“Have you more, Lord Alexy?” asked the Warrior King. His voice was steady, betraying nothing.
“I do,” If the moment was dangerous, Ondred chose to ignore it. “I practice the Old Way now, and your father’s soul is at stake.”
William III looked as though he might jump from his throne, but instead he touched his crown, then sank back in his chair.
He said nothing, only continued to stare at Lord Ondred.
“I didn’t ask for this knowledge.” The older man tried to straighten to full height and failed. “It was given to me. The King fights against the fire that would burn him clean, and soon he himself will burn out. Then comes the void from which no man can escape. I say go to the Shautu and offer a treaty in exchange for the lifting of the anathema. Your father can tarry no longer in the Deep.” Ondred leaned heavily on the table. “If you approach the Shautu in peace, you need fear no danger.”
“What if the Shautu refuses peace?”
“The war continues as before; you have lost nothing.”
“Only my pride.” A short answer but not bitter. “Leave me now, all of you!” The room was filled with the scrape and bump of chairs. To Ondred, he said, “I will consider this.”
The Warrior King requested a meeting and less than a fortnight later, a missive was delivered to him in the beak of a three-spotted bird. He was given directions to a certain location on High North. He took with him a small retinue of horsemen and archers. Leaving his men at the base of Ron Jonna, he rode alone to the designated bluff. A stick with a rag tied around it was thrust in the ground to indicate he was at the right destination. The clearing was deserted. There was no one in sight, and the wind made it impossible to hear approaching sounds. The Warrior King kicked idly at the marker, then stopped, recognizing the scrap of material as a weathered glove. Uneasily, he remembered the story of Creath. Was this the Seer’s idea of a joke? Was he lost as well?
William walked to the edge of the overhanging rock and surveyed the horizon. The sky was bare but for dull patches of clouds; when the rains came, they would be penetrating. The men below craned their heads curiously, but William ignored them. The clouds broke apart, revealing a pale sun, and still no one appeared. William felt his anger build. He thought of Ondred and was suddenly glad he’d denied the old man permission to join them. At the moment, his mood was black, and he had no use for pious prattle.
The Warrior King strode to the marker and kicked again, breaking the wood apart. Under his heel, the gloves came apart in the dust.
“You are not unlike him,” said a voice.