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Chapter 34

The rain stopped at evening, and by night the skyline had become a patchy red glow. The Burning continued without Whandall. The night seemed endless. Whandall made his bed on rock, wrapped in a blanket snatched from Feller's, far enough from the kinless children to make them stop twitching.

He half woke from a dream of agony and rage. His hands were fire that reached out to spread fire like a pestilence, by touch. The Placehold was burning. He was the Placehold, he was burning, and his shape was gone alien, a crab with a long trailing, looping tail and a terrible freezing, bleeding wound somewhere near his heart.

For a long moment he knew that fires were the nerves of Yangin-Atep. He sensed all of the fires in the Valley of Smokes and two ships offshore, one cooking breakfast, one aflame. He felt his life bleeding out through Lordshills where a Warlock's Wheel had eaten away all the magic. Then it all went away like any dream and left him chilled and wet.

He gestured and the half-dead fire flared into an inferno. At least it was easy to tend a fire!

He was very aware of Willow Ropewalker not far away. Desire rose and he held it back as he would hold a door, his weight on one side, enemies on the other.

Desire and excitement. They could leave, forever. Would they leave together? "Morth!"

The wizard was on the other side of the fire, and he stayed there. Whandall had to shout. Anyone might overhear. So he it.

"What will happen? You've seen my future. Is it with"-he gestured to Willow-"them?"

Morth considered what to say. "I haven't read their future," he said. "I don't know them well enough to do that. You may leave the Valley of Smokes. I don't know about the Millers and Ropewalkers. Further in the future, the line loops and blurs. You may return." He studied Whandall from the other side of the fire. "I can say this. You will have a more pleasant life with friends. With people who know who you are. Consider, Seshmarl-Whandall-you're choosing a new and unknown path. Easier to walk it with others."

"You know what I'm thinking, then?"

Morth shook his head sadly. "I know what Lordkin think. Actually, most Lordkin don't think at all. They just act. You're different."

"It's hard," Whandall said.

Morth smiled thinly. "I can't help. Anything I could do to calm you would probably kill you."

"As you-no, as it, your spell-killed my father," Whandall said.

Morth said nothing. Whandall wondered if he'd known all along. Wizard, liar, he'd killed Whandall's family. Yangin-Atep's rage boiled inside him, and Morth was gone.

Whandall heard a distant bush rustling. Flame shot high as greasewood ignited, and Whandall knew that he'd done that. He thought he saw a shadow beyond the flame.


There was no answer.

"Whandall?" It was Carver, behind him.

"Stay away. I'm possessed of Yangin-Atep," Whandall said.

"Where's Morth?"

"I don't know. Running."

The night went on endlessly, and always there was the glow of fire over Tep's Town.

Chapter 33 | The Burning City | Chapter 35