In a small secluded courtyard of the palace Kyravere, Anjez, Brythorn, Semaia and Tiemil sat or talked. On a bench seat Semaia sat, flanked by Brythorn and Tiemil, both of whom were vying for her attentions. Hidden by the draping branches of a nearby willow tree Kyravere and Anjez chatted cosily about hunting techniques and horsemanship. Kyra was particularly interested in the Bashraanian method of shooting with a bow and arrow from the back of a moving horse, an interest which Anjez was happy to discuss with her. It had been nearly a fortnight since Anjez and Semaia's release, Kyra had been let out of the cells a few days later. Since then the five of then had been almost inseparable, spending every spare moment in each others company. Kyra's younger sister, Kapisia, also joined them sometimes, in the vain hope of catching Anjez's eye, deliberately ignoring the fact that his eye, and possibly his heart, were pinned firmly on Kyra. Kapisia suddenly appeared in the courtyard wearing a shirt and trousers which were too small for her in an attempt to outline her as-yet-undeveloped figure.

'Anjez?' she called, 'Where are you?'

Grimacing at Kyra, who laughed at his expression, he stepped out from the willow tree. Kapisia scowled a little when she saw Kyra follow but soon returned her attention to Anjez. 'There you are!' she exclaimed, fixing Anjez with her most beguiling smile, 'I've been looking everywhere for you! I've been practicing with the bow using those techniques you showed me but I need some help.'

'Well,' Anjez smiled indulgently, 'Tell me.'

'I can't, I have to show you.' Kapisia replied, grabbing Anjez's hand and dragging him towards the training grounds. As he was towed off he looked back desperately at Kyra. She laughed and went to rescue Semaia of one of her ardent suitors. She motioned to Tiemil to join her. He stood and walked over to her, annoyed. 'What was that for? I was reeling her in!'

'You were scaring her. Besides, Bry needs all the practice he can get. I've seen deer less shy than he is.'

'I suppose.' He agreed sulkily, then he brightened, 'After all, I'll have the whole boat trip to Inbaas to woo her.' Kyra rolled her eyes. 'How long is it? Two weeks?'

'Three,' Kyra replied with a sigh.

Tiemil laughed, his good humour suddenly restored, 'You love it, you know you do! Why don't we go for a ride, it'll be our last chance for at least three weeks!'

Kyra grinned, 'Race you there!'

00000

The water glistened in the sunlight, the gentle waves lapping at the pier. On the shore five finely dressed figures stood out from the dozens of sailors and servants helping to load the ship. After two weeks of fun it was time for Anjez and Semaia to return home to Bashraan, accompanied by Kyra and Tiemil. Brythorn was to stay behind at his father's behest and he envied the others for their chance to escape, especially Tiemil who would have Semaia all to himself. Over the past weeks strong bonds had been forged between the five young people though Kyravere and Anjez had grown particularly close, as had Brythorn and Semaia. The only problem was Tiemil who's dashing and heroic attempts to win Semaia over, often fell flat.

Now as the four walked away down the pier Brythorn felt jealous and strangely sad. Apart from the fact that the twin's had never been far from each other he knew deep down that he was unlikely to ever see Semaia again.

They were about to board when he gathered the courage to call out to her, 'Mai!'

Semaia turned in surprise, a questioning look on her face.

'Write to me!' Brythorn called, 'Promise me you'll write!'

Mai smiled; 'I promise!' she called back and turned to follow the others up the gangplank.

The ship began to move away from the shore as the four took their positions on the top deck and waved. Brythorn plastered a smile on his face and waved back. He watched the ship until it left the harbor and rounded the heads out of sight, then continued to stare into the middle distance, held there by a foreboding he couldn't shake. After what might have been five minutes or five hours Brythorn heard a voice behind him, 'My Prince?'

'Yes?' he replied, shaking himself from his daze.

'It is getting late, sire'

'Yes,' Brythorn replied, somewhat surprised, 'So it is.'

He turned his back on the water and began the journey back to the palace, alone.

00000

The first week and a half of the sea journey went smoothly. The Bashraanians were used to the motions of the ship and Karavere soon adjusted to them. Tiemil and the Farielian envoy, however, were violently ill every few hours. Kara and Mai had been nursing them throughout and Kara thought that Tiemil was fervently wishing he would not get better so he could prolong his private moments with her although his attempts to woo her between bouts of retching, most often all over her shoes, was comical and provided much amusement to Kara and Mai in their few moments of rest.

After the first few days of Tiemil's pathetic actions Kara offered to look after Tiemil by herself if Mai was willing to nurse the envoy, Patrun. She gratefully agreed and so it was a rather chagrined Tiemil whom Kara encountered on their tenth day.

'Why did you send her away from me?' Tiemil whined.

'She does not reciprocate your feelings,' Kara replied evenly, 'and your amorous advances were, quite frankly, disgusting.' She wiped spittle from the corner of his mouth.

Tiemil snatched the cloth from her in annoyance, 'I can do that mys-' he began to say but his face abruptly turned a peculiar green and he reached hurriedly for the bucket which Kara passed him.

She gave him a sceptical look, 'Sure you can.'

There was a knock at the door to the cabin. 'Come in!' Kara called.

Anjez entered a worried look on his face.

'What is it?' Kara asked, voicing the question Teimil was thinking but felt too ill to say.

'A ship has been spotted, portside,' he replied, his voice grim, 'It bears the flag of the Empire.'

Kara blanched visibly. The Haelean Empire stretched the width and breadth of almost the entire continent except for a few northern countries, Fariel and Bashraan. Everybody feared them, their mercenaries were merciless and it was well known that the Haelean Emperor Angaston coveted the rich trading port of Inbaas.

'Do we have anything to worry about?'

'They've been following us since morning.' Anjez replied.

'Will they catch up with us?'

Anjez didn't reply.

'Anjez, please, tell me, will they catch us?'

'Let's hope not,' he replied eventually before turning to Tiemil, 'Will you be able to fight?'

'I could vomit all over them,' he said with a weak grin.

Anjez, however, was unsympathetic, 'Go up and get some fresh air, it might help you feel better.'

00000

Three long hours passed during which Kara had helped Tiemil up onto the deck. He felt a little better but still was too weak to fight and so it was with trepidation that they watched the enemy ship draw closer. Theirs was a small ship, manned by only twenty or so men, plus Anjez, not nearly enough to defeat their foe. Kara regretfully wished she'd brought her bow with her but wishes could not undo their current situation.

Frantically she searched the ship for a bow she could use but the only one she found was old and broken, its bow strings destroyed by the harsh salt water swilling in the boat's hull where the bow lay.

Frustrated and afraid she left the bow and returned to the deck to wait out the coming storm, unarmed.