"Soon the mountains were conquered by the
travellers, and they arrived inside Chail.
Garvin led the way to the city of Zarenn,
Which was known as the Frosty City,
Because the largest of all six Chailan castles was built there,
Porzian, the winter home "
The Pasegean Scrolls
The weather was starting to change when they reached Chail at last. It was late autumn, and the leaves had already started their descent from the trees. Mrs. Penwhite began to wish that she had never made this trip, even though she was always the warmest out of them all.
As the days passed, Garvin seemed to walk with an urgency in his step, as if he had somewhere better to be than trudging along a dusty track with people he barely knew, even if he had Llyne to keep him company. He found Camryns silence to grate on his nerves, Tiernas disobedience made him long to throttle her, and Samandias sarcastic comments barely tolerable.
When they reached the mountains overlooking the city of Zarenn, however, his mood seemed to change for the better. His eyes twinkled as he gazed upon the city below him, relief washing over his body. Im home, he thought joyfully, home at last.
There she was, disturbing him again. Sometimes Catalinas politeness was just too much to take. However, since feasting on the vision of his favourite place in all the world before him, Garvins heart had become much lighter. "Yes?" he asked.
"When we get to Zarenn, will we all be staying at your parents house?"
Garvin felt like someone had punched him in the stomach. How could he have been so foolish? What could he tell her so that she wouldnt question his motives?
"Uh my parents dont have that large a house. Probably Llyne, Mrs. Penwhite and myself will visit them eventually, after I tell them all about the situation. We shall stay at one of the inns in town till then." Catalina seemed satisfied with his answer, and smiled at him before going to prepare the horse for the last leg of their journey.
Damn! Garvin kicked himself for not realising the seriousness of the situation sooner. How am I supposed to even go about this? Llyne, Ive got something to tell you Im not who you think I am. Then, Ill tell her the truth and shell hate me for it, I know she will. She hates to be lied to, and Ive been lying to her for nearly a year!
"Garvin!" he heard Camryn call to him, "Garvin! Were ready to go! I think we should reach Zarenn by this afternoon if were lucky." As he began to walk towards the cart, Garvin shoved all his worries from his mind, knowing that the only way he would ever get through the next few days would be to decide what to do when opportunity reared its ugly head.
The rest of the journey was dull, but quicker than the previous few days. Each and every one of the group longed to sleep on a soft, warm, bed; to eat a home-cooked meal, to not have to go to sleep exhausted, dreading the next day of travelling even more than the last. Plus, all but Garvin had the excitement of a new city to adjust to and learn from Llyne even more so, with the added prospect of meeting Garvins family, who she had never really heard much about before, but was longing to meet. After all, everyone knew that if a gentleman introduced a lady to his family, it meant that he was contemplating marriage! Llyne didnt know what could be more exciting than something like that! In fact, she had barely slept the entire trip for thought of itthat and the gypsies she suspecting were prowling around their campsites, waiting for a good moment to pounce.
As they approached the city, Garvin started to act strangely, trying to walk as far behind the others as possible. Then, when the gates were in sight, he hastily jumped inside the cart and hid under Mrs. Penwhites blankets, which she thought was rather improper, and began to tell him so before Garvin shushed her impatiently. They passed through the city gates easily, the guards looking rather bored as they sifted aimlessly through the straw at the edges of the cart before waving them inside.
The sight that greeted them was a welcome one. Stalls were all around them, the merchants proclaiming their wares for all to hear. Llyne, Catalina and Samandia all looked on in awethis was nothing like the small farmers market in Fernan, that was for certain! Silk, Linen, Gold, Silver, Diamond, Emerald! It was too much for Llyne to take in all at once. She darted from stall to stall, rubbing the silk in her fingers, exclaiming at the gold, widening her eyes at the size of the jewels she was in heaven. The others laughed at her behaviour, and she scampered around for a good ten minutes before she tired of the market. When she returned, Garvin was sitting with the rug around his face, another on his lap, trying to blend in with Mrs. Penwhite in the cart. Llyne gave him a strange look, and Camryn asked him which inn would be the best to stay at. Garvin pointed towards a small alley, which a brightly painted sign stuck out from, the words "Filthy Mallard Inn" making them all laugh.
The innkeeper was a jolly sort of man, with a large bushy beard the colour of coal streaked with grey; his wife was the housekeeper: she was plump, and her brown eyes twinkled at them all. She chattered along as she showed them to their rooms. "Well, my dears, weve got plenty of room since the summer crowds have been clearing off to Tuqsan for the solstice this year."
Garvin looked worried. Since hed entered the inn hed dropped the disguise, but he was still acting rather strangely. "Have the nobles returned as well?"
She shook her head. "No, sir! Thats the strange thing King Ederawyr and Queen Sycia havent returned home yet. No one knows why, since Majesty Zekeria and Princess Elenore left Zarenn near on three months ago. Rumour has it that theyre afraid to go back to Tuqsan, lest someone attack them on the way. Sheban maraudersve been getting mighty dangerous in that area, since Ranear drove them from Dumarn. Sticky business, tis, my friends, but never you worry about that! You enjoy Zarenn whilst youre here, and dont worry bout no political nonsense!"
She smiled broadly at them, and shooed Llyne and Samandia into a room together. As Llyne looked back at Garvin, she noticed that he didnt seem too convinced. I hope he doesnt decide to go and do anything stupid, she thought, her stomach lurching at the thought. But she pushed it from her mind, and settled into her soft bed, hoping for a good nights sleep, the first in a long while
Then she sighed as she heard a snore come from the bed beside her. Samandia was snoring again Its gonna be a long night
Tierna tossed and turned in her bed, trying to escape the voice that kept haunting her dreams
"Servant, you must speak to them. Tell them of the truth, of the one true way. He needs more followers more faith to feed from. Take Catalina with you, if you like, but do not tell her what you wish for her to do."
"Mistress," she said, "where do you want me to go? Where is this meeting to take place?"
Sidhe smiled. "Follow your faith, Tierna. Follow Keoris path."
Copyright 2000 M. Lees