GENERAL ZORTIN HAD INTENDED to sleep in the castle the first night and enjoy his victory, but he'd begun to have nightmares the moment he'd fallen asleep. It was that girl he'd ordered executed- Preljne. In his dreams, he kept seeing her face as the guards had led her away. She'd seemed so strong, even when she cried.

Guards were already whispering that the castle was haunted. Zortin didn't believe in ghosts, and he wanted to discourage the rumors as much as possible, but he slept in his tent that night nevertheless. In the morning, messengers came with news, and Bekil came to give congratulations to his father.

Zortin waved him away. "I've just received news from somewhere called Bonple," he said. "It seems that we won't have much time for celebration. Apparently, there was some sort of agreement between Ysenv and another country to the west or north, I'm not sure which. Fetch me Captain Leasur."

"Yes, sir!" Bekil said. He saluted his father, then exited the tent. Zortin continued with his work, sorting through the messages. He couldn't figure out how this Bonple place had learned of the attack so quickly. Perhaps Ysenv refugees had traveled there over the night. In that case, Bonple was not very far away, and it was possible for the Guriels to stage a surprise attack, just so long as they didn't bring too many men, as that would slow them down.

Where was Captain Leasur? What was taking Bekil so long? Leasur had spent the night in his tent, just like Zortin. Bekil should have found him by now. Zortin sighed, and called for his guards. "Go to Captain Leasur's tent and bring him here," he ordered once they were in his tent.

They returned quickly, but without Captain Leasur. "He wasn't there," one of them said. "He left a note, we think. It's more of a poem, really, but it was sitting on his desk like he was expecting someone to find it and read it." The guard handed a folded piece of paper to Zortin.

He unfolded it, and even though it wasn't signed, he recognized the precise yet powerful handwriting of Leasur. The note said, "Man was not meant to live alone. All those I loved are gone, and there is nothing left to embrace but death."

The message was definitely confusing. Zortin looked up just as Bekil entered his tent. He was out of breath, but he quickly said, "I've found him. Come on."

"Where is he?" Zortin asked calmly.

Bekil shook his head, and Zortin knew the boy wouldn't tell him where Leasur was. "Come with me," Bekil said, and Zortin followed him out of the tent. Once outside, Bekil began to run, and while Zortin was concerned with being dignified in front of his men, he sensed that something important had happened and that he should hurry. Zortin ran behind Bekil, and the guards followed.

They ran to a grove of trees that was fairly far from the fountain and the camp. Bekil stopped, and Zortin stood beside him, amazed at what he saw. The tree was tall and seemed to reach from the sky, and Leasur hung beneath it with a look of misery on his face.

The end.