Blondel looked up at Grat, quietly pleading for understanding. “I had to do it, he said. “We will need a fast horse, and soon.”
Sylvia rode, and Grat strode along beside her, smiling at her jokes as she chattered away the morning. From time to time she reached out to touch Grat’s hair or beard, but she never offered to let Blondel ride. He trudged wearily along behind them, still holding the spell of illusion. Grat had asked last night if he could hold it at a distance, and he had replied, “Not far. Not far at all.”
# # #
Between the Andis and the Raipiar rivers, above their confluence, there was a meadow spotted with trees. Now it had been converted into a tent town with twice a thousand inhabitants. There were wares and entertainments of every description in a moving mosaic of colors and flesh, with rushing children and dogs, and pigs roaming the littered streets, occasionally toppling a tent as they rooted out its pegs in search of garbage.
Blondel took his leave and his horse at the edge of the crowd. “I‘ve some friends to meet, and some business to attend to,” he told Grat, “but if you find yourself in need, come to Chiana‘s tent.”
Grat took his leave hurriedly. By her carriage, Sylvia was making it clear that she was through with Blondel and that if Grat wanted her favors he had better be quick. Blondel watched the crowd swallow them up, following Grat’s unkempt head as it sailed unworried above the mass of smaller men. Then, smiling with world weary understanding, he let go of illusion.
# # #
Something less than three hours later, Grat staggered through the back flap of Chiana’s tent looking as if the hounds of Hell itself were at his heels. The shallow parallel scratches that decorated his cheek were Sylvia‘s brand, and he stood panting like a stag at bay. Blondel came quickly up from the narrow patch of shade where he had been dozing and offered Grat the dregs of his winehorn. Grat emptied it at a draught and hurled it to the ground, shouting, “I am undone!” final post on Monday