Homecoming, part seven

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They made landfall later that day, but they never traveled to Hasselden. Instead they spent two days trekking inland to avoid meeting any raiders. Harbend didn't speak much during those days. The awful homecoming had a profound effect on him but what occupied most of his thoughts were the implied threats in the message Neritan had sent. The Council of Twelve could only mean politics, and he had no wish to become involved in such matters. It was bad for business and it was sure to draw unwelcome attention to him. To Arthur as well. By now the rumors of the outworlder taleweaver had to have reached the capital.

When they reached the highway and caught a coach for Verd it was too late for sharing his misgivings with Arthur. With Hasselden in ruins Keen was sure to have spies everywhere and the only places Harbend trusted to have no unwelcome ears was his office and the Tree.

Arriving in Verd one late evening Harbend and Arthur made their way to the small office where Harbend had met his relatives an eternity earlier. He was back again. Back in a place he never thought he would call home, but in a sense it was. This was the home he had made instead of the one he left.

Less than a year, a shorter journey than some he'd undertaken earlier, and in a way a more straightforward one. And still, how was it possible it felt like the longest of them all? So much had happened, so much pain and grief to fulfill a need he'd barely seen when he embarked upon the project. Now he had in a way finished it, even if the caravan had just started its long trek back.

So good to stay here, for a few eightdays at least, but if Neritan was right Verd would be a dangerous place, and besides, he'd made Arthur a promise. He owed Arthur that much. At least that much.

Harbend sighed and turned. "Well, Arthur, now I have been home."

Arthur gave him a look full of sympathy, but didn't answer.

"Arthur, you decide this time."

"Do I have to?" Arthur asked, no longer able to avoid speaking.

"Yes, I am afraid so. This journey is yours from the beginning."

"Then I say we ride for the Roadhouse, turn north to Ri Khi and gather supplies there. Might even hire an escort there as well," Arthur said and gave Harbend an amused glance.

Harbend felt his cheeks heat. Thank you Arthur, thank you for making me remember that priceless gift instead of my misgivings. Harbend coughed to hide his embarrassment. "As you say," he responded after a while.

"You're the one who said I need to find a taleweaver to learn from," Arthur said. "I won't do so by sitting in Verd, and Ri Khi is as good a start as any. Tomorrow then?" he continued.

"Tomorrow," Harbend agreed.

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