The ring of eman vath, p.2
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       The Ring of Eman Vath, p.2

           Hal Emerson

  Chapter Two: Visitors

  The girl stood tall on the hillside, squinting against the wind.

  From the Lookout Spot, she watched the merchant train as it came down the PenRo and waited with bated breath to see if it would turn. It was smaller than others she’d seen – barely four or five wagons and a dozen free-riding men on horses – but still clearly a merchant traveling south to Londor.

  The wind shifted as it often did and whipped down suddenly from behind her. The cold sea breeze that gave the Windy Mountains their name raised goosebumps along her bare neck and arms, and she swayed slightly as the wall of air buffeted her. The force of it was strong enough to lift her heavy brown braid off her back and swing it around to her chest.

  She shivered, then forced herself to stop. Bolin Buie had said he could plunge into the Silvercreek Pond without shivering and she had flat out denied such an outrageous assertion. He had of course insisted on the truth of his statement, and so the two of them had done the right thing and agreed to both do it, so that the person who shivered last would win a prize as yet to be determined. Both had agreed on nullification rights should the offered prize not suit on the day of the engagement, though that was mere formality. Pride was on the line – unless the offered prize was insultingly bad, there was no backing down. Determined to win, AmyQuinn had been practicing all week. A little wind was nothing compared to the icy cold of the Pond, and she had better buck up if she expected to show Bolin Buie that she was no chickenheart.

  She hoped Ernin wouldn’t be there. Ever since her thirteenth birthday several weeks ago, he’d started looking at her when he didn’t think she could see him. Not that she really minded it – it was just awkward, and she didn’t want distractions. Her feud with Bolin Buie was of paramount importance.

  The merchant train turned, taking the loop in the road that led from the PenRo up to Dunlow.

  A shivery spike of excitement raced through her, banishing all thoughts of ponds and boys. She squinted harder and held a hand to her forehead to shade her eyes. The train was still many miles distant but clearly visible from the Lookout Spot. She turned to share a smile with Lenny but stopped when she remembered he wasn’t there today.

  She frowned and smoothed her long wool dress with her hands. The dress was horribly scratchy, and as she thought about it she hated it all over again. Whoever had invented dresses deserved to be eaten by Lupin Buie’s pigs.

  Sullenly, she glared around the Lookout Spot, but there was neither man nor beast in sight upon which to vent her ire. She hesitated for a moment, caught up in wanting to hate the dress and all the grown-up nonsense it represented, and then decided it couldn’t hurt to do the thing one more time.

  She twirled around and watched the skirt flare out, flashing in the setting sun. A thrill rushed through her, though she did not smile. She stopped and watched the skirt descend, eyeing its light floral pattern. The background color was the green of deep forests or the Silvercreek Pond in summer when the sun shines through the leaves. It really was quite pretty. She wasn’t too proud to admit that. She supposed that though dresses were still exceedingly stupid, if she had to wear one, this one wasn’t so bad.

  She refocused on the task at hand.

  The merchant train was closer now, and she knew that soon it would be visible from the Fairfield Inn itself. If she did not leave immediately, she would have been neglectful in her self-appointed duty. Picking up the hem of her skirt and baring her stockinged legs in a most unladylike manner, she raced down off the back of the Lookout Spot, an enormous half-buried boulder at the foot of the Windy Mountains, and flew down the lesser slope beside the rock, racing toward the inn.

  The wind tore at her as she went, unearthing a smile as rare as any diamond. It whipped past her face and took hold of her long braid so that it streamed out behind her like the tail of a kite. She jumped and hopped the trail breaks, rounded the Meeting Oak that led to both the Silvercreek Pond and the Lookout Spot, and then came to flatter ground, blood rushing through her limbs and breath catching in her chest. She breached the final scrum of trees on the edge of town and then was off along the road that led all the way from the Windy Mountains through Dunlow and eventually to the PenRo itself.

  She raced past the outer farms and houses, most of which were built of solid stone and stout oak with thatched roofs that kept Alister Thatcher in good business. The sun was making its way down the western half of the sky, throwing long shadows out before her. She felt light-headed and giddy as her arms and legs pumped furiously in her reckless sprint, and she used the momentum of her downhill dash to power her through the small dips and rises of the unleveled road. She felt like a sea-blown gust of wind; she felt free and unstoppable.

  A few people called out to her as they made their way home from the fields or the shops in town. They knew her and knew too what it meant to see her running at such a tear from the direction of the hills. She left a commotion in her wake like a stone skipping across a pond, and the eddies of conversation brimmed with excitement as the conversants stowed their tools, secured their work, and followed after her. A few of the younger children tried to race alongside her, and one or two kept up for a time until their mothers called them back. The adults shouted questions that she answered back as shortly as she could:

  “AmyQuinn! How many this time?”

  “Not many!”

  “From north or south?”


  “Caelron, eh? How soon?”


  She reached the lowest slope of the hilly west side of Dunlow and then raced up the final rise on which was located the Village Green and the Fairfield Inn itself.

  The air rushed in and out of her lungs with fiery insistence, but she neither stopped nor slowed. She pushed herself harder up that last incline, using the momentum she’d gathered on her careening downhill run to give her extra speed. She broke over the top of the hill into the last slice of sunlight beaming down over the Mountains on that bright end-of-summer day, and breathlessly watched the merchant train peak around the side of the bend that would bring them up to Dunlow. With the sun behind her, her shadow stretched all the way out to touch the first wagon – a huge unwieldy thing with four spoked wheels each the size of her whole body. The darkness she cast was long enough that it almost fell across the driver and the man who sat on the running board beside him, both of whom she could only make out as slices of watery color in the light of the setting sun.

  Something jarred inside her, like a heartbeat gone sideways, and in the same instant the man beside the driver suddenly raised a hand to shield his eyes. The colors of his cloak solidified as the distance closed: gray and black like volcanic ash. The wind grabbed eagerly at it, covetous, the same way it had clutched at her dress. She shivered, though she wasn’t sure why, then shook off the strange feeling and rushed into the Fairfield.


  Gasping, she pulled up just inside the door. There was no one in the common room. The fireplace off in the distance to her right, large and stone-lined with well-padded and well-worn chairs scattered before it, was dark and unlit on this summer’s day; the small bar with the door that led to the kitchen on the opposite side of the room was unmanned; and the stairs, directly in front of her past the wide dinning tables, were freshly swept but empty.

  She hurried to her parents’ quarters – up the stairs that ran around the inn – and skidded to a halt on the first floor landing, ignoring the ascending path of polished wood that continued up and around to the lofted third floor. She crossed through a small corridor into the large apartments that were for her family’s use alone.


  “In here!” came a distance reply.

  She followed the sound, taking a set of steep and narrow stairs down to her father’s workshop – what had once been the inn’s basement.

  “Father, there’s a merchant!”

  She turned the final curve in the staircase, running her hands alon
g the stone-and-mortar walls that doubled as the inn’s foundation, and emerged into a wide chamber where Eldric Stonewall stood fiddling with something on a large wooden table. Light came from high windows in the far wall, illuminating the slab of heavy oak that bisected the room. It was covered with knickknacks of every size, shape, and material – big, small, middling; wood, metal, ceramic; hollow, tubular, conic – that her father tinkered with when there was no other business to attend to.

  But at the mention of the merchant, he looked up immediately.

  His dark eyes peered over the rim of the little round glasses he wore when working, and he smiled. “What would I do without you?” he asked. “I’ll be right up. How many?”

  He took off the glasses and placed them carefully in the breast pocket of his flowing white shirt, then quickly undid the heavy leather carpenter’s apron he always wore in the workshop. He threw it over a hook in the corner with the easy, practiced motion of a man half his age.

  “Only four or five wagons – but they’re definitely coming.”

  “Excellent. Find your mother – she’s at the Hall.”

  AmyQuinn retreated back up the stairs as her father followed, the same excitement in her evident in him and his quick, sure movements. She hurried back through the common room and out onto the Green.

  There was a crowd gathering, made up of those AmyQuinn had passed on the way down the road. Others were coming too: those who had ended their work in the fields and had heard the news, and those who always came for a drink at the Fairfield to celebrate the day’s end.

  The merchant train was working its way up the long slope that led to the Green, and though AmyQuinn wished to stay and see it arrive, she had a job to do. She hurried through the crowd to a long, low building that lay situated across the Green from the Fairfield and ducked through the side door that led to the private council chambers.

  She found her mother talking animatedly with a number of other women, two of whom had dour looks on their faces – looks that told AmyQuinn they’d gotten the short end of whatever stick they had been haggling over. When the women noticed her, the conversation stopped, and they all assumed identical scandalized looks.

  Realizing her error half a second too late, AmyQuinn dropped the skirt of her dress so that it covered her stockings again. It didn’t stop the elderly women from exchanging of a number of dark looks, though, the most intense of which came from ancient Katlin Prue, who looked so much like a vulture that AmyQuinn could quite easily imagine her cawing over the fresh carrion of some poor rule-breaking child.

  “Mother,” she said quickly, trying to skate over the incident, “there’s a merchant train – father asked for you.”

  “Excuse us, young lady,” said Katlin Prue in a patronizing voice that dripped supercilious venom, “but this is a council meeting, and we –”

  “Oh let it go, Katlin,” one of the few men on the council said from the other side of the room, rolling his eyes. “It’s the end of the day and we’ve gotten nowhere.”

  “Let’s meet again tomorrow,” Jaes Stonewall said in a neutral voice that revealed nothing. “I will see you then.” She turned to go, and the others had no choice but to let her.

  Once they were out of the room, her mother glanced down at AmyQuinn and smiled brightly, an expression that dropped a dozen years off her face. “I’ve got old Jolinda running in circles trying to get that plot of land she thinks is hers,” she said with a conspiratorial grin. “She has the worst claim, of course, but we can’t just outright say that because she’s old enough and bitter enough that we’d never hear the end of it until the day she dies. You came in at the perfect time to allow me to stall for another day. Now tell me about the merchant.”

  AmyQuinn quickly filled her mother in on all she’d seen, and by the time she’d finished they were at the edge of the Green, that wide and cultivated patch of grass that served as the meeting place for all public events in Dunlow. Currently, it was more yellow and brown as a seasonal consequence of the summer heat, but that didn’t bother anyone. A name was a name – chances were that even if it were burned completely to ash, the force of tradition would still have them calling the leftover dirt “the Green” for several further generations.

  “Go to your father,” Jaes Stonewall said quickly, eyeing the merchants over the heads of those nearby. “Tell him they’ll likely need both good stables and a double round of drink. Have the mutton ready in case they ask for it but offer the venison first – remind him that if we don’t get someone to eat it we’ll waste the whole thing by the end of the week.”

  AmyQuinn nodded and hurried off through the crowd, trying not to swell too visibly with the pride of her importance as message-carrier. Her mother moved up to the front of the crowd, where she was joined by a number of the other members of the council, some of whom had just finished the day’s work on their farms and needed to hear about what was happening.


  She didn’t stop when she heard her nickname, but she did look back over her shoulder. It was her best friend, Liv. Liv was older than AmyQuinn, and also the granddaughter of ex-Council Head Lilibet. Her auburn hair shone in the sunset and her beautiful pale skin was flushed beneath the scattering of her freckles. She was tall and lean, and though the dress she wore was wool, she had a light blue apron over it that made her look, if possible, even prettier than she already was. There was a boy beside her and slightly behind – the tall, dark-haired Lenny, Liv’s brother.

  “A-Q!” Liv called again; AmyQuinn waved back but did not slow. She reached the entrance to the Fairfield just as the merchant train pulled up over the lip of the road that circled the Green. She had to tear her eyes away from it as she plunged once more into the relative shade of the inn.

  Eldric Stonewall was behind the bar, passing in and out of the kitchen with the scullery maid, Winsley, and the cook, Jasper.

  “Father!” she cried out before he could disappear again. He stopped and turned back to her. “Mother says – ”

  “Venison pie, both good stables, double round?”

  She nodded, slightly crestfallen.

  “That woman thinks I’d lose my head if she didn’t help me keep it attached,” he said with an amused chuckle before ducking back into the kitchen.


  AmyQuinn turned to her friends, both of whom had come through the wide double doors after her. A number of other inn-occupants were about now: there were always a half-dozen travelers in Dunlow on any given day, staying a night or two on their way from Caelron down to Londor or vice versa. They had stirred from their rooms and were moving out onto the Green, watching the commotion with interest.

  “What’s going on?” Liv asked.

  “Merchants,” AmyQuinn said quickly, letting some of her own excitement show through, though not too much. “I saw them from the Lookout Spot.”

  “I told you we should have gone,” Lenny said sullenly.

  “Mother would have killed us,” Liv replied.


  She turned back and saw her father leaning out of the kitchen door.

  “What’re you doing?” he demanded, a twinkle in his eye. “Get out there and let me know what kind of merchant we’re dealing with!”

  She grinned and went for the door, Lenny and Liv hot on her heels. They broke through the edge of the crowd and then managed to wriggle and squirm their way to the front. Jaes Stonewall and the rest of the Council were greeting the merchants, focusing on one in particular: a fat man with a purple crushed-velvet vest and voluminous indigo trousers. AmyQuinn, like a number of the Dunlow townsfolk, could not help but stare. She had never seen anyone wear that color – those clothes must have cost a fortune. And he wore them while traveling!

  Looking past him, she saw that the others in the train were moving the horses, carts, and wagons around the side of the Fairfield toward the stables in the back. A number of men with a dangerous air about them had split between the two – some moving off wi
th the wagons and some staying behind with the merchant.

  But in all the commotion and with all the sights to be seen – the tall, imposing guards; the sleek, strong carthorses – her eyes were drawn to a single man standing back up the road, away from the crowd.

  It was the man who’d been riding beside the merchant. His hair was full and jet-black save for two slim wings of silver at his temples, and his face was rough and creased, carved by the elements like an age-old rock.

  He was dressed like a beggar, but he carried himself like a king. His cloak was simple – dark gray wool with a deep hood hung down the back – and his faded red vest, white shirt, and dark breeches were threadbare and travel-stained. His leather boots were scuffed and the heels looked worn. His head, though, was unbowed, and his back and shoulders were straight and stiff.

  A sudden flash of light drew her gaze to his right hand. He wore a ruby ring there, set in gold, and when he reached up to pull his cloak more tightly about him, she saw that he carried a thick wooden staff as well. The ring shone in the waning light of the sun, throwing off red light, and the staff was nearly as tall as he was. He leaned on it slightly as if it were a walking stick and nothing more, but it was gnarled and twisted and unlike any walking stick AmyQuinn had ever seen.

  “Do you see that man?” she asked Liv and Lenny quietly.

  “The merchant?” Liv asked, eyeing the indigo-dyed clothing with envy as she fingered her light imitation-blue apron. “I wonder if he’s willing to trade with us? Maybe he has some of that dye… just a bit can’t be too much, right?”

  “No, not him. The other one – the tall man with the staff.”

  “Maybe he’s another merchant,” Lenny said slowly. He at least took the time to spare the man a glance, though he seemed unimpressed. “Sometimes they travel together, you know.”

  AmyQuinn wanted to insist further, but just as she opened her mouth to do so, the man in the faded red vest and dark gray cloak turned his head and raked the crowd with his eyes. A sudden flare of heat rushed through her, sending her heart racing. His eyes were deep black, like the color of burnt wood before it turns to ash, and they seemed to hold her and pull her apart, looking into all the corners of her body and mind, summing her up – and then they swept past, over the rest of the crowd, combing and categorizing.

  Cheers suddenly sounded from the townsfolk around her, and the noise shook AmyQuinn out of her strange trance. She realized her mother was shaking hands with the merchant and that her father was standing there as well, welcoming him to Dunlow. The merchant turned and gestured to the huge wagon-carriage that had yet to be brought round the back of the Fairfield, and as he did the sides fell open to reveal long mahogany panels baring all manner of goods. A general buzz of excitement swallowed up the crowd, and many of the gathered men and women moved forward, some lining up to speak with the merchant and ask for news, others going straight to the wagon sides, where journeymen merchants with the associated Merchants Guild patch over their left breasts had appeared as if from nowhere and were already bargaining with various townsfolk for goods.

  “Look!” Lenny cried. “Books!”

  “And dye!” Liv squealed. “Let’s go let’s go let’s go –”

  AmyQuinn found herself dragged to the front of the crowd, where everyone was jostling for position. Both Liv and Lenny ended up buying something – Liv bought a bottle of vermillion with the little pocket money she had left for the month, and Lenny spent a whole six coppers on a copy of a book called The Travels of Travin Hesh that he swore was famous though neither AmyQuinn nor Liv had heard of it.

  “Aren’t you going to get anything, A-Q?”

  AmyQuinn looked over the goods, but she knew it was no use. Her father only gave her two coppers a week – a source of constant contention between them, but a point on which he could not be moved – and she had already spent them.

  “Yeah, Lameyquin, aren’t you going to get anything?”

  Liv, Lenny, and AmyQuinn turned to see Bolin Buie, Ernin and Stanil Thatcher, and Thom Smith, stride up to them. The two Thatchers were eating short sticks of candy bought on the other side of the wagon, and Bolin was fingering the slingshot he always carried in the waist of his breeches; a new bag of shot hung next to it today.

  “Go away, Boils,” AmyQuinn responded automatically, glaring back at him. He was part of the large – and seemingly always larger – Buie family that lived on the outskirts of Dunlow up the side of the Mountains. They contributed little to the overall décor of the town. One or two of them were good people, but by and large they were bad apples that thought the other townsfolk looked down on them. They were correct on this point.

  “Make me,” Bolin sneered. The motion pulled his face and stretched his inflamed red skin so that his pimples stood out even more.

  “I just might!” she retorted, though she could feel Lenny and Liv behind her shrinking back. “We still have a bet, and until you show you’re brave enough to face a girl you can just shove that slingshot up your – ”

  “AmyQuinn!” said a sharp voice.

  She froze and swallowed the word she’d been about to use, unable to stifle her disappointment. She’d been saving that one up for the perfect time and was really excited to use it.

  Her father put a hand on her shoulder as he came up behind her.

  “Good day, Bolin – Ernin, Stanil – Thom.”

  The only benefit of her father interrupting them was the delightful way all four of her antagonists blanched and drew back, looking sullen and shamefaced. They were all mean and stupid, but they knew enough to act right when Mayor Stonewall was around.

  “Good day, sir,” they said, more or less in chorus.

  “Go join your parents, boys. I’m sure they’re eager to see what you’ve bought.”

  “Yes, sir,” they said and moved off, though not before Bolin shot another sneer at AmyQuinn. She riposted by sticking out her tongue and thumbing her nose.

  “AmyQuinn,” her father said. His hand tightened on her shoulder, and she winced. She turned to face him, and now it was her turn to look shamefaced and sullen. “What have I told you about those boys?” Eldric asked quietly, his voice slow but insistent. “You’re a woman now, and it’s time you started acting like one.”

  He turned to Lenny and Liv.

  “The same goes for you two,” he scolded. “You’re all above thirteen – it’s time you started putting away childish things. Soon you’ll be thinking about going into trades. Lenny, I know you’ve already started helping your father with the farm.”

  “But, sir,” Lenny said, speaking with the polite voice he used when addressing adults, “they provoked us.”

  “So don’t allow yourself to be provoked,” Eldric said simply, looking down his nose with dark, serious eyes. Lenny wilted under that gaze and clutched his new book as if it were a shield. “Now –get inside. There are buns waiting for you.”

  AmyQuinn looked up into her father’s face and saw the hint of a smile. She grinned at him and he turned away with an innocent look. She grabbed Lenny and Liv and pulled them along after her into the Fairfield.

  They quickly collected their buns – fresh from the oven and drizzled with honey, set aside to cool by the iron-hearted Jasper, who would usually have shoed them out of the kitchen with little more than a smarting hand or backside for their trouble but today seemed too busy to mind.

  Back in the common room, over by the fireplace in a little side alcove, the three friends watched the men come in and unload themselves into the rooms above. Several of the better dressed ones – the journeymen merchants trying to earn their Papers – clutched patched and frayed bags that they took to the upper levels themselves, while the guards, wearing heavy leather jerkins and short swords, retired to the bar for drinks. They all ate the venison pie – much to her mother’s relief, AmyQuinn was sure – and eagerly drank her father’s ale, which was a new batch brewed from the summer crop.

  “So what’s the book about?” AmyQuinn
asked thickly through sticky lips.

  “The travels of Travin Hesh,” Lenny said.

  “Funnily enough, I gathered that from the title.”

  “Right – well, he’s a famous explorer. Someone said he was a Sorev Ael, but I don’t think he is. At least, well, we’ll see when I read the book.”

  He grinned and squinted at her through the gathering dark. The candles in the chandelier had been lit in honor of the guests, as had the candles on the dining tables in their silver holders, but neither much lit the corner where they sat. Even if they had, Lenny read so often that he was in a perpetual state of squint no matter what the light. Even when they were up at the Lookout Spot on a day when they had finished their work early, he was reading or squinting at AmyQuinn when she said she saw something. She had started to suspect that he was not really much good as a fellow looker-outer anymore, but she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying so. Boys could be strange about such things, and Lenny was her friend first and a boy second.

  “Famous for what?” Liv asked clearly; there was no excess bun in her mouth, nor honey on her fingers. She ate very daintily, something which Jaes Stonewall had recently insisted AmyQuinn take note of. It was a clear sign of their friendship that when her mother had retreated, AmyQuinn had decided to overlook this slight, and Liv had tried not to take too much pride in the praise.

  “Famous for his travels,” Lenny said, looking at Liv as though she were thick.

  “Yes, we got that,” AmyQuinn said. “Travels where?”

  “Oh! Oh, travels everywhere! That’s why it’s famous. It’s a story about the travels he took all over the world. There’s even a whole chapter in here about Charridan – though old granny Lilibet said that part must have been made up. No one’s been across the Sea to Charridan in over a hundred years.”

  “Sorev Ael probably have,” Liv said, following her brother’s words with only slight interest. “And the Viretorum, the Knights of Caelron – maybe they send messages? In the Great Ships.”

  “Maybe,” Lenny conceded. “But Travin Hesh wasn’t a knight either.”

  “How do you know? You haven’t read the book yet.”

  “Because he wasn’t – everyone knows he wasn’t.”

  “But then if he’s not Viretorum and not one of the Sorev Ael, how could he go everywhere?” Liv asked, looking quite dubious.

  “Maybe that’s why he’s really important,” AmyQuinn said, caught up in the story now. “Maybe they sent him because he’s been everywhere and done everything and seen so much – maybe even through the Northern Wilds to where the Eryn-Ra live.”

  Liv groaned and rolled her eyes, but Lenny smiled eagerly.

  “It’s always Eryn-Ra with you two,” Liv said, focusing on her bun with a disgusted sigh. “What’s so fun about big scaly fire newts?”

  “Uh, the fact they fly and breathe fire and have scales as hard as iron and can talk and have power in their blood – ”

  “Okay! Fine! Just stop talking about them already, it’s ridiculous, they’re not even real.”

  “Come on, Liv, she’s right, they’re great, wouldn’t you want to see one?”

  “Uhm, see a big scaly fire newt that could burn my dress and eat me? Why would I ever want to see one of those?”

  “You hate fun.”

  The conversation went on like that for some time, going back and forth among them as it always did, AmyQuinn becoming bored when Lenny mentioned Travin Hesh finding beautiful maidens to rescue, and Lenny becoming exasperated in turn when Liv, now much more engaged, asked if Travin Hesh was beautiful. This devolved into a semantics discussion of whether a man could be called beautiful or should only be referred to as handsome, which ended in a giggling fit none of them really understood but which left them all quite flushed.

  All of this did, however, lead them back to the topic of the second merchant.

  “Did you see him?” AmyQuinn insisted. “I mean, really see him?”

  “No,” Lenny repeated, rolling his eyes.

  Unable to contain herself any longer, she exploded out with the knowledge she had been waiting to impart: “He’s a Sorev Ael. I know it this time.”

  Liv and Lenny exchanged a glance. Liv looked slightly uncomfortable, but her good-natured disposition would not let her express the feeling. Lenny took a deep breath and assumed the task himself. It was a division of labor AmyQuinn was used to with the brother and sister pair: nice Liv and practical Lenny.

  “A-Q,” Lenny said, “you think everyone is a Sorev Ael.”

  “No – I think everyone could be a Sorev Ael.”

  “Which is just as ridiculous.”

  “No it’s not!” she retorted with perhaps a touch too much heat.

  Lenny rolled his eyes again.

  “Len,” AmyQuinn said with new insistence, “this is different. You can tell just by looking at him. He’s even got the ring and the staff to prove it –”

  “People can wear rings and carry staffs without being Sorev Ael, A-Q.”

  “Yeah, but I was right about the last one –”

  “The last one?” Liv asked, finally joining in. “That was three years ago.”

  AmyQuinn groaned in the grips of her eternal frustration at the obtuse nature of her friends.

  “All right, all right,” Lenny said, breaking in with his ‘reasonable’ tone that showed he’d had enough of the argument and just wanted to put a stop to it. “You’re right. You recognized the last Sorev Ael that came from Var Athel. But you have to admit that was different. He came because we petitioned Var Athel directly when the Gray Plague broke out. And he wasn’t even a full Sorev Ael; he was a journeyman sorcerer trying to earn his ring. Sorev Ael don’t just come to Dunlow because they feel like making a trip, A-Q. They’re all travelling the Wilds or advising kings or… you know, things. Why would a Sorev Ael travel with a merchant train? And a small merchant train? And to Dunlow?”

  “Strange are the ways of Sorev Ael,” AmyQuinn said as mysteriously as she could, doing her best to imitate the way her father did it.

  Lenny and Liv broke out in immediate laughter.

  “Hey, well they are!”

  “Hah-hah, your face!”

  “Shut it – Sorev Ael are mysterious, they could be anywhere!”

  “Yeah,” Lenny snorted through a mouthful of sticky bun. “Like in your brain.”

  This comment sent Liv into a further burst of hysterics, and AmyQuinn glowered at them in resentful silence until Lenny brought up how great the last Sorev Ael had been – perhaps in an effort at reconciliation – and AmyQuinn was mollified.

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