Lirrya sighed, and sat down.
“I’ll stay. It’s my responsibility,” she said.
“Don’t be daft,” said Jerleth. “You know what happens to women the Islanders take.”
“I’m a shifter, Jerleth. They can’t rape me, I’ll grow a set of teeth down there and emasculate anyone who tries.”
“Lirr, I’ve seen some of the things they do to slaves who won’t cooperate. Please. I’ll go.”
“I’m not the innocent you seem to think, Jer. And they’ll try to wring concessions from my father by using me as a hostage before they do anything to me. I’ll be in less danger than you will, at least for a while. They’ll just clap a mage-collar on you and sell you.”
Jerleth frowned, and said, “I’m not leaving you here, Lirr.”
Lirrya sighed, and said, “Either way, Tarnia, you should head off while you can.”
Tarnia nodded, and her mouth quirked in a half smile. She said, “I’ll tell the clans you both chose to stay, to protect the Union’s interests.”
It took less than a minute for Tarnia to fade into insubstantiality once she started concentrating. Her body faded from the feet up and the hands in, leaving her face as the last part of her to be visible. Then that faded too, and there was barely a shimmer of mist or smoke in the air where she had been. She wafted up to the top of the tent, and floated out through the chimney-hole at the apex. Jerleth poured himself another cup of wine from the pitcher on the table, and sipped it slowly.
“I never get used to that Dreamwalker stuff,” he said.
Lirrya chuckled softly. “Didn’t you study on Tiana?”
“Only for a year. I spent more time with the North Islands shamans, learning the names of the different types of storms. I can Dreamspeak, but I don’t have the Sight or the inclination for symbol magic.”
“You never told me about that. What was it like, living with the shamans?”
“Cold, mostly. Interesting, though. They have shifters, too, did you know that? And their storm shamans can bond with inanimate objects, like a ship or a weapon, and make it part of themselves. They can do crazy things with them. I saw one set his spear blade on fire to kill an icebear.”
“I always wanted to be a Dreamspeaker like my mother, but it’s just not me. Maybe I should go and learn to bond with a sword instead. Sounds like a useful trick.”
“Not just swords. They had ships, too – like the islanders. Only theirs are made of bones.”
Lirr lay back and stared at the tent ceiling, her good humour gone. “You have to wonder if that’s where we’ll all end up, slaves to the islanders and their ships. It doesn’t seem to matter how many we kill, they just send more and more. And now sorcerers, too.”
“Tarnia said we could stop it, Lirr.”
“No. She said if one of us didn’t go, the Union would fall. She didn’t say it would stand if we do go with him. And she didn’t say we’d survive, either.”
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