by Jane Routley


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781921857676
Publisher: Ticonderoga Publications
Publication date: 09/30/2012
Pages: 262
Sales rank: 851,643
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.59(d)

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In a couple of days we would be in Aramaya. I leaned against the rail of the ship looking down into the dark grey sea. I should have been excited about seeing the center of the world, but instead my mood matched the color of the water.

"Thinking of Ruinac again?" asked Kitten, appearing at the rail by my side. She put her arm around my shoulders.

I smiled ruefully at her.

"For once no," I said. "I was thinking of my mother. She took the attitude that men were a temporary part of a woman's life. Once upon a time I thought she was mistaken. I really thought Shad and I would last forever."

My mother, my effortlessly fertile mother, would also have said it was children who were your lasting joy, but I was not going down that path yet again.

"Perhaps she was right, perhaps not," said Kitten squeezing me. "But even if men are temporary, friendship lasts. When we get home to Ishtak, perhaps you will come and five near me. We shall have a lot of fun together."

There was a shout from the foredeck.

"Come on. We need to get below," said Kitten puffing me away from the rail.

I looked up at the sky. A huge bank of black clouds was rolling over the horizon. That had come up quickly. No wonder the sea was so dark.

I groaned. By now I well and truly regretted pushing the others into shipping for Aramaya at this time of year. I had wanted to end my inactivity onshore but I had merely exchanged it for the inactivity of shipboard life with the "delightful" extra ingredient of seasickness.

"They don't call it Storm Season for, nothing," said Kitten. "The captain wants us battened down below decks as usual. Come on."

The two of us shareda little dark cabin on the upper deck. It was small but luxurious compared with the cramped communal room the other ten passengers shared. A communal room is less than pleasant when everyone is seasick during a storm. After the first storm I, in my role as healer, had distributed little magic pills to cure seasickness, but my supply of these pills had run out several days ago due to the sheer number of storms we had gone through since we had left Ishtak.

Our ship, the Eagle, was the last ship to risk the thirty-day journey across the Western Ocean to Aramaya before the two-month-long Storm Season made the crossing impossible. Now I could see why. The captain told us that this was a particularly rough year, but he always saw plenty of early storms on this crossing.

So, while Kitten and I dreaded yet more nauseating, lurching hours spent below deck, we did not feel any special anxiety. We had learned early that it was pointless to leave a candle lit, so we lay on our bunks in the dark talking—in Aramayan to give me practice—until the howling of the wind and the crashing of waves made it impossible to hear each other. Then we lay alone in the darkness with our thoughts.

I tried to think about Dally and what sort of actions I would take when I readied the coast of Aramaya, but as usual I thought of Shad. I remembered the last time I had seen him. We had been fighting as usual. I was furious at him about something. I can't remember what exactly. I think it was just everything. Anyway to punish him I had suddenly refused to go to the yearly. Gathering in Ernundra.

When I saw how much my refusal hurt him I felt horrible and guilty and this just made me more angry. How could he make me go? The Klementari were not my people but his and now every one of them would know that I was barren, because Edaine would have told them and they would all know my failure and they would look at me with humiliating pity.

How could he put me through that, I shouted. He was supposed to love me, but I hadn't seen much love lately.

"You know they won't care about that," he said trying to sound reasonable but not really succeeding. "Please Dion, won't you do it for me? You know how much it means to me."

"Well then go without me," I said, wanting him to beg, wanting him to suffer as I had suffered.

He was silent for a moment.

"If you would not mind it, I will," he said. His voice sounded tentative, nervous. Why? What was he nervous about? Was he guilty? He wanted to go without me, didn't he? I knew it! I had known it all along. He wanted to be rid of me. Who could blame him? Edaine would take him gladly. Maybe he wanted me out of the way so he could go to her. She'd be able to give him children. My heart felt like it had turned to a stone fist.

"You do that," I said bitterly.

"You do mind, don't you?" he said.

"Why should I care? Do what you want. I don't give a damn."

"Dion, I really need to go. The Gathering gives me so much strength and it's been a hard year. For both of us, I know. Please. Stay home if you want, but don't ask me not to go."

He was planning to leave me. I could tell. I had known this would happen. I had known he would leave me from the moment I had lost his child. The inevitability was like a grim march to execution.

"Oh Dion," he said softly. He came up behind me and touched my shoulder. "Don't be like this. I'm sorry. I'm sorry we fight so much. Sometimes I wonder.... Maybe it's better I go alone. Time apart. It might cool things down between us."

He was going to leave me. Anger stormed into my head. A violent red mist clouded my eyes. How I hated him in that moment. I wanted to break him. I spun round and slapped him hard across the face.

"Get out," I screamed at him. "Get out. Go get yourself a nice new wife, damn you."

He staggered back clutching his cheek.

"I hate you," I shouted. "I never want to see you again. Go on. Go to your Gathering. And go to hell." I picked up a china jug and threw it at him.

His face set into bitter lines.

"Damn you," he shouted. "If that's what you want then I will go."

He stormed from the room, leaving me to kick the furniture and weep enraged tears. I did not stop till I heard his horse outside, trotting away down the road...

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