Chapter 12

“Defending Torlund is our highest priority.”

Zonta looked around at the many different reactions on the faces of those assembled.

“Why are my family so important to Deverous?” Morden asked softly.

“I presume it is the Tor blood in their veins my lord. It seems to have some significance that is unknown to us at this time.”

Corli placed a hand on his friends shoulder.

“Are you completely sure of your information Sir Knight?” he asked.

“Of the little we have yes. The demons will be released, but when and where is yet unknown. We know that a big event will happen in Torlund, that will involve your family members,” he nodded towards Morden, “and it will be detrimental to Deverous’s plan to win this planet. More than that I do not know.”

“Do not, or just won’t say?” Matheas’s strong voice boomed.

“Do not, My Lord.”

Zonta sat back down wearily, and prayed that they would believe him.

Dorien slowly stretched, one leg at a time, easing cramped muscles before they seized up entirely. He was hidden within a tiny cupboard in a room above the audience hall where a broken floorboard let the voices from below through. The information so far was good, but there were still too many gaps for his liking. These Knights seemed to be placing all their eggs in one basket, defending Torlund only. Did they know more than they were letting on?

“So we pull all my troops into Ebrocia and set up camp around the foothills,” Matheas was saying.

“As many as you can possibly spare without leaving your own lands undefended,” Zonta replied. “I think some check points are needed on the border, they may give us advance warning.”

“What’s stopping these Hordes of monsters turning up in Tor itself?” Morden asked suddenly his voice rising again.

“They cannot, My Lord. There are people in that land with far more power than you realise. They would never allow a portal to open there.”

“So why can’t they defend themselves for once and come down here to help us,” Corli demanded.

“I only know that they will be needed in Torlund. I am sorry I have nothing better for you.”

“What of my people? Are Araevians in danger?”

“I am unsure, it depends where the gateway opens. Ebrocians should make their way to the foothills where we can offer some protection.”

“Do you realise what you ask?” Morden shouted now. “Moving a whole province is an extremely high scale operation. It has never been done. Where will I get the manpower for that as well?”

“It is something that we must discuss. I can be of help in this. My horse is swifter than ordinary steeds and his stamina is greater. He too has the strength of Isil-Ra. Your citizens can help themselves to some extent.”

Dorien smiled. This knight was not going to be popular at all. And at least the enemy was as much in the dark as he was about Deverous’s plans. Silently he retrieved the relocating stone from around his neck and mouthed the incantation, a picture of his bed slowly becoming reality.

With a loud sigh he stretched and lay for a while in comfort putting together all that he’d learnt, then reluctantly he swung his legs to the floor. Now he must fill the Master in. He washed the makeup off, and once out of the old clothes, he headed for the door. A note lay on the floor where someone had pushed it under the threshold. He read the contents quickly, and then threw the paper behind him as he exited the room and jogged down the corridor.

The infirmary was on the other side of the monastery and he needed to reach it without delay. Disobeying rule number ten in the Monasteries code of conduct he grasped the stone and imagined the infirmary door.

Once there he carried on running, grabbing the nearest Monk by the arm.

“Where’s my father?”

“In the large room at the end Master Dorien, but…”

Dorien didn’t wait to hear the rest. He flung open the door and strode into the room.

“Dorien,” the Master smoothly veiled his anger at the interruption. “You are back I see.”

Dorien glanced quickly at his father checking his vital signs with a sweeping glance before bowing deeply.

“I apologise for the hasty entry Master. I heard my father had been taken ill, but I also have some news for you. I thought it best to tell you immediately.” He cringed at the lie, knowing how weak it sounded, but he had to cover up the fact that he didn’t know the Master would be there.

“Take a seat then and tell me all.”

“You may wish to hear this some where more private, Master.”

“There is no-one here but this sweet old man,” The Master said with a flourish of his hand, “You may speak.”

Berating his own stupidity, Dorien pulled a chair forwards. For some reason he didn’t want his father to know he had been spying at The Palace of Den. Another furtive look at him showed Galron to be sleeping peacefully. The note had said that he had suffered a heart attack but nothing of the severity, and Dorien considered it better not to ask. Casting his worries to one side he related all that he had heard, keeping his own thoughts to himself. It was never wise to comment on something unless asked for your opinion.

The Master sat with his eyes closed for some time, mulling over Dorien’s words, giving him time to look once more at his father. He seemed to be fine. His colour was better than the last time he had seen him, and his face seemed relaxed in its slumber. He dare not use his other senses to probe more deeply for fear of discovery and he itched to question the Monk about his father’s condition.

At last The Master rose from his seat.

“Come we have much work to do,” he ordered as he walked past Dorien.

Unflinchingly he followed, his face a mask for the anxiety beneath.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

“This all feels wrong to me,” Morden grumbled as he poured a drink for Matheas and himself. “Why are we fighting battles for two Gods anyway?”

Matheas sat in an armchair, his legs crossed, staring into space. They had retired to Morden’s study to talk in private, and neither was in the best of moods.

“But what else can we do?” Matheas asked accepting the brandy, “We seem to have our hands tied, unless we can persuade some Torlund Magi to come down from their mountains.”

Morden grunted. “Not likely. If it wasn’t for the fact that my wife is apparently needed in Torlund to do something that nobody knows anything of, I would say she was on a fools mission.”

“Perhaps she still is,” Matheas laughed.

Morden bristled, but fought for control of his anger. He couldn’t cross swords with Matheas now.

“Do you think Zonta told us everything?”

“If he did he knows precious little for a Knight of Isil-Ra,” Morden snorted, “I don’t like being a pawn in some one else’s game.”

“I wonder where the other ones are?”

Morden looked questioningly at his neighbour.

“The other Knights,” Matheas explained, “What are they doing, and where?”

“Good question.” Morden nodded thoughtfully, “If guarding the Tors is so important why are they not here also?”

“We will question him on that. In the meantime though I suppose we must comply with his suggestions.”

“Yes. Have you ever fought a Demon?”

————————————————————————–

The shakes set in violently as the numbness wore off. Karayana knelt over and wretched. Portheas placed a hand on each of her arms and raised her slowly upright.

“I killed him,” she whispered between chattering teeth.

“And in so doing you saved a life,” he said, gently turning her to face him.

“Quite ironic that it was mine,” Mica spoke up from her bed where she was recovering quickly from the shock. After all it wasn’t the first time someone had tried to kill her.

Portheas didn’t even give her the satisfaction of a glare. He carried on as if she didn’t exist.

“I am not supposed to kill,” Karayana gabbled on, “I am a healer. I’m not allowed to kill.”

Portheas lifted her and carried her out of Mica’s room, and into Brack’s. He sat her carefully on the bed, wrapping her in his cloak, and then his arms. She began to sob uncontrollably and he held her tighter. She could smell him, hear his heart beating, he was alive and she concentrated hard on that and tried to forget everything else.

Marti watched the shadow of a man approaching the front door of the house. He wondered frantically what was going on upstairs but he couldn’t leave his post. He needed to think fast. As soon as the Kranz was up against the side of the house, his shadow would disappear, and so would he. Marti ran to the pantry, the window there would bring him out at the back of the house. He prayed quickly that this was the only tracker left, before hurling himself through the window. Hitting the ground, he rolled, sword all ready in his hand. His back against the wall he shuffled along until he reached the corner, where with a quick peep, he found the way clear. He carried on, heart beating faster now. His swordplay had won him medals, but only in competition, never for real. No point dwelling on that now.

He peered carefully around the next wall. The Kranz was mimicking his position, at the side of the front door, and thank the gods; he was looking the other way. Marti kissed the hilt of his sword, took a deep breath, and then silently rounded the corner. He took only three paces before the Kranz realized there was some one behind him and spun, sword in hand to face Marti. He immediately feinted to the right. Marti dodged back, avoiding the thrust to the left, and charged straight in. The man was good. Quickly Marti mimicked the moves that had foiled him in sword class, hoping he could remember correctly. It didn’t take long before he knew his opponent had fallen into the trap. His nervousness disappeared quickly and within moments he had found the opening he needed. The man fell forward blood flowing freely from the artery in his neck.

Marti ran to the door and banged hard.

“Marti?” Brack’s voice was wary.

“Yeah it’s me. Let me in.”

The door opened a crack, and Marti rushed in, shutting it quickly behind him.

“What happened upstairs?” he demanded as he cleaned his blade on a rag.

“Karayana killed a tracker.”

Marti was stunned.

“By all the gods. Where is she?”

“Upstairs, but…”

Marti dashed for the stairs taking them two at a time. She would be devastated, he knew her. She needed him. He reached the top step and stopped as if hitting a brick wall. The door was open to Brack’s room and Portheas was holding Karayana, resting his head on the top of hers and swaying gently. Marti swallowed quickly. He ached to hold her; he could feel the hurt she felt. But her arms were wrapped tightly around Portheas. Brack came quietly up the stairs behind him forcing him to take that final step that would bring him into Portheas’s view. Their eyes locked, but no triumph showed in Portheas’s gaze, only concern. Grabbing his courage by the throat, Marti walked to the doorway.

“How is she?” he managed quietly.

“Marti?”

Karayana turned a blotchy face to him. Her eyes were rimmed red with crying, and he had to swallow again quickly.

“I killed him. I pointed at his heart and he died,” she said softly.

She turned away from Portheas. Marti couldn’t help himself. He knelt on one knee at the side of the bed and took her hand.

“I know.”

“What will I do?” she whispered.

“You will play everything through in your head a hundred times, and each time find a way that you could have avoided killing him, and each time place more guilt on your heart. But the fact remains that you killed him in self defence, and if you hadn’t we would have.”

She reached out to hug him, and he straightened until they both stood. She cried quietly, burrowing her head into his neck. Marti hardly noticed Portheas leave.

“We need to move the bodies,” Brack said quietly, watching Portheas cover his disappointment.

“Of course.” He straightened. “Where are the children?”

“In their room.”

They went through to retrieve Mica’s attacker first. She didn’t speak, but watched them with a slight sneer on her face. The man was heavy, but after some help Brack got him over his shoulder. Portheas was astonished at his strength. He followed him out and noticed that Marti had thoughtfully pushed the door to.

They put the three bodies together in one grave. The digging was hard work, but Portheas was glad of the distraction. They worked in silence and it was dusk, by the time they’d finished. They walked back to the house tired and grubby. A lamp was lit in the kitchen giving off a homely glow, and Portheas opened the door to find Marti doing magic tricks for two eager children. Their eyes met and Marti answered the question he saw there.

“She’s sleeping,” he said quietly.

“Right, well let’s get washed up and find something for supper,” Brack said, attempting to brighten the mood in the room, “Can one of you go and see if the madam needs anything?”

“I’ll go.” Portheas made for the stairs.

“Wait, I’ll come too. I think we need to have a talk with Mica.”

The last time Portheas had seen that look on Marti’s face was from the wrong end of his sword. Mica was not going to wriggle out of answers this time.

Mica had managed to prop herself in a semi-upright position and in Marti’s view she was looking a hell of a lot better than some one in her condition should.

“Hello boys,” she said coyly as they entered the room, “How’s poor little Karayana?”

Marti bristled.

“We are going to ask the questions?” he snarled.

“Fine, fire away,” she said in a matter of fact tone, while presenting Portheas with a winning smile. Portheas raised his eyebrows at her and then seated himself on the end of the bed.

“Who do you work for?”

“I see. You’re going straight for the jugular. Good approach but wrong technique. You would have to use very sophisticated torture methods to get that out of me. And,” she added looking Marti up and down, “You are not the type.”

“Don’t push me,” he warned. He tried to calm down and think. This girl wasn’t going to scare easily.

“Why did your Master send the Kranz after you, and not Karayana?”

Mica thought for a minute. “Because he wishes me dead and Karayana alive?”

Marti glared at her.

“Then why are you trailing us?” Portheas asked with a frown.

“I have my own agenda,” Mica replied imperiously. She was enjoying this. These two were not good interrogators, and she’d soon have them thinking in circles and tying themselves in knots.

“But why does your master want you dead?” Marti asked angrily, “This makes no sense.”

He shook his head and leant back against the wall.

“He wants me dead because I have been a naughty girl and misplaced two people he wants very much, as well as myself.”

“So he doesn’t know where you are?” Marti was trying desperately to put pieces together, but it just wasn’t happening. Mica looked over at Portheas and gestured with her head towards Marti.

“He’s quite clever, your rival, isn’t he?”

Both men straightened instantly at the barb, and Mica found that the game was easier to play than she would have expected.

“Which one of you has she chosen? Or perhaps she hasn’t made her mind up yet. We women can be quite fickle at times.”

She sighed and rested her head back against the pillow, watching both men wrestle with their anger and uncertainties. Marti seemed the most riled.

“Of course she is actually betrothed to you Portheas, so I suppose you could just insist that she is yours and have done with it.”

She smiled as Marti glanced worriedly over at Portheas. But that statement had gone too far, breaking Portheas out of the little trap she was weaving.

“I would never bind Karayana to me against her will. Marti and I are good friends. Karayana is no longer an issue between us.”

Mica scowled.

“You didn’t look like friends the other night.”

“Looks can be deceiving.” Portheas stood to go. He’d had a long day and this talk was getting them nowhere.

“Brack wanted to know if you are hungry.”

“I could eat a horse,” she smiled, but less convincingly, than before.

————————————————————————–

Karayana woke from a very deep sleep to find the room pitch black. She had slept for hours again, but this time she felt anything but refreshed. Her stomach felt hollow, her eyes like sandpaper, and her head pounded. She needed to get away from here, get moving again, and see Ral. He would understand what had happened and show her how to prevent it happening again. She shivered as she relived the whole incident, trying to figure out when it was that she had relinquished control. But it was all so vague in her mind. Apart from when she saw the Kranz fall, and knew she had killed him. That was clear as crystal. She lay for a long time trying to clear the fog, and failing. Eventually she decided that she would refresh her parched throat. She sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed, and stood on someone lying there. She snatched her feet back with a squeal, and watched a dark shape rise up in front of her.

“It’s alright, it’s me.” Marti’s voice came from the figure, “Hold on.”

He lit the oil lamp next to the bed, and suddenly the room danced with shadows. Marti sat next to her yawning.

“Sorry, for standing on you.”

He smiled.

“How are you feeling?”

“Not good. I’m going downstairs for a drink.”

He stretched, and then followed her.

“Why were you asleep on my floor?” she asked.

“We were a bit short of beds, and I thought you might need me.”

“Where’s Portheas?”

“On watch. I’ll relieve him in a minute.”

“Marti we need to leave here. I can’t believe I’ve brought all this down on Brack and the children.”

“We,” he corrected her.

She smiled at him.

“Mica will have to come with us. Somehow.”

“That’s not a thought I relish. The Kranz were meant to kill her, apparently sent by her master. What if he sends more?”

Karayana shuddered and pushed that thought a way. “Let’s deal with that if it happens. So you managed to get some information out of her then?”

“Eventually. She said she had misplaced herself, as well as the two of you.”

“What does that mean?” asked Karayana, wrinkling her forehead in consternation.

Marti shrugged.

“She’s rather good at avoiding questions, and annoying the hell out of us. Perhaps you’d get further.”

“We need to get her to Ral. He’ll get it out of her. She’s not going to be an easy prisoner though.”

The thick oak door opened, letting in a draft of cool air. Portheas gave her a warm grin.

“You awake at last?”

Karayana was amazed at the change that had come over Portheas. He seemed so much more relaxed. Marti on the other hand instantly tensed.

“Could we all have a talk about things, while we’re alone?”

They sat down at the table, Marti to her left, Portheas opposite them both.

“I think we should leave in the morning,” she began, “But how will we transport Mica?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Portheas said, “She has healed very quickly, and I think she could ride.”

“She has healed remarkably quickly,” Marti agreed.

Karayana nodded.

“I thought that some one else was lending a hand in her healing. There was a feeling of great power inside her, but it wasn’t her own.” She faltered trying to find the words to describe what she felt. “I thought it was her Master, but she obviously has some other friend.” Dismissing that thought for a moment she continued, “I’ll ask Brack if we can have his old mare.”

“My worry is how we stop her from escaping,” Marti said.

“Mine too. You can’t watch her all the time Karayana, and as much as I hate to admit it, we’re not even close to being a match for her.”

“We’ll tie her to the horse in the day, and to a tree at night. She can’t use her energy to untie knots.”

The two men shared a look at Karayana’s calmness on an issue that worried the hell out of them.

“Right, if that’s all sorted you two go and get some sleep. I think it’s time I took a watch.”

Portheas almost slipped up and told her not to be so silly, but stopped the words at the last minute. He wasn’t about to spoil this newfound camaraderie. It was something that he’d never experienced before, his friends had always been acquaintances, usually to strengthen his father’s position in some way. It was hard to relax his values, and even harder to find out that some of them might actually be incorrect, but he was willing to try, and the rewards were good. And anyway, Marti was unfazed by the idea, and Portheas trusted his judgement.

“Can I borrow a cloak?” she asked rising to her feet.

Again Portheas held back, letting Marti be the first to offer. She swung the cloak around her shoulders and slipped out into the night.

————————————————————————–

Mica was annoyed. She was restless. She was in awe of Karayana. Mica had never been able to kill with her energy. Yes she could hurl someone in such a way that they would never recover, but to stop a heart? The prospect of Karayana being that much stronger than her was worrying.

Her leg ached, but not as badly as it should for the damage that had been done. She wondered if she could put weight on it. Easing herself into a sitting position, she waited for the pull on the stitches, and then repositioned herself until they felt comfortable again. Persevering, she eventually got both feet on the floor. Holding on to the drawers at the side of the bed she pushed up on to her good leg, breathing deeply to eradicate the sudden dizziness. Cautiously she eased her weight onto the bad leg, biting her lip against the pain that shot through the back of her thigh as her knee straightened. Quickly she sat back down. She gave her self two minutes to focus her energy on the pain, then tried again, and again, until she could stand. Pivoting on her good leg, she faced the window. It was three paces away, she judged, far enough for the first attempt. Just as she got up the courage to take a step, she felt a now familiar cold heavy feeling settle on her shoulders.

“You seem much better my dear.”

She sat back down heavily, her concentration disrupted.

“I’m trying.” She said sarcastically. Now she was in trouble. How would she explain her current bungle to Deverous?

“You are in a slight predicament it seems.”

“I was attacked,” she stated firmly, “My Master knows something is wrong.”

“Of course. He is a clever man. So what can we do about this mess?”

“I am trying to strengthen my leg, and then…”

“You won’t get far, no, perhaps this can be turned to our advantage.”

Mica stayed quiet. There wasn’t much point in speaking if he already knew what she was going to say.

“They will want to keep you captive, so you will go with them. Do not attempt to escape. I want them to convert you over to their side. Gradually become their friend.”

Mica couldn’t speak now if she wanted to.

“Then I will find out who her master is. Having someone on the inside will give me all the information I need. Is that clear?”

“Not entirely, but I understood what you said.”

The voice chuckled.

“This time I want no mistakes.” Suddenly there was a menacing edge to it that made Mica shudder. Then the heaviness lifted and she was alone.

She lay back down on the bed. Suddenly she had a lot of planning to do, and this could turn out to be entertaining.

And so when they came for her the next morning, she smiled sweetly at them all, remembering to thank Brack, and giving Portheas, who lifted her carefully and carried her downstairs, the sweetest smile of all. It was a pleasure to see the puzzled expressions, as she allowed herself to be tied onto the small mare, that she was relieved to find she would be riding. She even managed to enlist a bit of sympathy from Portheas as he caught her leg on the saddle. It hurt, but she made sure that they thought it hurt like hell. She had decided to play on her injury. If they thought her still weak, it would explain why she wasn’t trying to escape. At the same time she was hoping to gain some sympathy and support. Karayana would be the hardest to convince, and Portheas, she hoped would be the easiest. If she managed to seduce him away from Karayana at the same time, then all the better. She would need some reward for being nice to them.

Portheas bound her to the saddle. She disguised her contempt for his bindings by hanging her head weakly. It wouldn’t take much wiggling to escape these. Karayana however felt no sympathy. She tightened each knot, whilst staring Mica in the eye, ignoring the hurt look from Portheas. One point in her favour then. The more she could force Karayana to make him look stupid, the quicker her plan would work.

The day was fine, and everyone seemed relieved to be doing something positive again. They walked in silence, keeping to the road. It was decided that a horse shaped opening through the undergrowth was more of a give away than prints on the dusty road surface. Brack had given them directions that would get them to the edge of the forest by noon of the next day, and enough food to get them to the nearest village. All in all the day couldn’t have been more perfect, if only they didn’t have Mica.

She was grating more and more on Karayana’s nerves, even though she had hardly spoken, which seemed odd. She was acting in a very pathetic manner that was totally out of character. If the mare tripped or jolted her she let out a small moan or caught her breath, and each time Karayana wanted to shake her. She didn’t believe for a minute, this sickly act. Yes the injury had been severe, but she had recuperated very quickly. It was slightly odd that the good progress she had made should suddenly stop. She would have to keep a very watchful eye on Mica.

They stopped just before dark and made a small camp just off the track. Karayana saw to the knots on Mica’s bindings herself, and left her enough room to lie down, but only just. She carefully checked the injury for signs of infection, putting a fresh dressing on, with plenty of padding to prevent chaffing on the saddle. Mica said nothing. Portheas brought her some cold meat and bread, which she ate in silence, although Karayana did catch the little smile that she gave Portheas as thanks. He sat down at the side of the fire next to the other two.

“I’ll take first watch,” he volunteered.

Marti nodded. He sat staring into the flames, a far away look in his eye. Karayana gave him a nudge with her elbow.

“A penny for them.”

“I was thinking about those knights again. Something has been bothering me ever since we saw them, but…” he shook his head and half smiled at her. “Never mind. I’m going to turn in. Wake me when you need me Portheas.”

“I’m tired too. Portheas if you need help with her, shout.” Karayana gestured at the now prostrate body of Mica.

“I’ve a feeling she won’t be troubling us tonight, I think the ride took it out of her.” Portheas glanced over at Mica as he spoke.

“And I’ve a feeling that she isn’t doing as badly as she’s making out. Be careful Portheas.”

He didn’t look up as she left, but he nodded slowly.

Karayana felt angered by the small pang of jealousy that tweaked her insides. Was Portheas beginning to feel sorry for Mica? Or was there more to it? Mica was a very beautiful woman when she dropped the scowl that she usually wore. Her eyes were a similar hue of violet blue as Karayana’s, and her hair was as dark, but cut short, a style that accentuated her high cheekbones and pouting lips. She was certain Mica knew every trick in the book to use her assets to gain an advantage. Portheas would be the easiest fish to hook, his upbringing made it difficult for him to see women in a dominant role. Karayana began to wonder whether she should stay awake too, but she was beginning to feel sleepy, and to be of any use against Mica she must keep up her energy.

She lay down next to Marti, and tried to get warm. The nights were still quite chilly, and the heat from the small fire didn’t extend very far. She edged her body closer to his, and found that if she leant her head against his back, and curled her body tight, the temperature became almost comfortable. Marti grunted sleepily and turned towards her, throwing a heavy arm across her body. Karayana froze, but it soon became obvious that he was asleep, so she snuggled into his embrace. She lay awake for a long time, listening to his heartbeat, and feeling his warm breath on her hair. She found herself unintentionally comparing Marti to Portheas. How would it feel to lay this way with her betrothed? The thought made her heart beat faster. And what if he tried to kiss her? What would she do, how would she feel? She imagined his face coming towards her own, his lips touching hers. It wasn’t as unappealing as she had hoped. But then lying here next to Marti was safe and warm. He offered no threat, expected nothing from her, but she knew he loved her deeply. And what if he tried to kiss her? She looked up into his sleeping face. A small tingle ran across her lips, and her heart gave a small leap as she realized that she was not averse to that thought at all. In fact, now that it had actually entered her head, she longed for it. She snuggled back down and tried to expel the image from her mind. She must sleep now. But slowly she was becoming more and more aware of the man she thought of as her friend. The chest she laid her head against was hard muscle, as was the arm that sat heavily across her. The hand that rested on her back, held her firmly to him. She sighed and tried to clear her head, but sleep was a long time coming.

Portheas sat staring into the dying flames, his thoughts a jumble. He had found, much to his annoyance that Mica’s smile was rather attractive, and through out the day he had done things to try and encourage it. He tried to justify his attraction by claiming it as a diversion from Karayana, who, he had decided, would be much happier with Marti. Marti loved her on a level that Portheas hadn’t known existed. Women had never held that much importance in his life. To put it coldly, they served a purpose, as did a horse, or a falcon. Karayana was a challenge, a very beautiful challenge, but he was certain she would never step into line and do as she was told. Marti would never expect that of her, and Portheas found himself admiring the man for that. Discovering that a common man could teach him lessons that he hadn’t realized he needed to learn had at first been a major problem for Portheas. Now, he was learning, but he wasn’t sure he could ever give Karayana as much as Marti could. He admitted to himself that he wasn’t worthy of such a woman. Mica, on the other hand, would never need love on that level. She probably despised the thought even. Portheas glanced over at the gentle curves of her body, and let his imagination take over. As if the intensity of his thoughts had disturbed her, Mica gave a small groan and tried to roll over in her sleep. The movement woke her, and he watched as she struggled against her bonds into a sitting position. She looked sleepily around at him, and gave a wistful smile.

“Can I have some water?” she asked in a parched voice.

“Of course.” Portheas jumped to his feet, noticing for the first time the embraced bodies of Karayana and Marti. He drew up short, all thoughts of a moment ago gone, then remembering that Mica was watching him; he hurried to fetch a water bottle. As he handed it to her, she spoke,

“They seem very cosy.”

He didn’t look, just nodded.

“ Mind you, the night is cold, another body would make things warmer.”

“Are you cold?” he asked quietly.

“A touch,” she murmured.

Portheas went over to the saddlebags and pulled out one of Brack’s blankets.

“This should help.” He wrapped the blanket around her, avoiding the eyes that he knew were piercing his very soul.

All thoughts of Mica had vanished from his head to be replaced again by Karayana. Inwardly cursing his foolishness, he stomped off into the woods.

Mica scowled at his back.

<<<Chapter 11                                                                                          Chapter 13 >>>

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