"Alhawat! Alhawat!"

'thump' 'thump'

The harsh knocking and voice from a terrified crewman startled Alhawat from his light sleep with with a jerk. He was thankful he had chosen not to remove his apprentice robes for what he had intended to be little more than a nap.

Alhawat opened the door. The crewman before him was a giant bear of a man, and was unknown to the shaman's son. "The Prince?"

The bear of a man nodded. Alhawat did not wait for him to start moving, he all but ran, barefooted, down the hall to the Prince's cabin, the bearish crewman taking long strides to keep up with him. Alhawat looked like a shaman from ancient times as he burst into the cabin without so much as a knock. His hair was down from his nap and billowed around him, naturally fluffy it was made positively wild from the salt air of the ocean. Alhawat's robes had come loose and hung low on his chest, exposing his collarbone and part of one shoulder. Heavy earrings dangled, intermixed with his hair and loud bangles clanked noisily around his wrists and ankles. Shaman and their apprentices wore all manner of loud jewelry, they claimed it was to keep evil spirits at bay by scaring them with sharp noises. Truthfully, shaman used them to make themselves seem bigger and more intimidating by making so much noise, like the rattle on the tip of a snakes tail.

Alhawat looked around the room, there were only three people inside that he recognized, the King, the Captain of the ship and the Captain of the Royal Guard. One person he thought should have been there wasn't and Alhawat frowned as he pushed past all the unnecessary crew members in his way.

"How long?" Alhawat's voice was demanding as he checked the prince's temperature, breathing and heartbeat with his hand.

"We found him like this an hour ago." Lin-Sari had a firm, calm voice. It suited a man of his position in the Royal Guard.

"An hour? Why did no one fetch me sooner?" Alhawat turned his fury on the three men of power in the room. Everyone else seemed to shrink away from the wild and enraged Alhawat. Even the captain looked properly nervous.

The king did his best to reign in Alhawat's fury by giving him a withering look. "You were sent with us to ensure his health. Why did you not come to check sooner?"

Alhawat was immune to the king's attempt to cast blame upon him. "Keeping your son alive for one week with no capable help would be a task even for my father. When I left he was stable and I left explicit order to be called for if anything changed." Alhawat's eyes narrowed, he would address the matter of a man who should not have been missing from the cabin. "Where is the first mate Dobrat? I told him to leave the prince's side only to call on me."

A glare from both the king and Alhawat sent the ship's captain to a state of sickly pale. "Dobrat is on deck... He has been for the last two hours..."

The king's look went from withering to murderous as he closed the gap between himself and the captain. "If my son dies, so shall Dobrat."

Alhawat covered the prince up to his neck with his blanket then turned and produced the dagger from his hip for the captain. "Even my father could not save Prince Loy in his current state. I can ease his pain, but the prince will be dead by morning."

The king looked at Alhawat and sighed. "Do what you can for my son." He turned and stalked towards the door. "I must think on how best to handle renegotiation with his ex-fiance and father-in-law."

The captain looked spitefully at Alhawat's dagger. "I will not murder my first mate." He nearly spat the words as he turned to leave.

"The king will do it for you. Your first mate has murdered his second son." Alhawat watched the captain leave, then chased out all the remaining on-lookers before he turned to Lin-Sari. "..." He allowed only him to stay. Alhawat was not afraid that he would be put under suspicion of letting Prince Loy die, but he was afraid that if he were left alone with his only friend, he would shatter and be unable to perform his duties as a shaman.

"Will Prince Loy will be dead by morning?" Lin-Sari sat in a chair a distance from the bed to remain out of Alhawat's way.

"Yes." Alhawat put his hand to the prince's cheek. "My father told the king Loy was to ill to survive this voyage. He sent me only that I could ensure his comfort as much as possible."

Lin-Sari watched Alhawat as he went through his shamanic motions. It was clear he really did not have enough skill to do more then easy Prince Loy's suffering. Lin-Sari could not decide if the shaman had been kind or cruel to send Alhawat with his only friend to watch over him as he died. Although, in the shaman's place, Lin-Sari thought he might do the same thing for his own son.

By mid-night, Prince Loy was dead and Alhawat woke the king to perform immediate death rights on his son.

The king anointed his son's head with perfumed oil and painted his lips with a poison meant to guard him against dangerous spirits in the afterlife. "Alhawat." The king's voice was low, but not angry or sad. He had loved Loy, but a king grew to understand and conquer grief quickly. He had many sons and a few daughters even, he had been a blessed king indeed to only lose one.

"You're majesty?" Alhawat's own voice was tight and restrained. After his sister had died, Prince Loy had become his close friend and confidant, he had been looking forward to the day he became a full fledged shaman and could follow Loy wherever he was married.

"You were always quite close to my son." The king looked up, the dark, nearly black eyes of his line were not harsh or cruel but they were the eyes of a strong man, a man of war and politics who could not afford to chose his family over his duties. "I thank you for that.. I made a mistake by pushing for the wedding to take place so soon. I thought Loy would recover faster then he did and I wanted to settle negotiations quickly with the kingdom of Vesuviniae." The king took the crown that had been lain on the prince's bedside table and slid it carefully around his forehead.

Alhawat shook the incense burner to disturb the embers and keep them burning. "It was an honor for me when Prince Loy became my friend... I did not think I would ever be close to anyone, not as I was close with him."

Alhawat and the king were both silent for a long time then. Respecting the dead who had passed and sending with him their affection and love so he would have the strength to find his way to the next life. "Majesty.." Alhawat broke the silence first as he set the incense down. "As much as I loved your son, I love our kingdom more so. I was forced to watch him suffer through my own inability but if I can, I would not see such a thing happen to the whole of Pyrine."

The king eyed Alhawat curiously but said nothing. He knew that Alhawat was a clever, if secretive and occasionally sneaky young man.

"No one from Vesuviniae knows what Prince Loy looks like, do they? Even the King has only seen and spoken to you, he knows only that your second son, Prince Loy, is to marry his first son. No more." Alhawat turned his own mismatched eyes on the king. "Send me in Loy's place. If someone from our kingdom marries into their family then they have insurance of no war from us and in a position of power, the person from our side could ensure that no harm came to our kingdom. Correct?"

The king was impressed with Alhawat's grasp on the politics, but nervous for his enthusiasm of it. Even if the enthusiasm seemed grim. "That is correct." The king thought over it. "Give me until morning, I will give you my answer then. At least allow me to grieve that long."

Alhawat bowed. "Of course sire. I do not require an answer until we have hit harbor. I will do as you think is best." Alhawat waited for the king to leave the room before he knelt by Prince Loy's body. "You fool... You utter fool... How can you leave me this way...?" Alhawat put his forehead to his friend's cold hand. "After all those promises..." For the first time since Alhawat saw Loy draw his last breath, he allowed himself to cry and mourn the passing... Prince Loy had been his best friend but Alhawat had loved him deeply. It pierced him to know that he would never see his beloved prince again and as any good shaman, Alhawat bled himself of the pain, he cried until he felt to tired to cry any longer and his chest ached. He was not sure all the poison was gone, but he was sure that now he could sleep and wait for the king to make his decision on how they would handle the diplomatic proceedings. However, despite having no real fear that the crew would do anything to Prince Loy's body, he simply could not leave the cabin and leave the body of the prince unprotected.

Alhawat woke with a start at the feeling of a large hand on his shoulder, his hand went immediately to the dagger he had replaced to his hip the night before but was calmed quickly by the firm voice of Lin-Sari.

"Alhawat.. Have you been here since the death rights?" Lin-Sari looked mildly worried. For a man of the Royal Guard, he could be terrible at hiding his emotions and he was practically Alhawat's uncle for as long as they had known each other.

"Yes." Alhawat saw no reason to lie as he stood slowly. He had fallen asleep next to Loy's body, kneeling on the floor with his arms on the bed to support himself. "I could not bare to leave him defenseless again."

Although it was hardly Alhawat's fault for needing the sleep and leaving the prince's side for barely two hours, it was within those two hours that the prince's health had deteriorated and left him helpless. "Alhawat. I will stay, go get some sleep." Lin-Sari pushed his shoulder towards the door, not hard but enough to get him moving.

"Thank you Lin-Sari..." Alhawat turned, and balled his fists. He had learned as a young child that men did not display their emotions so openly. Not men involved in politics anyway, women didn't either. Oh certainly the women of their country displayed emotions, just not theirs. They displayed emotion appropriate for the situation whether it was their honest feelings or not. "If the king returns, please tell him I have returned to my cabin for the time being. I will come back to the Prince once I have had some rest."

Lin-Sari frowned. "You need not wear yourself so thin Alhawat. There is little you can do for him now."

"I can prevent evil spirits from haunting us with a body that has been deserted." Alhawat's words were cold and dry, as if he truly expected evil spirits to be aboard the ship. In actuality he did, but he expected the king would exercise that demon as soon as his time of grieving was over. Or perhaps he would wait for a public execution later. Regardless, Alhawat had no fear that that demon was now completely harmless.

Alhawat felt like the dead himself as he wandered the hall to his own room. Prince Loy was dead and Alhawat had offered to take his place. Was he mad? Politics were not the place for shaman.

'My son. The gods have been cruel to you and given you a great burden, but they have given you the tools to protect yourself and others. I will train you as a shaman, but I will encourage you to practice your skills as often as possible on the council. It may serve you later in life to be practiced as well as talented.'

His father had trained him since childhood. Shamanism was in his bloodline and while he had a sister, women were so rare and so prized in his kingdom that Alhawat had been trained to take her place whenever a dangerous shaman task came around. It had been a disappointment, Alhawat thought-to the council at least-that Alhawat had only half the shamanistic talents his sister had managed. They had been twins, so he should have been no different, but her skill had always far exceeded his own.

Alhawat loosened the rope belt around his waist and hung it on a hook on the wall. He let the over-lay robe slide from his shoulders and placed it on the wall as well. He took off the long robe that hung loosely from his shoulders and let it crumple on the ground without care, leaving him only in a pair of draw-string pants. Alhawat caught sight of himself in the small mirror of the vanity. He frowned and touched at his chest, he had two bi-lateral scars that spanned nearly the full width of his chest, there was a small break in the center. It had been almost five years since they had been made but they remained vivid and sensitive to the touch. Alhawat's hand and gaze strayed lower then, his slim fingers touching a far thicker scar just below his bellybutton that stretched between his two prominent hipbones. That scar was much fresher, only about two years old, the muscles there had still not fully recovered and he was forbade from any heavy lifting for another year by his father. Alhawat closed his eyes, the surgeries performed by his father in secret had been necessary and while he was kept asleep during the surgery, nothing could be done for afterward. The intense pain had kept him bedridden for weeks because it slowed the healing.

Loy had stayed with him as often as possible then.

'Your sister can't be here for you. So I will be instead.'

Loy had looked like a child when he said those words, determined and stubborn, he had held Alhawat's hand and patted his brow with a moist cloth. Truly, only three people remained now who knew why Alhawat's eyes were mismatched. It was a sign in their country of a person both cursed and blessed by the gods. One green eye symbolized the blessing. Alhawat had an ability no one ever noticed and thus never fought against. The golden eye was a sign of his curse, Alhawat had been born one of a set of twins, only his sister An-Shiant should have been born, but her strong will and power needed tempering so the gods had split her in two and Alhawat had been born. But his body did not match his mind. The curse had been kept secret, Alhawat's father knew what mismatched eyes meant and had raised his son with only the influence of his sister until he was fourteen when the nature of Alhawat's curse became apparent. Only Alhawat's parents, his sister, Lin-Sari-a close friend for both his parents- and Prince Loy-who found out after An-Shiant's death-knew about Alhawat's condition.

Alhawat laid down on his bed. It was uncomfortable, it was flat and hard and he was fairly certain it had been filled with straw because something kept poking him but he didn't care to search out the source of discomfort. Alhawat turned on his side and stared at the vanity, near the base was a small sketch he had gotten framed, he had paid a street vender to produce a picture of Loy for him and had gotten a surprise when the vendor did a sketch of both of them together. Alhawat turned away, the picture now reminded him only that he had been powerless to protect his only friend and now he might very well be powerless to protect his family from war as well if the king though his plan to risky...

Alhawat's sleep was uneasy. He rarely slept calmly, but his rest had been particularly bad this time. Every noise seemed to startle him from his rest and no matter how he tried, he could not find even one part of the bed that was without the abrasive object that seemed to want to make him bleed for how hard it stabbed at him. At least Alhawat sat up, his feet planted on the floor and his face in his hands. The only one who might understand how Alhawat felt would not accept comfort from him, nor would he extend any and without any of Loy's brothers or sisters, Alhawat would have to grieve and recover on his own.

There was a soft scratching at Alhawat's door. "One moment." He called tiredly before retrieving his robe from the floor. He slid it over his draw-string pants to hide his scars before opening the door. He was not terribly surprised to see Lin-Sari standing in front of him. "Has the king sent for me?" Alhawat felt as though he hadn't slept at all, he ached all over and his head was throbbing.

"Yes. I do not know what he wishes to talk to you about. I believe he may intend to return home after this development." Lin-Sari stepped forward and put his hand on Alhawat's chin, lifting the younger face to his own. He did not want this event to age Alhawat to much. "You did not sleep at all." He frowned.

Alhawat allowed Lin-Sari to touch him openly. One of the very few people Alhawat allowed physical contact to at all. "Not properly." Alhawat took Lin-Sari's hand in his own and pushed it away gently. "Thank you for watching over Prince Loy for me, even if it was futile." Alhawat stepped away and moved to the hook on the wall to finish replacing his apprentice robes. He took the small cord that had been tied neatly around the hook and drew his hair back, tying it in a rope before facing the door again. "I guess I will go see how we proceed from here."

Alhawat pushed past Lin-Sari and walked down the hall towards the prince's cabin. He had gotten use to the darkness below deck, but knowing that only a corpse and a king waited for him lent an eerie atmosphere that he did not recall being in the air before. Lin-Sari followed Alhawat to the prince's cabin and closed the door behind them both. Alhawat paid little attention to what Lin-Sari did, his focus steadied on the king.

"Your majesty." Alhawat dipped his head. "You summoned me?"

The king was sitting opposite his son's corpse, he had covered him in a white silk sheet and there was a single water willow branch laid from just below his chin over the sheet to his waist. "Yes. Apprentice Summoner, it was your duty to care for my son on this voyage and I gave the order that all should obey your command as though it were my own." The kings black eyes were cold and harsh. "When Dobrat disobeyed you, he disobeyed me, he is guilty of treason. Normally I would offer the head of Dobrat to one of his brother's as they are his closest companions, on this ship you were my son's closest. So I offer this to you instead, what would you have done with Dobrat?"

Alhawat inhaled sharply. He had not imagined that the king would give him the honor and pleasure of deciding the fate of the man who had killed his only friend. "Your majesty..." Alhawat closed his eyes and squared his shoulders before opening them again, his face harsh and serious. "As much as it would please me to see Dobrat hang for treason..." Alhawat's hands balled up into fists. "Please allow me the greater pleasure of acting as executioner. I would see Dobrat's eyes as he understands precisely what he did."

The king watched Alhawat and observed him for several minutes after his request before finally nodding. "I will grant your request. While he may not hang, a public execution is not out of the question. I will have you exact your revenge in front of the full crew." The king stood, his hands planted firmly on his dead son's bed. "As for your other request..." The king's own hands clenched the soft white silk. "I grant that as well. However you will not go as Prince Loy. The pain of his passing is still to near. From now on and after you die, you are my my fifth son, Prince Alhanuit. It is not the original offer to Vesuviniae, but I will tell them that Prince Loy was to sick to travel and to avoid postponing the wedding, I've brought my only other marriageable son." The king crossed his arms over his chest. "When would you like to carry out your revenge?"

Alhawat gave a silent sigh of relief. Although he wanted to save his kingdom, truth be told, the pain of Loy's death was to near for him as well and the thought of using his dead friend's identity had not been a pleasant one. Knowing the king had no fifth son, his fifth child was a daughter, put Alhawat in a state of lesser ill ease. Alhawat's hand strayed to his dagger. "I would exact it now if the entire crew is awake." He answered sharply.

The king looked at Lin-Sari, "Go and fetch Dobrat from the brig, take him to the deck and tie him to a mast. Gather the entire crew, and wait for us."

Lin-Sari bowed at the king's request and left.

Alhawat stepped slowly towards the prince. "I.. You're majesty.." He was at a loss for words, his desire to comfort his king in their time of loss was overwhelmed by his desire to remain in his place and not cross the line.

The king seemed to understand his conflict and came around the bed to put a hand on Alhawat's shoulder. The flinch beneath his fingers hardly lasted a moment and the king had to remind himself that Alhawat had always been skittish to keep from taking offense. "I understand. When you are ready, we will go above deck. Mourn Prince Loy as your brother, once you leave this cabin you will do so as Alhanuit. My fifth son." The king left Alhawat alone in the room with Loy and it took all his strength not to crumple under the weight.

As the tears left Alhawat's eyes again, he was struck with the irony the king had just cast upon him... 'Alhanuit'.. Alhawat's name meant 'to change with words', the name the king had giving him meant 'to charm a snake with words'. So... Even the king was aware of the nickname he had gained around the castle and kept even on board the ship.

Alhawat dried his eyes and took the copper bangle with a bell on it from his left wrist, he slid it over the branch on Loy's chest, leaving it where his heart would have been. "Follow the bell Loy.. Spirit bells guide the dead. Do not be distracted by those pretty faces, not until you live again." Alhawat kissed Loy's forehead through the silk curtain before leaving Loy for the last time. He would not see Loy's body again. It would be wrapped in silk and burned when they got to port. Alhawat would ask for a vial of the ashes for his own to keep as it was common for the blood relatives to receive glass bottled with the ashes of their loved ones after they died. He had a vial of his sisters ashes as well.

When Alhawat left the cabin, neither he nor the king spoke to one another. They walked, Alhawat a few paces behind the king in the narrow corridor, towards the stairs that lead to the upper deck. Alhawat prepared himself for the light change by closing his eyes as they came to the surface, when he opened them again they were adjusted and he looked around. Lin-Sari had gathered the entire crew, in the center was Dobrat, tied to a mast and the Captain, looking very uncomfortable.

'Good.' Thought Alhawat. 'Let him be uncomfortable. Let him know the pain of losing someone close.'

"This man has committed treason against his king." Lin-Sari announced loudly, indicating Dobrat with his rapier. "Due to his inaction, Prince Loy has died. He not only betrayed his king's trust but he has put his country at risk."

Dobrat was shaking. Whether it was fear, regret or something else, Alhawat neither knew nor cared.

"Because the order he was following was Prince Alhanuit's, the fifth son of the king, who's word is the word of the king, it is Prince Alhanuit who will take his brothers revenge." Lin-Sari moved to the side where he could block any attempt on the captain's behalf to save Dobrat.

Alhawat stepped forward, he could hear the crowd gasp and catch a few of the hushed whispers.

"I knew it..He was always a terrible shaman. Why would the king let him come otherwise?"

"The snake charmer? A prince? Little wonder the king has kept it hidden so long."

"This must be to get rid of the countries most famous whore."

Alhawat ignored everything he heard as he walked up to Dobrat. The man was about twice his size but Alhawat showed no fear and would not break eye contact. "Cut him loose."

There was a shocked gasp from the crowd, but Lin-Sari did as he was told and let Dobrat free from his bonding.

Dobrat rubbed his wrists and looked at Alhawat with suspicion. "You... You are letting me go...?"

Alhawat nearly spat his laugh. "Do not be foolish. Let my brothers murderer go free?" Alhawat drew his dagger. "There is no honor in killing a defenseless man. Especially to avenge someone as capable as my brother. Choose your weapon wisely Dobrat, it will be the last you ever hold."

Dobrat seemed to be feeling more confident then. He had the advantage in size over Alhawat. He picked up the sword that had been taken from him when Lin-Sari restrained him. "You really think you can beat me with that dinky thing?"

Alhawat barely waited for Dobrat to finish his sentence, his quick motions were reminiscent of a snake or mongoose as he slid inside Dobrat's defenses before the man could even think to move his sword. Alhawat's dagger sat firmly in the man's belly as mismatched eyes stared hard and cold into Dobrat's. "You killed my only friend." Alhawat slid his dagger free just long enough to plunge it into the other side. "You killed the prince." Once again Alhawat's dagger slid free, but this time it slid back into the center. Each strike had been carefully placed so that none would kill Dobrat quickly, but that he could not survive them. "You killed my brother." Alhawat stepped back as Dobrat crumpled to the deck, blood drizzled out of him at a pace that would take two to three hours to kill him. "I curse your soul to wander the far reaches of the spirit world until one day you may be allowed to meet prince Loy again and apologize properly. Only after he has forgiven you will you be allowed to return to the living world." Alhawat took the cloth that was attached to his daggers sheath and wiped the blade down. "I hope a game of cards was worth a thousand years." Alhawat left Dobrat on the ground and Lin-Sari allowed the captain to go to his side.

The king watched Alhawat with a mix of apprehension and pride. Alhawat knew the king was pleased that Alhawat had taken his revenge in an honorable way, but he could tell that the manner in which Dobrat would die made the king nervous. Alhawat was exactly what his rumor said, he was a snake charmer. With that came knowing how snakes thought and acted, it left a mark on him and occasionally, Alhawat would slip up and act a little like a snake himself. His poison would now be left in Dobrat's wounds and cause him to rot. He had only nicked both of Dobrat's kidney's and put the smallest of holes in his diaphragm. Dobrat's final hours would be the most excruciating of his life and Alhawat could not bring himself to feel anything but pleased at that notion.

The king stopped Alhawat before he could get very far. "Come with me. There are still a few things we must discuss."

Alhawat nodded and followed the king away. The crew gathered around their dying first mate. Alhawat knew none of them had the skill to save him, the most they could do was staunch the bleeding and slow his dying down. No one could save Dobrat now. Alhawat followed the king to the map room. The king walked over to a large table that displayed their kingdom, Pyrine, the kingdom they were heading to, Vesuviniae, and approximately where their ships were.

"We still have a week and a half before we reach Vesuviniae's port harbor of Deldine."

Alhawat walked closer to the table to look at it. He had never imagined that the scale models could make things look so close. A three weeks journey by ship looked like he could have swum it, if he'd known how to swim that is. Of course he knew all the models were to scale, it was a vast stretch of ocean.

The king looked up at Alhawat. "I will send two ships back to Pyrine. One carrying the prince's body to be burned in his own country and one carrying Dobrat's body to be strung up as example." The king walked over to Alhawat and examined him. "Write down your measurements, style and color preferences. I am going to tell the king that you were accompanying your brother to his wedding. You came to the flag ship before a storm to discuss how the loss of your brother would affect your platoon. He stayed behind because he was not feeling well, when the storm hit, we lost the ship you were both on. You had only your casual robes left so we sent a ship back to collect the clothing for you from our country."

The king told Alhawat the entire tale. How his brother was tragically lost at sea, how to explain Alhawat's shaman clothing. Vesuviniae had no shaman so they would not know the difference between a prince's casual attire and a shaman apprentice robe.

Alhawat nodded his compliance before finally looking up. "I'm sorry your majesty.. That I could not save Loy..."

The king sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose tiredly. In that moment, he looked as old as he really must have been. What was he now, sixty? Sixty-five? For a king, he was very old. "I would have lost Loy... To marriage or death." The king's shoulders fell, as though he had just accepted that Loy would not be coming back to him again.. Never again would he ask for advice or welcome him home. "At least... At least I will not lose two sons, because of your love for your country." The king looked up at Alhawat then and offered him a tired, mournful smile that reflected in Alhawat's own face. "Thank you. Alhawat."

Alhawat's face almost perfectly mimicked the king's face as he realized that was the last time he would ever be called by that name. "Thank you.. King Loy." He knew the name stabbed at them both. Loy had been named after his father and it was the last time Alhawat would ever be allowed to speak that name again. It was the law in their country that once a member of the royal family died, the name could only be spoken between immediate family members. The only exception being to explain what happened but it was expected to be used only if absolutely necessary.

The king said nothing but turned away. "Prince Alhanuit. Please prepare yourself mentally for your wedding. In a week and a half, you will be in your new kingdom."

Alhawat bowed and left the king. While he had not given condolences to hear the king's praise, it was nice to receive none the less.

Alhawat retreated to his personal cabin and sat on the edge of his uncomfortable bed. 'Was the bed I left Loy in equally uncomfortable? Did he sleep for a week and a half on such a mattress?' His own discomfort did not bother him, the idea that his dear friend Loy had suffered on a similar bed while ailing from such a state was nearly enough to make Alhawat run to Loy's room and check his mattress. It was a stupid thought and Alhawat restrained himself. There was nothing to be done now if Loy's bed was uncomfortable, he would just have to trust that his friend would forgive him for not making sure a head of time.

Alhawat laid back down on his bed and stared at the wood paneling of his ceiling. It was dark in his room, the oil lamp that had been casting a precarious glow was nearly done. Whether it's wick was almost burned completely out or whether it was nearly out of oil didn't make much difference. Soon he would be in total darkness and he was not sure he would ask to have the light brought back.

Alhawat rolled over and smothered his face in his crossed arms. His heart ached for his friend, but it was better he thought, then it would have been if he had stayed in Pyrine and received news back that Loy had died en route. At least this way Loy had not been alone when he died. Alhawat sighed deeply. He would never see his parents again and he would have to forget them, it would be to dangerous for both his own life and those of his kingdom if he mentioned anyone other than the king as a parent. He hoped he could remember all the names of his, now, brothers and sisters. 'What did I get myself into? I'll be killed within the month. If my husband doesn't kill me on our wedding night and there will be a war for sure... I haven't helped, if anything, I've ensured ruin...'

Alhawat squeezed his eyes shut. He could almost hear Loy's voice, echoing the words his father had said to him as a child...

"You know, I've noticed that you're a pretty crappy shaman."

"Come on Loy! Give me a break here, my sister is a prodigy!"

"It doesn't matter. You may suck as a shaman, but no one ever denies you what you want. It's like you have a silver tongue!"

"Like a snake charmer?"

"Exactly! You could convince a snake not to bite a mouse if you wanted to!"

"You really think I could do that?"

"Of course! Come on! Let's go put your tongue to the test!"

Alhawat sighed and clutched at his chest with one hand. Loy had believed in him... Maybe he really could do this. He just had to keep one little secret. He could do that, he might have been a crappy shaman, but he wasn't entirely incapable.