Two nights later, just as the rim of the sun dropped below the horizon, Miller put the torch to the pyre shared by Jonn and Shim. As the flames reached to the heavens the village musicians struck up a merry tune and the festivities began. The entire village was there, even those who'd opposed standing up to the brigands, and they were determined to give their fallen heroes a good send-off.

I passed by Mora after I'd drawn another couple of pints from the hogshead Crispian had provided for the occasion. She was sitting with Becka and her parents.

"...I tell you, I won't have it any other way," she said to them. "Me and Miller only had the one son. He'd have come of age in another year, and we all know it would've happened anyhow. As far as I'm concerned, your girl's my daughter-in-law and she gets everything that goes with it. If that's the mill someday, then so be it!"

I found Kit and handed him a tankard. "So," he said after he took a big swallow. "What did you decide?"

"About what?"

"Staying here."

"Oh. Well. You know, you were right. I'm not really attached to the place, and this isn't the life I wanted for myself when I left home. Maybe it's time to hit the road."

He sighed, and broke out in a wide smile. "You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that. It wouldn't have been fair for me to show up like I did and drag you away if you wanted to stay. I can't stay, you see. It's not what I'm meant to do. But I couldn't have left you either."

I didn't even bother to make sure no one was watching before I kissed him. We'd been at it a while when someone cleared her throat nearby and we broke apart.

It was Mora. "Listen pipsqueak, I just wanted to let you know I don't blame you for anything. I'm the one who opened my big mouth. If I wasn't willing to pay the price for it, I'd be worse than those cowards."

Kit bowed his head, but I said to her, "You just keep opening your big mouth. If these people ever start to backslide, if they ever knuckle under to a bunch of brigands again, or if the baron wants to expand his lands this way and they're set to give in, you remind them of what your flesh and blood bought for them."

She squared her shoulders and lifted up her head. No, they'd never be allowed to forget.

Four days later, our packs full of provisions and all our gear, we took our leave of North Bend. Crispian was up and about, moving stiffly but full of vigor. "A surgeon too," he said to Kit. "I've never been patched up so neatly. I think we can expect to hear great things of you two. Where are you headed?"

"Great Market," said Kit. "For now, we figure we can find work with the Spice Road caravans."

"It should pay fairly well," I added. "And that far south we won't have to worry about winter lodging."

"Good luck to you then. We owe you a lot. Our boys will start patrolling the road once travel starts up again in the spring, but it won't be the same without you."

A half day later we passed by the old camp. We paused at the spot where we first met and shared a kiss before continuing on our way along the forest road.