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CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

RETURN



Brydon staggered with the aftereffects of sending his mind so far to reach Toryn. He tried to stand and failed, sinking back into the chair as he vaguely wondered how Nykar had gotten the furnishings to the cave--more seemed to appear each day. He shrugged off the wayward thought, gripped by nausea. Rakyn watched him thoughtfully as he fought the effects.

“I did it, Rakyn!” he said exultantly when the need to vomit subsided. “Toryn is fine and on his way back here. Where is Thalarii, anyway?”

“South, somewhere.” Rakyn shrugged. “How are you?”

“I could possibly take on a tame kitten right now,” Brydon admitted. “Against anything stronger, I believe I would lose.”

“It is not easy,” Rakyn acknowledged. “What are you going to do now?”

“I think I will sleep for twenty hours and then head for Ven-Kerrick. Are you going to tell me I’m not ready?”

Rakyn shook his head. “You are as ready as I can make you,” the prince said. “You are certain you don’t want to wait for your friend?”

Brydon shook his head. “I got him involved in this in the first place. I don’t want him in any more danger.”

Rakyn nodded and glanced at Nykar. “If he is anything like Nykar, he will find danger on his own well enough.” Nykar snorted and swigged from his bottle of brandy. Brydon smiled and bid them goodnight.

He slept soundly and awoke to find both Rakyn and Nykar up and waiting for him. Darkling was saddled and stood outside, packed with food and spare clothing. Jace adjusted the saddle on Archangel and Verana smiled down at him from astride Thistle’s back.

“Thank you, Nykar,” Brydon said, knowing full well who had made the preparations for him. Nykar coughed uncomfortably and went to throw another log on the fire. “And thank you, Rakyn. For everything. You have done more for me than I can ever repay.”

The Silveran prince smiled. “You may be surprised at how well you can repay me, Brydon. I always look out for my own interests in the end.”

Brydon was not sure how much of that was truth, but he let it pass. He mounted up and sat looking down at the two men.

“Do not forget about the Gauntlet, Brydon. The girl is important, but the Gauntlet is even more so,” Rakyn warned ominously. “Reed must be stopped, but do not allow yourself to be sidetracked from your ultimate goal.”

“Try to keep your butt from being sliced off,” Nykar added. Brydon laughed and touched his heels to Darkling. Jace and Verana followed suit. It felt good to be traveling once more, even though it seemed odd to be doing so without Toryn. By the time they stopped for the noon meal, they were near the border of Vineyard. Brydon felt better than he had in a long time. He patted Darkling’s soft neck.

“You are getting fat. Too much soft living, I suppose.” Darkling snorted and Brydon smacked him companionably on the neck. “Don’t worry. Your rest period is over. Time to go back to scant grain and hiding from cold rain under scraggly trees, being baked by the sun and scoured by blowing dust. Fun, isn’t it?”

Darkling, as expected, did not reply. Jace and Verana trailed behind, lost in their own conversation. After pausing for a subdued meal, they moved on. Jace’s mood was somber, although he told several amusing stories, likely in an attempt to ease the tension. Brydon could think of little but Shevyn.


He tried to contact Davin that night, to let him know there was no need for him and Alyn to find Toryn. There was no silver chain for him to follow, as there had been with Toryn, but he felt a sense of presence that was almost a trail. He thought he had reached Davin when he was suddenly swatted away like a pesky insect. He tried again for some time and finally gave up, shaking his head in frustration.

“He must be blocking me,” Brydon grumbled. “Perhaps he thinks I am Reed.”

He sighed and contacted Toryn, instead. The effort was still immense.

Where are you now? Toryn asked. And where is Alyn?

I’m in Vineyard, Brydon replied. Alyn is—

What? You were supposed to wait for me! You had better not confront Reed on your own!

I’ve waited too long, already. Go to the Black City in Darkynhold and ask for Prince Rakyn. Tell him who you are and wait for me there. When this is over, I’ll meet you in the Black City.

Like Sheol you will!
Toryn raged. You will wait right there for me so we can kill that bastard together!

I have to go, Toryn. This distance tires me. I’ll contact you later,
Brydon said and cut the connection abruptly. If he survived, he knew there would be hell to pay from the Redolian later.

~~O~~

BRYDON! Toryn screamed mentally, but there was no one to yell at. “Stupid, worthless, bull-headed, idiotic, Falaran fool!” he snarled aloud.

“What?” Daryna asked, staring at him.

“I’m talking about Brydon,” he snapped.

She drew back in surprise. “I thought he was... dead,” she said.

Toryn glared at her. “He was. At least, he almost was. He’s not now, but he’s going to be as soon as I get my hands on him. If he’s not already by the time I find him,” he said wrathfully.

Daryna watched him carefully. “He’s alive? How do you know?”

“Go ask Garyn.” Toryn waved a hand angrily before stomping off. “Can’t this ship move any faster?” That comment, of course, provoked an argument with Kor. Toryn was more than happy to argue.

~~O~~

Crossing Vineyard in order to return to Ven-Kerrick was a necessary evil, and Jace felt it would be faster to simple go through the city of Shimmer rather than take the time and effort to skirt it. It had taken them five days of hard travel after leaving the cavern just to reach the city. Brydon frowned, remembering his last encounter with Prince Amerryn. He doubted passing through would be as easy as Jace expected.

As luck would have it, Brydon's party was quickly surrounded and he was dragged to the palace once more to visit Amerryn. He waved off Jace’s offer of assistance and reassured his friends that he would return, while hoping he spoke the truth. The prince lounged indolently on his throne, conversing with a lovely woman and surrounded by ten red-and-white clad guards. Amerryn waved the guards away as Brydon was brought forth and announced.

“Ah, Prince Brydon,” Amerryn said happily, leaping to his feet. “How nice to see you again. Did you recover your silly object?”

Amerryn was dressed in sparkling white, which set off his auburn hair to perfection. Even his royal cloak was white, clasped with a large ruby brooch.

“No. It escaped me, but I have not given up.”

“Why have you returned?”

“I’m on a different quest. I have to save someone.”

“Does it involve my brothers?”

“No,” Brydon stated flatly. Rakyn’s involvement was minimal, at the moment. “What happened with Berikon?”

Amerryn became even more animated. “It was a royal battle! Fool Berikon did not even suspect! My men ambushed his whole squadron!” Amerryn chortled and then sobered. “It did not last very long, though. He turned tail and ran all the way back to his wretched city. Then he had the gall to write to Father and complain about my actions. My actions! Luckily, I managed to intercept the messenger and persuade him to leave the country and forget all about Berikon.”

“If I may ask, why was I brought here?” Brydon interrupted.

Amerryn looked up from his musing. “I wanted news, of course. It would be prudent of me to know the whereabouts of that particular item you seek. How did it ‘elude’ you?”

“I was nearly killed by Reed, the regent in Ven-Kerrick.”

“Well, that makes sense. If he sent it away, he certainly wouldn’t want you getting your hands on it, now would he?”

“No,” Brydon answered shortly.

Amerryn looked at him thoughtfully. “Apparently I need to keep my eye on this Reed fellow. I know my father supports his regency, as do many of my brothers. He has approved many trade contracts that the Kerricks would not.”

“We believe Reed will incite civil war in Silver.”

“There is already civil war in Silver.”

“On a larger scale.”

Amerryn nodded. “That should not be difficult. There is already too much bad blood between my brothers. I will watch for manipulation, but none of them will listen to me, should I choose to warn them. I am the youngest and have the least influence out of all of us,” he said finally. “But enough gloomy talk. I insist that you dine with me. It is rare that I have guests that are not plotting to stab a sword into me. Your companions are welcome, of course. I will have them fetched.”

Brydon was about to refuse, but Amerryn looked so despondent that he reluctantly accepted the invitation. He reflected that it might very well be their last meal.

“We must be on our way immediately after dinner.”

“Of course!” Amerryn chirped.

~~O~~

Toryn climbed out of the sea with his hands on Bloodsong’s reins. The horse snorted water out of his nostrils and tossed his head. Toryn turned to watch Daryna tug her dun horse out of the waves. Garyn and his steed still swam from the ship.

“I still don’t see why you insist upon coming along,” Toryn snapped to Daryna as he took one of his boots from Bloodsong’s saddle and pulled it on.

“We’ve been over this,” she said calmly. Toryn tried not to notice how her clothing clung to her body and revealed every curve. She had worn leather every day since he had met her, until now. He wondered if she had planned her wardrobe just for the effect and decided it was probable. Most of the time she reminded him of a hungry beast of prey ready to pounce. When she had chosen the pale blouse and knee-length brown skirt, she had likely known exactly what she would look like, coming out of the water in the sodden cloth.

“What if I beg you not to come?” he snapped suddenly.

She shrugged. “Then I will be twice as determined to be a thorn in your side,” she said in a grim voice. “I have never been out of Thalarii and this may be my only chance.”

“Fine. If we’re attacked by howling demons, do not expect me to save you,” he growled.

“Toryn!” Garyn burst out, shocked. He had exited the surf in time to catch the last remark. “Ignore him, Daryna. He did not mean it.”

“I can take care of myself!” she said.

Garyn’s jaw dropped at the sight of her. The wet material left nothing to the imagination. Toryn glanced at Garyn and laughed aloud. If he wanted the little viper, he was absolutely welcome to her.

A small boat fought the waves and skidded onto the beach. Kor’s face was taut with annoyance. Poodik had absolutely refused to get into the water, forcing Kor to unload the dinghy and row him to shore.

“How are you, Poodik?” Toryn asked as he approached the boat. The question brought a storm of words from the Voor and he gestured with his spear at the ship, the water, Toryn, and everything else in sight. Apparently he was not pleased.

“I see.” Toryn smiled. He turned and looked back at Daryna and Garyn, who had both mounted their horses.

“Let’s move inland and make camp. It’s too cold here on the beach,” he told them. The wind from the water was quite chilly on their wet skin. They rode until they reached a small, grassy basin that provided slight shelter from the wind. Toryn left Bloodsong saddled and built a small fire. At Daryna’s curious gaze, he said, “He needs to run a bit.”

She shrugged and brushed her horse while Garyn unsaddled his. Poodik gathered firewood from nearby dead bushes. Toryn waited until the fire was steady before he returned to Bloodsong and mounted. Garyn looked at him curiously.

“Are you going to hunt?”

Toryn shook his head and fought a wave of guilt. “Garyn, I need you to take Daryna and Poodik to the Black City in Darkynhold. Ask for the prince there—I have forgotten his name—and tell him you are friends of Brydon Redwing. Wait for me there.”

“What? Wait a minute--!”

“Where are you going?” Daryna demanded.

“I hate to leave you like this, but my responsibility is to Brydon. He is going to get himself killed and I need to stop him. Remember, go to the Black City.” Before Daryna could jump forward and grab his reins, he wheeled Bloodsong and raced out of the basin. He saw Garyn snatch his saddle and run for his horse, but Toryn gave Bloodsong his head. The chestnut stallion had been confined aboard ship for too long and he was eager to run. He stretched his head into the wind and thundered along as if possessed. Toryn put his face near the whipping mane and let the horse run, glorying in the awesome feeling of it.

Bloodsong finally slowed. Lather dripped from the bridle and coated his dark neck where the reins had rubbed. Toryn brought him to a prancing walk and looked back into the darkness. Even if Garyn and the others were able to follow his trail, they would never catch him.

It wasn’t long before Bloodsong was ready to run again, much to Toryn’s amazement. He let him go and continued alternately walking and galloping the horse until dawn’s faint light touched the horizon. He dismounted then and slept, exhausted, while Bloodsong stood over him and waited for him to awaken.

Toryn had no idea that he had crossed half of Silver that night.
 

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

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