We were on our way again, with one of the soldiers riding next to me to lead my horse along. The air was cool against my skin and the birds seemed to have settled for the night, and I wondered how much further we'd have to go that night.
None of us spoke. I found myself listening, stretching my senses in order to pick up any changes in the pattern of sounds and sensations that we were moving through, and I felt the others doing the same thing. We're waiting, I thought, waiting for him to make his next move. And then I thought, if we keep this up he'll win.
Agromas. Rhiana, smiling at me. Jorden, laughing when a butterfly landed on his outstretched hand. Lowanda. Merran, so easy-going and cheerful, with such hidden depths. Moire.
I smiled as, for a moment, I held her in my arms again. Be safe, my love.
The fox. The veiled woman who had been talking to Lowanda in my vision. Jadri in his army uniform. Jarvik, who had lent me one of his horses. Jared, fierce in his love for honour and truth.
"You're a good man, Jared," I said.
"Never mind. How's Rodan?"
"Asleep rather than unconscious now, I think. There seems to be nothing wrong with him that I good night's sleep can't cure."
"Good. How much further is it to wherever it is we're going?"
"We should be there in half an hour."
That seemed to be all that he wanted to tell me, and we rode on in silence. After a while I caught myself dozing off, and to keep awake I opened my senses and tried to feel what the landscape was like.
I felt myself expanding in all directions, without meeting any resistance.
"Are you alright?" asked the soldier riding next to me when I almost lost my balance. I recognised his voice, it was the same man who had talked to me earlier.
"Fine," I said. "Just getting tired."
"We're almost there."
Flat land, I thought. A wide open space with long, yellow grass everywhere.
Faint echoes of voices and the sound of horses' hooves. A flash of colour, beads sewn onto some piece of clothing. A little girl, looking up and smiling. People moving across the plains, following the rhythm of the seasons.
I stretched my senses, scanning for the people I had seen. Nothing.
Echoes. Whispers. Stories.
Stories, I thought. Who were these people?
"I'll find out who you are," I silently promised them. "I'll listen to your stories and make them mine, and I'll keep them alive within me and pass them on."
"Good," a familiar voice said.
Someone laid a hand on my arm. "We're here," he said.
"I've always been here," said the fox, "didn't you know?" Before I could say anything she was gone.
We had stopped, and I could sense some kind of large, stone structure in front of us. A gate opened, and we were moving forward again.
We were entering through a gate into a courtyard, the sound of the horses' hooves echoing from the walls. We stopped again, and we heard the doors closing behind us. After that, all was quiet.
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