Meetings 11

By early morning sunlight, Tyrel gazed in awe at the river Kieran had been aiming for. The rivers near the forts and towns were mere streams, compared to this torrent. There was no sign of a ford or a bridge anywhere that he could see—at least with his somewhat limited vulpine vision. Kieran paused at the edge, dropped the pack and raised his head to scent the air. He must have detected something, because he reclaimed the pack and set off downriver. The sun was high when he halted again, left the pack tucked under a bush, and moved forward…

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Meetings 10

Being able to hike without tiring or needing a drink or a break was certainly new and interesting. They travelled a long way by full dark, despite the various obstacles inherent to the Forest. Tyrel wondered at first why Kieran had chosen to be an amarog all day, but he soon realized that on four feet, Kieran was trotting along effortlessly, completely unhindered by uneven ground or underbrush. Darkness was no hindrance, either: colours shifted, tinted more and more noticeably with pale yellow to Tyrel’s eyes, but there was no loss of detail at all. Kaveri must be experiencing some…

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Meetings 9

A gentle touch roused Tyrel. He opened his eyes, and discovered in confusion that there was no one near him. There was only pale yellow light, flowing over him like brilliant water, all at once comforting as warm sun, refreshing as cool water, filling him with strength and pleasure and joy. The pain in his leg had vanished, along with any trace of fatigue or discomfort. He looked up, and saw Talir just above the level of the tree-tops, the source of the light bathing the little clearing. A quiet bark drew his gaze downward. The amarog was sitting next…

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Meetings 8

Having spent three nights in the cozy and dry but limiting shelter, it was an immense relief when the rain finally broke. They soaked, scattered, and buried the remains of the fire, and packed everything up. Kaveri gathered the odd mix of articles she’d collected and constructed into a net of plaited grass slung at her side and into the basket she supported on her hip with one hand. Tyrel had reclaimed his own gear, mostly out of stubborn habit, but he did make sure Kaveri kept a butterfly knife in case she needed it, its bronze blade safe inside…

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Meetings 7

Comfortable on a blanket at one end of the shelter, Kaveri sang a gratitude and blessing song under her breath while she wove the fine flexible willow into a basket. It felt wonderful beyond words to be free of the confinement of the fort, back in the woods, and doing what she was meant to be doing. At the far end of the shelter, the brothers, distinctly restless after a day spent inside, were going through their gear and checking the condition of everything. They wouldn’t find much that needed work, since Kaveri had been maintaining it herself for the…

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Meetings 6

“Tyrel,” Kaveri murmured. “Wake up.” Tyrel woke groggily, disoriented and confused. He blinked and focused on Kaveri, kneeling beside him with a bowl of thin hammered bronze in one hand, a matching cup in the other. “What?” “Wake up. Breakfast.” She waited while he sat up, then handed him the bowl, which held a liberal quantity of thick porridge with chunks of fruit stewed into it, and the cup, which turned out to be hot sweet tea. 1

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Meetings 5

At sunrise, the gates of Dunnval, barred overnight, creaked open. “Are they here?” someone inside whispered audibly. “We’re right here,” Tyrel said, standing up and stretching. He was feeling somewhat the better for the nap Madoc had insisted he take between sunset and moonrise, when it was too dark to navigate, and for the plentiful berries and water, but he was very much looking forward to this being over. “The Chief is waiting in the Hall,” someone else said. 1

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Meetings 4

It didn’t matter what had happened as a result of the fight with the amarog, even if somehow, something had changed. Madoc had changed, or was changing. But not in any way that was important. Nothing excused Banvard’s ghostly chief setting all his warriors on the two of them. And no matter what, Madoc was his shieldmate, his brother, and his truest friend. “Can’t you see?” Madoc sounded puzzled. “I think I’m just drained bad from before,” Tyrel improvised. Working out details needed to wait. 1

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Meetings 3

Dawn found them both somewhat stiff, but otherwise ready to face the day. Madoc, chewing thoughtfully on a bite of sausage, flexed his left hand slowly. “That’s strange,” he said, once he’d swallowed. “It doesn’t hurt. At all. Not numb or anything, it just feels… normal, I guess.” Tyrel finished the last of his bread and rearranged himself so he could reach. He unwrapped the bandage around his brother’s arm cautiously, but with increasing perplexity. The last of it came free, baring the unmarked skin of Madoc’s upper arm. Only the dark dried bloodstains on the bandage, and the lingering…

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Meetings 2

In the Hall, Tyrel faced his father, Madoc half a step behind him to his left. Everyone else currently in Dunnval, including thralls who could find excuses to do so, had arranged to be present, witnesses to the beginning of the Rite. “Tyrel,” Taber said. “Are you prepared?” Tyrel nodded. “I am.” “You have until the third dawn from now to return with incontestable evidence of having spent the night in Banvard and proven yourself to those who remain there. If you succeed, you will be greeted as heir to the title and rights and responsibilities of Chief of Dunnval.…

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