toward me, what will he think when he finds you here?”

But then his smile faded as he looked at her face. She was still pale, and her jaw was clamped tight as though to keep it from trembling.

“Gizor’s back?” he asked, sitting up abruptly.

“They came back a little while ago,” she said as though it was of no interest. “They looked shame- faced.”

He put an arm around her. “What is it, then, my own?” he asked softly. “Were you so worried about me? Don’t you see that I’m safe now, as long as I’m in the castle?”

“It’s not you,” she said, her eyes averted.

“Then who do you love better than me who can make you this sad?” he asked mockingly, then stopped all at once. “Hadros- He hasn’t dared- If he’s forced you, then I don’t care if he is my sworn lord, I’ll-”

She squeezed his arm. “It’s my brother,” she said, still not looking at him. “I found out yesterday. The messenger had come to Hadros the day before, but he did not tell me until after he had sent you off to that manor. It’s as though he wanted you away from here when he told me. And then last night I thought I had lost you both.”

He pulled her toward him and stroked her hair. The straw crackled beneath them. “Tell me what happened. Your brother has died?”

“It was a shipwreck,” she said indistinctly. “A calm sea, a clear crossing. But they were all young men on the ship, and they had all been drinking. They went right against the Cauldron Rocks. There were no survivors.”

“I’m so terribly sorry,” he said, continuing to stroke her hair.

She pushed him angrily away. “You don’t understand, Roric! Of course I’m saddened to have lost my brother, but I hardly knew him any more-I hadn’t seen him in over ten years, not since I came here as a hostage. And I’ve never been able to feel the same toward either my father or my older brother since. After all, they gave me into the hands of the enemy.”

When Roric said nothing, she added after a moment, “I was much sadder back when I heard my younger brother had died, only a few months after I arrived. He and I had been playmates… But you wouldn’t remember that!” she finished brusquely.

“I didn’t really know you then,” he said, looking at her with his head cocked. “You were just the pretty little girl that I understood had come to live with us. You were an outsider- I did not then realize that you and I were both outsiders here. I do remember you crying, and I wondered why.”

“You still don’t understand,” she said through her teeth. “Now that pretty little girl has become an heiress.”

He considered her in silence for a moment. “So will you still love me when you’re queen?” he asked with a grin.

She gave him another push. “Don’t joke, Roric! You, of all people, should realize what this means.”

His attempts to take the anguish from her eyes a failure, he said soberly, “Then you’ll be important to a lot of people as well as to me.”

“Not just important. Valuable. I’ve been valuable all these years as a pledge for my father’s good behavior toward King Hadros. Now I’m the heiress to my father’s kingdom. That makes me doubly valuable. A marriage would unite the kingdoms, ensure that war would never break out again between them.”

“And as a future queen you couldn’t refuse,” said Roric grimly. “You’d marry Valmar, of course, because he’s the oldest son.”

“I could do worse than Valmar,” she said, her eyes distant.

“Now don’t you joke!” he cried, pinning her arms.

She focused on him again and shook her head. “I only meant that I would prefer to marry Valmar than to marry his father.”

“But you can’t marry Hadros!” Roric cried. “He’s old enough to be your father! He almost is your father!”

“Older men marry young heiresses every day.”

He clenched his teeth in silence for a moment, then thrust a fist into the straw. “I wish he was in Hel! Why is he doing this? Hadros is my sworn lord, and I used to love him like a father myself.”

“Until last week,” said Karin.

“You knew we quarreled?” he asked, turning around.

“Everyone in the castle knows it. Both of you have good voices for calling the hounds in the hunt-or for hurling insults.”

For a second he thought he saw a smile on her face. Encouraged, he took both her hands. “Then let’s run away, Karin, you and me. Neither Hadros or I will have to break our sworn word by killing each other, and you won’t have to marry anyone but me.”

She pulled her hands free and stared icily over his head. “Sometimes you’re as dense as Valmar. If I go, King Hadros will invade my father’s kingdom, while the whole court is in mourning and no one expects it. I’m going to be a sovereign queen some day. I cannot run away.”

Roric turned away abruptly and thrust his fist into the straw again. When he turned back toward her she had risen to her feet. “As a queen,” she said, “I also cannot compromise my good name by being found in the men’s loft.” But then she looked at his expression and bent to kiss him swiftly before scrambling down the ladder.

As the sky went red and shadows stretched long across the castle courtyard, Roric slipped out the gate on foot. He stayed away from the road but cut through the oak forest, across the sandy hills, toward the base of the cliff.

The sun had set by the time he reached it. He stood for several minutes at the cave entrance, waiting. Above him, the first bats darted across the sky, squeaking on the fringes of audibility.

He lowered his eyes from the cliff to find a short personage standing before him. “Greetings, Roric, No-man’s son,” said a voice that could have been either a high-pitched man’s or a deep-pitched woman’s. No one had ever been able to say for sure if Weavers were men or women, or if the distinction had any meaning for them. This one, or one just alike, was said to have lived here since before the castle was built.

Roric reached for his belt. “I’ve brought you my best knife,” he told the Weaver.

The pommel was set with rock crystal and the blade was polished steel. The Weaver took it and examined it, turning it over as a squirrel turns over an acorn, before finally whisking it out of sight beneath dark robes. Roric followed as the Weaver stumped back into the cave where a tiny fire was burning.

“And what would you ask of voima and of fate?” asked the Weaver, arms and legs huddled together until the robes looked like a pile of empty clothes, though yellow eyes glinted in the firelight. Roric too sat down.

“I met someone last night,” he said after a moment. “Weaver, Mirror-seer-or Wanderer. I want to know who he was.”

“And why do you ask another’s name when you have no true name of your own?”

“He said he might have use of me,” said Roric, trying with an effort to keep the edge out of his voice. It was no use becoming angry with a Weaver.

“And that use might be-?” When Roric said nothing more, the Weaver’s hand disappeared again into the shapeless robes and emerged this time with a piece of string. Fingers moved quickly as the string took shape, first a series of loops, then triangles and diamonds, finally a web so dense it looked as though it must contain much more string than when the Weaver had begun.

“Tangled,” came the voice at last, neither man’s nor woman’s. The Weaver always said that. “Lives are tangled here. The change, the upheaval, may be closer than anyone thought, and some beneath the sun may be sought to withhold it, or even to hurry it.”

“I gave you my best knife for a clear answer,” said Roric testily. “I’m not burning an offering to influence the future-not that I’m sure that often works. I’m asking you something that has already happened.”

“What has happened,” said the Weaver enigmatically, “depends so much on your perspective. Who has appeared, and what he seeks, depends on whether he seeks a man without a name or a man with a mighty father.”

“And which one do you think you’re talking to?” asked Roric fiercely.

“It might also depend on which the Wanderers could use most readily…” The light and shadow from the fire accentuated all the Weaver’s deep facial lines.

“So it was a Wanderer!” The Weaver did not reply, which Roric took as assent. He stared unseeing for a

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