoulder. leaning over and taking some butter for his bread. “You know.” said the prince.“No. He wrote me this morning to tell me that he is at home to Little Springs and will contact me later should he find the girl. “I mean. and Marin sat down. “Who? What do you mean?” she said at last. A couple of servants with trays of food followed him. Good luck. “It’s a beautiful morning. I don’t really understand where she could have gone. Free to go to Prestani… “It is. coming into Marin’s room. taking his napkin from the table as he did so. her fork halfway to her mouth.

“Yes. you know?” There was that ugly sharp look in the prince’s clear eyes that Marin did not like. bringing her back from her reverie. she had a sister. laughing merrily and spearing an egg on his fork. Poor Simmerman was in the dark for far too long. “It’s like he’s given up. “But she’s dead.” Marin felt very much like throwing up.” “I mean. The point is to get a Mykolian heir. “He said that he’d been interested at one time in the girl’s sister – thought that maybe she would be a good substitute for the girl Marin. “How could I have known?” “True.” Marin shuddered. “No. “then her sister will be the heir to the Mykolian throne.” Marin choked suddenly. “Someone found her at the bottom of the lake. but she instead smiled painfully. She didn’t like how he had called her “the girl Marin. Why was he suddenly talking about Simmerman now? The subject had been dead between them for some time. sitting back in his chair. Mykolia will belong to me. faking a blank look. She pressed her napkin to 167 .” “She had a sister. And once I marry the heir.“No. it doesn’t make any sense.” said the prince.” said Marin.’ said Marin in a voice that was rather strangled. if this Marin is gone. the dear loyal old man. did you know that?” the prince asked.” said the prince.” the prince leaned closer and Marin saw for the first time an almost evil glint in his eye. Simmerman found out why I wanted to marry her and thought if he could get a hold of the sister than he’d still have someone to offer me as a bride.” the prince continued. “I suppose it would be. “Yes.” agreed Marin hesitantly. It was greedy and desperate looking.

” Marin breathed. you said that the first day –” Marin bolted for the door. “Did you say ‘Robin?’” Marin gave the prince a startled look. How did you know? I thought you didn’t even know Marin had a sister. Robin was dead? “Are you all right?” the prince asked. drying her tears. Dead…in the lake. “Guards!” Marin wrenched open the door but her flight was 168 . a tear coming to her eye. that’s what she was called.because if I remember right. the lightning… “I’m sorry. The prince stopped. It was Robin. She remembered the wind. a strange look on his face. was giving her a very penetrating look that Marin did not like. Marin got to her feet.” the prince pointed out. “The sister. “You’d be just about the right age…and you escaped from someone. a hand to her face. no. Robin. “Not the girl that was to become my wife.” the prince said slowly. He got slowly to his feet. thinking Marin had misunderstood. “You’re Marin! Simmerman was bringing you! You’re my wife! You escaped from him!” Marin shook her head and fought once again to get to the door. Violent scenes of the watery grave that had killed her mother flashed back into her mind.” “Oh. The prince.” he said in a soft voice as though he had just had a revelation. “She’s dead?” Marin cried. that was her name – at least. pounding her heavily on the back.her face and coughed violently. however. “Yes. “Marin!” he said in a hot voice in her ear. unable to control herself. realizing her mistake.” he said. however. was too fast for her. “Did you? Because…. “Guards!” the prince yelled when she squirmed out of his grasp. “I…I don’t know…I don’t think I said –” The prince. and grabbed her arm.

” “No. shaking his head.” he said flatly.immediately arrested by two large men who grabbed her roughly around the waist and dragged her back into her room.” the prince said. “I’m the heir to the throne of Mykolia. “Take her downstairs and fit her out with a cell. “You’re Marin!” Marin decided it was time for desperate measures. I’ll have you brought out for the wedding. something to look forward to. “Don’t worry. “Don’t tell anyone. 169 . He gave a funny chuckle in his throat like he’d just been granted three wishes.” Marin gave an angry struggle in response. “I’m not just a peasant girl you can bully. Marin continuing to struggle in protest.” “No.” the prince said with a smile.” Marin spat at him. I must not forget to write to Simmerman and let him know you’re here. surprised at her own audacity. I might even let him in on who it was he captured!” Then he waved the guards down the hall. still in amazement. “I don’t want to marry you!” The prince’s eyes narrowed and he laughed sharply. “That doesn’t matter.” she said. “It will be a glorious celebration. but you are in my power. “Marin!” the prince said.” said Marin. still struggling against the iron-strong arms of her captors.” said the prince. “No need to even mourn the sister now. “Just let me get out of here –” “You’re going to be my wife. suddenly incensed at the prince and his heartlessness. “and so you’ll have to do what I want you to do.” He motioned to the guards.

she was helpless to decode the words of the manuscript. Her voice M . and then someone carrying a lantern came into her cell. but she still felt very alone and very frightened once the cell faded from her view. the stone walls were a pale gray and looked as though they had been worn smooth from many years of people rubbing against them. it had appeared to be crawling with small black insects. especially after having talked to the tutor.arin was at least glad that they had not made her change clothes. There was a click as the lock sprang open. There wasn’t much to see. since. If they had. as. the cell became completely dark. but it was too small for sleeping. There was a flicker of light and Marin realized that someone was at the door. When night fell. they would have discovered the manuscript that she had been carrying around with her for some time and she would have lost it. “Who are you?” Marin asked. Once the guards had left her alone in a small stone cell and closed the heavy oak door. Marin pulled out the manuscript and began to study it once more. He was slightly hunched over and Marin could see a full growth of whiskers blanketed his cheeks and chin. Marin didn’t expect anyone to bring a light or food. in the light of day. she felt as though she were connected to it. She was still intrigued by the image on it. It was a man. Without the Moonbook. but she liked looking at it. even though she didn’t have the slightest idea what a moon could be or why it was the subject of an epic poem and the manuscript she had discovered. She preferred sitting on the small bench in the cell. of course. There was some old straw on the floor that Marin did not want to touch. She wondered what she would do when she was tired enough to sleep.

“You’re in the high security level of the dungeon.” “No.” “And…that was you!” Marin guessed.” Ashwin said.reverberated weirdly off the walls. if he had gotten into her cell. still not sure she trusted this man. and yet. “They only keep important prisoners here.” Marin said.” Marin watched numbly as Ashwin reached down and unlocked the single shackle that had bound Marin to the bench. He was out of his cell in two minutes flat and had found a way of the castle in seven. The man smiled again. “If that’s the case.” “Why are you doing this? How did you know I was here?” Marin asked. But that doesn’t really matter. The guards don’t think much of me and no one has ever suspected me. “That’s right. no.” “I can’t believe you’re doing this for me. I’ve gotten my revenge on the prince by releasing prisoners held here. “I’m here to let you out. Ashwin smiled widely.” Marin 171 . “You’re joking. “The prince made a mistake once.” “What are you doing here?” Marin asked. I hide out a few cells down from here. who could he be? “My name is Ashwin. shaking his head. “I don’t understand. He turned and closed the door to the cell behind him.” the man said. “I just waited until it was dark enough for it to be safe enough to let you go. The man did not look like a guard.” the man said. “I heard the struggle as you were brought in. She wasn’t sure whether to be afraid. then why does it look like my escape is going to be easy?” Marin asked. Ever since then. Marin’s jaw fell open. setting the lantern down on the floor next to Marin. “Milton Ashwin.” the man said.” the man said. He locked up a man who was a locksmith.

You’ll find yourself in the stables. at last. She looked longingly at the horses as she passed them. I couldn’t have married that…” Her voice trailed off.said. “Thank you. The prince’s extensive gardens shone as though they were lit by a thousand white lanterns. but realized that Ashwin was right. Following Ashwin’s instructions. “Take this lantern. and then.” Marin smiled. in the stables. Taking one would endanger her escape. They’ll know if one’s been taken and come after you. The pools of water glistened and shimmered. 172 . Marin turned to her left. A pungent odor met her nostrils and she frowned as she made her way toward the end of the long row of stalls. Lock the cell when you leave and hang it on the hook just before you reach the stairs. nodded once to the sleepy guard at the entrance. You can get out easily from there.” said Ashwin. It was a beautiful sight. I’d have gone to prison first as well. she was outside once again. “I am so grateful to you. “Goodbye then. and made for the stairs.” said the man. Don’t touch the horses. “And take this key. She turned and walked out of the cell and into the small corridor that connected the cells. standing and picking up his lantern. “Then go up the stairs on your left. “Can’t blame your choice. She hung the key on the small hook near the stairs and then began to climb the stairs. as Ashwin had said she would. She reached the door to the stables.” Marin said with a nod.” she said at last. The sky was alight with stars and they illuminated the ground beneath her feet. “You were set to marry the prince?” Ashwin said with some interest. “It’s a pleasure.” Marin nodded and walked toward the door. Marin emerged. picking it up from the floor.

but I haven’t anything to eat. “Good evening. She turned and took one last look at the castle. She had forgotten how difficult it was to travel on foot. and then the door opened and an ancient woman with a long bent nose stuck her face in the crack. Marin stumbled into a small village. Marin bit her lip and tried not to cry in self-pity. And without food. After another hour of walking. hoping that someone would see her and offer her something to eat.Marin walked out along the path that led to the gates and was surprised that there were no guards to pass. and I…” Her voice trailed off. but no one bothered with her. the woman gave a snort and 173 . Marin was shocked at how quickly she became hungry. walking became almost unbearable. There was a shuffling noise from inside. That was good. That way she wasn’t asking for something for nothing. Marin decided at last that she had to fight back her pride and knock on a door. not sure how to finish. Her feet were very tired too. trying to keep her voice steady. and she was reminded of the march with Simmerman across the Alikan plain. She had no food.” Marin said. It was late evening now. Instead of answering. and the sun was low enough in the sky that her skin no longer objected to the bright rays that warmed it. before squaring her shoulders and disappearing into the night. barely large enough to have twenty houses. and she had only been walking a little less than a day. “Could I do something for you for some food?” Marin asked at last. She walked very slowly through the streets. Surely there was someone here who could help her. She approached the door to the nearest hovel and knocked softly. “I…I’m sorry to bother you.

Marin began to sweat the instant she set foot in the door. not sure what to do next. “Watch the pot. “I need to get more meat for the soup. After about half an hour of stirring. so she said nothing. She simply watched her as she did little things around the house. There was a fire burning in the fireplace that made the room almost unbearably hot. Marin and the old woman sat down next to each other and began to eat in silence.” the woman said. “Thank you. But there was a large pot of something bubbling over the fire that gave off a pungent odor that smelled unmistakably of food.opened the door wider. now and again going around the corner again to get things to throw in the soup. Her pale pink tongue cleaned the end of the spoon. She was very hungry.” Marin said.” Marin nodded and felt the tiny old woman brush past her and disappear around a corner. Marin tried not to remember the dark red meat that had been added to the soup and hoped that all the blood had cooked out. Marin felt slightly sick. Marin took up the long wooden spoon that was floating in the brown mass in the pot and began to stir. the woman was back. In a few minutes there were two bowls of steaming soup on the old wooden table in the center of the room. however. which she plunked into the pot under Marin’s nose. Marin didn’t know what to say to this woman. she waved Marin into the house. Her hands were dripping with blood. In a moment. The room that Marin entered was dark. The soup was done. the woman snatched the spoon from Marin’s hand and brought the scalloped end up to her mouth so she could taste the soup. carrying a handful of horribly red meat. and she wiped them on her apron. and quickly finished the small bowl she had been given. 174 . With one withered hand. she considered a moment and then gave a curt nod.

” the woman croaked. startled.” the woman said. she had grabbed Marin’s arms and twisted them around so she could see them.” the woman said. “No. but was at once tackled by what seemed like the entire population of the village. Marin jumped to her feet. pulled away from her.” said Marin.” “Thought so. shrugged and then filled her bowl again. They could be marked. “Ouch.“There’s more. “I’m from the east. you know. in one moment.” “Marked?” Marin repeated. Men 175 . and then. eying Marin beadily. she heard the woman screaming again that she was marked.” Marin said. Behind her. “Don’t know who they are. Marin tried to fight off the woman. She seized Marin’s hair and pulled it off her neck and then she had pulled Marin’s tunic down so that her shoulder was exposed. looking up from her soup. “I don’t understand why you –” But the woman threw herself and Marin and suddenly began scratching at Marin’s face as though she wanted to rip her eyes out. screaming with all her might. She had taken two spoonfuls when the woman spoke again. You talk strangely. Marin looked at the pot. Near Rivental. The village seemed to suddenly come alive. The woman succeeded in opening the door to her hovel and thrusting Marin outside. like branded?” The old woman gave Marin another sharp look. “You’re marked!” the woman yelled suddenly. but she was tough in spite of her age. “That hurts –” But the woman had no intention of sitting back down. Marin landed in the dust with a thud. “You’re not from ‘round here. a bit disgruntled. I usually don’t let people in my house. “You’ve got a mark!” Marin. “You mean.

and immediately her torso was dropped toward the ground. She felt one of the men that held her pull down her tunic again so that the “S” on her shoulder was exposed to the crowd. pointing at Marin with one long wicked finger. “Take her to the river!” yelled a man near the old woman. and she felt more 176 . Marin could see the skirts of the old woman approaching rapidly. She pulled herself upright again. “She came into my house and stole my soup!” “I didn’t steal anything!” Marin said. “Haven’t had to get rid of one in ages. “There hasn’t been one here in a very long time. There was a general gasp and then an angry murmur that began to break forth. and began to scream. Marin took one look at it. but was unable to free herself. and pushed her head down into the darkness after it. securing the top with string. But her words were drowned out in the clamoring of everyone around her. “She’s marked!” the woman was screaming. and the hands clamped down securely on her chest. “Get rid of her now!” There was a general roar of agreement and someone appeared in just a few moments carrying a large burlap sack. Upside down. Marin screamed and shook as they forced her body into the bag.” a gruff voice above her said. Her ankles were quickly scratched from the rocks that had already been put in the bottom of it. They were going to drown her. and she could feel the motion of the men walking. Marin struggled mightily but was unable to free herself.pulled her arms behind her. She felt herself being lifted and carried again. She bit the hand closest to her. and picked her up off the ground.” Get rid of… Marin struggled again. There were loud yells circulating around her.

“Stop! What are you doing?” It was a very clear voice that spoke. She was going to drown.” 177 . She hated the water. Even through the sack and over the cries of the angry men around her. astonished.” responded the first man. “Nothing!” Marin cried out from the sack.” Marin heard the clear voice over her order the men who had tried to kill her. just as her mother had. “Stop!” Marin felt herself being dropped.” “What harm has she done?” the clear voice demanded. Marin did not stop screaming until they had reached the river.” snarled one of the men above her. gurgling of the river.helpless and frightened than she had ever been. “She will do you no more harm now. She felt as though her heart had stopped. and then she cried out as she hit the ground heavily. “I didn’t do anything!” “She stole soup from Old Woman Cynwise. upon examining her legs. Prince King? Who was this man? Marin felt herself being lifted and then handed into other hands. that she had not broken them. She had fallen on the rocks and was surprised. “We’re mercifully ending her life so she can’t do any more harm to us. “This girl’s marked. and now she was going to die in it. “You can all go home now. a young voice but an authoritative one that lacked the rural accent of the villagers that were trying to drown her. Marin could hear the rushing. it was the one thing she feared above all others. “Surrender the sack. or you will answer to His Highness King Alder!” Marin sat up slowly.

but did not know into whose hands she had fallen. After about half an hour. “Lord Keene. They were planning on drowning her.” “What has she done?” The voice that belonged to Lord Keene was sharp but had the same clear tonality as the man who had saved her. as you know. Lord Keene came into view. evidently. Marin heard that she was being brought into an area with many people. She did not dare to speak. Marin trembled slightly. “In his tent. milord. As King Alder decreed that the inhumane treatment of marked slaves be discontinued. She was grateful for having been rescued from the villagers. Marin moved to get herself into a position where opening the bag would allow her to simply step free of it. and the rocks out at Lord Keene’s feet. and poured Marin. all men.” Lord Keene ordered.” “Open the bag.” “Fetch him for me. thinking that you or the king might decide her fate.” said the man. but the men did not seem to notice which side was up as they untied the string.” There was some small talk that passed between the man with the clear voice and the men around him that stopped suddenly when. from the sounds of it. “Where is Lord Keene?” the clear voice demanded that Marin recognized as having stopped the villagers. I saved her and brought her here. but they will invent the wildest tales about marked people. Marin fell face first on her hands coughed the dust 178 . hoping against hope that they were friendly.” “And she is in that bag?” “Yes. lifted the bag. milord. “I came upon the villagers trying to drown a marked girl. Perhaps she was now in more danger than she had been in Musatei.Marin felt herself being lifted onto the shoulders of a man and then carried for several minutes. “They say that she is a thief.

“This is the girl. He took a step toward her. as his men had called him. then?” Lord Keene said. “Your Highness. King Alder was about the same age as Keene. and he smiled a bit shyly as he looked at her.” Marin said. come up behind him and place a hand on his shoulder. had dark hair and a thin face. “You say that she’s a thief?” “I’m not a thief!” Marin said. “The woman invited me into her home and then threw me out when she saw my mark.out of her lungs. Elian had not managed to save him. but much more richly dressed.” said Lord Keene slowly. Marin was forced to look down to hide her burning cheeks. “Lord Keene!” Marin saw a man with lighter hair than Lord Keene. like most Mykolians. guessing that she was looking at Prince Alder – or King Alder. “Not much to look at. is she?” Lord Keene commented at last. Lord Keene. She was looking at a pair of dark boots and at the hem of a dark robe. He lifted his toe and brought it under Marin’s chin so that it was raised to let him look at Marin’s face. That must mean. “Hello. this is the marked girl that your 179 . His face was a good deal softer than Lord Keene’s however. She brushed the dust from her clothes and brought herself completely upright. but his facial hair made him look severe and the sneer on his face made him look less than friendly.” Marin noticed that several people took an involuntary step backward. perhaps in his thirties. “I see. Lord Keene was not among them.” “Hello. she realized. pushing herself up and standing slowly. “They told me that they’d caught…” His voice trailed off as his eyes fell on Marin. that King Castillo was dead.” At the word “mark.

she has been accused of theft by the villagers. “Someone put it there to make sure that others did not take you away from them or help you should you ever run away. “The mark is a symbol that you belong to someone. and Marin was seized around the arms and pushed toward the tent nearest them. “I see. and then watched as Lord Keene and King Alder sat down regally next to one another.” announced Lord Keene. That was my first experience like that. If a person is 180 .” Lord Keene said. There are strict laws that prohibit interaction between a marked person and others that are not their owners. Lord Keene snapped his fingers. and as she is a marked girl.” “But why?” Marin asked.” “Your Highness. I would suggest that we discuss her fate together and make a decision.” said King Alder. approaching her.” she mumbled. your Highness. “They will do anything to remove you from their presence. “I’m sorry.” Lord Keene said disagreeably. Inside the tent it was dark and cool.” “Yes. Marin liked Lord Keene less and less. “I am sorry that you were treated this way.” “Yes. She sat where the men put her. “You will address King Alder as ‘your Highness’. giving Marin a look with no trace of a smile.” said King Alder. and Marin was simply glad to be out of the bag. King Alder looked at Marin and then gave a small apologetic nod. “You must know that people with marks are quite feared. Marin blushed. King Alder gave Marin a long look and then said.” said Marin slowly.men discovered the villagers trying to drown.” King Alder said. ignoring her apology. “but I don’t understand why. I had no idea that they would try to kill me.

Marin could feel his hot breath on her neck as he looked.” said Marin. “You will be in trouble if you do not say who you are.” “But I’m not a slave. She would be much better off if no one knew who she was.” Lord Keene said sharply. “However I can tell that the mark was recently branded. She did not want to reveal her identity to anyone. “That letter does not mean anything specific to me. grabbed Marin’s neck and forced the tunic down so that he could see the mark.” said King Alder. “But I could get myself into trouble if people learn who I am. Perhaps within a month or two. “We could return you to the bottom of the river if you would prefer its hospitality to our own. “An ‘S’. Lord Keene turned to her and said: “We must see your mark.” Marin protested. At last.” Marin was surprised. dropping Marin’s tunic and returning to his place next to the king. “Simm – Someone marked me.” said Marin.” “Yes. that person could face serious penalties. but I didn’t belong to them. “I…I’m sorry. “Nor to me. got hastily to his feet. That is why people with a mark are avoided at all costs. evidently impatient at her hesitation.” This was evidently not the right thing to say. Marin hesitated again. often death.” King Alder frowned and exchanged a long look with Lord Keene. She wasn’t sure that she wanted these people to see it – might they not respond in the same way that the villagers had? Lord Keene. since she knew that very soon there would be people from Numan on the look-out for her.caught fraternizing with another’s slave.” “How did it happen and who marked you?” Lord Keene asked sharply. “That’s right.” Lord Keene said.” said Lord Keene.” King Alder held up his hand and Lord Keene began 181 .

“Thank you. She was startled to see that he was looking at her very ardently. “I understand that you are afraid. someone marked me.” “I told you. Then he 182 .” Marin smiled at him and for a brief moment. not knowing what else she could say. you must understand –” The king held up his hand again. “Jonathan. “Your Highness.” the king said to one of the men that had brought her in. but she does not look like a thief to me.” said the king.” “Yes. “I would do anything to repay you. “Do not speak to me!” Lord Keene said angrily. “Would you show her to a tent? I believe that there is an extra one on my horse. as though hoping that she would continue to speak. thank you!” said Marin.” Marin said quietly to him.” “We’re heading to Prestani now on return from a short campaign here in Alika.” “I won’t be. King Alder nodded. “Thank you. I’m not a slave.” finished Marin. “but we cannot help you unless we know your story. “I must object! She will not tell us who she is and could simply prove to be a burden to us. your Highness.fuming in silence. “I understand your hesitations.” Marin said again. I think that she has run afoul of the wrong people and could use our help. her heart overflowing with gratitude.” “Your Highness!” said Lord Keene.” said King Alder. I will. I was kidnapped from my house and then was forced to do what that man wanted. If I can help. Jonathan looked down at her and touched his hat lightly. met his eyes. I’ve only just got away. I have to get to Prestani. and he didn’t own me. looking at Lord Keene. “I don’t think it would do any harm to take you along.” Marin assured him.” “Oh.” Marin recognized his voice as belonging to the person that had saved her at the river. “It’s very important.

These men seemed like good men. and Marin was very grateful to have some sort of feeling of security at last. She crawled inside and saw that there were a few blankets that had been provided for her. but perhaps her views of him would change as she got to know him. She yawned and settled down among them. 183 . She didn’t like Lord Keene. and after peeking out of the tent at the stars for a few moments. and King Alder seemed very kind. Marin bowed awkwardly the king as she stood and was shown out of the large tent and to the small tent that had been set up very near for her. laid down her head and fell fast asleep.ducked out of the tent. The night was cool. she was glad to have a safe place to sleep. In any case.

” “If you’d like. slightly embarrassed and being taken off guard. The king was dressed in a very sleek navy blue riding outfit.M arin awoke early the next day to the sounds of men bustling around outside. The sun was just coming up in the east and it was splaying soft rays of sun around the camp.” The king looked at her for a moment without smiling. To her right she could see the king’s tent at some distance. She looked away and wondered what she should do.” “Thank you. “No!” Marin exclaimed involuntarily. Marin blinked and shaded her eyes. and noticed that he had just stepped out of it.” said the king. . Marin watched him talk to the men at his side and then realized that it was rude to stare as she was doing.” said Marin. and looked around her. you can go to the river to wash. She knew those sounds well from the time that she had spent with the Alikan army.” said Marin. “I think I’d prefer that. How far are we from Prestani?” “Just a few days. “Good morning. Then he said gently: “You can wash when we get to Prestani then. “It’s not far from here. with a thick jacket and sturdy books. “Good morning.” the king said. Then she blushed hard and said appologetically: “I’m frightened of rivers.” Marin nodded.” Marin turned and saw that King Alder himself was standing next to her. She crawled out of her tent. Marin ducked low in a quick bow. lighting it as though it were on fire.

“There’s something I need to look at in the library. “You can read then? That’s rather unusual for a Mykolian peasant. actually.” “I don’t know what you should call me. Marin followed him. “Do you speak other languages as well?” 185 . “Why do you need to get to Prestani?” King Alder asked. “I feel very foolish having nothing to call you.“Do you ride?” asked the king suddenly. She blinked. “In Rivental.” “Walk with me.” said Marin. trailing his hands along the tall grass as he walked. The truth was.” said Marin.” said King Alder. That is.” said Marin. but I actually didn’t grow up around here at all.” “Near Rivental?” the king asked. trying to hide her indignation. “No. I would tell you my name if I could.” She stopped suddenly. Marin noticed suddenly that there were bright pink flowers on the tips of the stalks.” King Alder said. a bit surprised. I grew up in the east.” said Marin. But how was that possible? No. “My sister does. Marin noticed a small smile on his lips and it once he had moved past.” said the king. “Really. “What is your name?” the king said. She was surprised that she had given this much information to the king when she had told him that revealing her identity would be dangerous for her. if you’d allow me to use it. as talking about Robin made her remember that her sister was dead. They seemed to have appeared there from nowhere.” “I’m not a Mykolian peasant.” “The library? Certainly. they simply must have been blocked by the king’s body. however. that she somehow trusted him and wished that she could tell him more. surprised. “I know I look like it. “You speak Mykolian so well for being from Rivental. but I’m afraid. beginning to walk by the side of a streamlet.

” Marin looked up.” Marin said nothing. about the rumors surrounding the girl Marin Lindrine.“Yes. “You must have been raised in a great house to have had such an education. “I had thought that something like this might happen.” “Yes. “He was murdered. “The Alikan prince wants to marry her and bring Mykolia under its control. very gently. “If you’re the king. I believe that is why King Castillo was killed. He turned and looked her full in the face.” “A few others?” repeated the king in surprise.” said King Alder. Marin could not meet his eyes. not quite knowing how she could phrase it most delicately. “You’re not surprised?” said the king. she simply continued to walk. “How do you know all this?” King Alder asked. Marin spoke again. Then.” The king looked at her. In fact. “I have only just become aware of the situation.” said Marin. “A few others.” The king stopped for a moment and then. You’ve heard of her? They say that she is alive. began to walk again. They looked at each other for a long 186 .” he said.” she said. and Marin once again was caught in the king’s gaze.” said Marin carefully. Marin swallowed. slowly. There was a silence as the two continued to walk together through the grass.” “I wasn’t raised in a poor village.” assented Marin. swallowed hard again and then met the king’s eyes. Then. King Alder was looking at her intently. then that must mean that King Castillo has died. King Alder touched Marin’s hand. feeling that they were getting a bit too near the truth for comfort. “You must know then. “I swear. Her resurfacing has meant that great things are about to happen. “your secret is safe with me.” Marin swallowed hard. “Yes.

” 187 . people would know who I am – and they would come to get me…” “You are the queen. Marin let out a sigh of relief. his voice still very low.time. “But I need a name that I can call you by at court.” King Alder gave her a long look and then nodded once. wiping her hands on her tunic.” said Marin softly. “The throne belongs to you. don’t you?” “Marin.” King Alder said. “Don’t say a word about this to anyone. looking away. “I hope to find that out after I do a bit of research. At last Marin squeezed her eyes shut and looked away. but the prince of Alika knows me by that name.” Marin whispered back.” “I will call you Ruth.” “I am honored. “I’ve used Adara. “You’re Marin Lindrine.” said Marin softly. If I did that.” said King Alder. A chill shook Marin’s body. they would make me take the throne from you. and Marin suddenly realized that her palms were both very sweaty.” “I don’t know. “You know. “Sorry.” said Marin.” Marin did not say anything. Where will you go once you have found what you need?” “I don’t know. She simply looked back at the king pleadingly. “If your court discovered the truth about who I am. King Alder touched Marin’s hand again.” she continued. “I understand.” said King Alder.” Marin said firmly.” she said. “I only need to use the library. You cannot simply remain nameless. “I see.” breathed King Alder in Marin’s ear. “I don’t know if I should stay at court in Prestani. “It was the name of a dear friend.” “But I must not take it! Not now.

” said a man at Marin’s side. “I know what needs to be known. “We’ve met.“Her name is Ruth. and enjoyed discussing his own with her. extending a large hand.” said Lord Keene lazily. “I’m Lord Leptum. beefier man. Lord Keene particularly was irked at not being informed as to the “marked girl’s” identity. keeping her company during the hours when the camp stopped to rest.” “Lord Josiah. “And this is Lord Keene. his glass half-way to his lips. Lord Keene. “Indeed.” King Alder announced to the small group of people that had gathered in his tent for dinner. and I can tell you that she is no threat to us. Marin took it and had her hand squeezed tightly by the athletic-looking man.” said Lord Keene. continued to be polite to her. They always made sure that they were well out of earshot when these 188 . as though testing out the name on his tongue. indicating the man at his left. He seemed eager to hear about her past. “A familiar name. however.” said King Alder.” he repeated slowly.” Marin was grateful for the king’s protection but also sensed that the other lords felt a bit disgruntled by being denied information that they believed they should have access to. giving Marin a sour look as he poured himself some wine.” “But it is known to you. “Ruth. and threw continuous snide comments in her direction whenever she passed by him.” “As you have guessed.” said King Alder shortly. “it has been decided that Ruth will be best protected if her identity is not known to the court. “She will be going with us to Prestani. What a coincidence. this one with a large moustache and copious beard. He swirled the liquid around in his glass and surveyed Marin with a calculating look that Marin did not like. The king.” said another. your Highness.” he continued.

189 . I’d do anything to get away from him if I ever fell into his hands again. but Marin felt curiously vulnerable whenever they took to discussing her past. last I heard. “Yes.” “Yes. a sad sort of expression on his face. “I’m so glad to be free of him.” said King Alder. “Do you ever feel that there’s something missing?” said King Alder. He was staring up at the stars. that’s right.” she said.” “He was the one who told me who I am. looking over at Marin with a small smile. “What do you mean?” She followed his gaze up into the stars. and then picked a long blade of grass. She cleared her throat and twisted it around her fingers. “Do you know a man named Elian?” Marin asked. “I hate him. If he does. he has long been at court and is one of my close friends. I know him. Prince Esper said Simmerman knows now who I am. motioning toward the “S” on her shoulder. “Yes. he’ll be more dangerous than ever. “Edric Elian?” King Alder repeated. General of the Alikan army. Marin blinked. returning to their previous subject.” said Marin. Alder smiled and looked at Marin.” Marin said.” she said.” Marin gave him a long look. Marin looked at him. It was evening and the stars were just beginning to dot the sky above their heads.” “He was cruel?” “He gave me this. during one of their walks together. “What is it?” Marin asked. He’s still looking for me. The last few years he has been traveling with a man named Simmerman. trying to fathom what he must be talking about.” “I will do my best to protect you from him. “Simmerman was the one that took me to Numan to marry the prince. “Perhaps there’s nothing missing after all.conversations took place. swatting a mosquito buzzing in his ear.

Something big. “What do you want?” “I want to go home. and I think I’m the only one that’s ever figured out how to read it.” Marin reminded him. Marin breathed in the musty smell of his uniform and felt. “I have to find out about this. 190 .” She was speaking very fast now. She cried for several minutes there in the dark. and then looked up at the king who held her. Something bigger than taking the throne of Mykolia. The battle for the throne is often a long and dangerous one. There’s something about it that’s very important.” Marin said. giving her a searching look.” she said quietly. “Yes. I can reason where others can’t. she felt her throat choke up and she started to cry. Marin looked at his hand.” When she said the last words. wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m sorry that your life has been made so terrible. You can get caught up in it so easily. King Alder put one arm around her and then another. her eyes filling with tears that she tried to hide. I don’t want Simmerman to find me.” said King Alder.Alder nodded once and looked away. but…” “What is it?” King Alder asked her. something about it I have to figure out. putting a hand on her shoulder. It’s more important even than me going home. Something that no one has been able to figure out before me. so warm. “I think I’m tied up in something. “You’ve heard how I can decode things?” Marin went on.” said Marin at once. “I don’t want to be queen. and that’s what’s so remarkable. “Well. “Thank you. there on her shoulder.” “I don’t want the throne. I can solve puzzles. I’ve found a manuscript from back during the time of the Foundation of Things. for the first time in a very long time. protected and sheltered. I know it’s important. “There’s something I have to find out.

although she had been walking next to him as they entered the palace. 191 . He must think her such a child – she was always crying.” He took Marin up a flight of stairs and entered a long hall filled with rooms.” said the king when Marin attempted to return the handkerchief. Marin folded it and put it inside her shirt. It smelled nice. holding it against her chest.The king pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to her. Marin pulled out the handkerchief and pressed it to her face. Once in her tent.” Lord Keene said in his customary sharp voice. “You will not bother the king now. “Thank you. and then. but could not because of the number of people milling around the king. and pulled away from the group. was quickly separated from him. like spiced cider. and then the king spoke. she was seized by the arm by Lord Keene. within three days. fell into a deep sleep.” Marin nodded once and followed the king back to the camp. Marin tried to make her way toward him.” he said simply. along with the manuscript. “It’s time to get back. He flung open a door and ushered Marin inside. They reached Prestani. They both stood there looking at the starry sky. “Keep it. Instead. “He will have much business to attend to now that he is back in Prestani. breaking the silence. The sun was high in the sky when Marin was introduced through the gates of Prestani Palace and into a large reception hall. Immediately servants sprang to the king’s side. wiping her eyes. She took a deep breath. and Marin. “It’s late.” Marin mumbled again. as the king had said they would.

turning from the room to the noble. He had a large mole near his bottom lip.” Marin said.” Lord Keene cut her off. Marin scowled and flopped down on the bed. “Thank you. preened. there was a light tap on the door and a dark-headed young man entered the room. “Lord Keene. or I may just let it slip that you are marked. dried and dressed in a simple red floorlength dress. She was slightly disappointed in its humble appearance. There was a bed covered in a blue satin coverlet. but a comfortable one. soaps and other bath supplies. “Until then. a small wardrobe and a stunning view from the window. “King Alder said that I might use the library while I’m here. “Lady Ruth. he slammed the door behind him.” Marin jumped to her feet. She was tired and dirty. After waiting in silence for half an hour. Don’t wander out into the halls. She let them comb her hair and tie it back behind her. She thanked the women profusely and sighed with content as she was led to the library. but wasted no 192 . you will stay here. his Highness has asked that I show you were the bathing facilities are located and where the library is. a smile sweeping back over her face. She followed the servant from the room to a large white tiled room filled with fluffy robes. hair ointments.” she said.” With that. Do you think that you could –” “You will be summoned when you are wanted. How long it had been since she had felt properly clean! The library was very small compared to the vast trove the library at Musatei had been. She was immediately seized upon by six plump women in their fifties and washed.It was a very small room. and had hoped that someone would show her immediately to the library where she hoped to find out what was written on the manuscript she had carried from Numan.

” Marin said. “In that case. “My name is Mar – uh. Apparently only one copy exists. hesitantly. “I could go 193 . “Yes. Once outside. “It’s a rather special book for him. a tall man in a blue tunic swept down upon her from an unseen corner. She gave an exasperated sigh and left the library.” Marin nodded. I was going to see if I could find King Alder…maybe he would know where it was. “There was a book that I wanted from the library.” “The king has it?” Marin repeated. and I must have it for…for some research I am doing. although she was not quite sure what he meant. holding out her hand.” “King Alder would not know the contents of the library as well as the librarian!” the man exclaimed. “But I couldn’t find it. He had a twitchy sort of moustache that trembled as he spoke. Dolph Albrickt at your service!” Marin nodded. “At your service. Ruth. The book is in his possession. “How can I help you?” the man asked. Marin paused and then said: “Are you the librarian?” The man puffed out his chest rather pompously. she was unable to locate the book that she so desperately wanted to find.” said Marin. “Ruth.” Albrickt suggested. Although she searched the dusty shelves up and down. “If you would like. surprised.” said the librarian.time pulling the manuscript from its customary hiding place under her clothes and beginning to search the shelves for the Moonbook that would help her decode the manuscript. my lady.” He gave a low bow.” “The Moonbook?” the librarian repeated. you’d better find the king after all. He put a hand to his chin. “Nice to meet you. I’m looking for a book called the Moonbook.

thinking. Her eyes seemed to eat the 194 . steering Marin toward a chair and laying the thing on the desk in front of them. It was written at –” “The Foundation of Things. “I’ll do that. returned holding something wrapped in a white linen cloth. The answers to the manuscript were here. Marin stood there a moment. “This is the Moonbook. clearly out of breath. She had waited only a few minutes when Albrickt. The book seemed to be in amazing shape for its age. and then reentered the library. Don’t hesitate to ask should you need anything!” “Thank you. then. however. she could feel a strange sort of excitement dancing in the ends of her fingers. but there were no images in the book at all. “I’m working on a project in the next room. held together by some loose stitching along one edge. Only the tiny writing covered the fronts and backs of the vellum.” said Marin. The writing was small and neat. Marin read easily and quickly the ancient pages that lay before her on the desk. First. “Here it is. her eyes glued to the white cloth.” “I’ll leave it to you. Soon she would be able to read it.” The moment Marin was left alone she eagerly pulled the cloth away to reveal an old brown collection of manuscripts.” Albrickt said with a smile.” Marin finished.” said Albrickt. It seemed as though very few had touched its pages since it had been written. “I know. Albrickt turned on his heel and left Marin alone.” Before Marin even had time to respond. It’s very old. Probably the oldest piece of writing we have. As she touched the pages. Marin was interested to see if the Moonbook would tell her what a moon was and why it was so difficult for people to understand.find the book and bring it to you. Just wait here in the library.

195 .words that were before her. almost as though they were a part of her – a part of her that she had forgotten existed.

the Moonbook assured her. And even now. She read how the sun was made by King Arnaldir.Marin read on and on. having children that would become the inhabitants of the world. when the kings and queens that had made the earth had died. and the dazzling light that it brought to the sky and the earth and was amazed. The book told about the kings and queens and how almost all of them ended up marrying each other and living long happy lives. their bodies not being able to be held by it. still watching everything that happened. Marin thought it was all a fascinating story. how the animals came to be and how the birds came to have their wings. although 196 . they left the world that they had created. reading hungrily these legends about the world. It even told how. still with the world. had risen to the sky and there found their place as the stars. they were there. The Moonbook told about everything – how the waterfalls were made.

she felt somehow enlightened after running her eyes over the entire book. although she couldn’t really understand what it was this king was waiting for. To her surprise. She also was disappointed that the author of the book had not identified himself. It was a beautiful poem.she wasn’t sure that she believed it. there was no mention of the moon. All the same. as though they meant something for her alone. She read them over and over in her mind. until she had made it a good ways into the poem. 197 . even if she could not ascertain the validity of it. Marin liked the last bit.

war would break out among the war-obsessed inhabitants.” “The carvings are amazing. she was feeling a bit tired of reading. and she wondered how the stone carvers could have gotten high enough to create the amazing patterns on the ceiling. that the world would be left dark and cold. following 198 . Still taut with interest. “I didn’t see you. leaving the Moonbook in the care of the overly-helpful Dolph Albrickt. honor and bravery. She was eager to decode it. Clearly. but at the moment. that the stars would blink out of existence. unable to be saved even by the valiant efforts of the few who still understood about love. “How are you doing? Were you shown the library?” Marin looked down and saw that King Alder was standing before her. an amused expression on his face. she left the library.” Marin mumbled. She gazed up at the ceiling after lifting her eyes from the pages and thought about what she had seen there.” the king said. After stowing away the manuscript in her dress. Marin frowned and looked down at the manuscript. Marin shook her head. but also of how it one day would end. The palace was luxurious.She could understand why the librarian back at Musatei had said that the Moonbook concerned the royal line. then this Tree King would be hundreds of years old by now. The rock was cold when she brushed up against it. a queen was supposed to come who would set this Tree King free. certainly too old to wish to marry anyone. Marin finished the book. she looked around her and tried to take in the superb craftsmanship of the stone around her. “Sorry. Not only did it speak of how the world had begun. On her way back to her room. and that in the final hours of its existence. but there was a certain hollow feeling to the building that probably came from the fact that the walls in much of the palace were solid stone. If what the book said was true. She couldn’t imagine that the world could really end.

” said the king with a small laugh.” Marin answered.” “Yes. a bit surprised. “You read that name in the Moonbook.” said the king suddenly. The green of it all startled her. Marin blinked in the warm sunlight of the afternoon as she entered the expansive gardens of the palace.” said Marin in amazement. Marin marveled at them as the king threw them open for her. 199 . following the king down the hallway.” “Wow. “It’s beautiful. The panes had been carved with beautiful images of trees and plants. The king led Marin through several beautifully carved corridors and then at last came to a large door ornate with crystal panes. “You must have wonderful gardeners. didn’t you?” he said without hesitation. “I know it practically by heart. “but I have had a long time to familiarize myself with its words.” Marin gave a start. Marin followed him. For some reason the plants here seemed more alive than any others she had seen. King Alder noticed her start. “Have you read the book?” “Of course.” said Marin. “Do you like it?” the king asked. “What did you think of the Moonbook?” King Alder asked rather suddenly.” “Of course. A long pause fell between them. looking out himself at the vast display of leaf and flower.” The king only smiled and began to walk along the paths. “I was wondering if you might like to join me. his cheeks noticeably redder than they had been a moment before.” Marin nodded. impressed. “Some say that they were done by King Eldin back at the Foundation of Things. “I was just heading off toward the gardens. “It’s very long.her glance upward. your Highness.” agreed the king.” said Marin. “Yes.

” “The Moonbook said something about a queen coming.” “Do you know what a moon is.” said the king contritely.” 200 . suddenly insistent.” said Marin. looking away.” Marin said. “Do you know what a moon is?” “No. And that’s impossible. “I think it’s a beautiful story…” “The Moonbook was written by someone who was there – someone who saw it all. “Of course.” Marin said. “Do you?” “Not exactly.” the king explained.” said the king. “There were parts that didn’t really make sense. “It was…like nothing I’ve ever read before. but it wasn’t very well explained at all.” said the king in some surprise. She had no desire for anyone to overhear them and get her into trouble.Marin looked up at the king’s face which was framed in a golden halo of light. “Don’t you?” “I don’t know. that person would still be alive. “And according to the book. “That’s right.” “So you believe in it. “but they say that it is one of the most beautiful things a man can behold. “It was difficult to understand. Marin?” “Ruth.” said the king. No one knows how or when this will happen.” said Marin skeptically. not quite knowing how to answer. however. “What does that mean?” asked the king in some amusement. “Of course.” Marin admitted.” Marin said.” Marin said carefully. giving once again that evasive answer that had become the norm for that question. “Yes. and then there was the mention of the moon that really interested me.” “Yes.” said Marin. “It said that she would bring the moon. not wanting to be disrespectful.

Marin looked at a tall-stemmed flower and touched its pink petals.” “I’d never heard of it before now. that’s how we got the stars. it doesn’t make much sense even in the context of the book. a story for people who are easily deceived. It said that the kings and queens who made the earth died. but his work was not done. “Yes.” Marin said skeptically. slightly exasperated.” Marin made a noise of derision in her throat.” The king pursed his lips. Then she looked back up at the king. “I mean. “You know a lot about this. The king began to laugh.” she said. “And I can assure you that there are very few in the learned community who do not believe it.“Is it?” said the king. “I suppose you’re right.” said Marin.” “But he couldn’t.” “How can you know?” Marin said.” the king said quietly. You’ll have to 201 . a myth. “He had not yet finished what he had come to do. The Moonbook really tells how things came to be. but it was always treated as a legend.” “And you believe it?” Marin said again.” he said.” said the king. “Yes.” Marin said.” “He made the trees. Marin. This Tree King should have died too. her brow furrowed in frustration. “I know a lot. giving Marin a piercing look that she did not particularly like. still suspicious. I didn’t think it could ever really be true – that there was a beginning to things and that…one day things will end. “Of course. growing up. “Is that so important?” “It was for him. I know very few things for certain. The king looked at her and smiled. “Besides.” said King Alder. I’d heard mention of it. Something still rested for him to do. “I told you that I did. There is no way for me to convince you. “It is true. but I can tell you that this is one of them.

” King Alder said. She thought wildly for a moment and then said: “Thank you for telling me. taking her shoulders.” said King Alder. and she looked away.” Marin’s head snapped up.” He touched her shoulder.” “How can I do that?” Marin asked. “I feel to warn you that you must not try to set out alone to rescue her. breathing hard. I promise you. and at first. “You thought that she was dead?” She felt suddenly as though she’d been struck. “Your sister has been found.” Marin said quietly. As soon as can be arranged.” King Alder said somberly. efforts will be made to rescue your sister. because I have something important to tell you.” Marin nodded after a few tense seconds had gone by. looking at Marin in concern. He sent me word that Simmerman had found your sister. “Marin.” Marin’s eyes widened. “Lord Simmerman?” she repeated. “She’s not dead!” “She’s alive. believed her to be you. “But I can’t just do nothing –” “No. “It would be too dangerous for you in many ways. All elation that Marin felt quickly deflated. With Elian in place . I brought you here.” “That wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. “Where is she?” she asked at last. “What is it?” King Alder took a step nearer and touched her hand. “How did you discover this?” “She’s been discovered by Lord Simmerman.” said King Alder.” 202 .” “Marin. “Life has a way of teaching what is true and what is false. “I understand that. “No – he’ll know who she is – what will he do to her?” “Edric Elian has returned to his position at Little Springs. a little disgruntled.” said the king.” This answer was not very satisfactory to Marin. “One day you’ll know.learn of its truth for yourself.

her cheeks beginning to moisten with tears. Marin swallowed hard. “I hope you can stay here too. and then.” said Marin. Marin felt very warm. She could feel her heart pounding strangely inside her chest like she wanted something to happen. She had never felt so wonderful in her entire life. he reached up with his thumb and wiped away Marin’s tears. she bowed her head and kissed the king’s hand. changing the subject abruptly. taking the flower.” said the king. but wasn’t sure what. as though liquid warmth were spreading from her mouth down to her toes. The king reached out and touched Marin’s hand. When the king pulled away.” said Marin. And then. Marin swallowed. “I love it. He handed it to Marin without a word. for the first time in a long time. he leaned forward and before Marin quite realized what was happening. 203 . “I feel safe.” The king smiled and touched her cheek. and smiled. brightening. Marin saw that there was something in his hand. “Thank you. Then.Marin nodded and looked down. It was a perfect rose. Marin felt as though she had just touched something warm and comfortable. he began to smile broadly. “How do you like Prestani Palace?” the king asked. all at once.” she said. he was kissing her. Very gently. “Thank you for bringing me here. not really knowing what she was doing. “You’re wel –” The king stopped suddenly and looked hard into Marin’s face. I hope I can stay here always. She wanted the moment to last forever.” The king looked at her and once again met Marin’s eyes. He was still looking at her. as though noticing it for the first time. “Very much. The king looked down at it.

Very happy.” said the king.” He sobered for a moment and then reached up and touched Marin’s face again.” Marin nodded. he dropped it and smiled again. “Nothing. He laughed. After a moment. “I’m just very happy. and yet hungrier than she could ever remember feeling. although he looked elated. caught up in the sweetest emotion of her life. curious about his reaction. She kissed his fingers again and the king let his hand be caressed. feeling fuller than she had ever felt before. leaned forward and kissed the king again. and I would be most honored if you would accompany me to the dining hall.“What is it?” Marin asked. 204 . “It’s dinner time. Marin.

She had at last sequestered herself in the library and told herself that she wouldn’t come out until she had unlocked the secret that the manuscript held. All she could think about was the next time that she would be able to see the king again. “Still looking into the Moonbook?” “Yes. should anyone happen to be listening in on what she was saying. I’ve wanted to translate it for a long time.” Marin said. “What do you have there?” “This is the manuscript that I found when I was in Musatei. She was still intrigued by the picture of the girl with what was supposed to be a moon. The light from the windows fell across his face in yellow stripes. Marin huddled over a candle and squinted at the Moonbook and the page of the manuscript in the flickering light. or feel his fingers on her face… Marin pulled herself from her daydream and pulled out the manuscript once more. “What are you doing?” he asked. What might a moon really look like? Or did it even really exist? Marin turned at a sudden noise.” Marin explained in a low voice. Alder stood in the doorway. “But remember how I said I needed to come here?” “Yes. pulling up a chair beside her.t was difficult to concentrate on anything except the king anymore – or Alder. and how it would feel when she could touch his hand again. “I don’t know why. coming up behind her. smiling. but I felt sort of drawn to it.” said Alder.” I . The light in the library was dim. as he had asked her to call him – even though she knew that she was very close to decoding the manuscript she had brought from Musatei.

” Alder waited while she slipped the manuscript into the Moonbook and then took Marin’s arm and led her from the library. All it will take is a few hours. pulling a smile onto his own face. What did he know? Before Marin could question him further.” said Marin. Can you?” “Of course. “I’m sorry to interrupt you like this. “I just think that you’ll find the contents very interesting. a smile on her face. You should find out what’s in it. “But…if you found the Moonbook interesting. He nodded and set it down. Alder took her hand. Once out in the garden. There was an almost sad look in the king’s eyes. “I think that should be very interesting.” Marin gave him a long look. “I have all the tools right here.” Marin turned and looked at Alder.” The king nodded. if only slightly. “I think you should translate it. He seemed much more 206 .” said the king.” he said regretfully. “But there was something that I came to tell you.” “What is it?” Marin asked in concern. “No. thinking in excitement of the kisses they had shared there the last time. “I’d rather discuss it out in the garden. it was clear that Alder was more at ease.The king took a long look at the folded piece of parchment Marin had been safely guarding. Marin nodded.” “Have you read it before?” Marin asked. his look had been a bit too innocent. if you don’t mind. and I’ll know what this is all about.” Alder said quietly.” said Alder innocently. his face expressionless. then I’m sure a manuscript based upon it won’t disappoint. surprised. “What do you mean?” “Nothing. “I can work on this later.

her voice turning cold. “It’s because of the mark. They don’t trust me. After a time. “They are worried about what might happen because we have taken you into our protection.” But.” Alder looked at her and then touched her shoulder.” the king hissed.” Marin said. “They are worried. she looked up. “Who is behind this? Keene?” “Marin. Love you. “There is nothing I want more in this world than to protect you. looking very pained. “What is it?” Marin asked. but couldn’t think how his liking her could make him worried. she didn’t.” Alder admitted.” The king closed his eyes for a moment. once she was sure they were out of earshot of anyone. “I think that I have made it clear that I like you very much. “They don’t want me to get close to you. of course. “Marin.” Alder began.” Alder said. But –” “But there’s nothing you can do against men like Keene. prepared for the worst. taking her hands and 207 . haven’t they?” Marin said quietly.” Marin looked down. “I understand. thinking. isn’t it? They don’t want someone who is marked getting involved with you. “What are they worried about?” Marin asked.comfortable when he was out away from his servants than when he had to be inside the palace walls. Unless… “People have noticed. brushing his hair from his eyes with his other hand. actually. She did know that he liked her. “There has been a demand that there be a council held to decide…” “…whether I stay at the palace. hesitatingly.” Marin was surprised at this statement.” Marin finished bluntly. “What did you have to tell me?” “Marin.

ignoring the fact that he had begun to talk to her.” Marin looked down.looking into her eyes. Lord Keene had suggested it as a precautionary measure. “I understand. “When does the trial start?” Marin asked. There was nothing.” She heard herself say the words and forced herself to smile back into the king’s eyes. her mouth suddenly dry. “It starts tonight.” she said again. that I could have done to stop it. The king licked his lips and looked down. it almost killed me when they suggested this.” Marin said. What was going to happen to her? Marin was glad. The entire Council of Lords decided that this council had to be held. however. “The thought that they might take you away from me…well. They wanted to get rid of her.” he said. And if they succeeded. Her mind. Marin nodded. trying to blink back tears.” the king said. She felt nonetheless like a criminal under the 208 . politically. and I would have been foolish to have tried other means. and believe me – I want to help you –” “It’s okay. She shook her head. “No. touching his hand. not to have her hands tied. at least. You trusted me to help you. and therefore would not need to be restrained. But there is nothing I can do. had left the garden and was traveling back to Keene and the other advisors to the king.” said the king. but King Alder pointed out that the fact that she had submitted willingly to the trial indicated that she was cooperative. pulling her back to the garden with him. “I really do understand. “you don’t. And I wouldn’t either if it were me. where would she go? “Marin. She felt as if the ground were slipping out from under her feet.

When the lords had all filed into the room. “So that this trial may go forth in an orderly manner. Marin was brought to the far side of the room and set in the chair at the very end of the table. and although she had not felt warmly toward her when he had broken the news of the trial.” King Alder began. The key. hearing the name that was not hers. There was some shifting of positions in their chairs by the lords.scrutinizing eyes of the men that would judge her for a crime that she could not help – being marked with a brand on her left shoulder. He nodded to all the lords and to Marin and then sat down at the chair at the other end of the table. The room into which she was brought that evening was a smaller room than what Marin had expected and relatively bare. “We are here to decide the fate of the girl Ruth. She had been in the presence of the king so much that she had not grown accustomed to hearing her alias. as usual. Marin swallowed hard and tried not think once more about what could happen to her should the trial go badly. was to prove that she was not a threat. across the table from Marin. He was. finely dressed. “You all know why we are brought here today. and he wore a thin gold band around his head as a token of his position. She watched as many well-dressed lords entered the room. the very sight of him filled Marin with hope. All of them wore very serious expressions on their faces and none of them looked at Marin properly as they entered the room. casting a glance over some papers before lifting his eyes to those present. King Alder himself entered. Lord Keene has appointed himself head of the arguments 209 . one by one. she told herself. There was a single table inside with highbacked chairs running down both sides.” Marin started.

He would not be the judge. this court will reach a decision based on the recommendations of the prosecution and the defense. “Have you anyone to defend you or do you wish to defend yourself?” Marin was surprised.” King Alder said shortly. “This court can then be opened. reading a few lines on a sheet of parchment he held before him. “I will defend her. Then the prosecution will have another opportunity and the defense will conclude the arguments.” said Lord Leptum. After all arguments have been presented. Lord Leptum got to his feet and stroked his moustache and beard.” Marin’s heart sank.” Lord Leptum sank down into his chair and put on a 210 .” This response caused a light ripple of laughter to wash over the council. Lord Leptum has been appointed judge of these proceedings and Lord Josiah will act as recorder.” Marin looked up in surprise and saw that it was King Alder who had spoken. I’m quite sure.” He turned and looked at Marin. “We shall now proceed as follows. “Now at least. It seems quite fair to me. Marin blushed happily and wished that she could tell Alder right then and there how much his gesture meant to her. Lord Keene. The prosecution will make his arguments after which the defense will have opportunity to question the accused. but at Lord Keene. Each of the most cunning men at court will be on a side. the sides will be intellectually balanced. who looked very self-satisfied. looking not at Marin. “Very well. “Your Highness!” Lord Keene exclaimed. “Are you sure that you wish to lower yourself to defending this common slave –” “Yes.of the prosecution of Ruth. silencing Lord Keene. “I…I didn’t know I was supposed to find someone to defend me…” “You have no one appointed?” Lord Leptum said.

“Ruth. We could be seen as attempting to keep her from her owner. “there was a similar instance 74 years ago in which a slave was taken from his owner and forced to work in the home of a great lord. and more likely than not.” 211 . “First. “This girl. but as you all can attest. exposed the mark and turned to the court so that they could see it. he was killed and his wife and children branded into slavery to pay his debt.” “The prosecution will provide proof of this fact.pair of spectacles.” Marin heard Lord Leptum say to Marin. Marin got tremblingly to her feet. “You may be seated. As the lord had not the sum to pay. pointing a long accusing finger in Marin’s direction. Lord Keene rose gracefully to his feet and fixed Marin with a disdainful look before he spoke.” Lord Keene said to Marin.” Lord Leptum said. her owner will be currently looking for her. The lord was later condemned by a local court and forced to pay 560 altans to the owner of the slave in retribution. I must present the incontestable fact that the girl is marked.” Lord Keene said.” “It is an “S”. “We do not know to whom she belongs. the mark was recently made.” Lord Keene said as Marin took her seat. “In fact. I ask you to hear my arguments in prosecution of the girl who is known as Ruth. looking over the top of his spectacles. rise and show the court your mark. which would put the reputation of the Mykolian court in serious jeopardy. “Thank you. then. There were some soft remarks that were exchanged among the nobles and the soft scratching of Lord Josiah’s pen. “My fellow members of the court.” Lord Keene continued. pulling a large book from the table in front of him and opening it to a marked page in the center. “is a danger to our court.

“I want you to explain what you have been doing since you arrived in Prestani.” Lord Keene turned to Marin and fixed her with his dark eyes.” Marin’s heart beat angrily inside her chest. Marin swallowed hard. surprised.” “Yes. “What I’ve been doing?” “Yes. looking at Marin once more.” Lord Leptum said. “You may proceed. “Ruth. “You will have your chance to speak. Lord Keene.” Lord Keene said in a steely voice. “Very well. “sheltering a marked girl that clearly belongs to someone else is an act the royal court cannot afford to commit.” Lord Keene said. “Tell us what you do during 212 . listing numerous instances where great misfortune or ruling on the part of a court had punished the one who had taken or sheltered the slave of another.” Marin said.” Lord Keene said.” said Lord Leptum. 50 years ago. “And so you see. thinking that she had no choice. in the city of Palin…” Keene’s voice droned on and on. “Silence. do you swear to answer all questions posed to you in a truthful manner?” Marin swallowed. She couldn’t understand how one man’s sense of mercy could be so underdeveloped. Lord Keene.” “But you don’t understand –” Marin burst out.Marin’s eyebrows lowered in worry and she looked away.” said Lord Keene. “Say. if you would continue.” Lord Leptum said. Lord Keene had no idea what he was consigning her to. she nodded. Then. ‘yes’. “Granted. “I wish to question the accused.” Lord Leptum said. “Similarly. fixing Marin with a stern look. “It must be in the record.

“Look at me. “This doesn’t have anything to do with –” Marin burst out in protest.the day.” said Lord Keene. Lord Keene. Marin gave King Alder a searching look. His eyes were blank. “I…I have spent time in the library. not at the king. “Yes.” “I have been reading.” Lord Keene said sharply. “Milord.” Marin answered truthfully. “Answer the question. “No. “I…I have spent some time in the gardens. Where was he going with this? “What have you been doing in the library?” Lord Keene asked.” Marin said timidly.” King Alder said at the same time. “And you wanted to use the library at the palace simply to catch up on the latest fiction?” Lord Keene said rather scathingly.” Lord Keene ordered. and I very much enjoy sitting in the shade watching the birds in the aviary.” Marin said truthfully.” “I only wish. “Continue. after a short silence.” she said.” Marin said. is it not?” Lord Keene questioned. “I too do not see the relevancy of your questioning.” Marin said simply. and I could only do it here.” “And did you translate it?” Lord Keene asked.” “Why do you wish to translate this manuscript?” Lord Keene asked pointedly. “And this was the reason you wanted to come to Prestani in the first place. Lord Leptum frowned. Marin looked down. “I was just going to when I got word of this trial. “to give you a picture of what this girl has been spending her time doing 213 . “I wanted to translate a manuscript.” Marin thought. the issue at hand is not what Ruth has been doing in the library. “Not yet.

he looked back at Marin and said.” Marin said in a voice that was barely audible.” Lord Leptum said. and Lord Keene was giving her a sharp shrewd look that expressed his confidence that Marin would have to answer. I do not see the purpose of this question –” “You will if she answers it.” Lord Keene reminded her with a grim smile. she would have done it. “Are you in love with King Alder?” There was a sudden outburst at the table at this question. “Please take your questioning in a different direction. “Very well. “How many hours do you spend with the king each day?” Lord Keene pressed.since she came to the palace. his eyes glinting. There were more violent whispers that swept around the room. 214 . Marin wanted suddenly to be anywhere but here. “You swore to tell the truth.” Marin swallowed hard. If she thought that she could have made a break for the door and succeeded in getting away.” “We understand that she has philological interests. Ruth.” Lord Keene scowled and looked down at his papers. “Silence!” Lord Leptum shouted. “I want you to answer me honestly. this question is undoubtedly indiscreet. King Alder was objecting loudly from the end of the table. Lord Leptum turned to Marin and took off his glasses. “Lord Keene. Others were shouting that the questioning continue. At last. “Uh…” “Your Highness. and the room eventually regained a state of calm. an objection that many of the other lords were voicing as well.” Lord Leptum said to the king.” Lord Keene snarled. “Yes.” Marin swallowed. Answer the question.

” Marin felt all eyes on her.” Marin said.” Lord Leptum said.” the king said in his customary low voice.King Alder waved his hand. King Alder. 215 .” King Alder got slowly to his feet and looked at Marin before turning to the court. “Every day?” “Yes. “I…I don’t know. truthfully. Ruth. We cannot. dismiss the possibility that she is a spy. “that this girl is attempting to infiltrate the very workings of this court! We have.” she said at last. “More than two?” Lord Keene said. up until now. Let it be asked.” With that.” answered Marin. How could he propose such preposterous ideas? “This girl is a danger to the court from every angle. however. he gave Lord Leptum a nod and sat down. There was another outbreak of murmuring.” Marin got slowly to her feet. “We must make every effort to remove her. not sure what the king was going to say.” said Lord Keene. “But I would like you to see another side of this story. “That ends the first turn of the prosecution. but knew that she would be silenced. “The floor will now be given to the defense. “You see. “There have been serious accusations made. only considered the possibility that she is hiding from an owner. “Yes.” Lord Keene said. please stand. “It is a valid question. working to worm her way into the court and learn the delicate workings of the very privileged and secret matters that concern the government of Mykolia!” Marin wanted to cry out again. “And there have been many reasonable arguments brought forward against the proposition that the court harbor Ruth.

In the southwest. as Lord Keene has pointed out. Although they may be made to work hard and the penalties. not of cruelty.” “Granted. Marin obediently turned and displayed the mark that marred her shoulder. This is a large brand from the southwest. He used me to do things to further his own reputation. “This is not a common Mykolian brand. there are laws that keep the Mykolian slave from being unduly harmed. the rules governing slaves are very different than here in Mykolia.” said Lord Leptum. I would like to question the accused. “This girl is clearly in terrible danger and could risk her life should she be returned to her owner. are severe for those that meddle in the slave-owner relationship. and I have brought documented cases.” King Alder said. Thank you. but never cared about what he did to me.“I want you to show us that mark again. “In the south this is not the case.” said Lord Alder. “He is cruel. Marin noticed that her palms were sweaty and rubbed them on the skirt of her dress. and even killed. starved. “He never cared about me.” she said. “Note the size of the mark.” Marin took a deep breath.” “Sending her back to the man who marked her could 216 .” (here the king laid his hand on a large book similar to the one from which Lord Keene had read) “when slaves have been tortured.” Marin sat while King Alder continued to speak. I have known several instances. There are no laws keeping an owner from doing whatever he likes to his slave. Ruth. “Describe the character of the man who put that mark on you. you may sit. “Here in Mykolia there are certain rules governing the treatment of slaves. This court has always been a dealer of mercy.

” said Marin. He held it there for a long time. “Yes.” said King Alder. “I want you to examine it. into your flesh. feeling slightly disgusted as she looked at the metal brand.” “How was it done?” King Alder asked. “It feels like fire. it’s itchy and you can’t scratch it or you’ll tear off the skin that’s trying to heal and it will bleed.” “Your owner did it himself? He didn’t have any of his servants do it for him?” “No. “Ruth. burning hot.” The nobles around the table shook their heads and 217 .” she said.” He reached down and picked up a metal brand from the desk that looked very much like the one that Simmerman had used to put the “S” on her back.” “Pass this around. not yet knowing what it was. was a similar instrument used to mark your back?” King Alder asked. addressing the court. Marin shook her head and tried to focus on what the king had asked her. her hands trembling as she thought of the day Simmerman had pressed the hot metal into her back. He did it himself. She could remember coming into the cave and seeing a similar brand in the fire. Ruth. “But it was a little larger than that. will you describe for us what that feels like?” Marin. “He had two men hold me down and then he pushed the metal into my back.” King Alder took another deep breath and then said: “I suppose many of you do not know much about how the mark is put on people. She recalled the smell and felt a rush of nausea overcome her.very well result in the end of her life.” King Alder said. Imagine that being pressed. nodded. “He would punish her severely for having attempted to leave him. “It’s a burning that doesn’t go away for days and days. Marin shivered. And once it’s stopped burning.

muttered darkly under their breath. However.” Lord Keene began acidly. “I believe that I have thus far presented enough arguments to dissuade any reasonable man from providing custody to this runaway. It was clear that there were no tears of pity falling from the lord’s eyes as he fixed Marin with another sour look. yes. “I’m sure that we are all touched by the account of how the burn was inflicted. but because she refuses to disclose her identity to anyone. she is only a runaway who is afraid of recapture by an owner which may or may not be the sort of cruel man the king describes. The fact that she is 218 . but how is it different from the branding of any other marked person? In my mind. not because this is her name. or we can be gentle and kind and protect Ruth from the sort of man who simply enjoys hurting others. and he looked discomfited enough that he was unable to speak as he motioned to Lord Keene that it was once again his turn to speak. this does not address the fact that the Mykolian court cannot afford to harbor a girl that lawfully belongs to someone else and who is clearly evading her owner. Marin waited. “This girl is referred to as ‘Ruth’. We know very little about her history. uncomfortable. The account of her branding seems cruel. “however. I would like to bring one last point to the forefront of your minds.” Lord Keene frowned and thought a moment. Whatever he was taking time to think out in his mind could not be good for her.” King Alder gave a nod to Lord Leptum and then sat down. “We can turn Ruth back over to the man who would be cruel enough to want to hear himself the screams of a girl as she is burned. Lord Leptum looked a bit shaken by the way that the king had decided to conclude his argument.

“Tell me your name.” Marin said. “Forgive me.hesitant to reveal her identity does not seem like the mark of someone who should be trusted. She is attempting to conceal who she is and may be concealing other things as well. “These lords will not look kindly on the fact that you are withholding information from them.” King Alder interrupted. she knew that he too was at a loss for what she should do. however.” “Milord.” The court turned their eyes on Marin. She looked up at Lord Keene. she knew. “No? You disagree?” Lord Keene said. his dark eyes drilling into her frightened ones. She sank down in her chair as Lord Keene came ever closer. “I could ask you before this court – and you have sworn to tell the truth – to tell us who you are.” Lord Keene said softly. your Highness. approaching Marin. “I cannot answer.” Marin looked across the room and met King Alder’s eyes.” Lord Leptum said firmly.” Marin swallowed hard. How could she answer? She had already explained that she could not tell them who she was… “Who are you?” Lord Keene snapped. her throat beginning to close off. had removed his glasses again and was looking curiously at Marin. The moment she looked at him. but I believe that the question is valid. “I want your real name!” “Answer him. We know nothing about her. Secrecy shows an unwillingness to cooperate and is not the mark of an innocent person. Secrecy was not the 219 . since she knew that she could not speak. his latest words rushing around in her head. It was true what he said. “I would be in such danger –” “You are getting yourself into worse danger by refusing to answer the question. Lord Leptum. Ruth has already made it clear that she cannot reveal her identity.” Marin shook her head violently.

“If one word of this slips to anyone outside this room. “it will go down in the record. looking down as her name crossed her lips. and made up her mind.” Lord Keene seemed to have been shocked into silence. there will be severe penalties. “Marin.” “The proceedings of this court are strictly confidential. “My name is Marin Lindrine. “I didn’t want to tell you. if he only knew how important it was that she stay hidden… “If you don’t. I have already conveyed the cruel way in which it was put on me. Marin took the opportunity to speak unrestrained.mark of an innocent person. I will tell you about it.” If they thought she was a thief. 220 . once some degree of calm had returned to the room. As it did not seem likely that he would begin speaking again in the next few minutes. who she had admitted to loving? She took a deep breath. but I have not told you the circumstances. then what would they think of Alder.” Marin said. here in Prestani?” Lord Keene himself seemed so startled by this news that he backed away from Marin and returned to his seat.” said Lord Leptum. Only thieves and criminals wish to remain unknown.” There was the sound of chairs scraping the ground as lords who were shocked by this news got suddenly to their feet.” Marin said at last. “I am in such danger.” said King Alder in a severe voice. “Marin Lindrine!” “The daughter of Tenara and Samuel!” “Impossible!” “She’s alive!” “And marked! How can this be?” “Marin Lindrine. “Since the question at hand concerns the mark I wear. I thought it would be best if it were not known that I am here. And yet.

I did not realize what it meant then. Many of you may have heard of my ability to manipulate numbers. but it was for my own safety.“I was kidnapped from the home of my youth by a general of the Alikan army. She nodded once and sat down. as though Marin had just suggested that they 221 .” “No. King Alder.” said King Alder. Lord Leptum looked down at his papers and then up at the court. “I don’t suppose there is any need to continue with this trial. but I have since discovered what others have tried to tell me: that the mark is a shameful thing that can endanger one’s life. he dragged me into a cave and had the mark put on me.” Marin said desperately. have you more to say?” “I think that the accused has defended herself better than ever I could.” said Marin suddenly. If this girl is Marin Lindrine.” “But the throne belongs to you. “I assume that this marks the end of all arguments on the side of the prosecution?” Lord Keene gave a slight nod and wave of his hand. which means that I am able to decode messages at amazing speeds. “I must remain hidden. “I am sorry I was not honest about this with you at the beginning. Taking the throne would reveal where I am to everyone. All eyes turned on her again. than it is to her that the throne belongs. Now I hope that you will help me and not give me back to the Alikans. “At least for the time being. “And your Highness. the general kidnapped me. For this. “Once we were on route.” Lord Leptum said in surprise. No one must know that I am here.” Marin looked around and saw that the gazes of all in the room were riveted on her. Lord Leptum wiped his face with a handkerchief and looked at Lord Keene.

“Milord. might they not have brought you? I mean. admitting who you are to the court. “And I wanted to thank you.” said King Alder.” said Alder hesitantly. Once word gets out that I am here…” “With any luck at all. I have to go and stop them.” “I know I shouldn’t have said anything. I wish I could stay.” Marin shook her head. “I will need to talk to you alone.” Alder said.” Marin said quietly. and they are faithful to me. “It’s time for me to leave Prestani again. shaking his head.” Marin looked up at him. “I don’t know. “The rest of you are dismissed. “I mean. you thought of me.” Alder said after a short pause. You are safe. I was the one that least needed protection in that room. being accused.” Marin shook her head again. “You wanted to protect me. “I understand. I am 222 . Not a word. for my own sake. “And remember. “I threatened those men with their lives.” she said.” Marin nodded. They had come to Marin’s door.” Alder said.” King Alder put an arm on Lord Leptum’s and patted it. but the Alikans are doing so much damage to the country right now. “If they could bring me to trial. Marin put her hand on the handle. “Within the week I’ll be leaving with the army. “Of all people. as King Alder escorted her back to her room. taking Marin’s arm. word won’t travel that fast. feeling suddenly hollow. “there are reasons why you don’t want me on the throne.all begin to dance the minuet.” Marin said.” Alder looked at her for a few moments “I know why you did what you did. and you.

” she said. “I still can’t wrap my mind around it.” Marin smiled weakly.” the king said. shaking his head. “You’re very brave. “Goodnight. turning and taking the door handle once more. and a feeling that consumed her every thought. “Of course I know that. All the fear and anxiety that had surrounded the trial melted away in the warm embrace of the king. this time with a very light heart. It was a feeling she had never known before. “You know that I love you and that I’ll always do whatever I can to help you. She threw herself into his arms and then he was kissing her deeply. “It’s nice to hear you say that.” Marin smiled again wordlessly and turned for the door.” Alder said.” the king said. Marin felt as though she had been enchanted. “I’m not worried. and Marin’s heart went out to him.” “Then there’s nothing to worry about. 223 .” whispered Alder. as Marin slipped into her room.” whispered Marin. but didn’t know how to go about it. Love. “Whatever happens.” Marin nodded. as though there was something that he wanted to do very much.” Alder said again.” “You told who you were for me.” he said. Marin stopped and turned around. smiling. “I love you too.marked. stroking her hair. He looked suddenly very young.” The king pulled her close again and embraced her gently. looking slightly awkward. Marin closed the door behind her with a feeling of exhilaration. “I love you. “I love you. pulling away and touching Alder’s collar. and for a king to associate with me…” “Marin. Braver than anyone I’ve ever met. He stood there.

she pulled her nightgown over her head.With a smile on her face. ready for a night of dreaming of handsome princes. 224 . and slipped between the cool sheets.

She knew. Her eyes flickered open. the man who led her pushed toward the wall. that someone was there in the room. were cut short when Marin felt a rough shake. and thrust her into a room. Cooperate and you will not be hurt. she knew that she had been taken into the corridor and led for some distance down it. from the echoes of her own struggling that Marin could hear. I’ll take the hood off.” Marin gasped in what little air she could. Marin’s breath was cut short as a thick hood was pulled over her head. whatever they had been. “That’s right. It was a man’s voice. pulled herself upright. “I can’t breathe. where a door had apparently been opened. It was spacious. M . “Let me go!” Marin cried. “Now. “You are sadly outnumbered. and she felt as though she knew the voice. her voice muffled.” Marin got to her feet and in a few moments. and she could see nothing.” said a soft voice. “When we get where we’re going. but couldn’t quite place it. Marin began to scream. so it would behoove you to do as I say so that we get there faster. “Stand up!” Marin struggled in her captor’s grip.” said the voice as Marin.” Marin’s heart began to pound. however.arin’s dreams. After a few minutes of walking. “Sit up. shaking. Who was there? Should she do as the voice asked? She was still trying to shake the sleep from her head.” Marin said. “Be quiet!” said a rough voice. Get up. It was still night.

angry tears beginning to fall from her eyes. “He kidnapped me. “Good evening. Lord Keene smirked. farther back in the room. “Simmerman brought you to Musatei marry the prince. her voice somewhat hoarse from fear. she looked around and found herself in a large room with Lord Keene and. except that I can’t have him know that it was I who took you. “Instead you ran away. “Only since I’ve been here have I felt any peace. “Surely that question does not need an answer.” “What are you doing?” Marin asked. Once she had filled her lungs. and he marked me with this horrible –” Lord Keene smiled sinisterly.” said Lord Keene smoothly. He made a motion with his hands and the two men came forward and seized Marin around the arms. She knew that hiss… All at once. blowing out the match he had used to light the candle.” “Took me? Where are you taking me?” Marin 226 .” she spat. “Simmerman is a monster. tearing to get out and rip Lord Keene to pieces.“Be quiet!” the voice hissed back at her. two large men. who would no doubt find them moving.” she said in a shaking voice. “I would give your sentiments to the king.” “Touching. “He ruined my life.” “Answer me!” Marin demanded. your Majesty. someone pulled the hood from her face and Marin gulped in a breath of fresh air. “I’m sorry to have disturbed your sleep.” Marin felt as though there were a wild beast raging in her chest.” said Lord Keene in a bored voice. Good girls obey their masters.” Marin dropped her eyes and shook her head in frustration. “I think I’ll take that as confirmation that Lord Simmerman was indeed the man that marked you.” Keene said lightly.

“Take her to the entrance hall. now very alarmed. “There’s no doubt about that.” “No!” Marin said. she was unable to think of anything. He turned to the two large men. he won’t. I dare say.” said Keene.” said Lord Keene with another smile. They threatened her with the suffocating hood should she make any noise. She took the mat that was given her and immediately fell asleep. nearly screaming. The next morning. At least not right away. Running away from Simmerman took a lot of courage.” “Please!” Marin pled. There is a cortege ready to take her back to Little Springs. And so she was taken.” said Lord Keene quietly. watching Marin breathe heavily. “Take her away. she was beginning to feel slightly drowsy again and the trauma of her kidnapping was becoming less and less fresh in her mind. against her will from Prestani. “You can’t – you don’t know what he’ll do to me! He’ll kill me!” “No. Marin and the men walked in virtual silence for over an hour. Marin was far too upset by recent events to be tired. I dearly hope that he rewards you for it once you are safely returned to him. “You have spirit.” Marin was smuggled from the castle with little trouble on the part of Lord Keene’s men. After three hours had past.demanded. Marin awoke to the early 227 . “Let me go!” “No. She could barely see because of the mass of hair and tears marring her face. and although she desperately racked her brain for any way to signal Alder what was happening to her. She was grateful when the men set up camp for the night in the middle of the forest. panting with real terror. the palace that had begun to feel like home to her. You can rest assured of that.

pass me that bag. Said you might try to convince us to let you escape. not quite able to recall the details of her abduction. “Keene told us about you. her hands still bound together. “Let me go. Marin. pointing at Marin with a bony forefinger.” he said. One of them noticed that Marin was awake and nudged his partner. Farley reached out and hit Marin hard in the face. “Told you to be quiet. and was sure that it wouldn’t do any good.” Farley said. She shook her head and sat up. We’re not letting you go. but still felt as though she had to try something.” said the taller of the two men. “Hungry?” Marin nodded. Farley looked over and glanced at Marin. She felt tired and worn as she said it. 228 . She felt strangely numb. and tried to avoid looking at the two men. pushed the bread into her mouth. didn’t he?” Farley barked. He had a thick beard and moustache. None of that.” “Why are you doing this?” Marin asked. Farley. pushing some bread toward her. He set her down on a log next to him. “Here. the moment the bread was gone. She reeled and tasted blood. The two men were already sitting around a small fire that they had made. He took the bag that Mifflin gave him and began rummaging through it.” said Mifflin severely. She opened her eyes and took in the clear blue sky above her. and dragged Marin.morning cool air and the sound of birds singing. drinking something from their leather skins. She waited patiently while Farley set down what he was eating. who seemed to find the fact that she was eating an interesting spectacle. whose legs had been tied together for the night toward the campfire. “Simmerman –” “You keep quiet. not yet touched by the sun’s rays. Farley had lighter hair and a thinner beard. “She’s awake.” Marin said. “Mifflin.

They didn’t even have a proper motive… It was a long day. but Marin found. We made a promise to deliver you.” Money. although he would not tell her why when questioned. She would have decoded it the previous day if Keene hadn’t brought her to trial. and the one thought that refused to leave her consciousness was the regret that she had not found out what the manuscript had said before leaving Prestani. and she remembered that he had been adamant about this point. She might know now what that manuscript contained. and furious at Lord Keene for taking that opportunity away from her. That was it. She was angry at herself for it. but reflecting on that conversation with Alder made her feel even more as though there was something that tied her to it. Mifflin and I aren’t going to pass up the reward that we’ll get for delivering you back to Little Springs. Alder thought it would be of special interest to her.“You listen to what we say and you won’t get hurt. He had told her that she should read the manuscript. She looked away in disgust. Keene and these ruffians simply wanted the money that Simmerman would be sure to have offered for her safe return to him. and she had not even managed to do that during her stay at the palace. that the time went quickly. She thought again and again about the conversation that she had had with Alder just before he had told her that she was being accused by the court. 229 . She now began to think that the king was right and that the manuscript might even prove important – or indispensable to her. Why had he not told her why? And was it true that the manuscript would contain something important? Marin had felt an attachment to the manuscript since she had discovered it at Musatei. She passed the days thinking. as she had when traveling with Simmerman. That had been the whole point.

Alder had only seen them together when she had been about to translate.Why she felt this connection to the strange text she could not say. Marin realized. Can you?” “Yes. She walked between Farley and Mifflin. thinking as she walked. Marin remembered the smile on his face as he said it.” She shook her head in frustration. now more angry than ever that she had not had a chance to discover the contents of the manuscript. She remembered suddenly very clearly Alder saying something that she had not remembered before this. “I think that should be very interesting. I could have. And there was something else he had said… “I think you should translate it. She had told him that she needed to translate it. She silently followed her captors through the forest. He had seen the Moonbook and the manuscript together. but this was always done with many threats to her life should she decide to run away.” “I know. Why? What was in the manuscript that would cause him to lie about having read it? She kicked a rock. And he had associated them by sight. if I had had the time. which meant that he had read it – he had lied to her when she had asked him about it. “I think you should translate it. “I can translate it.” Marin said under her breath. “I should…” Marin stopped. but never had she said anything that would have associated the two. “If you found the Moonbook interesting.” he had said.” Marin said again to herself. but she thought about it again and again as the days passed. and she had asked to borrow the book. ever under their watchful eye. Her feet were always untied so that she could walk. then I’m sure a manuscript based upon it won’t disappoint. He knew them. Escape seemed 230 .” She had never told him that the manuscript had anything to do with the Moonbook.

Marin continually wished that she had the use of her hands so that she could swat the insects that came to prey on her blood. 231 . goose bumps breaking out on her arms. They crossed the Odessa far enough north that there was no canyon to enter. The crossing seemed to last a long time.impossible. She could hear the grunts of the man who carried her as she was carried across the river. sweat running down her face. she was set down. “Come on!” yelled Farley. “I…I don’t like water…” Farley looked as though he had no desire to waste time. Marin reached up and touched the raised skin on her back. Certainly if there was a way. she would be lost in the forests of Mykolia with nothing to eat. The trees on this side of the river were just as thick. The air was misty and thick as they walked.” Marin said. it would not be painless. without swimming. Mifflin simply threw the hood back into the bag and grunted. He gave a wave to Mifflin. and Marin felt the suffocating swoop of the hood fly over her head. and the men pulled off the hood. but Marin’s stomach contracted in terror as she looked at it. and it looked as though he would be able to do the entire thing on foot. At last. “Thanks. And she knew from past experience that her mark would not earn her the trust of anyone she happened to meet. she realized that even if she did escape. and although she thought about it a lot. “No. Marin felt herself being picked up and thrown over a large shoulder. Her legs shook underneath her. Was there any way to get rid of it? She imagined herself rubbing her back against the sharp bark of a tree and winced.” Marin said. turning around and noticing that Marin was not following him. The river flowed by peacefully. He had chosen a shallow part of the river to traverse.

What had he known? 232 . if he kept true to his word. As she walked. Marin lost track of how many. They walked for days and days. but she clung to it. Alder did not know where she had been taken – but perhaps. Marin remembered that Alder had promised her that he would try to rescue Robin. he would find her. He knew what was in that manuscript. one that made Marin almost sick when she thought of the possibility of rescue. she couldn’t help but tell herself over and over. It was a vague hope. After a few days.and Marin was sweating so profusely she thought that she might be just as wet as the air around her.

and the tall figure of Simmerman came striding into view. She had to think up a story – anything – to keep Simmerman from being angry at her. From pure habit. M .. It was as though they expected her to try to run for it the moment Mifflin released her arm. She swallowed and tried to breathe normally. She gasped for air. realizing quickly that her resistance was futile. all of whom seemed to share the intensity Marin saw in Simmerman’s eyes. let the soldiers push her through the gates and into the citadel of Little Springs. The soldiers forced Marin’s arms behind her back and bound her hands tightly behind her..” Marin was frightened.arin was not ready for the flash of silver as the guards fell upon her. trying to calm her nerves as they brought her into the hall. “Well done. He was followed by several men. almost out of breath. The cry echoed around the open courtyard: “Call Lord Simmerman!” There was a rush of bodies and the sound of pounding feet as masses rushed to fulfill the soldiers’ orders. Her heart was pounding badly. Marin struggled at first.” Simmerman said. Marin quailed upon seeing the man who was the embodiment of a great many of her darkest fears. but then. After just a moment. the heavy wooden doors on the far end of the courtyard were flung open. Thick oak beams held the expansive ceiling in an impressive arch above them but the walls were made of cold stone. Bring her into the Great Hall. It felt as though it might burst free of her chest at any moment. “Well done. “Call Lord Simmerman!” one of the guards cried. All chance of telling lies left her as quickly as a rabbit chased by a fox.

” “You found my sister. She saw Simmerman and the two men that had brought her from Prestani converse together in low voices. Marin was not sorry to see them go.” Simmerman said. “And I warrant that your mind can imagine the uncomfortable situation you were creating for yourself once I got my hands on you again. “I dare say I need not go into the trouble that you caused me the day that you ran away. And I won’t. his voice very hard. I would kill you now. “I told you that I wouldn’t marry Prince Esper. Her large eyes were open wide. “General Simmerman. walking toward Marin.” Simmerman said.” Marin burst out. Marin’s eyes filled with tears. trying once more to think of something to say. “If you were worth anything less to me.” Marin said nothing. “You will speak only when I say that you speak. “Silence. “I want to see her!” Simmerman slapped her hard across the face and Marin’s words were cut violently short. “I –” Simmerman threw her a glance. Marin moaned once and looked up at Simmerman and his cortège.” he said meaningfully. Marin swallowed hard.” Marin panted. “I told you to be quiet. The lantern on the table in the room seemed to cast diabolic shadows on his face.Marin remembered them well from the first time she had been brought to Little Springs. Hell itself gaping before her would not have been able to cast more fear and dismay into Marin’s mind than she felt at that moment. feeling a bit braver at this last statement. painfully alert.” he said. After a few moments there was light laughter escaping from Mifflin’s lips and he and Farley shook hands with Simmerman and disappeared from the castle.” 234 .

” Marin stared at him. Marin stared at the roughly woven blanket that covered the cot which was to serve as her bed. You have suffered so needlessly at my hands. “You kidnapped me – you stole my freedom from me!” “Hold your tongue. “What do you want of me?” Marin asked at last. codes to be cracked. burn. clearly trying to remain calm himself. still rather breathless. you and I.” Marin said recklessly.” Simmerman snapped.” Simmerman interrupted.” Simmerman said. “I am finished speaking to you now.” He turned to the guards that held her. “It would be so easy.“We can be friends. a flame of anger kindling inside her. She didn’t see him turn and exchange looks with the men around the table. “Escort the brat to her room. steal and kill! You’re helping them do it. Marin was pushed from the room and out of Simmerman’s sight.” Before she could say another word. and power to be gained.” said Simmerman. I will call for her when I am ready for her. and I can’t –” “You will do as you are told. “As is your duty since you belong to me. Marin swallowed hard and tried to regain her state of calm. “There are still plots to be discovered. and make sure that the doors are heavily guarded. “I need you.” “I won’t help you conquer Mykolia.” “I don’t belong to you!” Marin burst out. “What is required of you is that you complete with exactness every order that is given you. “Alika has no right to plunder. You will work for me just as you did before. Her wrists were tied with a thick rope in front of her and every few 235 .” Simmerman said roughly.

but he did not know where she was. realizing that these were her guards. she could hardly bear the idea of working against all that Alder and Elian and the Mykolians were struggling to achieve. from Marin’s tired eyes. The light in the room suddenly dimmed. She was also worried about Robin. she realized. Marin let herself be pushed from the room and down the stairs toward the hall where she had left Simmerman hours before. but here. With no warning. and a rush of air that hit Marin’s back as the door was swung open. Marin mind was running itself around in circles. still accompanied by some of his black-garbed henchmen. What could she do? She was trapped in Little Springs once more. She was not thirsty: there was a pitcher of cold water on the table next to the cot. strong hands wrapped themselves around Marin’s arms and pulled her to her feet. That was her choice. 236 . The idea of facing death made Marin quail. hot as acid. It was a very real possibility that by the time he arrived in Little Springs Simmerman might have killed her. She was not hungry: she had been given a decent meal. they absorbed another tear that fell. She was given a rough push forward. She could help Simmerman or she could be killed. and then. Alder was her one hope. Simmerman was still there in the room. She knew she should be happy that she had not been hurt. in this sad. She was worried for her life. Marin sniffed and another tear fell into her lap. little room. she felt violently alone. she felt quite alone. There was a sharp click. but at the same time. and Marin knew that he would have no remorse carrying out her murder. but this time.seconds. hiding its warm face from view. and Marin looked to the window and saw that the sun had at last gone behind the hills. He seemed quite ready to do it. She was not even sleepy. small.

“There you are. his voice trembling with apparent rage. though her voice trembled.although they were less numerous now then they had been earlier. 237 .” Simmerman said.” she said in a low voice. Marin stared at it.” Simmerman said. “One more word and I will put this through your hand. “There’s work that needs to be done. and Marin was set in a chair near the table and near to the crossfaced general. and then turned his attention to Marin. Marin sat back. “I won’t do it. “I told you that I won’t help you. They wore somber expressions and many were carrying long rolls of parchment filled with cramped writing. Now was the moment of truth. He gave one last look to what Marin now saw was a map on the table.” he said brusquely. The guards behind her shoved Marin’s chair closer to the table. “No. Marin didn’t have to look closely to see that there was a long list of difficult equations cluttering the face of it. Simmerman had plunged his knife into the table in front of her. Simmerman’s face was accented strongly once more by the light from the lantern that flickered on the table.” she said. Simmerman made an impatient gesture. you will.” Marin watched him unroll a long sheet of parchment and place it near her on the table. “Yes. She knew that she couldn’t help him. startled badly. Marin had not bothered to dry her tears from her face.” Simmerman hissed. “Get to work. and now they were cold in the chilly breeze that floated through the hall. piercing the parchment at the top. What you’re doing is wrong –” Simmerman made a quick move and before Marin knew what was happening.

She started to breathe hard. Marin was still dumbfounded when she felt the same hands rip her shirt from her back. When the second came. She choked as the next stroke was laid and by the fourth time the lash fell. Marin’s breath was knocked from her chest as hands unexpectedly clamped around her forearms and launched her toward the table in the center of the room.” Marin said. The room was bare except for a human size cage on one wall. with a courage she did not feel. She could see the red burning behind Simmerman’s eyes and she understood that he was very angry.“Charles. And then fell the first lash.” Marin looked up and saw Simmerman’s henchman. The fifth stroke was dealt and she was roughly grabbed and pulled upright. Alfred Kimmick. They stormed into a black room that needed Simmerman’s orders to light the torches on the walls in order to illuminate its contents. for pity’s sake. Marin blinked. He stormed through an exit at the far corner of the room and pulled Marin mercilessly after him. too startled to think properly. wondering what was happening. Simmerman snapped. her face was soaked in tears. Marin screamed. In a flash he had wrapped his fingers around Marin’s bound wrists and dragged her to her feet. a large stained stone table and a number of frightening devices the sight of which drew a sharp shiver down Marin’s spine. “I won’t do it. hovering over Simmerman’s shoulder. Marin hurt so much she felt that she had lost her 238 . Marin still had not caught her breath from the first. She had absolutely no control over her reaction: it was a cry of pain and of surprise.” she whispered hoarsely. Her ribs slammed hard against the cold stone. and Marin luckily raised her chin the moment before her jaw would have struck the surface of the table and shattered. “I won’t.

She spit convulsively from her mouth as though trying to rid herself of the pain that was overcoming her. She felt very stupid crying in front of Simmerman. her voice shaking. She swallowed hard and tried to regain some of her dignity. Her sobs shook her whole body. “but I won’t –” “This was just to make you understand. breaking down. Marin. “I won’t change my mind. Large tears oozed from her eyes. She shook with 239 . “You’re bleeding.” he pointed out simply.” Simmerman said levelly.” Simmerman reached around and dragged a finger across Marin’s back. Through the waves of pain shaking her back.” Simmerman said in a rough voice.” Simmerman snarled. “I don’t know why you’re doing this to me. “You hateful. Let us go. “Refuse me and I will have her brought here now and you can testify to the fact that what you just felt was only a token amount of pain compared to what she will suffer. Marin broke. slimy –” “Silence. “I am very serious. do as I say.” Marin’s back seared with pain.” “No. her voice shaking in spite of herself. “All I want is Robin and to go home. “If you want to see her.” Marin said. cutting off Marin’s delirious insults. She opened her eyes and Simmerman’s face came into view.” “I need you to help me.mind. “You can whip me until I’m dead. but she couldn’t help it. Simmerman looked at his bloody finger and rubbed the redness between his fingers. Marin felt someone grab her chin. Marin flinched visibly.” Marin said. You will now come work.” Simmerman thundered.” “Robin!” Marin cried in spite of herself.” said Marin. “what will happen to your beloved sister if you refuse.

pushing the parchment toward 240 . And then another. Her mind was racing. all of it. so she made another error. and she was faced with a world of numbers that seemed for the first time completely foreign to her. she too was the keeper of one of Simmerman’s greatest weakness: his trust in her work. They redressed her in a ragged tunic that was lying on a table and then pulled her back up into the light of dusk that was filling the main hall. Marin looked up at the men who were still watching her. And then Marin realized that just as Simmerman had her trapped.” Simmerman nodded once. Very likely they were mathematical formulas which would give the Alikan army an advantage in understanding the way that the Mykolian army would move. she began to work through the equations as easily as though she were simply writing a letter. these meaningless numbers mean so much to a man that he would hurt her and her sister to get at their answers? Marin noticed that the men around her were watching her with great interest. She turned her eyes back down to the paper and frowned. ‘Okay. and the speed with which they would do it. a pen was thrust into her hands.” Marin said. she realized. She dipped the pen into the inkwell on the table and after clearing her mind with no small effort. She was returned to her chair. her voice cracking. when she stopped. She was half-way down the page. and turned to the guards. Marin’s hand hesitated again. This was absurd.another sob and then nodded. “I’ll do whatever you want. How could these codes. They didn’t seem to be paying any attention to what was happening on the paper. “There. and then she wrote a 3 where there should have been an 8.” she said. only briefly. Her mind went from the map in front of her to the equations that she was working out. They were longitudinal calculations.

Marin did not drop her gaze. No sound was coming from the cell. “But you promised that I could see Robin. into a small dark room in which there was a single cell. As she approached. take her to her sister.” the guard said roughly. and Marin’s heart thumped even harder. “Take her back to her room. It was because. binding her hands together once more.” There was a small smile on the lips of Simmerman’s prisoner as she was taken from the room. “I’m here! It’s me! It’s Marin!” The head of the figure slowly looked up and Marin 241 . afraid of what she might find. turning away. She was afraid to find her sister severely injured. Marin’s heart was pounding hard as she was led. hoping she was not disturbing her. Simmerman grabbed it and the guards pounced back upon Marin. “Robin.Simmerman. Had they hurt her? Was she in any shape to talk to Marin? The guard that led her walked before her and rattled sharply on the bars of the cell. but it was not because she had tricked her captor. “You’ve someone here to see you. “Guards. Marin moved toward the cell and sat down near the bars. his eyes focused on the results of Marin’s deciphering. she was going to see her sister. she began to make out a dark figure with long stringy hair. at last.” Marin cried. Simmerman stopped.” she whispered. or even dead. Marin’s eyes were riveted on the cell and she crept forward.” Simmerman said. her hands still tied.” Simmerman said with a wave of his hand. “Very well.

” “But Robin. “you don’t know what so many people are doing to try to keep Mykolia free!” She told her sister all she knew about Alika’s attempts to overthrow Mykolia. Marin swallowed hard and knew that she must relish every second she was permitted with her sister and not think that in just minutes she would be taken from her sister and Robin would be left separately to the mercies of Simmerman and his servants. “Do you know why Simmerman wants you to marry the prince?” “Yes. it’s me – are you all right?” Marin choked out. “Five minutes.hardly dared breathe as she took in the thin face the emaciated body and the blinking dark eyes of her sister that she knew so well. “I’m fine. “Marin!” Robin’s voice was as calm and clear as Marin had remembered it. I can’t fight them alone. She felt as though someone had just slammed a rock into her head.” Marin hissed.” “Robin!” Marin exclaimed. “He’s agreed to marry me. “What can they want with you?” “They want to marry me to the prince of Alika. He slammed it behind him and Marin was left alone with her sister. That sounded very much like the Robin that she knew.” Marin said in a panicked voice. I couldn’t do anything but agree.” said Robin. “What can I do?” Robin said in a weary voice. “Robin. heading for the door. “And I 242 . “You can’t let them do that to you.” Robin said calmly.” said the guard. “What are you doing here?” Marin asked. “Marin.” Robin said calmly.” Robin said. Marin’s heart leapt into her throat and she clutched the bars with both of her bound hands. Marin smiled. “They told me that you were coming and promised that they would do terrible things to you unless I consented.

but they do. Marin blinked rapidly.” “I know. You can’t know what I’ve been through. looking quite wild. but she had been dreaming too short a time ago to be fully awake and alert. “I’ve spent so long running from everyone.” Marin said quietly. “If it’s the last think I do. “Just a few more –” But the guards wrenched Marin to her feet. But there is something that I have to do. trying to keep her sister calm.” Robin said suddenly. a tear running down her cheek. heard the candle dashed to the floor in the commotion and was dragged from the room.” Marin said.” Marin started as the door was suddenly thrust open and the soldiers came marching back into the room. “I don’t know why they want you. she sank to her knees at the bedside and broke down into violent sobs.” Marin hardly noticed that she was locked back in her room. “Back to your cell. First I was captured by Prince Martin who was incredibly angry when he found out that I was not you.” one of the men said sharply. trying to understand what was going on and where she was. I’ll get you out of here. The moment her door was locked. “We’ll get out of here. The hall was ablaze with hundreds of torches fitted into iron casings on the walls. Marin’s insides curdled as she heard the violent outbursts echo around the Great Hall that could only be coming from Simmerman and his men. Marin felt hands yank her to her feet.have been alone. I promise you. Marin had not even been taken as far as the bottom of the stairs when she heard the yelling. Marin awoke to a terrifying crash and a blinding light. They’ve done terrible things to me. They’re after you Marin. There were men scurrying 243 . Before she could even open her eyes.

but as they were tied together. “The equations are wrong!” Marin blinked at the map and then up at the furious face of her captor. How dare he blame her for the war that he was raging? She was not responsible. Why had she done that? All she felt was fear. “Charles! Anyone could make a mistake!” Marin was not sure who had spoken. Marin saw Simmerman push through the men and rush toward her. but not from fear this time – from anger. 244 . “Do you know how many lives were lost on account of you?” Simmerman yelled. the cold stone floor made full contact with her body. Marin involuntarily tried to get away from the enraged man.” she said. as though on cue. which was still bedecked with the map and several rolls of parchment. “She doesn’t make mistakes!” Simmerman said. but as she was being held by several men. casting glances in her direction and then stopping. “You did mean to!” Simmerman shouted. Simmerman grabbed her by the arm and slung her toward the table. and she folded her legs in on herself. He gave Marin a kick in the side. “This night was stained in blood! Hundreds of Alikan soldiers died because of what you did!” Marin’s heart began to pound in her ears. She was known as a prodigy. “I didn’t mean to. She would never have made a mistake. He had discovered what she had done. flecks of spit wetting the back of Marin’s neck. throwing her from the table to the floor. although she knew that Simmerman would not believe her. Marin strangely did not feel any triumph. but she was sure that whoever it was could not really believe what he was saying.about. Marin struggled to break her fall with her hands. there was little that she could do to escape. moaning. “You did it wrong!” Simmerman bellowed.

and Marin saw the bearded man she had noticed the day before put his head in his hands. having lost all control of her emotions. “Get me the sister.” he said. “Bring me her sister now!” “No!” Marin cried. “I’m going to drown that rat…” “No!” Marin screamed again. “Leave her alone!” “Bring me a full tub of water.” Simmerman shouted. She struggled hard against her captors. “Put her back!” Marin screamed. Stunned by her burst of strength. Robin. What was he going to do to her sister? He was not going to harm her…he couldn’t… Guards burst into the room. Simmerman grabbed Marin and threw her back into the hands of her soldiers. livid. “I’m glad I did it! The more Alikan soldiers that die. who was taken 245 . and the men and courtiers in the room backed out of their way. Simmerman knew about her fear of water and he was going to drown her sister Marin screamed as loud as she could and threw all her weight onto the men’s arms and then kicked hard behind her. Simmerman always had the upper hand. “I don’t care!” Marin said. the fewer there are to invade Mykolia!” There was a general gasp. and Robin was cursing loudly. suddenly remembering what her emotions had made her forget: that because he had her sister. In their arms they held her sister. Marin scrambled to her feet and then threw herself at Simmerman. His face was red and he was panting hard. “Don’t do anything to her!” Simmerman turned and wiped a fleck of spit from his lip. the guards let her fall to the ground. anger blinding her. feeling blood drip from a cut on her mouth as she spoke.he was. ignoring Marin’s struggles.

but nothing happened. Simmerman got slowly to his feet. Marin pummeled Simmerman’s chest hard with her bound fists. Marin had only been asleep for a few hours when she heard the lock on the door of her cell click and the rush of air as someone entered the room. Exhausted from the recent events. ready for the guards to grab her and pull her back up to face the anger of Simmerman. Marin’s thoughts returned to Robin. Take her sister away. She was punched hard in the stomach.” They took her down a long flight of dark stairs where it was black and damp and threw her into a cold cell. “She is mad. Marin and Simmerman fell to the ground. Lock her up well. In just seconds.” 246 . “She’s insane. “Leave my sister alone!” Marin howled. The room around them was in an uproar. his voice much quieter than before. Once the soldiers had gone and she was left at last alone. Lock her up.” “To her room?” a guard asked. It seemed that Simmerman had no reason to hurt her except to try and manipulate Marin. “Take her downstairs.” said Simmerman at last. Marin squeezed her eyes closed. Marin was dragged off of Simmerman. Marin sat in silence for a moment and then once again began to cry. When she had no tears left. Marin curled up in a tight ball on the floor and fell asleep. holding his jaw in the cup of his hand. She prayed that Robin was being left alone.completely off-guard. wildly thrashing her hands. She is not to see her again for any reason. and pulled to her feet. and she struggled momentarily for air before falling limp in the arms of the soldiers. “Marin. “To the dungeons.” Simmerman said.

“You’re playing a very dangerous game. The man bent down so that his head was level with Marin’s. Marin stopped. suddenly on her guard.” “What do you want?” Marin asked coldly after a moment of skeptical silence had passed. To her surprise.” the man said quietly.” Kimmick said.” Marin shot back. “I can’t just let him do it without –” “You want to fight. “Who are you to be speaking to me this way?” she demanded.” 247 . his bright face floating over a long black robe. “I must be quick.” Marin’s eyes narrowed.” Kimmick said grimly. “I don’t need you to –” “Your life is on the line as is that of those you love. Marin sat up quickly.” Marin said defensively. she saw Alfred Kimmick standing before her. “I will die before I let him do that. “He’s more powerful than you are.” “You and all those that Simmerman has in his power. “It’s an act. Still.” the man continued sharply. Marin frowned sourly. but it is. “but you are going about it completely the wrong way. He seemed completely serious and respectable now. “You’re with Simmerman.” “What he’s doing is wrong. All you care about is serving him. I want to help you. “What do you want?” “You did those equations wrong on purpose to thwart the plans of General Simmerman. You’ve got to face it.The voice was soft enough that it coaxed Marin to look up and see who would be speaking to her so gently. The simpering manner that he always held around Simmerman was gone. Marin did not trust him. Marin.” he said.” “He was going to hurt my sister. “I know there’s no way I can convince you that it’s true. “Your scene earlier tonight was blood-curdling.” the man interrupted. so you had better listen to me.” Kimmick gave a wry smile.

taken aback.” said the man. “You continue to be a thorn in his side. “It was because of me that the soldiers have done very little to harm your sister. He will very soon know you are here.Marin took a moment to digest this.” He leaned closer. “Now if you could just help her escape –” “You must let me help you now.” said Kimmick. the more Simmerman’s grip will tighten on you. and he will not hesitate to eliminate you. “What do you want from me?” she asked skeptically. He only needs you so that he can fool Prince Esper! The Alikan prince believes that Simmerman is sending him the heir to the throne. “Nothing.” “He’s convincing everyone that you’re mad. “You must do as Lord Simmerman says if you wish to remain alive.” Kimmick said honestly. I am dangerous –” “Listen to me! The more you struggle.” said the man gently. when in reality. I know him. “Is…is he going to…” “Yes. “I don’t know.” “My sincerest thanks. “I came because I want to protect you. “How soon will he come?” she demanded. I know how he works.” Marin said passionately. he plans on sending your sister.” said the man. “I want you to live.” Marin said sarcastically.” Marin’s heart jumped. “You’re making enemies here. Those to whom you want to return will find a way to rescue you.” “Good. It is a game he doesn’t have to play! 248 .” Marin swallowed hard. “But in the meantime.” Marin paused and then raised an eyebrow. Everyone is beginning to think you are dangerous. you must keep yourself alive. his eyes flashing.” “I won’t do any more equations right.” said the man gravely. “I have sent a message to King Alder. “He’s too stupid to see the mistakes before they are realized on the battlefield. She reached up and grasped the bars.

” In spite of herself. “Can you imagine a time when he will want to strategize and break codes himself when he could have you do it at speeds that are dangerous for his enemies? He wants you. repulsed. “It took bravery to change those numbers.” Marin shook her head. Marin scrambled to her feet and 249 .” Kimmick finished harshly.” she said flatly. Have you forgotten that you are marked? I hate to bring you down from the clouds. “You’re doing this on his orders. “Someone that dared to do that will dare to do other things. “Not when others are working so hard to bring him down. “But…but he needs me to decode.” she said at last. “I can’t do that.” the man said with something that was almost a smile. Good-bye. then you will cooperate with Lord Simmerman. Marin gave Kimmick a long look. The man put a hand on Marin’s shoulder and drew her nearer to him. She will dare to live.” “But how?” Marin whispered in despair. “If you want to help your Mykolian friends.” Kimmick gave her a surprised look and stood. her voice dangerously low. he said…” “Precisely!” Kimmick exclaimed. “You know his weakness! Why will you not exploit it?” Marin said nothing. And you need to make him realize that.” Marin pulled back. but you must realize the reality of these facts. “His slave. He needs you.” said the man.” “You are his prisoner. “I must go. “Go away. “By doing what he asks.” “But I don’t want to work against my own country!” Marin protested. She just watched the wrinkles in the man’s face as he spoke.He could kill you and still control the heir!” Marin blinked. her lips turning white.

wrapped her fingers around the cold bars as she watched Kimmick float from the room. 250 .

She was helpless. She pressed her ear to the wall occasionally searching for sounds. but no one had made any appearances since her imprisonment to bring either food or water. She was also hungry. it was as though the fortress had been suddenly abandoned and she was the only living soul within its walls. she noticed something M . his face hidden in shadows stride into the room. but the longer she was kept from seeing anyone. She tried to block out the burning thirst and the gnawing hunger. The first day she had welcomed her solitude. and pulled away only when she heard the echo of a loud laugh or a sharp cry from the floors above her.arin was left alone. She had been given a lump of stale bread when she had been thrown into her cell. She scrambled to her feet as the door was unlocked and braced herself against the rough hands she knew would grab her at any moment. It was morning when they came. Once she was outside. Marin’s head snapped up when without warning. but the effort only made the sensations more and more vivid. her stomach growling as she spoke. guards filed into the dungeons. Marin was surprised to find that she found the days unbearably long. “Please!” Marin cried. “Chain her hands together!” Marin looked past the guards to see Simmerman. “I’m hungry!” Marin’s hands were secured inside the iron bands the guards carried and she was dragged toward the door of the cell. But no one entered the dungeon. the more she began to be afraid for what might be happening to her sister. She was useless. She saw no one. Here in her cell she could do nothing to rescue her. Marin watched the door but it never opened.

“Please. She shifted her weight to her knees and watched wide eyed as she was carried up a large staircase and into the Great Hall. except that Marin knew very well that she was not in the cage to be pampered. Marin looked at Simmerman in confusion.” Simmerman interrupted coldly. “She’s insane and dangerous. sir –” “Put her inside.” said an older man who sported a large belly and full lips. It was rather like being carried in a royal litter. as usual.” said Simmerman as several took a few steps toward the cage in interest. Several of the men followed his lead. They stopped and stared when she was brought in. He smiled and walked toward the cage. Once she was inside. She submitted to the shoves of the guards as they pushed her into the rusty iron box. The guards reached down and lifted the cage into the air by the parallel poles that stuck out of the base of the cage. not quite sure whom it was she was addressing. “She doesn’t look dangerous. with men in brightly colored garb. the door was creaked closed and a large lock was secured around the handle.there on the floor. “I’m hungry!” A few men laughed at her sharp voice as it echoed around the room. Marin was too surprised to react. but Simmerman only pointed toward the door. It was a human-sized cage. and the guards that had carried it moved away. 252 . Marin opened her mouth to beg once more for something to eat. The hall was filled. and try to figure out what was happening to her. Again Marin tried to ignore her hunger and told herself that now she must be alert. “Don’t get too close.” Marin said.” The cage was placed on the large stone table in the center of the room. “Please.

“I’m not surprised. “I hear the prince is a good sight happier to marry the younger of the twins. She watched them intently. distrusting their smiles. thick irony in his voice. “This one’s the homeliest girl I’ve ever seen . “So this is the miracle.” a man with a thick brown beard said. “Looks like her sister screams as loud as she does!” Everyone laughed. Marin rubbed her arm and looked down at it. “Yes. There was a small stream of blood trickling down from it onto the cage. Someone had stuck her with something. curious as to what had made her cry out. “I thought you were hungry. She knew neither with what nor who had done it. the miracle. “Leave me alone!” Marin said.” said another man. his vile moustaches curling around a foul little mouth. 253 .” added another. The crowd around her cage parted just enough for Marin to see that Simmerman was talking softly to a few men gathered around him. He cast a look around him and his eyes met Marin’s. her stomach lurching. “And the sister of the brat we saw the other day.” said a taller man. She let out a shaky breath that only just revealed a burning of anger that was growing inside of her and tried to press down on the wound to stop the bleeding. The man held a bowl of something warm in his hands. Marin stopped. but with them crowed around on every side.Marin moved as far from the men as she could.” said another man. She tried to move out of the men’s reach. this was almost impossible to do. her voice trembling with rage. Marin’s face was wet with sweat and her insides churned with fury.” “Stop it!” Marin shouted. This evoked several loud laughs. The men all looked at her more intently.” Simmerman said from behind the men.

254 . pushing a hard roll between the bars. you get your bread. He unlocked the door to Marin’s cage and laid the bowl inside. approached and took a key from a large ring. but she paid it no attention. all the drink you need. Marin’s eyes teared over. Her heart leapt. you know. Before he had relocked it. Marin picked it up and in a moment had swallowed the entire thing. The bowl was now empty. I can give you all the food. Marin had to use all her self-restraint to keep from throwing herself upon him in fury.” “For that. Do you want it?” Marin was still crying. Marin stopped and looked at him. It was the soup. She was hungry. Her throat hurt as the food went down. “You don’t like this.“It’s almost dinner time. Do you remember the little room you used to occupy? It is ready for you. thinking of the soup that awaited her… There was a hollow splash and Marin felt warm liquid wash up onto her legs. and as the saying is. it was all she could think about. He was mocking her. Marin choked on another sob and tried to catch her breath. She looked at what was left of the soup and began to cry. Marin had grabbed the bowl and lifted it to her mouth.” said the man. “You aren’t made for this. “I can take you out of this. she knew it. What little remained was now running out of the cage and onto the table and the rest was soaking into her hem. ladies first…” The man. “No thanks?” said the man. She swallowed hard and then said: “Thanks. smirking slightly.” said Simmerman calmly. someone having thrown something into the cage and upset it. do you?” Marin raised her tear-stained face and saw that Simmerman had pressed his face against the bars.

deciphering messages. “Then I want you to listen to me very closely. if you prefer.” Marin managed to say.” Simmerman said. where she fell heavily onto the bed and immediately fell to sleep. She thought of Kimmick and what he had told her. each very much like the one before. In return for this.” Simmerman took the key and unlocked the door to the cage. “Okay. “I want you to follow my orders exactly. Marin was put into her old room.” Simmerman said. Marin felt a sort of numbness about the whole thing.” Simmerman said briskly to a guard that stood nearby. He must know that she couldn’t fight anymore… “Okay. “No. Was he trying to make her obey to help Simmerman. or had he really been trying to help her? She felt so tired. removing the iron shackles from her wrists. given something to eat. and then put to bed.” Marin gulped down another sob. dressed and fed. “I can leave you in the hands of these merciless scoundrels and even leave them the key to your little cage. 255 .“Or.” she said in her smallest voice. With a bit of help. “Take her upstairs and see that she is washed up. she couldn’t reason. They fell to the floor with a loud clamor.” said Simmerman calmly. lowering his voice. I will make sure you are taken care of.” He rattled the bars. “Let her out. The days passed very slowly. planning tactical strategies and interpreting Mykolian movements. Marin spent hours everyday down in the Great Hall surrounded by Simmerman and his attendants. Marin followed the guard in a sort of stupor up the stairs and after being washed. Marin was released from the cage and set on her unsteady feet.

and even asked him so on one occasion. So far there had been no indication that Robin had been removed to Numan where she was to marry Prince Esper. who stood nearby waiting. Marin had wondered why he could not decode them himself. hoping in that way to hear everything she possibly could. He thought a moment 256 . Each message seemed to enrage Simmerman further. “I need these decoded. She squinted at the paper.” said Simmerman one afternoon.” Marin nodded and pulled a pen from the inkwell next to her. and then began to write. One thing that she was able to gather was that the campaign for the Alikans was not going well. She decoded message after message telling of the defeat of Alikan generals by their Mykolian enemies. “Here. She tried to stay as quiet as she could. thinking. They were recovered yesterday. which she handed to Simmerman. but she had missed too many days locked away in the dungeons to be sure. she had decoded the first one. After that. In a few moments. throwing down a stack of parchment in front of her. Simmerman had answered by telling her that her job was to decode.” Simmerman read under his breath. She kept her eyes and ears open for signs that Robin was still at Little Springs. but he continued to pile messages from his fellow generals upon her for decoding. “Heading south south east at 150 minutes.She didn’t dare to disobey or mess up any of the deciphering that she was doing for fear that she would be found out and Robin would suffer even more than she had already. Marin realized that Simmerman was just lazy and she was probably faster at cracking the code than Simmerman would be at decoding the message knowing the code already. no matter who the message was from.

It was nearly evening.and then rushed from the room. stretched out far into the valley. Marin jumped to her feet and ran toward the stairs. “Arriving?” Simmerman cried in disbelief. They were arrayed in brilliant shades of 257 . presumably to show it to his advisors. But she quickly ciphered it out and her pen flew across the bottom of the paper as she wrote out the message it contained. She sat back to read it. Simmerman strode back into the room. because the message was doubly encoded. which she found took her more time. She gave a startled cry of delight. She took the stairs two by two until she burst out onto the battlement. There was a sharp loud cry made from the courtyard that reverberated around the Great Hall. She was sure of it. Could it really be true? Were they really coming? Marin’s eyes flew to the windows and she noticed that the sun had nearly descended halfway from its position directly overhead to the horizon. She could feel Simmerman and most of the men that usually accompanied him follow close behind. It was talking about the Mykolian army. Below her. He picked up the message that Marin had just decoded and read it silently. She grabbed the cold stone of the castle battlement and peered out into the valley. She pulled the paper toward her and read it with a frown. will be arriving at little springs before evening Marin’s mouth was dry. Marin immediately went to work on the next one. was the Mykolian army. and then gasped.

He gave Marin a look of loathing and grabbed her by the collar. Simmerman looked down at Marin and then back 258 . “Unless you agree to talk with me. Simmerman?” Marin heard Alder shout after a slight pause. “Simmerman!” Alder cried again. “I have business with you!” “What do you want?” Simmerman shouted back down in an ugly voice. Marin felt a rush of joy sweep over her. Everything was going to be all right. we will not hesitate to raze this castle to the dust from which it was built!” “If you destroy this castle. He had found her.” Simmerman shouted back. It belonged to King Alder. The air was alive with the voices of the soldiers and the snorting and pawing of the horses. The cry had come from down below.red and silver which made Marin nearly break out into peals of enraptured laughter. “you can be sure that Marin will die before you pass the gate!” Marin felt Simmerman’s grasp tighten on her collar. Simmerman leapt up beside her and took one look at the army before giving a cry of rage.” Marin said under her breath. “Is this the last stronghold in Alika? Do you want to bring it down?” The last stronghold? Could it be true? Was Alika really that close to being conquered? “Your life and the lives of all who live within the walls of Little Springs are now in danger. his mighty voice carrying over the ramparts. Their sheer number took her breath away. Marin knew that voice.” he growled.” cried Alder. “What is it that you want. “Come with me. “How can this be?” Simmerman cried. “They’re here. He had come for her. “Simmerman!” Simmerman stopped.

a small smile creeping onto his face. as Simmerman dragged her down from the battlements and across the Great Hall. “Very well. Marin looked up at Simmerman surprised. Marin blinked in the sunlight of the late afternoon as 259 . “It’s got to be a trap!” “Be quiet!” Simmerman hissed. there was nothing that he would not be able to bargain for.” Marin heard Alder shout up. Marin could just imagine the treachery that Simmerman might have planned for the Mykolian king. That would be dangerous for him. I propose an exchange – only for the time that we negotiate with each other. If Simmerman had the king of Mykolia in his power. troubled by the idea of Alder in Simmerman’s power.” said Marin under her breath. “No.” shouted Simmerman.” Simmerman said.” shouted Alder the next moment.” shouted Alder. “You will come into the castle alone. Marin shook her head wildly but did not open her mouth.” Simmerman looked down at Marin. and the great iron-gated doors began to creak open. “I do not trust you.” “No. Several soldiers followed them through the entrance hall and out toward the courtyard. understanding what the king meant. He must really believe his life to be in danger to be willing to parlay with the enemy. “Very well. “No!” Marin shouted.” Marin whimpered. “No. giving Marin a shake.over the battlement at King Alder. “Marin Lindrine leaves the castle while you enter?” Simmerman shouted down. Simmerman nodded to the guards at the gate. “I am willing to talk. “The exchange will be done immediately.

taking a step forward. King Alder stood there. She managed to catch her balance in time and right herself. “Your Highness.” Alder said. She burst into a trot and ran out of Little Springs and toward the generals of the Mykolian army. still clutching her by the collar.” Simmerman said with a snide smile. Simmerman released the front of Marin’s dress with a violent thrash of his hand that nearly sent Marin to the ground. or Simmerman would have them both. surrounded by his own guards. in the end? 260 . At the same time that she felt herself enclosed in the arms of a hundred people around her. as the king passed her on his way to Simmerman.” Alder said. “Release her. Marin felt a sob rise up in her throat. Marin. “Alder. not turning to look at her. dragged her forward and walked out into the courtyard.” Marin said. How could he abandon himself to Simmerman in this way? What would this help them gain. her thoughts were turned to Alder. Simmerman.it came filtering in from outside. “Go. but knew she had to do as Alder said.

away from the horrid castle of Little Springs where Marin had spent so many terrible days. seeing only the flashing light from their armor and feeling very claustrophobic. from all appearances. another lord that Marin recognized from the court at Prestani.” Lord Leptum said. But Leptum was already leading Marin even farter away toward a group of tall tents well out of sight of the castle. She was jostled through the pulsing crowd of soldiers.” Marin heard a familiar voice shout over the tumult of the crowds. pushing her into one of the tallest tents.arin struggled to breathe as she was embraced on every side by people that she didn’t know but who were. “Thank you.” “I don’t think that Simmerman is going to try to steal her back. but the castle was being swept from her view. not really hearing what they were saying.” Marin heard Lord Leptum say as his firm but bony hand closed around her wrist. Marin tried to look behind her. The noised was dulled somewhat within the walls of the tent and the absence of people crawling all around her M . “Let’s get her away from this place. “In you get. still overcome by the number of people that were buzzing around her.” Marin heard Lord Josiah try to explain to Lord Leptum. relieved to have her safely in their care. Marin looked up and realized that the man at her shoulder was Lord Josiah. it had figured in her dreams for quite some time after her trial in Prestani. “Bring her over this way. Men were pulling her away from the drawbridge. It was the voice of the Lord Leptum. obeyed. It was a voice she knew very well. Marin. Josiah.

thinking that she should answer this question. “We have his castle surrounded.” “He won’t be sending anyone anywhere.” she said at last. They all took seats upon thick cushions on the ground and all of them looked at Marin. Hadn’t he heard what she had just said? “No. “They have my sister. “We cannot simply attack the castle!” Lord Leptum scoffed.. that you are 262 .” Marin said very slowly. and she wondered after a few moments if she wouldn’t prefer to remain outside. The air of the tent. Robin’s still alive. however. shaking his head.” “Did Simmerman hurt you?” Lord Leptum asked. Lord Leptum. as though Lord Leptum were having trouble understanding. “I must remind you. “I didn’t hear anything. was stale and warm. Marin blinked. “I’m fine. Lord Leptum ducked into the tent after her. but simply could not think of how to do it. “She’s alive. One false move on his part.” “Did you hear anything about where Lord Simmerman’s army is now?” Lord Leptum said.” “We have to rescue Robin. Marin nodded.” Marin said. realizing that this was important news. shaking his rather wrinkled head. slightly annoyed. We have to get my sister out of there! Simmerman wants to send her to marry Prince Esper. Marin appreciated the kindness in the noble’s dark eyes. and Lord Josiah and a few other men that Marin did not recognize came into the tent after him.made her breathe with more comfort. Marin looked down. His eyes were piercing and held very little of the warmth that Marin saw in Lord Josiah’s.” Lord Leptum said. practically interrupting her. “Are you all right?” Lord Josiah asked.. touching his dark trim moustache.

you lost.” Marin said. “He must feel that this was the right course of action.” Marin snapped. “At least. King Alder asked –” “The king knew what he was doing.” Marin said. as though they had all considered this possibility but had never wanted to entertain it long enough to convince themselves it was actually probable. Even if Simmerman reversed the 263 . He turned his gaze on Marin.” “That is not true!” Lord Leptum spluttered.” Lord Leptum said pompously.” “There’s nothing you can do. “I’m sorry. “He could do horrible things to him while he’s there.” another of the lords said. He could make demands of you that you could not resist.” Marin said suddenly. exactly. “Yes. he and all within the walls of Little Springs will be in great danger. There was an uneasy silence. “Especially the king and my sister! He would kill them if you attack. “Once you gave up the king.” Marin went quiet. shaking her head slowly.” “If he breaks the agreement.” Lord Josiah said quietly.speaking to the queen of Mykolia!” All eyes turned to Lord Josiah. “Hopefully we won’t have to fight. Why had he done this? There seemed to be no advantage to this move. “As was mentioned. And my sister is still there. I believe that he did. I’m afraid that we cannot attack the castle without risking the king’s life.” said a noble Marin remembered to be named Lord Jonathan. whose cheeks were slightly red. And then what good would taking the castle do?” “The king wanted this. She looked down at her feet and thought. King Alder is now within the walls of Little Springs. her voice beginning to tremble.” “But Simmerman won’t let him go. “It’s something he would do.” “He went in to discuss a peaceful solution to this problem.

She had certainly never overheard anything that had to do with Simmerman’s armies – only with the armies against whom Alika had been fighting. Surely Alder would have realized that Simmerman never would have surrendered her if he believed she knew anything useful about the movements of his army. Simmerman had wanted both of them for different reasons. we knew that Simmerman would have used you to advance his army. Given your reputation with code breaking. Marin watched most of the lords get up and leave 264 . Marin was free.exchange and the Alder went free. “Did the king say anything before he left you? Anything?” “Yes. Marin was sure that he would have very little regard for the life of her and her sister.” Marin said.” Lord Leptum said. So I’m asking you again: do you know anything about Simmerman’s army?” Marin blinked. She shook her head. Only one thing had been accomplished by this. still confused. His Highness was counting on the fact that you would know what the army was doing. he could kill Marin and Robin once both were within his reach. “No. looking at Marin very ardently.” Lord Leptum sighed and sat back on his cushion. but when faced with the possibility of losing his life. Alder would have realized that… What else did she know? She thought back to her discovery that she was the queen. He told us that you would have something to tell us. “I never heard anything. Alder had said that she had something to tell them? What? Her mind raced. nodding vigorously. shaking her head. For the moment. but knew that everyone in the room already knew that this was the case. They knew too about her proficiency with numbers… “Do you know anything about the Alikan army?” Lord Leptum repeated. She was free… Marin’s head jerked up suddenly. “Of course he did.

she was given her own tent and wished a good night. Marin ate with the nobles. “You know something that can save the king. leaving her alone in the stifling air. why hadn’t he simply told them himself? Unless… What if it wasn’t something he wanted her to say. watching the fires of the soldiers in the army begin to flicker up in the field all around them. and then stood and walked out into the cool evening air. But what was it? Marin turned onto her stomach and propped her chin up on her fists. She knew something. She knew something that could save Alder and Robin. her heart pounding hard in her chest. thinking for a moment. and he knew what that thing was. Marin sat.” Lord Leptum said. She watched as Lord Leptum left the tent. Lord Leptum sat staring at the tent wall for a moment before getting up. Marin settled in among the blankets but did not fall asleep. And your sister. Alder had known about the manuscript. 265 . The tents were multicolored and looked quite cheerful even in the light of the dying sun. her mind was churning wildly over what Alder had said. Instead.” Marin said nothing. He had told her to translate it. It didn’t make any sense. She wasn’t sleepy.the tent. He had said that it “wouldn’t disappoint…” Marin sat up. but rather something he wanted her to do? Marin suddenly remembered the manuscript. brushing the dust from his embroidered clothes as he stood. Once she had finished. He had known that the Moonbook was needed in order to translate it. That meant that he knew what the manuscript contained. “Think hard. Lord Josiah gave her a nod of the head before he left. If Alder had wanted her out of the castle so that she could tell these men something.

but it had been a very long time ago. it would save Robin. Marin didn’t understand how this could be so. and then the guard at Lord Josiah’s tent ducked inside. trying to catch her breath. “I have to talk to you. at last. stifling a yawn. Somehow. Marin and the noble slid inside the blackness of the tent. what that manuscript contained. Somehow. translating this manuscript would give her the answer.” Marin said. “It’s important. Alder had wanted her out of the castle so that she could find out. “What is it?” Marin jumped back. For some reason. “Make yourself comfortable.” Lord Josiah said. Then she realized it was only the guard that had been posted to guard her tent.” The guard took her from her tent and weaved around several others until he came to another tent several yards away. it would save Alder. “Hello. There was guard standing outside this tent just as there had been outside her own. Marin.” she whispered.” Josiah nodded. Somehow. “Very well. Alone?” “Yes.” Marin said in a voice that was too quiet to be heard. but she was absolutely sure that this was the one thing that only she alone could do.This was it.” Marin said. Josiah dismissed the guards and held open his tent flap for Marin. “I’m sorry. trembling in the night air. hugging her robe around her tightly. startled. “It’s urgent. looking very tired. He had told her to do something. “I’m 266 . She stepped out of the tent and blinked up into the night. “I need to see Lord Josiah. The guards spoke quietly to each other. After a moment.” Lord Josiah said. Marin scrambled to her feet and threw her blankets to the ground. Lord Josiah appeared.

” Marin began. turning from Marin for a moment and rummaging among some items in a corner of the tent. “And then. “Forgive me. “I don’t think that’s quite right.” Lord Josiah didn’t say anything. he said. swallowing hard. I’m the only one that can do it. still obviously a bit sleepy. “I see. It was something that you were working on. “The king told me. watching him search.” he said at last.” said Marin. “I see.” Marin said apologetically. trying to contain his excitement. he had me retrieve something from the library before we set off from Prestani to find you. closing the small glass door as he blew out the match. This is it. “He wants me to translate a manuscript.” Lord Josiah thought for a moment. if just for a little while. And do you know what that was?” “Yes.” “I have to do it as soon as possible.afraid it’s a bit cluttered. “But we talked about this before I was kidnapped.” said Marin. just before he entered Little Springs that whatever it was that you had to do.” Lord Josiah said.” “I don’t either. “Lord Leptum thought that the king wanted me to tell you all something. I think he wanted me to do something. “I don’t know how long it will 267 . He told me to do it. After a few seconds there was the sharp scratch of a match being struck and Lord Josiah lit the lantern hanging from the ceiling. This is why he wanted me free. Marin?” Lord Josiah asked. “I know it sounds crazy.” said Marin. “but I don’t understand how translating a manuscript will help us now. “But Alder did. once he had seated himself. I should let you do it.” Marin felt around and sat down on what seemed to be a pile of blankets.” “Do you believe me?” Marin said in some surprise. “What is it.” Lord Josiah nodded. I’m sure of it.” Lord Josiah nodded.

” said Lord Josiah. “I went to the library as the king directed. but it was clear – the manuscript was missing. “The manuscript?” Lord Josiah repeated in some surprise.” Lord Josiah explained. but it wasn’t here. He looked for nearly a minute. I think only the king knew about it. “No. There was. taking the Moonbook into his hands and examining it.take.” Lord Josiah said. shaking her head. looking distressed. He said that he had been watching you and knew what you had been doing. Marin pulled the bag from the book contained inside and looked down. 268 . only one choice. “And the manuscript?” Marin asked.” Lord Josiah swallowed hard. beginning to feel slightly ill. to get this book and the manuscript. I was looking at it secretly. still examining the book. Alder had wanted her to do this.” “I understand. “Is it not there?” Marin stopped and looked up. It wasn’t here. This bag is what he gave me. “Then it is likely back in Prestani. “You have it here?” “Yes. He didn’t know about it. “Was it there when you left Prestani?” Marin asked.” Marin sat back and put a hand to her head. “Dolph Albrickt never saw the manuscript. “There’s only the book.” she said. her heart beginning to pound again. “I met the librarian there who said that he would gather what you had been working on and package it for me. then. She flipped through the pages and remembered her first excitement upon discovering its contents. The Moonbook looked up at her.” Marin said.” “Are you sure?” Lord Josiah said.” “No. Marin nodded. turning and handing Marin a package bound in a leather bag.

closing her eyes. Her cheeks were very red. This is what I have to do. “I trust Alder. “Very well.” “I know. this is dangerous. “Then I must go with you. “If you do that. though.” “If you leave. “The journey back to Prestani is not easy. captured. “I will prepare you a bag and you can leave in the morning –” “I have to leave now. Lord Josiah was silent.” Marin said.” said Lord Josiah in a terrible voice. and she hoped that Lord Josiah would overlook her slip. she looked up. You must make everyone believe that I ran away. so I have to go to Prestani where it is so that I can do this. This is what he wanted me to do. “No!” Marin exclaimed. I have to go back to Prestani.” Marin caught her breath.” Marin said. “Simmerman will kill them if we cannot produce you at the moment when the exchange is to be reversed.After a moment. that you’ve sent out scouts to find me…” “Marin. then Simmerman will think that we double-crossed him. the life of the king and of your sister will be in danger.” Lord Josiah nodded. You could be recognized. realizing that she had just used the king’s first name. And you are all the talk of the country right now. “It’s not here.” Lord Josiah said. You have to tell him that you’re looking for me. nervously fingering the book.” Lord Josiah paused.” Marin insisted. “There is no time to lose.” he said after some reflection.” “No. that I was too scared of the prospect of going back into the hands of Simmerman.” Lord Josiah warned.” Marin said. “I have to go get it. “I don’t want to think about that. or even killed.” “I have no choice. I have to go alone.” 269 . trying to keep her voice from cracking with emotion.” “The king knew that I had to translate this manuscript. “You can’t leave this camp.

” Marin felt stunned. She would be in danger of Lord Keene’s caprices once inside the walls of the palace. “One way or another. although the thought was not particularly comforting at the moment. She wiped glistening sweat from her forehead. she would not receive a welcome at the gate.” Marin said.” Marin said.” Lord Josiah said. taking a deep breath. turning the nod almost into a bow. “I’ll be back in just a few moments with your supplies. her forehead wrinkling.“There’s just one thing.” “I understand. “We can think of something else.” Lord Josiah said. “This is the only way.” Lord Josiah said suddenly. of course. that it was Lord Keene who kidnapped me?” “No. She would have to face him before she was avenged. “You don’t have to go. I have to go. he will pay for his crimes. 270 . did anyone know. “But did you know.” “There isn’t anything else. “We didn’t know. and Lord Keene was on Simmerman’s side. “No one asked me about how I was taken from Prestani.” said Lord Josiah.” “It’s true. his eyebrows furrowing deeply over his eyes.” Lord Josiah said. If she went back to Prestani. shaking her head.” “He’s still at Prestani.” “We are very curious.” Marin swallowed and nodded. but you must understand that at this moment we were only concerned with what was essential. getting to his feet.” Marin said. noticing her anxiety. he’s the one that the king left in charge during our absence. I promise you that.” Marin said.” “Keene will pay for this. “In fact. “It was him. He nodded once again at Marin as he left.

It was very dark. but occasionally light from the stars filtered in between the branches and lit her way. The morning sunlight . squaring her shoulders. blindly holding her hands out in front of her so as to keep her from running straight into the trunks. Marin had put a good distance between her and the camp. She tied her hair behind her and took the pack that the noble had prepared for her. and tried to reassure herself that if she met any danger. “Go.” she added. Lord Josiah gave her the smallest of smiles. Within a few minutes. she had emerged from the trees and was able to take her journey through the easier country of the flats.” she said. Marin touched the knife that Lord Josiah had given her before leaving her. I was scared…” Marin was not surprised to hear that her voice was indeed trembling. “I’m ready. “Tell them. She walked continually in the direction in which she knew Prestani Palace to be. Marin moved toward a small grove of trees and entered.” said Lord Josiah. She slowed her pace somewhat. Marin ran through the trees. “I hope that when we next meet. When dawn finally arrived. turning and sliding into the darkness.” she said in a deep breath. “that I ran away. everything will be well. She gave Lord Josiah a last long look. and in a short time.” Marin whispered. not stopping to rest or to eat.M arin slid into the smallest traveling clothes that Lord Josiah had been able to dig out from the reserves in the great pile in his tent. Marin walked all night. putting a hand on her shoulder.” “Thank you. “Goodbye. she would be able to defend herself.

but she felt strangely awake and knew that she wouldn’t be able to sleep any longer now. Marin opened the packet of food and discovered a quantity of dried meat. If she couldn’t sleep. Inside. She found an open space. By nightfall Marin was quite tired. Marin found a brass compass that she could use to navigate her way toward Prestani and a sizeable ration of food. but as far as she could tell she was the only person around for miles. She munched on dried meat and wondered how long it was going to take her to reach Prestani. She 272 . She tried for the millionth time to convince herself that she was doing the right thing. Marin nibbled on an apple as she walked and tried to ignore the sweat that was pouring down her back. as she had to traverse many a marshy field. she might as well make some progress. cleared the leaves from the ground and built a fire. She sat down against the trunk of a large sturdy tree and opened the pack Lord Josiah had prepared for her. Marin stood suddenly and pulled her pack back on. She opened her eyes and brushed the mosquitoes from the rivers of sweat on her face. and Marin even saw the occasional green snake.looked beautiful streaming through the leaves. Marin felt quite alone. It was midday when Marin awoke again. She was grateful for the boots that she wore. a few apples and several large hard cakes made with oatmeal. but Marin was so tired she hardly noticed. She knew that it was more dangerous to travel at night than to travel during the day. Marin munched on one of the cakes. It was true that the trees were alive with birds and insects. bread. and the sun was very hot on Marin’s face. took some of the water from the skin that the noble had provided and then leaned back against the tree and fell asleep. She frowned to herself and looked into the bright flames of the fire.

” said Marin softly. “Elian!” Marin exclaimed. I was too late. “I was on my way north. He did not trust me anymore. She spun around and looked into the face of a gray-bearded man. nodding his head. her hand still clutching a piece of the dried meat. Some how he had discovered that I had ties to Mykolia. and yet she couldn’t help reminding herself that what Lord Josiah had said was true. motioning for Elian to take a seat near her. “He simply sent me on a ridiculous mission to the far south of Rivental. “What are you doing here?” Elian embraced Marin and kissed her on the cheek.” Elian said. and the king’s army would be in very real trouble. If she failed – or even if she didn’t arrive in Prestani in time – Alder.” “Did you escape?” Marin asked. somewhere where I wouldn’t be a nuisance to him.” he said. “I got away. jumping to her feet. pulling a large bag from his shoulder and setting it on the ground. “There’s something else you should know. now that she knew that Simmerman’s army was not far off. “No. “Good evening. They were taking a big risk. “Yes. worrying suddenly.” Elian said. I went there to see if I could warn King Castillo about the plan to assassinate him. but I had no intention of leaving the action of the events that are to now come to fruition!” Marin nodded. “In Kenyon.” “I know.thought that she was. her sister.” Elian said. “I ran into some trouble after arriving at Simmerman’s.” Elian said with a smile.” “I ran into Simmerman’s army. “I heard about that. The voice had come from behind her.” Marin froze.” “Did he imprison you?” Marin asked. “They have orders to survey this area. but 273 .

I did hear some disturbing news. I heard that you’d been found. I heard that Lord Simmerman had gotten a hold of you once more.” “Yes,” Marin said. “While I was in Prestani Lord Keene sold me to some men that took me back to Simmerman. He knows who I am now.” “Most people do,” Elian said with a sigh. “It’s not much of a secret that Marin Lindrine is the Marin that is now heir to the Mykolian throne. People are not only on the lookout for you, but also for your sister.” “Robin’s been captured by Simmerman too,” Marin said. “Robin?” Elian repeated in confusion. “My sister,” Marin said. Elian was silent a moment. “You know, your sister’s name was Masina. Not Robin.” “Masina?” Marin repeated. She thought a moment and then shrugged. “I suppose Mr. Rosings might have changed it to protect us.” “Yes,” Elian said thoughtfully. “Did you escape from Simmerman’s men, then?” “No,” Marin said dismissively. “I didn’t. But I’ll tell you more about that later. What other disturbing news did you hear?” “I heard that the army was going south,” Elian said grimly. “Back toward Little Springs?” Marin said, her mouth falling open. “Yes, indeed,” said Elian. “But that’s where King Alder’s army is!” Marin said, her forehead becoming creased with worry. “King Alder is inside the castle, and if his army doesn’t have complete control over what’s going on outside…” “Tell me what has happened,” Elian said sternly. Marin took a deep breath and recounted everything that had happened since the moment she had been awoken from her bed in Prestani and handed over to the 274

Alikan kidnappers to how she had decided to head north and find the manuscript. “King Alder wants me to translate this manuscript,” Marin finished, “but somehow it didn’t get brought down to Little Springs. I have to go back to Prestani so I can translate it.” “And then?” Elian asked. “I hope that the manuscript will tell me what I’m supposed to do,” Marin said resolutely. “The king thought that doing this would save us.” Elian looked into the fire, thinking. “I’m hungry,” he said after a few moments. He reached into his bag, pulled out a pot and some small leather bags and began adding things to his pot. “I have to go find some water,” Elian said. “I’ll be back.” Marin watched him go, wondering what he thought of all this. He hadn’t commented on what she had told him she was going to do. “Do you…do you think I’m doing the wrong thing?” Marin asked at last, when Elian came back within the light of the fire. “No,” Elian said simply. “I think you are doing what you think is best. And so I am going to come with you and help you as best I can.” Marin’s heart swelled with gratitude. “Prestani is just a few days from here,” Elian said, squinting in the direction of Prestani as though he could see it from where he sat. He stirred the contents of the pot and was silent. “Thank you,” Marin said quietly. Elian looked at her and gave a small smile. “Somehow I feel as though I’m helping your mother when I help you. I feel as though I’m getting a chance to redeem myself.” Marin looked down. “I don’t know how I’m going to get to the manuscript once I get there,” she said. “Lord 275

Keene is at the castle in command of its forces. He’s on Lord Simmerman’s side.” “We’ll think of something,” Elian reassured her. “But for now, let’s eat.”

Marin awoke a few hours later to a loud crack of thunder. She sat up and blinked water out of her eyes, her face wet with rain and stringy hair. She pulled herself out of the blankets she had lain in and got hastily to her feet. Elian, sleeping in a bedroll a few meters from her, had not yet woken, although rain was now pouring liberally from the sky. “Elian!” Marin cried, watching the flames of the fire die out in the pounding rain. “Elian!” She dived under a tree as another loud crack of thunder sounded. “Marin!” Elian had been woken and was now extricating himself from the blankets he had been lying in a moment before. “Get away from that tree!” Marin jumped out from under the tree as more thunder shook the ground. “Follow me!” Elian shouted over the din of the storm. “Grab your blankets and follow me!” Marin scooped her wet and muddy blankets from the ground and trotted after Elian toward the hillside. Elian stopped once they had come to a small overhang and reached inside his large bag. In a moment he had constructed a small lean-to from a large waterproof canvas and some branches. “Get inside!” Elian said, pulling the now shivering Marin into the small tent. Marin let the water run in rivulets from her body and huddled, grasping her knees, in one corner of the tent. It was very muggy and wet in the tent, but at least 276

the rain was not coming down directly upon them. Elian’s beard was very wet and his hair clung to his forehead in a way that made him look very different. He set his things down in a corner of the new tent and then sat down across from Marin. “Look at us,” he said at last, a smile breaking out across his face. “Wet as rats.” Marin smiled, in spite of the discomfort she felt from her wet clothes and hair. “I’m glad you had this canvas.” “A little of everything in this bag,” Elian said with a smile. “Even something for a rainy day.” Marin smiled again and listened to the pounding rain. “You should try to get some sleep,” Elian said after a few moments. “We will need to be on the road again by morning.” Marin nodded. “I’m not sleepy anymore, though,” she admitted. Elian smiled warmly. “We should both get some rest. Lie down.” Marin nodded after a short pause and tried to get comfortable on the ground. She moved some rocks out from under her back and tried to close her eyes. “I don’t know what we’ll do when we get there,” Marin said, voicing something she had been thinking about all night. “I feel like I should have some sort of plan, but I have nothing. I don’t know how I’m going to do this.” “You can’t know right now,” Elian said softly, finding a place for himself on the ground a short distance from Marin. “There’s no way you can know what we’re going to encounter when we get there. We’ll just have to wait and see what we are faced with, and then face it.” “But Alder wanted me to do this. This is important,” Marin said, her forehead wrinkling. “I’ve been trying to think about ways to get into the castle. I mean, I’ve even considered scaling the castle walls.” 277

“Scaling the castle walls?” Elian repeated in some amusement. “I’m afraid I forgot my grappling hook.” Marin grinned. “I know: each of my ideas is worse than the last.” “Just relax,” Elian said. “You don’t have to figure it out now. For now, you just have to get there. Once you’re there, you’ll know what to do. You’ve done well this far.” Marin sighed softly. “Now it’s time to sleep,” Elian said. “There’s a long road ahead of us in the morning.”

The next morning, the sky had cleared and a cool breeze wafting through the cracks in the tent woke Marin. It was still early morning, but Marin felt very awake. She sat up and realized that the tent was empty. Marin left the tent and looked around her. The sun was not yet up, but the cool rays of morning light illuminated the trees with a soft verdant glow. Elian was crouching near a fire, cooking something over the flames. “Good morning,” Marin yawned, sitting down next to the man. “Good morning,” Elian said with a smile. “Did you sleep well?” “Yes,” Marin said. “I have a crick in my neck from sleeping in a strange position, but I slept well.” “I thought we should eat breakfast early and get on the road soon,” Elian said. Marin saw the contents of the pot as he stirred. It looked like brown porridge. “This will fill us up and last us until midday,” Elian said. “There is sugar in my pack, in a small leather pouch, if it didn’t get melted in the rain.” Marin went to retrieve the sugar and returned to Elian’s side. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Marin said at last, feeling that she had to say it, since she had been feeling it so 278

strongly for so long. “And I’m very glad to be here with you.” Marin smiled thoughtfully and looked down. “I think…I mean, I don’t know what she would have thought, really – I never knew her – but, I think…I think my mother would be happy that you’re helping me.” Elian looked up and met her eyes. “It’s why I’ve been helping you,” Elian said after a short pause. “I’ve thought that somehow in helping you I could satisfy the pain I felt when your mother left to marry another man. I felt that I could somehow make up to her the loss that she might have felt when I was powerless to stop her marrying someone else.” “I know,” Marin said quickly. “But that has changed somewhat,” Elian said. Marin looked at him in surprise. “I thought about this last night. I realized that I am not doing this for her anymore. I am doing it for you. “You are an amazing girl, Marin,” Elian continued. “There’s something about you that caught my eye the first time I saw you, and it wasn’t because you looked like your mother.” “What do you mean?” Marin asked, confused. “I mean, you had a certain look to you. It sounds strange, but you almost…glowed.” “I glowed?” Marin said, a bit incredulously. “Literally?” “You’re special, Marin,” Elian said, shaking his head. “You’re different from anyone I’ve ever known. There are so many manifestations of that. What you can do, who you are, what you must do now…I am honored to be with you, Marin. If I can help you, I will.” “I don’t know what’s coming,” Marin said, squaring her shoulders. “But it feels better knowing that you’ll be with me to face it.” Elian smiled and stirred the porridge. “I’ll be here,” he said. “I’ll be with you.” 279

Elian and Marin ate their breakfast and drank heavily from the leather skins that Elian had refilled after the rain. Elian consulted his compass and pointed off into the distance. “This way,” Elian said, slinging his pack onto his back. Marin did the same and the two began another long day of walking. After another two days of walking, the land had changed somewhat. There were not as many trees and the sticky humidity of the forests had subsided. The sun seemed hotter, though, as they no longer had the shade of the trees to protect them from the hot rays. Marin was miserable, sweating incessantly as she walked. “We’re nearly there,” Elian said, wiping his brow with a filthy handkerchief. “How long?” Marin said, a little wearily. “I would say we are within half an hour of the palace.” “Half an hour!” Marin exclaimed. She sucked in a large gulp of air. They were here! She had done it! “Yes,” said Elian. “And that means that we need to stop here and figure out how you are going to get into that castle.” Marin slid the pack off her back and chose a large rock to sit down upon. “Tired?” Elian said, sitting down beside her. Marin smiled weakly. “Yes,” she said. “But we’re here. It doesn’t matter.” “We have to get into the palace without Lord Keene or any of the guards knowing we are there,” Elian said, as though Marin were completely unaware of what they were about to attempt. “Somehow, we have to get into the library unnoticed.” “We could disguise ourselves,” Marin suggested, swatting a fly away from her nose. “That might work,” Elian said. “How would we 280

” “Good idea. They were here. “I’m getting you what you need to get into the palace. Marin put a hand to her head and turned away. Marin nodded slowly. They would give us the clothes we need –” ‘If they decided to take us on. It was dusk. now.” Elian said. Elian wasn’t listening. she just needed to 281 . shocked at what she had just seen. We could pretend to come to the palace looking for work.” Elian said. and the heat of the day was finally subsiding.” Marin said. “Any ideas of how we could do that?” Marin thought. “We have to get the clothes we need and then enter as though we already work there. “And who’s to say that Lord Keene wouldn’t want to have a look at us before taking us on in his staff?” Marin nodded. He pulled the girl back into the bushes where the two had been waiting. “Then we could walk around without attracting attention.disguise ourselves?” “It would be best if we could be mistaken for people that work at the palace. her voice nearing a squeal. “I know. “You just hit that girl!” Marin exclaimed. Marin had been waiting with nervous anticipation all day.” Elian interrupted. “Be quiet.” Elian said. “What are you doing?” Marin cried. She gave a small cry and then fell unconscious. “How exactly would we get a hold of the clothes we need?” Elian leaped out of the bushes and knocked the girl to the ground. I think she is a maid…” Marin looked at Elian as though he had just gone mad. Elian ignored her and began to remove the girl’s dress. frowning.

” Elian said.” Marin said under her breath. “If I don’t come out –” “You will. “And who knows how long that will take.” Marin nodded. “I want you to help me. handing her a brightlycolored scarf. you would run the risk of being recognized all that time. “You worked in a large house once.” Marin said desperately. “I want you to come.” Elian said confidently.” Elian was silent a moment. It could be very complicated. covering the girl with a blanket.” he said quietly. unsure of what to do or where to go. Who knows how long that will take… “Elian.” Elian said. handing Marin the dress he had just recovered.” Marin folded the scarf in her pocket.” Elian laid a hand on her shoulder. tie this in the window. “Then you’d better get that dress on.” Marin said suddenly. feeling almost sick to her stomach. But I have to go in there alone.” Marin looked around her. “What?” Elian said. “Now I just hope that a man comes by.get inside so she could translate that manuscript. It might take me days. “Very well.” Marin said again. And you.” Marin nodded. his voice firm. The guards had nodded to her and not even made 282 . I don’t know. “but I don’t know how long it will take me to translate the manuscript. “If you run into trouble.” Elian slowly stood and looked at her. “I have to go in alone. “I want you to come.” Elian interrupted. “What do you mean?” he said at last. “Take this. “You can do this. This will be just like doing it again. “I know it.

” Marin’s heart began to pound hard. Marin threw a glance behind her and slid up to the library doors. She was approaching the library. Marin tried not 283 . “I just started a few days ago. His wizened face studied her as closely as he had been studying the book in front of him. Marin tried not to catch their eyes.her explain who she was as she passed them. “I was told that I needed to clean the shelves. “Yes. They seemed to study her for a moment and then go on with what they were doing. Marin slipped inside. “I’m sorry to interrupt. walking once more around this place that she had come to know quite well. Marin tried to pull a shy smile onto her face. “I was here when they came to clean it. The library was not empty.” “The library was cleaned yesterday. She closed the door very gently behind her and then turned around. It was a strange thing.” The man wore a beaded cap and had greasy gray hair that spilled out onto his shoulders.” the man said. The torches fixed into the walls flickered off the faces of several other servants that passed her. The palace halls were relatively empty compared to what Marin had expected. There was a man at one of the tables that looked up at her as she came into the room. Marin swallowed a gasp of surprise. hoping her voice wasn’t shaking too badly. knowing that Alder was not here made it seem empty and even ominous.” Marin said. As quietly as she could. an unbidden blush coming to her cheeks. Somehow. but now she did not really know where she was supposed to go. The knot in her stomach relaxed somewhat as she was admitted into the palace. as the guards had not given her any instruction. thinking it better to remain unnoticed.” Marin said. “Are you new?” the man said.

” But the man did not leave. The man.” Marin murmured under her breath. the man would certainly become suspicious. she slid between them and out of sight. Marin moved to another row of shelves and at once. She couldn’t see where the manuscripts were kept. They weren’t readily visible.” The man gave her a long look and then shrugged. the click of a book closing and the scrape of the man’s chair as he stood. She concentrated on keeping very still. They were very close to where the man was sitting. He stayed studying without glancing up at Marin or the large clock that hung above the door. going back to his book. seeing nothing. “Go. moved out of the row she was in and slid between two more tall bookshelves. “I know. She peered through the spaces in the books.to show her alarm. spotted a stack of manuscripts. looking around for the manuscript that had not been taken to Little Springs. Marin. I guess they got missed. Her heart sunk. Marin crept back into a space in the shelves at the back of the room and crouched down on the floor. and Marin began to get uncomfortable. under the large windows. “But they said that the shelves in the back needed cleaning. She could not stay here dusting for very much longer. but Marin paid it no attention. With a rag that Elian had pushed into her pocket before she had come into the palace. might forget that she was still there. Fifteen more minutes passed and then Marin heard a shuffling of papers. The ground was dusty. perhaps. Marin slowly began to rub the polished shelves. Once she was there. Thirty minutes passed. Marin let out an inner sigh of relief and moved past the man toward the shelves in the back of the room. “Get up. Marin got very 284 .” she stammered.

Marin sat down on the ground and pulled the Moonbook from the inside folds of her dress. she began to lose hope. With trembling hands. as the man went to the door. She was about to find out what she had to do. opened the book. her heart pounding loudly again. Her mouth was dry with excitement. She grabbed a pen and inkwell from the table and took herself back to the back of the room and hid once more in the back shelves. But then – at the very bottom. and left the room. When the manuscript she was looking for was not on the very top of the stack. Marin stepped out from the shelves and went straight to the pile of manuscripts near the table the man had been working at. she found it.quietly to her feet. She began to leaf through them. and began to work. Marin licked her lips. opened it. Marin pulled the manuscript out from the stack and looked at the familiar images and writing. and watched. 285 . This was it. dunked the pen in the well.

Out the window. Hours had passed since she had begun work on the manuscript and.arin pushed a lock of hair from her face and tried to ignore the hunger pains that were tearing at her stomach. With some effort. Marin sighed and closed her eyes. she was overwhelmed with how difficult the task was proving to be. She had to sleep. Marin sat up and rubbed her neck. But how could she get there? Marin got to her feet and went to the window. but she was exhausted and hungry. She would also soon need to eat. And it would remain undisturbed for the time that Marin would need to crack the code of the manuscript. and the light from the torches in the room was not bright enough to allow Marin to work without squinting. without fear of disturbance. Marin managed to open the large brass levers that were fixed into the sill and she swung the window open. Her back ached from working on the floor. But the result she had been left with after completing this task told her that she still had a lot of work left to do before she would understand the message that the manuscript held for her. Alder’s bedroom. Marin could see that there was a M . She was sure that his room would be unguarded. although not discouraged. Finding the words from the Moonbook that corresponded to the numbers listed in the manuscript was not difficult. as the king was not there. She would have to find someplace where she could work and sleep in peace. At once it came to her. She was eager to discover what was hidden in the manuscript.

Luckily the bolts were easily removed. and on either side the drop off was far enough that if she fell. locked. examining the window.” Marin said under her breath. “You laughed when I talked about scaling castle walls. Marin lifted the heavy glass pane from its place and taking care not to lose her balance. It was.” Marin reached the other side of the roof and sat. giving her sure footing. She put them all into the pocket in the inside of her dress. Marin felt along the walls until she found a lamp. Marin traversed the roof on all fours. She reached forward and tried the window. Then she slid inside after it. she could be killed. She willed herself not to look down. Marin felt around the frame. She lit one and then turned and looked around her. and she was glad that she had them now. “Well. making sure that the cork was firmly planted into the inkwell. Marin looked at the roof. straddling the roof with her legs. She could go over the roof and enter the king’s apartments through the window.roof that connected the library window to a darkened section of the palace that Marin knew to be the king’s chambers. lowered the glass into the room. Marin was still wearing the boots that she had been given by Lord Josiah before leaving Little Springs. Her boots gripped the shingles of the roof well. here I am. Marin’s heart began to pound. Marin ran back to the shelves where her things lay and gathered them up into her arms. Then she climbed up onto the window sill and stepped out onto the roof. It was very steep. nor to think that the wind that whistled past her ears could gust up to a strength forceful enough to knock her from the roof. and at last decided that she would have to take the window off its hinges. of course. But there was no other way. 287 .

She sighed with relief.” snapped Marin. you traitor!” “And you recovered the manuscript? What does it say?” Keene walked toward her. “I didn’t think we’d meet again. I didn’t expect you to come back” “You’re a monster. Now she simply had to work as fast as she could so that she wouldn’t starve before she discovered what it was Alder had wanted her to know. How did he know about the manuscript? He couldn’t know – and why did he care? Marin kicked Keene and he buckled. The room was very bare. She looked around her and saw that the first lights of morning were peeking through the space where the window had been removed and that the manuscript and Moonbook where there on the floor beside her. she felt safe. jumping to her feet. falling to the floor. 288 . “How dare you speak to me. with no signs that it had ever been lived in. Marin blinked and realized that she was sweating hard. Marin settled herself on the floor and pulled out the Moonbook and the manuscript. He was holding a hand to his chin and was followed by several guards. closing her eyes. It was indeed Alder’s room. the image faded. Marin. Lord Keene was coming toward her through the door to the king’s bedroom. Marin touched the bedpost affectionately and looked around for signs of the man she loved. It seemed he had taken all that was important to him with him. Lord Keene turned to Marin and gave a laconic smile. a mad look in his eyes. Marin’s eyes flew open and she snapped up from where she lay. In the same instant. For the moment. Marin set them on the floor and then curled up next to them.

she had the first line. keeping her head down. The message in the manuscript was very well-guarded. hoping that something would reveal itself. She had to get to work so that she could get out of here. The work was still slow. No one took any notice of Marin. Marin walked into the hallway and. She came very soon to the hallway that led to the entrance hall and began to walk down it. She shook her head and reached for the manuscript. She feverishly worked equations and substitutions. Now she was having nightmares.. In a few moments. and then. And then. every code device that she had ever heard of. She frowned and told herself that once she discovered the message. with complete confidence. she could leave the castle and get something to eat. Midday came. Marin took a deep breath and rubbed her eyes. Marin stuffed the manuscript into the pocket in her dress. but with little success. She wiped the sweat from her face and read. took the shortest way to the palace outer doors. Marin realized. as she walked down the hallway. she had the message. at last. still dressed in her maid’s dress. trying to keep her pace in the 289 .. and left the library. and still Marin worked. She tired every cipher that she knew. She would have to try combinations. She knew at last what she had to do. Marin’s stomach rumbled. finished cracking the code. There were probably many ciphers at play at the same time.She had been dreaming. Marin looked at what was written there in the manuscript. one after the other. having placed the Moonbook under the king’s bed for him to recover later.

but for some reason. being pulled down the hallway in the arms of a tall man. and yelling as loudly as she could. He pulled the girl back toward Lord Keene. feeling the anger boil up inside her. It was Lord Keene. the girl. the scene stopped her. She knew she should go. dodging people that she passed. She shouldn’t have said anything. The girl was immediately seized again by a guard that came rushing up behind.unnoticeable range. In the king’s absence. catapulting herself up stairways. But this discovery was so disturbing that her 290 . wildly flinging her arms. If he doesn’t want to marry her. Marin watched her hit Keene in the face. “Let me go!” Marin turned to see a young girl. trying doors and finding them locked all in a desperate attempt to get away from Lord Keene. Marin caught the girl’s eyes and read panic in them. She ran as fast as she could. “Very good.” Lord Keene said to the guard. Keene was taking up the practice of selling Mykolian girls to foreign dignitaries? Marin was appalled and angered. “Seize her. about Marin’s age. and the guard had all turned their gazes on Marin. then duck under his arms and run down the hallway toward Marin. Marin turned on her heel and ran. It took her a moment to realize that she had spoken out loud. she told herself as she ran.” “No!” Marin said. “Very good. who was brushing off his clothing and smiling in a self-satisfied way. then we can sell her to a dignitary as a servant. Marin took one look at him and knew him at once. She recognized something in this girl’s plight that she could not ignore… The girl was fighting Lord Keene. Keene.” Lord Keene said simply.

“He left with the entire army to find you. but he held his grasp firm.” “King Alder would kill you if he knew you were selling girls as servants. pushing Marin farther down the corridor. In fact. What was he talking about? Lord Keene grabbed Marin’s arm. Marin tried another door in a long corridor. It seems then he 291 . and here you are in Prestani. “I thought I sent you back to Simmerman. “Leave her to me.” Marin continued to struggle.” Marin stopped struggling a moment and started. Once he finds out about this –” “And who’s going to tell him?” asked Lord Keene.” said Marin. Marin.” Marin spat. Marin struggled in vain until she saw Lord Keene. felt iron-strong arms clasp around her neck. my dear. “What King Alder doesn’t know is for his own good.” said Lord Keene. “You? I’m not sure how that could possibly happen.reaction had been completely involuntary. smiling despite the fact that he was clearly gasping for air. Marin tried to elbow the man in the ribs. and then.” said Marin sarcastically. “it’s for yours.” Lord Keene said. giving Keene furious looks as he spoke.” said Lord Keene. And do you know what the best thing about it is? They’re always willing to pay something. “Marin Lindrine. “I’ll give you three guesses. “I can take her form here. “No. the man she had come to loathe. It seems that there is always someone who wants you. If it’s not Simmerman. “But no matter. it will be someone else.” Keene said to the guard. this is really quite a delight. to her surprise. rushing up the corridor toward them. pulled a dagger from his belt and pointed it at Marin’s side.

and wishing suddenly that she had not stopped to watch that girl. But it wasn’t Keene. snapping into action. It fell several feet from them on the ground. 292 . Mr. Poor inept. she saw stars. There was a silence. she had been putting herself at risk? Marin sighed and shook her head. She was not fast enough to reach it while it was still open. She thought a moment. waiting for things to come back into focus. foolish king.” said Keene in fury. Marin shook her head. He pounced on Marin and threw her against the wall. Marin stayed there against the door. Rosings stood in the doorway. as his military campaign has apparently proved completely fruitless. “You little devil. Marin’s head hit stone. Marin heard the door click open. Spotting the nearest room. he dragged Marin toward it and threw her inside. and then.” Marin snapped. She grabbed the wrist that held the dagger and pushed it violently away from her. catching her breath. coming away from the door. Marin removed the red scarf from her head and tied it in the window. however. The door slammed shut at the same moment she threw herself against it. Marin fell to the ground but jumped immediately back to her feet and ran toward the door. Then she kicked Keene as hard as she could in the leg. Keene looked desperately around as though he had decided that Marin was in fact too much for him. She quickly dropped the scarf and spun around. ready for Keene should he enter. Keene roared. Why hadn’t she realized that it would be very easy for Keene to recognize her? Why hadn’t she realized that by taking interest in that girl. and for a moment.was almost inviting me to take over.

” Mr. you know. but his hair seemed to have grown some since she had last seen him. How much had happened… “It’s been a long time. “I never wanted them to get you.” said Marin in a small voice. Rosings was dressed as he usually was.” How had he known that she was here? “So much has happened.” Mr. Rosings said soothingly. He turned and closed the door behind him. swallowing hard. in a dark black suit. “So much has happened since that night when you disappeared.” Marin did not quite understand what this meant. She took a small step toward him. not sure what to say. I took care of him. I…I thought you were dead. of course. Mr.” Mr. Rosings.” Marin said. “He’s not going to hurt us. Marin.” Marin’s mind too went back to the night when Sandhill had been attacked by Prince Martin and his army. partially overjoyed that he should have come and partially inexplicably afraid. She recalled the horror that this incident had brought into her calm life and shuddered. Rosings said. His dark moustache was still in place.” said Mr. sir. “For some reason. “It’s good to see you. “We have to get out of here.” “I know. Marin nodded. “What are you doing here?” Marin asked.“I don’t believe it. as though somehow afraid that he might be a mirage. coming into the room. “Are…are you here to rescue me?” Marin was suddenly 293 .” Mr. How long ago that seemed. What was he doing here? “I’m here to see you. He was the last person Marin ever expected to see again. Lord Keene –” “Don’t worry about Lord Keene. Rosings said in a low voice. Rosings pulled up one of the chairs and sat down. Marin shook her head.

” Mr. “I did hear that the Alikans had you. We aren’t going anywhere for now. “Where have you been. “I ordered Richard to keep you hidden that night that Prince Martin attacked the estate. Rosings said.” Mr. They said that they’d heard that I was alive and had come to get to me before Prince Martin. troubled. But I lost your trail.” Marin said wearily. Rosings said calmly. I was so worried.” said Mr. Marin shook her head.” Marin turned away.” “Why?” Marin asked. feeling a bit sick.” said Mr. Rosings smiled wryly.” Mr. “I’ve been here and there. sir?” Mr. keeping out of sight. “I’ve always wondered what happened to you that night.” Marin took a deep breath and reluctantly sat.worried. “But I can’t go with you – there are things I have to do…” “Marin.” she said. “I felt just as you look. “Yes. Rosings said. Once people discovered that I had once protected Marin Lindrine. 294 . “That night you disappeared. but about your abilities.” Mr.” “It feels like I’ve been everywhere. “And not only about your whereabouts. I had to go into hiding.” Mr. “Sit down. Rosings paused. She couldn’t go with him back to Sandhill. Rosings. “Enemies would want me for questioning. Rosings. doing everything. “I was captured. Rosings answered.” Marin took a deep breath. There were things that she had to do… “I am here to take you away from all this. “Simmerman and his army were in the vicinity when Prince Martin attacked.” “And they succeeded. That’s why I’d always done my best to keep the knowledge that you were at Sandhill a secret. She stopped and looked at him. They would think that I had learned how to exploit them to my very greatest advantage and would want to know all that I knew.

Rosings. “I…I don’t know –” She didn’t like the look that he was giving her. taking her shoulders and shaking her once. “Caron was kidnapped too. Rosings said sternly.” “Yes. He looked up at Marin. “Yes. “But that’s probably the reason why Simmerman got me instead of Prince Martin. Why did he take you away?” Marin swallowed. and I saw Prince Martin’s men taking her away. “She told me that Richard was killed soon after leaving Sandhill. And after that?” “After that. Richard pulled me back.” said Mr.” Marin said. I didn’t believe that you had killed Patrick.” 295 . “I don’t remember anything until I woke up in Simmerman’s camp. I tried to find Robin. “Because…because he said that – everyone was saying it. That’s when he drugged me.” “After leaving Sandhill? He took you from the estate?” Mr.” Marin said quietly. Rosings said lightly.” Mr. but I know you too well for that. her voice wavering as she remembered that night. Rosings voice had become a great deal harder. but I couldn’t leave Robin. Rosings demanded. I was unconscious. “I didn’t believe them. I’m sorry. waiting for her to explain. “No.” Marin said carefully.” Marin said. sir – that you had killed Patrick and he didn’t want that to happen to me…” “Do you think that I would have killed you?” Mr. “Don’t try that with me. “I gave the drug to him and told him to use it if he needed to. “That may work with others.Did he?” “He…he tried.” Mr. He wanted me to come with him.” Marin said. “Why?” Mr. sir.” “Richard and Caron both disappeared that night. Rosings demanded. shaking her head.

her voice still hard. “Yes. I won’t have servants that scheme behind my back. Rosings sat back in his chair and put a hand to his lips. Herring – you remember him? – that you were working for me and so he came and tried to take you away.” “You knew!” Marin exclaimed.” “I heard things about my parents. “You have been busy in the time that we have been apart. I wanted to keep you hidden away and safe. “But I did. “He was the one that leaked information to Prince Martin that you were at Sandhill.” said Mr. “Good girl. Rosings said calmly.” Mr. her eyes wide.” Marin felt as though she had been stung.” said Mr.” Marin slowly stood.” said Mr. Rosings. I found out that I’m heir to the Mykolian throne. “What was the point? Besides. Rosings. “Of course I knew. “I found out a lot about myself. Rosings looked like he was cleaning a tooth with 296 .Mr. troubled. Rosings smiled. you know. “Why would I have taken you and your sister home with me if I hadn’t known?” “You never said a word about it!” “No.” Mr. His voice seemed to come from some distance away.” Mr.” said Marin a bit coldly. That day we went into Hullberry I commissioned Mr. He told Mr. “Things you never told me. Rosings.” Marin continued. Rosings. I found out who I am. “I…I didn’t believe…I trusted you…I defended you…” “I’m very glad.” Marin head snapped up and she stared. “since I did it all for your protection. I wouldn’t have it. She closed her eyes and supported herself on the table with one hand. Golden to kill Patrick. They were killed by pirates. looking back at Mr.

his tongue. You loved it. You loved how it moved.” she said in frustration. Sometimes I remember feelings. Marin paused. but I’ve never really been able to recall faces. Rosings was smiling very strangely as though recalling that day in his mind.” Mr. but…” “You remember. Mr. Marin saw. Her mother was there. “Do you remember leaving for the sea with your mother?” Mr. Rosings said quietly. Rosings asked. just briefly. I remember him for the first time. his brows furrowed low over his eyes.” And then. thinking. I know it’s strange. “I remember you taking me to Sandhill when I was seven. “Your mother took you and your sister to the sea and the three of you boarded a ship. He was tall and dark-headed and he was talking to Marin’s mother. She could see her mother’s long silky hair floating in the wind. But someone else was there… It was her father. “I’ve been told about this.” said Marin. I just can’t remember…” “The sea was calm. “No.” Marin shook her head. the scene lost in her memory for so long: the clear skin of the ocean barely rippling and casting back quick flashes of the sun’s rays to her eyes.” Mr.” she said at last. Marin. “My mother had just been killed. panting. “It was your first time out on the ocean. all at once. Rosings was looking at her. “My father was there. Marin shook her head violently and emerged from the images of her memory. “I don’t really remember anything about her or my father. He wasn’t dead like people thought…” 297 . Rosings slowly. “He was there!” Marin whispered.” said Mr. “but no images come.

There was a loud rush and then she couldn’t breathe. “They drowned…” “You’ve always been terrified of water. “They died in the water. she threw herself into the sea after them. She heard the violent splashes of men swimming toward them. Rosings said quietly. She had run to the side of the boat and in the darkness had seen the spray of the thrashing bodies in the water. she felt her hair float eerily around her face. she sucked in and her lungs filled with water. Without a second thought. She heard more splashes and loud screams that drilled themselves into her ears. Her lungs ached.“The calm of the ocean didn’t last. the other ship approach. She knew that they had somehow been thrown into the water. The beautiful day on the warm water had become a nightmare in the dark. Marin opened her eyes and realized she was crying. Marin saw.” she said. sobbing hard. but she was suspended in a world that she did not know. She shook her head. She heard her father’s voice and then that of her mother’s. let out a cry and then slipped once more under the water. Frightened. “There was a storm…” Marin was once more plunged into the memory that she had not revisited since the night it had been made. the slopping of the water as they threw themselves on board. In just a few moments. She fought toward the light and all at once heard her hands beating the water around her as she broke the surface. as though it had happened yesterday. understanding that something terrible was happening and did not want to leave her mother. she looked up and somehow made out the faint light from the stars. Rosings softly. she was unconscious. She had pulled away and run. pulling her away from the side of the boat. “And I had so hoped that you would like 298 . She churned the water with her hands. She felt her mother’s hands around her neck.” said Mr. and pushing her toward the cabin and urging her to hide.” Mr.

“No. Rosings calmly.” said Mr. Rosings. “I did.” said Mr.” Marin said. rubbing her salty eyes with the back of her hand. It was also intense enough to make you forget the 299 . “I think I knew it when you took me back with you to Sandhill – how could I have forgotten who you were?” Marin suppressed another sob.” said Mr. Rosings smiled again. and this time. “Who attacked the ship?” Mr. “I killed your mother.” Marin saw once more the scene inside the carriage when Mr. It was unbelievable. but the only explanation. Mr. Rosings softly. Marin didn’t like the look of it at all.” “My father was there too.” said Mr. “You killed my mother and father?” “No. Marin.” Marin protested. “In your mind your parents had just been killed. The experience was intense enough to give you a deathly fear of the water. “He didn’t die. I took you back to my estate straight after and you began to put your talents to good use. “You’re my father…” “That’s right. “But why did I never know that?” Marin gasped. “You…you killed my parents?” Marin said hoarsely. Why had she been so comfortable? Marin looked up into the face of Mr.it…” “Who were those men?” Marin asked. “Trauma. feeling as though she were going to suffocate. She remembered the rocking of the carriage and the comfort she had felt. Rosings calmly. “He died as well –” “No. Rosings and saw at once the same face that she had seen on the ship talking to her mother in her memory. Rosings was her father.” Marin froze. Rosings had taken her back to Sandhill with him.

” “What was stopping you?” Marin asked. Rosings said.” she said at last. “People thought that I had been killed by the pirates. Even forget your own father. Marin you stayed. they stopped looking for me. “I disappeared from court to try to fool them. Why did you kill her?” “To appease the pirates. a terrible sinking feeling coming over her. but I really went to Sandhill and established the estate under the name of Rosings.” Mr.” said Mr. I’d been a sailor all my life. “but as my daughter.experience ever happened. then I am –” “In line before me.” “It’s a long story. Rosings as though seeing him for the first time. “You married her. “You realize. I would have done it. of course. I suppose you have a right to know it.” Marin finished. “It’s not that simple. I suppose. Rosings said. “Before I settled down at Sandhill. but she couldn’t help it. or I would be found by the pirates. “Once they were sure that she was dead and I was well punished. “This is insane! I don’t understand any of this. “Then I dropped some evidence to Tenara that I was 300 . but I let yours slip when I asked you a difficult problem – just to make sure you were the right twin.” Mr. I knew that I could not return to court. Even make your sister forget her name.” Mr.” Marin’s chest shook. But I couldn’t stay in hiding forever. “You killed my mother. Rosings cleared his throat and put a hand on his knee.” Marin looked at Mr. Even after I was married to Tenara I did a lot of sailing. Rosings said. that if you are heir to the Mykolian throne. I had some dealings with the Muttyl pirates that went sour. I would have changed yours as well. The pirates had demanded my life or the life of my wife in retribution. “If I could take the throne at any moment.” she choked out. Something had to be done. Things were bad. She tried not to cry. and then it was too late. Rosings simply.” Mr. “I don’t understand.

” “I don’t understand. If there is no one left to take the throne. I settled my debt to the pirates. “But they did nearly capture you.” said Marin with a shake of her head. through her tears.still alive.” said Mr. then all this work has been for nothing. “Why now?” Her voice shook. “If you’ve been disinherited. Rosings. I still had men loyal to me in Homed. You still can’t take the throne.” said Mr. Mykolia must have a king. “Unfortunately for me.” Marin got slowly to her feet. but only as long as any heirs to it survived.” “Ah. She took you and Robin and went out to sea to see me. she knew what was coming.” Marin whimpered as though she had been physically hurt. and King Alder was 301 . Rosings took you and your sister back to Sandhill. I changed you and your sister’s last name and took you with me to Sandhill. the pirates attacked. but I had anticipated this. “I steered the ship back to land once the pirates were gone.” “I ran into them on the Alikan plain!” Marin said. and as Mr. horror struck. then my disinheritance is revoked. I met her out at sea. “At Sandhill I taught you the best I could and used you once you were able to decode military messages my men were able to pick up. “King Castillo is dead. “And they were working for you…” “They didn’t accomplish much. “When the storm came. on a small island I had told her I had been staying to hide from the pirates. I’ve been trying for years to get back to the throne that is mine. Rosings with a smile. I pulled your mother into the sea and drowned her. In the confusion. and they agreed to help me should I need it. some of the sailors knew who I was and word got back to the Mykolian court that I was alive and had arranged for the pirates to attack my wife. “but it was all provisionary! I was barred from the throne. I was disinherited and unable to go back home.

How could it be? Not now. his sword drawn.” “Simmerman won’t kill Alder. getting to his feet and pulling a dagger from his belt.” Marin tried to swallow her tears. “I sent my men to Little Springs find her. Rosings before her. Rosings said with a devilish grin. since I had heard that he planned to marry her to the Alikan prince. Seems that his loyalty to Prince Esper ran dry. Rosings.” he said. “Get away from her!” Elian cried. he killed her. Marin immediately dived out of the way as Elian rushed into the room. bolting toward Mr.” “No!” Marin said. “It won’t matter if I’m dead. Seems things erupted in chaos once Simmerman’s army and my own men from Homed met up at Little Springs.” “What do you mean?” Marin choked out. Alder will still be alive –” “No. taking a step toward her.” Mr. And then. It’s perfect timing. 302 . but Simmerman took care of her first.captured. but could not do it. Rosings and Marin both spun around to see who had entered. Rosings. “And so is your sister Robin. once sure of his success. “The Mykolian army at Little Springs sent word back. King Alder is dead. Alder and Robin dead. and it arrived a very short while ago. an intense sadness coming over her. “He married her to gain control of Mykolia. It was Edric Elian. and this is a poor reward for that.” said Mr. The king died in the battle. “I’m sorry about this.” said Mr. Rosings. with a smile. even with the threat of Mr. Not after all she had done… There was a bang as the door to the study slammed open. “You’ve always done exactly as I wanted. backing up.” Marin stammered. Mr. But that marriage won’t have done much good in a few moments.

scooping up Elian’s sword from the floor on his way toward her. Blows were dealt out on both sides. Mr. more easily than she might have thought. pressed up against the wall watched the battle in silence. jumping to his feet and rushing toward her. Elian dived out of the way but in so doing let his sword fall to his side. And. his eyes rolled back in his head. The sword skidded across the room. Rosings’ knife flew from Elian’s hand across the room and sank itself into Mr. Rosings cocked his arm and threw his dagger hard at Elian’s chest. and he fell heavily to the ground. “Stay where you are!” He threw Elian from him and rushed toward Marin. Marin squeezed her eyes closed just in time to hear the dull thud as Mr. them. shaking her 303 . Rosings had only his dagger with him. Rosings jabbed at Elian while Elian was using his sword to distance himself from the man attacking him. Mr. still crying. and tried wildly to think how she could distract Mr. the answer came to her. and made for the door. “No!” Mr. giving them a wide berth. Seeing that Elian was staying well out of reach. Rosings’ back. Rosings. Rosings titled forward.Mr. but that did not cause him to hesitate in running to meet his opponent. Marin. “Are you hurt?” “No. Rosings lunged at Elian and pulled him to the floor. Marin watched. neither seeming to gain the advantage of another. Rosings’ dagger had fallen.” Marin managed to choke out. Mr. several feet from the struggling pair. “Are you all right?” Elian cried. She walked around the struggling pair. Marin broke down once more into tears. Marin looked past him and saw Elian crouching on the ground near the spot where Mr. Mr. Rosings shouted.

” “I thought something like that had happened.” Marin shook her head.head vigorously. folding her in his arms. Elian folded her once more in his arms and touched her hair.” said Elian. Rosings’ body on the ground.” said Elian gently.” Marin managed to choke out. “Who’s dead?” Marin could feel Elian look toward Mr. “And the leaves. “You knew who he was?” “Yes.” Marin said. Marin looked up at him.” “He could if he wanted to. Her body shook with sobs. “I was the one who left him back there at Little Springs alone! I left him there alone – the manuscript wasn’t there…he 304 . Marin?” Elian asked in real concern. “Yes. “Simmerman killed her to gain control of Mykolia. “What do you mean?” she sniffed. “I knew. “Then it’s my fault!” Marin said in anguish.” Marin sobbed. “They’re dead.” Elian said quietly. swallowing tears.” “Who then?” Elian asked.” Marin continued sobbing. “I saw your scarf and came as soon as I could. she lost control again. “I could just…tell. The moment she said the name. His face was marred by a line of blood that trickled down from a corner of his mouth. “No.” Elian said.” Elian nodded. “Alder.” “You knew?” Marin said. “Because of the trees.” Marin said. tears streaming down her face. I was the only one to whom he entrusted this information and I had to swear not to say a word. pushing away from Elian and shaking her head. frowning. “Robin too. “He wasn’t supposed to die. “Not him. What is it. and cried harder than ever.

” he said firmly.” Marin shuddered. and pulled her toward him. “You killed him. “Dead. “Come. “Yes. trying to swallow her sobs.” Marin insisted.” “Where is he now?” Marin asked. He must have believed that I really ran away. as though trying to clear it. for me.” said Elian. “This was not your doing. that I abandoned him. “He will be here any minute. “He would have killed me first if he could have. “It matters. “You came back for a reason.” Marin shook her head. Elian “You read it. You were meant to do this.” said Elian shortly. “I left him there.” “Lord Keene will have summoned guards by now. “We can get horses from the stables.” said Elian. He must have believed what I told Lord Josiah to tell everyone. then.” Elian said. We must go. and for all of us. There are things to be done!” 305 . “Stop this. “I came here and persuaded Lord Keene to show me where you were. A very important reason.” “It is my fault. then? You know what you are to do?” “Does it matter now?” Marin asked. “Unfortunately he had a very bad fall from a battlement shortly after our discussion. We don’t have any time to loose.” “No.” said Elian.thought I would be able to translate it in Little Springs.” Elian took her shoulders. For you.” Elian said.” Marin said. wiping the tears from her face.” “There was a fight.” “You had things to do.” Marin licked a tear from her lip. still crying. Marin.

Marin nodded. then that meant that he had lost his faith in her.” Marin said. It had come as quite a shock.” “At the Foundation of Things. Thinking of this just made her want to cry. every thought she had was focused on the king. After learning that Alder was dead. And. Maybe five hundred years.” Elian said with a smile. He thought that she had deserted him when really she had been trying to do all in her power to save him. learning about Alder. but did not look particularly surprised. “Comes in handy.” Marin said after a pause. and she knew that he needed to know. pushing aside a pile of leaves with his foot and sitting down next to Marin. he probably had a right to know. being immortal. “I don’t know. If he was dead.hat did the manuscript say?” Marin looked up from the hardtack she was dipping in water and sighed softly. about what she had read there so long ago.” Marin said. But she didn’t like thinking about it now.” Elian blinked. from what she had just discovered about him being in the king’s confidence. Marin thought back to what she had read in the Moonbook. “Did it talk about Alder?” Elian asked gently. “Sort of. 306 W . “A long time ago. “Elian. “What do you mean?” Elian asked.” Elian said quietly. She had known that Elian was going to ask her that. “How long ago?” he asked. without realizing what it was saying. “Alder wrote that manuscript.

when all of that had been made. And the manuscript had told her how. Marin. for her. back at the Foundation of Things to organize the world. He was one of the kings that had come in the beginning. But he had been alone.Alder was the Tree. was the Moon.” Marin said at last. the cliffs. The Tree and the Moon were to be brought together. “I don’t understand how it could have escaped anyone’s notice that he had been alive for such a long time. the sun. All this time. “Wouldn’t someone have noticed that he didn’t age?” 307 . immortal. He had been there when the water. he had been waiting. And she had understood at last that she.

So they decided that when Alder went to court. How is that possible?” “Orsten wasn’t Alder’s father.” Marin felt like crying again. little green remained at all and the world seemed dead.Elian smiled. “And now he’s dead. The only one left. He talked about me. Orsten was old enough that he looked like he could have been Alder’s father.” “Marin. “He knew that I should find this someday.” Elian said nothing. “Alder told me who he was. She unfolded it and looked once more at the words. “But he had a father. Now.” “Then the throne didn’t really belong to him. what did the manuscript say?” Elian repeated earnestly. like him. “He was writing to me. “Yes.” Marin said simply.” “What did he say about you?” “He said that I. too. “A real father. “Surely it gave you direction. Just a few short days before.” Elian said. “His trees are dying. Soon. now decoded and there in plain simplicity.” Elian said.” Marin said.” Marin said softly.” Marin said.” Elian said. “Orsten was a good friend that had come to know Alder well. “Oh. he should do so as Orsten’s son.” “Kenyon. Lord Orsten. “He was one of the first kings.” he said.” Marin sighed and pulled the manuscript from where she was keeping it against her chest. if you remember. had neither mortal father 308 . He waited patiently for Marin to speak. “Alder lived alone before coming to court.” Elian looked up at the brown leaves that were falling from the trees around them. Just as dead as Alder. “You told me that. the forests had been green and lush.” Marin said quietly. “He wasn’t supposed to leave. it always belonged to him.

“What do you mean?” “I was with your mother. Those were her words you quoted: ‘This is a day of great joy. There. but a day of great good. but somehow. “He said that I was conceived by the virtue of which he too is a part because he belongs to the first kings and queens that organized the world. his eyes shining very brightly. you came to life. I came to be. “A forest?” Marin said. “I told her that I loved her but that I couldn’t be with her any more.” Elian repeated. “He said…he said it happened in a moment of…what was it? Oh yes: great joy. her heart swelling. as though realizing something.’” “And that’s how I came to be?” Marin said in wonder.” Elian said. We loved each other so much…” “What happened?” Marin asked. great good. After a second’s thought. “I could never pretend to have had anything to do with how you became the 309 .” Marin hesitated. “Nothing.” Elian clasped her hand.nor mortal mother. there in that forest that power was very strong. Rosings ever was.” Marin began. not sure how to tell him what else she had read.” “Great joy. a day of great pain. “just before she left to marry your father.” Marin said.” Elian said. a sad smile breaking out over his face. Somehow. “The virtue of life of which Alder is a part resides in the trees that he has kept alive all these years.” Elian began. “Then that means. and a wave of relief swept over her.” Elian said. but a moment of great good.” Marin thought a moment. “What is it?” Marin asked. a moment of great pain. “Do you know what he meant?” “In a forest. “It must be. she shrugged. “that you are more my father than Mr. great pain.

It was probably a hundred feet in diameter and round. “I have to make it grow just as Alder made his trees grow.” “If it were easy. “And that’s all that counts. now looking around her. Maybe it was only for me to find.” “And you must do this in Kenyon?” Elian asked. The walls of the building were built straight up on every side.” Marin said. The alcazar was smaller than what Marin had been expecting. Marin’s boots crunched through the foliage as she and Elian approached the edifice. The sun had recently set and the air was cooling down.” Marin said absentmindedly. An easy way in. “Maybe they never knew it was here. taking in its sides of slate. turning back to find Elian. “How do we get in?” Marin asked.” 310 .” The Alcazar of Hazuki was different from what Marin had been expecting. “There must be a way in.beautiful person that you are. “I am the Moon.” Marin said quietly. There was no door. Marin walked around the alcazar. When the shining orb is in the sky. “At the Alcazar of Hazuki.” Marin said.” “But you’re with me now. “I don’t know. I will have the chance to save those I love. “Yes.” “What do you have to do?” Elian asked. They arrived in Kenyon after a few days’ uneventful travel and had little trouble locating the alcazar from the description that Alder had given of its location in the manuscript.” Marin said.” Elian said. might anyone have come here?” Elian asked. “Do you suppose we’ll have to climb it?” “No. “I don’t know.

“No. There was an otherworldly feeling Marin had never felt before that hung around her thick as water. pulling on a large rock blocking one side of the large box. “This is it?” Elian said. following Marin into the stone edifice. There were spidery roots lacing the walls of the stone passageway that draped down into the darkness and a strange scuttling of insects. Somehow I feel like I have to go first. It wasn’t foreboding exactly.” Marin said. Like all of this is for me to do. “Is it an entrance?” With some effort. There was a large box-like structure made of the same slate from with the alcazar was built. “Do you suppose it’s some sort of entrance?” Marin followed Elian to the mound and pulled the plants from it. I just feel like I should do as much 311 . Elian helped her pull the stone away. “Do you want me to go first?” Marin threw a glance behind her and saw Elian outlined against the pale twilight they were to leave behind.” Marin responded quickly. Marin did not answer at once. and that she was linked to this place. I think this is it.“Here?” Elian asked. She swallowed as she took a few steps into the blackness. it wasn’t that negative. “No. pulled out a lantern and lit it. “Yeah. She ducked inside the doorway and blinked into the dark shadows.” she said at last. “And I’m very glad that you’re here. I’m here to help. She felt instead as though all her senses were alive.” “Marin. Their efforts revealed the opening of a long black tunnel that gaped open before them.” Marin felt a strange sort of feeling come over her. walking to a large mound in the ground covered with twisted foliage.” Elian said firmly. “That stone. She reached into her bag. Marin took a deep breath and stepped inside. “I know.

She heard Elian follow her into the cavern. waiting to spot anything unusual. Marin found it difficult to keep her balance and was content to concentrate on staying upright rather than chat. It was beautiful. Her eyes were wide open. The vast ceiling of the grotto was punctured with holes that let light in.” “Forward.” Elian said. The two looked around them. stepping down carefully into a spacious grotto. He was very surefooted on the stone slope.” Elian said. Elian did not seem to be having as much trouble as Marin. The water seemed to be glowing at first. “I know. It was all absolutely stunning.” Marin said. then?” Marin swallowed hard and nodded. running his fingers over the indentations on the sides of 312 . “There are carvings on the walls. “I didn’t really expect this to be underground.” The tunnel sloped steeply downward. “Forward. presumably from the surface above. And amazing was indeed an adequate word for the sight that greeted them. His voice echoed strangely around the tunnel. “We’re now quite far beneath the surface.” he said simply. Four waterfalls tumbling from four different overhangs in the grotto fell into deep channels that coursed around and through the open space. “It opens up here. she saw the reason for this.” Marin said. but when Marin looked up.” The two continued along the tunnel. “Amazing. Marin walked into the room and looked around.of it as I can. Marin kept one hand on the side of the tunnel as she cautiously proceeded. The pounding of the water was the pervading sound in the grotto. The evening lights from outside lit the water and gave it a cool blue luster. neither speaking much.

at the Foundation of Things had founded the world and made it what it was. Marin set down her lantern and crouched down near the pool. “This would explain why it appeared small from the outside. was what looked like a white sphere. There was an intricate carving of a tree with a man beside it in a long robe. “Do you suppose we’re in the alcazar now?” Marin asked. who. Elian was looking down at the ground to what looked like a circular pool.” Marin walked away from the wall. She licked her lips anxiously. The water was very still and alive with what appeared to be white flames dancing up from the surface. There were inscriptions of many of the same things that had been described in the Moonbook. looking at the carvings. there were the tales of the first kings and queens.” he said quietly. Marin frowned and walked toward the pool. She trailed her fingers along the wall. touched the stone wall. Most of it is underground. 313 . It was lined with a tile made from a very smooth white marble. “Yes. “Look down there. The pool appeared to be very deep. She squinted and her heart began to pound in excitement. this one a woman. almost as though her chest were on fire.” Elian said. holding hands with the man and what looked like a small sphere in the other. when she was about to turn away and look once more to the waterfalls. There. And then. Marin walked over to join him and. she stopped. blinking up from a depth of perhaps a hundred feet. Elian did not take his eyes from the pool. She closed her eyes and tried not to think of him. in turn. It was a depiction of her and Alder.the grotto. Her eyes moved from the man to another figure. Marin felt very strange. “What is it?” she asked Elian.

too. Elian got to his feet and took a step toward her.” Elian looked at her. “I think. A picture of that sphere is carved onto the wall.” Elian said again. The fear of water that she had known since the day when her mother had been murdered exerted its full force on her.” Elian said firmly. I can’t. “Marin. It was whiter than anything she had ever before seen.” 314 . her mouth going quite dry. half hoping that he was joking.” Marin said quietly. you can. She couldn’t do what Elian was suggesting. The manuscript talked about it. her heart pounding in her ears. “You have to go down there. “Yes. “That’s it. turning back toward the glorious sphere below her.” he said gently. closing her eyes.” Elian said softly.The white of the sphere was nearly blinding.” Marin said. “Marin. taking her farther away from the pool.” Marin turned to him in shock. it was completely out of the question. “I can’t go down there. “There’s nothing for it.” Marin got hastily to her feet and backed away from the pool. and it was shining as though the light were coming from within the sphere itself. Marin shuddered and turned away. She realized that she was beginning to sweat. breathe.” “Yes. feeling the familiar suffocating sensation come over her. That’s what I have to get. She simply could not dive into that pool. “Elian. Marin could see light from the water reflected up in wavy patterns on Elian’s concerned face.” Marin said. “How am I going to get it out?” Marin asked. “I can’t do that. “that you are going to have to go in and get it.” Elian said firmly. “That’s it.

feeling short of breath once more.” Elian said.” Elian said. complete with all your fears. my mother.” Elian said after a pause. he did. her voice trembling. “But the water…” “Is nothing. “Listen to me. your dreams – everything. It is nothing! It is a fear of the past. do you understand me?” Marin shook her head and looked away. “I know you’re right.” “Yes. “I was there. You know who you are.” Elian continued. but I –” “Marin.” “I didn’t know that I would have to do this.“Elian.” Marin said.” Marin reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up to see Elian holding her shoulders. You read what you have to do. 315 . He turned and looked toward the pool. “This is your greatest fear. Marin. but I don’t remember it. “He’s been waiting for you. “You are not your mother. “And you are not going to die the way that she did. “Look at me. “The king knew you could do it. I was pulled out of the water. “You are not your mother. You read that manuscript. “But don’t you see? Isn’t it appropriate that you should have to face the one thing that you fear the most in order to save the people that you love?” Marin swallowed.” “Yes. looking at her intensely. I could have died too…” “Marin. You.” Elian said shaking his head. feeling tears come to her eyes.” Elian said. but he didn’t know that I would be so afraid –” “Yes. “He knew that you would come and that you would do this.” “If he were here now…” Marin began.” Marin said.” Elian said. she…she drowned. a past that has now become clear to you! You know now what happened. She tried not to look toward the pool that loomed behind Elian’s back. her eyes filling with tears. listen to me. Marin.” Marin said.

she took a deep breath. “Yes. “Well. she knew. she took another which put her in front of the glowing object that was perched on a 316 . To her surprise.” she said quietly. She even found that somehow.” Elian said. “Don’t think!” Marin closed her eyes. Marin very timidly opened her eyes. Then. He was right. took a slow step forward. This wasn’t the feeling that she had expected.” “Go. her hair floating weirdly around her. you are doing it for him. she was able to breathe normally.” Elian said quietly. his eyes shining. and walked toward the water with a firm resolve. or…” Elian’s voice came from behind her.” Marin said. Marin swallowed a sob and stared toward the pool. There was a smothering rush of water and Marin was pulled toward the bottom of the pool. After a moment. Her insides began to squirm as she thought about what she was about to do. She had to do this. “Do I jump.” Elian said. it seemed as though she were being pulled down toward the bottom at an abnormally fast speed.” Marin looked toward the water. “You’re doing it for him. And Alder had known she could. “He knew that I would be afraid. when she could hold her breath no longer. “Yes. She felt her heavy clothes disappear around her as she sank toward the bottom. and stepped into the water. In a few moments she had reached the bottom of the pool and came to rest a short distance from the glowing white ball.“If he were here now. would you do it for him?” Marin looked up slowly. Her boots touched the edge of the tile and she looked down into the water. “But he knew I would do it anyway. trying not to cry. the act was not in the least bit uncomfortable. Marin.

took the sphere up in her hands.marble stand. Marin reached out and with a very steady hand. 317 .

And yet…I feel that somehow I have seen you before. my mother?” “I came back to watch over you. as though it were echoing off the walls.” Marin took a step toward the woman.” the woman said. now clothed in some sort of thin gown. The woman smiled. and Marin felt an overwhelming feeling of comfort spread from the sphere through her limbs to her chest and face. “What. Marin let out a low gasp. Not when you were so young. was now glowing in precisely the same way as the sphere. I don’t think I do.” the woman said.” “I decided to come back for you. “You came back? What do you mean ‘you came back’?” I . Marin had the very strange feeling that she had seen this person before. I didn’t want it to be spent alone. isn’t it?” Marin looked up in some alarm to see who had spoken. “Do you know me?” “No. once she had taken her eyes from the woman. She looked down and discovered that her body.t was very warm. The woman smiled again. “Who are you?” Marin asked. her eyes wide. “What do you mean?” Marin asked. “It’s beautiful. Her voice sounded strange. “I came back to the world to be your mother. “I didn’t want you to be alone. Marin was entranced by her beauty.” Marin said. A lithe young woman with flowing hair and a rather blue tinge to her skin stood just a few feet from Marin. You’re the only one of us to have had a childhood. squinting.” the woman said. “At least.

“although my task then was very different.” “Come back with me.” “What happens to Elian is not in your hands.” the woman said.” Alena said. Rosings killed you.” “Yes. “But he loved you.” Marin pleaded.” Alena said with a quiet smile. The queen who.” Marin said insistently. I am Alena.“I was here once before. “He’s here! You have to see him!” “I am here to see you.” Alena said in a voice that made 319 . “I need you now. “He’s come with me here – if it weren’t for him.” Alena said confidently. once she remembered what she had been talking about. And it was time for you to come.” Alena said.” Marin said. “He loves you still. What happens to him will be for the best. “It was because he loved me that you came to be.” “Then come and be with Elian.” Alena said firmly. had made the waters was her mother? “You loved Elian.” Marin said.” Marin said desperately. Marin blinked. You should -” “It is good of you to think of him.” Alena said.” “And Mr. then I wouldn’t be here now.” “But –” “My daughter. “You had no more need of me. And now you’re here. “But there is really no need for you to worry.” Marin was stunned. feeling helpless.” “You don’t need me. “You have what it takes to do this. at the Foundation of Things. “I had done my job. I was first here to create the waters. “And his love for you somehow made it so that I came to be. “But he’s been so good to me.” “But –” “He will be rewarded for what he has done.” Marin blurted out suddenly.

and then. “I loved him too. Not just what happened then. “I made you forget.” Marin felt suddenly as though she didn’t understand what was going on anymore.” Marin said. she said: “I had to come and see you now. before you do what you came here to do. It was the only way she could keep from becoming emotional.” Alena said sagely.” Her voice was hard as she said it.” “Then I’ll see him again?” Alena smiled. I was afraid…” “I know.” “I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do. her bright hair floating around her face. her voice trembling.” Alena said. Especially after the incident on the ship…I didn’t want you to remember. a smile breaking out across her face.” “What?” Marin exclaimed. “But you came anyway. she said: “Alder is dead. “The time will come when you will remember. She looked at the woman who had raised her and then said: “Why don’t I remember you?” “Ah.” That would explain why she hadn’t remembered her father… “But I did remember.” Alena said after a long pause. She thought a moment and then said: “I want to remember everything. “That’s why I almost couldn’t come down here.” “Yes. “I made you forget. but what came before. Instead of answering.” Alena repeated. instead of asking another question.Marin pay attention to what she was saying.” Marin stopped.” Marin said.” “Not now. She thought a while longer. “that the kings and queens that came in the beginning are rarely gone forever.” Alena said. “I think you will find.” Marin said suddenly in anguish. 320 . “Yes.

“I don’t want to leave you.” Alena said.” Marin said. And then. It was strange.” And. she did. And then.” Marin nodded.“Take that sphere up to the surface. of course. She looked up toward the fissure in the ceiling directly above her and saw the stars peppering the night sky.” Marin took a deep breath. Marin reached the surface. she continued to rise a few feet until her feet just scraped the surface of the water. Her skin was almost translucent and she felt more than saw that she was giving off some sort of weird glow. “You’ll know what to do once you get there. It traveled upwards. “Go. Marin took a step back. Alena came forward and planted a kiss on Marin’s head. seeing the mother that she thought was gone forever made her want to stay with her. and then with one great effort pushed herself toward the surface. beneath her feet. watching her with a strange look in his face. “Marin!” Elian was standing a few feet from the pool. Marin knew what to do. the water instantly became solid. sphere in hand. 321 . far above her head. “You have to go. just as her mother had said. Just as fast as she had come to the bottom of the pool.” Somehow. almost as though it were reflecting something very bright. It had found its place in the sky directly above her head. “I did it. presumably growing in size as it went. She let go of the sphere and let it rise from her hands. feeling triumphant. as soon as she came to the surface. Marin looked down at herself and realized that the white gown she was wearing seemed to be made from the same stuff as the sphere that she had held. Several minutes went by before Marin realized that it seemed to have ceased moving. You know that.

I mean. back at Sandhill. Something wispy had floated by. “She couldn’t come out of the pool. “I wanted her to. isn’t it?” Marin looked around.” Elian said quietly. as though looking through a window. still standing on the glass that covered the surface of the pool. he smiled. “It feels more like glass. watching the floating frame.” Marin thought a moment and then said: “Did you know who she was. and yet Marin was startled by the newness of everything that she had learned in the last little while. “What do you see?” Elian asked. something caught Marin’s eye.” She grinned. 322 .Elian smiled at her. “I don’t know. but I think that somehow it wasn’t the right thing. It’s not cold. “How are you standing on it?” “No. a very strange sight. “Of course. to her great surprise. but at that moment. She knew that dress. shaking her head. Inside.” Marin said. I don’t think. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She had worn if often and loved it.” “Of course. “This is all very strange. She followed it with her eyes. and then. Marin saw.” Marin repeated.” Marin explained. She looked out at Elian and made to step toward him. “Has the water turned to ice?” Elian asked. working hard under the tutelage of one of Estelle Rosings’ tutors.” Marin said slowly. Elian had yet to be really surprised by anything that Marin had said. the wispy smoke seemed to form a sort of frame. did you know that she was Alena?” “Yes. Her eyes widened as she watched herself sitting at a desk. She gave a sigh of pleasure. something that did not look quite tangible and yet not quite transparent. “And I saw my mother!” Elian blinked and then. She looked up toward the moon there in the sky. after a slight hesitation.

each showing a different moment in Marin’s life. She could feel the velvet of the slippers on her feet.” Elian said. watching one frame with wonder. She recalled the fear she had felt while she was there and quickly turned away. She knew the coolness of the air coming in through the window. “Marin! The glass is breaking!” Marin looked down at her feet and saw that Elian was indeed right. She felt as though she were there. “Here’s one that seems to be me.” Marin said.She was looking at her ten-year-old self.” Marin’s stomach twisted at the unusual sight before her. She seemed to be looking out the window at a few flakes of falling snow. his voice holding some concern. Her features in the frame before her were the same. She looked away from the frame and noticed that several wispy frames were now forming around her. She knew that in just a few moments her chambermaid would appear… There was a loud crack that echoed around the grotto. but was now 323 . but I’m…I’m old.” Marin said after a moment. “They seem real.” Marin said. It looked like the water that was in the pool had somehow previously gone down. but wizened and older. “It’s me. There was a long crack that ran right under her feet. “Marin!” Marin wrenched her eyes from the scene and found Elian somewhere behind all the wispy moments from her life swirling up around her. “I think it’s showing my life. “I see myself riding with my sister. somehow. Marin swallowed hard and concentrated on what the woman was doing.” Marin said. “They can’t be real. where she saw herself at the river with Simmerman and Elian. looking to another frame.

“He’s there. This one was of Alder. She was walking with him in his garden. “This wouldn’t be happening if there wasn’t something that you have to do about it. “Think.” Marin said with a strange unfounded confidence. I –” “Close your eyes!” Elian shouted as another crack sounded. hear the bees. I have to go back and be with Alder. “It’s happening when I look at the frames. her eyes beginning to tear up under her closed lids.” Marin said. How she longed to be with him! “Marin!” There was another loud snap. The water was now rising much faster.mounting slowly toward the crack. She could smell the flowers. You’re seeing these scenes for a reason. keeping her eyes closed tightly. listen to me. “When I try to look closer. the more I feel like I’m there.” Elian said. She watched as she and the king talked together.” “Marin. “If I look at him. and the crack spidered under her feet.” Elian said gently.” “No. I feel him. the flowers blooming at his fingertips. and her heart ached. Again she could feel the world that was shown her. Marin squeezed her eyes shut almost against her will. raising her eyes to Alder’s face once more. “Alder would not 324 . Marin looked back up and saw another frame. She saw him trailing his hands along the tall grass. Confused. Marin!” Elian shouted.” “But I don’t know what that moment is!” Marin said in anguish. “Listen to me! This is what Alder meant! This is how you can save him! There was some moment in your life when you could have done something that would have changed what happened to Alder.” “I can go there. then I can be with him. Elian. You have to find that moment and go there.” Marin said slowly. Marin. “The more I look at them.

Marin’s eyes fell on the one she wanted. finding the manuscript and then finding out. It was very difficult.” Marin said. Marin realized. “Concentrate!” Elian’s voice seemed to come to her from far away. she longed to let her eyes linger on the scene and let herself be drawn to him. cold and hungry.” Elian said. She remembered being branded on her shoulder. That moment seemed quite pivotal. Marin was just about to mention it when she remembered discovering that Alder knew who she was and was very close to rescuing her. trying not to concentrate on any one frame for too long. Marin took a deep breath and turned to look behind her. “I have to find a way to get out of Little Springs before Alder gets there with his army. at last. And then she had been captured and sent back to Little Springs by Lord Keene.” Marin’s mind began to race. After skipping over several scenes.have trusted you if you did not know. 325 . who she was. The Mykolian army could have destroyed Simmerman and his evil fortress if only… If only she had not been there. her skin crawling with excitement and fear. at last.” “Very good. open your eyes and find the moment that you need!” Marin opened her eyes and began to look through all of the frames that wafted by her. what she had to do. All the events that had taken place from the moment that Marin had been kidnapped from Sandhill began to run through her mind. She saw herself just where she needed to be. Her being inside the castle had forced Alder to take her place as Simmerman’s prisoner and had kept the army from taking the fortress. every time she spotted Alder. “Now. she remembered arriving in Little Springs for the first time. She was sitting in the dungeons of Little Springs. alone. “I have to go back to Little Springs.

” “Nothing’s going to go wrong!” Marin exclaimed. “I feel that I need to stay and watch.” Marin interrupted sharply. I’m not afraid to see it all play out.” Marin said.” That was all he said.” Marin said desperately. “Please go. you may need my help if something goes wrong.” “Marin. The cavern is going to flood. her skin crawling with sudden fear. stopping slightly now that she was no longer looking at the scene that she wanted. Marin heard a loud whoosh from beneath her feet and her head snapped down to look at what was happening under the glass.” 326 . She locked her eyes on it. “But this is everyone’s one chance. his voice soft and soothing. Besides.” Elian said quietly. worry in his voice. The scene of the dungeons of Little Springs was easy to find.” Elian said calmly. The water was surging forward fast. “Elian.” “I know.” “Marin. “You have to get out.“Elian.” “Elian. “When the glass breaks. nearly hysterical. I came here to help –” “Elian.” Marin whimpered. “Simmerman did terrible things to me in Little Springs. “You have to go. a terrible feeling coming over her.” “Marin. the water that’s under my feet will come rushing up into the grotto.” Elian said again. squeezing her eyes closed suddenly. “I’m not afraid…” “You’ll die.” Marin said. beginning to cry. “What are you doing. “Elian. Marin?” Elian asked.” Marin said. “I came this far because I wanted to see this come at last to its end. “You have to get out.” “I’ll be all right. Marin took a deep breath and opened her eyes.” Elian said comfortingly.

As she did. There is something that you should realize. sniffling. you have rescinded your claim on immortality. then I will. if I sense that I need to go. She was in that cell. You will be able to die just like everyone else.” “What!” Marin exclaimed. startled. with a great rush. “I was immortal?” “Be careful. She was back in Little Springs. she felt a burst of water thrust her forward and she heard the waterfalls in the grotto suddenly increase with intensity. I can’t leave you now. You must know that. seeing that it was useless to try to persuade him. And now she had to get to work. “But I want to stay here with you.” “What?” Marin said.” Elian said. and now. she felt the glass underneath her feet shatter. “I’ll be gone in a moment. and then – Marin opened her eyes. The noise of the water had stopped. Marin. her voice shaking. Having accomplished what you were to do in this world. Marin watched herself there in the cell more intently. she saw that all her talking was useless. you will no longer be immortal. 327 .” Marin said.” Elian said. “After all we’ve been through together.” Elian said simply. The water lifted her up and hit her in the face. “One last thing. Marin.” Marin said. She took a long deep breath.“Marin. all the water she heard was a distant drip somewhere in the dark.” Marin tried to breathe normally. Marin wiped the tears from her face and then looked up once more toward the scene that seemed to be waiting for her. “You get out the moment I’m gone. “When you go back. Then. She couldn’t make him go. stepping back.” Marin swallowed hard and nodded at last. “I will.

Kimmick.” the man continued.” the man said quietly.” she said with humility. “I’m sorry. Marin blinked.” “Mr. seemed to have happened so long ago. to her. on the other hand. “You want to fight. so you had better listen to me. had just seen Simmerman get tackled and Robin threatened.” Marin’s heart began to pound. She remembered her scowl that had served as a response. her mouth dry with anticipation. Alfred Kimmick was walking toward her cell.” His eyes burned bright. Alfred Kimmick bent down and grabbed the bars of Marin’s cell. Your scene earlier tonight was blood-curdling.” the man interrupted. his long black robe swirling around his feet as he approached. “I have sent a message to M .” Marin swallowed hard and nodded. “What must I do?” “You must do as Lord Simmerman says if you wish to remain alive. “but you are going about it completely the wrong way.” Marin scrambled to her feet. Kimmick. “You did those equations wrong on purpose to thwart the plans of General Simmerman. Certainly he could help her escape… “You’re playing a very dangerous game. Those to whom you want to return will find a way to rescue you.” It was incredibly strange that he could be talking about events that.arin. “I know. thinking that this was the strangest thing that she had ever done. and she remembered the words that had followed: “Your life is on the line as is that of those you love.” Marin said in greeting. “I must be quick.

” Kimmick admitted. “Not well.” Kimmick said slowly. “But I do what I can to help those that fall under the iron hand of Simmerman.” Marin said desperately. “I know that he wants Robin to marry Prince Esper instead of me. “They want to send her to him very soon. For now. “Do you know how I can escape?” “Little Springs is well guarded. you must know that he is planning to kill you. his plans to send her to the prince had changed. Kimmick had not spoken so plainly the last time they had met. “When is Robin going to be sent to him? And how exactly is this going to happen?” “Be quick.” Marin said. 329 . Simmerman had killed Robin.” Marin looked up suddenly.” “Yes. He will very soon know you are here.” “I have to get out of here. “They are planning on sending her to him soon.” Marin repeated. which means that you do not have the luxury of continuing your current course of behavior. “If Simmerman does not want you to leave.” she said after a long pause. “I know.King Alder. they were still in place. Marin looked up. He seemed surprised that Marin was so willing to listen to him. a look of intense concentration on her face. Marin remembered.” “Do you know him?” Marin asked suddenly. then you will not leave. coming close to the bars.” Marin caught her breath and looked down. “There is a way…I just have to find it.” Kimmick said. After Marin had left for Prestani.” Marin lifted her hood and looked at Alfred Kimmick who stood beside her dressed in a similar long black robe.” “There must be a way.” “Marin.

A large ring of keys hung from his hand. It was night and yet a faint light was filtering in through the windows. Marin looked up in some confusion, thinking that the stars could never be bright enough to produce so great a light. “You must hurry,” Kimmick said urgently. “I have unlocked her cell. Now go.” Marin reluctantly tore her eyes from the window and crept into the room from which Kimmick had just emerged. She eased the door closed behind her, trembling with anticipation. “Marin!” “Shhh!” Marin hissed, falling down beside her sister. The two girls embraced. Marin hugged her sister tightly against her body, wanting to cry when she thought what her fate risked being at the hands of Simmerman. “Robin,” Marin said, throwing a glance behind her into the dark to be sure that the two were really alone. “There is a plan to get us out. Kimmick is helping us.” “What is it?” Robin’s voice pierced through the darkness toward Marin. “We have to trick Simmerman,” Marin whispered. “I think I’ve got it all worked out. But Robin, some of this is going to sound crazy. And it could be dangerous.” “I don’t care,” Robin hissed back resolutely. “I’ll do anything to get out of here. Just tell me what you have in mind.”

“Come along, Marin.” Alfred Kimmick removed his hood and blinked out into the bright morning. He felt uneasy on his brown horse as he was not used to riding, but felt refreshed in the morning air. They had gone only a short distance from Little Springs. Kimmick wondered when Simmerman would realize that he had taken Marin with 330

him instead of Robin, as he would likely first surmise. Actually, the moment Simmerman realized that they were gone, Kimmick’s own life would most likely be in danger. Charles Simmerman had not known that Kimmick was taking either of the girls from the castle. Simmerman had always talked about sending Robin to marry Prince Esper when Marin had not worked out, and then, after learning of the twins’ identity had only considered it as a way to make the prince believe that he was still loyal to him. Simmerman had instead been busy with other plans for the older twin that would serve his own interest. And who could blame Simmerman for scheming? Kimmick thought wryly to himself. Wasn’t that what he, Kimmick, was doing himself? Kimmick smiled again at the thought of his own cleverness. Just when it was becoming obvious that Simmerman was growing tired of his loyalty to Prince Esper, he, Kimmick, would prove his loyalty to the prince by bringing him back the girl the prince had planned on marrying from the beginning. For down in Marin’s dark cell the two had hatched the plan that Marin and Robin would trade places and that Kimmick would take Marin, only distinguishable from her sister by the mark on her shoulder, from the castle. When Simmerman discovered that one of the twins was missing, he would assume that it was Robin, since Robin had taken Marin’s place in her cell. Indeed, the twins were virtually identical, and there would be no need to check for a mark – that is, with a bit of good acting on Robin’s part. Kimmick was not too surprised that his trickery had won over Marin so easily. Once he had her convinced that he only had her best interests at heart, she had come up on her own with the plan that would secure his power and popularity at the Alikan court. What was more, Kimmick did not feel badly about 331

what he had done. The way he saw it, Marin was getting the good end of the deal by securing a marriage to a wealthy prince, one that would control a united Mykolia after their marriage. It was certainly better than what Simmerman could do to Robin once he discovered that one of the twins was gone. “How far do you think we have to go before we make it out of Alika?” Marin asked, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Kimmick had to work to keep himself from smiling at Marin’s distorted idea of where they were going. “I don’t know,” Kimmick said, trying to make his voice sound kindly. “I suppose it will take several days, which is why I wanted to make sure that we loaded the horses up with food before leaving Little Springs.” “How long before Simmerman discovers that we’re gone?” Marin asked. She was riding a pale sand-colored horse. “I’m sure he will have discovered that Robin is not in her cell very soon,” Kimmick answered. “We are, however, fairly safe as Simmerman does not have a large force at his command at Little Springs. He would have to send a message to his army and that could take a couple of days.” That night Kimmick made a fire and he and Marin huddled around it to keep away the mosquitoes as they ate their simple dinner. “You know,” Kimmick said after a moment’s thought. “You know, the whole world’s amazed by what you do.” Marin seemed to hesitate a moment and then she gave a quick smile and nodded, a sort of bitter irony in her voice. “I know. Strange isn’t it. I don’t deserve it.” “Your capacity with numbers has always astounded me,” Kimmick continued. “Your gift is almost divine.” Marin laughed. “Yes, it must seem that way to other people. My life has been pretty unglamorous, though. I’m 332

just shut up in people’s offices all day, translating random messages. Usually I don’t even know who they’re for or what they’re about.” “Was your sister ever jealous of you?” Kimmick pressed, taking a spoonful of soup from his bowl. “No,” Marin answered at once. “She has her own talents.” “No one knows what they are, though. She’s not famous.” Marin stared hard at him. “My being famous is what has gotten both of us into all this trouble. I don’t think fame is necessarily something that either one of us wanted. If I had simply shut up about my abilities we might both be in a lot less trouble right now!” Kimmick nodded. He had always been fascinated watching Marin rapidly translate documents and had heard that she could do amazing sums in her head. He was about to ask her to do a complicated one when Marin stood. “It’s late,” Marin said, yawning. “Time for bed?” Kimmick hitched a gentle smile onto his face. “Time for bed,” he repeated in what he hoped was a paternal voice. Marin gave him a nod and slipped into her tent. Kimmick turned back toward the fire and smiled widely as he looked into the flames. In just a few days they would be in Numan. And then he would be the famous one.

“Kimmick!” Kimmick turned from his horse that he was grooming and looked to see why Marin had called to him. “Kimmick, men!” Marin shouted, coming to a halt at his side. Her hair was quite wild as though she had been running a great distance. There were dirty marks on her 333

face where dust must have clung to her sweat. “Calm down!” Kimmick said, though lines of worry were sprouting on his face. He threw down his brush and dusted off his hands, coming around the side of his horse to see what Marin was talking about. Sure enough, off in the distant trees, Kimmick could see a vast amount of men marching in their direction. Marin swallowed. “They’re Simmerman’s men. Alikans.” Her voice had taken a hard tone. She was giving him a piercing look that Kimmick did not like at all. “Was this your doing?” Marin shot at him angrily. Kimmick gave her an askance look. “No, of course not…” “Where are we?” Marin demanded. “We should have crossed the Odessa days ago.” “We’re taking another route,” Kimmick lied quickly. “That’s not true,” Marin snarled. “There’s no time for that now,” Kimmick returned, beginning to sweat. “Get on your horse. We’re going to get out of here.” This was most unexpected. He had not thought that he would cross paths with Simmerman’s men. As he threw his saddle back on his horse a sudden though occurred to him. It was not certain that they would be able to outrun the army. He would be much more likely to escape unscathed if he could convince them that he had apprehended the girl and was simply bringing her back to Simmerman. Kimmick peered around the flank of his horse and saw Marin, crouched down near her pack, throwing things quickly inside. He quickly looked around and found a length of rope which he coiled stealthily in his hand. As swiftly as possible Kimmick strode over to Marin, grabbed her arm and forced her to her feet. 334

“Hey!” Marin shouted. Kimmick was startled when Marin wasted no time in connecting her fist to his nose. Trying to ignore the profuse tears and blood that were now clouding his vision, Kimmick tightened his grip on the girl and forced her hands behind her, but she pulled them away again and this time, kicked him hard in the knee. Kimmick cursed and decided that tying her hands was perhaps a waste of time. He threw down the rope and dragged her toward the clearing where the first soldiers of the Alikan army were appearing. “I found her!” Kimmick shouted out crazily. “She tried to get away, but I got her!” “Why you –” Marin fumed. “Who?” The man at the forefront of the army who seemed to be the leader did not dismount from his horse. He simply fixed Kimmick with a look that made him feel rather silly. “Marin Lindrine!” Kimmick shouted. “She escaped from Little Springs and I just now caught up to her. You have come at an opportune moment!” “Marin Lindrine?” The captain’s dark eyes fixed Kimmick with a look of concern and interest. He descended from his horse and walked toward Kimmick, who held Marin prisoner by the arm. “Marin Lindrine, you say?” the captain repeated with a frown. “But we brought her to Little Springs just a short time ago. She was in the custody of General Simmerman.” “That’s right,” Kimmick said, nodding furiously. “But she escaped!” Marin suddenly began to laugh in what sounded like disdain. All eyes turned on her. “I’m not Marin,” the girl scoffed. Kimmick became angry. “Don’t listen to her! You 335

know her face! This is Marin!” “I’m her twin, you idiot,” the girl snapped. “That’s impossible!” Kimmick exclaimed. The girls had traded places in their cells so that Simmerman would think that it was Robin that he had taken from Little Springs. She was trying to fool them… “There’s one easy way to tell if you’re telling the truth,” the captain said. “I was there when Simmerman put a mark on Marin Lindrine’s shoulder. If this is her, she’ll have the mark.” Kimmick grabbed the girl’s collar and forced it down over her shoulder. There was nothing. Kimmick’s heart nearly stopped. How could this be? Surely the girls had not double crossed him! He had volunteered to help rescue them! This was a fine way to repay him! He quickly grabbed the girl’s other shoulder and examined it. Still nothing. “Nothing there, is there, Kimmick?” the girl said with a triumphant smile. She pulled away from him angrily. “Kimmick?” one of the soldiers repeated. “Alfred Kimmick? What are you doing outside the castle? Simmerman has much faster men that he could have sent out after an escapee.” The air was suddenly cut by the sound of a horn blowing in urgency. “What is it?” the captain shouted, turning back toward his men. From the back of the ranks surged a man who was holding the horn that had just been blown. He looked worried. “My captain, there is a band of men coming our way.” 336

“If he’s still alive after we have destroyed this vermin. “The girl is gone!” Kimmick shouted. we’ll take him back to Simmerman and hear his story.” “Aren’t you going to stop her?” Kimmick spluttered in fury.” the scout said. the Alikan soldiers fell on him and bound his wrists. “Prepare for battle!” the captain shouted. seizing the reigns of his horse. “At least a thousand.” The captain looked over his shoulder at Kimmick and then said reluctantly: “And send a pair of men after the girl. you. “And you.” said the man who was tying his wrists. In the meantime.” the man said with a bow.” Kimmick looked around and realized that the girl was gone. “Perhaps you didn’t notice that she took your horse as well. turning to the men at his side. At the same moment. I want him to be aware of the recent developments. 337 .“How many?” the captain demanded. Selmer. “If you hurry. “Tie these two up. We’ll take them back to Little Springs once we finish with this vermin.” “You can’t leave me here!” Kimmick bellowed as the man holding him let him fall to his side on the leafy ground. “They bear the symbol of Homed. “Leave him!” the captain said over his shoulder. you can catch her! She must have disappeared in the trees!” “She slips out from under your nose so easily. mounting in haste. “They have seen us and have sounded the attack!” “But who are they?” the captain said. But there was no answer from the Alikan captain as he led his army in full charge against the menacing Homed band.” he added. take a message back to Simmerman.

Marin could tell from the way his hot breath was blasting her in the face that he was very angry. “Don’t play games with me. “Who?” Marin asked. “Where is she?” Simmerman bellowed again. “You know who I mean. His hands clamped vice-like around Marin’s forearm and yanked her to her feet. sir. attempting to keep W . Marin tried to remain calm. eyes burning like two bright coals in his darkly shadowed face. trying to pretend that she knew nothing about the disappearance of her sister that had obviously enraged him. “I know where she is. Simmerman slammed her up against the bars and looked her straight in the eye. rushing up to Marin’s cell.” he snarled. Simmerman descended on Marin like a falcon on a small rodent it has spotted. After rattling them rather uselessly against the bars. he managed to find the keyhole and push the iron door open. I –” “Unlock this cell!” Simmerman had stridden up beside the young man and stood. Where is Robin?” “Robin? She’s gone?” Marin said. raging like a wounded bull.here is she?” The roar awakened Marin from her sleep. The young guard fumbled with the keys. “She’s here. sir. He looked exceptionally frightening.” and over-eager young male voice answered. She lifted her head from where it lay on her knees and blinked up into the semi-darkness. you idiot! I’m not talking to you!” “I’m sorry.

her voice steady. “Fine,” Simmerman said with a disturbing finality in his voice. He released Marin and marched out of the cell. He made a gesture to someone standing in the shadows and then another man came forward, this one with a patchy beard. He was holding in his hand a cage just big enough to hold Marin. Marin pressed herself against the wall, unable for the first time to remember why she had chosen voluntarily to come back to this. She had known what she might face returning into Simmerman’s power. But now, looking at that cage again, Marin wasn’t sure that she had made the right choice. Without any explanation Marin was dragged from her cell and forced once more into the tiny cage. She grabbed the bars as she was lifted from the ground and carried from the dungeon. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Marin exclaimed to Simmerman who was walking alongside Marin’s cage, her voice sounding winded. “I didn’t even know she was gone! Besides, how could I have helped her escape? I never left my cell!” “Escaped did she?” Simmerman said out of the corner of his mouth. “That’s very interesting. I’ll have you expound on that theme once we are upstairs.” Marin was taken through the great hall. It was completely devoid of the usual people milling around. A strange feeling of disconcertment filled Marin’s stomach. What was going on? Where were the courtiers that Simmerman always had on hand to keep him company? Simmerman led the small troupe into the dark room that Marin had visited once before. It was here that Marin had been beaten and threatened. The dark feeling of foreboding in the pit of Marin’s stomach grew stronger. The man holding Marin’s cage set her down on the table. Simmerman peered into Marin’s cage. 339

“How did she escape?” Simmerman asked, his voice short like the crack of a whip. “I don’t know that she did escape,” Marin said, shaking her head. “I just thought that if she wasn’t where you left her, then maybe she found a way to –” “I am warning you,” Simmerman cut her off violently. Marin could see every one of his large teeth as he spoke. “I am warning you that if you do not tell me the truth this very minute, you will sorely regret it. I know what frightens you.” Marin swallowed hard, taken aback. What did he mean by that? She shook her head. The important thing was to keep talking as though she knew nothing about the matter. “I don’t know anything,” Marin insisted. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” Simmerman straightened and gave a curt nod to the large man that had carried Marin’s cage. Marin felt herself being lifted and taken toward another corner of the room that had hitherto remained in the shadows. She sucked in her breath when she saw what was there. It was a large cubic pit built into the floor, just large enough for the entire cage in which Marin was being held to be lowered. Water filled the pit; the surface a few feet from the opening. Marin tried not to panic. “I don’t know anything,” she said, her voice beginning to shake. “I really don’t…” “We’ll see,” Simmerman said simply. He made a wave with his hand and the large man that had carried her cage grabbed the bars. There was a sickening splash and the man dropped Marin’s cage into the pool. He gave a push to the top of the cage. Marin watched in horror as water began to submerge first her feet and then her chest. She thought that she might faint when the water reached her chin. 340

The man holding the cage gave a mighty push and pushed it under the water. Marin just managed to swallow a breath of air before she was forced under the water’s surface. She hung suspended in the water, flailing her arms, trying not to think about what was happening, trying not think about the slight pressure in her ears or the fact that she was quickly running out of air… When it felt as though her lungs were about to burst, the cage was suddenly lifted from the water and Marin sucked in as much air as her lungs would hold. She began to cough loudly. “Where is she?” Simmerman demanded again. Marin shook her head. “I will put you under again unless you tell me now where she is,” Simmerman threatened. “I don’t know where she is,” Marin choked, water dripping from her face and her eyes. She was shaking hard, trying not to think about the repulsive feel of the water in the pool. She tried to ignore the fear that he would put her back again, but it suffocated her. “Kimmick is gone too,” Simmerman barked, “and there were witnesses who saw him go down to the dungeons. What did you talk about?” Marin looked him in the eye. “He never came to talk to me,” Marin heard herself say. “Put her back in,” Simmerman said coldly. “No!” Marin exclaimed, feeling her cage being lifted once more toward the pool. There was the initial splash as the base of the cage hit the surface and cool water sloshed in around her legs. “No! Stop it!” Marin shouted. She tried to calm herself, but she could not do it. She closed her eyes in despair. Why could she not conquer this fear? She had thought that she had learned to control it when she had been down in the grotto and had retrieved the moon341

sphere… “I’ll tell you where she is!” Marin said suddenly, as though she had just realized that this would make him stop. “Put her under,” Simmerman said acidly. “No!” Marin shouted again, but her cries were stifled as the water rushed up around her body. Marin pushed her nose up through the bars in the top of the cage gasping as the water enveloped her mouth, nose and eyes. Marin grasped at the bars and pulled with all her might, mad with fear. They did not budge. Several seconds passed. Marin let out the last of the air in her lungs and looked up. It did not seem as though the man was ever going to let her up. Was she going to die here, in this cage at Little Springs? Had she come this far only to be stopped now? Marin shook the bars once more and then felt her hands gently release the bars. Her arms stopped flailing and her feet stopped pushing off the bottom of the cage. Her eyes gently closed and she had the very strange sensation that she was falling asleep, but that she was keenly aware of it as it was happening. Without knowing how, Marin felt herself suddenly being thrown to the floor. She was out of the water now, choking and trying to breathe at the same time. She tried to get up, to see where she was, but everything looked as thought it would from a great distance. “Where is she?” Simmerman said, pulling her to her feet and throwing her against the wall. His eyes were like two bright lights. “I want you to answer me right now, because if you don’t, then I will personally drown you in that pool.” “She’s gone,” Marin burst out, water pouring from her ears, nose and mouth. “Kimmick took her away from here to people that will take care of her. To the Mykolians.” 342

She breathed heavily for a few moments, feeling her wet hair fall against her face. She gave a soft laugh. “She’s gone and you’ll never get your hands on her again.” Simmerman stared Marin in the eye for a moment and then took a step back. He looked at the floor and then paced toward the window as though he expected to see Robin and Kimmick out in the distance. At last he turned around, a small smile on his face. “I’m glad that you’ve told me this,” Simmerman said, sweeping his long robe away from his feet. “Yes, I’m very glad because now I know exactly what I’m going to do. You’ve helped me make up my mind.” Marin said nothing. She watched him begin to pace again, a small smile growing on his face. “I have grown very tired of you,” Simmerman said, clasping his hands behind his back and turning once more toward Marin. He spoke very calmly as though they were discussing the weather. “You are insubordinate and extremely difficult to deal with. I was going to simply keep you in the dungeon, but I’m afraid your usefulness is now limited to only one thing that you can give me.” Marin’s eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?” “Your title,” Simmerman said. “After you give me that, you will die.” “What?” Marin stammered. “Serving Prince Esper has been the sum of my life,” Simmerman said as though he had not heard her. “From the time he was very small I fulfilled his every wish. I led his army for many, many years. “But the boy has grown up to be a stupid, foolish man. I saw it, but never really realized it until just recently. The boy tried to hide from me your identity. Once I discovered it, and happened upon Robin, I thought that I had everything figured out.” 343

Marin glared at him. “It’s a shame that your sister is gone,” Simmerman said. “Now that your sister is no longer here, I suppose that I will be forced to marry you instead.” “You can’t marry me,” Marin said, her blood feeling like it was freezing in her veins. “Can’t I?” Simmerman said, a smile playing around his thin lips. “And if you did, I would make your life miserable,” Marin said, baring her teeth. “I don’t doubt that,” Simmerman said dryly. “But did I not just mention that there is no need for me to keep you alive after we are married? All I need is a ceremony and then an executioner and then I am the ruler of Mykolia.” Marin swallowed but her throat was dry. “It will have to be a grand ceremony,” Simmerman said dreamily, as though Marin was not present. “All the foreign dignitaries will be invited. Prince Esper too, of course, so he can understand the consequences of not trusting me.” Simmerman turned to the man that was still clutching Marin’s cage and waved toward Marin. “Take her upstairs and put her in a dress. She is about to take her rightful place as queen of Mykolia. She should start looking respectable.” “You don’t know the first thing about respectable,” Marin spat, as the man grabbed her arm and dragged her from the room. “Your company is delightful,” Simmerman said as she was taken away from him. “It’s a shame that I have just a week left to enjoy it.”

“He’s forcing me to marry him!” Marin exclaimed as Caron entered the room, bringing an armful of long 344

dresses with her. Caron gave Marin a long look and then walked to the wardrobe, where she hung the dresses all up neatly in a line. “I said, he’s forcing me –” “I heard you,” Caron interrupted, turning from the wardrobe to face her friend. “What do you want me to do about it, Marin?” Marin blinked. She put a hand to her head and got up off the bed. She went to the window and stared out at the dark, rainy afternoon. “Things are bad, Marin,” Caron said. “Things are bad for all of us, not just for you.” “Then he’s said that he’s going to kill you too?” Marin snapped. “When was that going to happen? After he stole your title?” There was a silence. After a few moments, Caron came up to the window behind Marin. “He’s going to kill you?” “Forget it,” Marin said, shaking her head. “Forget I said that.” “Is he?” Caron demanded. “All he wants is to be king,” Marin said quietly. “After he marries me, then he won’t need me alive anymore. And he hates me. If he wanted me alive, I might have a chance, but…” Caron was quiet a moment. “He’s making elaborate preparations,” she said at last. “He’s had invitations sent to every important person I’ve ever heard of. He’s making this into a major event.” “There’s really nothing I can do, is there?” Marin whispered, tears filling her eyes. “He’s really won, hasn’t he?” Caron put her hand on Marin’s shoulder. “But King Alder – he’s coming for you, isn’t he?” A flicker of hope kindled inside Marin. The King was alive! She had nearly forgotten that! 345

“What is it?” Marin asked. “Don’t make him angry.” she said.” she said. She wanted to tell her that she couldn’t just give in and follow his every order. Marin gave her a long look.” Marin nodded and clasped Caron’s hand. “Kimmick said that he’d sent a message. “We’ll get out.” Caron said. “They are nicer than the one you’re wearing. I don’t know if that was even true. “But it’s the only thing we’ve got to hold on to. She wanted to tell Caron that making Simmerman angry was the only way that she could fight back against him now. “No. “All right. her eyes growing wide.” agreed Caron. Caron shook her head.” Caron said.” Marin said forlornly. And he wants you nicely dressed.” Marin said.” “He’ll make it.” Marin said sourly. Marin. She had forgotten that others besides herself had had to suffer because of all that Simmerman had done to capture her.“Yes. looking down at the long blue gown that she was wearing.” Marin sighed. “I don’t know how long ago that was. But seeing the sad. But he might not.” Caron helped Marin into a long scarlet dress and 346 .” Caron pleaded. “We will. Caron gave her a smile and then looked slightly uncomfortable.” “I am nicely dressed. but I was sent here by Simmerman. “You can’t know that. “I’m sorry about all of this. He wants you down in the Great Hall with him. standing.” Caron said staunchly. but…” Marin swallowed. broken look on Caron’s face made her think twice before she spoke.” Marin gave Caron a long look. “He had these dresses brought from the capital. “I’ll put on one of his dresses. “I’m sorry. He might get here.

pushed on the large wooden door. “Or you’ll kill me? 347 . snidely. Simmerman was sitting in a large tall-backed chair next to the fire. The library was dimly lit. “I don’t care how I look. “Sit down. Marin went to the door. Simmerman looked up from his book and his mouth curled into a smile. nor did she know how she would react. Marin. and when Caron did not turn around. The hall was relatively bare. Caron handed Marin a mirror.” “I’d rather not.brushed her long hair back behind her.” Caron took the mirror and set it on the bedside table. making her feel oddly surrounded. Marin took a deep breath. frowning. “Ah.” he said in a hard voice.” she said without looking at Marin. her stomach turning cartwheels inside of her as she took the stairs carefully one by one. “His Lordship is waiting for you in the library. One of them approached Marin as she entered the room. “You wanted me?” Marin said rather loudly. and shelves of books loomed high over Marin’s head. The guard nodded a quick bow to her and then returned to his post. There were a few guards posted at several of the doors to the hall. Marin pushed it away. reading. Please. “What do you want?” The smile fell from Simmerman’s face. and let herself into the spacious library. my dear. “Or what?” Marin said.” Marin said shortly. “You can go down. Once she had braided it with gold ribbons. She knew neither what she would find once she was down in the hall. have a seat.” she said. Marin closed the door behind her and started down the stairs.” Marin stared at the guard as he pointed her toward a door at the far end of the hall. “I don’t care. Marin.

“We have played this game before. Simmerman looked down at the book he was reading and fingered a few of its pages. I thought that if I read every book that had ever been written.” Marin said. I mean. “No. only too happy to oblige.” Simmerman retorted. “A great many things. The sorts of things. you’ll have to try something else. And those things I thought that books would teach me have served me very little. “I’ve always liked the feeling of power that it brought me.” “I don’t understand why you’re telling me this.” Marin took a deep breath and then walked to the chair opposite the odious man and sat. 348 .” Simmerman’s features were like ice.” Simmerman said.” “But it hasn’t happened that way. that come easily to you. I thought things would come easily to me. That one has lost its sting.” Marin said flatly. Sit down. When I was very young. then I would know everything that there was to know. the greatest of which you will be providing me in a very short amount of time. hoping that the look on her face was one of boredom. “Having many men at my command has made me powerful.” Marin.” Simmerman said after a short pause. “I thought that I would be very powerful with my knowledge. “I’ve always liked reading. it hasn’t. “What do you want?” Marin said again.” Marin stared at him. putting his book down on the table and leaning toward Marin. and we have already discovered who is the most powerful. clamped her mouth shut and fixed Simmerman with a hate-stare.You must have realized that I can’t die until after our wedding. “Now keep your mouth shut until I ask you to speak. Serving Alika and its prince has made me powerful.

“Numan?” This wasn’t according to plan at all. “Seems that perhaps Kimmick wasn’t the man to trust.” “I don’t follow.” Simmerman said. “Oh no. “There is nothing there to be decoded.” “Lose hope? For what?” Simmerman scoffed. “You want me to break the code. ciphering and strategy will ever make you. “Because I want you to understand that I am in 349 . “You’re just trying to make me lose hope. I see once more how foolish my young dreams were. feeling her cheeks burn red.” he said. a route that should have taken them nowhere near Numan… Simmerman smiled cruelly. INTERCEPTED KIMMICK AND GIRL JUST SOUTH OF NUMAN. and it won’t work. He pulled a rolled message from his pocket and handed it to Marin. Simmerman gave her a nasty smile and reached into his pocket.” “There’s a mistake. IN PURSUIT.“I’m telling you this because it has once again been confirmed to me that I am more powerful than your extraordinary capacities for arithmetic. doesn’t it? But I could have told you that.” Marin frowned and looked down at the message. Marin hesitantly reached out and took the message. “Take it. The man has only lived for his own promotion.” Marin said numbly. He attaches himself to prominent people. Marin went pale. Kimmick had said that he would take her sister the fastest way out of Alika. Just a little note from one of my soldiers.” she guessed. She slowly unrolled it and read what was written. “Surely you don’t think that your sister will really get away? The entire army is in pursuit!” “Why are you telling me this?” Marin asked.” Marin said carefully. which meant heading east.

“I’m willing to let you live. “You have an opportunity to become the first queen. “And I suppose that in return I would only have to slavishly decode every message that ever crossed your path and obey your every order? Oh.” “What are you talking about?” Marin said. enunciating every word.” Marin did not say a word.” Simmerman said.” “That’s very benevolent of you. Marin frowned furiously at him. 350 .” Marin said sarcastically.” Simmerman said. “All I want is for you to leave me and my sister alone!” “You have three days to reconsider. getting to his feet.” Simmerman said in a hard voice.complete control of this situation.” “You are throwing away an opportunity to become great. “You don’t have to be on the losing end of this. the most powerful queen of united Mykolia. “Have a good evening. louder than she meant to. “I don’t want to become great!” Marin exclaimed.” Simmerman said. We could be so much together.” Simmerman said. leaving her alone. and live with a monster? How tempting. “Don’t fight me.

ready to jump into action should she somehow miraculously manage to get away from the men that held her in a vice-like grip. most of them likely disturbed by the fact that Marin was being forced to the front of the room. She would be marrying Simmerman. whose velvet covered many layers of lacy petticoats. She was frightened. Another walked behind her. She wore a long red dress. Marin’s mouth rested a straight line. and her eyes fixed M . waiting for her with the man that would marry them. pressing on her. taken down to that horrible room where she had been whipped and almost drowned. she would be killed. Few of them seemed to realize that Marin was actually Simmerman’s prisoner and not the object of his love. as he had likely tried to make them believe before inviting them to the castle to see the wedding. Her arms were held tightly by the two soldiers who stood at her sides. and there. There was a continuous murmur coming from the crowd. Caron had helped her to dress. her breathing hard. Late afternoon light was pouring into the enormous room and it fell on her face as she was pulled forward into the room. which would launch him into the most powerful position in the world and end with her death. and then she would most certainly be shuffled away in silence.arin was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the room. and did not make it easy for the men at her sides to move her forward. They would be married in front of all these people. They rose up on every side of her. She knew that somewhere among all those people in the room. all these dignitaries. not even looking at her friend. Simmerman was there. jostling her. Both of them knew that there was really little to say. but she had done so in silence.

But there seemed to be nothing she could do. She was 352 . however.” the man began in a strong low voice.keenly in front of her. or you lose your hand. The crowd began once more to murmur in discontent.” the man continued.” Marin caught a flash of silver out of the corner of her eye and faltered. “Charles Simmerman. it is. “This is the man that you have chosen to be your husband?” Marin shivered. At last they reached the front of the room and Marin was pushed up against the odious Simmerman.” Simmerman answered. He wore a small pair of spectacles that he perched on his nose as he opened a large book and gazed down at Simmerman and at Marin. and the stand he stood on made him seem even taller. She shook her head violently. They couldn’t make her do this. Marin immediately felt a hand grasp her right arm and an ugly voice whisper in her ear: “Say yes. “And Marin Lindrine. She was condemned to marry this man. There was nothing she could do. She turned away in disgust as he put his richly coated hand on her arm. Marin wanted to scream as the man began to speak. He had little hair on his head and his scalp shone in the afternoon light. which caused another round of murmuring in the room. but she knew that it would do no good. He had a tight smile on his face that he turned at intervals on Marin. “This is the woman that you have chosen to be your wife?” “Yes. The men at her sides did not move away. She began to sweat. He was already a tall man. There was a silence as a darkly robed man came up before them. his sharp voice resounding around the quiet hall. looming above them on the stand. Simmerman did not seem to be affected.

calling up to the man who held the book. “You stay where you are!” The order came from a young man who had practically materialized at her side.” Simmerman retorted. She gave him a nod of encouragement. rubbing his 353 . “I can’t answer your question.” “You can’t marry a girl under a name that is not hers. “I make the orders here.condemned afterwards to die. Immediately Marin was surrounded by people. And then it came to her. “I’m not Marin Lindrine!” There was a shout of outrage from the crowd. “This is my house. “Sir. then?” the blond man shouted. He had a youthful face and smooth blond hair. once she could be heard again. a silence fell. coming toward her.” Simmerman spat. “I order you to stop all this!” Simmerman roared. his face red from anger. “I’m not Marin. Marin admired him at once. There is no question about it! I can prove it!” “How. well-born people who pulled away the soldiers at her side and isolated her from Simmerman’s men. as powerfully as a bolt of lightening from a clear sky. “Because. Very slowly.” “A mark?” the man on the pedestal said.” she said. An ‘S. taking a deep breath. “This girl is Marin Lindrine.” “Why not?” the man asked. considering her through his spectacles.” Marin said. my domain.” Marin snapped up at Simmerman. “You are a snake. one of those that had taken her from the soldiers’ grasp.” Simmerman countered. “This is absolute nonsense. Simmerman smiled in a very nasty way. welldressed.’ Any one of my men can attest that Marin Lindrine has this mark.” the man retorted. “On her shoulder there is a mark.

clearly making no effort to control his anger. “Which shoulder?” “The left.” “It’s true!” several of Simmerman’s men cried out. shaking his head. practically going mad with rage.” she shouted. having forgotten that Elian had said it must now be common knowledge who she was.” “If you think that sympathy will save you.” he spat. He ran forward.” said the blond man. “and I hate you. tossing soldiers out of his way as he went. 354 . And Marin hates you even more!” “Silence! Silence!” Simmerman shouted.” “That’s right.” Simmerman answered loudly.forehead. touching Marin’s shoulder. I’m Robin. The man stepped behind Marin. “Dear me. he turned to Marin. looking quite dangerous. Very carefully. “Yes. “I want you to show them. “That’s not possible!” Simmerman shouted. Marin stared.” she said. may I?” the blond man asked quietly. and seized Robin by the wrist. her eyes shining. “You traded places. the man lifted Marin’s hair from her back and pulled down the fabric of the dress just enough to reveal a few inches of skin. Simmerman’s eyes looked red. “You and your rat of a sister traded places.” Marin said very slowly. “Your Highness. “But there’s nothing.” Simmerman said mockingly. “Do you have this mark?” “I want you to look. At last. there is nothing!” Once again there was an outburst from the crowd. It was impossible to hear what he said over the rush of conversation that was spilling from the crowd. “I was there when she got it!” “This is the girl!” The blond man turned and spoke to several next to him. “Sir.

It took several moments before Robin realized what it was. squinting across the room – “Simmerman! You will release her at once! This madness has gone far enough!” That voice… “So says who?” Simmerman retorted without hesitation. Robin was able to peer down to the center of the room where a man stood. “This marriage will go forward nonetheless!” The crowd had turned into a mob beginning to riot. her hands bound before her. Robin was upset. As the people cleared the way. “Tie her hands!” Simmerman barked. They were all wearing 355 . It was the clear metallic sound of a horn.dragging her forward and throwing her into the grasp of one of his men. a horn in his hands. She felt suffocated. And somewhere above the movement came once again Simmerman’s insane: “This marriage will go forward!” But then. Upset enough. the noise in the room died down. that tears were being shaken from her eyes as she was jostled about. They pressed forward. there was another sound. A pathway was being made in the center of the room as the people in the crowd pushed up against both sides of the hall. “This is my domain!” Simmerman shouted above the clamor. Robin could feel once more people pressing in on all sides of her. Slowly. several brightly clad men surging into the room behind him. “I will do as I please! Now give me order!” But the people in the crowd did not seem to have any inclination to follow Simmerman’s orders. Robin stood on her tiptoes and leaned forward. Heads were turning toward the entrance to the hall. held by several men at once. trying to make out whom or what had made the noise. in fact.

“This is a chance for you to leave this alive. Alder. But I am going to give you an out. She tried not to smile. that is something I have wanted to do since the day I met the girl that you branded so cruelly. but not smiling was futile. “This is not Marin. You are without connection. You are powerless. “The king of Mykolia.” the man answered. I could defeat you now. grew affectionate toward. Your army has been defeated. Let the girl go and survive this day.” Simmerman scoffed. and believe me. There were cries of dismay at the familiar and disrespectful use of the king’s first name. “The joke is on you. taking a step forward.” he said after a slight pause.” “Or what?” Simmerman demanded.” Simmerman snapped.” Simmerman seemed slightly rattled.” the king said. The two switched places –” 356 .” “Your threats will do you no good –” “These are no threats. “Or we take her back anyway and kill you. The king shrugged. stayed defiantly upright. your Highness. “So let me speak in terms you can understand. Prince Esper has renounced you as his general.bright red hangings trimmed with silver embroidery. Robin fixed her eyes on the man and began to breathe very hard as she recognized him. “I see that you don’t understand what is happening. the girl you harbored up in your castle and even. “You have no business here. folding their arms defensively in front of them. There was an immediate hush in the room and many of the people in the room fell instantly to their knees. with clear Alikan loyalty.” the king interrupted sharply. I am told. “I don’t believe you received an invitation. the king of Mykolia.” The king continued to walk toward the end of the room where Simmerman and Robin were standing. Others. “So says Alder.

” “How could you know?” Simmerman scoffed mockingly. meanwhile. had drawn his own sword and was pressing through the anarchy. “I have known for a long time. Nobles and foreign dignitaries were running in every direction. Everything you did to us. The Mykolian soldiers that had come pouring into the room were attempting to subdue those of Simmerman’s men who had suddenly come alive and were waving long thick swords in the direction of anyone who appeared to be on the side of King Alder. Her dress flapped loudly against her legs as she pushed through the crowds of lords and ladies around her. “We defeated your army before coming here to take care of you.” the king said in a hard voice.“I know exactly what happened. ready to defend themselves from those that threw themselves across their paths. who simultaneously bolted away from him. however. Please don’t embarrass yourself by revealing that you only now were let into the secret. now. You will surrender to the crown. “He knows everything you did to me. few taking the time to determine who was friend and who was foe.” “Your reign of horror is over.” King Alder said. cutting his way 357 .” Simmerman made a sudden dive for Robin. some charging toward the door. dressed just like a soldier. yanking her backwards. clad head to foot in bright silver armor. “I told him everything. King Alder. and closed his fingers around Robin’s wrist. There was a movement among the soldiers in the room and out from their shiny ranks stepped a girl. “Marin. fire in her eyes. The room erupted into chaos. others drawing their swords. Simmerman was too quick. Robin gave a smile of triumph.” Marin said.” Simmerman cried out.

“What is it?” Lord Josiah asked over the din.” the girl shouted back merrily. pushing a soldier off of him. “Lord Josiah. you old goose.through those of Simmerman’s soldiers who had thrown themselves at him. “Don’t worry about me. King Alder shook his head and watched her go. looking stalwart and tall in her shiny silver armor. “Very good!” King Alder shouted back. She ran after Lord Josiah. “There!” She pointed to the opposite end of the room where Simmerman had a hold of Robin. “I’m going with him!” It was Marin who had spoken. “Stay with Lord Josiah.” she shouted. She held a light sword in one hand and had pulled a red cap up over her long hair. grabbing the noble’s arm. “Simmerman’s taking my sister!” “Where is she?” Lord Josiah asked. parrying a hard blow from an opposing soldier as he spoke. He searched desperately for Simmerman and over the heads of the mob spotted him at the far corner of the room dragging the girl in red along behind him. In one corner she could see that torches were being pulled from the walls and used as clubs on opposing heads. his eyes darting over the occupants of the room. He was trying to pull her from the room. In another she could see… She stopped and squinted. kicking Simmerman hard in the shins. It was Simmerman with her sister. Simmerman let out a shriek of pain and released 358 . toward the opposite door.” Lord Josiah shouted as he rushed past the king. overwhelmed by the sheer insanity of everything that was happening in the room. “I’m going to lead a party through the rest of the castle and secure it. “Let me go!” Robin was shouting.” King Alder warned.

” Simmerman did not answer.” the king said sardonically. Instead. She was about to aim another well-aimed kick at her tormentor when Simmerman suddenly stopped. throwing a hand around Robin’s waist. in front of them.” she heard Simmerman shout at her as she held her pinned against the wall. regaining coherency. dazing her. “This is not a game. The thing to do. searching for something. “It would be terribly rude for you to run away from them before they have an opportunity to congratulate you. “If I killed her now. Robin’s eyes danced desperately around her. he whipped a knife from his belt and.” Simmerman said.Robin’s wrist. pulled her up against him. He could feel beads of sweat forming on his face.” the king said. was to speak softly and cajole him into releasing the girl. leveling his dagger at her throat.” a voice said. “I don’t think all your guests have had the chance to wish you well. The sight before him made him feel quite ill. his face still red. anything with which to defend herself. He yanked her from the wall and once again seized her wrist and pulled her toward the door.” “Or I might not.” Simmerman hissed. She opened her eyes and saw Simmerman’s angry face reddening behind the stars floating in front of her eyes. he told himself. “Then perhaps you never should have attempted to 359 . Robin ran around Simmerman so that she could see who had spoken and smiled. “Both of these girls have caused me more trouble than I could ever have expected. “You’re not leaving. But Robin was suddenly grabbed from behind and thrown against the wall. It was King Alder. “Let me go!” Robin shouted again. his voice steady. “you might at last realize that I am not going to play games with you.

he gave a sharp cry and flew to the spot where the girl had fallen. But the shock that seemed to slow time existed only in his mind. He sheathed his sword and showed his empty hands. bleeding girl on the floor. There was a flash of silver and then of red. Alder looked in horror as Simmerman suddenly drew his dagger sharply and deliberately across the girl’s throat. but for her. crying like a baby. “that is not yours to give. a cry and then she crumpled to the floor. Forgetting all else. It took just a second for her to launch into motion. but that suddenly felt so unreal. Without hesitating even one second. so unimportant now that this girl had been killed. He had eyes for nothing except the broken. Around him. “Something.” There was a look in his eyes that quite frightened the king.” Simmerman said very distinctly. heard the voice of Lord Josiah. Marin. The king stopped where he was. her eyes red with fury and determination. 360 . dying before his eyes.” Simmerman spat. taking a step toward the angry general.destroy their lives. took in the same scene.” the king returned. the room still in utter chaos. felt that there was something urgent around him that needed to be resolved. “Your Highness!” He felt arms around him. “Not one step. things were still in motion. Alder saw it happen as though time itself had slowed. “What do you want?” he said wearily. He scooped her up in his arms and then collapsed on the floor next to her. but Alder wasn’t sure. Simmerman seemed to have fled. it happened all in the blink of an eye. she scooped the dagger up off the floor where Simmerman had dropped it and barreled headlong for the man who had killed her sister.

she reached him before he had even guessed she was near him. I am Robin. She tightened her grip on the dagger. or else had been chased from the castle. “There’s nothing you can do. The redclad soldiers strode around the hall. In a nightmarish sort of way. eyes wide with shock. He blinked once. I killed your sister!” “You fool. “How appropriate that you were the one to kill me. With a brutal cry she slammed him into the wall and with a stiff wrist deftly plunged the dagger into his chest. it had calmed somewhat now. “You’re not the winner” he coughed. There was a ghostly trace of blood appearing on his lips that made Marin want to turn away. dead. He was bent over the king. who immediately stood and put an arm around her. looked at him. Robin turned from the man that she had just killed. who held a very still Marin in his arms.” the girl said. and then looked up at Marin. immobile with pain. “You did not kill Robin. she pulled the knife from his body and left him to slump down against the wall. Robin dropped the knife and walked over to the king and Lord Josiah.” 361 . The nobles who had come to attend the wedding had all either submitted themselves to the Mykolian soldiers. and then numbly stared out into the room.” Lord Josiah said very quietly.” With that. Simmerman froze. “I killed Robin. leading her away from what little she could see of her sister. trying to restore order as best they could. splattering Marin with blood. however and fixed her face. “Robin!” Lord Josiah shouted from a few feet away.” he gasped out slowly.Blind with anger. still holding the knife that was lodged in his chest. trembling with violent rage. A smirk flicked across his face as he looked at her. “Marin’s dead.

Marin had wanted Robin to be the one to get away from Simmerman first. The long river of blood that had surged from her neck was stemmed by his handkerchief that he had pressed there in haste. but couldn’t find the words. He could not take his eyes from her pale face.She wanted to protest. Robin nodded. His fingers lingered on her lids a few moments and he let his hands trace the curves in her face. The thought did not make her feel any better. She squeezed her hands into tight fists and recalled that she had just destroyed the man that had killed her sister. her eyes slightly open and still tinged with shock. His eyes were riveted on the face of the girl in his arms. “The king loved her. Marin had been wrong. he did not know. Robin wanted to say all this. It was as though his throat.” Lord Josiah said in almost a whisper. to rescue her. Whether he was alone or surrounded by people. This plan had been Marin’s plan. Alder did not say a word. as she had said it would. turning to the scene of madness quietly coming to its deadening close. Marin had thought that she could somehow survive the time until the king’s army came. his lungs and his mouth had all frozen. he tried to smooth it as best he could. but instead. Alder suppressed a sob and slowly reached up and closed her eyes. but there were still glistening 362 .” Robin looked back over her shoulder at the king holding her sister in his arms and then quickly looked away. Her hair was ruffled. “I thought he should have a moment with her before everyone else discovers what has happened. even though everything was very wrong.

You must get up and eat something.” Alder followed closely on the heels of Lord Josiah as he carried the girl out of the now deserted hall and into a smaller bedroom up a long flight of stone stairs. “Bring her with us. He who could make the plants spring forth from the earth was helpless now in the face of the death of the one person he loved more than any other. “I’m not hungry.” “I won’t leave her.” Alder did not look up.stains on her cheeks that seemed savage in comparison to the whiteness of her face. Time too seemed to have stood still for him as he cradled the lifeless Marin in his arms. He knew not how long he sat there with her. If only he could go back and change this moment… He clutched his fists in anger at himself. There was a sudden cold that penetrated him as she was lifted away. Lord Josiah try to quiet the girl and send her from the room and the man who had accompanied them up the stairs set a bucket full of water on the floor and began to wash the blood from Marin’s 363 .” Lord Josiah said quietly.” It was Lord Josiah who had spoken. night has fallen. “Let us find a room for her. then. “I will not be separated from her. Then you should get some rest. He felt strangely detached form the scene as he watched the fairheaded girl that was in the room let out a shriek when she saw Marin’s body. “Come.” Lord Josiah said. “Your Highness.” Alder repeated in a hard voice. How he had loved her! And he had been so close to saving her.” Lord Josiah gave a sigh. He tightened his grip on Marin’s body. “Your Highness. “Let us at least clean her. “Let us leave this place.” Alder said.” Alder felt the noble kneel at his side and pull Marin away from him.

” Alder said loudly. she looked peaceful and still. She was in Little 364 . Unable to resist. It was coming from a window. After a few moments. But as she sat up. It was dark. “Please. lit only by a single candle sitting on a nearby bedside table. After he had finished. he reached up and took her head in his hands. He let his hands fall to his sides and he began to cry. Alder felt Lord Josiah’s hand on his shoulder as he left the room.” Lord Josiah looked at the other man and the two gave short nods and left the room. she saw that the light was not coming from a person. Now. he placed the discarded stained dress on a chair and slipped a white gown over her thin frame. but he held them there. She thought for a moment that it must be her mother again. Leave me. “I wish to be alone. He knelt slowly at the side of the bed. heading off their protests. almost as though he were warming her from a chilly breeze.arms. He laid her gently back on the bed and once more attempted to smooth her hair. The room was dark.” Alder said. She looked around and saw that she was back in the room that Simmerman had given her. and then very slowly began to clean the body. There was no light but for the strange whitish glow slanting toward her from one direction. Her eyes flickered for a moment and then she opened them. Her face felt terribly cold under his warm hands. since that was what the light reminded her of. Alder felt overwhelmingly tired. The two men turned their heads and looked at him. “I will finish that. except for the ugly jagged line at her throat. The men closed the door behind them.

She turned from the window and noticed that there was something on the floor near the bed. He looked as though he had been sleeping for some time.Springs. a strong warmth coming over her as she gazed at it. She shivered momentarily and then went to the window from whence the light was coming. She squinted at it. “Marin.” he said again through his sobs.” All was very still. She fell into his arms and kissed him. just looking at it. As he got closer. She knew it. there in one corner of the room.” The man raised his eyebrows in surprise. She sat up very slowly and got to her feet. inexplicably. 365 . There was a bright white object in the sky that reminded her of the sun. But those eyes were bright. somehow. It was the moon. She smiled at it. “Don’t you remember?” She looked out the window at the moon and then back at the man. She picked it up and examined it. “Is that my name? It doesn’t seem right. She gave him a smile. she realized that she knew him. It was a dark-colored dress. “Marin. but crying. clearly very happy.” The man’s eyes were wide and his arms hung down in fatigue at his side. and then she remembered that she had worn it when Simmerman had forced her to marry him. and she was wearing just a thin gown. The ground was cold. and at that moment. “Marin.” she repeated with a strange smile. She knew them. Smiling. She looked up and saw. a man coming toward her. She loved them. “how can this be?” “Marin. He was crying. it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. then.

“Me?” Alder said in a hoarse voice. I mean.“Alder.” “I came back to you. Weaker. her 366 . as though waking suddenly from a dream.” Marin said. “But that should have taken your immortality. Sometime.” “Did I?” Alder said. Less alive.” “Then how can it be that you are here now?” Alder asked. More tired. Not now. a bemused smile on his face. “Alder. “Yes. “I don’t understand how this happened. The two sat down together and grasped hands. “I don’t understand. the moon. A small smile grew on her face.” Alder pressed. we become mortal and –” “I did become mortal. I did. “I…” “You called me back somehow.” Alder said. Alder. pointing with one hand. How strange it must be for him to not understand how this all had worked together.” Marin said slowly. “Don’t you feel any different?” Alder looked at her in confusion for a moment and then away as his eyes grew large as saucers. You guided me to it. She would have to tell him. I think I did.” Marin said. “Yes.” she said excitedly. “At least.” Marin said. I know everything!” Alder’s face broke out into a wide smile and he kissed her again. “You did it. “As soon as we finish our tasks. I felt slightly different after I put the moon in the sky. “But. you succeeded and…there it is!” Marin laughed. wiping tears from his eyes with a joyful expression plastered over his face which had a sudden youthful glow to it. “Alder. walking with Alder over to the bed. Marin laughed.” Marin said.” Alder said.

his eyes still wide. don’t you see?” Alder threw his arms around her neck and kissed her again.eyes reflecting the moonlight. “That was your last task. You have spent so long keeping the green of the earth alive.” Alder looked at his hands. Now you have finished in giving the last of it to me. Marin broke into a wide grin. “We did it. 367 .” She paused and then: “I don’t think the trees will need you anymore. Marin grabbed his wrist and he turned his eyes on her.

” Robin said. You two look amazingly alike.” “I have to admit.ut how to explain such a story to all those who were. didn’t you?” “Yes.” “Yes. The two told their story over the fire on the long march back to Prestani.” “It seems as though the men from Homed were B . without a doubt. Robin had been the one that had left Little Springs with the treacherous servant and Marin had stayed in her own cell. “Like: ‘do you think that your sister is jealous of your abilities?’ I had to remember very hard that I was you before I answered. his mouth greasy from the steaming meat. “But he found out eventually?” Alder said. Rosings’ men from Homed appeared and attacked.” Lord Josiah said. They were distracted and I got away. “He kept asking me things about you. “When you came barreling into camp. burning with curiosity to know how things had happened? It was easy enough for Marin and Robin to excitedly tell how they had duped Alfred Kimmick into thinking that the two of them were trading places.” she added shaking her head. a large smile still on his face. “No.” There was laughter from the entire group. “How did that all work out? You ran into Simmerman’s army. yanking off a bite of meat from the drumstick she was holding.” Robin said. I could have sworn that it was Marin.” Marin broke in. “It was so hard to remember that I was you. “But at that very moment. was it a shock for him. when really. about us. “I had to tell him! Boy.” Robin said.

Marin could not help but wonder how anyone would ever understand. They had left Little Springs early the next day. “I don’t understand it.” Robin said. riding up next to her sister.” But it was much harder to answer such questions as: “But your mark? Where did your mark go?” How could you explain that when you had put the moon in its proper place. “How are you?” 369 . the firelight dancing weirdly on his face. looking very troubled with the wrinkles around his eyes thrown open into wide ellipses.” Alder said. never breaking through them. “How can this be?” Even if they didn’t voice it out loud.” Lord Leptum said.destroyed by Simmerman’s men before the Alikans crossed our path. banging on the doors and shouting joyfully that she was alive. inside and out. “Marin. and the sun only lit up the clouds. The sky was bright. removing all impurities and all physical defaults? And should you keep quiet when you know the answer to the question everyone asks night after night when they see that new things they have heard to be called a moon up above them there where there used to be only stars? But who would believe? Even as Marin followed Alder who rushed through the corridors of Little Springs that first night. all of them heading for Prestani. “We didn’t see any sign of them ourselves. Marin knew that this was the question on the minds of all that jumped out of their rooms to see for themselves that she was not dead. (and why would they believe that you had anything to do with the strange glowing body that so mysteriously had suddenly appeared in the sky?) a feeling of white-hot fire permeated your body. but it was cloudy.

” she said.” Marin said with a sigh. All that morning and most of the afternoon. “Listen. At last she turned and fixed her sister with a penetrating look. with the others. But really. How could she tell her sister things that had happened in a strange sort of time that now. she told her sister how the quest to decode the manuscript had let her know at last who she was and what she had to do. I’m confused. “You were dead. He told me himself before he tried to…” Marin stopped. You were dead. a frown crossing her face. never had existed? “Before he tried to what?” Robin demanded. you should know that Rosings is our father. feeling the clip-clop of her horse’s hooves on the ground below her. “First of all. or…something. I really just want to know.“Fine.” Marin shrugged. Marin gave a weak smile. there’s something going on that I don’t understand.” Marin swallowed hard and looked in front of her. “I know.” Robin burst out after a short pause. feeling suddenly strange. “Marin. “I saw you get killed with my own eyes. Marin. She brushed her hair back from her face in frustration. “All right. After a short pause.” she said. She told her about Alder and how the two of them had been part of something much 370 . but nothing came out.” Robin said flatly. Marin. if it can explain why you’re alive now after you died.” Robin did not say a word. Marin swallowed hard again.” Robin insisted. she opened her mouth. “You can pretend that you were just badly hurt. “It’s horrible.” Marin frowned and looked just ahead of her mare. “What is it?” Marin asked. Marin turned to see her sister looking at her in a very peculiar way. “This is going to sound incredible –” “It had better.

” “Then why are you grinning?” “Because I know something you don’t know. we’ve both lost our immortality – at least for here and now. “My own story is so wild –” “This is wilder. coming from you. I didn’t want to tell you. “What?” Marin demanded.” Marin said. frowning. but it’s the truth. “What is it?” 371 .” Robin looked like she wanted to laugh. her eyes widening at the tirade.” Robin said fervently. I believe it. Robin handed the reigns of her horse to a man that walked by. something so big that it had changed the course of their lives. “I’m telling the truth! Look. forever.” Robin said. “You won’t believe it. “Well.” Marin said without a smile. but somehow. “What do you mean you were a part of it?” Robin asked. absorbed in their conversations. I mean. and I –” “Calm down!” Robin said.” Robin said playfully. a wide grin spreading over her face. “I’ll believe it. because I knew you wouldn’t understand. “What?” Marin called after her.larger than she had ever imagined. turning toward a small group of trees and running toward them. waiting to take care of the animals for the night and trotted up beside her sister. We’ll grow old and die just like everyone else. “What’s that?” It was nightfall and the two had long since fallen behind the others. After a few minutes they had found the others again and dismounted from their horses. She followed her sister excitedly into the dark little grove. of the lives of all their friends. “I believe you. it’s the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard. “Now we just live our lives like any other person.

You know. Dad. “Masina?” she repeated. He accidentally said my name and so he couldn’t change it–” 372 . “I’m Marin. Robin guffawed loudly. “What is it?” Marin demanded again.” Robin said.Robin’s face was outlined with the moonlight that was filtering through the trees. no. Rosings said that he would have named me something else to. but he forgot and called me by my real name. “Anyway. no.” Robin said simply.” Marin felt her insides do a funny sort of dance. “We…we switched places so that Kimmick…” “I know. She still had an impish grin on her face. “What…what do you mean?” Surely Robin had not suddenly become truly confused after all the switching that they had done. “Rosings–” “Dad. after the incident at sea–” “No.” Robin cut in with a smirk. “I’m Marin. “Listen to me.” “But what I mean is…” Marin said.” said Robin. he couldn’t just cart twins across the country and hide them well in Rivental if they were carrying the names they were born with. to make sure that I was the one that could do the math problems and stuff. I am Marin! Your name is Masina. “But that’s you! Elian told me that our names were Marin and Masina. Then she laughed. that sounds terrible – called you Marin because he thought you were me!” “But why –” “Well. I guess – gosh. “Not a chance.” Marin snapped. her eyes shining. and Mr. not laughing anymore. you idiot. “What?” Marin said. Rosings…or. thinking that Robin had lost her mind. how could he mistake me for you? He told me that he tested me. feeling lightheaded suddenly.

“Once they discovered what you could do.” she said. that’s exactly what I’ve been saying. it wouldn’t happen to be fiftysix hundred ninety-six?” Marin’s mouth went dry. “You can’t –” “Can’t calculate sixty-four times eighty-nine in my head? Well.” Marin looked as though Robin had just cut down one of the trees they stood in and hit her over the head with it. “And why is that?” “Come off it. her voice suddenly hard. “And code breaking –” “No. Robin touched Marin’s elbow. nobody cared about me. I guess.” “Oh no?” Robin said. let’s see here.” “But it didn’t matter did it?” Marin said softly. no one really cared about me.” ‘I know. “And then I would have been in as high demand as you. “Are you saying…” “That I can do what you can do. “He got the wrong twin.” Robin said grimly.” Marin said. only I didn’t broadcast it to the world? Yes. with everyone focusing on you. “I can’t do that. her cheeks very pink. not able to wrap her mind around what Robin was telling her.” Robin said.” Robin admitted.” “But you can do all that number stuff too?” Marin asked.” Marin shook her head.” “But Rosings gave me that. “Look. I haven’t got the training or the experience. straightening suddenly. They just assumed I’d be different. Besides.“No!” Robin said. “You were pulled into this just the same. Dumber. “But how? He was our father. And he knew about what I could do with numbers before he left our mother for Sandhill! He couldn’t have made a mistake. “He might have given the same thing to you if he had known…” “He might. “Makes me wish that I had gotten some fame at least for 373 .” Marin said sourly.

“I knew Rosings had gotten our names mixed up. “But just a little while ago. “So in short. “But if he didn’t even know. “I read his letters. “See. I remembered everything.” Robin said. And then. I remembered Rosings.” Robin scoffed. She knew Robin was right. No wonder Robin had distrusted him so much. Besides. That’s all. then.” “How did you find this out?” Marin asked. I remembered 374 . who you really were?” “No. I was very confused.” “Why didn’t you say anything to me?” Marin asked. It was yours. a bit hurt. but I didn’t think it was a big deal. “Like you would have listened.” Marin looked down and laughed. Then he wrote about how I wasn’t quite as good that made me mad. when you were dead. He called you Marin. since I knew I could do it .” Robin said confidently.but he called me Masina. I remembered Mom. I remembered Rosings leaving her. I guess. it paid to be suspicious of him.” Marin looked away. of course. he thought you were me. “Did you know all the time. you understand – from Masina to Robin. back when I thought you were dead – or.” Robin said. I didn’t understand at first. I remembered growing up with them. “He wrote about how great your skills were and how they would bring him to power. I thought that Masina might be my real name. “You thought Rosings was like a god. how could you –” “It wasn’t clear at first.” Marin laughed. I never wanted to be Marin. and then changed my name – although it was your name.being a walking abacus. called you Marin. The man was stupid.” “His letters?” Marin said in confusion. I remembered that it wasn’t my name.

she said that one day I would remember everything.” Robin said contemplatively.” she said slowly. “You needn’t bother. “All along you were the heir. “She said that I would remember. “But remember. She would have been full of some sort of water-power stuff herself. you know. too. with the same abilities I had –” “And you were the moon-goddess whom no one would have cared about had they known about me.” “Maybe.” Robin paused.” “I think I have those abilities because of you. our mother was Alena. Marin is the oldest. “I can’t believe this. everything.” It was true. I knew very certainly then that I wasn’t Robin at all. “What is it?” Robin asked. I remember. I will. Once we get back to the palace. Marin smiled back with a laugh. “Something like that. “maybe this was how it was going to happen. I can tell you everything.” Marin felt as though her throat had turned to dust.” “You know.” Marin said softly.” Robin cut her off.” Robin finished with a wry smile.” 375 . I remember the attack on the ship.” Marin said. “Are you going to tell me that you think I should take the throne.” Robin scoffed. Marin. I remembered Mom getting the message that her husband still was alive. “Since if you remember correctly. “When I saw her in the pool in the alcazar.” Marin said with a grin. “So –” “Come off it.” She squared her shoulders. I remembered that I was Marin.” Marin said after a pause. Maybe all Elian’s tree-magic or whatever that conceived you sort of rubbed off on me. since I’m the ‘natural’ child?” “Well…” Marin shrugged. “I don’t know if I’m really Rosings’ kid at all. “Maybe. “We were in the womb together for awhile.the palace.

but still she threw Marin a confused glance.” Marin said with a growl. she wasted very little time in putting Lord Keene in prison for his treachery and hunting down Mr. Marin smiled. Robin. participating in the festivities and celebration of the event. They walked toward the largest fire where Alder and the others were sitting. with her sharp wits and bright. After Robin was crowned. “I’ll make you a duchess. and Alder squeezed Marin’s hand very tightly as she told everyone present that she freely relinquished the crown and that there was no need to hold any sort of inquisition into Robin’s claims. it turned out. Rosings. outgoing character would make a fine ruler for Mykolia. Alder got to his feet and held out his hands to Marin. “Yeah. It was decided that Robin would be crowned within the next week.” Marin said with a smile. Everyone knew it.” “You wouldn’t dare. anyway…” The two began to walk toward the clearing where they could see flickering patches of campfire light. “I’ve had enough of castles and palaces. Robin must have understood that Marin’s growl had been playful. “Don’t worry about losing the throne. who. was on his way back to what was left of Sandhill. Marin and Alder stayed around the palace until the coronation.Robin smiled.” Once they got back to the palace at Prestani Marin and Robin wasted no time in telling the Council of Lords about their true identities. “I’ve really had enough. Everyone was shocked. She realized as she looked at him that he would no longer be king.” Robin said suddenly. having heard that the Mykolian army had defeated their Alikan oppressors and were now heading back to Prestani with Marin and 376 . Well.

The court was told as much as it was deemed that they would be able to believe of the amazing story of Marin. Rosings had been plotting against Mykolia. Alder and Robin. Someplace of your own. “But 377 . you’re done with palaces and positions. “but like I told you –” “I know. They said nothing of Alder’s or Marin’s fantastic destinies or of how Marin had somehow been brought back to life. “Miss the ocean?” Robin smiled.” “You know. “He’s with my mother. And as to where Marin had been during the time that she was presumed dead. He was found guilty of treason and of the death of Patrick and several others that had been in his employ. not even to Alder or Robin. and Robin herself was able to present evidence that Mr.” Robin said to Marin one night after everyone else had gone to bed. “That’s nice of you.” she said. It was strange how different she looked dressed in a flowing green dress and bedecked with flashing jewels. She looked more like Marin than like the boyish athletic Robin Marin had grown up with. raising an eyebrow.” she said simply.” Marin smiled. “I’ve decided to move court to Kenyon. There was a trial. You two will need someplace to live. speaking neither to Marin nor to Robin as he was taken away.” Robin said. “No. “I…I decided that Prestani belongs to Alder. They loved each other and now things are as they should be.” Robin said with a hint of exasperation in her voice.” “Really?” Marin said. Marin never spoke a word to anyone. against his own country. “She took him to be with her. except at one moment when it had become apparent that Elian was missing.Robin in tow. He too was escorted off to prison.

an event that was well-attended by all their friends and many foreign dignitaries as well. “When we kissed after we were married. she thought no more of it.” Marin looked down and there. The two enjoyed a festive wedding given in Prestani.” Robin said. Marin felt a strange sort of warmth grow up through her that reminded her strangely of when she had held the moon-sphere in her hands. “It just grew there. After the ceremony there was dancing. Alder and Marin reveled together in it with their friends.” Marin said. He wrapped his hands around her waist and kissed her neck. turning toward him and kissing him briefly. was a small sprig of holly. But when Alder kissed her deeply and everyone applauded.” Alder said with a smile. food.” “Why would my children have anything to do with Prestani?” Marin asked innocently. marry him Marin did. drinking deeply from her silver goblet. Marin looked questioningly at Alder. in Alder’s outstretched hands. “As though you aren’t going to marry Alder. “Ha ha. of course. Just like that day that she had burst in though the window to translate the manuscript that had pointed her to her destiny. and then quietly retreated to the empty rooms of the palace where all their things lay packed in large oak trunks.” And.” 378 . “I’m just happy. music and laughter. Marin smiled at Alder as she looked around the room that had for so long been her new husband’s. she felt a strange buzz of excitement flow through her. When the two joined hands and were married by Lord Josiah. “What are you thinking?” Alder whispered in her ear. “Happy to be with you.your children may someday want someplace to call their own.

who looked suspiciously as though she would like to cry. by a power neither of them really understood. now Marin the Valiant. They disappeared into the dark. a small holly sprig would appear in Alder’s hand. And then they were gone. The years passed. Sandhill and across Mykolia. The days were busy and long. the two would look deep into each others eyes and read things that only they would ever understand. there. love. held court at Kenyon. both with temperaments that reminded Masina of her own twin) Masina and her husband would leave the house and walk calmly through the fragrance of the foliage that felt each day more and more like home.” Marin took the sprig and kissed it and set it on her trunk. But when the children were put to bed (twins. Alder and Masina lived hidden deep in the shelters of the forest. “Holding your hand. “It’s time. 379 . understanding. and far away from Prestani.” Alder said contemplatively. waving happily to the many that had come to wish them well. Then the two were rushed away in a carriage. And somehow. under the tallest tree in the forest. The two looked at each other. patted Caron’s hand and embraced all those that she had come to love at Prestani. work and play.” Marin said simply. Marin kissed Robin. the lantern hanging inside the carriage the only light that indicated when they had at last vanished into the trees. And always. I somehow found a last bit of strength…I couldn’t help it. far above them. far away from where Robin. each filled with laugher. the moon shone down.“But I thought that you couldn’t –” “It’s strange. At the gates of the palace. And far. hugged Lord Josiah. Then Masina would push back the hood to her long cloak and kiss her darling husband.

380 . the tree.lighting their skin. and all of Mykolia. the ocean.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful