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datatime: 2022-09-26 21:18:22 Author:htCvciki

What is this I hear on deck? The sailors are saying that Earl Aspitis is to be married on Spenit-married to you Is that true?

The Niskie turned to her, solemn-faced. He did not leave it here. He only wears this with his best clothes, and I saw how he was dressed when he came on deck in the night. In any case, he was wearing his other dagger on his belt.

The Niskie shook her head. By the Uncharted, then it is true Oh, girl, this is not what you want, is it?

Miriamele covered her eyes with her hands, trying to keep out the light. Has the wind come up?

She felt the hands that shook her, and heard the quiet voice, but her mind did not want to return to the waking world.

She felt the hands that shook her, and heard the quiet voice, but her mind did not want to return to the waking world.

Miriamele covered her eyes with her hands, trying to keep out the light. Has the wind come up?

A quick examination of Aspitis' room turned up nothing useful. The earl's sword lay across his bed like some heathen wedding token, a slim, beautifully wrought blade with a hilt in the shape of a spread-winged seahawk. It was the earl's favorite possession-except perhaps for her, Miriamele thought grimly-but it was not what she sought. She began to investigate a little more thoroughly, checking the folds of all his clothing, rummaging through the caskets in which he kept his jewelry and gaming-dice. Although she knew that time was growing ever shorter, she forced herself to refold each garment and lay it back where it had been. It would do her cause no good to alert Aspitis.

Give it to me, said Miriamele.

In the dark, Miriamele made a small noise. Slowly, as if approaching a dangerous animal, she considered this last idea for a moment-it was stunning in its power, even as an unvoiced thought. She had promised herself that she could outlast anything, that she could float with any tide and lie happily beneath the sun on whatever beach received her-but was it true? Could she even marry Aspitis, who had made her his whore, who had aided in murdering her uncle and was a willing catspaw of Pryrates? How could a girl-no, a woman now, she reflected ruefully-how could a woman with the blood of Prester John in her veins allow such a thing to happen to her?

I don't care, she said, but the look on Gan Itai's face touched her: the sea-watcher could think of no other way to help. She reached out her hand for the mirror. The hilt of Aspitis' dagger, which had been covered in the folds of blanket, caught in her sleeve and clattered onto the floor. Both Miriamele and the old Niskie stared at it for a moment. Suddenly, chillingly, Miriamele saw her one door of escape closing. She leaped from the bed to grab it, but Gan Itai had bent first. The Niskie held it up to the light, a look of surprise in her gold-flecked eyes.

The chest was, as she had seen, full of bags of money. The coins were mostly silver, but each sack contained more than a few gold Imperators as well. It was a small fortune, but Miriamele knew that Aspitis and his family were the possessors of a very large fortune beside which this was a mere handful. She carefully lifted out a few of the sacks, trying to keep them from jingling, noting with some interest that her hands, which should have been shaking, were as steady as stone. Hidden beneath the top row of sacks was a leather-bound ledger. It contained lists in Aspitis1 surprisingly fastidious handwriting of places the Eadne Cloud had stopped-Vinitta and Grenamman, as well as other names that Miriamele decided must have been ports visited on other voyages; beside each entry was a line of cryptic markings. Miriamele could make no sense of it, and after a moment's impatient study she put it aside. Beneath the ledger, rolled into a bundle, was a hooded robe of coarse white cloth-but this was not what she was looking for either. The trunk contained no further secrets, so she repacked it as well as she could, then pushed it back beneath the bed.

As she stood, she saw it at last. It had been hanging on a hook behind the door all along. She took it down and slipped it into her belt beneath her cloak, then stepped into the doorway. When she was certain that no one was coming, she hooded her lamp and made her way back to her own cabin.

Gan Itai's voice was puzzled. No, we are still becalmed. Why do you ask such a strange question?

He left it here, she lied. Give it to me.

The chest was, as she had seen, full of bags of money. The coins were mostly silver, but each sack contained more than a few gold Imperators as well. It was a small fortune, but Miriamele knew that Aspitis and his family were the possessors of a very large fortune beside which this was a mere handful. She carefully lifted out a few of the sacks, trying to keep them from jingling, noting with some interest that her hands, which should have been shaking, were as steady as stone. Hidden beneath the top row of sacks was a leather-bound ledger. It contained lists in Aspitis1 surprisingly fastidious handwriting of places the Eadne Cloud had stopped-Vinitta and Grenamman, as well as other names that Miriamele decided must have been ports visited on other voyages; beside each entry was a line of cryptic markings. Miriamele could make no sense of it, and after a moment's impatient study she put it aside. Beneath the ledger, rolled into a bundle, was a hooded robe of coarse white cloth-but this was not what she was looking for either. The trunk contained no further secrets, so she repacked it as well as she could, then pushed it back beneath the bed.

A quick examination of Aspitis' room turned up nothing useful. The earl's sword lay across his bed like some heathen wedding token, a slim, beautifully wrought blade with a hilt in the shape of a spread-winged seahawk. It was the earl's favorite possession-except perhaps for her, Miriamele thought grimly-but it was not what she sought. She began to investigate a little more thoroughly, checking the folds of all his clothing, rummaging through the caskets in which he kept his jewelry and gaming-dice. Although she knew that time was growing ever shorter, she forced herself to refold each garment and lay it back where it had been. It would do her cause no good to alert Aspitis.

But if the life that stretched before her was so unbearable that death seemed preferable, then she need be afraid no longer. She could do anything.

But if the life that stretched before her was so unbearable that death seemed preferable, then she need be afraid no longer. She could do anything.

Because if we can't get there, he can't marry me, Miriamele whispered.

Miriamele climbed the ladder as quietly as she could, lifting her head above the hatchway just far enough to make sure that Aspitis was still talking to the helmsman. They seemed to be having a very animated discussion, waving their lamps so that the flaming wicks left streaks across the black sky. Miriamele dropped down to the passageway as quickly as she could. A kind of cold cleverness had come over her along with her new resolution, and she moved quietly and surely along the corridor to Aspitis' doorway. When she had slipped through the door and closed it behind her, she took the hood off her lamp.

Gan Itai made a little humming noise of dismay. She helped Miriamele to get her feet out of bed and onto the floor, then brought over the small mirror that Aspitis had given to Miriamele when he had still been pretending kindness.

The Niskie turned to her, solemn-faced. He did not leave it here. He only wears this with his best clothes, and I saw how he was dressed when he came on deck in the night. In any case, he was wearing his other dagger on his belt.

Miriamele covered her eyes with her hands, trying to keep out the light. Has the wind come up?

At last, groaning, Miriamele rolled over and opened her eyes. Gan Itai peered down at her, a look of concern furrowing her already wrinkled brow. Morning light from the hatch in the passageway outside spilled in through the open door. The achingly painful memories of the day before, absent for the first few moments, rolled back over her.

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