After guiding Forest behind other horses, I slip out; not unnoticed, but no one stops me. The roiling intimidation within the arch continues in the immediate vicinity, with less impact. Men run the gauntlet of a lash or two, while women and children scatter wide to escape harm.
I climb off Forest, for I am no longer parading as a master. The slaves may drag me off if they think I am not with them. I need not have worried; everyone is too engaged in flight. Fortunately they flee south. I head towards the plateau’s edge. Here the cliffs meander inland before sweeping wide again. This is why Porlese too sits on an edge although further east than Normur.
I find the Grenmassin knot in the shadows of the wall, waiting. Siri throws her arms around me. I am as happy to know she is fine.
“Now we head towards a fort further south,” I say to men and women I have known since childhood. There are four children younger than Horin; they are the only ones I do not know.
Artur steps forward. Ever has he been vocal back home. The man is huge, clever, and people trust him. “We need return to Grenmassin.”
I understand his position, but it cannot happen. “There is nothing to return to. Lyra and I saw what was left, and it is only death.”
Silence greets my words, and then Horin whispers, “Where is my mother?”
Swallowing, I meet his eyes. “Your mother is dead, Horin. I am sorry.”
The boy merely nods after a moment. He points up. “It comes. We can’t return home anyway.”
Someone snorts derision.
“It comes,” I state in a cold tone. “It is time to believe this reality or die.”
The sun lifts then into dawn’s light as if to underscore my statement.