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Chapter 62

The household was in an uproar again. Whandall's impatience died when he saw his wife's face, and Lilac's. "I almost followed him alone," Lilac said. "We have bison and another wagon, why not? But I don't know enough. He tried to tell me it was for the children! I called him an idiot, and he packed and left. Father-found, what happened at Road's End?"

"For the children? What for the children?"

"He's off to see the wizard! Morth of Atlantis is going to the Burning City, and Green Stone will go with him!"

"Whandall," Willow demanded, "what happened at Road's End?"


He must sound like he'd been punched in the gut, the way they looked at him. And now the hard part was admitting his mistake.

"Green Stone was with me the whole time. Morth wants me to go with him back to Tep's Town. Didn't I leave anything there? Unfinished business, family, debts, grudges, buried treasure, live enemies? Some crying need for what a trader's wagon can carry? He can't tell me why he needs me. Can't tell me any of his plans. I am to take some wagons into Tep's Town and find a way to get rich, and Morth is to come along. Right.

"Willow, I've been an idiot. He was talking to Green Stone!"

Lilac said, "We'll get him back!"

"He's a grown man, you know." He was still speaking to Willow. "If I force him to stay, he's a kinless."

"What could Morth have offered him?"

Think! "At Road's End he learned enough to firm up his plans. Then he tried to get me involved. ... Stay here. I want to show you something."

He needed a lantern by now.

The droppings-covered roof had been stripped off the wagon and was soaking. There was no trapdoor in the wagon's floor, but with the wagon empty, the boards would slide out. Whandall set aside the bags of gold in the hidden well to reach the glazed black bottle and stopper, then brought it inside.

"Cold iron," he said. "It must be for holding something magical. The one Morth took is just like it."

They looked at it, and him.

"He went to Road's End. He needed a glassblower. I have no idea why he wants it. All right, let's just guess that Morth also wants me. Thirty years ago he saw lines in my hand. He looked at Stone's hand too-"

Lilac's hard hand closed on his wrist. "What did he see?"

"Early marriage, twin girls, then nothing. A blur."

Her grip tightened. "Twins? But why would Stone's future fuzz out? Is that death?"

"No! No, Daughter-found. A wizard can't see a lifeline that's tangled up with his. Curse! He really is going ... or else he's going to handle raw gold. That can screw up a prediction too."

You have less magical talent than anyone I ever met, Morth had told Whandall. Could that be why the wizard wanted him?

"All right. Morth has my son. Is that because I might go along to protect him?"

"Dear, you have to," Willow said.

"Haven't I heard that song sung with different words?"

"Whandall Feathersnake!"

"I know. Curse Morth!"

"Why are we standing here? We have to catch him!"

"Wait now, Lilac. It's too dark to load a wagon and take off. Did any kind of dinner get made?"

"We roasted another batch of pigeons," Willow said. "Last night."

" 'Course you did. So we can't leave until morning, Lilac, and that puts Stone a day ahead of us, but that doesn't matter, because Stone's on foot. He'll catch Morth. Morth is two days ahead in a wagon drawn by bison. You don't expect to run after them? Well, bison move at only one speed. We'd still be two days behind when our wagon gets to the Stone Needles."

They went behind the big house, to the stream, where an army of roasted pigeons had been buried in mud.

They talked as they ate. Presently Whandall said, "I think we shouldn't chase him at all."

The women waited.

"Let's give Green Stone's mind a chance to work. He's deserted his wife of, what, twenty days? A marriage blessed by a wizard. He's got fifty, sixty days to think about that, and then everyone he knows comes home and finds out what he did. You're pregnant, Lilac, and if he hasn't guessed that, Morth can tell him.

"Whatever Morth has in mind for Tep's Town, if he can't tell me, he'll have to tell Stone. Give Stone a few days to give Morth's intentions a hard look. They may be plain idiotic.

"In particular, I want Green Stone to feel good sense rushing back into his mind as he leaves a mountain-size love spell. It's unforgettable. On the mountain with Morth he'll be accepting everything he's told, but as soon as he gets to where they left the wagon... heyyy! Lilac, you've been there."

"Yes, Father-found. I didn't realize. I just felt... like, we'd been married about a day. Making love in a scent of crushed spices," Lilac said with a wonderfully lascivious grin that faded even as they smiled back. "But you try to share a blanket with him, when he rolls up there's nobody in there but him. And you'd have given me more than just a wagon, Father-found."

Willow asked, "Lilac, is Whandall talking sense?"

"That part."

"One more thing," Whandall said. "We can talk to them. We've got the bird." Whandall lifted an arm; the bird settled. Whandall said, "We should work out what we want to say."

"Anything to get them back here!"

"My hope lies in your shadow," the bird said.

Chapter 61 | The Burning City | Chapter 63