Varajas jerked awake then froze as his mind slowly adjusted to the fact he’d been dreaming. It wasn’t real. Hadn’t been real. He was safe.

Well, not safe. But as close as he was likely to get.

Lysander’s tent was large enough for a dozen men to have slept in here comfortably, but it was only the two of them, alone. Lysander had a cot, tucked into the back corner; Varajas slept on the ground, close to the opening. Which made it easy to pull on his boots and slip out between the flaps without waking Lysander up.

The two guards standing on either side nodded at Varajas as he passed. Even in the middle of the night, Lysander’s people were alert. Lysander’s personal guard was no one to be trifled with.

They probably assumed Varajas and Lysander were sleeping together. Especially since Varajas had been brought in suddenly, and had quite obvious special dispensation from the prince. And Lysander’s guard knew the man they guarded. Lysander had…something of a reputation.

The camp was quiet—as quiet as a hundred and fifty men along with their assorted beasts could get. It was late enough that everyone seemed asleep, except for the guards. He picked his way between bedrolls, unsure where he was going other than away.

Let Lysander’s men have their suspicions. Varajas was fairly certain Lysander had no interest in him, and he certainly had no interest in Lysander. His life was complicated enough without involving himself with a prince. And besides, he hadn’t had a relationship—hadn’t wanted a relationship—since…

But that was an unpleasant memory and Varajas had too many of those to deal with already.

He made it past the loose border of the camp, then walked a little further, towards the road. The moon was almost full, bright in the sky, making it easy to see where he was going, but it also created shadows between the trees that Varajas’s jumpy mind tried to twist into movement any time he wasn’t looking directly at them.

He couldn’t remember the dream. Thankfully. It didn’t matter. He’d had enough nightmares lately, enough times he’d gasped himself awake with heart pounding and his whole body tense to know what he’d been dreaming about.

Loukanos. The man was dead. Ádan had offered him that truth like a gift, surprised and obviously a little hurt when Varajas had simply shrugged.

Loukanos’s death didn’t change what had already happened. It wouldn’t stop the next wizard. Or the one who came after that.

And knowing he was dead hadn’t made the dreams stop.

Varajas had never been much of one to remember his dreams, and even the nightmares he remembered were blurry. Nothing more than flashes, images. So many things warped together in his sleeping mind. Ulek, and all that had happened there. Loukanos and what had felt like endless pain. That thrice-damned tree. The knife, the knife, the knife. Always, the knife.

And once again, he felt alone. And wished…

No. No point even finishing that thought. The world was what it was, and Varajas had to face the reality he’d been dealt.

Still, it was a long time before he returned to the camp.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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