Monthly Archives: January 2017

Raven’s Run 81

Raven was in danger, but I had no way to find her. No leads at all. The chances of her being in Venice were infinitesimal. Either Eric would have known that he couldn’t play here, or they would have found out immediately and left. Of course, Raven could have put her plastic to use and paid their way, but I couldn’t see Eric going for that. Nor did I think Raven would support a man for long.

I got up and paced the room. It was over. Susyn could do what she wanted, but she might as well go home and wait for a call from Raven.

Large changes were taking place in Europe that summer, especially in the Eastern bloc. By training and by passion, those events were my destiny. I had loved a woman and had lost her – nothing new in that. I had a life to get back to.

If I was out, I wanted all the way out. I took a ten minute walk to the Ferrol and a twenty minute wait in line to buy a ticket. The train was leaving at five minutes past midnight. 

I returned to the hotel. Susyn was still not back at the room. On impulse, I packed and left my backpack with the concierge.

It was past ten PM and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Now that I was financially on my own again, it was back to stand-up sandwiches. I went looking for one. The man behind the counter took a sandwich off the stack in the cooler and put it into one of those waffle iron heaters they only use in Venice. It came out crushed, with dark crisscross burns across the bread, and it tasted fine.

I walked back toward the hotel with a feeling of freedom. Susyn was sitting in the waiting room, angrily rolling my note back and forth between her fingers.

*       *       *

We went to an outdoor cafe where she ordered dinner and I had coffee. The note had told her I was leaving, but she had to hear it from me. 

“It’s a dead end, Susyn. They hustle street musician so fast there isn’t time for an echo. If you want to hire some local troops to sit in the train station with a photo of Raven, go ahead. But you might as well be in Munich or Copenhagen or Brussels. The only thing we know is that somebody said that Raven said that she wanted to come to Venice.”

“You said you could find her.”

“No. I said that I knew how to go about finding her. I didn’t guarantee success.”

The waiter moved in with a plate of food for her, but she only picked at it. I went on, “We did it right. We followed the only course of action that stood any chance of success. And we almost caught up with them in Montreaux. An hour earlier, and we would have made contact.”

“What am I going to tell Senator Cabral?” more tomorrow


290. Menhir, a winter’s tale 11

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

In Marquart’s eyes, Dutta was a child.

Three cousins with their wives and children, an uncle, a g’uncle as well; Dutta introduced them to Marquart. They acknowledged him politely, looking up from their well filled plates, from the table groaning with food. Ruddy round faces; these were the g’g’g’g’g’sons of the conquerors who had moved into the valley two centuries ago. The copper skinned serfs were descended from those who had lost that ancient battle.

Soft, round, polite, secure; with no thought that they were the scourge of the serfs who starved so they could eat.




Marquart felt anger building. He knew that he must control it. He feared that he could not.

In the center of the table was a silver platter, holding most of a jaungifowl, swimming in its own gravy and surrounded by mounds of soaked breads. Marquart picked it up above his head and slammed in back, inverted, onto the table. Meat and juices, bread and fruits flew in every direction, splattering the shocked diners.

There were growls and shrieks that died to silence when they all looked into Marquart’s eyes.

He wanted to shout at them all, to tell them what he had seen today at the firesides of the starving serfs, but there were no words. Twice he tried, and twice the words died in his throat, strangled there by the vastness of his anger.

Dutta approached the table, saying, “Sire . . .?”

“You feast,” Marquart managed to say, “while your serfs starve.” The words rumbled up from deep within him, and he realized that he was pounding the table.

Dutta stepped back in shock and confusion. Marquart continued, “You will not feast again this winter. You will eat sparingly and you will distribute food to your serfs. As your Lord, I charge you with this. And by next winter, half these worthless ones will be gone from your household. You will find a place for them out of the valley, and you will see to it that the food they would have eaten remains in the hands of your serfs. Do this, or I will come here and take your lands away from you, and give them to someone who can carry out my orders.”

He had felt Marquart’s displeasure before, at Midwinterfest, but now his anger was like a flame. Marquart had told him — had told them all — to clear out their households. It had seemed to unreasonable to take seriously.

But to threaten to remove him altogether from the only home he had ever known! That had been home to his father and his g’father before him. And to make that threat openly here, in his own hall, in the presence of his wife and children. continued tomorrow

Raven’s Run 80

Venice came into sight. She had lighted herself for the night. Gondoliers were hawking their services at the water side and the evening press of tourists filled the streets. I worked my way back to Plaza San Marcos, dodging pigeons in the square and looking for street musicians. There were none.

Twenty minutes later I found out why. A bearded youth with guitar set out his empty guitar case and began to play. Three bars into his first song, a police office tapped him on the shoulder and sent him on his way. Venice is not like the rest of Europe and it does not want its uniqueness diluted by such commonplaces as street musicians.

If Eric knew that – and Colin said he has been on the circuit for years – then he and Raven would never have come here. I was wasting my time.

*          *          *

I wanted to sit down to think about it, but you can’t sit down in Plaza San Marcos without paying a fee. Try any of the hundreds of chairs that line the edge of the Plaza and you will find a waiter insisting that you order or move on. 

Venice is a lovely old lady, slowly dying of inner rot. Tourist Venice is her defense against the hordes who invade her every year. From the time you step off the train, every restaurant, every boat ride, every souvenir shop is designed to move you swiftly from the Ferrol to Plaza San Marcos and back again, lighter of cash, and out into the real world again.

You must fight past her defenses to see the real Venice behind the merchant’s mask. Fortunately, it is easy. Find any well marked street, find a sign that says turn right, and turn left instead. You will be in another world.

The streets where the tourists are led are narrow and crowded; when you leave the beaten path, the streets give solitude. I sought that solitude now, weaving through back streets, crossing narrow bridges over narrower canals. Under clotheslines with dripping wash where stray cats nod benignly from their broken stone wall thrones. Where children play. There are children in Venice. You can see them if you leave the gaudy human snake that slithers from train station to Plaza San Marcos and back again.

*       *       *

The search was over. It had been a two week vacation from acknowledging the fact that I would never see Raven again. Now that reality had to be faced. And another reality – the sure knowledge that I did not want to repeat my bedding of Susyn. Not tonight – nor tomorrow, nor the day after. If there was a train out tonight, I would be on it. Not to Paris or Marseilles. Certainly not to Oslo, but to some place the two of us had never discussed or planned for. For Brendisi, perhaps, and then to Greece. Anywhere that was not associated with the name Raven.

When I got back to the hotel, Susyn was not there. She had left no message in the room and no message at the desk. I stretched out on my bed – still unused – and thought some more about my situation. Nothing changed. more tomorrow

289. Menhir, a winter’s tale 10

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

“Beshu, Father,” Marquart said aloud, “are you alive or are you dead? And wherever you are, are you laughing at me now? Damn you!”

Beshu had had ambition. Beshu had gone to war to become large; he had won much, had gained lands, a title, lordship of a small demesne, sons. And he had lost it all again, through that fierce temper he could not control. He had won battles at such a cost that soon no soldiers would rally to his banner. And when men would no longer follow him, he had disappeared, leaving his sons to be raised by an old mate-in-battle.

It was fifteen years now since Marquart had had word of his father Beshu.

Marquart had gone into the world determined not to make Beshu’s mistakes. He had studied the craft of war, he had used his men carefully, he had cultivated the reputation of one who used guile in battle. Men had flocked to his banner.

And for that, Limiakos had cast him into this outer darkness. Alive, and likely to live long, but condemned to smallness.

He ground his teeth and cursed to the empty sky. He thought that no one heard him. But Baralia heard.

#             #             #

By the time Marquart had disbursed his other bags of life saving grain, it was late. The sun was low in the west. He could get back, cold and late, to his own manorhouse, or he could divert to the house of Dutta. He chose to do the latter.

As he approached, the soldier in him found Dutta’s house lacking. Marquart rode right up to the door and kicked it from the saddle. A servant looked out, greeted him briefly and went to get his master. When Dutta came to the door, he looked puzzled to see Marquart, mounted and alone.

“Dutta, if I were your enemy, I would have your house down around your ears before you even knew it. Not one servant challenged me as I approached.”

“It’s cold out, and late. Who would be out now?”

“I am. If armed brigands came down from the hills, they would have you out of your house like a crab’s meat out of its shell.”

“But, Lord Marquart, there haven’t been armed brigands in our hills for twenty years. Here, get down and come in. We are just at table.”

Marquart swung down. Servants took his kakai away as he followed Dutta back inside.

Dutta inquired why Marquart was out so late, introduced him again to his round faced wife and stripling sons. He was absurdly pleased to have Marquart in his house. His reaction was genuine; Marquart did not doubt that, but it only irritated him further. Dutta was of the age of manhood, with responsibilities and a wife and sons. But in Marquart’s eyes, Dutta was a child. continued tomorrow

Raven’s Run 79

Chapter Twenty-two

Her needs and desires were as fierce as mine. By afternoon we had explored each other from hairline to instep. Softened after passion, her face was even more childlike. Her fingers worked and nuzzled at my arm as she lay back in near sleep.

As I lay beside her, she became a stranger. In a manner I could scarcely understand, our lovemaking had built a wall between us. Something had gone subtly awry in the fall of her hair and the set of her half glazed eyes. 

I left her on the bed, showered and changed into fresh clothes. When I returned, she had pulled the sheet up to cover herself. She smiled and patted the bed beside her. I shook my head and said, “I am going out.”

“Let Raven wait.”

“No. I’ll see you this evening.”

“Where will you go.”

“First the youth hostel, then I’ll take a vaporetto out to the Lido to check out the campgrounds.”

“She’ll never be there.”

I shrugged. “You’re probably right. Still, it’s a way to proceed.”

“I’ll check the hotels here close to the train station.”



I paused with my hand on the doorknob. She said, “What’s wrong?” I just shook my head and went on out.

*       *       *

Across the Grand Canal, you enter shadows where narrow passageways between the houses and shops cut out all but the high noon sun. It is a maze of interconnecting streets, interlaced with canals. An easy place to get lost, and a place that makes getting lost a pleasure. I moved in mazed confusion myself, in bittersweet afterglow.

If you follow the signs, you will eventually reach Plaza San Marcos. You will know you are getting close when every shop sells food or expensive trinkets. Then, just when you think all of Venice has turned to Rodeo Drive, you debouch into the vastness of San Marcos square. The Cathedral of St. Mark rises in enameled splendor, all domes and gold and mosaics. Neither eastern nor western, neither Roman nor Orthodox, but with a double helping of pretentiousness from each. I forgive its ugliness only because it is in Venice.

I wormed my way through the crowds, past the Doge’s Palace, and took a vaporetto across the lagoon to the Lido. Campgrounds and pensiones line the water for several miles; it took the rest of the day to canvass them, without success.

I reboarded the vaporetto and found a place at the rail. Locals commuting to Venice sat near the center of the open deck, reading their papers like the commuters on any bus or train anywhere in the world. The rest of us lined the rail for the unparalleled view of Venice that would soon be unfolding.

Five minutes later, something like one of Christ’s miracles repeated itself. It was a walking on the water. A whole village of locals appeared mirage-like, standing on the waters of the lagoon, miles from any shore or island. Only the boats that had brought them out, and were now aground, dispelled the fantasy. Here the waters of the lagoon were only inches deep at low tide, and locals had come to gather mussels. more tomorrow

288. Menhir, a winter’s tale 9

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

Marquart tied his kakai so that it could not reach the hay, and scratched the old cow’s forehead as he passed. She was tame from much hand feeding, but she showed no interest in him. He crossed over and pounded on the door plate. The serf quickly forced the doorplate outward against the banked snow and stepped aside.

Marquart ducked his head and entered. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to a dimness which was relieved only by a tiny fire on the hearthstone in the center of the single room. The serf reset his doorplate to hold in the heat, and near darkness returned. He dropped to his knees before Marquart and put his forehead on the dirt floor. Marquart touched his head and said, “Get up. Who are you?”

“I am Maanit, Sire. Are you the new Lord?”

“Yes, Maanit. Where is your wife?”

“Dead, Lord . . .  Marquart?” Maanit was not sure of the name.

“Is this your son?”

Maanit grabbed the scrawny child at his elbow and dragged him forward. “Yes, Lord,” he said, “his name is Garnin.”

There was fear in Mannit’s voice, and every sentence contained “Sire” or “Lord.” It irritated Marquart, but this was his role now, and accepting it was part of being Lord of the Valley.

Marquart took up the crude, earthen pot that was simmering next to the fire and sniffed its contents.

“Go ahead, Lord,” Maanit said, with steely resolve not to whimper at losing their only meal, “but I have nothing but the cooking pot to serve you with.”

It was a thin soup of vegetable scraps. Marquart put it back by the fire and said, “I didn’t come to take your food.” He passed over a cloth sack, which Maanit opened. A spasm crossed his face, as if he were fighting back tears; as if he had opened a sack of gold. In fact, it was better than gold. The sack was filled with coarse ground meal of the bitter, purple lhitai.

#             #             #

When Marquart remounted and moved on, Maanit and his son stood in the snow, waving until he was out of sight. He had saved their lives. They knew it, and he knew it. But he also knew that their lives should never have been in danger, and his mood was grim as he continued toward the next serf’s dwelling.

Baralia returned unseen to his side. In the months since Midwinter she had rarely left him. Seen or unseen, she had stayed at his elbow, but the dwelling of Maanit, her lost husband, and Garnin, who had been her son, was too painful to enter.

The gratitude of the serfs burned sour in Marquart’s throat. He looked around at the vertiginous world of gray on paler gray and saw no one. No soldiers to do his bidding, no cities to conquer, no great issues to decide. Just empty acres sparsely populated by starving serfs. Not the simpering acclaim from finely gowned ladies, nor the earned acclaim of his peers in arms; just the gratitude of the starving, of men mud-faced and downtrodden.

His own words came back to him, as he had spoken them to Dael, when he had loved her better than he loved her today. “I was large in the world, and becoming larger. Now, this is as great as I will ever be.”

“Beshu, Father,” Marquart said aloud, “are you alive or are you dead? And wherever you are, are you laughing at me now? Damn you!” continued tomorrow

Raven’s Run 78

Men and women were playing in kayaks, moving their arms rhythmically or simply coasting in the motionless water. Beneath the train, the soft clatter of ties was the only sound in the calm of morning. There was no horizon. The mist hid the distance. Immediately before me the water and the boats were crystal clear and perfectly focused, but within a quarter of a mile the air had thickened and turned translucent. It was impossible to say where the pale sea ended and the pale sky began. 

In the distance Venice waited, turning her backside toward the mainland, not yet looking like herself at all.

The train entered the station with a groaning of brakes and slowed imperceptibly to a halt. The crowds that were waiting to board her stood crouched at the doors, while those aboard struggled off. I returned to the compartment to find Susyn dressed and packed. I put on my backpack, picked up her suitcase, and let her squeeze ahead of me as we began the slow, belly-to-back walk down the corridor among the throng that had overfilled the coach.

The Ferrol station looks like any other station. But when you step out the front door, the whole world changes.

Suddenly, Venice. The Grand Canal runs by at the foot of the broad steps of the station. Water taxis and gondolas crowd the banks of the canal while powerful steel vaporettos tear its surface to froth. Beyond them the palazzios rise up in faded Renaissance splendor. The nearest bridge across the Grand Canal arched up so high above the water traffic that it seemed oriental.

Susyn said, “My God. This is really Europe. There is no trace of America here.”

That was the kernel in the nut. Venice was completely foreign. Any yet familiar. Not very different from the Venice Shakespeare wrote about.

We walked down past the stalls of fruit sellers and the lean black men up from Africa with their blankets of trinket treasures, up the steep steps of Ponte degli Scatzi to look down on it all from above. On the broad steps in front of the Ferrol, backpackers were sprawled on their sleeping bags, watching, talking, and letting Venice ooze into their pores.

“We need a place to sleep,” Susyn said.

“I don’t know anything about that. Venice was out of my price range when I was here before, so I camped on the Lido.”

“Is that in the city?”

“No. You take a vaporetto across the lagoon. I’ll have to check there for Raven.”

She took my arm and pressed it against her. “Let’s not split up, yet,” she said. “Come with me.”

We turned east from the Ferrol, where there were hotels to be had. Susyn paid with Senator Cabral’s money. The concierge took Susyn’s suitcase and led us to our room. Not a suite this time. Two beds in fingertip reach of one another. 

Susyn tipped the concierge and opened the window. Fruit-ripe air came in and swirled the lace curtains around her. I moved up beside her to look out; it was easy to see over her head. Twenty five feet away, our view was of a stone wall with bricked up windows, and forty feet below the dark waters of a cross canal glinted olive in the faint light.

I eased closer, pinning her against the window, and felt her take a sharp breath. I put my hands on her shoulders, feeling the firmness of her buttocks against me as I drew her upper body back hard against my chest. She leaned her head back against my shoulder and looked up at me out of one moist eye. Then I stepped back and she turned easily and naturally into my arms. Her lips came up, mine came down, and she melted against me. I put my palms flat on her rump and slipped them upward, under her blouse and into the small of her back. She moved against me, burrowing her hips into me. I unsnapped her bra. Then I eased her down onto the bed. more tomorrow

287. Menhir, a winter’s tale 8

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

Midwinterfest was in a time of plenty. The tichan and cattle who were least valuable to the herds had been slaughtered as soon as the cold had set in reliably. Frozen carcasses hung in meatsheds all over the Valley – indeed, all over the Inner Kingdom. Hunger would come in late winter, as it always did.

The hardest months of winter are not the first, nor are the deepest the most cruel. As spring approaches, and the days lengthen, winter hangs on, well schooled in snow and ice and cold, and unwilling to relinquish its hold. Then, when the first green of spring is only a month away, comes the dying time.

Just before spring the wardens larders are nearly empty, their meatsheds are down to the last few frostbitten carcasses, dried and leathery and lacking energy. Serfs are tied to their thin fires by lack of strength. Days go by with only a thin soup of old bones and cabbage and a few dried out carrots to spell the difference between deep hunger and true starvation.

On the flatlands of the Valley, skinny wolves stalk skinny deer, dragging them down to a bony and unsatisfying, snarling and contentious feast.

Across those flatlands Marquart rode alone in those last cruel weeks before spring. He and his kakai were the only well fed things on that faded, parchment landscape. Behind him, the manorhouse was lost in the gray of low hanging clouds. Before him was a tenuous finger of smoke, only a fraction lighter than the gray sky. Conger, Clevis, and Hein were out as well, each on his own course, following the advice of Bheren. They were the only ones Marquart trusted not to steal the food they were delivering, nor abuse the helpless serfs.

Dael was deep into the miseries of her pregnancy. Food was no longer her friend; lately, her body rejected everything she ate. Marquart had been supportive at first, then he had left her alone, and now he was just tired of it all. 

He had found her with Dutta at Midwinterfest, slightly drunken, laughing just a little too loud for Marquart to accept. It was only the relaxation between cousins that Midwinterfest encouraged, but to Marquart’s narrow view it had looked like betrayal.

The friendship that had begun to grow between him and his wife, had now begun to fade.

#             #             #

The structure Marquart had found was not quite a hartwa. It was made of cut logs, not interwoven branches, but it was still circular with one east-facing opening, sealed now with a crude wooden plank that acted as a door in cold weather. The outbuildings were equally crude; a meatshed on sapling legs, and a byre of interwoven branches banked with snow. He dismounted and led his kakai inside the byre. Only one cow remained there, bones showing beneath her loose hide. A thin remnant of hoarded hay hung near the roof, out of her reach.

She was the serf’s future. Without a cow to pull the plow, there would be no planting when spring came, and without a harvest there would be death. Faced with feeding his cow or his wife, a serf would feed his cow first. City dwellers made a joke of that. continued Monday

Raven’s Run 77

I picked my way through the bodies and back to our compartment. Susyn was awake. She said, “How long is the line?”

“Twenty minutes if you go now. It will get five minutes longer every minute you wait.”

She checked her watch, rolled over, and said, “Call me when we get to Venice.”

I left her there and closed the door. Down the corridor a dozen feet there was a space for me to stand. I lowered the window and leaned my arms on it. Power poles were swishing by so I didn’t lean out, but the morning air came in to me, mingling the sweetness of a country sunrise on damp croplands with the acrid smell of diesel welling up out of the streets. We were on the outskirts of Mestre, where the last of the fields are eaten up by industry, and Venice was only forty minutes ahead of us.

I put my chin on my arms and closed by eyes, lost in the vibration, the coolness, and the smells.

Why the hell was I here?

Raven had not merely left me, she had left me for Eric. For Eric! 

Ian Alisdair Gunn, don’t you have any pride at all?

I put myself on trial, spoke for the prosecution, spoke for the defense, and finally acquitted myself on a plea of partial disinterest. 

When I had wakened to find Raven gone from the Hotel St. Lazare, I would have followed her anywhere. Some of that feeling had disappeared when I found out she was with Eric. More of it had been abraded away in the days that followed. By Montreaux, or Salsburg at the latest, I would have given her up, if it had only been romantic attraction that was driving me.

But . . .

But it was not just that. She was in danger. I had only to open my eyes to the scar on the back of my hand to remember that. Sometime during the last week, I had stopped hoping for a reconciliation, but I owed her safety if I could give it to her.

So far, so good.

Now dig deeper. Go past the rational and find the real reasons for chasing a phantom halfway across Europe. Go down where decisions are really made. Go down into the sub-basements of the soul, and there confront an injured pride and a jealous, primeval sense of possession. Go talk to Grendel. Go to where the squatting, black monster mutters to himself in the darkness, “How dare she leave me!”

Enough. If she wasn’t in Venice, I would stop looking for her.

*       *       *

Ah, but Venice . . .

In all of Europe, there is no place where I feel less at home, or more enthralled. Venice is not like any place else.

The train moved slowly out of the lightly industrial area of Mestre and onto the Ponte della Libertà. The sun was well above the horizon, and there was a mist on the lagoon that hid the smaller, more distant islands. The surface of the water was like glass. Alongside the Ponte on the south another bridge carried automobiles to the parking garage in the northwestern corner of Venice. It was the only place on the island they were allowed. Out from the Ponte a hundred yards were a series of pole-pylons set in the mud of the lagoon that marked a highway for small boats going to and from Venice. A lean, low wooden launch was keeping speed with us, it front risen slightly from the still water in an unloaded condition, and leaving a rolling wake that ruffled the silicon smooth surface of the water. more tomorrow

286. Menhir, a winter’s tale 7

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

When we crowd the wardens together and feed them wine and ale, they will show me who they are. Tell me what you know already.”

“Jor thinks he is a wolf, but he is really a weasel.”

“Jor I know.”

“Vesulan is the oldest and the most stable. He is not particularly ambitious, but he loves his home. If you had not come along, Jor would have taken over the valley, but he would not have held it. Vesulan would have taken it away from him, not because he wanted power, but because Jor would have been a poor lord. I think Vesulan will take your measure slowly, and eventually welcome you.”

“Does he have children? Heirs change attitudes.”

“Vesulan had two daughters, both married out of the Valley, and has one son, Iolo. When I saw him last he was a stripling but he should be a young man by now.”

“What can you tell me about him?”

Dael smiled. “When I saw him last, he was a boy – and I was just a girl. Our paths hardly crossed, so I can’t even tell you what he was like then. What he is now, I have no idea.”

“You are related to some of these people. Tell me about it.”

“Lord Kafi was Vesulan’s uncle and Jor’s g’father. Dutta is a cousin through a tortuous connection where he is twice removed by direct relationship, and once removed by being adopted by his uncle Press when his father and mother died. I was supposed to memorize the details, but,” she shrugged and smiled, “who knew I would meet him again as an adult, far less be the Lady whose husband held his fealty?”

“You have other kin?”

“Unquestionably. Those who hold land here have held it for generations. They are all intermarried. I am related to three I know of, which means I am related in some degree to everybody.”

“Dael, I need you to do something for me. Remember every face you see. Remember every name. Find out how many uncles and cousins are in each house and how many servants, and, if you can, how many serfs are in their fields.”

Dael’s face showed surprise. She said, “I don’t even know how many servants are in this house.”

“I do.”

It was quietly said, but she took it as criticism. She snapped, “Why do you need all this information?”

He leaned back and looked around. The servants had started to come in and prepare for evenmeal. Their brief time of privacy was nearly over. He noted Dael’s irritation and ignored it. “Because,” he said, “there are too many sitting at every table in this valley. The serfs can’t feed their masters and still feed themselves.”

“No one will leave. This is their home.”

“They will leave, or I will move them out. The only question is how many have to go from each warden’s house.”

Dael shook her head in disbelief. “Have you told them?”

“I have dropped hints. The wise know; Vesulan surely knows. The others didn’t hear me. But they will hear me.”


“After the feast.” continued tomorrow