do. I thought we were both lost.”
They stared at each other. Mark broke the short
silence. “I dreamed that Aphrodite was here with us.
Kristin for some reason thought it necessary to
consider this statement very solemnly. It struck Mark
that they were gazing at each other like two children,
just beginning to discover things about the world, and
both gravely shocked at what they learned. He had
thought he knew something of the world before now,
but evidently there was still much he did not know.
Then what Kristin was saying seized his full
attention. “I dreamed, too, that she was here. And
that she was about to kill both of us, with one of the
Mark stared at her. Then he jumped up out of the
nest again, naked in the morning’s chill, and went
scrambling about to find Sightblinder. The Sword lay
nearby, in plain view. In a moment he had it in his
And froze, staring at the hilt. The little white symbol
was not an eye. It was an open human hand.
Kristin was beside him, leaning on his shoulder-in a
certain way it was as trusting and intimate a contact
as any that had gone before. She whispered: “That’s
Woundhealer, isn’t it?”
“She’s left it with us.”
“And taken Sightblinder in exchange.” They stared
at each other in wonder, in something like panic. He
began a frantic search of the nearby area, but the
Sword of Stealth was gone. It was an alarming
thought that Woundhealer was going to be useless if
Vilkata’s troops encountered them.
Kristin was already pulling Mark’s deteriorated shirt
on over her head. The garment was dirtier than she
was, and beginning to show holes. “We’ve got to get
moving. All thanks to Aphrodite, but she’s taken our
protection with her.”
All the dressing and packing they could do took only
moments. And moments after that they had got the
animals ready and were on their way.
Kristin indicated a course. “Tasavalta lies in this
direction. We’ll keep our eyes open as we go, and find
some fruit. I’ve been able to gather enough food here
and there to keep us going so far.”
The country around them and its vegetation were
changing as they progressed. The season was
advancing too, more wild fruits coming into ripeness.
Kristin appeared expert on the subject of what parts
of what plants could be eaten; she had more lore in
that subject than Mark did, particularly here close to
her homeland. He commented on the fact, while
marveling silently to himself that it had taken him so
long to realize how beautiful she was.
“I have been trained in the white magic. Sorcery
and enchantment were to have been my life.”
“Were to have been?”
“I have made a different disposition of my life now.”
And suddenly she rode close beside him, very
close, and leaned sideways in her saddle to kiss him
He said, “You were a virgin, before last night-
yes, you were to have been consecrated to the white
magic, weren’t you? Or to Ardneh.”
Her expression told him that was so.
“I begin to understand. You have given me what
was to have gone to Ardneh.” Comprehension grew
in him slowly. “That was why, how, Aphrodite
came to heal me. You summoned her.”
“Goddesses go where they will. I could only try.
What else could I do? I discovered that I loved
Mark put his arm around her as they rode side by
side. The embrace at first was only tender. But soon
tenderness grew violent in its own way. They
stopped the animals beside a thicket and dis-
When, after some little time, they were riding on
again, solemnity had given way to silliness; again
and again they had to reprove themselves for not
watching what they were about, warn themselves
to stay alert. Love had granted a feeling of invulner-
At about midday they came to a decent stream.
By now they had got pretty well beyond the worst
damage done by Vilkata’s foragers, though the
countryside was still deserted, the visible houses
abandoned as far as could be seen in passing.
The stream, of clean, swift water, was a marvel,
and washing at this stage almost as great a relief as
being able to drink their fill. Kristin’s hair emerged
from the worst of its covering of grime to reveal
itself as naturally fair. Whatever color had
appeared would have been, in Mark’s eyes, the only
Bathing together soon led to other activities, self-
limiting in duration; there was presently a pause
for more varied conversation.
Mark asked her, “How did you come to be a pris-
Kristin’s blue-green eyes looked off into the dis-
tance. “A group of us were traveling, through
country we thought was reasonably safe.” She
shrugged. “We were attacked by a patrol of the
Dark King’s army. What happened to the others in
our party I do not know; I suppose they were all
killed. The enemy had a magician with them. We
had a contest, naturally, and he proved too strong
for me. Except that I was able to-to hide myself, in
a fashion. I knew little of what was happening to
me, and my captors were able to tell little about
me. They brought me back to their main encamp-
ment. What would have happened to me next-”
Mark put out a hand. “It won’t happen now.
“Thanks to you. But how did you come to be
He explained his mission in broad terms, first as
a diplomatic messenger for Sir Andrew, then on his
own after his strange encounter with Draffut. That
was a well-nigh incredible tale, he realized, but
Kristin watched him closely as he spoke and he
thought that she believed him. If she had ever heard
of Mark, the despoiler of the Blue Temple, she did
not appear to connect that person with the man
before her. He sometimes thought, hearing his own
name in. the song of some passing stranger, that he
was famous. But actually the name was common
enough. And fortunately for his chances of avoiding
the Blue Temple assassins, his face was not famous
Before they left the stream, he tried to study his
own face in the quietest available pool. “How do I
look?” His fingers searched his forehead.
“There’s a scar. No more than that. A simple
scar, you’ll still be handsome.” She kissed it for
He sat back. “So, as you see, I was on my way to
Tasavalta anyway. As a courier.”
“How convenient.” She kissed him again.
“Yes. What is the Princess like?”
“A few years, older than I am.” Kristin paused. “I
can hardly claim to know her.”
“I suppose not. We’d better get moving.”
They were dressed, in washed garments, and
packed and back on their animals heading east,
before Mark resumed the conversation. “I don’t
know Tasavaltan customs at all well. Should I be
asking you who your parents are? I mean, what is
the customary way of taking a wife in your land?
Who else must I talk to about it, if anyone?”
“My parents are both dead.”
“It was long ago. Yes, there will be people we
have to see. Old Karel first, I suppose. He’s my
uncle, and also my teacher in magic. A rather well-
known wizard. You may have heard of him?”
“No. But I’ve known other magicians, they don’t
frighten me especially. We’ll see your Uncle Karel
. . . by the way, will you marry me?”
Kristin appeared vaguely disappointed. “You
know I will. But I am glad you thought to ask.”
“Ah yes.” And again there was an interval in
which no thoughtful planning could be accom-
The interval over, Mark said, “I gather you’re not
exactly looking forward to seeing your old uncle.
He was intent on consecrating you as a sorceress, is
He felt somewhat relieved; he could have imag-
ined worse. “Well, not all the women who are good
at magic are virgins, I can assure you of that.” He
paused. “I mean…”
They cautiously approached and entered a
deserted house, and then another, and helped them-
selves to a few items of clothing the inhabitants had
not bothered to take with them when they fled.
Mark wondered whether to leave payment, and
decided not-the arrival of Vilkata’s looters seemed
likely to occur before the return of the proper own-
ers. Feeling a shade more civilized, they rode on.
It struck Mark that Kristin was resisting making
plans for their own future. She loved him, they were
going to marry, that much was certain between
them. But she was reluctant to go into details at all.
A sense of mystery, of something withheld, per-
sisted. Mark put it down to exhaustion. Though
Woundhealer had restored them marvelously, still
the journey was hard and their food meagre.