To begin at the beginning, click on Prologue in the Table of Contents, then on Chapter One, etc.


For two days, the travelers followed the new trail, which was not marked on Terwilliger’s maps. It headed northeast, and Taraval hoped that once they reached the crest of the mountains it would veer back and rejoin the northern route, or they would find a fork that headed due north again. But they passed the crest and descended into scrubby, rolling hills dotted with groves of stunted oaks – still proceeding northeast.

On the first evening they found a small pool of stagnant water form which the horses drank their fill. The spring that supplied it had dwindled to an agonizingly slow drip, so Taraval hung the waterskin below it to catch the precious drops overnight, and by morning the bag held a day’s ration of water for him and Segway.

So on that day, at least, their thirst was quenched, but their food finally ran out. Taraval was surprised that this provisions had lasted so long, considering Segway’s prodigious appetite. At lunch they split the last of the dried venison and cheese. They saw no game, nor anything else edible, all day long, and that night they went to bed without supper.

The next morning they had scarcely been an hour on the trail when it veered sharply eastward. Dismayed, Taraval pulled out Terwilliger’s maps and pored over them, a deep crease in his brow.

Finally he shook his head. “The maps are no help her. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave this trail and head west cross country till we find the northern trail again,” he said, gesturing back toward the mountains.

“I’d cross any country, trail or not, for a rabbit to roast over a fire,” Segway said, clamping a hand over his stomach to stop its rumbling.

They left the trail and struck out directly west, fighting their way through dry brush and thickets so heavy that by mid-morning their legs and the horses’ flanks were scraped raw. After another hour of this slow and painful struggle the brush thinned, but the ground was rough, and without a trail to follow the horses had to pick their way among the rocks. Taraval was constantly alert for the holes of burrowing animals; they couldn’t risk having one of the horses lamed.

By late afternoon they had climbed to a high, rocky plain surrounded by sharp mountain peaks. Taraval noted for the first time that the trees were beginning to lose the vibrant green of summer and take on softer autumn hues. The landscape reminded him of Ilahee, but the colors were more faded, like – the though sent a surge through him – like the 250-year-old tapestry of Orchis beneath her tandaril tree. As he thought of Ilahee and the tapestry, an ache began in his stomach; it was partly the gnawing of a day’s hunger, but it was more than that. The signs of fall approaching made finding his goal more urgent, for the nagging hunger he felt now was only a hint of what his people would face if he failed in his quest.

“Segway,” he said, “you know what ravenwood trees look like, don’t you?”

“Of course, master Taraval,” Segway replied. Taraval had told him he didn’t wish to be called “m’lord” or “prince” when they came to a town or encountered people, so the boy was trying to get used to the new title.

“Well, now that there are trees again, I want you to start helping me look for ravenwoods. If you see any tree, near or far, that even slightly resembles a ravenwood, be sure to tell me.”

“Yes, m’lord, uh… master Taraval.” He pointed into the distance. “Is that one on the hillside yonder? Next to the rock?”

Taraval squinted. “No, that’s an oak – it’s much darker green than a ravenwood. But the shape is similar, so that’s a good start. Keep looking.”

Segway glowed at Taraval’s praise, and in the next hour pointed out four more trees. None of them were ravenwoods, but each had some ravenwood-like qualities, and Taraval felt that with a little more instruction the boy would make a good observer.
At sunset they made camp in an oak grove. After Segway groomed the horses, they went in search of food, but they found only several handfuls of elderberries in a nearby thicket, so bitter that they washed them down quickly with a few sparing swallows form the waterskin.

Segway, determined not to complain, searched the campsite for something to distract him from his hunger. Soon he found a chunk of wood, and settling down by their campfire he pulled out a knife and set about whittling.

At first Taraval assumed the boy was merely amusing himself, but soon his curiosity was aroused. He peered over Segway’s shoulder for a closer look and saw, taking shape as if by magic, a small figure of a horse.

“That’s very good, Segway,” he said. “Is it Tressiter?”

“They’re all Tressiter,” Segway replied.


“Yes. I have a collection of them. I left them at Damien’s house.”

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Well, my father used to carve some. He taught me a little. But mostly I taught myself.”

As Segway scraped and shaved one thin, prancing leg of his wooden horse, Taraval appraised the work, thinking ity might prove to be of value to them if they needed money and could find no inn where he could barter his music.

Then, to take his mind off his own empty stomach, Taraval brought out his lute and began to play and sing his favorite songs of Ilahee. As the light faced, his clear voice and the tremulous notes of the lute filled the grove with an aura of peacefulness, and a young doe wandered out of the elderberry thicket. She stopped for a moment, scenting the air, and then, without fear or hestitation, walked toward Taraval.

Segway watched in awe as the doe approached his master. Before Taraval was aware what the boy was doing, Segway had snatched an arrow from the quiver, pulled out Taraval’s bow, and was taking aim at the unsuspecting deer. He was already drawing the bowstring when Taraval, in a single motion, dropped the lute and sprang toward the boy, knocking him off balance with a force that sent the arrow off the mark and the two of them sprawling in the dirt.

“M’lord!” Segway exclaimed as he sat up, his face red with astonishment and not a little humiliation. “What did I do? Didn’t you lure the doe for our dinner?”

Taraval’s voice was harsh. “Segway, it would be the deepest shame to me if I used my gift with animals to call them to their deaths, no matter how hungry we might are. It’s an unfortunate necessity that we must use them for food, but I will only shoot an animal if it has the same chances it would have with any hunter. I will never gain an animal’s trust in order to kill it. Do you understand me?”

Segway hung his head, and when he spoke his voice was thick. “I am sorry, master Taraval. I was so hungry, and I didn’t know you had such feelings for animals.”

“Well, now you know. And I am not so different from you in that, either.” Taraval stood up and gestured toward Tressiter. “You wouldn’t have followed me if it hadn’t been for your love of Tressiter, and the carving you just made shows that feeling. So think why you love him, and see if you can extend that same love to other animals.”

Taraval leaned against an oak tree as he spoke, the fine ridge of his nose and his high cheekbones silhouetted in the last gleam of sunset. As Segway looked at his master, his admiration for the older youth became something akin to worship.
Taraval read the look in Segway’s eyes as remorse and his anger softened. He reached out his hand to the boy and helped him to his feet. “Come,” he said with a shrug, “It was a mistake. There’s no harm done.”

The doe, which had bolted, came back into the grove timidly, but she nuzzled Taraval’s hand and looked at him with large, trusting eyes. After awhile she slipped away as quietly as she had come. Moments later, just as Segway had resigned himself to going to bed hungry a second night, a grouse – its red, brown, and grey plumage glowing in the last light – burst from the thicket and ran across the clearing. This time it was Taraval who reached for his bow. His shot was sure; they would not sleep on empty stomachs, after all.

Segway cleaned and plucked the grouse while Taraval guilt a fire, and soon the aroma of roasting fowl filled the grove. After they had eaten and the gnawing in their stomachs had been replaced by a comfortable fullness, Taraval lay back on his bedroll under an oak tree and watched the stars come out. Segway put away his horse figurine and again explored the grove. Shortly, he came back carrying a staff of stout oak, then picked up one of the grouse’s long tail feathers and stuck it in his hair.

“There, master Taraval, don’t I look like an adventurer now?”

Taraval looked at the boy with the jaunty feather in his hair and the oak rod in his hand, and gaped in amazement: Segway was the very image of the Page of Cups, one of the tarot cards the gypsy had used to tell his fortune. She had said, “A fair young man will be of service to you – a faithful youth with a pure and sincere heart.” Segway had been with him for four full days, but only now did he realize that the boy was the first part of the gypsy’s prophecy come true.


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