Someone was shouting off to Eyle's left. It hurt her ears, and Eyle tried to cover them, but she couldn't move her hands. Something soft was covering them. Her head felt as if it was a drum that had been thrown down a staircase.

The voices had stopped. Eyle heard footsteps coming to her. A hand touched her forehead. It was cool, and Eyle opened her eyes.

Melior was watching her, looking worried. His eyes widened in relief when he noticed that Eyle was awake.

"Eyle! Finally. We were worried! What were you doing? We heard a scream from your room, and when we reached it you were lying on the ground with red crystal shards all around you. They looked like blood, Eyle. We thought you were dead."

Eyle opened her mouth to speak, but it was stuck shut. "Mmphg!"

"Oh. We had to bind your mouth shut. You kept on screaming something about falling. The children got frightened." Melior looked grim as he removed the binding.

"How long?" Eyle managed to croak.

Melior took the pitcher from the bedside table and poured her a glass of water. "About three days."

Nodding, Eyle tried to get up. She failed miserably, collapsing back onto the bed.

Melior shook his head, "You aren't ready to get up yet. I have to go now, but I'll send the children to see you. Meanwhile, try to get some sleep. It'll do you good."

Eyle sighed as her got up and strode out the door. She would be stuck in bed for another three days at least, and there wasn't anything she could do about it. If only they had a Mitsai healer in the capital! There were some in her hometown of Tras, in the north, but many here in Tenero were scared of the magicians. What would people say when Eyle revealed that she could have been a Mitsai. Too bad she had no skill for healing.

Still, she could try to make herself useful while still in bed. Somehow. Meanwhile, she would get some sleep, as Melior had recommended.


Eyle woke again to the shouts of her children. She smiled and attempted to push herself into a sitting position. She only managed a half-sit. Myra ran to her and jumped on her lap, while Elawen bounced at the foot of the bed.

"Mama, Dada said you almost died! We were worried!" cried Myra.

Elawen scrambled to the top of the bed and snuggled in next to Myra. Eyle laughed,

"Well, I'm not dead, and soon I'll be back to normal."

"Dada said that we were to make sure you don't try to get out of bed," said Elawen proudly.

"I'm sure you'll do a great job. Now go back and play, because Mama has to sleep some more, so that she'll be better sooner," said Eyle. Myra looked perplexed. "What is it, Myra?"

"What's dead mean, Mama?"

Eyle frowned. How to explain this to a child?

"Death is... like going to sleep. But you never wake up. It's like moving away and never coming back."

"I hope you don't die, Mama. It was no fun when you were dead." Myra jumped off and ran into the yard, followed by a solemn-looking Elawen.

"Don't worry, Elawen. I won't die, I promise."


The next day, Eyle felt better. She was able to get up, and, much to Melior's protests, she was able to go to the council meeting.

The Trasland National Council consisted of the king, the head of each of the four major houses, and a representative from each of the five regions: North, South, East, West, and Center. The Council was convened by the king in times of trouble, or when he wanted advice on a major decision. Eyle was the representative from House Tras, the king counting as being from no house. Melior, of course represented House Leo. His uncle, Archduke Rolai, was there for House Meren. The regional representatives she did not know, as they were elected each year from the local minor nobility by the nobles. The elected councilor from the West, strangely, was absent. Since this this meeting concerned trouble from the West, this absence was unnatural.

As I had thought. There is a reason to this absence. They have a plan.

The representative from House Faol was Archduke Yupkin, a jovial old man. Eyle could not imagine him causing trouble. He was a childhood friend of the king's. And yet his duchy was planning something.

As Eyle entered the council room, supported by Melior's strong shoulder, she saw the council members stare at her. Apparently they hadn't heard of her weakness. Eyle took her seat, to her father's right, the red falcon hanging behind her chair.

The council room was circular, so that everyone could see everyone at the same time. To her right was Melior, in front of the blue lion of House Leo. To the king's left was Archduke Yupkin, with the emerald horse on a banner hanging behind him. On his other side sat Archduke Rolai, and the amethyst bear. All four men were sporting creases of worry on their forehead.

The King cleared his throat. All the people in the room turned to look at him. Behind him was the royal banner of Trasland, a black four-pointed star on a field of white.

"We have received news of trouble in the west. Gamoori armies are said to be grouping at our border, near the duchy of Faol. What have you to say, Yupkin?"

"I am afraid to say that I do not know. I was coming here when I heard the news, and my nephew has yet to answer about why he is letting the armies amass there."

As the others dicussed what to do, Eyle felt relieved. So Yupkin wasn't part of the Faollin plot; that was good. She didn't want to see the old man as a rebel, and maybe he might even be able to stop the plot.

A knock sounded at the door. Without waiting for permission, it opened. A man dressed in the black and yellow livery of a messenger stood there, panting. He looked as if he had run from wherever he was, and had not stopped yet for rest. This is important news.

As if reading her mind, the king said, "Go on, speak."

The messenger took a deep breath, and said, "The Gamoori armies have been joined by Faollin armies, and other soldiers of the western region. They are marching directly for Tenero, burning every town on the way. They are coming to kill."