Chapter Nine

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Kareth stopped to start a fire and roast a couple of hares that he had caught while they were moving. Selene was so drawn into his story that she did not even know how long they had ridden. Seros put the hares on a spit and rotated them over the small fire that he had dug a hole out for as to hide the flame from anyone who might be looking.

“Barost returned to Lilanth shortly after the death of Narris with the so-called proof of Narris’s betrayal. He was accompanied by the members of the Uthari who had pledged him allegiance, though most of them did not know the truth of what really happened. The queen was devastated to hear about not only her brother’s death, but also that of her nephew. Liras and the queen were not close—it seems that no one was, really—but he was blood nonetheless.”

The hares were golden brown and dripping grease into the small fire by the time he had finished talking. They smelled delicious and Selene could not help but lick her lips. Neither Kareth nor Selene had eaten anything since the few bites she managed to get down at the inn two nights before when Seros, who was actually Kareth, decided to kill three men. They meant to do us both harm, and had he not acted she would not be alive today, she told herself.

“And the queen did not know that Barost betrayed her?”

Kareth frowned at the question. “My mother was a woman of many flaws, trust being one of them. No, I am afraid she did not know, not until it was too late. Barost took the remaining men back to Lilanth with reports that painted a beautiful picture of the now Silent King Maras. Though, as you know, he was not always silent. Narris took care of that, even though it cost him his life.”

Selene smiled at that, “and the king never spoke again?”

“Some say that he speaks, while others say that he is unable to. My mother never heard his voice. When he came with his armies and betrayed her he had a steward who spoke for him. She said that his neck was still black and blue and that he coughed up blood after he ate.” Kareth seemed to enjoy telling about his father’s anguish. “She never loved him though, my mother. She quickly realized what kind of a man he truly was, though it was too late by then.” He cut away some meat from the spit and handed it to her. “What about you, Selene? You must have a family?"

Selene paused, caught off guard by the question. "I had a mother once, so long ago it seems like a different life. I remember her auburn hair, her smile." She blinked away the beginnings of tears. "She was killed when I was three. A raiding party hit the group we were traveling with, or so I was told. The memory escapes me." She looked up to the sky for a long moment. “I suppose it is for the best, for I think that it is not something that one would want to remember.”

"The Cleanse..." Kareth contemplated, his words little more than a whisper. He looked over at her, his face a mask, his eyes beginning to glisten. "I too lost ones I cared about in the Cleanse. Many I know I shall never look upon again. I try to hold out hope, though, that someday at least a few of us will be reunited.”

“I have never heard of the Cleanse.” Selene could only guess its purpose, but either no one she knew told her about it, or no one knew.

“The Cleanse was the king’s answer to the migrating Panthosi people. It was not a problem at first, for the King believed that he had successfully exterminated us after Lilanth fell.” Kareth took a deep breath, the difficulty that accompanied speaking of his people obvious. “Death camps were set up all over the southern reaches, and each Warden Lord was to oversee the inevitable genocide of the Panthosi people that were not killed in the attack; a task that most of the lords were unhappy about, but carried out nonetheless.”

The thought of death camps frightened Selene. “Why doesn’t anyone know about this?”

Kareth shrugged. “The king decreed it in private to his council, and then in sealed letters to the Warden Lords. It was all very contained, neat and tidy. And, despite its monstrosity, it was very effective. I assume that there is less than a thousand descendants of Panthosi blood still breathing this day.”

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