Warbreaker Prime: Mythwalker Chapter Nineteen
The following is a draft chapter of Brandon’s unfinished novel Mythwalker from 2001. Brandon later repurposed some elements of this story into Warbreaker, Mistborn, and The Way of Kings.
Siri had to force herself to stay awake as she sat on her throne. There was one thing she hadn’t figured on when she had started sleeping during the day—court. She wasn’t required to attend most of the Imperial audiences, fortunately. She only had to be in attendance once a week, on Holyday.
That once was difficult enough, however. The Emperor held court in the middle of the day, right when Siri was usually asleep. And, of course, the Vessel would never break Posture so horribly as to be caught sleeping during a court session. She couldn’t even rest her drooping eyes. Even though she wore a veil, she was afraid that she would start nodding.
Falling asleep wouldn’t just be embarrassing, it could be dangerous as well. Siri’s throne, like that of the emperor and the Archpriests, was raised well off the ground. Though she sat lower than the others, it was still at least a man’s-height drop to the ground below.
Siri sighed to herself. Fortunately, it was almost over. After that, she could return to her rooms and sleep for a few hours before going to the Emperor’s bedchamber. Surin Des Mmuarr, one of the House representatives, was droning on about the terms of an upcoming Game. All of the Game terms had to be approved by the Emperor, and he received a small tax on the earnings.
The audience hall was full, as usual. Only members of the first three Septs were allowed to watch audiences, and though they weren’t required to attend, few were willing to give their competitors a potential edge by missing a Holyday audience. As Siri understood, audiences on other days weren’t as well attended, usually consisting of only the House representatives.
Surin continued to read terms, presenting them in the most flowery of High Imperial. He was only third Sept, but as House Representative he was allowed to speak directly to the Emperor. All of the Houses were allowed one—otherwise, the Kings and Queens would have been forced to prepare and present all of their petitions.
Thankfully, Surin finally finished. He ended the speech with a melodramatic lilt, praising the Emperor’s holy name. Siri resisted the urge to groan.
“I accept your terms,” Hasm said, speaking for the Emperor. Just because House Representatives were allowed to present before the Emperor didn’t mean that they were privileged enough to hear his voice. The Archpriests always spoke for the Emperor in audiences. Since audience agendas were well-known beforehand, the Emperor could make his judgments and give them to the Archpriests ahead of time. In a way, the audiences were just a formality.
But it was finally over. She was free for another week. She waited patiently while the room’s occupants filed out. Her back hurt from the forced inactivity, but after numerous cramped nights in the Emperor’s bedchamber, sitting on the throne was easy.
As the next lowest in rank, Siri was the next one to leave the audience hall. She waited as several white-clothed servants pushed over a ramp, then several handmaidens rushed up to steady her as she strolled down the ramp and out of the room. As always, she wore one of her long-trained dresses. This one was a lighter lavender than others she had worn, and it was soft and relatively easy to move in, despite the ten-foot train of silk.
She tried not to rush as she walked the quiet hallways toward her chambers. Her bed would be so nice. . . .
Siri frowned. Slels was standing in front of her chambers, looking through several of his ledgers with his typical businesslike demeanor. He looked up as she approached.
“Ah, Vessel,” he said. “I wouldn’t enter your chambers unless you want to spend an hour getting re-purified. Archpriest Hasm has requested an audience.”
“With me?” Siri said, trying to keep the surprise out of her voice. “But I don’t have an audience room.”
“He is giving you an audience, Vessel, not the other way around,” Slels explained. “He out-ranks you.”
“Of course,” Siri said, flushing behind her veil. She had been in the palace now for nearly two months, but despite all of her studies, she still couldn’t have a simple conversation without making a mistake. No wonder they started training Vvenna when she was twelve.
“Lead me to his chambers then, priest,” Siri commanded.
“Of course,” Slels said he turned and walked down a hallway, moving slowly enough that Siri could maintain her regal pace.
Hess, Siri thought with fatigue. This had better not take long. What did Hasm want with her? She felt a sudden stab of fear—during her months in the palace, the Archpriest had all but ignored her. The situation served her well; she was certain they would quickly see through her disguise.
What if Hasm already had? Had she made a mistake? Of course she had—she’d made dozens, even hundreds, of them. Anyone who was paying attention would be able to tell that Siri was a poor excuse for a Vessel. Her hopes that Vvenna would be found and substituted for her were diminishing every day, and her fear for her friend rising. The Eruntu who had taken her had promised that he wouldn’t hurt her, but this was supposedly the same man who had killed Vevinn and King Dunn.
It appeared that they were both in trouble. Siri’s own fear rose as she walked. Hasm was a crafty, discerning man—she had always been a little afraid of him. He had seen through her, that was certain.
Is this it, then? she wondered as Slels led her into the Archpriest’s wing of the palace. The shorter priest paused beside a door, speaking quietly with a white-clothed attendant.
“You may enter,” Slels said, nodding toward the room.
Siri took a breath and walked into the chamber, her two dozen handmaidens following. The room was rich, like the rest of the palace, but it looked more comfortable—more lived-in—than Siri’s own quarters. The purple Amberite gave the room a dark cast—Siri still hadn’t gotten used to seeing everything violet instead of red.
Hasm stood tall, his ceremonial minn making him look even larger. He regarded her, his thin face unreadable. What would he do to her?
“Leave us,” Hasm said.
Siri’s attendants bowed and backed from the room. Siri watched them go with alarm, and she felt a sudden stab of panic. She was alone.
Hasm settled back in his Amberite chair, almost a throne, and regarded her. “I have need of information, Vessel,” he said.
Siri paused. Was he playing with her? “Information?” she asked, keeping her voice even.
“Yes,” Hasm said. He leaned forward. “You know that we of the priesthood have the responsibility of maintaining order in Kkorimar. Hess’s order is a very important thing. Without it our society would collapse into chaos and invite the minions of the Demon God to weaken the souls of men.”
Siri frowned behind her veil. What was he getting at?
Hasm leaned back, playing idly with an Amberite ring on his finger. “We must keep most careful watch on the Kkoloss, Vessel, for they have the most potential to do damage to our society. When a Kkoloss falls, it is a dangerous thing. Oh yes, dangerous indeed.”
Siri closed her eyes. Here it comes.
“That is why, Vessel,” Hasm continued, “I need you to tell me everything you remember about the night before your wedding.”
Siri paused, opening her eyes. “The night before my wedding?” she asked.
“Yes,” Hasm continued, turning his ring around his finger. The motion was so inconsequential, but on his spindly hands, with his intense eyes, it looked deliberate and somehow dangerous. “The night King Dunn was killed, Vessel. What do you remember?”
“It . . . passed so quickly,” Siri said. “I’m not certain I remember anything specific, your grace.”
“Surely you remember something, Vessel,” Hasm prodded. “A King died that night. They say Eruntu did it. If that is not the case, then you realize it is your holy duty to tell me. The Ki-Ssu for keeping quiet could be quite burdensome, even for the Vessel. Burdensome, even dangerous.”
Not the Eruntu? Siri thought with confusion. What is he implying? “If not Eruntu, then who, your grace?”
Hasm shrugged. “In order to maintain structure in the Septs, it is important that members of a House not seek to increase their Kkell power by eliminating relatives. Such an atrocity would need to be reported immediately.”
Siri grew cold, but at the same time her stomach fluttered with relief. He wasn’t after her—he wanted Sarn.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” Siri said. “But I did see Eruntu warriors in the palace that night. Whether or not they killed the King, I do not know. I wasn’t present when he died.”
“Of course not,” Hasm said slowly. “Then, perhaps, is there anything else you wish to tell me? Something about the House or its leaders? It is important that the Vessel not be burdened with guilt or secrets, otherwise she might pass Ki-Ssu onto her child. Can you recall anything that I should know about? Fear not betraying House Sserin. You are no longer of that House.”
Siri frowned with dissatisfaction, looking at Hasm’s crafty face. He wanted dirt—something he could use against Sarn. Why? Suddenly, an image returned to her—that of Sarn and Hasm inspecting bodies together at the scene of the Sserin massacre. She remembered her suspicions, and her worries. In the flurry of her marriage, she had forgotten about them. She felt a stab of guilt at leaving Vevinn behind so easily.
She regarded Hasm. Archpriests were supposed to be above politics—she had always believed that was the case. Now he was looking for leverage against House Sserin. Had Hasm broken from tradition and entered the realm of politics? But if he were allied with Sserin in some way, why was he looking for ways to incriminate Sarn?
You don’t trust him, do you, Hasm, Siri realized with a smile. You want something against him—something you can use to keep him in line.
“Well, Vessel?” Hasm asked.
“I am sorry, your grace. I pondered it for a long moment, but I still can think of nothing that I can tell you. I am just the Vessel—I spent my time in studies, not in politics.”
“I see,” Hasm said with a slight frown. “Very well. If you think of something, please be certain to tell me.”
“Of course, your grace.” Siri suppressed the urge to let out a massive sigh of relief as she backed from the room. Not only hadn’t she been found out, but now she could return to her quarters and sleep.
“Finished already?” Slels said. Siri frowned to herself—why was he still waiting outside?
“I am ready to return to my quarters, priest,” she said slowly.
“I am afraid not,” Slels. “While you were in the conference, you received summons from the other seven Archpriests. Come with me.”
Siri let out a small groan. “All seven?” she asked.
“They move quickly, Vessel. Come now. The sooner you finish, the sooner we can both get back to more pleasant duties.”
Siri followed him, her handmaidens falling into step. Archpriest Llenit’s quarters were only a short distance away. He was a spindly man who didn’t have Hasm’s discerning eyes, but made up for it in sheer arrogant posture. Once again, Siri was ushered in. Once again, her servants were dismissed.
“I understand you just had a meeting with Archpriest Hasm,” Llenit said with a snappish voice.
“I did, your grace,” Siri said with a small frown of confusion.
“Tell me, Vessel, what did you discuss?”
“Nothing of note, your grace,” she said.
“Repeat the conversation to me,” he ordered. “Every word.”
Siri ground her teeth. Llenit was exactly the type of person she had loved ignoring back in her free days. Unfortunately, she was the Vessel now. “I shall do my best, your grace,” she said, then gave him a rudimentary chronicle of the meeting.
Llenit frowned. “And you told him nothing else?” he asked.
“Nothing, your grace.”
“What is his interest in House Sserin?” he asked.
“I am not certain, your grace,” Siri replied.
“Well,” Llenit continued, “surely you have thought of something to say about House Sserin during your time since the interview with Archpriest Hasm. Tell it to me.”
“I spoke truly to Archpriest Hasm, your grace,” Siri said with a frown. “I know of nothing to confess.”
“Lying to an Archpriest brings very serious repercussions, Vessel,” Llenit informed.
“I realize that, your grace,” Siri said. At first she had been angered by him, but now he was just growing tedious.
“Fine,” he said. “When you finally think of something, tell me, not Hasm. He is far too busy to deal with such things.”
“Yes, your grace,” Siri said, and backed from the room. Her annoyance was so strong that she almost forgot how incredibly fatigued she was.
“Finished?” Slels asked, looking up from a ledger. “Good. Let us keep moving, Vessel.”
And so they did. The other Archpriests asked questions similar to Llenit’s, though most were more subtle. They wanted to know what Hasm had asked her, they wanted to know what the other Archpriest had asked, and what she thought of their peers. They asked about House Sserin, but mostly they wondered what the other Archpriests were involved in.
Siri endured it, growing more and more sleepy. However, one fact piqued her curiosity enough to keep her awake: the Archpriests were not what she had assumed they were. They were not above politics; far from it. The eight men were involved in a competition whose voracity made the regular Houses look benign.
The priesthood was not impartial. Hasm was working with House Sserin, but at the same time he was looking for a way to blackmail the House. Llenit obviously hated Hasm, and several of the others hated Llenit with equal passion. They all spoke of House politics with a familiarity, their knowledge indicative of involvement. In the end, they came across as crafty, conniving, and argumentative men. Not what she had expected from the priesthood.
The most surprising thing was the way they wanted to use her. They saw her as a political tool as much as the Vessel. They didn’t expect her to be above politics—they expected her to be part of their own schemes, if unwittingly.
The realization stunned her. Siri had always looked at the priesthood as the one stable force in Kkorimar society. They were the ultimate bastion of order and impartiality. She should have realized that such was not the case—politics was too much a part of the capital for the Archpriests to be completely untouched. Still, she was shocked by their obvious understanding and involvement. Several spoke accurately of her—or Vvenna’s—experiences in House Sserin, and they offered her subtle bribes in exchange for her support.
None of them, however, tried to get her to influence the Emperor. This one thing left her a hope. Perhaps there was someone above the manipulations. The Archpriests were, after all, just men. They were capable of greed, lust, and hate, just like other men. The Emperor, however, was more than a man—he was passionless. The fact that none of them tried to use her against the Emperor said that there was one thing that was still sacred.
However, as soon as the thought occurred to her, Siri chastised herself. The opinion almost lauded the Emperor—she had to remember what a monster he was. He represented everything she hated about Kkoloss society. He was the creature who played with her emotions, dominating her with his vile presence.
She told herself these things several times. They lacked the vitriol they once had. She had spent too much time around him—after two months, he still hadn’t made a move during their nightly sessions. He hadn’t punished her for sitting up, even though she did it every night now. He hadn’t taken advantage of her. She was beginning to wonder if, being set free from passions, he simply didn’t care about such things.
He was still creepy, of course. He reminded her of an insect, squatting in the darkness as he did every night. She didn’t like him. However, it was hard to keep hating someone who never reinforced that hatred.
Finally, after five more interviews, Siri approached the final Archpriest’s quarters. Several of the audiences had taken longer than Hasm’s, and several others had forced her to wait before meeting them. She had already wasted nearly three hours visiting priests, and she was growing light-headed with fatigue. And more, and she wouldn’t be able to stay on her feet, let alone maintain Posture.
“Archpriest Eseras,” Slels explained. “You may go in, Vessel.”
Siri nodded gratefully—at least she wasn’t required to wait. Eseras was an overweight man, but his large height and sheer bulk made him look robust, rather than fat. He sat at a desk, rather than on a throne, and he was looking through a stack of papers before him. He looked up as Siri entered, then dismissed her attendants, just like the others had.
Siri prepared to explain her encounter with Hasm once again. However, the question she had been expecting did not come.
“Ah, Vessel,” Eseras said. “Thank you for seeing me. You may sit, if you wish.” He waved toward a chair before his desk.
Siri paused, thinking through her lists of rules. She was allowed to sit in his presence, as long as she was invited. However, the dress was far too bulky for such a thing.
“Thank you, your grace, but I shall stand,” she said.
“As you wish, Vessel,” Esrase said, looking down at his desk. She frowned, trying to understand this man. He didn’t seem as arrogant as some of the others, but he still had the same feel—the demanding air that warned that he was not a man to be crossed.
Eseras shuffled through his papers, removing one. He placed a pair of spectacles on his face and regarded it with discerning eyes. “I see that you have had an opportunity to visit my colleagues today,” he said.
“I did, your grace,” she said. “Archpriest Hasm had some questions for me.”
“I wondered how long it would take them to pull you into their nets,” Eseras mumbled, setting aside his sheet and removing another one. Eventually, he looked up at Siri. “I don’t know who you are,” he said with a soft, frank voice, “but when I find out I will see you executed and House Sserin cast down for its blasphemy.”
Siri froze, her stomach twisting. “Your grace?” she asked with a barely controlled voice.
“I’ve been watching you, girl,” Eseras said, scanning his document with quiet eyes. “You are not Princess Vvenna. I saw the Vessel on numerous occasions, and you do not act like her. You obviously haven’t had the training. I thought your missteps on the first day were simply nerves, but I have since revised that opinion.”
Siri felt chilled. She had been caught off-guard—she had been expecting him to ask questions like the others. The man’s announcement was so stunning that she was more shocked than scared.
Eseras held up a paper. “I wonder,” he said, “why a group of assassins would enter the Sserin palace and kill the King without harming any of his guards. Yet somehow they managed to slaughter every one of Princess Vvenna’s handmaidens, as well as a dozen guards that were protecting her room.”
“What?” Siri asked, slipping again and letting the surprise into her voice.
Eseras looked up. “I see,” he said. “They killed them after you left, of course, to keep their blasphemy quiet. What happened, girl? Did Vvenna take sick?”
Siri kept quiet. To speak was to sign her own death proclamation, of that she was certain. There was no mercy in this man’s eyes. In a way, he was refreshing—he didn’t seem to care about politics or manipulations. He was doing what priests were supposed to do. Unfortunately, she was the object of his quest.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, your grace,” Siri whispered.
“I will find out eventually, girl,” Eseras informed. “You cannot deceive the priesthood. If you confess now, then your death will be swift and your Ki-Ssu minimal.”
“I . . . ” Siri said, the fear finally catching up to her. This man wanted to kill her. “I am the Vessel,” she said.
“Very well,” Eseras said, removing his spectacles. “You may go. We will speak again, ‘Vessel.’”
Siri barely kept herself upright as she walked from the room. Slels was gone—he didn’t have any more appointments for her. Siri walked through the lavender halls, dazed. She had been found out after all.
But he doesn’t have any proof, she told herself. He called me in today to try and get me to slip. He can’t do anything to me.
He was a clever one, that was certain. He had called her in only after the others had all asked to see her—none of them would suspect that his conversation with her had contained anything meaningful. He would be seen as simply taking part in the political scheming.
He won’t catch me, Siri thought as she finally entered her quarters. Prince Sarn is too clever. However, that thought brought another with it. Sarn had slaughtered Vvenna’s handmaidens. Siri had seen the paper as Eseras held it before her—it had contained the names of women Siri was familiar with. The lines at the top had declared them casualties of the Eruntu attack on the King.
Sarn killed Kkoloss women, Siri realized. How could he have done such a thing? It was unspeakably blasphemous. And yet, all of a sudden it seemed horribly possible to her. Sarn would have done such a thing to secure his position in court.
Shame stabbed her as the handmaidens took off her dress. She was inadvertently the reason for those women’s deaths. They had been killed to keep Siri’s secret. She wasn’t worth it. Besides, she was going to fail anyway.
Tired, worried, and feeling sick, Siri allowed herself to be led to her bedchambers, where she collapsed. The worst part was, she couldn’t even cry. That would break Posture.
Mila Ves* Ddoven was a very satisfied man. The Emperor’s wedding had gone well, despite the problems with Houses Sserin and Kkeris. Men, even Kkoloss, tended to be more lax during times of celebration. Lax men were easier to manipulate, and men who were easy to manipulate made horrible business deals.
Mila smiled. Of course, Island Kkoloss tended to be poor businessmen anyway. The greater Septs spent all of their time in balls, courts, and Games. They excelled at politics, but when it came to money, they were fools. That was exactly the reason men such as Mila were willing to stomach trips to the Holy Isle.
Mila’s carriage bounced along its path. He was happy to be going back to the mainland. As profitable as these trips were, they were also difficult to bear. Mila was twelfth Sept. His low rank meant relatively little on the mainland—he didn’t even pay attention to it most of the time. All of the Kkoloss on the mainland were of low rank, and though they did keep track of Septs and lineage, it was mostly just a show they performed for the Island Kkoloss. On the mainland, wit and capability were far more important than Sept.
Mila remembered the last month with distaste—he remembered the bowing, the snide looks, and the embarrassments. To Island Kkoloss, Mila was barely worth speaking to. Twelfth Sept was barely even Kkoloss in their minds—Mila’s Kkell power was so weak it was almost unnoticeable.
It was worth it, he reminded himself. The Island Kkoloss had made deals with him quickly, so as to be rid of his presence as soon as possible. Mila’s pack animals were laden with merchandise he could sell back on the mainland, and that was only the side benefit of the trip. Mila had secured documents promising him low-tariff passage through several important holdings. The mainland Kkoloss would have to recognize the documents, though it would infuriate them. They hated it when Island Kkoloss fiddled with the workings of the real world.
“My Lord,” a voice said from a short distance away. Mila looked up. Captain Henn was riding just outside his window. The Eruntu was an older man, his face marred by a large scar that ran across his brow.
“Yes, Henn?” Mila asked.
“I don’t like this, my lord,” he said, eyeing the woods. “Something feels wrong. There are bandits in these woods.”
“So there are,” Mila agreed. “Don’t worry, captain. If they attack, I’ll just pay them off.”
Henn nodded, but he didn’t look satisfied. “My Lord, I—” Henn broke off suddenly, his eyes darting forward toward something Mila couldn’t see.
“Beware, foul Kkoloss and whipped Eruntu dogs!” an enthusiastic voice screamed from in front of the carriage. “Our day for vengeance has arrived. Surrender yourselves to our care, or face the wrath of the Glorious Eruntu Rebellion! Fear, retribution, chaos!”
“The Eruntu Rebellion?” Mila said, suddenly feeling cold. They were the ones who had . . . “Oh, Hess! Captain, get me out of here!”
“Well,” Hine noted as the caravan began to gallop away, “at least he’s good for something.”
Devin nodded from their hiding place amongst the underbrush. Skeer stood on a branch above the road, still yelling, though his voice was drowned out by the horses. Devin’s rebels crouched in the trees to either side of the road, waiting tensely to see if they would have to fight. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that.
Devin took a deep breath, pulling out his bow and nocking an arrow. He focused on the carriage—true to tradition, the pack animals were tied directly to the back of the vehicle. Devin took sight through the marching guards and rushing horses. His mind automatically took into account the wind, the movement of the carriage, and the bow’s own shortcomings. Still holding his breath, Devin loosed the arrow.
It flew in a slight arc, zipping toward the fleeing carriage. It snapped into the side of the vehicle, barely a fingerwidth’s distance from the pack animal’s rope. Devin blinked in surprise.
“You missed!” Voko exclaimed from beside him. “You actually missed. I can’t believe it—I’m going to have to remember this day. Maybe you aren’t perfect after all.”
Devin cursed, hurriedly pulling out another arrow. The carriage would turn around the bend soon, and they would lose their opportunity. This time he didn’t have the opportunity to take a breath and study the wind. He just nocked the arrow and let lose a wild shot in the direction of the carriage.
The arrow flew true, slicing the knot directly in its center, cutting the pack animals free. Devin let out a relieved breath as men threw ropes from the side, snaring the horses and pulling them to a halt. The rest of the rebels waited tensely. This was the moment—either the Kkoloss would keep going, or he would order his men back for the goods.
The carriage didn’t even pause. It kept going, its Guards jogging along beside it, moving as fast as possible until it disappeared around the turn.
“Hess,” Voko said, shaking his head. “They really are frightened of us, aren’t they?”
“Well, they do think we assassinated the two most powerful Kkoloss kings,” Devin noted as he stood.
“True,” Voko admitted.
In front of them, the men were whooping ecstatically about their victory. It hadn’t been much of a battle, but that was the preferable outcome. The capture included five pack animals laden with sacks. Even as Devin watched, Skeer dropped to the ground and took charge of looking through their bounty. Devin stepped forward, noting as Skeer pulled out a beautiful Amberite figurine. Skeer’s eyes opened wide.
“That will keep us fed for a while,” Hine noted with a grunt.
“Put it back and let’s get moving,” Devin ordered. “That Lord could change his mind at any time and come back for us.”
The men nodded at the order, leading the pack animals into the woods. Devin watched them go with a slight frown on his face. “I feel like a common thief,” he mumbled.
“Ah, yes,” Voko said, a look of slight nostalgia on his face. “Wonderful, isn’t it?”
“It’s our money, Devin,” Skeer said insistently. “Kkoloss wealth is the result of Eruntu work. Besides, Hine’s right—we have to eat, don’t we?”
“I suppose,” Devin agreed, following the others into the forest. It had been well over a month since he took control of the camp, and though their numbers had swelled, their resources had dwindled. Skeer was right; they did need to eat. It was just that Devin felt he needed to be doing more than just stealing Amberite from the odd passing Kkoloss.
The trek back to the camp was a long one. Devin had finally found a final location for their camp, one near some natural caves, though they probably wouldn’t have much time to get used to it. Voko suggested they move every few months, just in case, and that seemed logical to Devin. By rebelling, they were committing one of the most vile sins against Hess’s will. If they were ever captured, they would not be treated well.
The men didn’t seem to worry about that. They were growing together as a team—there were now over forty of them, though Devin had only brought half on the raid. Voko’s careful recruiting in town had located willing dissidents who still had some moral character, and their addition to the rebellion was a welcome one.
Once they arrived in camp, those who had gone on the raid were quick to outline their adventure to those who had stayed behind. Hearing it from them, the short encounter sounded a lot more tense then Devin remembered it being. The camp had changed little over the last few weeks, besides adding a few new members. Vvenna sat on her rock, as was her custom now, watching them with her dispassionate eyes, and Ix was tending his cookfire.
“Still can’t believe you missed,” Voko said with a chuckle as he helped Ralan unload the animals, peeking in sacks and opening saddlebags. Most of the items he found were less dramatic than the first, silks and crafts from the capital’s markets, but all were valuable. Devin had hoped for supplies; he had found treasure instead.
“The carriage bounced,” Devin huffed in response to Voko’s dig. “Even I can’t see the future, Voko.” He did smile, however. In all of their planning, discussing, and worrying about the raid, Devin missing was the one possibility they hadn’t considered. Fortunately his second shot had hit, though that had obviously been due to luck more than anything else. Devin hadn’t had time to think about what he was doing, let alone aim.
Eventually they finished unloading the group of animals. “Do you have any idea what this is all worth?” Devin asked, nodding toward the bags.
Voko shrugged. “I’ll have to look over every piece and appraise them.”
“I suggest you do it inside one of the tents,” Hine noted from beside them.
Devin frowned, noting Hine’s contemplative look. He followed the older warrior’s eyes, looking over the camp. While some of the rebels were helping themselves to Ix’s stew, not a few were staring at the pile of loot. There was desire in their eyes.
Only a month ago, these men were thieves, Devin reminded himself.
“I think you’ve got a good idea there, Hine,” Voko agreed, nodding toward Ralan. The large man began picking up sacks and followed Voko toward a tent.
“Sell it all off as soon as possible and buy supplies,” Hine suggested. “There will be less temptation that way.”
Devin nodded in agreement. He was about to follow Voko and Ralan when he noted a group of forms approaching through the trees. The leader waved his hand as he approached—it was *. Devin perked up slightly. Hopefully, * would have a message for him.
* led a group of about five men, several of whom Devin didn’t recognize. They were probably new recruits—* had been sent to check with Voko’s associates in town and pick up anyone who wanted to join the rebellion. * walked quickly as he approached.
“Well?” Devin asked anxiously.
“It came,” * said, handing Devin a folded piece of paper. It bore the seal of House Sserin.
“Finally!” Devin said, accepting the paper. He unfolded it, quietly thanking his powers for the ability to read. There was only one thing written on the sheet—a date. Prince—no, King—Sarn was willing to meet with them.
“Hine, gather the others,” Devin said. “This takes priority over counting loot.”