Sample text for The white road / Lynn Flewelling.

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Chapter One

Safe Harbor

DYING--even for just a little while--took a lot out of a person._Alec and his companions had arrived in Gedre last night_and Alec had managed to stay on his horse as they rode up_from the harbor to the clan house, but he'd spoiled it by_fainting in the courtyard. Mydri had taken one sharp look at_him and packed him off to bed in a room overlooking the_harbor. And when their host saw Sebrahn, Riagil í Molan_had ordered that the rhekaro stay hidden, too. Given Sebrahn's_strange appearance, Alec could hardly blame him._

Winter rain lashed against the window across the room_and the wind moaned in the chimney. Gedre harbor was_barely visible, the ships anchored there just dark smudges in_the mist. After their stormy crossing from Plenimar, it was_rather nice to be in a soft bed that didn't roll under him. He_had no idea what time it was. When he'd awakened, Seregil_was already gone, no doubt to speak with his sisters or their_host, the khirnari._

Sebrahn was curled up on the cushions of the window_seat, gazing out--though at what it was impossible to say._The rhekaro might haveAlec's childhood features, but it was_impossible to pass him off as an ordinary child. His pale,_silver-white hair hung nearly to the floor behind him. His_white skin looked ghostly in the grey light, and his silver_eyes were the color of steel. Riagil's wife, Yhali, had replaced_the rags Sebrahn had arrived in with soft Aurënfaie_tunics, knitted stockings, and shoes that fit him, though_Sebrahn seemed confused by the latter and kept taking them_off. Just as any little child might do--_

But he's not a child, is he?_

Pushing that thought away, Alec reached for the mug_Mydri had left on the bedside table and sipped the medicinal_broth. His hand shook a bit, spilling a few drops down the_front of his nightshirt._

He and Seregil had been in desperate condition when_Micum and Thero had found them in Plenimar, but Sebrahn_had been even worse. He was made of magic and had used_a staggering amount to kill their pursuers in the Plenimaran_wilderness, bring Alec back from Bilairy's gate, and heal_both Seregil and Alec. For the first few days of the voyage_they feared that the wizened, depleted little rhekaro might_have used himself up. Too weak to get out of his bunk, Alec_had fed Sebrahn several times a day, squeezing blood from_his fingertip onto the rhekaro's little grey tongue.After a few_days of this Sebrahn grew more alert and continued to_improve. And today he seemed nearly himself again._

Alec wondered how long Riagil and Mydri were going to_keep him shut away up here. His long linen nightshirt was_fresh, but he hadn't had a proper bath since they'd escaped_from the alchemist's villa almost two weeks ago. He sighed_and ran his fingers through his hair, which hung halfway_down his back--lank and dirty. His fingers caught in snarls_and tangles. Stretching out one long blond strand, he_wondered--not for the first time--whether he should just_cut it off, as Seregil had sacrificed his during their escape._Sebrahn was squirming around now. One by one, the_borrowed shoes fell to the floor. The alchemist, Charis_Yhakobin, had created the rhekaro to be nothing more than_a sexless, voiceless tool--one whose unnatural flesh and_strange white blood could, according to Yhakobin, be distilled_for some kind of potent elixir. But Sebrahn and his illfated_predecessor had been much more than that. Sebrahn_might be sexless, but he was not voiceless, or mindless,_either._

"What do you see?" asked Alec._

Sebrahn turned to look at him. "Ahek."_

Alec chuckled. His name had been Sebrahn's first halting_word. Since then, he'd managed a few more for people,_things, and a few actions. Understanding was another matter._Strangely, it didn't seem to matter whether you spoke_Skalan, 'faie, or Plenimaran to him. Tell him cup, tyxa, or_kupa, and if there was one in the room, he would fetch it._Sebrahn left the window seat and joined Alec on the bed,_leaning against his side. Alec touched the rhekaro's soft,_cool little hand, noting the thin scars that ringed the base of_several fingers where they'd grown back after Yhakobin cut_them off for some experiment._

Why didn't you sing to save yourself?_

Alec gathered him close again, his heart beating a little_faster. "No one is going to hurt you again, or take you away._If they try, we'll leave."_

Sebrahn looked around the room, then pointed out the_window and said in his raspy little voice, "Leeeve."_

"That's right. On a ship. Can you say 'ship'?"_

Sebrahn was not interested._

"Chamber pot."_

The rhekaro slipped off the bed and pulled the required_vessel from under the bed. Alec made use of it and had_Sebrahn put it back for the skutter to deal with. Now what?_There didn't appear to be anything he could do but watch the_rain. It was a relief when he heard someone coming up the_stairs to his door._

Micum looked in and grinned. "That's a long face!"_

"Where is everybody?"_

Micum came in and pulled a chair up beside the bed. "At_breakfast. I came up to see if you're awake. Hungry?"_

"Not really."_

Micum held out his hands, and Sebrahn abandoned Alec_for the big man's lap._

"Traitor," Alec grumbled. Sebrahn had warmed to their_tall, red-haired friend during the voyage. Sebrahn reached_up to touch Micum's thick, grey-streaked moustache, apparently_puzzled that the big man had something on his face_that his two beardless protectors didn't.

"Uncle Micum," Alec said with a smile._

Micum laughed and kissed Sebrahn's hand, just as if he_were one of his own brood. "I like the sound of that. What_do you say, little sprout?"_

Sebrahn didn't say anything, just leaned against Micum's_broad chest and fixed his gaze on Alec. It was too easy to_imagine anything he wanted in those eyes. What Sebrahn_was really feeling--or if he could--remained a mystery._Alec and Micum were in the midst of a game of cards_when Seregil came in with the wizards. Magyana looked_most of her two centuries today; under a fringe of grey_bangs, her lined face was pale and tired, but her eyes were_kind as always. Thero, still in the youth of his first century,_was tall and dark, with a thin beard and dark curling hair_pulled back from a long, somewhat austere face. But his pale_green eyes were warm, too, as he took in the sight of Alec_and Sebrahn._

"We need to talk," Seregil said, sitting down on the bed_beside Alec._

"I'll leave you to it," Micum said, putting Sebrahn on the_bed and rising to go._

"Please, stay," said Thero. "We have no secrets from you_in this matter."_

This sounded serious, and all the more so when Magyana_threw the latch and cast a warding on the room to keep out_prying ears._

"Now then, this creature--" she began, her lined face_somber._

"Please don't call him that," said Alec. "He's a person and_he has a name."_

"He is not a person, my dear," Magyana told him gently._

"You may be right about the rest of it, but he's not human, or_'faie, either."_

"There's something we need to tell you," said Thero._

"What is it?"_

"Thero sensed it, but not clearly, when he first saw_Sebrahn in Plenimar," Magyana explained. "It's true that the_rhekaro has been given the semblance of a child, but_another form radiates beyond the physical. I don't understand_it, but what I see around him is the form of a young_dragon."_

Alec stared hard at Sebrahn, squinting his eyes, but saw_nothing unusual. "A dragon? That's impossible! Sebrahn_was made from bits of--me!"_Seregil was frowning at the younger wizard. "Why didn't_you tell us, Thero?"_

"I wasn't sure what I was sensing. It's Magyana who sees_it clearly."_

Magyana took Alec's hand in hers. "Seregil has told me_something of how Sebrahn was made. I believe you can tell_me more. Do you know what materials he used?"_Alec shifted uneasily; it was a time he didn't really want_to remember. "Sulfur and salt, tinctures--"_

"Nothing of dragons?"_

"I saw dried fingerling dragons hanging in his workshop,_but I didn't see him put any in."_

"Very well. What else do you remember?"_

"There was something he called the 'water of life'--some_kind of silver, I think."_

"Quicksilver?" asked Magyana._

"Yes, that was it. He put that all in with my tears, blood,_shit and piss, hair, and my . . ." He faltered, blushing under_the weight of their collective gaze._

"His semen," Seregil finished for him. "How in Bilairy's_name do you get a dragon out of all that?"_

Thero shrugged, his pale green eyes serious. "We don't_know yet. But they did."_

"It was my Hâzadriëlfaie blood that Ilban--" Alec faltered,_horrified to have the slave word for "master" slip out_so easily. "That's what Yhakobin claimed he needed the_most. He said that it was the only thing that would work to_make a rhekaro. But since I'm ya'shel, he did a long purification_process first, trying to get rid of my human blood, he_said."_

"Ah, that would explain it," Magyana murmured. "I_thought you looked different, more 'faie."_

That was a sore topic. "I had to drink tinctures of metals_and wear amulets; seven of them, I think: tin, copper, silver,_gold--I don't remember the others. And he kept taking_drops of my blood and making them burn to see what color_they were. When it got to the right shade, he used more of_my blood to make the mixture do whatever it did."_

"Right out of his chest," Seregil growled. "They tapped_him like a keg and hung him up to bleed on their mess." He_paused, then leaned over and pushed the hair back from_Alec's left ear, showing them the small blue dragon bite_tattoo on his earlobe. "Could this have something to do_with it?"_

Magyana raised an eyebrow. "It's possible, I suppose. But_it's such a tiny bite. There wouldn't have been anywhere_near as much venom from it as there was from yours,_Seregil."_

The dragon that had bitten Seregil had been the size of a_large dog, and the lissik-stained teeth marks spanned the_back of his hand and the palm. His arm had swelled up like_a sausage and he'd been damn sick for a few days, but lucky_to survive all that with no more long-term damage than the_mark._

"If that's what Yhakobin really wanted, then he'd have_used Seregil instead," Alec mused. "Besides, he didn't know_I had the mark until after he'd bought me, and didn't know_what it was once he did. I told him it was just decoration."_He looked to Thero. "What about the Orëska? Nysander_knew about the Helm. Maybe there's some wizard guarding_this rhekaro secret, too."_

"It's doubtful," said Magyana. "Skala barely existed when_the Hâzad went north. And even if there is someone, it's_quite possible that he or she is sworn to utter secrecy, as_Nysander was. Or dead. We lost so many during the assault_on the Orëska House."_

"Maybe so, but don't you think that somewhere, down in_all those vaults, there might be something about this?"_Seregil gave her a winning look. "If anyone would know_where to look, it's you. You know those cellars better than_anyone."_

"I'll look around as soon as I go back, but it's likely to take_a long time, since I don't know what I'm looking for. There_are a few people I could speak with, but you shouldn't get_your hopes up."_

"It would be an easier task for two people," said Thero. "I_had a message spell from Prince Korathan's wizard,_Norubia, last night. The prince is losing patience waiting for_us to come back and account for ourselves. If I don't bring_you back, then I'd better have a good story. Otherwise it's_likely to raise questions you don't want asked."_

"I hate to put you in that position," said Seregil. "But_there's no way we can take Sebrahn to Rhíminee. It would be_damn near impossible to hide anyone with a 'dragon aura' or_whatever it is in a city full of wizards, and if Queen Phoria_ever got wind of what Sebrahn is capable of, she'd have him_and Alec caged like a pair of chukarees to use against the_Overlord's armies in her endless war."_

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Good and evil -- Fiction.