Chapter Three

Helena shook her head slowly, looking wide eyed at her big sister. "I will not. You can't make me marry him! Why don't you marry him? You're a perfect little Princess who does everything anyone says. So why don't you do this?"

"Because I'm to marry Lord Gethros."

Helena's mouth dropped in amazement. "Is that what our brother's come to, Lyseda? Giving away both his sisters in one blow to entrust the help of men to get a useless island? Is that what the weight of a crown has done to him?"

"You don't understand anything, do you Helena? This is our purpose in life, to marry to advantage, gaining allies for Certos and our land. He doesn't just want their help in this expedition, Helena. He needs them badly as allies, with the Lords of the west so blood thirsty, and these Alyisan people from the south gaining power as they are."

"I thought Gethros was dealing with that."

Lyseda raised her eyebrows. "How would you know something like that?"

"I have ears, Lyseda. And I use them when I think it important. A secret meeting between the three Lords of this land, that was something good ears were useful for."

"What else do you know?"

"I know that I'm only sixteen, which is far too young to be given away to some stupid stranger in exchange for the peace that has always been there to begin with."

"Women much younger than you already have several children. I should have been married by my fifteenth birthday, but Lord Gethros's brother died in battle two moons before our wedding."

"Yes, but you don't think for yourself. You don't have a life. You sit quietly and wait for people to tell you what to do. I'm a person, Lyseda. A real person who cares what happens to her life, and sixteen is too young for it to be over!"

Lyseda sighed and looked away. "Marriage is not the end of the world."

"To Prince Teren, it certainly is."

Lyseda shook her head and left, wishing her sister wasn't such a child, wishing she could understand the world as Lyseda herself always had.

*****

Jaqulene shook her head, her eyes pleading. "Please, I am all you have left. I need to stay with you."

The women shook their heads. "If you stay, all our hope is lost. If you go, you could marry some great Lord, and gain something for our people. If you go, they can't hurt you. Please, the ship is ready to leave. You are all we have left."

Jaqulene's heart thumped as she put on the clothes they handed to her, and tucked her thick black hair under the hat, smiling nervously at the women. One stepped forward and hugged her, managing a small smile of her own. "You're too pretty to pass for a real man, too skinny too, but if you carry these bags and keep your head down, you'll at least get past the guards. Good luck. Don't forget us."

Jaqulene nodded and picked up the crate, biting her lip and staring hard at the ground as she made her way towards the harbor.

*****

Kiela sat, smiling a sour smile at Gueneth. "I love these seats. I get to look at your degusting, unwanted face for near a moon. What luck!"

"So just throw me overboard. I'd far prefer death to hearing these comments all the rest of my life."

"Well, that's not much incentive for me to kill you then, is it? Why give you what you want? You've ruined everything I want, so we're square."

Reita stood up, smiling. "I don't think it will be a whole moon, Kiela. I see land up there!" She pointed forward, and Loren grabbed her, sitting her down.

"You'll kill yourself."

She shrugged, her eyes fixed on the land. "I hope we find the Shaman people soon. I have a very bad feeling about this."

Behind her, Kiela was nodding. "I have a terrible feeling about this."

Gueneth craned her neck, looking at the shore on the horizon, and back at Kiola, who shrugged, mouthing, "I don't." Gueneth smiled, glad to have a friendly face to look to, not mentioning that the land isn't what she was worried about. It had only been three days, and she was already wishing she had died along with the others. She missed her family, her castle, her lands. She longed to see her three brother running about her room with wooden swords, blue paint on their faces as they pretended to be heroes from her mother's legends. She longed to walk into her mother's room and simply sit in silence, content to an extreme, her mother's happiness filling to room like a warm glow. But Leyla was dead now, along with her three sons and her husband, the golden haired Kenneth. And Gueneth knew she should have died with them, that she never should have followed the boy Goldferth or his little sister into the caves, that she never should have believed all their strange stories.

The land had been rebuilding itself, with hard work from Kenneth and his wife, and the South and the North were stable, the West's only problem being its shortage of heirs. There was nothing wrong with the land, nothing that would justify destroying it completely in order to rebuild it. This whole ordeal was madness, and Gueneth wished that she would wake up and have it all be a dream.