Chapter Twenty-five

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By the time they neared the Hatawan border, Distya and Tregan had come to a silent agreement. Tregan complained only about the things he found to be injustices against his humanity, such as taking too few breaks while traveling and not stopping in the last Tevarian city for food — they'd been eating nothing but dried meat strips and bread that had been slowly hardening for days.

Distya held up her end of the agreement by not berating Tregan for these few complaints, though she would have preferred he make none. In the end, it was easier to listen to him a few times throughout the day than try to argue that he was being foppish. She knew not to expect much from a noble.

And, if she was being honest, she appreciated the company. She might have chosen anyone else given the choice, but at least Tregan was predictable. He contributed as little effort as possible to every task, which, though annoying, meant the chances he might put in the work to betray her were slim to none. He complained, she ignored him.

The one thing they shared made their alliance more solid than it should have been — both expected very little out of the people around them. Tregan had maintained this viewpoint since coming into ownership of the estate, after his father died.

Distya was beginning to understand it.

They saw horses approaching when they were three days from the border. They rode out of the thickening tree line a few dozen yards off, black splotches against the dark forest green. Distya kept as tight a grip on her sword as she could until she could see faces. Then her grip loosened and let go.

"Yurovin," she shouted.

The approaching party stopped. She heard their distant voices, sounds but not words. Then the trio came thundering toward her, Yurovin's horse outpacing the others. "Distya!" he called.

Again Distya's hand went to her sword on instinct. Then, embarrassed, she slipped it behind her back as if she were reaching for something in her saddlebag. She watched Yurovin's features come into focus as he got closer. His eyes were wide, and wet.

"It is you," he said in wonder, pulling his horse to a halt. "Distya, I ... I can't believe it. You're alive!"

For reasons she couldn't yet explain, Distya went stiff. Hawthorn huffed. "Where's your Coretian baggage?" she asked. "I see Atzovar and Kyelva. Irya sent you with a third."

"I— yes," Yurovin said. He rubbed the patch on his arm, blinked hard. "She sent Rinnet to cross into Hatawa and try to find out the Coretians' plans against Tevar."

Distya sized up the group as Atzovar and Kyelva came to a halt, looking equally amazed. Then she turned back to Yurovin, whose gaze hadn't yet left her. She thought he looked pale. "And?"

Yurovin opened his mouth, then caught sight of Tregan doing his best to hide himself and Valor behind Distya. "Who is that?"

"Where is Rinnet?"

"Gone," Kyelva said from behind Yurovin. "Defected on the third day."

Yurovin shrank as Distya's head made the sharp turn back to him. "She came back to our camp on the Tevarian side the second night," he explained. "She didn't have anything to report. The next day she left early while Kyelva was on watch. Headed up toward Hatawa, but she never came back that night. We waited a full day without her coming back."

"You didn't think to follow her?"

Yurovin frowned. "That wasn't our orders," he said. "And you know how dangerous that area is. We were lucky enough not to be spotted that close to the border."

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