Chapter 13 (part 1 of 3)

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Chapter 13

As night fell, Maggie and Orick sat talking to Grand-mother. The old woman let the children build a bonfire with branches from the nearby woods, and Grand-mother asked Maggie many questions about her home in Clere.

Maggie told Grandmother of her work in the inn, how she cleaned and scrubbed and cooked all day. She told how her mother died of sickness after giving birth, and of her father and brothers, who had all drowned when their small fishing boat capsized. It seemed to Maggie that Tihrglas was a cold and bitter place, where she had felt cramped, forced into a corner, and as she talked, Maggie realized that she did not want to go back. To live here on Cyannesse, even to live on Fale as a free woman, would be better.

Yet when she finished telling Grandmother about Tihrglas, the old woman smiled and nodded sagely. "We are like you, in that we keep no android servants. This lets us serve one another and take pride in our work. A simple life is best," she said, as if she were agreeing that, yes, life on Tihrglas must be peaceful.

Maggie wanted to growl and scream in the old woman's face, but Orick chimed in with, "Och, well said! I'll drink to that!" and he lifted a goblet of wine in his great paws and poured it down his throat.

The wind was blowing through the trees, and it sounded like the wind that blew through Tihrglas on a summer's night, warm and comforting with the taste of the sea in it. It was the same kind of wind that had lulled Maggie to sleep as a child, and she felt a pang of longing, not for that damned Tihrglas, but for her childhood, for the blissful ignorance she felt before she'd heard of the dronon, and Maggie realized that if she had never heard of the dronon, even if she'd never left home, she would probably have grown old and been content. "Yes," Maggie agreed at last, "a simple life is best."

Veriasse had gone out to look for Gallen and Everynne quite awhile ago, and Maggie was growing worried. Veriasse had said that there were factions who would fight Everynne. Maggie wondered if such factions existed here on Cyannesse, among these seemingly peaceful people.

"I think I'll go look for Gallen," Maggie said, and she went uphill, past the singers who sat around a small fire.

By now the stars were out. A red moon was rising and the ocean had slid in under the city. With the wind, Maggie felt pleasantly cool, and she strained her senses as she entered the woods. She found dozens of trails and had no idea which to take, but soon she found one that led to the railing looking out over the ocean. There were benches by the railing, and a path that followed the rail around the city. Maggie imagined that if she just followed the path, she would find Gallen and the others sitting on some bench, talking quietly.

She grabbed the iron rail and used it as a guide, walking through the forest. At the third intersection to another path, she still had not found Gallen and Veriasse, but just as she was ready to pass, she looked down in the cinnabar moonlight, saw Everynne lying in the grass, dead. Her robe was draped over the body, as if to hide it.

Maggie gave a startled cry, rushed to Everynne's side and pulled off the robe. Everynne was naked. She opened her eyes, looked up.

"What?" Everynne said, sitting up. She looked around in a sleepy daze. "Where's Gallen?"

Maggie could think of nothing to say. Her heart was hammering and her head spun. "You slept with him, didn't you?"

Everynne crawled through the grass, picked up her underclothing and put it on, watched Maggie without saying anything. She began to put on her robe.

"You took him, just because you could!" Maggie said.

"On many worlds," Everynne said, "men and women sleep together whenever they want. It means nothing."

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